The ability to effectively optimize a website is an extremely difficult and long process; although through our class we have learned quite a bit of the do’s and don’ts to ranking a page; I can openly admit I have years of learning in front of me. Currently my website is on the fourth page (be generous as it may have dropped since now) when searching “digital marketing degree programs” and through this paper I will highlight the many strategy’s I used that helped and hurt my campaign.
In order to optimize my website in the way I felt best, I created a WordPress blog; specifically, I used www.digitalmarketingdegrees.wordpress.com as my homepage. After learning about a few of the options I had it seemed that using a blog site was an effective way to rank high on Google and of all the blog sites WordPress stuck out due to their easy set-up and the abundance of widgets/options they offer. My initial strategy was to create a site that was interactive, easy to navigate, and gave relevant information to those visiting, so my first step was to find a theme that allowed for all of these things. The theme that I chose is really easy to navigate, it allows for surfers to quickly and easily find what it is they’re looking for and more importantly every widget I wanted to have active works well with this theme. The importance of widgets was clear when I realized how critical fresh content is to a page; in order to combat my busy schedule I added a widget that created an RSS Feed linking directly with Forbes and The American Marketing Association. Beyond having the ability to link Forbes and The AMA to my blog the use of widgets also allowed for me to link my Facebook and Twitter pages with my blog, as well as link related blog rolls to classmates blogs, and gave me a “search” bar. The use of these widgets gave my site new content continuously and added the amount of viewers I had each day, they made my page more interactive and made it more welcoming to users, with each widget came additional views and an overall more complete blog.
As I stated before having the RSS Feed set up with my blog played a critical role in adding content; however, multiple times during the week I added articles that I saw to be relevant and helpful to my site. Creating new content on my site was simple, because I took the easy way out; rather than do things such as talk about an article and attach a link to it in my posts, I would copy and paste articles (still giving credit to the author and site it originated from) on my page. Anytime I added a post I used relevant tags, for example, each post had “digital marketing degree programs” and “digital marketing degree program” as a tag; then for articles that dealt with Apple I would add an “Apple” tag and likewise for other companies and topics. The mindset I had was that tagging content would allow me to group it based on relevancy, allow for easy searching for users, and that it would create more signals to my site and in turn would mean a higher rank on Google.
The idea of anchor text is to show relevancy of the target-landing page with the keywords that are hyperlinked, an example of how I used anchor text is clear on a post I made about Steve Jobs, I used an article that talked about the commencement speech that Jobs gave for Stanford University and added anchor text. Specifically in this post I created links on relevant words such as “Apple,” “Social,” and “College.” By creating links I would allow for the readers to click on the word “Apple” and navigate to Apple’s homepage, or to click on “college” and immediately be directed to the University of Michigan – Dearborn’s College of Business webpage. According to SEOMoz, “search engines use this text to help determine the subject matter of the linked-to documents,” essentially I was using a strategy that attempted to show Google’s spiders my web page was relevant to highly ranked pages such as the UMD College of Business website and to give them an idea as to what content my page had. I attempted to create relevancy between my page and things that were closely related to “digital marketing degree programs” and hoped anchor text would help to create linkage with other sites.
Outbound links also prove to be a vital part of a successful campaign, by having outbound links I was able to show my page was recognizable and related to a variety of sites, including high rated sites such as an .edu page. Using a few of the widgets I referred to early, I was able to create direct links to Forbes, Mashable, The American Marketing Association homepage and the University of Michigan – Dearborn College of Business page. To give a little more depth to this side of my strategy I also added links to three separate blogs on my page, Tyler, Jacob and Matt Cutts blog’s all linked from my homepage to theirs. Outbound links added value without me needing to add content all the time, it gave my visitors relevant information even if I hadn’t posted it and helped my rank on Google because I was aligning my site with well respected sites. It also gave me a chance to showcase some of the sites I respect and use on a daily basis, it may not seem completely related to the project but I wanted to put these sites their because they were important to other parts of my strategy (commenting on Forbes articles).
