10 Grammar Mistakes that Can Keep Your Content from Spreading




1. Using that when you should use who

Whenever you write about people, refer to them using who, not that.

John is the guy who always forgets his shoes, not the guy that always forgets his shoes.

It’s easy to make this mistake because that has become acceptable in everyday conversations. But it’s more noticeable when it’s written down — or maybe it only jumps out to us grammar geeks?

2. Including the word currently in your bio

The word currently is virtually always redundant. (Can you tell this is one of my pet peeves?) But let’s focus on your bio, because that’s where most writers fail on this one.

Don’t write: “Tom Jones is currently a communications director.” If Tom Jones is anything, he’s that at that moment; you don’t need “currently” to clarify.

Just get rid of it.

3. Starting a sentence with There is or There are

This isn’t an actual error, but it’s often a symptom of lazy writing.

There are lots of better, more interesting ways to start sentences.

Ooops. See how easy it is to make this mistake?

Instead of starting a sentence with There is, try turning the phrase around to include a verb or start with you. For example, replace the sentence above with Start your sentences in a more interesting way.

If your copy includes a lot of phrases that begin with there is or there are, put some time into rewriting most of them.

4. Writing bullets that don’t match up

Bullet points are a popular and effective way to organize complex ideas. Just make sure your bullets correspond to one another.

For example, since this piece calls for 10 mistakes, each item needs to be something you don’t want to do. Too often, writers mix and match mistakes with what you should do or make transition to shoulds halfway through the post — which only confuses the reader.

If your piece is called 3 Career Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make, here’s a bullet point that works:

  • Forgetting to tailor your resume each time you apply for a job

Here’s one that doesn’t work (because it’s not actually a mistake — the writer inadvertedly switched to what you should do):

  • Make sure you tailor your resume

Likewise, if you’re offering “tips for writing while balancing on your head,” make sure the bullets are actually tips, ideas that start with an action verb, not “sitting on your head helps you think better.” That’s a reason to write while balancing on your head, not a tip for how to do it.

Often you can turn any idea into a tip by adding a verb. For example: “Remember that sitting on your head helps you write better.”

Make your bullet points consistent and your writing will read more smoothly.

5. Not using contractions

Which sounds more personable: I am heading to the market that is close to my house, or I’m heading to the market that’s close to my house?

Contractions make your writing sound friendlier, like you’re (not you are) a real person. And that makes it easier to connect with readers.

Contractions can also make your post easier to read and comprehend. So go out of your way to include them in your posts! Your editor will thank you.

6. Falling into the ing trap

“We were starting to …” or “She was skiing toward …” Whenever you see an ing in your copy, think twice about whether you need it — because you probably don’t.

Instead, get rid of were or was, then eliminate that ing and replace it with past tense: “We started to …” or “She skied toward …”

Pruning excessive “ings” makes your writing clearer and easier to read.

7. Adding a comma after that

When used as a descriptor, the word which takes a comma. But the word that doesn’t.

For example: “We went to the house that collapsed yesterday” or “We went to the house, which collapsed yesterday.”

Confused about when to use that vs. whichGrammar Girl offers a great explanation.

8. Using over rather than more than

Over 200 people did not like your Facebook page — More than 200 people did.

Of course, everyone will know what you mean if you use over. But using more than is one of those little details that will help your writing shine.

9. Forgetting to hyphenate modifiers

Whenever you modify a noun with more than one word, you need a hyphen. Lots of people don’t follow this rule, so it’s a great way to show you actually walk the walk.

That means you need a hyphen if you’re writing about full-time work. But you don’t need one if you’re working full time. Got it?

The exception: No need to hyphenate modifiers that end in “ly.” Those are OK on their own. So your newly hired employee doesn’t need that hyphen.

10. Writing could care less when you actually mean youcouldn’t care less

Which is exactly how some people probably feel about this post.

But you? You’re a writer who writes clean copy. And following these suggestions, as picky as they may be, will help you create content that’s clearer and easier to read … and that makes it that much easier to share.

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The Road to Great Content

The Road


Written by Matt Beswick

There’s been a distinct explosion in SEO spiel over the last year or so with a lot of industry experts spending a great deal of time talking about “great content”. That’s all well and good but there are very few that actually get specific and define what constitutes greatness.

