How many hits is a link from BoingBoing or Seth Godin worth?

A month or so ago, I wrote a blog post titled "Most Expensive Wi-Fi Ever?" about the cost of internet services at a Toronto-area convention centre.

I submitted the post to StumbleUpon, BoingBoing, TechDirt and Reddit, as I thought all would be places where readers might be interested in this type of insane mark-up. After my colleague Ian pointed out that Seth Godin had linked to me, I dug into Google Analytics to see how much traffic that ended up driving to my post.

As a result, BoingBoing's Cory Doctorow blogged about it on September 22nd, resulting in 1,141 hits to my post.

Mike Masnick at TechDirt wrote about my post on October 25, but didn't link directly to me (I don't mind).

Seth Godin mentioned my post in a recent post he wrote, driving another 678 views.

Reddit drove a measly 61 views.

And Google Analytics reports that StumbleUpon drove 2,437 views of the webpage (even though StumbleUpon itself only reports driving 35 users to the page).

There were also an additional 2,762 views to the post that Google Analytics identified as coming from (direct). While I obviously can't confirm where these are coming from, I have a feeling they're probably spread out across the different sources (my other colleague Kevin Mchugh sent me this link that might help explain that (direct) traffic)

So what does all this mean?

By itself, not much. Views or hits aren't everything these days. A kind word from an online influencer is probably worth a lot more than a link in the long run, thought it might be more difficult to measure.

There is also probably a lot of digging I can do into how long visitors from the different sources stuck around, and whether they checked out anything else on my site. Visitors from one source, though fewer, might end up being more 'valuable' (in this sense, sticking around as long-term readers).

What do you think about this data?



Peter and Valentine Were The Original Bloggers

Note: this post has some spoilers about Ender's Game, so if you haven't read it yet, don't read this post. Just go out and buy it and read it, because it's amazing. But don't take my word for it;  I mean, the 1986 Hugo Award and 1984 Nebula Award are hard to argue with. It's not even that long of a book. You can probably finish it in a lazy summer afternoon at the cottage, if you put down your iPhone for long enough. You can buy it on Amazon right now for, like, seven bucks.

This weekend, I finished re-reading Ender's Game for the first time since I originally read it ten years ago and was blown away by how well the author, Orson Scott Card, predicted the future from the early 80s.

I say the early 80s, but it could have been earlier. Card's first version was published as a story in a science fiction magazine in 1977. He later fleshed this out to a full-fledged novel in 1985 (according to the copyright information in my copy of the book), and made some more minor changes in 1991.

And when I'm talking about how Card predicted the future, I'm not talking about Ender's Desk (which is described exactly like an iPad) or even the Ansible, a device capable of near-instantaneous communication over vast distances (not that far off, really). I'm talking about how he predicted the rise of blogging and the influence social media can have over culture and politics.

While most of the plot of the book follows young Ender Wiggin, youngest of three children, as he goes to Battle School at the age of six to learn how to be the commander of a fleet to fight invading aliens, a sub-plot involves how his sociopathic, but brilliant, brother Peter, and more empathetic, but equally brilliant, sister Valentine, are left home on earth.

Under the leadership of Peter, the two of them start contributing to "forums" on the "nets" using pseudonyms, or characters:

"They began composing debates for their characters. Valentine would prepare an opening statement, and Peter would invent a throwaway name to answer her. His answer would be intelligent, and the debate would be lively, lots of clever invective and good political rhetoric. Valentine had a knack for alliteration that made her phrases memorable. Then they would enter the debate into the network, separated by a reasonable amount of time, as if they were actually making them up on the spot. Sometimes a few other netters would interpose comments, but Peter and Val would usually ignore them or change their own comments only slightly to accommodate what had been said."

The next paragraph describes how Peter tracked how their work was being read and shared, and reads almost like a description of media monitoring in 2010.

As the two keep writing, their influence grows, their articles get syndicated, and they begin to get involved in serious policy discussions. Since its all online, no one knows that it is actually just two genius children.

Implausible? Yes. Impossible? No.

While I doubt that our global politics are being played like a game of chess by a couple of kids, I think Orson Scott Card's prediction of the way an ordinary citizen can get involved via the internet and become a serious, real-world influence is a great bit of future-casting.

Reasons like that are why I love reading science-fiction, be it old-school Heinlein and Asimov, 80s cyberpunk, or the post-human stuff that's all the rage these days. Science fiction is a framework for thinking about what could happen; it's a way of looking forward to finding out who is going to be right.

Have you read Ender's Game? Were Peter and Valentine the original bloggers?

How To Out-SEO Your Competition

I know there's a lot of SEO talk around the virtual water cooler these days. If you're like me, you've probably read a number of different how-tos and attended conference or unconference sessions on the recipe for SEO success. I think that I have a fairly decent understanding of how to optimize a website properly, but I'm certainly no expert. Last week I met Marjorie Wallens of MJW Communications, a small Toronto-based PR firm. By employing a few basic and smart strategies, Marjorie has managed to out-SEO the biggest PR firms in the city—think Edelman, Fleishman-Hillard, Environics, as well as her smaller counterparts.

