Dustin Interviewed About SEO

The Search Engine Journal was kind enough to interview me about various SEO topics, including: evolution of SEO, using UGC to drive SEO, Domainers vs. SEOs, and making the transition from in-house SEO to out-house SEO (working out of my house as an SEO consultant).
Dustin Woodard
I didn’t realize it until now, but this is my 2nd interview with the Search Engine Journal–the first was over 3 years ago. If you dig reading about me 1/10th as much as I do, then I suggest you check out both interviews:

Dustin Woodard 2010 SEJ Interview
by Todd Mintz
Dustin Woodard 2007 SEJ Interview
by Jessica Bowman

Besides learning more about me, I think you’ll find some helpful SEO tips inside both interviews.

Wondering What t.co is?

Soon many people may be wondering where all these links that have http://t.co/ in them are and if they can be trusted. The short answer is that they are auto-generated by Twitter as it is their new self-built URL shortening service & they can be trusted as much, or as little as other shortening services.

what is t.coBackground on the t.co Domain
You may recognize .co as being the TLD for domains for the country of Columbia. Colombian domains have long had rules that they must be registered by Colombian-citizens only, much to the dismay of domainers, as .co typos are far more common then other accidental domain TLD truncations like .cm (Cameroon) or .ne (Nigeria). I’d expect far more people accidentally type in “Amazon.co” & hit the enter button before the “m” then leave out the “o” in .com (Amazon.cm).

In early 2010, Columbia decided to open it up registration to anyone (doesn’t open to public until 7/20/2010), starting with registered trademark owners and companies that apply to be “.co founders” (companies that are going to do something neat that helps the validity of .co domains). So, Twitter was granted t.co and is using it for its built-in URL shortening service.

Background on Default Twitter URL Shorteners
Due to the 140 character limit in Twitter, users have long used URL shortening services so they can still say something when sharing a long URL. For example, the post your are reading has this URL:
http://www.webconnoisseur.com/blog/twitter/wondering-what-t-co-is/
If I tweet about it, I’m already using up 66 characters, meaning I only have 74 left to comment on the topic & if anyone retweets me, they’ll lose another 19 character, including spaces by including: RT@webconnoisseur, leaving them with only 55 characters to work with. Instead, I used bit.ly and only used 20 characters: http://bit.ly/tdotco

Many different URL shortening services sprung up, but Twitter did choose URL shortening services automatically for anyone using long URLs. They started with one of the oldest ones: tinyurl, then eventually defaulted to bit.ly. Both services were provided by other companies. Hence why it makes sense that Twitter finally created their own: t.co. Right now, t.co is live for direct messages (they used twt.tl for a few months), but will be rolled out for all tweets soon.

Another benefit of many URL shortenings services is analytics – they provide data on how many clicks your shortened link got, and in some cases, where they were shared. With t.co, Twitter said it would share analytics to companies using Twitter’s commercial services. It is unclear if they will also open data up to the general public.

t.co SEO Considerations
URLs shared on Twitter have long been no-followed, but the links are often spread throughout the internet outside of Twitter, even in places that follow the links (a blog post inspired by a link shared in Twitter, for example). This means the type of redirect the URL shortening service uses, matters for SEO. If it is a 301 redirect, the link can still pass a vote to the site or page, in the eyes of the search engines. A 302, however, doesn’t benefit the page or site. This is why I’ve long approved of clients using tinyurls or bit.ly, but not twurl (twurl.cc) and, until recently, told people to steer clear of Hootsuite generage links (ow.ly).

The good news is that I’ve tested t.co links and they are using 301 redirects, which means if the t.co link is spread around the internet, you may receive the SEO benefits.

Other Benefits of t.co

  • Malware Detection – Twitter will warn users about potentially dangerous links that use t.co
  • Set character length – t.co links will always be 20 characters
  • Full 140 characters – t.co links won’t count against the 140 characters available
  • Link intelligence – Twitter will learn much more about the links being shared on Twitter and can surface popular links in an algorithmic way

I wrote this post because I fully expect people will be caught by surprise when they start seeing t.co links everywhere – not just on Twitter, but on Facebook, email, texts, etc. If you read this post all the way through, you’re now an expert on the history of the t.co domain.

