Content | Stephan Spencer

Content Archives - Stephan Spencer

Bumper Sticker Wisdom

By | Content | No Comments

Here are some cute bumper stickers that caught my eye recently:

  • Miracles happen. Sh*t happens. It’s a package deal.
  • Spiritual people inspire me. Religious people frighten me.
  • So many men, so many reasons to sleep alone.
  • Will somebody please give George W Bush a bl**job so we can impeach him

Art of the Link Bait

By | Blogging, Content, Search Engines | One Comment

If you have been around social media marketing for any amount of time, you have heard the term “link bait.” It’s a great way to gain traffic, readership, and rankings — but what actually is it?

Link bait refers to something that grabs the attention of the blogosphere and makes people want to link to it from their blogs or tell their friends about it. It really can be just about anything, however, some link bait does better than others.

Two approaches that always seem to do well are controversy and humor.

The more simple piece to write, of course, is controversy link bait. Write something that a lot of people disagree with and you’re going to be talked about. Jason Calacanis is a master of this kind of link baiting. In my opinion you have to be careful how you use this tactic, as you can burn bridges much faster than you can build them.

Humor is a different animal. When you are trying to write a funny piece of linkbait, using humor you actually have to be funny — or at least more than just mildly amusing. I saw a great piece of humor link bait recently from Jane Copland and Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz: Google Search Results Missing from OneBox. I loved the search for “things rick astley would never do.” It was rather clever and funny. Now if only Google would actually return those mock results!

Other ways to bait for links include — tools (like blog plugins and browser addons), late-breaking news and scoops, original research, and photos that you’ve Creative Commons licensed.

Your website, powered by WordPress

By | Blogging, Content, Search Engines | 23 Comments

Remember those old commercials… “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs.” ? Well, if you do, then just imagine a take-off on the commercial… “This is your website. This is your website on WordPress.” But in this version, imagine the latter is an Olympic weightlifter on steroids. If I hadn’t made the case enough for WordPress as a CMS for regular websites (not just blogs) in this recent post and in this recent case study, then I guess the traffic increases must not have been impressive enough for ya! 😉

So we decided to start experimenting with WordPress on microsites for clients. The first client guinea pig was Countrywide, and the site was Credit Demystified. I don’t have any Before and After stats to share on this one, because the site was launched under WordPress from the get-go. Once we have a bit of a track record going (the site is less than a month old), I’m hoping that our client will give me permission to share some metrics here. So stay tuned. And in the meantime, check out the site. Any feedback is welcomed!

Here are some of the advantages of a website powered by WordPress:

  1. tag clouds — which provide keyword-rich text link navigation, which link to…
  2. tag pages — which contain excerpts of posts/pages that are related (by the fact they have the same tag in common)
  3. RSS feeds — which help with link building and garner you visibility in the feed/blog search engines like Feedster and Google Blog Search
  4. Technorati tags — to garner visibility on Technorati’s tag pages, thus delivering you Google visitors too by the fact that Technorati tag pages tend to rank really well in Google
  5. keyword-rich, search-friendly URLs — that are spider-friendly and tend to be indexed and ranked better in search engines than the complex, dynamic-looking URLs that are typical of content management systems
  6. content-rich, search-friendly HTML — thanks in part to the presentation layer (usually) being cleanly separated from the content layer, along with semantic mark-up, which gives the search engines good clues as to what copy is important and what is not
  7. visitor participation — through comments, trackbacks, and pingbacks
  8. post-dating of content — to automatically “go live” on a scheduled date
  9. ease of maintenance — with no, or minimal, HTML skills required
  10. extensibility — through plugins (it’s pretty easy to write your own. Heck, I I managed to), sidebar widgets (like the Swicki buzzcloud**), and direct hacks to the open source PHP codebase.
  11. easy handling of “rolling events” — like speaking engagements, news releases etc.
  12. free support — from the very responsive developer and user communities

The first six of the above list are of primary benefit to your site’s SEO.

These were compelling enough reasons that search marketer Alan Rimm-Kaufman is porting his corporate site to WordPress. Good on ya, Alan! Now who else can I count on to make the switch? :-)

So remember, you don’t have to have an actual “blog” to reap the benefits of having a “blog”. I recommend you peruse both or and prove it to yourself.

