How I turned my competitor into a valuable, unsuspecting link partner [A SEO fable]

SEO life has its funny moments. While you might imagine nerds wading through endless keyword tables, the truth is that sometimes others’ fails make one laugh hardest. Especially when the grudge one holds is unwillingly paid in gallons of precious, precious link juice.

The chronic of events described in this very blog post took place many long years ago. It was a different time and age back then – must have been around the time when Facebook started to skyrocket like crazy, probably 2011 or 12. Readers would abandon blogs a while before Google discontinued their RSS reader, and many a brave blogger gave up, completely discouraged by the utter lack of discussion activity.

My young friends, believe me, it was neither about social signals nor reach back then, but user activity we dug a lot. (The new currency on sm platforms, too – what a coincidence!) But even the most popular and the toughest bloggers had to wipe tears from their eyes every day as they stared at their statistics. Mad, yet powerless to stop Zuckerberg from sucking away their micro-communities.

Some even failed in giving up

A lot of blogs died – some quickly painlessly, others slowly and suffering more each day until the final trackback had faded away. Of course, more than a chosen few kept going, but I will talk about these heroes another time.

Because there was a third group: freeloading copycats who had turned their social media agencies’ websites into fake blogs when the slightest smell of WordPress still sufficed to climb Google’s top ranks.

And then that changed, and many of them forgot that they had once simulated authoring a blog. When you lose the big picture, you obviously do not care about the small details anymore, either. For example, an active comment function that passes out do-follow links like it’s the Easter Bunny. Or a sidebar widget displayed on all postings *and* pages, also handing out free link juice like little bunny-brother.

Those guys may have known a thing or two about social media and SEO, but that wasn’t enough in the long run. They sure did know a lot more things about public relations, though, resulting in an enormously powerful backlink structure including some of Europe’s top domains, resulting in very powerful rankings.

The immoral ending of this story

Why would I know that? Because I analyzed their backlink structure as a favor before we both realized that further cooperation was unthinkable. They came to this conclusion because I had loudly complained that they had stolen some of my presentations, merely replacing the logo for their pitches. Me, because they had stolen some of my presentations for their pitches, merely replacing the logo.

Karma seems to have caught up rather quickly this time. Said agency is out of business since a couple of months, which makes me quite sad: Their website was taken down and I am sure going to miss* those hundreds of links, merely generated by commenting twice.

Sometimes it *really* pays off to be the last one to leave the party and close the discussion.

*) No, I won’t. I probably could have relied on luck, but I did rely on Scrapebox instead.

Affiliate Butler Pro might just become our favorite Auto-Linker Plugin. Here’s my honest review of version 1.0.

Hey, I love venturing through new and unknown territory! And since I’ve been looking for a capable auto-linker plugin, buying Affiliate Butler was a no-brainer – especially since Robert Harm recommended his colleague’s first WordPress plugin on Codecanyon. This is all quite fresh: Waseem Senjer uploaded the first version on December 30th, I am the second buyer as of today. There are no comments and reviews yet. But since I know that this handy little tool is potentially *very interesting* to affiliate marketers, search engine optimizers and other curious parties, I will explain what AB version 1.0 can and cannot do.

What exactly does an auto linker do and why would I need one?

Yes, the name says it all: An auto linker AUTOmatically LINKs Keywords that appear in postings and pages. Let’s say you run a blog about your dog Lumpitz. She has a furry friend who goes by the name of Lexi and who you mention regularly in your postings. Lexi’s owner runs a dog blog, too. So instead of inserting a hyperlink every time you mention her, you configure your auto linker once to automatically link the term “Lexi” to the desired defined target site.

  • Internal SEO

    Distributing link juice the smart way.

Affiliate Butler Pro is a WordPress plugin that helps you to replace specific keywords to links automatically. Are you tired of linking websites in your post? This plugin will solve your problem.

But this is just the beginning. Since the internal link structure has a *huge* impact on SEO, a clever auto-linking strategy will make your page climb the SERP ranks in no time. Instead of manually entering all trigger terms, such a plugin can also auto-link all your tags, categories and so on.

