SEO is dead. SEO is not dead. Is SEO…undead?

Has SEO become the undead?

Ever since Google’s Hummingbird update back in late 2013, many bloggers have announced that SEO is dead (627,000 according to my search query). They’ve also pointed to ensuing announcements from Google, such as Matt Cutts’ declaration that link building is done, as further proof that there is no more need for SEO-building strategies.

In fact, SEO has become a dirty word of sorts, so dirty that SEOMoz recently changed its URL to just

“Build awesome content,” is the mantra of these SEO naysayers…but awesome content for whom? What’s the point of creating and publishing awesome content that no one can find?

In another and much smaller camp are the “SEO is not dead” proponents, who emphasize that SEO has simply changed, not disappeared. Members of this camp publish “helpful hints” lists on how to be compliant with the new SEO, such as by inserting rel=”nofollow” tags on guest post and press release links. Or removing all self-promotional content and ads.

“Keep a low profile and let Google find you,” is their quip.

However, any blogger who writes a killer guest post on Copyblogger or Tech Crunch is not going to be satisfied with simply being mentioned by name. It would be the equivalent of quoting a great source and writing, “Yeah, this person wrote the following stuff somewhere…” Nope, that’s not even proper journalistic form.

Nevertheless, the debate over SEO continues, as evidenced from Google itself:

Google SEO is dead

So, what’s a webmaster, blogger or affiliate marketer to do?


Reports of SEO being dead have been greatly exaggerated- many times.

That’s right. Apparently, the “SEO is dead” card has been played for a long time. Even before the age of Google, Richard Hoy of Tenagra said that “search engines are a dead-end technology.” Then Google came on the scene, and with every search algorithm update it made, the same “SEO is dead” outcry was sounded.

Historically, this has happened during every one of the following updates:

  • 2003, Florida. This update countered keyword stuffing and caused many sites to lose top ranking. It led to many business websites virtually disappearing overnight. Webmasters figured SEO was over.
  • 2004, Austin. Invisible keyword-stuffed sites were penalized and disappeared from the SERP. Again, another major outcry against Google erupted and the end of SEO was declared.
  • 2005, Jagger. Spam linking was derailed, resulting in many link-heavy sites losing position. Entire websites were now dead, as far as their SEO was concerned.
  • 2007, Universal Search. Rich media was integrated into the SERPs, causing some position #1 sites to move to position #2 while larger rich media files populated the results pages. Images and videos, not content, had won the SEO battle, apparently.
  • 2010, May Day. Changes were made to long-tail keyword ranks, effectively lowering the positions of niche websites that stuffed longer search terms. Many affiliate marketers considered their SEO efforts to have been in vain.
  • 2010, Social Triggers. Social media activity was added to the ranking algorithm, leading to many pundits denouncing the need for SEO.
  • 2011, Panda. This update took a swipe at content farms and lowered their rank. Again, SEO, viewed solely as the practice of keyword-stuffing, was noted as being dead.
  • 2012, Penguin. Google’s numerous Penguin updates penalized link farms, paid link and over-advertised websites. Linking for SEO was declared dead, as was pretty much any SEO effort.

Back in 2009, Matt Cutts was even asked if SEO would still exist come 2014. Cutts’ in-depth reply noted that SEO should be just one of a webmaster’s tools, not the end-all and be-all of website operation and improvement. In line with this advice, I’ve compiled a list of SEO strategies that webmasters should consider implementing when setting up or improving their websites:

1. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to get keyword ideas.

Google’s newly introduced Keyword Planner Tool enables webmasters to brainstorm for keyword and ad group ideas. Incidentally, you will need to create an AdWords account to access this tool. Once in this tool, simply describe what your website or blog post is all about.

keyword planner

After you’ve added your text, the tool will display a list of keyword ideas. You should go after those keywords that have low to medium level search volume traffic. In most cases, these keywords will be the long-tail keywords.

seo is dead

These long-tail keywords can be inserted into your website meta tags and/or blog post titles and content.

2. Generate link-worthy and link-containing content.

Create an infographic or SlideShare program that incorporates useful statistics or information about your website and its subject matter. Piktochart and are two sites that enable the creation of free infographics. Make sure that the infographic or Slideshare file links back to your website by using an embed code generator, such as this one that’s available through WordPress:


Incidentally, you can create embed codes for your amazing blog posts too.