Audience First, Always

The most important thing to remember when creating great content is the audiencethat it’ll eventually reach. You wouldn’t pitch a video on barbecue techniques to the readership of a blog dedicated to vegetarians, would you? The definition of greatcontent depends on the audience, so tracking what users react to most positively is of the utmost importance.

Using analytics will help you to glean valuable nuggets of truth from the raw data so don’t just look at top level stats – consider things like bounce rate, social metrics, time on site, page views and conversions.


Also, use relationships that you’ve built to help with your content creation – ask opinions, find out what people want to see, and listen. Always listen.

Great Content Doesn’t Have a Format

As a content creator, you’re equal parts narrator, writer, curator and online tour guide. It’s a heavy mantle to carry, but it’s the one you signed on for. If you’re experiencing a creative block, take a step back and learn to subvert conventions by delivering value to your readers in novel ways.

In some industries this could be a top 10 list or an infographic – in others it might be a piece of parallax design or kinetic typography. Great content doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it will be judged based on the quality of the associated content surrounding it, so mix things up and inject a bit of variety into the life of your readership.

Amazing content sinks its hooks into you right off the bat and never lets go, deftly transitioning from one talking point to the next. Whether it’s a video, a post or an infographic, you need to make sure that arguments are logical throughout and easy to consume.

It doesn’t matter how much scintillating or relevant information is packed into your content if people don’t stick around to digest it. You basically need to sell your audience first, then keep them simultaneously entertained and informed as you go. It’s a tough balancing act to pull off, but it’s one that’s worth the effort.

Differentiate, Differentiate, Differentiate

Whatever you plan on posting online as content, be forewarned that somebody has usually already done the same thing. The key is to deliver content that’s different in some way. Instead of writing a bland product review detailing pros, cons and features, compare one product to another based on its ability to solve a specific problem.

For starters, this will draw in niche users and help to build a loyal following. Furthermore, it’ll help to establish credibility by showing that you think outside the box and are therefore worthy of repeat visits in the future.

Stir the Pot a Little Bit

You don’t have to troll your audience (or someone that has influence over them) to get a reaction. Just make a strong but sensible statement and back it up with facts that can be interpreted differently by various types of people.

Provoking a passionate reaction from your audience that actually elevates the level of discourse isn’t difficult. Also, it doesn’t have to lead to the kinds of rancorous, idiotic debates seen on YouTube comments sections. Respect your audience, but be willing to take an opposing viewpoint from the consensus opinion in the interests of fueling interaction, promoting debate and increasing traffic.

Use What Works, Ditch What Doesn’t

Nowadays, creating captivating content for the web that doesn’t recycle trite cliches or pander to the audience is tricky. It’s always been difficult to stand out without alienating people. Still, the blandness of most Internet media gives you an opportunity to shine.

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Thinking About a New Site? How to Set Killer (and Realistic) Goals



by ,

A site migration’s success hinges on upfront communication, group effort, and a project lead that has a critical eye for success. Without this first step in your site migration, the entire project is likely to be mismanaged, and you’ll end up wasting money and resources in your journey to a new site.

3 Steps to Setting Great Goals for Your New Site

A site migration project usually starts with an idea. You know you need to make something better on the site, make something bad stop happening or support your business in new ways through your online presence.

Often, the first step in a wish list and setting goals is to communicate the problem and proposed solution to a group of people (everyone who has a stake in the site within the company).

1. Tell a Story About the Requirement for the New Site

In order to communicate your needs here, ask:

  • Where are we currently?
  • What’s not working and why?

But tell a story.

No one else on the team can relate to the web developer’s normalized database structure with 92 tables that will interlink the distributor data, inventory and menu systems together to increase the efficiency by 87 percent.

On the other hand, the Project Leader can tell a story that resonates with others. For example, let’s say we have a client in the restaurant and food business that has a menu that changes daily. The Web developer could paint a picture:

“Currently, our client has to manually update their beer menu system by hand with chalk, and their website and Facebook tap pages, four to eight times per day. This is time consuming and interferes with their customer’s experience, both online and on premise. Our solution needs to let any employee update the menu, the website, and Facebook at the same time. The menu is the decision point for customers so, the presentation should be easy to read, pleasant to view, and have an image, name, description, and price for each tap handle. When we are done, customers at the counter and online will view the same information. This will be a valuable solution for them and save them money each month. How can we do this for them?”