** Footnote: In case you were wondering what the heck a swicki was, it is a custom search engine, like this one, and a buzzcloud is a tagcloud type thing, but of popular searches rather than tags, that displays on your site along with the Search box, like the one displayed in the right column on my daughter’s Neopets Cheats site.

My Favorite Blogger Isn’t Even Real

By | Blogging, Content | One Comment

In my last post, “Write Like You Mean It, I wrote about how important it is to be passionate in your blog writing, if you want to attract and keep readers. I was just reflecting about this, about the blogs that keep me coming back for more. I’d have to say my all-time favorite blogger from a writing perspective is Fake Steve Jobs. Sure, he’s not even real. But yet he “keeps it real”. Every post is so witty, he just cracks me up. I love his creative use of language, his invented words (e.g. MicroTards, Freetards). The blog provides a little window into Steve Jobs’ psyche. Well ok, maybe not, since it’s actually being written by a Forbes magazine journo, but still…

Posts of FSJ’s like this one are just gold. Luv it!

Write Like You Mean It

By | Blogging, Content | One Comment

The best advice I can give anyone who has started – or is thinking about starting – a personal blog is to write about what you love. When you write about what you are passionate about, it will show through in your writing. The entire process of writing will be more enjoyable as well when you are writing about the things you are passionate about; it will not feel like a chore and you will rarely run out of topics.

If you have no passion for what you are writing about, why are you writing at all? Your entries will come across as boring or flat and you will not gain the readership your writing skills deserve. When you write about what you love, it is a lot easier to sound like an expert in your field.

If you are not sure what you are passionate about, take the time to figure it out. You owe it to yourself, and your potential readers, to know and write about what makes you get out of bed in the morning. If your goal is to make money with a blog, write about what you love and the money will follow… You will have more readers and will write better posts. Great content brings traffic/conversions and when you write about something you love it is difficult to write poorly.

Macaroni and Spam

By | Content, Search Engines, Usability, Web Design | 2 Comments

With two natural listings in the top 10 on the Google SERPs for “dating” it’s hard to argue with’s SEO tactics. It works well for them – a flashy front page with a novel of text below the fold. Since this has worked so well for and has been talked about on several popular blogs it seems that others are following suit and using this same format.

I came across recently and low and behold I found a near replica of’s tactic – An image and a simple selection form. Scroll down a little, however, and we find keyword-stuffed gibberish text and lots of it. This is disturbing because it feels lazy. Is this the future marriage of usability and SEO? It works, it is easy to duplicate and one doesn’t even need to write good content to get decent results. The only thing this tactic requires is a bare-bones layout built on a foundation of spam.

keyword stuffing screenshot

My instinct tells me that this tactic will fall out of favor with Google in the near future as the spiders advance and learn how to detect it. Until then, however, I expect this trend to continue to grow as more and more snake-oil SEO’s fall in line with what has made popular.

Social media optimization tips from Neil Patel

By | Content, Search Engines, Social Networking | One Comment

I had the pleasure of interviewing Neil Patel, leading practitioner in social media optimization, recently by phone and by email. Social media optimization is the new art of wielding tools, strategies and influence for the purpose of gaining visiblity on social media networks and sites like Digg,, reddit, NewsVine,, MySpace and even Wikipedia.

There was a great Wall Street Journal article in February talking about social media and the top influencers. Neil was featured as one of the top influencers on

When Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point (a book I highly recommend, btw!), wrote about “connectors” and the power that they wielded to influence large populations of people — to infect them with new ideas, fashions, fads and so forth — I really think of people like Neil as the online equivalent. When Neil submits something on Digg, it can yield 20,000-30,000 visitors and cause the featured story’s web server to crash!

Making it on to the home page is a laudable goal for social media optimization but, as Neil points out, it is not always appropriate or feasible. Digg users are alpha geeks. They are not going to be terribly receptive to articles about home decor or feng shui.

StumbleUpon is another great social media network worth targeting. For those who are unfamiliar with StumbleUpon, it is like channel surfing — but on the Web. There is a plugin that you install on your web browser that provides a button that you can press to channel surf. As part of the installation process, you select which topics you are interested in. Then, when you hit the StumbleUpon button, you are taken to websites which are given a “thumbs up” by other StumbleUpon users and which are in your areas of interest. I’ve found some really neat websites just by “stumbling upon” them.