3. Continue to guest post.

No matter what the SEO rumor mill says, continue to seek out and pitch your guest blog post ideas to top blogs and websites. In your author section, jazz up your description by mentioning a particular benefit that your readers will gain if they visit your website; for example, you might state, “10 Ways You Can Exploit Google’s Hummingbird Update” and link that title back to a blog post or page on your website. This sure beats the usual author descriptor, such as, “Bob is a blogger at…”

4. Don’t forget about social media.

Pick one or two social media platforms and take advantage of their syndication properties to publicize your latest article, blog post or graphic. Engage in discussions through sites like LinkedIn or Facebook and, if the conversation warrants it, mention and link to your content.

Redirecting your followers or fans to your own website not only increases your social media mentions, a critical factor in what is now termed social SEO, it also enables you to obtain visitor information (i.e., emails) and increase your subscriber base in exchange for offering some free item like an infographic.

The continuing SEO evolution and you

SEO is an evolving beast and, while you should stay up-to-date on its changing nature, you also shouldn’t let its metamorphoses keep you up at night (assuming you’re not engaging in black hat SEO). If you’re publishing quality content, staying active on social media, and adding value to other websites, then SEO is just one facet of your overall strategy to gain traffic and conversions.

The bottom line here: Don’t sweat the SEO stuff.

How LinkedIn Can Help You Find Your Work-at-Home Job

If you think that LinkedIn is the sole province of disgruntled employees trying to polish up their resumes and escape to another mind-numbing job, think again.

LinkedIn has been a massively successful venture since its launch in 2003- just check out this company’s history and stats. The site currently boasts over 93 million members in the USA (that’s one out of three Americans) and 277 million worldwide. It even offers its own blog.

Using  LinkedIn’s ad tool to find “likely suspect” freelancers and others that may work-at-home, I located nearly 6.6 million members in North America under the category of Entrepreneurship. ContactLabs’ research on LinkedIn‘s job function stats found at least 11% of all North American LinkedIn members identifying themselves with Entrepreneurship. Furthermore, the category of Entrepreneurship was #1 worldwide, coming in at 10.8%.

Freelancers and those who work-from-home are definitely logging into LinkedIn. And there’s a reason.

LinkedIn is a business network that just happens to be social

Like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, LinkedIn is a social network. However, that’s where the similarities end. LinkedIn is actually a professional business network that just happens to be a social platform too. A good chunk of LinkedIn members are managers, VPs and company presidents. Many more are business owners. These individuals are not looking to show off their latest selfie or play Fish Wrangler. No, they’re looking to hire, network and learn.

How can you make these head honchos notice you when you’re swimming in a sea of 277 million other LinkedInners?

Optimize your profile.

I don’t care what the pundits are saying about SEO being dead. You need to keyword optimize your profile so that , if potential clients are trying to hire an independent contractor, they can actually find you using either the LinkedIn search tool or Google itself.

Be sure to prominently feature the exact type of work you’re trying to do. For example, if you’re looking to work at home as a freelance dog walker, be sure to sprinkle those words throughout your profile at least 2-3 times. I’d also advise actually placing that title behind your profile name, as in “Sally Sue |Freelance Dog Walker|.”

Present yourself as a business

Don’t you just hate it when you meet someone new and all she does is talk about herself and her “exciting” life? Yeah, clients and employers aren’t too fond of self-absorbed freelancers either. When describing your services, don’t make your entire profile into “I did this, and then this, and this too.”

Nobody cares what you did or do. What everyone wants to know is what you can do for them. So, position yourself like the business you are and actually offer something of value to the consumer. For example, state how your freelance dog walking “keeps your furry friends happy and healthy until you return.”

Get those recommendations

Those first few clients (or ahem, volunteers) you engage with and help out can be pure gold for your work-at-home business- if you know how to position them. In exchange for offering your services gratis or at a reduced rate, ask your clients to review you on LinkedIn. Don’t worry too much about getting a bad review either- you have to approve your review anyway. And a dissatisfied client will typically not agree to give you a recommendation. But you need those stellar reviews to prop you up, much like trustworthy businesses rely on customer testimonials and reviews to prop up their brands.

Don’t be a snoozer.

Sign up to a few LinkedIn groups that are in your area of expertise and actively engage in their discussions or start new ones. Become a impassioned advocate of your particular business outlook, or at the very least offer useful and actionable advice. The goal here is to look like an expert who’s not afraid to dole out professional advice, even for free (because there’s more where that came from). Above all, don’t just sign up to LinkedIn’s groups and disappear or make lame comments like “Yeah” and “Ditto,” because that’s just a waste of everyone’s time- including yours.

Don’t be a user.