See? Now we can relate to the project. The complications haven’t gone anywhere, but now the team can understand the problem before they dig into the details.

2. Be Clear About What You Want and Make Sure Its Measurable

Often, people will throw out generalizations about what the new website should do. But each proposed wish most definitely has a long list of complex tasks associated with it, and this all needs to be thought about before your team can even assess if the idea is worth turning into a goal for the new site.

Poor communication: “It needs to be better … more robust.”

Unpack that idea with:

  • What does that mean exactly?
  • How are we going to measure that?
  • When we “arrive,” how will we know?

That last bullet point – that’s all about measurement. Vague, unmeasurable goals don’t help.

It’s possible the owner of the project hasn’t given this much thought yet. In order to measure how the new site will perform, we need to look at our current state of affairs for cues.

In the menu example we talked about, we could measure how much time our client puts into website, Facebook, and menu updates currently. Another baseline could be how many minutes per day those are not accurate because:

  • It takes so long to do each update, they just haven’t made time for it yet.
  • They are waiting for the person with the gifted handwriting to show up.

The minutes can be measured and we can compare today’s solution to tomorrow’s. If you look at your new website with measurable baselines, you can almost always find them. And the effort will pay off.

3. Be Sure the Goals for the Site Aren’t Too Adventurous

Everyone gets starry-eyed at the thought of a new site and what it can do. In the “wish list” phase, no rock should go unturned, no idea shot down. Everyone who has a stake in the site should be heard.

What comes next is refining those ideas (and hopefully Step 2 makes it obvious what will work). This is the job of the site migration manager – the owner of the project. This person needs to be able to assess each wish list item against many factors.

In the end, it’s hard to get buy-in around an unrealistic goal. The net effect is no one actually buys in.

You want to whittle that wish list down to attainable goals that have the most impact to the business or that are the most crucial for the new online presence. Remember to:

  • Take your time and think about what’s really important.
  • Eliminate unnecessary things. Be able to communicate why they weren’t chosen.
  • Stay laser focused on the things that will make or break the project itself (remember, this is a lot of work).

With a focus on what’s important and realistic objectives, you’ll find this upfront effort worth its weight in gold. This sets the team up to win and gives you a site that has solid purpose.

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30+ Easy Ideas To Create Great Content For Your Customers

Easy Ideas


by Michael Brenner, SAP

  1. Summarize your best whitepapers into blog posts.
  2. Summarize your best videos, then embed it into a blog post
  3. Summarize all your slideshare decks into article format and embed the slides into a blog post
  4. Take any research reports you have released and summarize the key points and charts
  5. Ask the project manager who is marketing your webcasts and ask them to send you the notes from each webcast
  6. Find all your employees who are already blogging on your topical areas and ask if you can syndicate their posts
  7. Live-blog any events you attend or ask your team to live-blog any events that cover your industry topics
  8. Live-tweet the events and create a blog post of the best tweets
  9. Ask your PR team to send you a transcript of any press releases or executive speeches and turn them into a blog post
  10. Search Klout and Twitter for the most influential people on Twitter for various keywords where you are trying to rank and use it to create a “list post”
  11. Create a list of the top blog sites for each keyword group
  12. Define the top “terms you need to know” for each keyword group
  13. Debunk the greatest myths for each keyword group
  14. Identify the top LinkedIn groups for each keyword group
  15. Curate the top slideshare presentations for each keyword group
  16. Find the most shared infographics for your keyword groups
  17. Define your top keywords in a blog post (such as “What is Marketing?”)
  18. Define the top questions your customers face for each solution area and answer them in a blog post
  19. Define the main customer benefits of your solution category (without naming your product)
  20. Ask your customer service team to answer the frequently asked questions (FAQs) they get
  21. Interview an external expert for each keyword group
  22. Interview internal employees and ask them to answer simple questions (by email even) such as who they are, what they do and how it serves your customers
  23. Ask experts what they think is “the future of” each keyword group
  24. Ask experts what they think is “the greatest challenges of” each keyword group
  25. Ask experts what they think is “the number one benefit” of each keyword group
  26. Define “7 steps to success with” your solution category without naming your product
  27. Interview customers on what their biggest challenges were, what benefits they achieved and what steps they recommend to anyone considering your solution category
  28. Identify the top solution providers for your solution category. List yourself last and you can rank for your competitors keywords
  29. Identify the greatest barriers to success with your solution category
  30. Curate your own posts and create summaries such as “top articles this year” for your keyword categories
  31. Identify a recommended reading list of books in your keyword category
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Digital Disruption is Affecting Search Marketing: Are You Ready?

