For everything there is a season, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to build links. I’m not 100% sure that last one is actually from Ecclesiastes, but it should be in the Book of SEO.

Link building is a perpetual pursuit for websites, but that doesn’t mean the circumstances are the same every day.  And yet, there are certain constants even within continual change. One of these faithfully enduring factors is the unyielding progression of the seasons. Even if the leaves don’t change and snow doesn’t fall wherever you live, we all share the same four-season cycle. This fixed seasonal rotation provides a few things we can rely on to help us create link building strategies.

Summer

Most of modern civilization has at least some susceptibility to the academic calendar. For the early part of our lives, most of us become indoctrinated to the concept of a summer vacation. It’s a pattern that tends to manifest itself in business trends long after we leave academia. So naturally, even link building is affected by the summer break mentality.

The gold standards of links in SEO are the ones that come from highly authoritative sources. Many of those high-trust hot-zones tend to slow down a bit during the summer months. From educational institutions to local government there is a natural deceleration of certain activities. With schools in particular, teachers and students are much less available. If you are trying to target these types of links the challenge increases when school is out.

But that just means you need to turn your attention elsewhere. In warm weather people are generally more active outdoors and it can be beneficial to connect your business to that lifestyle. ywith organizations that link to sponsors of course. If you’re industry is more of an indoor cat, partnering with travel and outdoor recreation sites is a good way to get some cross-promotion.

Fall

Some people love the fall and others hate it, which I think largely depends on how they see it. The changing leaves are worth a 3 hour drive to nowhere and the night air has an exhilarated bite. But to the glass-is-half-empty types, it also means winter is on its way.  For teachers, parents and link builders, it’s back to school time.

When the classes start, the game is on for educational content and getting ready for winter. While the kids are buying new book bags, the teachers are planning. Lesson plans, teaching aids, syllabuses are being developed or revised. Some of your content can get links from the online versions of those materials, if you have the right resources.  Figure out what about your business is a teachable moment. Develop those concepts and mold them into pieces of content that will appeal to teachers on all grade levels. The early weeks of school can be busy ones but, if you time it right, your contribution to educational schematics could last for years.

Winter

Winter is cold in the northern hemisphere, which is where the vast majority of earth’s land mass lies. So whether you’re in San Francisco or San Tropez, it’s chilly in January. People spend more time indoors and there’s a pretty decent chance they’re killing some of their cabin fever online. In the winter both weather and social traditions are working in a link builder’s favor.

Christmas is coming, so is Hanukah, and Kawanza and a number of celebrations and shopping trips. This time of year, as most stores know, is all about the special offers, sales and discounts. Whatever product or service you sell, you can play the Holiday angle. Don’t sell yourself out just because you think your service doesn’t fit the typical Christmas theme. A carpet cleaning service can get it in on it by offering a holiday cleaning special. A lighting fixture site can offer Gift Certificates and pre-holiday “upgrade” discounts.

Just because you’re not a major retail player doesn’t mean you can’t get a few holiday links. People are looking en masse for gift ideas and holiday party planning tips. Blogs, s outlets, and websites of all kinds are compiling lists of these resources along with copious coupon codes and deals. Don’t just post your offers on your site, promote them with a full-on outreach blitz. Holiday-mania strikes everyone, and if you can’t beat em, at least get links from it.

Spring

If you watch Animal Planet you know springtime plays a major role in expansion and growth. The world undergoes a sort of re-birth during these months. And even though there’s a lot happening outside, this can be one of the harder times of the year to work marketing angles. There are a few holidays, but nothing nearly as behaviorally significant as other seasons. That makes this a great season for planning, analyzing and evaluation.

While nature is taking its course outside, it’s a good time to breathe new life into your online marketing strategy.  Figure out what worked during the winter and lay the groundwork for what lies ahead.  I don’t mean you should stop your link building, but it’s always calm before the storm. And link builders should be like children; if they are quiet, it should mean they’re up to something. These “quieter” months can be as good a time as any to plan your attack for the year ahead.

The twist is, in order to really stay ahead of the curve, planning for each season should happen months before it arrives. The same way department stores put out bathing suits in February and Christmas trees as early as September. Behind the scenes work should done be a few months ahead of the calendar year, so that when the season strikes, you’re ready to launch.

