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November 06

Neil Patel on the Hyperlink Hot Seat

I’d like to think I’m a pretty slick link baiter, but I know when I’m overmatched, and I am vs. Neil Patel. Luckily he‘s agreed to sit on the hot seat and give us some tips.

Read On

November 05

Kim Krause Berg on the Hyperlink Hot Seat

You may know Kim Krause Berg as the mind behind a variety of sites: Cre8asite Forums, Cre8pc Usability, SEO and Web Design blog, or The Usability Effect, where she offers her highly valuable consulting services.

1. Jakob Nielson: Over-hyped pundit or legitimate guru?

Definitely over-hyped guru. I don’t understand why he’s so disliked, but I do get why it’s easy to poke fun at him.  I don’t go for the "Thou must do this" commandments style he has but it works for millions of people the same way some religions do.  When he wrote his latest Top 10 List for blog design, panic ensued.  Even today, two weeks after that Alertbox piece came out, my usability feeds keep bringing up references to it.  He made people believe they were doing something wrong.  They went to work making their blogs meet his requirements, without questioning the validity of the logic as it may have applied to their situation.

I prefer to question things, test them to see if they work for me, and then test again to see if they meet the needs of end users, and then decide.  There are many usability design points that he recommends that do make sense, especially if you want to get the basics down.  However, some things that he says are considered Nielsen Gospel, like blue link colors and linking "home" from a homepage.  There’s a sense of guilt or shame whenever someone defies his standards and experiments on their own.  I truly don’t think even Jakob Nielsen wants to smother creativity, but he’s often perceived as a party pooper.

2. In your opinion, do usability and SEO best practices sometimes conflict? Or do they always reinforce each other?

They definitely reinforce each other. I’ve seen the positive results of their union.

Another aspect that fits in comfortably with usability and SEO is accessibility.  Organic SEO, for example, emphasizes content as the foundation from which all good things are born.  A title tag that’s optimized to make sense for search engines, also makes sense for people who bookmark the site.  Meta descriptions that are logical, and appear as smooth, well written site descriptions in search engines, also convert to traffic because the end user better understands what they will get if they click on the link from SERPS.

It’s about confidence and trust. It’s about customer satisfaction. It’s about meeting end user needs.  SEO practices can do that when they’re done properly.  Even so-called "black hat" SEM meets user needs if the technique results in delivering the best result for the person hunting for something in a highly competitive area.  The failure comes when a promoted site fails to deliver what it promised to.  This is a failure of a perceived marketed promise.  Just because that Viagra site managed to make the number one spot doesn’t mean it converts and doesn’t mean someone with a screen reader can use the site.  Without a blending of SEO, usability and accessiblity design and practices, somebody will lose out.  You really don’t want that to be the person with the nice little credit card in their hand.

3. Dijon mustard: bold, delicious flavor or yesterday’s news?

You’re asking someone who once asked a Ruby Tuesday’s waitress to risk losing her job by sneaking me out a big plastic container of their honey mustard sauce.  I begged her to tell me how they make it but she wouldn’t turn over the secret recipe.  I asked to see a manager, to see if I could get them to order me a big container of it.  She did ask, but they said no.  That’s when she snuck me some to take home.  My daughter thought I was very cool. For the next week, everything we ate was dunked into the stuff.

4. I found your post at Cre8asite Forums to be interesting food for thought. Most of us are in SEO to make money and to have a bit of fun along the way (and, possibly, to avoid the drudgery of a ‘real’ job). Without getting into a black hat vs. white hat debate, do you think an individual webmaster has an obligation to add ‘value’ to the Web?

An obligation, no. But you’re asking somebody  who, by character, believes that everyone creates their own reality. There’s no better teacher than the one that says you’re responsible for your own life.  What you do with it is up to you, but no matter what you decide to do with it, it will have an impact on somebody else.  I think all SEO’s deserve to be paid well, no matter what side of the color wheel they work from.  I started out as an SEO and I understand the work involved.  I understand that its a field that changes constantly and the skilled SEO’s are those who work for clients by day and study search engine patents by night so that they’re ready to make the next smart move for their clients.

I do feel, however, that the very competitive nature of search engines themselves has spawned the SEO underworld.  They are like strip clubs that pay police to keep on driving by, so that their patrons keep coming in.  It might be lucrative to play rough, and it may make business sense to pay for an unfairly gained advantage.  The Internet mimics life. That’s what I was writing about, and what I wondered about when I asked in the forum if this is what we want and if not, is there something we can change?

What are we doing, really, when we put web sites on the Internet?