Digital Disruption



“Digital disruption is here,” Shar VanBoskirk of Forrester Research announced during the day two keynote at Covario’s INFLECTIONPoint 2013 conference. “Marketers must innovate to manage digital disruption.”

Of all the brilliant minds in Forrester, VanBoskirk seems to have the best handle on search marketing and what it means toSEO professionals. But she also knows a thing or 12 about disruptive innovations.

VanBoskirk’s presentation was filled with interesting examples of how digital disruption is throwing some business models for a loop. Digital is no longer going online and reading a Web page.

Digital is disrupting our very lives and appliances. It’s done through apps and content pushed to our devices – even in new refrigerators and bathroom scales.

Digital technologies have disrupted traditional business for many years. But really, how can digital disruptive innovations affect search marketers?

Apps & QR Codes: Search Disruptors

“Search marketing is no longer only about promotion via search ads. It’s being disrupted,” she said.

Citing the social media application Flipboard, she explained how Flipboard allows you to dig deeper into content without making you stop reading the social media and going to a traditional search. Not only that, you can find and share content based on other content you’re consuming.

QR codes were up next. The big deal with QR codes are that they “allow you to skip over search altogether.”

People are bringing their smartphones shopping. When they see a new product or an ad with a QR code listed next to it, they scan it.

Consumers no longer have to pull up a search engine in a browser or even a search app. They can instantly get additional information while on the go without ever needing to pause and use search directly.

The same can be said for Uber, a car service app that finds your location and the nearest car to you to pick you up. Or the app that allows you to find a parking space in the bay area based on your location and where you’re going. Both of these apps take traditional search engine paradigms right out of the equation.

How Should Search Marketers Combat Digital Disruption?

Leverage content across multiple channels. VanBoskirk explains that omnichannel is understanding how digital and traditional collide.

It’s important to understand how consumers are using multiple channels – digital and traditional – to get the information they want. Thinking omnichannel should not be part of your “digital initiative.” It should be a customer initiative.

She likens how a company would prepare for digital disruption to agile software development. In that agile development method, you must understand four things:

  • Everything is a point of interaction. Create valuable interactions against all of your known customer touch points as your customers consider buying or use your products and services.
  • Launch Quickly. Get ahead of the next big things and put it out there. Then test to improve your results.
  • Collaborate with internal and external advocates. If you have customers and employees who will advocate your product, pull them in. Give them special access and help so they’ll want to be your advocates.
  • Adjust based on market conditions. If you mess up, fix it. If the market wants something else, adjust your product to it.

Remember, digital disruption is already coming for your brand. It’s not optional. It’s force will overhaul all the currently expected business dynamics regardless if your company changes around it or not.

Digital disruption is already transforming traditional search marketing. It’s a great opportunity for agile innovators. Will your company be one, or will it be yesterday’s news?

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10 Common Link Building Problems




Link building should just be a form of branding and marketing. Reviewing your link profile and identifying the problems is a key part of the process. But, it is only the start. Once you get your penalty removed, you need to adapt your link building efforts to avoid doing these types of things again.

1. Article Directories

Article directories were hit in the initial Penguin release on April 24, 2012. If you are currently adding article directory links, then stop the program right away.

In addition, if you have some links that resulted from article directories, then work on getting them removed. If you can’t get them removed, then use the Google Disavow Tool to request that they be ignored by Google.

For those who want to debate the merits of this tool, we have used it, and it works like a champ.

2. Low-Quality Directories

There isn’t clear evidence that low-quality directories were explicitly punished in a Penguin release as yet, but it does not really matter. The right policy here is clear. Participate in the major directories: Yahoo DirectoryDMOZBest of the Web, and Business.com.