Advanced auto-linkers like the one I’m taking a closer look at in this posting do not stop there and combine the inserted links with shortening and/or cloaking capabilities. The first comes in handy, the latter is a vital feature for any affiliate marketer – more on that later.

One would think that there are plenty auto-linkers available out there. After all, it’s not that complicated… right? Wrong! Inserting automated hyperlinks can crush a site’s performance with ease. All the other plugins I’ve tried either suck, suck badly or started to suck since the last WordPress update 4.x came out.

How is Affiliate Butler different from all the other kids?

Yes, AB workAffiliate Butler WordPress Plugins out of the box. That being said, there are a couple of minor issues. But first let’s take a closer look at the features.

  • Internal and external auto linking: Input your trigger words and target links or have AB automatically link taxonomies like tags and categories.
  • Auto-insertion of multimedia-links: Instead of just replacing words by standard hyperlinks, AB comes with a range of media types / tooltip options like images, videos, map pop-ups and social media sharing tooltips.
  • Comprehensive statistics (clicks, countries and more) are included.
  • Keyword hierachy: organize your trigger words via hierarchical categories.

The sales page also claims that links are SEO optimized and that the maximum number of links per posting is limitable.

All this sounds solid and well-designed to me. A first impression instantly verified after installation: The backend is well-design and self-explanatory, integration adheres to modern standards (custom content type implementation).

I honestly do not care much about auto linked multimedia content. Creative minds will find a ton of applications, I prefer to keep the UI clean and simple: A link is a link is a link. A photo is either worth displaying inline or I won’t use it at all, same goes for videos and maps.

So what about core functionality?

Some minor and one major issue

Like I said before, adding auto links works perfectly fine out of the box. When playing with the advanced features, I discovered a few flaws, though:

Affiliate Butler auto linking tags

Affiliate Butler auto linking when it shouldn’t.

The limit per post does not apply to taxonomy linking. If you turn on tag auto-linking, every single tag sports an a-href. Even worse the plugin even inserts links if the tag is part of another word by linking only the tag. The settings lack a “link complete words only” option that makes sure there is a space before and after the linked term.

The best way to solve this issue would be a dedicated limit setting for each taxonomy. We all know that too high a number of outgoing links is a sure way to burn a site’s SERPs, but way too many internal links aren’t too brilliant an idea either.

A dedicated class for auto-generated links is missing, which makes all taxonomy links look exactly like normal outgoing hyperlinks. This can be quite confusing for regular readers. Again, a dedicated CSS class for each type of link would solve the problem.

I could live with that since taxonomy linking is a nice, but optional feature. The biggest problem is caused by the link shortening function: shortened links just don’t work, the always result in a 404 error on my install.

Without a properly working link cloaking / link shortening functionality, AB might still be useful to a lot of people, but definitely not to affiliate marketers.

The plugin author is aware of the current issues and has promised to upload a fixed version asap. If the various flaws mentioned above disappear in the next release, Affiliate Butler will turn into an amazingly powerful SEO / affiliate tool. I’ll update this review accordingly as soon as it’s done.

On the declining organic SEO traffic for Bloggers

Nobody’s really talking about it, but I suspect this is a wider trend: blogs aren’t dying, but they are significantly declining. 2015 might be a rough year.In Is Google making the web stupid? Seth Godin suggests that the declining prominence of organic results in Google searches is significantly to blame.

Couldn’t agree more with Marco. Read the full article – what are your experiences with SEO traffic and blogs?

Do social media services kill the blog?

Answering Klout questions is sometimes difficult, as space is very limited and some topics require more in-depth discussion than the equivalent of 3 tweets – ask any regular on Quora! In most cases, I manage to stuff my collected knowledge into a couple of lines, but today Klout asked a very interesting questions that has been sitting in the back of my mind for quite a while now:

Are social media websites like Twitter and Facebook killing the blog? Why or why not?

The shortest possible answer is of course no – one letter shorter than “yes” even, and the right answer, too. So here’s the little song I wrote:

Social media has changed the blogosphere: instead of commenting, a lot of users “like” or “+1” and the remaining discussion has moved away from the blog onto social media services. But blogs are a more important content back-bone than ever – the format evolves.