Link building is hard enough under the best of circumstances and any link builder will tell you that no single strategy works all the time for everyone. There’s nowhere that’s more evident than when you examine the nuances of seasonality and its effects on human behavior. Link building in many ways requires an understanding psychology. This includes grasping not only the how and why behind getting links, but the when as well. There are naturally occurring peaks and valleys throughout the year that you can use to your advantage. Sometimes you can help your site speak to search engine algorithms by simply listening to seasonal bio-rhythms. When you use the collective habits of humanity to appeal to the right needs, at the right times, then you’ll probably find that links are always in season.

Check out the SEO Tools guide at Search Engine Journal.

A Link for All Seasons


When people talk “Agile SEO”, they normally discuss the benefits of a procedural department-wide shift to the agile framework, or the development of technical tools to approach SEO problems with more of a programmers mindset. These are both great tactics, but aren’t immediately actionable. At SeatGeek, we’ve taken inspiration from agile software development to model a longtail strategy that works and can be implemented immediately with only content creators and a Google Analytics account.

Having an SEO methodology for continual creation, deployment and updating of content should not be an overlooked practice. It is important to find the right system for keyword targeting that gives you a competitive advantage. For us, iterative and incremental development processes are the core agile principles that we have applied to our SEO content strategy to achieve a competitive advantage, particularly in blog content we release.

Let’s break it down by looking at why agility is important, what it means, and how to incorporate it into your SEO content strategy.

Why Agility Matters

We can all agree that the web is always in flux, the SERPs included. The dynamic quality of the web creates a challenge for any web marketers to leverage trend-driven searches to increase site traffic. Harnessing the potential of topical searches and new information can be a terrific strategy.

In order to fulfill the changing daily needs of web users, it’s necessary to be adaptable and flexible with your ability to produce interesting content. Relevant topical queries are significant drivers of the longtail traffic we target at SeatGeek. Although we release new content on our blog daily, it’s only the first step in maximizing the long-tail searches through “Agile SEO”. But, even if you are failing to be on top of relevant topics or don’t have the resources to write daily, a lightweight version of our agile SEO strategy can still be very effective.

Iterative and Incremental Systems

Contrary to common belief, iterative and incremental are not similar. At the core of agile SEO development, the concept is to develop a system of releasing content through repeated cycles (iteration) and in smaller portions at a time (incremental). In this framework, the iteration is done with the early release of content and subsequent updating and “nurturing” of this content.

The incremental component is achieved by releasing tightly targeted and often shorter pieces, and then combining the content in a hub page (a page that links to your existing content related to one general topic, and ties them all together with higher-level content). For example, instead of having a page that targets 2011 summer concerts, festival lineups, top concerts by city, etc., we would write individual blog posts and aggregate it all on one summer concerts page. This approach has the added benefit of allowing you to re-purpose content and target something potentially more competitive with your new hub page.

As previously discussed, such a strategy is crucial to ever changing user queries and trends, and to address the fact that no-one is going to be 100% correct all of the time with their initial keyword targeting. The quicker SEOs can adapt to these changes by multi-targeting, re-targeting and re-purposing, the more competitive we allow ourselves to become.

Let me illustrate a simple example of how we did this at SeatGeek.


Example 1: Vans Warped Tour Lineup Announcement

There is often uncertainty about major concert lineups due to differences by city and the addition/removal of bands, which creates a problem for related searches. When publishers do a one-and-done approach releasing a lineup piece, they generally lack precision, with the key difference being that we continually update our posts so they are directly aligned with the searchers intent (which of course has the benefit of achieving high ranks and social shares).

When the partial 2011 Vans Warped Tour lineup (a major alternative rock tour) was leaked, we shortly after put out a blog post letting our readers know of the news. We targeted mid-to-longtail keywords such as “warped tour 2011 lineup”, while keeping a steady eye on “phrase” keywords searches as well as our own entrance keywords using actual post-specific search data from our Google Analytics. We noted a trend that people were mostly finding our content by searching for lineups by city, “warped tour 2011 lineup [city]”, but we did not rank high on page 1 for these queries. In retrospect this made sense, because the lineups are different in each city, a great example of the type of nuance that can easily be missed in standard forms of keyword research.

