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Social Media

I do not often write about Facebook on here, as I don’t do a lot of client work involving it, but today’s launch of the Facebook Timeline feature worldwide has drawn a lot of attention and I’ve had some exchanges with friends.

Check this one out on Facebook:

"I may quit" is what he said at the bottom!

To help people learn the new Facebook Timeline, my friends over at Grovo have created some videos around the Facebook Timeline.

Here’s the first video:

You can watch the video here on Youtube directly if you wish.

Do you have it yet? Have you had it for a while? What tips or tricks do you have that people would find helpful?

Listen up search marketers. Listen up good. I’ve got something to say.

The goal of social is to drive traffic, conversions, and brand loyalty, NOT rankings.

Many of the most socially shared posts on SEOmoz are focused around social and how social affects rankings. Just look at this graph, showing you the disparity in sharing between the social and non-social posts (with outliers removed that skewed the data unnecessarily):

Posts having to do with social get 63% more tweets and 61% more Facebook activity on average. WOW.

Continue Reading…

*This post is very similar to the one published yesterday on SEOmoz*

The past months in SEO have been dominated by the news that social influences rankings. But how do the search engines calculate who is authoritative and who is not? How do they know who is trustworthy? I’ve been digging through some patents recently and trying to find the ways that this might happen.

There are three concepts that I want to familiarize you with that, according to patents, could help determine whether or not your social shares are going to impact rankings.

Definition of webspam

The original definition of webspam, from a 2004 patent application, is “The term web spam refers to hyperlinked pages on the World Wide Web that are created with the intention of misleading search engines.” Aside from the fact that they refer to the Internet as the World Wide Web, this outdated definition can be updated to say something like:

Webspam refers to any activity occuring on the Internet that intends to mislead search engines and unfairly influence search results.

Topical Trustrank

The first concept you should be familiar with is “topical Trustrank”. The orginial Trustrank was first mentioned in this Yahoo patent from 2004. At the time, it seemed underdeveloped, since it relied on sites to label themselves. And worse than underdeveloped, it was open to spam since it relied on websites to tag themselves (not unlike the meta keywords tag).

The patent was granted in 2009 as a way to rank sites based on labels given them by people, according to this article called Google Trustrank Patent Granted.

Another take on Trustrank is Topical Trustrank, which was introduced in 2006. Because Trustrank seemed to be biased heavily towards larger communities that could attract more spam pages (without tripping a spam threshold, maybe?), Topical Trustrank aimed to build trust based on the relevance of the connecting sites (and I would argue now, the topical relevance of those sharing links via social networks).

Author Rank

According to one Yahoo patent application, “…author rank is a ‘measure of the expertise of the author in a given area.'” Since this is delightfully vague, here are some specific areas (taken from Bill Slawski’s How Search Engines May Rank User Generated Content) that the search engines might look at to determine if you are authoritative:

  • A number of relevant/irrelevant messages posted;
  • Document goodness of all documents initiated by the author;
  • Total number of documents initiated posted by the author within a defined time period;
  • Total number of replies or comments made by the author; and,
  • A number of [online] groups to which the author is a member.

We can take these and apply them to social as well. If they are calculating author rank based off of content taken from around the web, why would they not also use this author rank for your social shares?

Here are some more questions a search engine might ask about a user (according to an email I received from Bill Slawski):

  • Do they contribute something new, useful, interesting?
  • Are they tweeting new articles, or recycling old articles? Are they sharing articles from just one site, or are they sharing articles from a number of different sites? What’s their engagement/CTR?
  • Do they participate in meaningful conversations with others?
  • Are they replying to others through @replies or others (DMs. maybe?)? What topics?
  • Do those others contribute something new, useful, interesting?
  • Are they themselves keeping the cycle going and replying to various others, or always responding to the same users?

Agent Rank

According to this article from Search Engine Land, Google applied for a patent around a way to determine an agent, or author’s, authority in a specific niche. According to the article:

Content creators could be given reputation scores, which could influence the rankings of pages where their content appears, or which they own, edit, or endorse.