After that, consider a very small number of directories specific to your vertical market. If you find yourself with 10 or more directory links, something is wrong. Directories are not a volume source of links.

3. Low Relevance Guest Posts

Guest posting on sites that you are truly proud of is a great idea. But this can be overdone too. For example, if the post is not relevant to your site, or the site is not relevant to your post, don’t do it.

For your guest posting efforts, shoot for the highest possible targets you can. Would you brag about being posted on a particular target site to your customers? If not, then keep looking for a better target.

4. Low Relevance/Accuracy Infographics

This is a popular strategy many people use to promote their sites. Infographics are cool looking, and they can communicate certain types of information very effectively, which is why they are popular with users and publishers.

However, many people have fallen into cranking out infographics, focusing on volume, not quality. This is another one to stop.

Still need convincing? Here is what Google’s Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts had to say in my recent interview with him:

“I would not be surprised if at some point in the future we did not start to discount these infographic-type links to a degree.”

I think that low quality infographics (for example, ones with inaccurate information) or low relevance infographics are a natural target for Google, thought these things may be hard for them to detect algorithically. However, infographics may get targeted a bit more broadly as Google has concerns about whether people accepting infographics really care about endorsing the page that they end up linking to.

Important footnote: Algorithmically detecting these types of links is obviously somewhat hard, but when you submit a reconsideration request a human gets involved. Sticks out like a sore thumb to them!

5. Paid Guest Posts

To me, paid guest posts are one of the more obvious ones, but a lot of people still do this. One big flag for this is a site that has a significant number of incoming links from posts that have rich anchor text embedded in the middle of the text.

If you do guest posting work for your clients, you should never pay for any posts. In addition, the links you get your clients should always be simple attribution links at the bottom of the post.

Aim for very high end (brand building caliber) targets. This is the type of branding and link building work a Googler would love.

6. Anchor Text

This one may upset some people. As I predicted in “SEO Revelations for 2013“, I believe Google will take action (or more action) against sites that have too much rich anchor text in their backlink profile. You could argue that their EMD update was a step in that direction, but there is much more they can do here.

Some rich anchor text is fine, but when your Reebok ZigNano ProFury sneakers page has 25 links pointing to it, and all the anchor text says “Reebok ZigNano ProFury Sneakers” or some derivative of that it looks a bit manipulated, know what I mean? You might as well paint a bullseye on your back. Human reviewers looking at your reconsideration request will pick this out in a heartbeat.

7. Doorway Pages

An oldie but goodie! These are thin content pages/sites that exist only to capture search traffic and then to get people to go to another site (in this case the site with the penalty).

This is a practice that can a publisher banned all on it own. You need to dump these as fast as you can!

8. International Sites

I always chuckle when I see a site with lots of links from Polish sites where the page is written entirely in Polish and right in the middle somewhere is this rich anchor text phrases in English. Ouch. You might as well go to building 43 at Google wearing a sign with your URL on one side and the words “I am a spammer” on the other.

More broadly, ask yourself: does that international link have any relevance to your brand at all? If you market a product or service solely in the U.S., why would you have any international links? It just doesn’t make sense.

9. Blog Carnivals

Stated with an optimistic eye, blog carnivals are communities where people share content, some editorial review is, or isn’t, provided by the person running the carnival, and other publishers can then come find articles for publishing on their site.

Unfortunately, Google doesn’t like blog carnivals. Like article directories, they have had way too many problems with them being used as link schemes. Best to stay away from these, and any other “marketplace” for content.

10. Poor Quality Content of Any Kind

You can argue about how this might be measured by a search engine. Here is a place where social media signals may add some real value as a signal.

Does your site, or articles you write, get social love? Or, do they get little attention at all? You could also look at the time on page type signals. Do people spend 2 minutes or more on the page, or do they stop by and run off right away?

The authorship initiative by Google is the start of an overt effort on their part to figure out who is publishing quality content. And, as I mentioned in my SEO Revelations article, they are already measuring and acting on time on site signals.

We don’t necessarily make people remove these in the process of moving towards a reconsideration request, but we do press them hard to alter their strategy. Publishing content without regard to its quality is bad for your brand, and it will hurt your search rankings one way or another.