As such, we made small and swift changes to the blog post by organizing the lineups by city. We first rolled out a few cities to test the assumption that fans were searching by city. Shortly after, we repeated the previous cycle: (1) cross listed Google keyword traffic with incoming traffic, (2) continued to make relative changes and (3) adapt to user queries. Depending on the velocity of new information being released on the keyword, we generally iterate every few days to every week. Keeping an agile workflow for this blog post (i.e. releasing and testing content in small doses, in small intervals) resulted in an over 100% increase in organic views per day. Staying relevant to searcher intent allowed us to pick up over 450 Facebook likes and 125 comments.

Long tail

Example 2: Paul McCartney Tour Dates

It was big news in the music industry when Paul McCartney (who was nearing 70) announced a new tour. It was even bigger news when tickets for his first show sold out in seven seconds. Again, being fanatics of the music industry, we caught McCartney’s tour announcement on his website and quickly wrote a longtail targeted post in hopes to gain traction based on the predicted spike of searches. I’ll depict our agile model at work here in terms of cycles:

Cycle #1: Targeted keyword – “Paul McCartney on the run tour”

(a)   Ranked on page 1

(b)   Low page views.

(c)   Did homework in Google Analytics, saw new opportunity.

Cycle #2: Retargeted keyword – “Paul McCartney tour dates 2011”

(a)   Too competitive.

(b)   Low page views.

(c)   Did homework, saw new opportunity.

Cycle #3: Retargeted keyword – “Paul McCartney tour dates 2011 usa”

(a)   Ranked 2nd behind official McCartney site.

(b)   High search term for international users.

(c)   Until next iteration, will remain the same.

Between each cycle was approximately one week. We found the optimal keyword target through quick planning, analysis, implementation, testing and evaluation. We learned that the scarcely used keyword modifier “usa” was actually being used in high volumes with Paul McCartney because of his vast international reputation. We used the WordPress All in One SEO Pack plugin to make quick and easy changes to title tags, search descriptions and meta keywords (highly recommended).

By creating continual learning cycles based on small, quick changes to keywords, length, formatting, and even design – substantial knowledge is gathered by avoiding mistakes based on false assumptions. What is learned in these small tests will help us ensure content is search-friendly for the next similar post.

A Note on Bounce Rates

All of us SEO-types love testing. The “Agile SEO” workflow gives us a great opportunity to continually test new data-driven hypotheses. Creating cycles to tweak SEO is a methodology is an efficient way to stay on track for longer tailed keyword success.

It is also important to keep an eye on bounce rates when going through cycles. If you’re getting higher traffic, yet also higher bounce rates, you may just be iterating away from the main purpose of the content that users are searching. As you continue to update your content, I suggest taking a step back to make sure the ideas on the whole page are congruent with what visitors are searching.

To summarize, “Agile SEO” is releasing many iterations in small increments to continually pivot and fine tune for the optimal performance. Some of the benefits of using this methodology include: continual testing and learning, hedging against failures, and adapting quickly to changing needs of searchers.

Even if you don’t have too much time to focus on your keyword strategy, consider a lightweight approach to “Agile SEO” by focusing your effort on title tags, to target a primary and secondary keyword that users are searching.

Check out the SEO Tools guide at Search Engine Journal.

“Agile SEO” to Maximize Longtail Success


As Google retired their AdWords position preference feature back in April this year it was likely they had their top-vs-side performance segmentation almost ready for launch but it finally went public last week. Top-vs-Side segmentation had been one feature that staff internally had been using to help guide direct clients and agencies on how they could change/adjust their AdWords bid strategies for greater clicks or conversions but it’s now available to everyone now and via the API soon.

I think most marketers have accepted that the obvious downside to the position preference was that when it was launched back in April 2006 it was more accurate as Google did not display AdWords results above the organic results. Back then your average position was a much simple process to calculate. The issue was as Google has now expanded the number of AdWords that can show above the organic results up to 3 ranking by based on ad position preference reports became far too inconsistent to be of any real use to most advertisers.

Adwords side results

Part of the retirement of the position preference also helped pushed more users towards using their automated rules feature that focuses on automatically lifting or decreasing bid rates to maintain your ideal position. This change also brings the AdWords reports closer in line with the data you can already view within your AdWords section of your Google Analytics reports. You can see below that is now much easier to understand where your ad is showing and is doesn’t matter how many AdWords results are shown at the top.