Using Twitter to Build Relationships With The Press

build relationship with press When you have major game-changing news or work for an incredibly popular company, having relationships with the press is easy. For the rest of us, there’s a right way and a wrong way to establish a relationship with the press.

Before I jump into techniques, I want to talk about tools. The good news is that web technology has opened up doors for any company, no matter how small, to establish a relationship with the press. Not only can you find the right journalist, but you can have a discussion and at the time when the journalist is most open to your expertise. In particular, there are two places you should certainly utilize to take advantage of press opportunities.

Using Twitter & LinkedIn for Press

Twitter is great for establishing a relationship with the press. Most journalists display their Twitter account on their publication. For example, the NY Times has a full page dedicated to their staff Twitter accounts. By performing simple and Advanced Twitter Searches, you can identify members of the press who are trying to solve a problem or want information for an upcoming column.

Below is a search I did on Twitter a while back where I used the terms “is about column next”. Take a look how powerful a search like this can be:

Journalists on Twitter

LinkedIn is a searchable Rolodex that not only helps you find journalists to reach out to, but shows you one’s in your network, meaning journalists that a friend of yours can introduce you to. Take a look at the advanced search I did for job title=”editor”:

Journalists on LinkedIn

Establishing a Relationship

tweet with journalistBesides performing smart searches, how do you actually establish a relationship with the press? It is fairly simple. Take a look at the pictures on the right.

One shows someone shouting. This is the default method that most people try to employ. The shout method. They are so excited about their own product, they forget that by default, most people aren’t. You can’t just beat the press over the head with your product. Hence, why you need to establish a relationship.

Instead, show the journalist the path that leads back to you. For example, if you sell organic beer, instead of shouting “we are one of only 3 companies selling organic beer in the U.S.,” establish a relationship by reaching out to them about their latest organic coffee story. You might mention:

“Thank you for the deep coverage of the organic coffee industry. I work in the organic beer industry and find the challenges are much the same. The one difference is that organic coffee beans are usually grown in 3rd world countries, whereas organic grain is usually obtained locally. The battle for organic beer brewers isn’t about preserving rain-forests or dealing with foreign governments, its about convincing local farmers to produce grain that can be certified organic.”

Hopefully you may have inspired a new article about organic beer brewing. Even if you didn’t, you might find yourself as a source on their upcoming article on local farmers.

Another great way to establish a relationship is to meet them in person. If you know they will be at an event or conference, try to attend and join in on a conversation with them (avoid talking about your company). Then, later on, when you message them, you can remind them where you first met.

Benefits of Establishing a Relationship With the Press

Besides an increased chance of getting coverage, investing in a relationship with the press has these benefits:

  • Repeat coverage – you’ll have a far greater likelyhood of obtaining press more then once
  • Direct contact to fix links in the article or add in missing links (very important for SEO)
  • Relationship extends beyond current publication – journalists may change jobs or companies, but you’ll still be connected.
  • If this kind of soft marketing isn’t your forte, consider hiring someone who has had success obtaining press with little to no budget, or hire someone with an editorial background as they’ll know exactly what a good and bad pitch looks like.

Little Known Twitter Search Commands

Twitter search seems fairly basic, which often leads to people using 3rd party Twitter tools for searching. Most people don’t realize it, but Twitter some handy search command abilities:

Basic Twitter Search Commands (no surprises here):

  • Multi-word queries: if you search multiple words, Twitter’s default search will search tweets containing both (or all words).
    Example: big doggy would find tweets that contain both “big” and “doggy”, but not necessarily the words paired together.
  • Exact match queries: if you use quotes, you can limit tweet searches to exact matches.
    Example: “big doggy” would find tweets that contain the exact phrase “big doggy”.
  • OR queries: if you are looking for two related or interchangable words, OR queries work well.
    Example: dog OR doggy would find tweets that contain either words.
  • Hash Tag queries: Hash tags used to be one of the only methods of putting a stamp on your tweet to help those searching in Twitter, but they not as critical these days as Twitter search has improved. Regardless, people still use hash tags (#), especially when attending events or joining in on a meme
    Example: #ff would find tweets that contain #ff (which stands for Follow Friday).
  • At queries: when referencing someone on Twitter, you use @ (at reply), so it makes sense you can search for people doing so.
    Example: @webconnoisseur would find tweets reference me.
  • Question queries: target tweets that ask a question.
    Example: web designer ? would most likely find tweets of people looking for web designers.

