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Mack Fogelson

How I Underestimated Twitter- Confessions of a SEO

By | Social Media | One Comment

It’s kind of embarrassing to say that I spent years toiling in the darkness that only a Twitter skeptic can know. I’ve been in the SEO industry for 10 years and until last week, I completely failed to take full advantage of the power of the people who are engaging on this social media outlet.

And I didn’t even know it. Tragic, isn’t it?

For those of you who are self-proclaimed Twitter cynics, I have taken it upon myself to change your mind. So suck it up and read on.

Behold…I have become the Twitter evangelist.

The Numbers

I’m going to start with the data (because numbers make me look like I know what I’m talking about. Just…pretend to be impressed. Please? For me?).

Twitter launched in 2006, but didn’t really take off until 2007. And what a take-off it was. Let’s take a look at the demographics on Twitter:

1. Twitter has 127 million active users (that’s a lot of peeps)
2. 13% of Internet users also use Twitter.
3. 67% of Twitter users are under the age of 45.
4. 54% of Twitter users use Twitter on their mobile devices.
5. 36% of Twitter users tweet at least once a day.
6. The average visit on Twitter lasts for 14 minutes.
7. 59% of Twitter users are female (and therefore, 41% male).

Remember way back in 2009 when they said Twitter was just a fad? Ha.

Back to the point.

The feedback we often get from our clients is that they’re wary of Twitter because they don’t think it’s likely that any of those 127 million active users are their target customers. Which is, of course, a possibility.

But you know who just might be?

The thought leaders in your industry.

You may not use Twitter to reach your target market, but it is an incredibly valuable place for you to become part of the conversation in your industry’s online community.

What I’m trying to say is this (I know, I know, make a point, Mack):

Twitter is more than just a place to waste time at work talking to your friends. Use it for knowledge, people!

A little story

June, Mack Web’s social media strategist, has been telling me for months that I need to think of Twitter in a different way.

And finally, thanks to a little adventure of my own, I have seen the light. I have had a revelation. I have drunk (drinked?) of the Twitter Kool-aid.

I am a Tweeter. (Twitterer?)

So, here’s the story:

Last week when I was at Link Love, as I was waiting for the speakers to begin their presentations, I could hear June’s voice in my head: “You must tweet when you’re at Link Love!”

 

So, I opened up a doc for note taking and a window for Twitter so that I could tweet during the presentations.

And then something interesting happened:

1. I was looking through the program booklet at each of the speakers’ bios. I thought, hmmm, it might be a good idea to follow these amazing thought leaders on Twitter. So I did.
2. The presentations began. As I took notes on my laptop, I would simultaneously post updates to Twitter. Good stuff that the speakers were saying. I was an animal, I tell you. Note-taking here, tweeting there. It was epic.
3. What I didn’t realize at first was that while the speakers were working their magic on stage, there was this parallel universe happening on Twitter, in the Twitterverse. The speakers who weren’t speaking were tweeting. Their followers were tweeting and retweeting. I was getting retweeted (which was super exciting even for a Twitter cynic, because, let’s face it: everybody likes a little attention. Even me).

I was connecting with people and getting new followers. I was hooked.

Okay, good story, right? Discovery of alternate universe overlaying our own reality. Hooray for quantum physicists, right?

But…who goes to a conference everyday? How does that help me the other 364 (or, this year, 365) days of the year?

Wait for it…
When I returned home from Link Love, June was incredibly proud of my tweeting.

I was beside myself with excitement because I was tweeting with the actual people in our industry (i.e. Rand Fishkin, my hero).

Now, at Mack Web Solutions, we preach online relationship building (no, not the eHarmony kind). We’ve got a couple of reasons for this. The first is oddly technical for such an interpersonal activity: it’s the best way to build your web presence and, eventually, dominate the search engines. Connecting to the right people and earning their trust and respect is a great way to gather links and referrals to your website and content.

But human relationships are also a vital part of human thought. Put a bunch of brains together and we become more than the sum of our parts. We bounce ideas off each other, benefit from wisdom and experience we didn’t have to be there to gain. Standing on the shoulders of giants and all (speaking of physicists, take that Sir Isaac Newton).

And Twitter is a great, immediate way to facilitate an ongoing meeting of the minds.

