Best of the Inbound.org AMAs: SEO Edition

April 3, 2015

In this latest in our series of the best tips from the Inbound.org AMAs (Ask Me Anythings), we have a collection of awesome insights from top marketers in SEO.

Annie Cushing, Ian Lurie, Rand Fishkin, Mike King and many others have participated in the popular Q&A-style threads on Inbound, where you're encouraged to ask them just about anything within their particular areas of expertise.

Here, you'll find the top SEO tips from Inbound’s AMAs, organized into business tips, tools and tactics, and industry buzz. Also check out:

The Business of SEO

On where to invest $200 in SEO if it just fell out of the sky

I probably wouldn't use it at all. For the first 5 years of SEOmoz's marketing efforts, I doubt I spent that much on anything – just blogged, participated in communities, produced some interesting one-off content (like the beginner's guide, the ranking factors, etc.). Maybe I'd buy a decent camera to do some video :-)

- Rand Fishkin, founder of SEOMoz

SEO budget

Via David Dellinger

On hiring & getting hired as an SEO

There's more to internet marketing than SEO. If you want me to take you seriously as an internet marketer, I need to see technical knowledge of 2 of the following:

1. Server infrastructure. What IS a log file, exactly? What can slow down/speed up a server?

2. Microsoft Excel. Excel-fu is a valuable martial art.

3. Basic HTML. You can't work on the web if you don't even know what an H1 tag is.

4. How search engines work. You don't need to know the PageRank formula, but it helps to understand what a crawler is, and how an index works.

5. Why the basic idea of citation matters on the web. Beyond rankings. What happens when lots of people refer to something you said or wrote? How can that impact your brand in social media? And yes, how might it impact search rankings?

6. How the different channels impact each other: PPC, SEO, social. They all interact one way or another. High-level understanding of this makes you a great strategist.

7. How to do basic audience research using keyword tools, things like Google Suggest, and demographics tools like the Facebook ads toolset.

8. How to do a presentation that doesn't make me weep with despair. This isn't really technical. But it will get you +100000 points in my book.

- Ian Lurie, founder/CEO of Portent

On getting started in SEO

If you're just getting started in the industry, make sure that you learn everything you can about, well, everything. Understand why SEO is important: I'd recommend reading the Moz Beginner's Guide to SEO, reading Paddy Moogan's Link Building Book, and enrolling in DistilledU. Then read everything you can about social and content and email marketing and PR and....you get the point. I'd also recommend reading Marty Weintraub's book. The thing is that you've got to be really well-rounded to work at the top of this industry, so think about what you can do to help businesses make a difference and then investigate the tools you may be able to use to get them there.

- Mackenzie Fogelson, founder/CEO of Mack Web Solutions

On getting different disciplines and agencies to work together

I always start by giving both PR and SEO teams an intro training session in the other field. That way when you get them all together, they understand the terminology each team uses and what the constraints are with their jobs. I am always amazed at how effective this is!

- Lexi Mills, head of digital at Dynamo Pro

On getting clients onboard and sharing info with your agency

Compete transparency (after signing non-disclosure agreements) is pretty much a prerequisite for us to work with anyone. The more the client shares, the more helpful we can be. We have a detailed (40 question) questionnaire that we use as a starting point for a recorded kick-off discussion with them. It covers the history of the business, their economics and business model, competitors, marketing, website and technology, as well as any political dimensions inside of the company.

- Tim Ash, SiteTuners

On the first steps to take in a new SEO job

Get to grips with the client’s business model – what are their USPs? What assets do they have? Who works there? What makes them good? What does success look like to them?

- Phil Nottingham, Distilled

SEO Tools & Tactics

inbound seo

Via Patrick jc via Compfight

On link building post-Penguin

I use the same strategies I used before Penguin, finding ways to build natural links, not natural-looking but truly natural links. I also make sure that I get my content to a full tier of media and bloggers. Having specific media material for each group is important, media will want more photographs and interviews whereas bloggers want something unique. Having a tool kit to help a variety of people cover your story/content is key to getting a good diverse link portfolio. When I am working on a client who is recovering from being hit by an update, you first need to clean up the link portfolio and then be VERY careful about every link you build afterwards.

- Lexi Mills, head of digital at Dynamo Pro

On link building vs. content marketing

While they work separately, we see tremendous increases in response rates when people use traditional link building techniques (broken link building, guest blogs, etc) in conjunction with traditional content marketing (ultimate guides, infographics, research and thought leadership, etc), along with superior content marketing ROI when people spend some time promoting content and thinking about how to get search and social visibility from it.

- Matt Gratt, Buzzstream

On quantifying the value of a link

I think Ross Hudgens and Adria Saracino have the best posts about link valuation:



One thing I'd add to these posts...as Google is getting better and better about site and link valuations, the use of metrics as the sole method for valuing a site is becoming less and less useful. If you look at both Ross' and Adria's processes, they're both looking at each site to see if it passes the eyeball test. In my opinion, this is going to become more and more important as Google gets smarter. 