Each social media site network has its own quirks and nuances and politics. Getting high visibility on reddit requires a very different submitter profile, story, topic and so forth than Digg. Getting visibility in Wikipedia is a real quagmire. Stumble Upon is certainly more straightforward than Wikipedia but it has its own quirks and tricks.

Have a listen to my 15-minute podcast interview with Neil, and also check out the text interview (conducted separately by email) which is in the Netconcepts’ Cool Friends library of interviews.

Neil will be speaking at the American Marketing Association’s Hot Topic: Search Engine Marketing, in San Francisco on April 22, NYC on May 25, and Chicago on June 22. I highly recommend attending. I’m chairing the conferences, so I’ll be there too!

Convert your Customers by Listening to Bryan Eisenberg

By | Content, Conversion, Ecommerce, Online Retail | 2 Comments

I had the pleasure of interviewing Bryan Eisenberg, who is the co-founder and CPO of Future Now, Inc. Bryan is also a high profile speaker, author, consultant, blogger, and the publisher of GrokDotCom. In additional to his role at Future Now, Bryan is also one of the founders and Chairman of the Web Analytics Association.

My interview with Bryan was about personas and “Persuasion Architecture,” a process that helps persuade customers to make a decision on your website when traditional marketing methods fail. As an inventor of Persuasion Architecture, Bryan shares a wealth of expertise into the world of crafting personas to get into your customers’ minds in order to give them the content they need in order for them to make their next click decision.

There are several nuggets that we can take from Bryan’s interview, that revolve around the idea of personalized search. I asked Bryan what the typical rate was for a typical online retailer. His answer? “The average online conversion rate for a typical retailer today is 2.4%.” That’s pretty depressing when you think about it. So how to you help your conversion rate through managing your content?

Persuasion Architecture is based on Bryan’s idea that, “everybody does things for their own reasons.” These reasons translate into four, distinct preferences, the how and why people do the things that they do. Once you understand the four basic personality types — emotional, logical, fast-paced, and disciplined — you can build perspectives or snapshots that give you insight into how your customers might want to purchase your products. Once you understand the “how,” then you can build the “who.” Who is buying your products from your site? That’s where profiles come into play, small pictures to what Bryan says will “give us a little better understanding of who that grouping or that mode of behavior is going to be — and then ultimately two personas.”

Listen to my interview with Bryan Eisenberg for more about how to boost your site’s conversion rate. This podcast is 40 minutes long, and is a 10 MB download. Enjoy!

Tag your Blogs and Company Sites for Users and SEO

By | Blogging, Content, Usability | No Comments

Tagging isn’t just a tool for usability (even though it’s typically mostly thought of in those terms), it’s also a powerful weapon for search engine optimization. That’s because tagging allows you to rejig your internal hierarchical linking structure, flowing the link juice more strategically throughout your site. And because those links are textual and keyword-rich, a tag cloud is far superior in terms of SEO to the traditional graphical navigation bar.
When tagging is applied to a website, such as a blog, it can significantly increase the site’s traffic by achieving visibility for a much larger array of search terms.

The above quote is from my recent Search Engine land article entitled, “Effective Tagging For Both Usability & SEO.” I go into a lot of details how strategic tagging can help you. Here is a tip about tag clouds that I’d like to share with you:

    Tag Clouds: When you tag your blog or website, the items are then put into an organized, keyword catalog. By taking those tags, you can organize them into a “tag cloud,” which shows keyword topic popularity by the size and sometimes color of the font. Tag clouds enable you to force a new navigation styles for your site or blog based on keyword popularity, and also help your website look up-to-date with enhanced, Web 2.0 functionality. (For an example of a tag cloud, you can see one at the end of my blog.)

For other, more specific tagging techniques, I hope you visit my article. :)

Refresh Your SEO with these Great Tips

By | Content | No Comments

From creating great title tags to crafting specialized, keyword-rich content, there is a lot out there that you can do to implement some great SEO on your website or blog. In this article I wrote for my CNET: Searchlight blog, I cover ten things that should be at the forefront of every SEO’s mind. Some topics for discussion include: ensuring each of your websites or blogs are unique, writing compelling meta descriptions, and building a strong, internal linking structure. Be sure to read my post for more details about what you can do to improve or maintain your SEO health. :)