Ken Lyons's blog

How to Scale Your Link Building Efforts

As part of my SEO services for clients, I build links. Most SEOs agree that manually building and begging for links is tedious and even loathsome, but a necessary evil. Without links, you don't rank. It's that simple.Like many link builders, I've discovered what I call "link equity wells:" prime link juice target sites that pass trust, equity and aren't impossible to acquire links on.

Now, I'm not talking about low value article directories or forum signature links. These are solid, moderate value links that I tap for juice to client sites as needed. Downside is, revisiting the same link wells again and again is not only laborious, it's inefficient. Face it, link building on its own sucks, but having to repeat the exact same link activities on each new client site can be mind-numbing. It's... > Read more

January 28, 2010     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: Link Building   |   Comments: 11

When looking for a search marketing job, do you assess the employer’s website?

Richard Kraneis (@rkraneis) is a good friend of WordStream, a frequent reader of and commenter on our Internet Marketing Blog and runs a site offering online GED services. Like many, Richard is curious about learning the ropes of search engine marketing (SEM). His questions about SEM are always well-thought out and intriguing and often result in some great dialogue.

So we thought it would be interesting to post some of Richard's questions and follow along in his quest for SEM knowledge as he seeks answers from: His own research - Richard's own research will fuel his SEM education The staff at WordStream - We'll offer our own thoughts on Richard's questions and answers Your feedback - feel free to weigh in and give your thoughts too This Month's SEM Question from Richard I'm in the proces... > Read more

January 27, 2010     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: SEM Questions   |   Comments: 1

Buzzstream Link Management Software Review

As the link profile of WordStream.com continues to grow and grow, we realized it was time to purchase software that would assist us in managing our ballooning link database. Up until now, we'd been tracking all of our link acquisitions and link outreach efforts in Excel. But Excel has serious limitations, due in part because it's not built for link management.

As active link builders, our goal was to find a product that was designed specifically for our link management needs. And as Garret French espoused in Link Building Trends for 2010: "2010 will be the year of “link relationship management” software, and more and more link building firms will shift away from spreadsheets." I wholeheartedly agree. Why do you need a link management tool? If you're serious about link building and... > Read more

January 14, 2010     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: Link Building   |   Comments: 4

What are Online Marketing Best Practices for December and January?

Richard Kraneis (@rkraneis) is a good friend of WordStream, a frequent reader of and commenter on our Internet Marketing Blog and runs a site offering GED online services. Like many, Richard is curious about learning the ropes of search engine marketing (SEM). His questions about SEM are always well-thought out and intriguing and often result in some really great dialogue.

So we thought it would be interesting to post some of Richard's questions and follow along in his quest for SEM knowledge as he poses questions and seeks answers from: His own research - Richard's own research will fuel his SEM education The staff at WordStream - We'll offer our own thoughts on Richard's questions and answers Your feedback - feel free to weigh in and give your thoughts too This Month's SEM Question fro... > Read more

January 13, 2010     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: SEM Questions   |   Comments: 1

Top Search Marketing and Social Media Research Projects of 2009

In 2009, the scientific community treated search and social media marketers to what seemed like a never-ending supply of meaty and game-changing research projects, covering everything from information retrieval, to personalized search, to integrated SERP analysis, to studying user behavior on social networks.

I decided to compile and share a list of my favorite Search and Social Media Marketing Research Projects of 2009. Hopefully, these research papers will inform and inspire your marketing efforts going into 2010.By the way, if after reading all the papers on this list you find that you're jonesing for more, here are two great resources for marketers to find research papers on social media marketing and search engine marketing:Google ScholarYahoo ResearchVideo LecturesSo fire up your neu... > Read more

December 31, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: Search Engine Marketing   |   Comments: 2

Google PageRank Update: December 30, 2009

So despite claims of ditching the little green pixel bar, Google has once again updated their Tool Bar PageRank (TBPR) about an hour ago, at 8 p.m. on December 30, 2009. I noticed the change immediately when I was doing a little WordStream brand searching and saw in the SERPs that we'd jumped from a PR5 to a robust PR6.

The change literally took place before my eyes. One minute we were PR5, then next search: BOOM! PR6. Totally geeky, I know, but my heart skipped a beat. The actual SEO for Firefox Toolbar has yet to update though. It's still reading PR5, but I'm sure that will change by tomorrow. I'm also seeing changes across many of my sites, all for the better, which is a nice way to kick off 2010. By my count, this is the sixth and final update for 2009, with the last PageRank update oc... > Read more

December 30, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: Google   |   Comments: 15

Top SEO Toy Websites

With Christmas just a few days away, I wanted to take a break from my hectic holiday shopping schedule (ah, who am I kidding...my wife does all the Christmas shopping, even for herself) to see which toy companies have killer SEO'd websites as part of our ongoing series, Top SEO Websites. So I made this "top toy keywords" list and I've checked it twice.