And at Link Love, boy, there were minds a-meetin’. I had started relationships, made some connections. I was running with the cool kids and I didn’t want to lose my edge. I wanted to stay in the loop, get all of the most current knowledge in our industry, maybe get some of those thought leaders we rave about to notice the great work that we do at Mack Web (because we totally know what we’re doing and, remember…attention). So I decided to change my game.

Here’s my new routine:

1. I get on Twitter
When I get to work every day, I don’t get on my favorite blogs or read my email. The first thing I do is check Twitter.

2. I review Tweets
I look through all of the tweets that have populated since the last time I was there.

3. I look for patterns
At first I was pretty overwhelmed with all of the info that was being passed around. Then I realized that many of the people I follow feature or retweet the same articles. They are also generating their own content, but not every day (that was a relief).

4. I try to get in the game
Many days, I’ve got nothin’. I am in awe of the level of knowledge (and I thought I knew a lot about SEO). But every now and again (and I’m just a week or so into it) I see an opportunity to engage. And sometimes I say something that gets retweeted (woo hoo!)

5. I have to work harder (great, more work)
Every day Mack Web digests the industry knowledge and translates it for our end user: our client, the guys who don’t know what SERPS are. (No, it’s not a disease. But keep on guessing, you’ll get there). We love doing this, but after Link Love, I realized that this wasn’t enough.

Although it is incredibly important to be a knowledge center for our clients, I don’t want to neglect our industry audience. We need to be part of that group too. We now know that Mack Web needs to generate content for both audiences: our clients and our colleagues.

So, give Twitter another shot
Long story short, you really should give Twitter another try. It has become one of the most powerful tools I use.

Plus, it’s free! And who doesn’t love free stuff? (Let she who has never absconded with the hotel shower cap throw the first stone).

Wanna give it a try? Here’s how:

1. Identify your thought leaders
Think of the lead people in your industry. The people you respect. The thought leaders. The people who are working to change the world (sounds beautiful, doesn’t it?)

2. Get on Twitter
Find those people (you know, the thought leaders) and follow them.

3. Do some stalking

Go to the follower list of each person and look for people on their lists that you might want to follow (June gave me this tip and it’s backed up by @Wil Reynolds). Follow some of those people too.

4. Engage
Don’t try too hard or push it too quickly. Remember, you’re relationship building here so you don’t want to freak people out by being too aggressive. Look for opportunities to reply to a post, or just retweet. After you get in your groove, generate some of your own content and push it out. Slowly but surely you’ll make a name for yourself. And have fun in the process.

5. Be selective

If you follow too many people, it’s going to be like drinking from a fire-hose (I know, painful). Stick to a short list. Over time if you can handle that, add some more.

6. Time yourself


Trust me, if you don’t make it a point to get off of Twitter, you never will. Choose some times during the day and limit how long you’re on there.

Let us know how this worked out for ya. If you want to follow my twittering tweets @mackfogelson. You can also engage with my team of amazing tweeters @mackwebteam.

For our client audience, we will be putting together a guide on Twitter language and etiquette. Stay tuned.

 

Why I am a Huge Fan of Link Love

By | Events, Web Marketing | 3 Comments

I’m completely exhausted from lack of sleep, but thankfully still running on adrenaline from Link Love Boston. I wanted to write about why the experience changed my life, but I thought that might be a little dramatic, so I settled for why I loved it.

Here’s why:

The people are, well, human

The people at Link Love restored my faith in humanity. They were genuine and real. There were hundreds of people who attended (delegates as they called us) who actually engaged and became friends. People were talking to each other with excitement and energy. You could honestly tell that everyone felt pretty lucky to be there.

Link Love TeamEven the speakers were approachable (and friendly) and actually spent time with the delegates. I had a great chat with Justin Briggs from Big Fish Games about his passions and career path. I spoke at length with several team members from Distilled about the structure of their organization and how they effectively manage their workload (they don’t mess around).

Before the conference I had emailed Distilled to ask some questions regarding the growth of Mack Web. Will Critchlow (who just so happens to be the founder of Distilled), was kind enough to email me himself and offer his time.