Marjorie was really open about discussing how she went about optimizing her website and what changes she saw as a result.

Q: What were the first steps you took to begin optimizing?

A: Research is always the first step. I did this for myself and I do it for all of my clients. First, I checked out my competition in the Toronto PR space—both big and small. I looked at the source page codes to see what key search terms they were using. Then I used the Google Keyword search tool to cross-reference my findings (and confirm the most popular key search words).

My next step was to look at the copy on my competitors' websites. What key search words were they including in their copy? Surprisingly, I found many companies didn't include their key words in the headlines or body copy of their web pages. On my website, those keywords are headlines and included in the body copy. This is an important aspect of SEO.

Q: Once you had secured your keywords, what did you look to next?

A: I started to produce more content. This included everything from white papers, optimized news releases, YouTube videos and blogs that all linked back to my website. Being in PR, I issue a number of news releases which all include my web and email addresses. Google recognizes this linking relationship to communications and PR content and me as a "subject matter expert", increasing my page rank as a result. (**Aside: for those of you not issuing press releases, similar results come from posting your content on other sites that generate high amounts of traffic. For example, YouTube, relevant associations, and LinkedIn groups can all help drive traffic to your site, increase the number of linking relationships (key to SEO success), further elevate you as a thought leader and in turn increase your page rank.)

Q: What are your thoughts/experiences so far with paid search?

A: I do advertise on the paid side of Google, but only with a nominal budget. I use it more for research so that I can continue to monitor which key search words resonate with people looking for PR firms in Toronto.

Q: How long did it take you to see results?

A: I started to see real results after a month, if not a bit sooner. I was getting more hits to my site and calls asking about my company and service.

So there you have it, research, keywords, links, content (and content syndication), and more research and monitoring. Is there anything you've found that has made a huge difference in the success of your SEO?

Everything I Need To Know About Social Media I Learned From The Globe and Mail (THE VIDEO!)

A few months ago, I gave a presentation as part of the Canadian Institute's Managing Social Media Conference titled "Everything I Need To Know About Social Media I Learned From The Globe and Mail." A few weeks ago, the good folks from the Canadian Institute were kind enough to give me that presentation in video format so that I could share it with my readers.

I pretty much walked straight from the presentation to a job interview at MAVERICK PR, where I now work.

For more on this presentation (including my explanatory notes and the slides), please see this post or visit

Anyways, it looks like the Canadian Institute has another Managing Social Media conference coming up in Calgary in March. I'm sure it will be good, so if you're in town you should check it out.


PS: You should totally follow BlogCampaigning on Twitter. It is twice as easy as RSS, and all the cool kids are doing it.

SEO and The User Experience

I'm not a Search Engine Optimization expert. I enjoy thinking about it,  and I have a pretty good idea about SEO best practices but I'm not a pro.

The real SEO pros who live and breathe the stuff all day, every day.

I'm talking about guys like Rand Fishkin at SEOMoz because he writes amazing posts like a recent one about How To Build A Perfectly Optimized Landing Page.

In that post, he walks through his thoughts on how a page should be built in order for it to have the best chance of ranking well in search results. I won't repeat it all here, but he provides well-researched data for some of the reasons he gives, and explains it all in easy-to-understand terms.

Near the end of the post, he asks the question "Why don't we always obey the rules (when it comes to optimizing landing pages)?"

The gist of his answer is that the reasons SEO pros don't always ignore these landing-page optimization rules is because they are focused on other strategies, such as link buidling, to achieve search engine dominance.

Although he lists both Content and User Experience as other priorities one should have when building a landing page, I don't think he ranks them highly enough. To me, it seems like having good content and ensuring that is easy for your users to navigate should take precedence over any other work.

Its fine to rank well in search engines, but that's not going to do anything for you if users aren't interested in what they find on your page, or if they have trouble doing anything with it.

As always, plan and create for users first, search engines second.


Browser PlugIn Idea

Even though I've heard that E is the most commonally used letter in the English language, I'd say that the letter J might be the key that is used most often on my keyboard, and that has to do with the fact that it is the shortcut for Google Reader that allows you to quickly jump to the next post.

I check the RSS Feeds that I subscribe to a couple of times a day, and using the J key (and occasionally the K key to backtrack when I go too fast) I can get through a hundred of feeds in a couple of minutes as I scan the headlines and text for something that interests me.

The other day, as I was looking actually visiting a blog, I automatically went for the J key to scan to the next post. It obviously didn't work, but it gave me an idea:

How neat would it be if there was a browswer plugin that would allow you to quickly navigate a blog or website using only a few keys in much the same way Google Reader works? I imagine the pluggin as working so that it would automatically recognize a Headline or new section and jump to it.

On a blog, it would work relatively easily. On a site with a more complex website, I think it could work as well. Rather than scrolling all over the place though, it would just move onto the next section and highlight it for you.