This line of reasoning requires a little elaboration: back in the early days of blogging, weblogs were primarily a means to document/store/share the websites bloggers had visited and found interesting – hence the name which stems from “logging your web journey”. In bold ignorance of the harsh reality our web fore-fathers faced, nowadays I regularly hear web-experts spread a different founding myth – one in which the first blogs were “online diaries”. No, wrong.

Online diaries appeared on the scene a little later, together with the first content-rich blogs: instead of presenting their readers with an extensive list of hyperlinks and very little additional information, the new generation of blogs would change the ratio of the two main ingredients: more content, less links. That’s when commeting became a vital part of the blogosphere and comment-rating plugins, an early form of social content structuring, became popular.

Enter social media: platforms like blogger or wordpress.com took care of the technical hassle, but is was Myspace that took the blogging phenomenon to a whole new level in terms of numbers. We’ve seen a couple of first-generation platforms go and we’ve witnessed the immense success of Facebook and Twitter’s increasing popularity among geeks.

Bloggers these days have stopped whining about the decreasing number of comments – the discussion happens elswhere, the prime content still lives on the blog. Several technical solutions allow bloggers to pull back discussions from social media platforms to their blog and/or use these platforms as distribution channels for their postings.

Facebook, Twitter, G+, Pinterest and all these other empty shells are ever-hungry beasts that call for fresh, new, entertaining and stunning content. They host pictures and videos and short status updates, but they’re far from a library of knowledge, tutorials and in-depth analysis. Social media is channel, blogs are a publishing platform – both formats co-exist and influence each other, but nobody’s killing anyone. At least not today.

Photos: Graffiti Sprayer at Danube Channel

The Danube Channel is a short, man-made sidearm of the river Danube which runs directly through the center of the city. About 10 years ago, spraying basically was an illegal activity anywhere in the city, but then some smart folks decided to officially turn the walls alongside the channel into the city-sprayers’ official canvas. On a warm, sunny Sunday plenty of painting action takes place – I shot the following three pics using my EOS D and a lensbaby muse. (Click to enlarge.)

Viennese graffiti art 1 Read more

How WikiLeads cannot get shut down [Cartoon]

If you’re a chef you’ve probably wondered why everybody is talking about these WikiLicks. And if you’re into online marketing, you probably wondered why you are still struggling with Facebook while the competition is already generating WikiLeads like crazy. Calm down – it’s WikiLeaks and it probably won’t ruin you. Oh, you’re a politician? In that case: be afraid. Be very afraid.

WikiLeaks Read more

TEDx Pannonia Videos: get inspired!

This year, Austria’s first TEDx (an independently organized TED conference) took place in Burgenland, the part of Austria closes to Hungary. The landscape here gives a foretaste of the Puszta lowlands, and all us attendants enjoyed a great day filled with many inspiring talks. The Dream Academia boys have organized the conference and now they’ve done a great job with the videos: all the talks are online, video and audio quality are excellent: TEDx Pannonia: The Talks

TEDx Pannonia - New Energy

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Best dance video ever: TURF FEINZ – RIP Rich D

The TURF FEINZ of Oakland, California are a legendary dance crew that’s famous for taking breakdance to the next level. In this clip, the originators of the so called turf dancing style express deep emotions via their moves. There’s a sad background to this incredible clip: a while ago, Rich D, crew member and half-brother of one of the dancers, died in a car accident at the corner where this R.I.P. dance took place:

Yoram Savion of YAK Films documented the dance:

YAK began as a production team of young photographers and filmmakers dedicated to youth-led multimedia production which provides a voice for resistance and an alternative to played-out mainstream media. At its core, YAK is a visual wrecking crew built to use every form of expressive multimedia to share the voice of youth in urban America and promote change on every level. YAK’s work with urban dance began with the legendary TURF FEINZ crew from Oakland, CA, innovators of the TUF dancing style. YAK is now evolving to take the lead in the street-based documentation of the global dance movement.

For more YAK videos, visit the producer group’s vimeo channel: vimeo.com/yak.