Some Overall Rules of Thumb

There are may other types of bad links we have encountered along the way, that I chose not to highlight above. The above list are the 10 most frequent scenarios we encounter and not an exhaustive list!

Here are a few more questions you should ask yourself to determine whether a link is good or not:

  • Is an argument required for you to prove it’s a good link? A good link should not be the subject of an argument. No argument is required with good links, when you see a good link you know it right away. Once you start debating whether it could be considered a good link, or justifying it, it isn’t.
  • Would you build the link if Google and Bing did not exist? Any good link is something that has value even without search engines.
  • Does the nature of the link enhance your brand in front of your target customers? Would you show it to a target customer as evidence that you are a high-quality, trustworthy business?
  • Did the person giving you the link intend it as a genuine endorsement? If not, Google wants to torch it, and so should you.
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Yahoo! in online ad alliance with Google

yahoo & GOogle


AFP News

Yahoo! on Wednesday announced an advertising alliance with Google, the company that dethroned the pioneering Internet firm in the world of Internet search.

Google will use its online ad targeting skills at some Yahoo! properties, stepping in to put relevant marketing messages in available spaces, according to Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo!.

Yahoo! gave the example of someone online shopping for boots being shown an ad for something completely unrelated because no advertisements for footwear were available in inventory.

“If you see an ad for boots, that’s instantly going to pique your attention more than an ad for, say, a car battery,” Yahoo! said.

“That’s better for users. This is why contextual advertising is such a powerful tool.”

The large stocks of ads at Google AdSense and Admob increase opportunities to present Yahoo! website users with marketing messages they will click on, generating revenue.

“By adding Google to our list of world-class contextual ads partners, we’ll be able to expand our network, which means we can serve users with ads that are even more meaningful,” Yahoo! said.

“For our users, there won’t be a noticeable difference in how or where ads appear.”

The move comes amid turn-around efforts by Yahoo! chief executive Marissa Mayer, who was a high-level Google executive before taking the Yahoo! helm in July.

It also raised the possibility of Yahoo! turning to Google to power Internet searches at its website, once freed from its current deal to use Microsoft’s Bing service.

Yahoo! has been trying to reinvent itself since the once-flowering Internet search service found itself withering in Google’s shadow.

“We work with a number of top publishers to help them monetize their content through AdSense for Content and AdMob,” a Google spokesman said in response to an AFP inquiry. “We’re thrilled to now include Yahoo!.”

Yahoo! shares rose slightly in electronic trading to $20.10.

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10 Tools for Creating Infographics and Visualizations

Creating Infographics


Posted by  to Link Building

Tools for creating simple infographics and data visualizations

1. Piktochart

Piktochart is a web-based tool that has six decent free themes (and a whole bunch more for the paid version) for creating simple visualizations. You can drag and drop different shapes and images, and there is quite a bit of customization available. You can also add simple line, bar, and pie charts using data from CSV (or manual entry). You can export to PNG and JPG in either print or web quality. Note that with the free version, you get a small Piktochart watermark on the bottom of the PNG / JPG downloads.

2. Easel.ly

Easel.ly is another free web-based tool for creating infographics. You cannot create graphs using real data with this tool, but its really good for conceptual visualizations and storytelling. It has a beautiful user interface and the themes you can start with are gorgeous. The themes support many common purposes: map, flow-chart, and comparison/relationship graphing. This tool has the best selection of well-design objects (people, a bunch if icons, landmarks, maps, animals, etc.) and backgrounds that I’ve seen throughout this list of tools. Additionally, you can upload your own images with the free version. You can download a web-quality version as JPG. This tool is still in beta, but it seemed to work pretty well to me!

3. Infogr.am

Infogr.am is another free, web-based tool with some really nice themes and a great interface for creating simple infographics. This option also allows you to create charts using real data. There are 31 chart options that offer some really cool displays, like a radial bar graph, scatter charts, bubble graphs, and map charts. You can also add your own images and video. When you’re done creating your infographic, you can embed it on a website and publish it to the infogra.am site (I wasn’t able to find a way to download). This app is also in beta, but again, seemed pretty solid to me.