As Rand Fishkin said, “In principle, each link to a webpage is seen as a vote for that web page. In simple terms, if there are two pages that are equally relevant to a given search query, the page with the better inbound link profile will rank higher than the other page.” SEOMoz taught me quite a few things and one of the most important was the importance they placed on back linking; I put quite a bit of effort to go onto forums such as marketingscoop.com, and place some sort of comment about the article or about digital marketing itself, always including my blogs link. I also went to websites such as Forbes or CNN and put my link on relevant news articles. In the beginning I put a general comment on any article that I came across regardless of the relevance; however, as time went on I realized that the most important linking came from forums and edu sites that were related to my topic. Jacob and I worked together on creating links and at times many of the pages we had created a backlink on were actually showing up on Google searches. Regardless of where I was dropping my URL, I made sure to place my link in the middle of the comment rather than the end, this practice seemed to hold more merit because normally when a link is placed at the end of a comment it is a spam or part of a person’s signature. I felt having the URL in the middle gave it a higher rating and that it made people think it was relevant to the comment.
Beyond dropping comments on articles and in forums, I attached my URL to the bottom of each e-mail I have sent from my University of Michigan – Dearborn account, as well as dropped the link on my Facebook account quite a few times. These practices did not stick nearly as often as other strategies, but it did create buzz about my blog and brought visitors to the site in higher numbers.
Jacob and I also worked together to create a Facebook page that we thought would optimize both of our blogs. We often added articles or posted statuses about marketing and random events just to draw people to our page; the main focus and hope was for this page to drive traffic to our main pages. The social signals that sites such as Facebook and Twitter create is a substantial amount, we were able to have our page be a key feature in adding content and drawing users to our separate blogs.
This project has taught me quite a bit about the variety of strategies that can be used for optimizing a website. I can say that many of the strategies I used hurt me and caused my blog to never truly rank high on Google search. The worst mistake was copying content from news articles or other blogs and using it as content for my page, although I never took the credit for the work as my own, I never really talked or went on about my feelings on the articles. In order to change this I would use original posts about things that I want to talk about, maybe it would have helped if I put in a portion of an article and then proceeded to talk about it in my own words. I also made the mistake of spamming the tags of the articles I used; rather then placing one relevant tag to each article I used an abundance, which appears to Google as a form of spam. Although I have attempted to change the tags on my articles I feel it was too little, too late and that I cant really fix what I had already done in that situation. Creating a Facebook and Twitter page was worth it for many other student’s strategies, but for Jacob and I it did not pan out. We, unlike the other students, did not use a relevant URL for our Facebook page and regardless of what we did to help our site move up the ranks, it was never able too. By the end we had both given up on the Facebook page and similar with Twitter; on Twitter it was extremely difficult to gain followers and without followers seeing your tweets, the point of Twitter is gone. I think these strategies would need more time and more resources to really make a substantial difference. The last area that I feel was a bit of a mistake was my outbound links to pages such as Jacob, Tyler, or Sam’s blogs, because quite a few SEO experts say that linking to bad “neighborhoods” can penalize your site and I strongly feel this could be the case here. All three of them have sites that probably carry a zero or one page rank and this does not benefit my site at all; the point being, I should have made sure to create outbound links to only sites that are high page rank and that hold some merit.
Truly I cant say what my best practices were because I feel that all parts of my strategy could have been better, but then again there is always room for improvement. The one area that I feel I may have done the best in is linking to other blogs, linking to other websites, and actually getting my links to stick. I dropped my link well over 100 times, not including the many times Jacob included my link in a post, or the times I put my link on a Facebook status or Twitter Tweet. The problem with my page was not that I didn’t link it, or get viewers, the problem was me attempting to cut corners or to force parts of my page to be more in depth than they actually were. At the time my page was the highest on Google rank, I had dropped my link often and it had successfully stuck on quite a few pages and at my last check this is still the case with many of my backlinking attempts.