Who or what is the most recognizable face in your company or startup? This is an important question to ask yourself because often it can betray how others view your company.

I talk with many early stage startups (everyone in New York City is building an app) who tell me “If I just create a great product, users will come and love it.” Sound familiar? If you’re in marketing it should, because it’s the old “Build it and they will come” fallacy which we all know is not true. Dan Martell talked about this in my interview with him

While building a great product is incredibly important (and you should read Zach Holman’s take on it here), it’s not enough. Great marketing is the key to a great product taking off, but not necessarily typical marketing. For a great product, often marketing like influencer marketing is the best way to go, where you connect with influential users of your product and make them feel special, therefore endearing them to your brand so that they became a brand advocate and will talk about, link, and refer more users, sometimes in droves, to your product.

But a problem arises here. People don’t connect with brands. They connect with personality, which a brand in and of itself does not have. For instance, check out this stat about people interacting with businesses online (source):

16% of customers use Facebook, Twitter and the other major social networks to interact with businesses

At first glance, that seems like a strong metric, but that’s only 1 in 6! I would wager that brand engagement is even lower than that, meaning the percentage of followers that engage with a brand versus the percentage that engage with a person (not including people begging for RTs and follows from celebrities).

This is why, I believe, your brand needs a face, a person or mascot that users can connect and identify with. They say “Yes, I identify with that person or mascot’s personality/way of being.”

As a marketer, and more specifically a search marketer, leveraging a personality as a brand builder is a great way to build buzz and links, often very strong links, back to your website. Services like Onboardly, which is essentially a founder PR agency, or your SEO firm (if you allow them) can get placements for interviews and thought leadership pieces which then naturally link back to that brand face’s biography or About page.

Set Yourself Up For Success

Let’s face it – people love CEOs and want to be around CEOs. Even if you’re well known yourself, you probably still get giddy when you get to talk to someone that you respect in business or life. Therefore, I think every startup should have a founder that is amiable and outgoing, willing to be in the public eye to help build their startup’s name outside of their direct circle of contacts.

In order to do this:

  • Leverage your network for interviews (and links) with the CEO
  • Use PR to get their name out
  • Encourage them to blog, use social media, and let it be known that they are willing to talk to others
  • Have a page on your site that talks about them, including their biography. For a great example, check out Rand Fishkin’s on SEOmoz.


I could reference a few well-known SEO brands, like SEOmoz or Hubspot, who have well-known founders (Rand Fishkin and Dharmesh Shah respectively), but those examples are played out in marketing circles. Instead, let’s talk about a few different examples.

Neil Blumenthal – Warby Parker

By now, many of you have heard of Warby Parker, an eyeglasses startup that has disrupted the eyeglasses world by cutting out the middle men and making fashionable designer eyewear accessible for only $99. They also have a “Get a pair give a pair” program that gives eyeglasses to children in need. Basically, think of Warby Parker as the eyeglasses version of TOMS shoes.

Warby Parker Do Good Campaign

Neil Blumenthal, one of the founders, is in the public eye. If you check out OpenSiteExplorer for the About The Founders page, you will see that the page has 13 links back to it that have his name. David Gilboa, the other founder, has 7 domains linking with his name.

Their public facing manner has also gotten them great press:

Neil Blumenthal on NY Times
Forbes on Influencing People

Dan Martell – Clarity.fm

I interviewed Dan a few months ago here on my site because I was contacted by Onboardly. Dan’s name accounts for about 8% of the total links to Clarity at this point, and many of the experts on Clarity have come from Dan encouraging them to be on the site. He also has a popular blog and good Twitter following.

Dan Martell

Jennifer Hyman – Rent The Runway

One of my favorite examples is Jennifer Hyman, who runs the fashion rental startup Rent The Runway. Jen has attracted a good number of links to the team page (OSE page here. She has done many interviews to build the brand of Rent The Runway and tell their story, such as this interview on Grovo’s Expert Series and this mention in CNN Money.

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See more of this Expert Series

Michelle Rhee – Students First

Michelle Rhee is the Founder and CEO of StudentsFirst, which calls themselves a “movement to transform public education”. Michelle has done many interviews and her about page has attracted links from sites like Forbes, Huffington Post, NPR, and many more (OSE here).