Also according to the article, here are some of the goals of Agent Rank:

  • Identifying individual agents responsible for content can be used to influence search ratings.
  • The identity of agents can be reliably associated with content.
  • The granularity of association can be smaller than an entire web page, so agents can disassociate themselves from information appearing near the information for which the agent is responsible.
  • An agent can disclaim association with portions of content, such as advertising, that appear on the agent’s web site.
  • The same agent identity can be attached to content at multiple locations.
  • Multiple agents can make contributions to a single web page where each agent is only associated to the content that they provided.”

Does the following sound like the new rel=author markup that we’re seeing in the search results? I think it does:

“Tying a page to an author can influence the ranking of that page. If the author has a high reputation, content created by him or her many be considered to be more authoritative that similar content on other pages. If the agent reviewed or edited content instead of authoring it, the score for the content might be ranked differently.”

“An agent may have a high reputation score for certain kinds of content, and not for others – so someone working on site involving celebrity news might have a strong reputation score for that kind of content, but not such a high score for content involving professional medical advice.”

The article goes on to explain that authority scores will be hard to build up, but easy to harm. This would be one way to keep authors producing high quality content.

Some more factors that may influence authority:

  • Quality of the response
  • Relevance of the response
  • The authority of those who respond to what you post

Actionable Bits to Keep in Mind

We hear a lot of talk around automating your social stream. This seems like an oxymoron to me, since it undercuts the whole purpose of “social” media. Here is an interesting statistical graph for you:

Manual tweets get twice the clicks on average!

Next, if you’re interested in whether automating your Twitter stream will increase your followers, take this next graph into account:

Less automation = more followers

Since we were talking about topical trustrank earlier as well, you might want an idea of which topics the search engines might consider you authoritative about. I think that Klout Topics is a good place to start.

Other tools you should use to establish your online brand

Disqus is a way to increase your author authority. Your profile works across all sites that have it. Your reputation goes with you. This is a good thing if you’re whitehat!

Gravatar – Ross Hudgens wrote a great post a few months ago called Generating Static Force Multipliers for Great Content wherein he talked about the importance of a consistent personal brand and image across the Internet. If you have the same photo across many different sites, how could the search engines not use this in determining trustworthiness?

KnowEm is a website where you can find if your username has been taken across many different social networks. This is a great place to go to learn where you need to sign up to protect your username, and therefore your personal brand and author trust.

My Zappos Experience

John Doherty —  September 9, 2011

I love Zappos. For a company built on treating their customers right, even they go above and beyond the call of duty. Let me tell you about my experience.

Last week I ordered a couple of pairs of new shoes in advance of the Labor Day weekend. I ordered them on Monday, hoping that I would have them by the time the weekend rolled around and I was leaving NYC for the weekend.

That afternoon, I received a surprise email. Here’s what I saw:


I was happy.

Then I received notice that Tuesday morning that my shoes had shipped and that they would be delivered by 3pm! Under 24 hours free shipping? Perfect.

I tweeted about it:

Then, things got awesome.

I received this tweet back:

No big deal, I thought to myself. So I tweeted back:

Next thing I know, I receive this tweet:

Check my email? What? I checked my email and lo and behold this is what I saw:

Sweet! So I tweeted back:


And then received:

My response?

And their final reply:

That’s not all!

Yesterday, I arrived at work to see a package laying on my desk. Here’s what it was:

That’s right, not only did Zappos get me my stuff in under 24 hours and upgrade me to VIP for free, they also a week later sent me a free copy of Tony Hsieh’s book to read. I had been planning to order it that day as well!

Thanks Zappos. You guys do social media and customer service right.

Mat Clayton from Mixcloud, the social music service, has written the book on leveraging the power of social (specifically Facebook) to drive heaps of traffic and build a business, especially a music website. Mat is a developer by nature, so his presentations are always data-heavy, but he also manages to inspire the crowd to implement some little-known features to drive heaps of traffic to our own sites. I know Mat gave me some ideas to implement soon.