I'm gonna' find out whose SEO is naughty and whose is nice. Okay, okay, cheesy Xmas parody aside, there are definitely some surprises on this list of Top SEO Toy Websites, which includes one very popular toy company that really Scrooged on the optimization this year and deserve a big, honking lump of coal in their stockings. Wondering who it is? Read on and find out. Top SEO Toy Websites: SERP Analysis Process My process for determining whi... > Read more

December 23, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: Top SEO Websites Series   |   Comments: 11

Google's Real Time Brandjacking

Okay, so I've been running my share of real time SERP testing recently to get an idea how this may or may not impact SEO. As expected, others in search have been doing much the same with some very funny (yet scary) results. But nothing concerned me more than what I found last night. I was doing a branded query for WordStream to see what if anything was being integrated into our real time search results and here's what I find:   So the WordStream home page was pushed out of the first position for our branded query in favor of some random RTs from Twitter that are totally unrelated to the WordStream brand.

I was pretty ticked when I saw this. The reputation management implications are huge if this is what Google has in store for brands. I mean, it's one thing to integrate real time resu... > Read more

December 10, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In:   |   Comments: 2

SEO Lab: Testing Anchor Text Links

To be an effective and successful SEO, it's imperative that you're always testing, testing, testing. Why? Well, for starters, the variables that comprise and dictate the SERPs are totally out of our control. How do you know what truly works unless you test? Another reason is that's it's very unlikely you'll ever run into a search engineer from Google at a bar who's so hammered that he reveals Google's ranking algo to you.

But to be more specific, continuous testing is valuable and necessary because: Algorithms are constantly being updated, so what worked yesterday may not work today Without evidence or cold hard facts, you're operating blindly Every test you conduct adds to your knowledge base There's a lot of misinformation and SEO myths, so you can't believe in and rely on everything yo... > Read more

December 10, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: SEO Marketing   |   Comments: 11

You Know You’re a Search Geek if...

Okay. I admit it. I'm a big ole' search geek. My life pretty much revolves around search. I mainly read search marketing blogs, have a SEO consulting biz on the side, and work full time for WordStream, where I'm surrounded by other search marketers all day, and we sell search marketing tools to members of the search marketing industry.

So my search geekiness should come as no surprise. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to create a list and share some of the truly nerdy search stuff I’ve done that makes me an uber geek. Plus, this should help anyone who's on the fence, wondering if they are or aren't a search geek too. Because if you've ever done any of these things, then well... You Know You’re a Search Geek if... You're impressed by domain names When we moved into our new office last ... > Read more

December 03, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: Search Engine Marketing   |   Comments: 6

Meta Description Mutiny! Take Control of Your Text Snippets

If you're under the impression that you control what searchers see in the meta description snippet of your SERP listings, you're living in fantasy land. Static meta descriptions are like Santa Claus, Unicorns and men who look "good" in toupees. They just don't exist. That's because the meta description is a chameleon: always changing its appearance.

That snippet you tag to show in the SERPs is often discarded by Google for text more germane to a searcher's query. And given that Google’s goal is to return the most relevant results to their audience, I can see how personalized meta descriptions make sense. But that doesn't mean search marketers have to sit by idly and let Google dictate what an audience will or won't see. There are ways to take control of your text snipp... > Read more

November 19, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: SEO Marketing   |   Comments: 9

Best Keyword Ranking Tools for SEO

Most SEOs use keyword ranking tools to track where their pages are ranking in the SERPs for target keywords. It gives them an idea how well their optimization efforts are faring against the competition as well as how well those rankings are progressing over time. Now even though rankings without traffic and conversions are meaningless, it all starts with rankings.

If your pages don’t rank, nobody finds them. And the higher you rank, the more potential traffic you can grab. Now, there are a lot of a lot of paid and free tools out there that help SEOs track keyword rankings. Some are paid and some are free. In writing this post, I did a lot of research to bring you the best keyword ranking tools for SEO.Free Keyword Ranking Tools Rank Checker Web CEO Ventio Paid Keyword Ranking Tools Ad... > Read more

November 12, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In:   |   Comments: 17

5 SEO Myths Busted

SEO is rampant with misinformation, speculation and myths about SEO. But that's the nature of the game, right? Since nobody but Google knows for certain which 200 plus ranking signals comprise the Google secret algorithmic formula, we're left to speculate. However, there's gross misinformation, complete speculation and then there are theories put into practice tested and proven to return results with some degree of reliability.