4. Visual.ly

Visual.ly (I know, these visualization tools love their ‘.ly’s!) has some simple free tools worth mentioning, many of which integrate with social networks to analyze Twitter and Facebook data. You can create fun Venn diagrams, Twitter account show-downs, visuals that analyze hash tags, and a few others, but there’s almost no customization available. However, they offer a marketplace where you can get connected with visual designers and motion graphics artists who specialize in infographics. The site itself also has a ton ofgreat info graphics to inspire you or your designers. There is some serious data visualization eye candy in there, people.

5. Tableau

Tableau has some free tools for creating data visualizations. It is not web based, so you have to download the software. Once you do, you can upload a spreadsheet or CSV and create a variety of interactive data visualizations types, including heat maps showing density of an activity by location, Venn diagrams to show associations, bar charts, line graphs, and others. This tool is for Windows only. See Tableau’s gallery for examples of the types of visualizations you can create or learn more about how it works.

Tools for diagraming and wireframing

6. OmniGraffle

This is a desktop application that I use all the time at work. The interface is very intuitive, and it’s quite an effective tool for wireframing in detail. You can customize and stylize objects to the extent that you can use the tool to create whole infographics exactly as you want them using this tool (it’s difficult to do data visualizations with actual data, though). There are tons of free downloadable stencils which make it super easy to diagram mobile and web interfaces, architecture diagrams, and even office/home layouts. This tool has its cons, though; it’s not the cheapest tool at $99 for standard and $199 for the pro version, and it’s offered for Mac only.

7. Balsamiq

This is another nice wireframing tool good for creating simple diagrams of web and mobile interfaces. It’s $79 for the desktop version, but there’s also a free web demo which is sufficient for simple diagramming.

Other tools for visual communication

8. Make a video

The RSA Animate series (illustrations done by CognitiveMedia) is a really good example of using visual communication to accompany a verbal explanation of something. You can hire an illustration artist to do something like this, or do it up yourself Whiteboard Friday-style and draw on a whiteboard while you explain your topic (this works great in internal meetings too; try it next time you’re trying to explain a concept to someone and see how it goes). If you hire an illustration artist, deliver the verbal script that they’ll need to animate to and add points where you can see visuals supporting the topics, but give them freedom to explore creative ways to visualize, too.

9. TimelineJS

TimelineJS uses a google spreadsheet with links to YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Sound Cloud, and other media sources to create really nice-looking timelines. You could use this tool to create an interactive visualization of the starting of your company, your client’s company, tell the story of an industry, etc.

10. Present.me

Present.me allows you to create presentations where you record yourself talking next to the slidesyou’re presenting. This tool might be a good way for people working remotely to share a proposal or concept, or for documenting presentations you’ve given on your blog or site.

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Google Reveals New Details on Link Disavow Tool

Google Reveals


by ,

Since announcing the disavow tool in October 2012, Google hasn’t given much insight regarding how to properly identify links that should be disavowed, leaving webmasters and SEO professionals to use their best judgment.

Many have attempted to compile comprehensive inbound link lists by combining data sources from multiple link indexes. Debate has also raged as to whether Google uses the disavow information to identify websites participating in link schemes.

In a blog post recently published by Ralf Schwoebel of sno.pe, new details have surfaced from Google that shed some light on both issues. The post details Schwoebel’s recent disavow attempt, as well as some questions posed to Uli Lutz, Google Search Quality Engineer.

Lutz gave three interesting bits of advice in his answer:

  • Focus on links reported in Google Webmaster Tools
  • Google does not use disavow data to harm websites’ rankings
  • Don’t be afraid to use the site-wide disavow functionality

SEO professionals and webmasters will be relieved to know that it isn’t necessary to compile a comprehensive list of inbound links from various indexes. Simply using data supplied by Webmaster Tools will suffice, saving time and money.

Lutz’ revelation should also put to rest the ongoing debate about whether Google uses disavow information to harm websites listed on disavow lists, though the debate about negative SEO will likely carry on.

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Link Ahead of the Competition

Link Ahead of the Competition


by Jon Cooper

Everyone wants to know what the next big link building tactic is, because who’s ever there first is going to be the one to reap the biggest rewards.