What’s worse than being a snoozer? Why, it’s being a user or, specifically, an abuser. If you think that publishing your latest blog posts, product promotions, press releases, etc. will garner customers to your doorstep, you are sadly mistaken. There is a major outcry against LinkedIn spam right now, and certain discussion groups become veritable mobs when someone decides that this group is a good place to promote the latest Goji Berry Blast! MLM business or newfangled way to lose weight using this one weird trick. Seriously, don’t do it.

Don’t be a whiner.

When you send a cover letter out, you (hopefully) don’t whine about how you need the money, or no one wants to hire you, or (sob sob) this-and-that. So why is it that when some members go on LinkedIn, they feel a need to complain how they’ve been jobless for the last 10 years or how “stupid employer X” let them go for no good reason?

LinkedIn is your public cover letter and resume. And if you don’t keep it as professional as possible, employers and clients will steer far away from you. So even if you are one utility bill away from an empty bank account, smile and offer a helping hand to that colleague in your LinkedIn dog walking discussion group. You never know what might happen…or what kind of work will land in your lap as a result.

Don’t be a beggar.

Immediately after you connect with your dream client, don’t spook him by asking, “Hey, you got a job for me?” Make small talk, send him a link to something relevant in his work field, or just hang out and see what he’s trying to accomplish on LinkedIn. Above all, don’t appear needy.

Of course, if the client is listing an job through LinkedIn, definitely apply for it and even mention whom you know at this business. Casual name-dropping is what social networking is all about.

And finally…

Have some fun. Remember that you, unlike millions of your mindless drone ex-colleagues or soon-to-be ex-colleagues, have the option of working from home. That means extra time to play with your kids. That means sleeping in on a snowy Monday morning. That means taking your own dog for a walk in the middle of a warm spring afternoon- just because you can.

Double Down and Win! My Review of Social Dieting Site DietBet

Do you have a few pounds to lose? Do you want to make money online while losing that weight?

Then welcome to DietBet, a social dieting site where you bet on your own weight loss and get paid to lose weight. If you have the necessary willpower, you make money…if you slack off, you lose your bet.

How DietBet works

Dietbet runs two types of weight loss bets on its site: a 30-day challenge where you lose 4% of your body weight, and a longer 6-month challenge where you lose 10% of your body weight. Official weigh-ins and weigh-outs occur with the participant standing on a digital scale in front of a full-length mirror and taking photos of himself/herself on the scale as well as the scale itself.

A unique word is generated for each contestant; that word needs to be written on an index card and placed next to the scale during the weigh-ins and weigh-outs. I myself had words like “carrot” “bat” and “caraway” assigned to me.

Participants must wear “airport security attire” and have nothing on their person except for the camera. The same type of clothing is expected to be worn at weigh-out. Oh, and participants can be audited and/or disqualified if there is any suspicion of cheating.

I double down on myself with DietBet

From January 13th to February 9th, I became one of 1,784 participants in the 30-day ShayLoss: MommyLoss Edition dietbet. I paid $30 to bet that I’d lose 4% of my body weight (or 5.8 lbs.). So, I had to go from being 146.2 lbs. to 140.4 lbs.

I then learned that I could participate in up to three dietbets simultaneously. So, to make things interesting (and win more money), I also placed a $25 bet on the 30-day Bikini Body Mommy Challenge that was occurring from January 14th to February 10th. This dietbet had a total of 1,329 participants.

I now had $55 in…and it was time to take my weigh-in photos. Luckily, I only had to do one weigh-in thanks to my contests being so close to one another. After I finished inputting my pictures, I received the following email:

dietbet review

DietBet took only about 5 minutes to verify my weigh-in weight, and then I was ready to rock and roll.

Initial weight loss success- and stagnation

Initially, feeling like all eyes were on me, I lost two pounds within a week and proudly logged my weight deficit; unofficial weigh-ins during the contest are encouraged and consist of you sliding back your weight numbers on the “scale” below:

dietbet weight scale

However, over the course of the next few weeks, I lagged. I had “only” 3.8 lbs. to lose, after all, so why rush? My weight loss pretty much stopped until I realized that the last week of my dual dietbets was upon me.

Swinging into high gear, I put myself on a near fruit fast and ran several miles every other night. My efforts paid off; within a few days, I had already shed another two pounds. I proudly posted my renewed weight loss on the online forums associated with each of my dietbets.

However, the contest’s conclusion was drawing nigh. Would I be able to shed the last bit of weight before the official weigh-outs started? Check out my final tally:

dietbet weigh-out

I achieved my DietBet goal!

One day later, I completed my weigh-out for the other DietBet. At this point in time, my body was in burn mode, so I ended up being another .6 lbs. lighter during my second shoot. As a result, I achieved both of my dietbets. Great!