Advanced Twitter Search Commands:

  • Combining queries: You can combine queries to really nail down what you are looking for.
    Example: “seattle startup” OR “seattle start-up” OR “@seattle20” combines the simple search commands listed above and would be an excellent way to find tweets related to startups in Seattle.
  • From and To queries: You can actually target tweets that are specifically sent to or from someone.
    Example: “from:GregBoser” “to:Graywolf” would show me tweets Greg Boser sent to Michael Gray. If you perform a query like this, Twitter will also include a link that will allow you to see the entire conversation, if there is one.
  • Exclude queries: You can specify words you don’t want to see in your query.
    Example: hello -kitty would show me hello tweets, but exclude tweets that are reffering to hello kitty or someone saying hello to their kitty on twitter (trust me, you want to stay away from these people).
  • Location queries: You can actually limit tweets by location.
    Example: beer near:Seattle within:15mi would show me beer tweets written within 15 miles of Seattle

    Note: it isn’t entirely accurate as it appears to go off the location the person has listed in their profile, which isn’t always where they are at the time.
  • Date-based queries: You can actually limit tweets by date, both before (use “since:”) or after (use “until:”).
    Example: techcrunch since:2009-09-12 until:2009-09-13 would show me tweets about TechCrunch over the weekend on September 12th or 13th
  • Attitudinal queries: Some Twitter users incorporate happy or sad faces into their tweets. You can search these to find attitudes about topics.
    Example: cloudy with a chance of meatballs :) would show me people who were happy to go see or enjoyed the movie Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.
  • Source queries: probably one of the least useful queries unless you want to research a 3rd party tool’s adoption, you can do query searches by tweet software source.
    Example: LOL source:tweetdeck would show me LOL tweets that came from someone using tweedeck.
  • Link filtered queries: a great way to track down referenced links, this query will limit Twitter searches to tweets that contain links.
    Example: mashable filter:links would show me people’s tweets linking to Mashable articles.
  • Jumping forward in older searches if you are hunting for something via Twitter search and want to save yourself from clicking “older” over and over, you can change the page number (after your first older click) in the Twitter URL to jump forward.
    Example: http://search.twitter.com/search?max_id=3984008800&page=2&q=fight&rpp=20 is the result I get after searching fight in search.twitter.com and clicking on older once. To jump further back in time and skip a bunch of tweets, I can go up to the browser URL box and change the page=2 portion to page=35 to jump straight to page 35.

Hope you find these Twitter search commands useful. If you know of others, or would like to share your example uses, please leave a comment.

GoDaddy Twitter Relationship

Just over a month ago, I was shocked when I was force-fed a twitter screen takeover while looking at my domain names registered at GoDaddy. Immediately, I did some news searches to see if GoDaddy had purchased Twitter because it seemed very out of place. There were no such announcements. In fact, there was very little news about this development.

GoDaddy Twitter IntegrationEvery time I’m in my account tweaking my domains, I can’t help but notice the twitter promotion overload. I can’t help but wonder why GoDaddy would take such a keen interest in helping to fuel more twitter accounts. From a service perspective, it is pretty lame because it is already incredibly easy to check name availability and sign up for twitter. I could think of a hundred other features GoDaddy should build and promote instead. If it were a two-way arrangement, where Twitter promotes domain registration for Twitter user names, then I could see the benefit.

So why do you suppose GoDaddy is pimping Twitter so much? Is GoDaddy going to buy Twitter? Is Twitter paying GoDaddy for this treatment? Is GoDaddy’s product development team overly caught up with Twitter & group-think led them to believe this add on would separate them from other registrars? I have no idea, but it will be interesting to watch this over time.

Here are more screenshots showing how much GoDaddy is pimping out Twitter within their domain dashboards:

GoDaddy Twitter promo

Why is GoDaddy Pimping Twitter

GoDaddy Twitter name check feature