With that, I've decided to address some of the SEO myths I see or hear from time to time. Most of the following SEO myths I'm attempting to debunk are controversial, meaning the vast majority of SEOs will disagree with my assertions, and I'll probably take a lot of flack. But that's okay. Feel free to lambaste me in the comments. I stand behind everything I'm profe... > Read more

November 05, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: SEO Marketing   |   Comments: 22

Google PageRank Update: October 29, 2009

Google updated their Tool Bar PageRank (TBPR) last night, October 29, 2009. I noticed the change around 9 p.m. last night, when I visited CNN.com and saw an all-green PR 10 tool bar, which caught my attention immediately. Previously, I believe they were PR 8. With the lastest update, the WordStream home page (now PR 5) and many of our top level pages have risen in rank.

So too have our blog posts, with many previous unresolved pages resolving and now achieving TBPR. Also, our take is Google is updating Toolbar PR more frequently in 2009. By my count, this is the fifth update this year, with the last PageRank update occurring on July 29, 2009. Note that in 2008, there were a total of five TBPR updates, so with this latest PageRank update, we've already tied last year's updates and may excee... > Read more

October 30, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In:   |   Comments: 2

Top SEO Candy Websites

It's Halloween time again. Time for fright flick gore-arathons, Trick-or-Treaters, and...um...oh yah, bucket loads of Halloween CANDY! I'm sure many of you are stocking up on jumbo bags of fruity, chocolately or gummy candy treats for the roving bands of costumed kids that will soon descend upon your doorstep, that is unless you're one of those people who give out bags of chips or boxes of raisins as "treats," which BTW is a great way to get your house egged.

And with Halloween only days away, what better time to roll out some SERP analysis and crown the Top SEO Candy Websites. Let's find out who's doing a killer job at optimizing their on and off page elements for the Web's top candy queries. So sit back, relax and enjoy, 'cause this edition of our "Top SEO Websites Series... > Read more

October 29, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: Top SEO Websites Series   |   Comments: 18

Advanced Link Building: Clone Your Most Successful Link Profiles

Link builders often talk about competitive link analysis and exploring your competitors' link profiles to find link opportunities. The logic here is a link profile that works for one site may work for a similar site. And executed properly, this can be an effective link strategy.But I'd like to share a link building tactic you've probably never read about.

It's very effective and based on the same approach and logic as competitive link analysis. Besides analyzing links on competitor sites, you should also be examining your own link profiles for link opportunities, specifically the profiles of your best performing pages. The objective here is to replicate the success of your strongest ranking page on your weaker ranking pages.Why is this link building tactic successful?If it's working for on... > Read more

October 22, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: Link Building   |   Comments: 17

We've Moved!

There's big news in WordStream World. We've moved to shnazzy new digs! It's pretty exciting and we all love the new space in Boston's Back Bay, just across from the Prudential Center. We're on the 16th floor of the Christian Science Monitor building and the views are incredible. What's more, our new space is a big step up from the last place.

See that "WordStream is that-a-way" sign above. Yes, that was the actual sign that greeted visitors at our previous office, so you can imagine what the rest of the place looked like. Actually, you don't have to imagine. I've taken some pics of the new WordStream office and I've also got some photos of the old space (evidence is what the police are calling them now), that way you can witness our ascent from outhouse to penthouse. So sit bac... > Read more

October 15, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: WordStream   |   Comments: 5

Top SEO Web Design Company Websites

Continuing with the Top SEO Websites Series, I decided to turn the spotlight on Web design companies to find out which ones are excelling at SEO. Sure, these Web design firms may be able to create really slick websites, but how good are they are ranking organically in highly-competitive verticals in their industry? My previous post in this series "Top SEO College Websites" made the case that most universities get an "F" when it comes to SEO.

Here's hoping the top Web design firms in the country fare better in the search engine results pages (SERPs) than most colleges did. Top SEO Web Design Company Websites: My Process My process for determining which sites are doing the best at SEO involves three steps: 1) Identify Top 20 Searched Keywords - I used the Google Keyword Tool and our Free Key... > Read more

October 14, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: Top SEO Websites Series   |   Comments: 16

Drupal vs Wordpress: The CMS Showdown

Drupal and Wordpress are two of the most popular, open source content management systems (CMS). Many websites and blogs run either Wordpress of Drupal chiefly because they are flexible platforms with large user support communities, and they're free. I use both Drupal and Wordpress in my day-to-day activities: WordStream runs on Drupal, while my personal websites and blogs run on Wordpress.