What do you think? Does this idea have merit?


SEOMoz Enters the Social Media Monitoring Fray

With the launch of BlogScape, it looks like respected search engine optimization experts SEOMoz are entering the competitive world of social media monitoring ( was one of my "Blogs That You Should Be Reading But Probably Aren't).

While it isn't exactly a stand alone product, as the cost of paying for it would also include a whole bunch of other SEOMoz products and services, it still looks like an incredibly strong offering in terms of its ability to analyze traffic.

Where I think it lacks is in its reach - from the description, it appears to be only monitoring 10 million RSS feeds from what they term "the fast-moving web." Compare this to Technorati who, according to their last "State of the Blogosphere," tracks 133 million blogs.

The good news is that Blogscape assigns a "Blogrank" to the blogs it tracks. From the description, it sounds like this will act similarly to Technorati's Authority number, and will be an interesting way to evaluate the importance and relevance of a particular blog.

One of the main faces of SEOMoz, Rand Fishkin, chimes in on the comments section of the post saying that he "honestly think this is as good and in some ways better than GG Blogsearch, Technorati, etc. and the graphing is clearly way more advanced."

That's quite a bold statement. However, the tools he is comparing it to are free tools. Unless I'm mistaken, SEOMoz's Blogscape is only available to PRO members of their site, and membership ranges between $79-$229 a month.

I'd still be interested in checking it out. Maybe I'll ask for an SEOMoz PRO member ship for my birthday or something.


PodCamp Wrap-Up

This past weekend I officially popped my Podcamp cherry. Tagged everywhere as PCTO09, PCTO09, Podcamp Toronto was a whirlwind of activity. Although it wasn’t easy motivating myself out from under my nice, warm duvet at 8:00 on a Saturday AND Sunday morning, it was well worth the effort. Day 1 was pretty intense, with large crowds, and ‘standing room only’ in some of the more popular sessions. Whether you were interesting learning best practice when engaging with bloggers; how to calculate (and dictate) your success on Reddit, Digg, or StumbleUpon; or effectively (and creepily) stalk your audience, there was something for everyone. The Molson party following the Day 1 festivities was also well attended – apparently we are all easily swayed with promises of free beer tastings, munchies, and swag (who can resist 6 free Heineken glasses!). Day 2 was a little emptier. I imagine most people were probably nursing their hangovers and live streaming from the comfort of their beds. The great thing about having everything stream live and archived is that you know you’re not missing out on any content – sometimes it was really hard to choose between sessions. Overall, a great first experience. PCTO was well organized, FREE (thanks to generous sponsors), and filled with tons of networking opportunities. I was able to put names to faces and faces to names, and engage with people whose eyes didn’t glaze over at the first mention of Twitter, SEO, or Blogging. Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers for their hard work – I think it was a great success!

This post was written by Heather Morrison, who has previously written about Israel's Use of Social Media and about Building Your Twitter Empire here on BlogCampaigning. She is @Hmorrison on Twitter.

Thanks to Wayne Macphail for the photo above.

Blogs You Aren't Reading But Probably Should:

I recently wrote a post on this blog introducing you to Jan Chipchase's Future Perfect blog in an attempt to introduce people to some blogs that might be outside their usual reading scope. Continuing with this series is a post about SEOMoz and why you should be reading it. A concept that has been around for a long time in the web industry but only recently seems to be gaining steam amongst communications professionals is that of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). According to Wikipedia, this is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site via natural or "organic" search results. Basically, the more optimized your website is, the better traffic you'll get to it.

For some reason, many of the people that I have spoken to in the past few months seem to think that there is some sort of alchemical magic or technological wizardry that optimizes a site for search engines.

Put aside those thoughts and start reading the SEOMoz blog, written by some of the world's leading SEO experts. Some of their posts are directed at newcomers to the world of SEO and can offer a great introduction. Others are a little more complicated and technical, and the balance of the two types of posts lets you pick up anywhere and start learning or applying what you already know.

If you're more of a visual learner, they also have a series of posts called Whiteboard Fridays where one of their team members will create a short, casual video explaining some SEO concepts.

One of my favorite posts on SEOMoz is about the Three Cornerstones of SEO. Even though it was published back in mid-September, I'm constantly referring to the great diagram they have that makes it easy to explain the basic concepts of Search Engine Optimization.

So head on over to SEOMoz and find out why can proudly say they've got more than 30,000 subscribers to their RSS feed.


PS: Related is a great post from Ed Lee about why your site sucks in search engine rankings. As I commented there:

"I also think that too many people complicate SEO, particularly in our industry. They think that it is some kind of alchemical magic, when it really comes down to the three simple “pillars” that you mention. I’ve always heard that if you design a site that is easy to navigate by humans, the search engine bots/spiders will also be able to crawl it easily and find your content. If you’re creating relevant content and writing naturally using words that people are likely to search for rather than jargon, people will be able to find your site and are more likely to get something out of it, and subsequently link to it."