He’ll probably never remember it (which is why I have a picture to prove it), but I actually got to shake the hand of Rand Fishkin (I’m not even going to tell you who that is. Look it up people). At Link Love with Rand Fishkin

Meeting Rand was the highlight of my year (I would say life but that kind of downplays the importance of my marriage and the birth of my two kids). Rand even took a few minutes of his time to chat about how much we love SEOmoz and how it’s changed our business. Truly, he is an amazing man (he is totally worth stalking…I mean following).

It just goes to show you the kind of awesome people who are behind Link Love.

The speakers killed it

No other way to say it. The speakers rocked. Amazing. Awesome. Really, so good. And get this, they were engaging (imagine that). I was probably a little over excited from all of the energy in the room, but seriously, they were funny.

The line up:

Rand Fishkin
Justin Briggs
Ross Hudgens
Rhea Drysdale
Wil Reynolds
John Doherty
Adam Audette
Colby Almond
Tom Critchlow

The best part about the speakers is that they didn’t sugar coat stuff. They just came right out and said look, what we do in SEO is hard work. It takes a lot of effort, time, creativity and patience to do it right (and ethically). So suck it up and just do it (they used a couple of choice adjectives in there but I’m trying to keep this post clean).

We got some s@#! done

Because this was my first Link Love conference, I didn’t know what to expect from the schedule. I thought that there would be a hundred different presentations offered and that I’d be running from room to room with no chance of getting in to hear the big guys speak. I was pleasantly surprised.

The speaker line up (all rockstars if you didn’t quite catch that) consisted only of the top talent. The content they presented was valuable, balanced and inspiring. We got more done in one day than most people do in a month. They didn’t waste any time and the event never ran behind. It was flawless (except for the part when Rand couldn’t log in to SEOMoz. Now that was funny).

I kind of felt like I was on vacation

I probably will not be able to go to another conference that is not held by Distilled or SEOMoz. Hands down it was one of the most professional events that I have ever attended. Instead of walking the mile or so from the hotel to the conference center, there was a luxury shuttle bus that provided the group with a ride (to the Conference Center at Harvard Medical School no less).

And they fed us. All day (with snacks and everything). Right when you walked into the venue there white linen-lined tables with Starbucks coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice, muffins and scones (they’re from London). For lunch each person could select from several types of individually packaged lunch sacks. There were never ending beverages and they even put out a dessert table at afternoon break (but since I was so ecstatic about my encounter with Rand, I was way too excited to eat ice cream).

And that’s not all. After the day was done, we were shuttled to a local pub where we were treated to appetizers, an open bar and all around good times with our new Link Love friends.

I learned a lot (for reals)

One word sums up Link Love: value. There were people who worked for big companies, small companies or who even owned their own companies. The information delivered at Link Love appealed to everyone in the room. I took home ideas that will change our processes, systems and approach (because I’m a freak about those things). And of course I can’t wait to deliver more value to our clients.

Hands down, what I respect most about Link Love is that none of the speakers tried to pass off what we work so hard to do for our clients every day as easy work. There were brilliant ideas, tools, and strategies, but no one ever said that there was a quick and easy way to deliver good SEO.

You should go

The Link Love conference completely exceeded my expectations (and I set those suckers high). If you are an SEO, or want to get a feel for the best in our industry, go to a Distilled or SEOMoz conference. You won’t be sorry.

Distilled has an SEO conference called Search Love going on in San Fran in June.

I’ll be at MozCon in Seattle in July. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Earning your Google Rankings: Not So Easy Anymore

By | Social Media, Web Marketing | No Comments

Back in the day (like, a whole year ago) it used to be that you could invest in some good SEO for your website and, with the right keywords, and a few links, you’d be attracting some pretty awesome targeted traffic. Thanks to Google (and we mean that in a good way), this is no longer accurate. Things have changed. A lot.

If you’re one of those people who want to know how to get your website on the first page of Google, you should read on…

Blame it all on a guy named Panda

In the early months of 2011, Google launched an algorithmic update that utterly and irrevocably altered the world of search. Even the practices that ethical search engine marketing companies (ahem. that’s us, by the way) were using were no longer enough.

In a nutshell, here’s what happened:

A engineer-type dude at Google named Navneet Panda engineered some updates to Google’s ranking algorithms. These changes drastically changed many of the rankings websites were accustomed to holding. For some this was very, very good. For many it was…not. The whole world proceeded to freak out. Mass panic in the streets, much headless-chicken behavior, etc.