- Paul May, Founder of Buzzstream

On favorite SEO tools

I love the data I get from SEMRush and Searchmetrics. Both show you your visibility in the search engines by showing you the keywords your site is ranking on the first two pages of Google for. You can even see the landing pages for each keyword. They both tend to show more short-tail keywords, so you're not going to see as much of your long-tail keyword visibility. But still great data to analyze, especially when combined with data you get from GWT's Search Queries and Top Pages reports. I also really like GTMetrix for site speed issues. If you haven't seen it, I have a huge list of tools for marketers.

- Annie Cushing, AKA Annielytics

On tools for SEO link analysis

For link analysis: I tend to favor Majestic SEO's citation and trust flow, as well as SEOmoz's Domain Authority.

- Ian Lurie, founder/CEO of Portent

On influencer outreach

The key is to start producing content that is useful and interesting to your target audience.  You have to give them a reason to come to your website.  Without that, outreach to influencers isn't going to be effective. In terms of finding influencers, you can use a tool like SEOmoz's FollowerWonk – or even Twitter search.

- Dharmesh Shah, Inbound.org & HubSpot

On SEO tools we could use

I'd say at the very least more tools need to be built with headless crawlers so they can traverse the DOM on fully executed JS. I'd say that we need to incorporate more semantic analysis into our tools so we can better understand the value of a link. Now we need to collect data on authors to understand content in context of them. I think that there needs to be more stuff like http://www.ntopic.org built into tools so can better optimize our own content. I think more toolbars and crawlers like SF need to be thinking about schema.org and social metadata. I'd love to see all the Link Indices have a visualization similar to what Cognitive SEO has.

- Mike King, Digital Marketer

On SEO reporting

Because I don't just report on SEO performance but more demonstrate how it fits in a client's overall marketing ecosystem, I tend to create reporting dashboards that include things like top mediums (both month-over-month and year-over-year) and historical organic and overall (with a scrolling chart to keep it from swallowing up the dashboard). But it's important to me that I find out what KPIs keep my clients up at night and report on those. And they're going to change pretty dramatically from client to client.

- Annie Cushing, AKA Annielytics

The most valuable skill in SEO?

Imagination. The only thing that can't be taught.

- Mike King, Digital Marketer

SEO Under the Hood


Via Ben Seidelman

On crawl frequency

Try tweeting or sharing the content on Google+. I think crawl frequency is proportional to the authority of the domain.

- Larry Kim, WordStream Founder

On what off-page SEO factors are important

Biggest one I see still moving the needle is lots of editorial links from trustworthy unique root domains. Anchor text still helps, too.

- Rand Fishkin, founder of SEOMoz

On semantic search

Semantic is already here. Google uses entity extraction and topic modeling and semantic connectivity (read Bill Slawski's SEO by the Sea for more) today. Social graph is used a little, but it can do much, much more. I think we've seen that with Google+ and a little w/ Facebook graph search (too early to really say there). The social proof element of social graph + search is the most powerful, IMO. I don't totally subscribe to the idea that people only want to see what their friends recommend when they do websearch, but I do believe they may be swayed by knowing that their friends liked/shared something that showed up in the SERPs.

- Rand Fishkin, founder of SEOMoz

Are redirects on domain levels best managed via a 301?

I'm a fan of Permanent redirects. I believe search engines love them too.

- Avinash Kaushik, Co-Founder of Market Motive

On the importance (or not) of PageRank

I don't really pay attention to PageRank anymore. Not that it's not important, rather because there is so little I can win by solving just for that. There are so many other SEO wins I can keep track of. The other factor is personalized search. No matter what search engine you use there is so much other context - from location to history to language to recent clicks to freshness to... so many things - that they are using to ensure that you and I could sit right next to each other and type the same query and get different results. Hence my personal strategy to solve for other things, the Page Rank thing can take care of itself.

- Avinash Kaushik, Co-Founder of Market Motive

On the potential devaluation of links

I like links as a signal in one form or another for the next 3-5 years. God knows what the web will look like past that point. I do think they will be augmented by all kinds of other data (authorship, social, usage etc).

- Will Critchlow, co-founder of Distilled

On the never-ending “SEO is Dead” chatter

If they mean "no one is searching anymore and it's no longer valuable to get traffic from search engines," then it's just complete bunk. However, if they mean "SEO as a singular practice that includes only the classic elements of SEO is giving way to a broader kind of marketing practice that includes technical SEO, content, creativity, social media, email, branding, PR, etc" then I fully agree. The SEO I knew and loved 8 years ago still works sometimes, but increasingly, you'll get beat by those who may do less hardcore SEO and more on the content/branding/social elements.

- Rand Fishkin, founder of SEOMoz

On where SEO is going

If you haven't read up on Google Hummingbird yet, start there. That is the start of where it's going. We've been preaching for 8 years to write for people first, while artfully spoon feeding the Google algorithm as needed. Now, the algorithm is better than ever with natural language and synonyms, and will keep getting better. So if you understand the language of your audience (think search query research instead of just "keyword" research) the "art" of SEO copywriting simply becomes the art of serving your intended audience.

- Brian Clark, CEO of Copyblogger