I hope this post has given you some ideas of how to leverage your outgoing founders for press and links. These are some of the easiest links you will ever get and have returns well beyond just links, but also branding and word of mouth loyalty.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Entrepreneurs are some of the most interesting people in the world. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing David Hassell, who is the CEO and Founder of 15Five, a product built to better enable managers and employees to give and receive quality feedback in less time. Throughout this conversation we talk about not only entrepreneurship, but also productivity, the power of why, and the driving force behind what he does. Have a listen/read!

Here is David’s official biography, and you can read their blog here (including an interview with Simon Sinek on The Power of Why):

David HassellDavid Hassell is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of 15Five, a software company focused on producing transparency and alignment in organizations through structured, efficient and effective communication practices. David has also been named The Most Connected Man You Don’t Know in Silicon Valley by Forbes.

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I have interviewed a few well-regarded entrepreneurs in the past couple of months, and out of those have come the common vein of “Is the problem you are solving worth your life?”

Entrepreneurs are ideas people. We think a lot, we try to optimize our lives to find better ways of being. We are known for being eccentric, disciplined, and sometimes a bit unsatisfied with life. This way of being has very real challenges and benefits.

One challenge is that we can set out to build something that will potentially make us money, but at the end of the day we are not passionate about it and therefore are almost destined to fail from the beginning.

As David Haskell (interview coming next week) told me, “When you start a new venture, you are committed to it for at least 3 years usually. That can easily turn into a decade. We all have about four decades of work to our life. Is what you’re working on worth that?”

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Tonight (March 20th) Distilled NYC is co-hosting a meetup in conjunction with iAcquire, another search agency here in New York City. The topic is Content Marketing vs Content Strategy.

My talk is on data driven content marketing. We believe that in order to know what content to create, you need to first know:

  • What content you have;
  • How that content is performing
  • What content your competitors have
  • How their content is performing

I will post the slidedeck this evening once the event has finished and I get back to my computer, but I built out a spreadsheet to give away to everyone. I figure I’ll give it away here and explain how to use both for the meetup goers as well as for all of you who read this post on its own.

Download the spreadsheet here.

Data-Driven Content Auditing

The first step before you do any work is to figure out what your goals are from the campaign. Why are you creating content and how are you going to get buy-in, and therefore budget, to create it once you have figured out what you need? Lucky for you I presented on this at SearchFest in February -

Your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) could be many things, including:

  • Links
  • Traffic
  • Leads
  • ??

Settling on what you will be measured on first is the key to a successful campaign, or future successful campaigns as you learn and do better campaigns each time.

Pull Data

Once you have your goals in mind, you know what kind of data you need to gather. I always recommend gathering:

  • URLs
  • Content type or category (ie “Infographic” or “Marketing”). This can give insight into the kinds of content they create that you do not, and if it works for them.
  • SEOmoz Metrics for the site/page (Domain Authority, Page Authority, possibly Trust)
  • Number of linking root domains
  • Social Metrics (Twitter, FB, Google+, etc)
  • Traffic (for your own content) from Analytics

This data will be gathered from a multitude of places, including but not limited to:

Graph and Action

To keep all the data in one place, I’ve provided a spreadsheet here that you can download and use to audit up to 3 competitors and their types of content. Also, please customize it as you need (as it is impossible to meet everyone’s needs) and share with the class what you have done if you think it will be useful.

Here is a preview of the sheet:



You’ll be given some charts as well to help you see visually what is working as well:


You can download the spreadsheet here.

Here is my presentation from the meetup:

I started doing SEO pretty hardcore back in the very beginning of 2010 when I was working as a book publisher from a small alpine town in Switzerland. When I discovered SEO, I had no clue where it would take me (literally and metaphorically), the people I would meet, or everything I would learn and what that would push me towards.

I started full time in Philadelphia, working with a couple of other awesome guys who mentored me, taught me the importance of hustle, and made me get insanely better at my job through data. We were a powerhouse team, and I still say that if I were to go back inhouse someday I would want both of them on the team with me.

That’s not the point of this post, though. You see, this past Friday (March 15th) was the final Linklove that Distilled plans to put on. We don’t believe that linkbuilding is dead or dying, but it has definitely changed and many of the old tactics and tricks that worked so well for so long (crap directories, aggressive anchor text, spun content, sidebar widgets en masse) have gone out the window and even become toxic. I wish I could tell you all about my adventures in the past months with link removal and the insanity of the cost both in terms of effort and impact to the business being affected.

But that’s also not the point of this point.