Here’s his Storify recap:

If you buy that Google is using social signals such as Twitter to calculate rankings (I do, and I wrote about it here on SEOmoz), then you probably also believe that Google takes the relevancy and activity of your followers into account when deciding if you are a reputable source of information for the content that you are tweeting and that your followers are retweeting.

I’ve become active on Twitter in the last 6 months, and doing so has led to me landing a dream job with Distilled in New York City (not directly, of course. Remember the whole correlation/causation thing). I think almost anyone can do it, so here are my tips for building a strong, targeted, engaged following on Twitter.

My Follower Growth Over Time

I was curious about my Twitter follower growth over time, so I found a tool called Twitter Grader by the folks at Hubspot that did just that. Here’s how I have grown my follower count from 48 on December 22 to 759 on July 28th. Check it out:

And now apparently Klout considers me a Pundit. Besides making me laugh, I find it CRAZY that Klout (which I don’t put any stock in, but it’s still interesting) puts me beside Avinash, who is WAY smarter than I am:

How I Grew This Following

Here’s a little secret: there is no way to effectively game Twitter and grow your follower count so that you are influential. Growing a follower count takes hard work and a lot of time and engagement.

Here are the things that I have done in order to grow my follower base:

1) Find interesting content online and share it. Become a curator. Be sure to mention who wrote it and then engage with them when and if they respond. If you retweet someone, then they are much more likely to retweet you.

2) Find influential people that you enjoy as a person and talk with them! I hate it when I hear people thinking “Oh, well so-and-so is influential, so I’m going to engage with them so that I can get known.” That’s ridiculous. If you think someone is sharing cool and interesting stuff, engage with them. People get popular because they are interesting. Be a real and interesting person, not creepy, and you can easily make friends with influential people.

3) Go to conferences. Look at the above graph! Every time I go to a conference and live-tweet from it, I get a ton of targeted and engaged followers. That’s by no means why I do it (I love it and I love people), but by spinning the above chart today, I realize just how effective this is. Become known for doing something and you will receive followers in return.


A disclaimer: let me clarify what I am really saying. I think to be a good SEO, and a good person, you should not care about popularity. Fortunately, I think often people the people who do not want to become popular are the ones who ultimately win in the long run. I did not set out to grow my follower base. I started tweeting because I wanted to share cool things I saw and I wanted to make friends. Never ever ever set out to use people to grow yourself. That is a bad way to be. I know a lot of influential people in SEO, and I never set out to do that. I am lucky to consider Rand, Tom Critchlow, Will Critchlow, Justin Briggs, Wil Reynolds, Dr Pete, and many others friends, and I would never use them to bring myself up in the industry. Be a real and cool person, and you’ll go much further. I promise.


Everyone who reads this site is probably active on Twitter, and if you’re not and you’re an SEO professional, you should be. When just beginning to use Twitter, however, one pretty quickly realizes that the Twitter site is not the best for keeping track of your soon-to-be many connections, mentions, and direct messages.

So which third party client should we turn to? Here’s my take:


HootsuiteHootsuite offers a full browser application, accessible easily through Hootsuite.com. Through this site, you are able to connect multiple Twitter accounts and Facebook accounts (maximum of 5 for the Free account. See OneForty’s review of Hootsuite Pro).

The features include:

  • Up to 5 accounts connected (Facebook, Twitter, etc)
  • Ability to add and delete columns
  • Saving of custom search columns
  • Ability to see your connections’ tweet Timeline and who has mentioned them, including the tweet.
  • Good search functionality for finding new users.
  • Ability to upload photos and videos and connect with your choice of Twitter photosharing services.
  • Schedule updates easily for later publication.

I use the Hootsuite browser almost exclusively when I am not at work. I find it incredibly useful to be able to access my Twitter accounts from anywhere that I have an Internet connection.