The Panda update necessitated an evolution in the way we approach SEO and internet marketing. Here’s why:

Before the Panda update all you really needed for decent SEO was a fairly simple checklist:

  • build some good content
  • integrate some keywords that you researched
  • build some links to it
  • pat yourself on the back for a job well done

Problem was that a bunch of people, even big, otherwise reputable companies like JC Penney (where grandma buys her shoes! insert sob of betrayal, here), were trying to scam the system. People were generating a ton of mediocre content and farming for links to that content. And, however inadvertently, they were being rewarded in the engines for this shifty behavior with good rankings.

Google was on to them. Panda updates went live. Stuff happened.

It was the search equivalent of heavy artillery fire turned against hordes of rampaging scavengers. Carnage.

And now…

When the smoke cleared and the new world order was established, that checklist had gotten a lot less straightforward.

Suddenly Google (and where Google goes, the others soon follow) was a lot more sophisticated about how they parsed the content on your site. The ways they evaluated your trustworthiness and authority, your relevance and appeal had grown up and gained some discernment.

Their reasons were pretty clear: a search engine’s purpose in life is to provide searchers with the best online answers to the questions they ask.

When you ask a question to a human person, how do you evaluate the information you received? You look at the source: how likely are they to know the answer? Has anyone vouched for them? Do they strike you as knowledgeable and trustworthy? You also evaluate the answer: does it make sense? Is it articulate?

The Panda update was Google’s way of applying those very human and instinctual rules to its own search results.

Of course, because of the very nature of the internet as a ginormous computer program, they still had to find ways to do this electronically. And those clever enough and not overly burdened with scruples can always find ways around electronic measures meant to emulate human response.

But the simple (and fortunately moral) truth is…Google hires the very, very clever, too. And they’ve sent a very clear message: we are watching.

Creepy, I know.

But wait, there’s more…

The new reality of search

It’s fairly safe to assume that any further changes Google makes to its code will trend in the direction of ever more human ways of evaluating your information. What this means is that, in both the long- and short-term, the most sustainable way to conduct your SEO is to meet all the standards that actual people demand of those from whom they seek knowledge.

For example:

You’ve got to build a community around your brand. You’ve got to be a brand that people know, trust, and want to share.

Links still matter, but the quality of the links have become of even more important. You’ve got to be selective about who you are building relationships with (and stop thinking about it as building links).

Design & user experience, always a factor, is now a screaming necessity. User behavior is one of the ways Google is teaching its engines how to think like people. It is weighed and measured to determine if human people linger on your site or click away quickly. (Word to the wise…most people aren’t wild about a design cluttered with ads and this is one of the first things the humanized search engines seem to have learned).

Pages with low authority (no one links to them, poor content) can drag down the authority of your whole website. There’s no such thing as a throwaway page. Every page on your website needs to be valuable and worthy of being shared (or linked to) by others.

Content must be meaningful. Funny is good, but authentic and relevant are requisite. Be professional and engaging and put your personality into your content. Get the multimedia going: photos, maybe an info-graphic or two. Video if you can manage it. You want you site to have bits that people want to tweet, share, like.

And you really need to pay attention to your metrics. Not just how many unique visits you have on your site, but also: how long do they stay? how many pages do they view? do they share or like? are they talking about you out there in the wide world?

This is why you need web marketing

So, to recap, SEO now means more than just the keywords that you target on your website. You need to think about the bigger web marketing picture (which is brilliantly illustrated in this infographic if we do say so ourselves).

So what does this all mean to you?

What this comes down to is more time spent on generating valuable content and becoming the company you’ve always wanted to be…online. Because really what we’re saying is that if you do all of this and do it right (and Mack Web is behind you every step of the way), you will experience:

  • Higher domain authority (trust us, this is important)
  • Targeted traffic
  • Desired rankings
  • An amazing and supportive online community
  • More value in your company
  • More value for your customers
  • Better relationships with your customers
  • A clear-eyed view of your company identity and goals (this will change your company, believe us. we know)

If you want more information on how Mack Web Solutions can help your company succeed with web marketing, give us a shout. We’ve got some good stuff to show you.