You see, two years ago today Linklove changed my life. Continue Reading…

Over the last week and a half, I gave talks at Searchfest in Portland and MNSearch in Minneapolis about technical SEO. I pulled one over on both audiences though, as the real meat of the talks was about getting buy-in for making technical changes on your website (what I called technical SEO debt.

I defined technical SEO debt as:

A metaphor referring to the eventual consequences of poor or evolving architecture or SEO problems/dependencies within a website.

Both talks started with the statement that many sites need to quit focusing on linkbuilding and fix the technical debt that they owe on their websites. You see, every executive is busy and has their hands in multiple pots, so for any of the departments under them they need something to hang their hat on – rankings, traffic, revenue, whatever. For a lot of marketing managers or CMOs, who have only a very rudimentary understanding of SEO, that will be links, so they push for more links as that is what they understand. They think links will get them the money that they want, but we all know that is not true.
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I tweeted this about a month ago when I was frustrated at Google for still allowing sites in some verticals to rank off of bad content or links simply because they are a brand and “belong” in that search result. In fact, one could argue that users expect these companies to be there. After all, it makes sense for a company like John Deere to rank for [tractors], no?

Is this fair of me, though? Is it Google’s fault that SEOs have to scale their efforts of content creation and linkbuilding to become competitive in competitive verticals?

I’ve stewed on these thoughts for a bit of time and come to a few conclusions. Many of these might not come as a shock to you, but I think they’re worth stating.

Continue Reading…

If you’re reading this post, you should know the following ways to tag <a href=””></a> links on your website:

  • _blank – opens in new tab
  • _self – opens in same frame (default, can also just be left out)
  • _parent – opens link in new parent frame
  • _top – opens link in the full body of the window

One of the features (or lack thereof) that has irked me about HackerNews is that when I click on a link, it opens in the same window thus taking me away from HackerNews, which is where I went in the first place. Let’s say I click on the first link:


It takes me directly to the page (watch the tab at the top):


But then I have to hit the Back button. Who hits the back button on the Internet anymore, especially techies like myself who live off of keyboard shortcuts? Why make me go from using my keyboard to using my mouse or trackpad just to go back? No one uses the Delete key to go back, let’s be honest.

What HackerNews should do, though, is take you to a new tab, like so (notice the tabs at the top):



I propose a test. Dear admins of HackerNews, I would like you to implement a test for 24 hours.

Implement target=”_blank” on HackerNews
Track the time on site and number of votes over the course of that day
Report on it, and then make an informed decision.

It won’t be that hard to implement:

<a href=”http://on-advertising.tumblr.com/post/42994773187/maria-popova-have-you-made-1m-on-affiliate-ads-while“>Making $1 million from affiliate links on “Ad-Free” blog</a>


<a href=”http://on-advertising.tumblr.com/post/42994773187/maria-popova-have-you-made-1m-on-affiliate-ads-whiletarget=”_blank”>Making $1 million from affiliate links on “Ad-Free” blog</a>

This is how Inbound.org works:

<a href=”http://contentharmony.com/inbound-2012/” target=”_blank” id=”click-30712″>Inbound.org: 2012 By The Numbers</a>

Well HackerNews, what say you? I dare you to increase your traffic and engagement.

Entrepreneurship is a hot topic these days, and one that you may know I am quite passionate about if you are a return reader here.

After I interviewed Leo Widrich of BufferApp a couple of weeks ago, I was put in touch with Dan Martell of Clarity.fm. Dan is the founder of Clarity, which exists to connect experts with other entrepreneurs in order to create a knowledge-sharing ecosystem where the experts can also earn some money in return for having conversations with those seeking to learn from them.

We talked about products, the importance of focus, the importance of revenue generation as early as possible, freemium, entrepreneurial goal setting, and more. Have a read or listen and let me know your thought in the comments!

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A fundamental shift has occurred over the past two years in the way people consume content on the Internet. Not quite six years ago, Google bought the RSS service Feedburner for $100M and integrated it with their blogging platform, Blogger, as well as allowing bloggers on other platforms like WordPress to syndicate their content through it.

According to Compete, Feedburner is on a downward trend in terms of traffic:

BuiltWith seems to corroborate this:

feedburner usage stats

In fact, Google seems to think that RSS is dying because they have deprecated the Feedburner API and are even talking about shutting it down completely in 2013. That should signal something to marketers if Google does not think the product worth keeping alive, even if simply because Google is the big player on the Internet and holds the ability to shift mindsets and kill verticals if they wish.
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