TweetdeckTweetdeck currently has a Chrome extension that a lot of SEO professionals use. I have used it in a limited fashion at this point, and it seems to work fairly well. I enjoy the multi-column view capability, which Hootsuite does not offer. Tweetdeck also brings shows previews of Youtube videos when the links are shared through a tweet. This enhances the user’s experience and allows for a helpful preview before watching a video.

The limitations of the Chrome browser app are very real, however, such as no ability to use a custom URL shortener such as Bit.ly. I also found a few features that were not as intuitive to use, such as

Tweetdeck is also in the process of beta-testing a web application for all browsers, much like Hootsuite. I wonder if the development will now continue since Tweetdeck was bought by Twitter, but I do look forward to trying it at some point. If it’s much like the Hootsuite browser, Hootsuite may have some worries.

Winner: Hootsuite. Tweetdeck’s Chrome app has great potential, but some rather glaring shortcomings as well. The fact that it not yet available to the public as a regular browser app tilts this one in favor of Hootsuite.


HootsuiteHootsuite does not have a desktop application.



TweetdeckTweetdeck, on the other hand, does have a desktop application for PC and Mac. I used to use this at my old job, where I connected in my personal Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as my work’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

I loved the ability to customize columns and save searches. When I first started using the client, there was a bit of a learning curve, but once you learn how the different functionalities work (retweeting, etc), the Tweetdeck desktop application is very powerful.

Features include:

  • Ability to customize the look and feel of the application.
  • Ability to post to multiple accounts at once.
  • Add and delete columns and lists as needed.
  • Choose from lists of core Twitter columns, or create your own.
  • Following, unfollowing, and blocking are easy to use and understand.
  • Choose your custom URL shortener (bit.ly, awe.sm, etc) and your photosharing service.
  • Schedule updates for later publication.

Winner: Tweetdeck by default, but I highly recommend this application.


Both Hootsuite and Tweetdeck offer iPad apps. I have both installed and have used both extensively. Here’s my take:

HootsuiteHootsuite works well on any type and speed of connections. The interface is simple and easy to use. It is simple to add columns, search for people, see stats on your tweets (how many RTs, etc), and upload photos and files. Hootsuite will also suggest the names of your contacts when you begin to mention them in a tweet, which cuts down on the number of typos and tweets being sent to the wrong person.

Hootsuite also handles opening articles and videos well. The app opens webpages and articles in a screen that overlays your tweet columns. It is a mostly fully-functional web browser, actually, just lacking the ability to input a URL to browse to a site that is not connected to the webpage or article you are currently viewing. Scheduling tweets is easy and painful, though you cannot bulk schedule without Hootsuite Pro.

TweetdeckTweetdeck needs some work. It works well on a fast connection, but when it is on a slow connection, it crawls. The customizable refresh rate is nice, as opposed to Hootsuite that does not have this functionality, but the app takes forever to update even when the refresh rate is set to optimal intervals. The Tweetdeck iPad app does show pictures and videos directly within the app. You can also use a custom URL shortener, which is a weakness of the Hootsuite iPad app.

The functionality I hate most about the Tweetdeck app is how it displays articles that you click on from your Twitter stream. When viewing in horizontal mode, the app opens a new screen, which almost always crashes. Viewing in vertical mode is better, as the article or webpage will replace where you write your tweets, but the area is only about 2 inches tall. You barely have space to fit in a full paragraph at a time.

Winner: Hootsuite. It is smoother, loads faster, and is more stable.


If we were keeping score, Hootsuite would be the winner in this face-off, I think. It wins 2 out of 3 categories.

I want to point out, though, that this is not necessarily a “who wins the most” contest. Use my above thoughts and make an informed decision for your own needs. For example, if you need to track your shortened links for client purposes, use the Tweetdeck desktop app. If you need to access your Twitter stream from anywhere, on any browser, I recommend Hootsuite. Use what works for you.

What 3rd party Twitter app do you use? What do you recommend to your friends and why?