But just how exactly do you get there first? What’s the secret to thinking up new link building tactics?

After studying this thought for a long time, I’ve come down to 3 fundamental questions that, if you’re able to find the most answers to, will allow you to be one step ahead of your competition.

What do you have to offer?

The best way to understand this question is to break down some real life examples. Let’s take a look at a few:

Paid links. In this case, people are offering something universal that almost anyone would accept – money.

Directories. In this case, the thing to offer is the website itself.

Testimonials. In this case, the thing is honest, positive feedback about a product or service.

Getting interviews. In this case, the thing is your expertise.

As you can see, I can go on & on and apply this to any strategy out there. The trick is, though, to be one step ahead – forget about how you can get a link out of it, but rather, just think of all the different things you have to offer.

It could be anything! The more creative it is, the more unlikelier it is people have used it for links, but the less likelier it is to scale (i.e. my expertise on disc golf, but it doesn’t scale because few websites are on this topic). I’m not saying you’re not going to find out the next big thing, but don’t focus on solely trying to find one.

For the best results, hold a brainstorming session with your team, and remember to include the stupidly obvious things (i.e. our time, or the fact we have a website on this topic!).

Bonus: what do other people or services have to offer that you have access to? I’ll explain why below.

In what ways can you offer that value?

This is where you need to get creative. How exactly can you offer it in a way that can get you links?

For example, if you’re an ecommerce site, you have products to offer. But there are a lot of ways you can use that to get links; here are just a few:

  • Offering products to bloggers in exchange for reviews
  • Offering products to related school clubs in exchange for a sponsorship
  • Offering a discount off the products to student discount programs

This is where you should spend the vast majority of your brainstorming. It’s about mixing and matching and thinking up different ways you can offer the same things to get links.

Bonus: If you brainstormed a list of things people or services you have access to can offer, then you can use these as well. For example, I have access to a video transcription service (there are a ton on the web), and I could use this service to offer transcriptions to related bloggers who have videos (“no problem! And oh, by the way, can you link to my website as the attribution for the transcription?”).

Who/what can you appeal to?

Now that you know what you can offer, and how you can offer it, you now have to figure out exactly who the different groups of people you can offer it to.

Think of all the different groups of people or organizations that might be interested in what you have to offer and in the way you can offer it.

But you also have to be very careful what you’re appealing to when you’re trying to get the link.

I’ll give you a quick example. Let’s say you realized you could create a scholarship (the what: money; a way you can offer it: to help students), and you realized a large target group is schools.

But you have to be very careful about what exactly you’re appealing to when you’re asking for the link. Here are two emails asking for the same thing to the same person but appealing to two very different things:

Hi Sandy,

I noticed you maintain one of the best lists of academic scholarships on the Web. Our company actually just launched our own scholarship; do you think you could add it?


Hi Sandy, 

I noticed you maintain one of the best lists of academic scholarships for students on the Web. I was wondering if I could help continue to make it the place to go for students by suggesting a scholarship to be added that’s not on the list? I bet there will be someone out there that will be very thankful that you brought it to their attention!

No, neither are perfect, and I’d probably edit either a bit before I used it to make it perfect, but do you see the difference?

In the first case, you’re appealing to Sandy. In the second, you’re appealing to students. Sandy could say no in the first case because she doesn’t feel like it, but if she said no in the second, it would make her look like a terrible person. Who couldn’t say yes if it was all for the better of the students? And in this case, seeing that she works for an institution, she probably already has a place in her heart for them.

Here are some other higher causes you can appeal to besides students:

  • The military & our veterans
  • The environment
  • Charities & non-profits (think niche too!)

If you can make your pitch about one of these, and not the link, then no one’s going to say no. The only thing they could do is not respond, and if they do, pick up the phone! It works very well when making higher appeals.


The one addition to appeals is reciprocity; doing things for others, and asking for things in return (i.e. the video transcription idea). I didn’t include this because I’ve written about this idea before, and because a lot of you understand how broken link building works. Just apply it to more things, as well as appeal to more things!

What now?

Chances are you probably read through this before you even thought about actually brainstorming, but please, get some pen, paper, and a few friends or coworkers together (and a box of pizza if that’s what it takes to get them), and get thinking!!

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