So I have a pretty good handle on the advantages and disadvantages of both CMS platforms. In this post, I'm going to offer my opinions on Drupal VS Wordpress with respect to: Ease of use Custom templates and free themes SEO plugins or modules CMS performance So let's dive into the Drupal vs Wordpress debate and see which CMS emerges victorious. Ease of Use Out of the box, Wordpress has... > Read more

October 07, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In:   |   Comments: 12

SEO Guide for College Websites, Part Two

Once again, this SEO for College Websites post comes on the heels of my popular yet somewhat contentious post on top seo college websites. I'm writing a follow up to share advice to colleges that are struggling with search engine optimization (SEO). These SEO tips should give colleges some ideas on how best to optimize their websites to rank better in higher education search verticals and attract more students though search engine marketing.

In SEO for College Websites, Part One, I covered how to conduct effective keyword research and how to create killer degree page title tags for SEO. In this post, I'll discuss how to optimize your degree page content and how to acquire some quality inbound links. Step Three: Optimize Your On-Page Content When optimizing your content for search, there a... > Read more

September 28, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: SEO Marketing   |   Comments: 7

PPC Advertising Project for Non-Profits

We got an interesting email the other day from our friend Jim Jansen, assistant professor at the College of Information Science and Technology at Penn State. If you haven't heard of Jim yet or aren't familiar with his research in search marketing and searcher behavior, read our recent interview with him here: Jim Jansen on Click Behavior and SERP integration.

Jim told me about a really cool project he and his students are doing in his PPC advertising course (BTW, how cool is a class on PPC advertising?). He and 55 of his technology and advertising students at Penn State are creating keyword advertising campaigns for eleven non-profit organizations. Apparently, the students will be implementing paid search campaigns for these eleven non-profits, as well as doing some SEO work and optimizing... > Read more

September 25, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: Paid Search Marketing   |   Comments: 4

How to Find the Unfindable: 12 Ways to Find Anyone's Personal Email Address

Give me someone's name, and I'll find their personal email address. Sure, it may take some extensive digging and sleuthing, but I'll find you eventually. And I'm not paying to root you out or buying your private info from a lead gen company (though sometimes that would be easier). This is just good old fashioned, organic searching, scanning and scouring the Internet like a Web gumshoe.

And not stopping until I ferret out that personal email.Methods:Google EmailsBusiness EmailsAdvanced Search OperatorsSocial MediaWhois LookupPeople SearchWhy is it important to obtain someone's personal email address?If you're sending out an important email that you really want to be taken seriously and improve your chances of getting an actual response, you need to go directly to the source. Sending an impo... > Read more

September 23, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: Marketing Strategy   |   Comments: 13

SEO Guide for College Websites, Part One

On the heels of my popular yet somewhat contentious post last week on the Top College Websites for SEO, I thought I'd do a follow up to give advice to those colleges that are struggling with search engine optimization (SEO). This Google SEO guide should give colleges some insight into how best to optimize their websites to rank well in higher education search verticals and attract more students though search engine marketing.

NOTE: This SEO for College Websites is the first in a two-part series. SEO University: Best practices for optimizing college degree pages Most college websites publish a bunch of content under a variety of topics: from administrative pages, to course catalogs, to campus news, to research lab micro sites, and so on. But the real bread and butter for universities are t... > Read more

September 15, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: SEO Marketing   |   Comments: 3

2009 Search Marketing and Social Media Salary Survey

Search engine and social media marketing are industries that continue to grow even in the face of one of the worst economies since the Great Depression. Talented and skilled SEO, PPC, SEM and SMO professionals are still in hot demand, despite the grim economic backdrop. Recently, we conducted a survey of search engine marketers and social media marketers to get an idea of the current state of SEM and SMO.

More than 100 SEO, PPC and SMM professionals participated in our survey, giving us a window into their experience level, primary fields of expertise, and more to the point how much inbound marketing professionals are earning, given the global recession. The results of our survey may surprise you. 2009 Search Engine Marketers and Social Media Marketers Salary Survey Interpreting the S... > Read more

September 10, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: Surveys   |   Comments: 3

Take Our Search Marketing and Social Media Survey

Hey, search engine and social media marketers. We're conducting a brief search marketing/social media salary survey of SEM and SMO industry professionals. If you're a search engine or social media marketer, we'd love it if you'd take a few moments to participate in our survey. This survey is designed for: Professionals who work in search engine marketing or social media marketing Once this survey is completed, we'll publish the results on our blog next week.