Conferences serve many functions, two of which are networking and gaining knowledge. I’ve only been to two conferences, so I am by no means an expert, but here’s one thing that annoys me:

When someone attending a conference tweets crap.

If you are live-tweeting an event, you need to be offering up SPECIFIC tips and tricks coming from the speakers, for the edification and collective knowledge of the community. SEO is a tight community, so I would even say it is your duty to be helpful to others by sharing the knowledge you are receiving!

Allow me to give 5 actionable rules for live-tweeting SEO conferences, with examples:

1. Provide ACTIONABLE tips.

People not at the conference want information that they can immediately put to work on their site.

Here is an actionable tip:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/dohertyjf/status/48690556066467840″]


2. Tweet the whole talk, or not at all.

There are not many things that are more harmful than out-of-context statements. Do us all a favor and tweet things in context.

This statement:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/beebow/status/78495108328202241″]


is much different when put in the context of:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/beebow/status/78495175206371328″].

3. Provide a link (if possible) to speaker slidedecks and other interesting resources they mention.

This can also help start building rapport with the brand, so mention them by Twitter handle.

This is good:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/tomcritchlow/status/70579926247546880″]


4. Add your own thoughts to some tweets.

Also, don’t be afraid to be a little snarky. Snark = entertaining.

Like this:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/randfish/status/78261583817621504″]


5. Retweet others at the conference and admit your mistakes when you screw up.

We all hear things wrong. For this reason, be ready and willing to admit your mistakes.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/katemorris/status/70536695057096704″]


A few more reasons to live-tweet helpful tips

If you need them, here are some more reasons to live-tweet helpful bits from conferences:

1. New followers. I started interacting with a ton of UK and Europe SEOs because of my live tweets from Distilled’s #linklove in London back in March.
2. Links to your site. You’re building rapport and helping others out. I’ve gotten SEOmoz, Distilled, and many other links because of my live tweeting, and I wasn’t even looking for them!
3. If you are tweeting live, you can go back through and read your tweets like notes! This is how I wrote a lot of my London #linklove recap.

In the spirit of providing helpful tips, here is a good example I have seen that you maybe should try to imitate:

@beebow’s from SMX

SEOs are active on Twitter. When I first started my SEO career, I quickly realized that the best tips and tricks are shared on Twitter, usually by CEOs, founders, and SEOs who have been around the block more than a few times. Topsy refers to these people as “Influential” or “Highly Influential.” I simply call them “Musts.” You must follow and listen to these people. Read the links they post, because they are sure to be gold.

Top 19 SEOs To Follow on Twitter

SEOs on Twitter

SEOs to follow on Twitter

Last night I tuned into #seochat, the weekly Twitter talk with an expert in the SEO field, moderated by @ashbuckles from SEO.com. Last night it was Tom Critchlow, one of the big guys in Distilled UK, talking about Link Audits. Tom always shares great resources to check out, so I thought it would be helpful to provide a list of the best links he shared last night (thanks to Trunk.ly for the resource of finding these links!

Shared Links from #seochat March 10

Link Forensics: Finding Shady Links Before Taking on New Clients | SEOmoz

5 Questions To Ask When Doing A Link Audit | Click2Rank.com

Majestic SEO: Link Intelligence Tools

Link Building Services for More Relevant & More Valuable Links | Ontolo

Advanced Link Analysis Charts | SEOmoz

Google’s Panda/Farmer Update – What To Do About It | Distilled blog

Link Building Training: Do You Already Have All the Links You Need? | SEOmoz

Guide to Competitive Backlink Analysis | SEOmoz

What Happens When You Build 10,000 Dodgy Links to a New Domain in 24 Hours? | SEOptimise

Open Site Explorer: Link Popularity & Backlink Analysis Tool

Building Your Own Scraper for Link Analysis | Distilled blog

7 Different Visualisations of Link Profiles | SEOmoz

Excel Guide for SEO – Lessons for Aspiring Ninjas | Distilled


Did I miss any? Leave them in the comments below (I may even take off the no-follow :-))