Adwords top results

While this change to offer top-vs-side segmentation does allow a lot more control over your placement it does open up the idea that there might be more positions types on their way soon. Maybe Google will following Bing and allow Ads to show within the organic results or can we expect to see even more Ads showing above the organic results?

How can you use the Top-vs-Side Segmentation?

One of the first points to notice is that the data is retrospective and you can go back into your campaign to see how your data and placements changed over time. The other advantage is that unlike a number of other AdWords filters Top-vs-Side segmentation allows you to drill down to Ad or Keyword level. If you have a lot of brand terms driving traffic you should consider filtering them out for separate analysis as these might skew your data as they would usually be showing in top placements.

Gathering Data for Analysis

For this post I used a small data set from a time period over the previous 18 months. I only used PPC data a few larger campaigns but to ensure a mix they were in different industries and ran across multiple countries, it still allowed me to review 70,000 clicks and 3.5 million impressions.

Factors that may have influenced my data set

There was only a limited amount of brand keywords in the campaigns, not all the keywords always were in the top 5 positions. The display network data was also removed from the report to ensure it was just Search data and also of importance is that far less of the total budget (just 10%) was spent on Search partner’s campaigns. I did not filter out other types of Ads such as site links which likely skewed the CTR on the top positions.

AdWords Data Insights

They following insights I was able to obtain via the new Top-vs-Side segmentation and this is where I saw the most difference compared against the average and this is where I would be breaking your data down to see if you find the same patterns.

  • Most Clicks: Google Search Top
  • Most Impressions: Google Search Side followed by Partners Search Other
  • Best CTR: Google Search Top
  • Most Expensive CPC: Google Search Side followed by Partners Other
  • Most Conversions: Google Search Top
  • Best CPA: Google Search Side, Partners Top
  • Best Conversion Rate: Google Search Side followed by Partners Other

Impact

You can see from the chart above just how much of a difference a slight change in placement could have on your campaign. There are obvious elements that might be out of your control such as Ad Rank or even how much you can afford to spend per click but if you have to spend your money wisely this segmentation is a good way to do it.

Brand insights using Top-vs-Side segmentation?

It is much harder to break out brand terms as they showed in top position most of the time and any time they had impressions but it did show that when any brand term was showing on the side bar they did not record a single click. This seems to show that you need to be bidding for top position on brand terms otherwise your ads won’t be clicked and you will lose clicks to competitors.

Summary of Top-vs-Side

These kinds of AdWords interface features are very useful for marketers as they can be used across your whole account but also because the data is retrospective so it’s valid for all your previous campaigns. I suggest if you haven’t had a chance to play with the new segments you should at least take 15 mins out to see if you can gauge any early insights and if you data matches with my analysis.

Check out the SEO Tools guide at Search Engine Journal.

AdWords Top-vs-Side Segmentation insights





Adobe released a public preview of Adobe Edge, its new web motion and interaction design tool, on Monday.

Edge enables users to create animated content using HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript — not Flash. It’s the first professional-grade HTML5 editing tool on the market and is currently available for free, as the company is looking for feedback from developers.

Interestingly enough, Adobe Edge shares the name with Adobe’s free newsletter, which is bound to create some confusion among users.

The product, which relies on strict HTML standards and does not incorporate Flash, is not meant to replace existing web design tools like Dreamweaver or Flash, but to coexist with them, enhancing Adobe’s position as a leader in the future of Web infrastructure, especially as HTML5 becomes increasingly important in the world of mobile.

When Mashable spoke with Paul Gubbay, Adobe’s VP of design and web engineering, last September, he made it clear that the company is interested in supporting both platforms. The following month, Adobe launched a Flash-to-HTML5 converter, a first step towards supporting HTML5.

Adobe is further backing up that position with the launch of Adobe Edge, and promises fast-paced updates to the software to keep up with frequent changes to HTML5 itself.

Adobe released the video preview embedded below last month. Take a look, download it, test it out and let us know what you think about it.

[via VentureBeat]

More About: adobe, Adobe Edge, Flash, HTML5, trending, web design

For more Dev & Design coverage:

Adobe Edge is a new web motion and interaction design tool that allows designers to bring animated content to websites, using web standards like HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS3.Edge will be updated regularly to add new functionality, stay ahead of evolving web standards, and incorporate user feedback to provide the best functionality and experience possible. This is an early look at Edge with more capabilities to come.