So take the survey now. It's a mere five questions and will take less than two minutes of your time. NOTE: Poll is closed. But you view the results here: Search Engine Marketers, Social Media Marketing Salary Survey 2009 Thanks for participating! ... > Read more

September 01, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: Surveys   |   Comments: 0

Top SEO College Websites 2009

In honor of "Back to School," I thought it would be fun to do some SEO sleuthing and determine which colleges are doing the best job at optimizing their websites for organic search. Before joining WordStream, I worked in the web office for a major university, so I spent a lot of time checking out other college websites.

What I realized was the vast majority of college websites have not yet embraced (or even acknowledged) search marketing, be it paid or organic, as an effective marketing channel. So why are most colleges clueless about SEO? Well, there are a number of reasons: Brand recognition - Many universities rely on brand power to attract prospective students, and are plenty satisfied if their site shows up first for a branded query. They're not overtly concerned with keyword rankin... > Read more

September 01, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: Top SEO Websites Series   |   Comments: 18

10 Free SEO Tools We Use Every Day

I thought I'd take the time to share some of the 10 free SEO tools we use every day in our SEO efforts. Since all of these tools are vital to our SEO, I'm uber-grateful for their existence, and even more thankful that they're FREE. And seeing that these SEO tools are in fact free, the least I can do is pay-it-forward, promote them and pass along some link love.

Now, some of the free SEO tools on this list you may know about or use already, but hopefully you'll find some new tools you can use everyday in your own SEO efforts.10 Free SEO Tools We'll Review:SEO for FirefoxMajestic SEORank CheckerYahoo Link DomainFoxyrankiGoogleGoogle AlertsPing.fmGoogle Webmaster ToolsTwaitterThe Free Keyword ToolSEO for Firefox Toolbar- This SEO tool has become ingrained in my daily routine. So much so, that ... > Read more

August 26, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: SEO Marketing   |   Comments: 23

License to Rank: Google's Silly Love Affair with Exact Match Domain Names

Love is blind. And that's no more evident than when it comes to Google's undying affection for exact match domains. Yes, Google hearts exact match domain names "4-eva." It's true. I see it every day: sites with no links, no content, no authority top the SERPs because they have query-perfect domain names.

 These darlings of the Web get a free ride, and don't have to play by the same set of SEO rules as the rest of us with "regular" domain names. Basically, an exact match domain is a license to rank. Why is Google Ga Ga Over Exact Match Domain Names? Google's infatuation with exact match domain names has been going on for years, which is pretty frustrating. Because despite their countless "quality" updates to the search algo and pledge to clean up the cesspool, Google is still weak in t... > Read more

August 19, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In:   |   Comments: 12

SEO Title Tag Formulas: How to Create High Performance Title Tags

Want Better Keyword Ideas for Your Title Tags? Try our Keyword Tool to Generate Highly Relevant Keyword Suggestion Ideas!One of the most important pieces of copy for SEO is the title tag. Having a strong, relevant, clickable title can have a major impact on rankings, click-through rates and overall traffic numbers.

Table of Contents:Adding KeywordsAdding Action WordsAdding Secondary KeywordsBest Title Tag FormulasTesting Title TagsIn my mind, the title tag is so vital to the success of your SEO that I advocate rigorous testing of tags to find which ones work and which don't. Once you've found a winner, you should implement a title tag formula that everyone who touches SEO on your website can follow.Benefits of an SEO title tag formula:Keeps SERP listings consistent across a siteSimplifies t... > Read more

August 05, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In: SEO Marketing   |   Comments: 51

Google PageRank Update: July, 29, 2009

We're seeing a Google Toolbar PageRank update that happened about 20 minutes ago (July 29, 2009). Many of our top level pages have jumped in rank as a result of this latest update. Also, our take is Google has started to update Toolbar PR more and more frequently. By my count, this is the fourth update in 2009.

Note that in all of 2008, there were a total of five PR updates. So if this latest TBPR update is confirmed, Google is clearly updating more frequently and we should reach seven or eight updates by year's end. For reference, Google PageRank is a link analysis algorithm (named after Larry Page, co-founder of Google), which Google uses to assign a numerical weighting to measure the authority, value or importance of a webpage. Nobody outside of Google knows the actual PageRank of a doc... > Read more

July 29, 2009     |   Written by: Ken Lyons   |   Posted In:   |   Comments: 16
 
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