I received the following email just a few minutes after each of my weigh-outs:

dietbet winner

I patiently awaited my bet payouts, which were not announced until after the contests closed and every winner had had a chance to input his or her winning photographs. My final DietBet winnings were then posted as follows:

DietBet payoutsDietBet review

In the end, I made a grand total of $81.86 on my two initial bets of $55, which gave me $26.86 in bet winnings or a 48.8% return on my investment. That’s not bad, especially considering that my stock investments don’t do as well!

My overall DietBet experience

I found the DietBet site to be really on top of verifying weigh-ins and weigh-outs; it literally took only minutes for an email to be sent to me stating that I was “good to go” following photo submission. Also, the site is well put together and you can usually find the answer to your question on its growing FAQs or via user comments.

You can also set up your own betting group on DietBet and specify whatever bet amount you want- and if you get at least eight participants, your own betting fee is refunded. This is nice because one of the things I wished for with DietBet is that its bets were a bit higher. After all, if I’m going to make the same effort to lose weight, I’d rather have $100 or even $500 on the line versus just $25. However, I also noticed that the larger the initial bet required to join a bet, the fewer the number of participants.

I was a bit surprised to find out that DietBet’s fees run as high as 25% for the lower-range bets under $100; that seems a bit steep to me. However, site fees go as low as 10% if participants are plunking down $500 or more. I never saw any bet run that high, however- the highest bet that I noted was set at $150 and had just over 10 participants.

Dietbet also offers 6-month-long 10% weight loss bets. Initially, my plan was to join one of these bets after finishing my 30-day dietbet; however, as I read more about these 6 month bets, I found out that they actually consist of six 30-day long bets where you re-bet a prescribed $25 or $30 or whatever fee amount each month. Plus, you have to lose about 2% of your body weight each month or forfeit that month’s bet. The last month’s bet, incidentally, consists of simply maintaining your weight loss.

To me, the 6-month plan seemed a bit too rigorous; I know that, when it comes to weight loss, most people lose much more weight at the start of their diets than later on. Thus, you could really encounter an issue with your 6-month dietbet if you lose 10 lbs. one month and then only 5 lbs. the next month, then 2.5 lbs the next, etc.

The only real advantage I could see in doing a 6-month dietbet is that there are random prize drawings each month for the winners. However, you can’t really win free stuff unless you buy tokens (which are $20/each). In a large pool of participants, you’re not very likely to win anyway.

Triple down and win?

As I was tabulating my results for this post, I happened to see that another dietbet was about to start and that the fee was $50. So, I decided to participate. Immediately afterwards, I found a simultaneous dietbet about to begin with a $25 buy-in. So, I bought in. And then yesterday, I found a third dietbet about to start with a $100 fee to participate. I thought about it- and also enrolled in that dietbet. So, as of today, I will be on three simultaneous dietbets. We’ll see if I make even more money this time around.

Update as of March 20, 2014:

Having successfully finished my three dietbets, I just wanted to show off my winnings:


The monetary amounts of these bets, moving from top to bottom, were $100, $25 and $50. As you can see, my payout ratios were actually better for the smaller bets versus the larger ones; for example, I made a nearly 43% return on my $25 bet versus just over 18% on my $100 one.  I guess people are less inclined to let $100 go! Anyway, I’m off to blow my winnings on fish fry.

7 Lede Ideas for Your Email Headlines

If you’re an affiliate marketer, blogger or online entrepreneur, you’re probably using email marketing to keep in touch with your subscribers, promote your products and services, and grow your audience. And little wonder: For every $1 spent, email marketing gives a whopping $40 return on investment (ROI) according to the Direct Marketing Association.

Given these kind of data, it is in your best interest to spend some time writing the most eye-catching and finger-clicking email ledes you can think of. What exactly is a lede? It’s a journalistic term used to describe a story opener that grabs a scanner’s attention and entices her to keep reading. A lede typically answers one or more of the five W’s (who, what, where, when and why) in as few words as possible. Consider the following lede examples:

Animal the Muppet was hurt during last night’s rock concert when the stage collapsed.

Pope Francis celebrates Mass while parachuting over the Tiber.

Eating carrots can actually harm your eyesight, a new research study claims.

In the above examples, a minimum number of words were used to generate these ledes and entice readers to learn more. Each of the ledes also answered at least one of the five W’s. However, it’s not only news stories that can take advantage of the power of the lede.

