Tipping Point SEO

Hi Folks

Forgive me for the shameless self-promotion but it does have something to do with the theme of this newsletter, which is “tipping point” SEO. Two former clients returned to the program this week and I received this email this morning from one of them, “This is Kelvin, the owner of www.cosplayfu.com. Time proves I made a mistake. I’ve just re-subscribed to your program.”
Kelvin left the program about 8 months ago; it usually takes that long for most of the links to be removed and the link trust to seriously fade.

Okay, let’s get to “tipping point” SEO and I’ll get back to Kelvin shortly. Most of you probably know of Malcolm Gladwell, the Canadian author twice named among the world’s most influential thinkers. Even just in the last few years he’s made two terms almost “household” common; one is “outliers” and the other is “tipping point”. A tipping point is defined as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point”. I think what it means in the SEO context is that little things can make a huge difference, and then one day you’re on page 1. Going from #7 on page 1 to #3, or even going from page 3 to page 1, is all about the “tipping point”, reaching a critical mass.

Sometimes folks are sitting back on page 5 wondering what’s wrong with their site. Usually, nothing’s wrong and they’ve actually done a lot of things right just to get to page 5. How many websites carry a modicum of optimization for any given search phrase? I just did a random search. There are 22,800 web pages with at least a modicum of optimization for the exact, intact phrase “cooling tower company” and 16,400 for “criminal lawyer dallas”. Ranking #45 is never good enough but it’s a significant achievement and suggests a site reaching critical mass. When you think of ranking as a sort of mathematical score, a whole number followed by a huge number of fractional parts (1.4947395848734…). the difference between a site on page 1 and a site on page 5 is actually very small. It’s a tipping point away.

There are probably several hundred factors that determine whether or not you’re going to rank on page 1 for something worth ranking for. Some of them have to do with your website (e.g. the maturity of your site, search engine friendliness, etc.); some of them have to do with your SEO both in terms of on-page variables (e.g. good content, fresh content, effective title tag, h1 tag, etc.) and off-page variables (e.g. link trust); and some of them have to do with your niche and the competition. Some of these variables are more important than others but all of them are potential tipping point variables, or collectively add up to your reaching that critical mass. Simply, to rank well you’ve got to do quite a few things right, each one bringing you closer to the tipping point.

It takes time and effort to build the sort of trust necessary to be on page 1. With 100,000 domains registered on a typical day, you need to earn the trust of both users and the search engines. And with thousands of websites already existing to serve search needs, you need to be patient when it comes to earning trust. It’s been a long time since Google was in any rush to promote the newest website to page 1. You need to be proactive but patient.

You may well be doing everything right, even when you’re not receiving a lot of traffic. You just haven’t reached the tipping point; it takes time. But of course, that too can create anxiety and anxiety can also build to a tipping point. Then folks make rash decisions; they decide to build a new website when there was nothing wrong with the old one; they decide to give up when what they should be doing is persisting; they rashly change their optimization, etc. And of course, all this anxiety is fueled by selfless marketers who have nothing better to do that analyze your website so they might save you from purgatory. Sometimes I don’t know how to help clients who give in to this kind of anxiety. I’ve found myself using the same phrases over and over again in recent years. One is, “beware the illusion of knowing” and the false sense of comfort that comes with “knowing”. Yes, sometimes it feels good to be doing something, but any investor will tell you it cuts both ways. Another caution I give to clients is “faulty assumptions lead to faulty behavior”. I’m sure it was faulty assumptions that led Kelvin to drop the program.

But in the final analysis, I don’t really know how close a given website is to sticking on page 1. Most of our clients are there but in most cases, it didn’t happen over night. All I really know is that persistence pays off, but not all the time. And I know that folks very often sabotage themselves. Don’t sabotage yourself. Give things time, change one variable at a time and given it time to take effect, sometimes that means months not days. And when you slip, remember too, it’s probably because of something small, not something big.

What if your anxiety causes you to undo something that’s working? I don’t know why Kelvin left the program. I know he was ranking well. Was he trying to save a few dollars thinking maybe he didn’t need the program? Was he intimidated by the scaremongerers warning about penalties? Well, in the end he penalized himself and undid what appears to have been tipping point link trust. It will take us months to rebuild that trust.

I know I’m really biased on this but when folks return to the program six months or one year after leaving the program, I’ve got to think that our program was probably a tipping point improving their rankings. I have a scientific mind and I know there are really many variables in play at any one time but link trust matters and our program produces excellent link trust results as you have seen when I’ve sent you the third-party Majestic SEO report at renewal time.

Other Tipping Point Variables:

If you were to create your own Google algorithm for ranking sites, you’d probably come up with all kinds of reasons to rank some sites higher than others. Let’s talk about a few of these variables as I think they are a part of “tipping point” SEO.

Is your site mobile friendly? It’s been dubbed “mobilegeddon” and this week mobile-friendliness became a ranking signal. You can test your site’s mobile-friendliness via this Google webmaster’s tools link:

http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/ If you need to make your site mobile friendly and need help with it, let me know, and I can refer you to a few folks I trust.

What’s another example of a “tipping point” variable? Is your blog on your site, or is it separate? If it’s not on your site you should probably move it there. While not everyone needs a blog in addition to their main website, if you’re going to have a blog, having it on your site strengthens your site’s authority in several ways and that ultimately helps rankings. It can help you reach critical mass and could even be your tipping point?

What about time spent on your site?

Don’t confuse this with bounce rate: the percentage of visitors that leave your site after only viewing one page. Google’s Matt Cutts has explicitly stated that bounce rate is not a ranking factor. But, Google does know how quickly users come back to Google after visiting your site, and they can use that data. There’s no official word on this but I and other SEOs think it’s important to keep visitors on your site for a reasonable length of time. It’s likely part of the algorithm and could be your tipping point. How long? It’s been estimated that 30 seconds is really bad but two minutes or more is probably good for a niche site. But many of you have almost no text on your page, just a bunch of links leading to other pages. Make your page sticky!

Another example of tipping point SEO? Making a greater effort to optimize more lower level pages (minimally anything one click away from your home page) to chase long-tail search phrases. Something most of you don’t know is that in addition to my home page SEO fee of $250, I have an unpublished bulk SEO rate of 10 lower level pages for $450. There are conditions that attach to that but I think these days maximizing long-tail rankings is more important than ever and some of you are not exploiting your lower level pages.

Is fresh content your tipping point? We know that fresh content influences rankings; some commentators argue that links from fresh sites pass fresh value. In other words, each time you do a partner page update, you help your program partners by passing on what has been called FreshRank. Freshening your pages with new content helps you rank but it also helps your partners. You are freshening your links pages and passing on that freshness in terms of rank value.

Notwithstanding all the drama of the last couple of years, related to Google and penalty fears, I regularly receive “praise” for the program. And we’re starting to grow again. Just this week an SEO joined the program after back-engineering a couple of page 1 websites and realizing that our program was the common factor in their rankings. He enrolled one site and then 12 more. That alone brings all of us a bunch of new links. But remember, those links take time to mature. They don’t help you overnight, at least not greatly.

And just a few days ago, I heard from one of my European based clients who remarked:

“The site brought in a considerable amount of new work directly, an endorsement for your programme…… it’s a good example of what can be achieved on a limited seo budget. Hopefully I will be introducing some new sites to the programme soon.”

Thats all for now!