The way I see it, the Internet is this unique, lawless opportunity that fell into our laps.  We can talk to people we’ll never meet in person. We can write about things we may never have thought we’d write about. We can earn money and watch TV at the same time.  Parents can work at home and actually see their children.  You can find your future mate.  You can cuss. You can rip people off and never have to look into their eyes while doing it.  There’s a whole environment where integrity no longer matters to everybody.

I’ve been part of the Internet-life since 1995. I’ve played a part in what its doing.  At some point I began to question whether or not what I, and my peers are doing, has any real long-term value.  What the heck are we making for our kids?  Will they want it?  Yet, even though I asked the question and wanted to explore some ideas,  I don’t want to lose the freedom we have to make these choices. In the end, there will be businesses developed that will help us deal with the messes we create. I just got to wondering when people will grow tired of creating them.  For example, first there was an online journal. They became blogs. Now there are hundreds of thousands of the them, which evolved into sites that scrape them for content for even more, but they’re no longer readable.  Every time there’s something new, there’s also a way to exploit it and eventually it’s no longer fun to do.

Where’s the value in that?

5. If you’re robbing a bank and your pants fall down, I think it’s okay to laugh and to let the hostages laugh too, because, come on, life is funny.

I just know this is about search engine marketing, usability and search engines, isn’t it.  You’re just as obsessed as I am.

October 05

Eric Ward on the Hyperlink Hot Seat

Eric Ward is one of the most well-known names in linking. To learn more about his services, visit Net Post or URLwire.

1. I know you’ve done link building for a lot of high profile sites (such as Amazon.com). That aside, which of your past link building campaigns was the most fun for you?

A cable TV network had a web site with companion web content, and they ran an online contest, the "Three Stooges Year Supply of Pies" contest from American Movie Classics.  As a kid I loved the Stooges, but hadn’t really researched them online. I dug into it was amazed to find fan pages, discussion lists, forum boards, etc. that Stoggtes fans had created.  And when I contacted them they were quite excited.  What’s funny is that the links to the contest page I was able to obtain were 100% about people, not bots.  I never pursue links based on some hoped-for algorithmic ranking boost.

2. Do you think that there are aspects of link building that the average webmaster just doesn’t "get"?

Most webmasters understand links, especially since they likely receive 1,000 spam link request a day. :)  But what I see them missing is an understanding of the power of editorial based links to drive topically interested people.  They are consumed with SEO and links.

3. Link building can sometimes get to be a tedious task. Do you ever feel like you need a break from it?

Only when I’m working.  Serisously, there are some projects that do make my eyes bleed. But then I get a fun one and the response is such that I smile again.

4. Tell us a bit about your upcoming link building seminar.

Plan is to do an intensive day-long linking workshop in Charlotte. I’m teaming up with Debra Mastaler for this. She is one of the most cerebral link builders I’ve even known, and also a really fine person, and between the two of us hopefully we can put a few people in the seats and help them learn to link, without too much pain and suffering.

5. Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at the word itself: "Mankind". Basically, it’s made up of two separate words – "mank" and "ind". What do you these words really mean?

That you’d better make sure to double check your anchor text.

August 05

Nick Wilson on the Hyperlink Hot Seat

Nick Wilson is the founder of Threadwatch, my *personal* favorite blog. If you read this blog, you know what Threadwatch is… enough said ;-)

1) Ask Jeeves: Up and coming 4th player, or forever ‘B Team’ material?

If Diller just sits on it, “B Team” all the way. If he pulls his finger out and actually does something with it then they stand a good chance of increasing market share, but even if he pulls out all the stops, i’m not convinced they’d be in with a shot at third place.

It’s all about image. If they dumped that bloody stupid butler, rebrand as ASK, take a leaf out of Yahoo’s book and open up to the rah rah blogpuppy mania movement, and promote a newer image, they could actually be dangerous. I don’t see them having that much gumption or courage, but you never know, Diller could pull a rabbit out of the hat at any time with ASK.

2) In last week’s Hyperlink Hot Seat, Aaron Wall commented on how Threadwatch has achieved a high level of success in a relatively short time (e.g., it’s been blogrolled on sites like Search Engine Watch, Yahoo! Search Blog and Ask Jeeves Blog). To what do you attribute Threadwatch’s steep growth curve of readership and recognition?

Being a bloody minded, egotistical, rude bastard. Didn’t you know?

Seriously, I think people are bored of corporate suck up sites, any muppet can use an RSS reader and scan for news, but who wants to read the bland, boring, opinionless “commentary” that most sites in this space spew out?

I’d sooner stick my head in a bucket of cold sick…

3) You’re responsible for inserting the words “bollocks” and “wanker” into my daily vocabulary. How do you feel about that?