How ledes increase email opens and clicks

Emails are either opened or discarded- and all within a matter of seconds- based largely on their headlines. If you write an overtly spammy or non-descriptive headline for your email, you can almost bet that it will be deleted- or even blocked. But if you write an email that uses a good headline -or lede -you’ll get far more than the average number of opens and clicks.

In many instances, email ledes also employ so-called “trigger” words that grab -and maintain -the attention of the scanner.  Trigger words, if used, are most effective when placed within the first five words of the lede. Here are seven lede ideas, and their bolded triggers, that you can use to increase the likelihood of people opening your emails and performing the requested action.

1. Ask a question.

Using a question as your lede is a great way to pique the interest of your scanner and get him to learn more by opening the email. For example, if you own a work-at-home website and are writing to an audience of cubicle-dwelling employees, you might wish to title your email with either of the two following questions:

Are you tired of butting your head against the corporate glass ceiling?

How many hours do you waste during your weekly work commute? 

These email openers not only ask some pertinent questions of their audience, but they also attempt to evoke an emotion- frustration- to encourage action. Finally, the emails use the trigger word “you” to make their messages personal.

2. Ask for help.

Let me help you help me (as I like to say). People, as a general rule, love to feel needed and to feel that their advice is valuable. Also, you may already know this, but people love to give their personal opinions on matters. Here are some ledes that, ahem, take advantage of people’s good nature:

Help save retired greyhounds from slaughter.

Help design our new office by filling out this short survey.

Your opinions matter to us.

Notice how the trigger word help is used fairly often; this trigger is also the first word in two of the provided sentences. In the last sentence, the words your and matter strive to evoke a sense of importance within the email recipient.

3. Evoke empathy/sympathy.

Getting your reader to think of you as “just like me” is a great way to build rapport early on and increase the likelihood of your email being read. Do this enough times and your reader will start thinking of you as a colleague or even a friend. Here are some email ledes that help generate a sense of affinity:

If you’re like me, you hate your alarm clock.

Thank you for your donation to our Help Animal Heal Fund.

The phrase thank you may not seem like a trigger, but it’s amazing how a little gratitude can go a long way towards turning an audience in your favor. Don’t hold back from appreciating your email recipients and thanking them for their response to email ledes from point #2 (i.e., their advice, help, opinions, etc.).

4. Send a unique invitation.

Department stores and restaurants have mastered the art of making their email subscribers feel like part of an exclusive audience by periodically sending them special offers and coupons. You may not have a free sweater or pizza party up your sleeve, but you can certainly craft your own unique opportunity and present it to your subscribers. In this case, you might consider an email header similar to the ones provided below:

You’re invited to our privatemembers-only event.

Shop our exclusive premier club collection now. 

Your personal 50% discount is ready to use.

5. Create a sense of urgency.

Discounts and private sales are great; however, most subscribers don’t take advantage of them because they assume that these offers will be around forever. This is one reason why manufacturer coupons carry an expiry. For your own audience, try out the following types of headlines in order to get people to act now rather than later:

Two days only! All our ebooks are 25% off.

Don’t delay- our prices go up in just two days.

Bad news: Our exclusive sale is almost over. Now for the good news…

6. Tell a story.

Everyone loves a good, engaging story. Stories help us remember the advertised product or service, and they also make us want to come back to hear more. You can preface a story with the following email titles:

This man bought an abandoned factory and built an empire.

The doctors told her she’d never walk again. What did she do?

 I caught him in the act with my best friend. 

Alternately, there may be a memorable moment in your own blogging or day-to-day activities that you can share with your readers. For example, if you just discovered a nifty WordPress plug-in, write about it and how it helped solve a problem for you. Or write about your business partner and why he’s decided to go back to school. Jon Morrow does personal storytelling quite beautifully in his post On Dying, Mothers, and Fighting for Your Ideas.

7. Give a warning.

Gloom-and-doom email headlines actually work because of the economic phenomenon called loss aversion or, as the statement goes, “losses loom larger than corresponding gains.” People actually become more unhappy from losing $1,000 than winning the same amount of money. As a result, if you write a lede that warns of an impending loss or economic catastrophe, you can easily get your audience to click on and read your email. Here are some doomsday email ledes for your consideration:

$5,000/ounce? You bet. Don’t miss out on the coming gold rush. 

What your real estate agent won’t tell you about your home could hurt you.

Yes, credit card companies are out to get you. Here’s how to protect yourself.

In Summary

Generating emails with high open rates is hard; however, by using the above trigger-filled ledes, you’ll increase the chance of transforming your email scanners into actual readers. And getting an email read is the first step towards achieving the desired reader response, be it a click-through, a survey completion, or a conversion (i.e., sale).