Very proud. Fine british swear words! You’d not want your 12yr old child to be calling people wankers, but it’s pretty mild and harmless really.

4) Sites like ClickZ and CNET are STILL extremely niggardly in re to their linking policy. Will this ever bite them in the butt? Or will they just get away with it forever?

I think both are way behind the curve regarding news, and the way it’s reported. But I also think they’ll probably get away with being arses for quite some time to come. CNet’s latest attempt to catch up, “Blogma”, is a farce, it only serves to prove how badly they misunderstand the current climate. As for Clickz, despite some of their staff being deeply unhappy with their non-conversational policies, they’re about as clued in as CNet.

Who cares though?

5) The next time I have meat and mashed potatoes, I think I’ll put a very large blob of potatoes on my plate with just a little piece of meat. And if someone asks me why I didn’t get more meat, I’ll just say, “Oh, you mean this?” and pull out a big piece of meat from inside the blob of potatoes, where I’ve hidden it. Good magic trick, huh?

Yeah! You know, if you did that with minced meat in gravy, you’d have Shepards Pie – And that’s LEGAL :)

July 05

Aaron Wall on the Hyperlink Hot Seat

Aaron Wall writes (that is, wrote, and continually rewrites) the most well-known search engine optimization ebook on the Web. He is also the man behind Search-Marketing.info, which, while lesser-known than SEO Book, is a great source for instructional SEO articles.

1) Yahoo!’s search algorithm: Closing in on Google, or 18 months behind?

I think they are closing, but when they started they were far more than 18 months behind, and as they draw closer they reach more toward a point of diminishing returns. I recently interviewed NFFC and he stated:

“This is what I think, SEO is all about emotions, all about human interaction. People, search engineers even, try and force it into a numbers box. Numbers, math and formulas are for people not smart enough to think in concepts.”

and that if he worked at a search engine

“I would look to give good things a boost and stop focusing on finding bad things to penalise.”

In the past Google was able to give people more reason to give back user data (ie: toolbar and PageRank), Yahoo! is trying to catch up with their My Web idea, but even though they allow users to block sites and share them I still feel none of the competing search services have a brand that can compete with Google, and none of them make users feel like they own and help improve the results.

Look how Google launches other products: Gmail, Orkut, using other brand names. Google wants their name to be synonymous with search. Yahoo! wants to be synonymous with everything, and that thins the brand. Owning content networks means having internal customers, and that creates a biased search service which some people will question the relevancy of.

Google has also bought Urchin and may be creating a payment system to help create the micropayment business model or get more end to end consumer behavior data. As far as collecting user data I think Google has the competition beat, but there is only so much you can do with the data before the focus on more data creates algorithms which resist innovation and change.

I think most of search distribution is down to positioning and who can lock in more users with their other services. The search service which makes you feel like you own the service will be the one that wins in distribution. As far as quality goes I think NFFC was right on that, whoever focuses more on signs of quality than reasons to penalize will win. Adding more human interaction to the algorithms would help a ton as well.

2) NickW: Highly entertaining SEO personality or rebel without a cause?

Based on regularly linking at his site and posting comments to it I obviously like it. My opinion does not matter that much though in the grand scheme of things. If you look at the more official type links, he has got blogrolled on sites like Search Engine Watch, Yahoo! Search Blog, Ask Jeeves Blog, has been Slashdotted a few times, and has had press mentions from sites like Guardian, Slate, etc etc etc.

My site is not on any of those blogrolls, has had little mention in any traditional type of press, and has had limited reach outside of the search community, so I would say in that regard he is doing a much better job than I, especially when you consider that he gets away with far more cursing than I do :)

Even when he calls people out, like ClickZ recently, they still feel the need to comment on his site, so that is fairly impressive. In less than a year his site has probably moved into the top 10 search related sites in terms of quality inbound linkage data, and with modern search algorithms it is all about linkage data.

3) SEOBook: Reached its peak, or just getting started?

Will steal a line from Larry Page at Google’s recent quarterly conference call. It is still in the first inning.

4) Do you think the guy that posted here (and in subsequent comments on that thread) is really GoogleGuy as we know him (aka Matt Cutts)?

You don’t know a person for sure based on a few heated forum posts. I am not sure if that was GoogleGuy or Matt Cutts. Rumour has it that Matt loves tomatoes though.

5) If you ever fall off the Sears Tower, just go real limp, because maybe you’ll look like a dummy and people will try to catch you because, hey, free dummy!

Never been in the Sears Tower. Do not plan on going. I am a HUGE FAN of the dummies http://www.crashtestdummies.com/ though. Luckily I was able to link your question to that great band, or there would have been no link based Q&As