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The anatomy of a backlink and the value to your website

I’ve been preaching on backlinks and their value to your website for a few weeks now. And, you’re not getting a reprieve this week. I want you to understand how important backlinks are to your search marketing success.



Human Pelvis from Grays AnatomyThe hip bone’s connected to the back bone

I’ve been preaching on backlinks and their value to your website for a few weeks now. And, you’re not getting a reprieve this week. I want you to understand how important backlinks are to your search marketing success.

One of the items I have yet to talk about though, is an optimal backlink and what you should be asking for and hoping to get.

So I present to you, the anatomy of a backlink.

What a link looks like to webmasters

A web link to the average web visitor, looks like this- link (note: this is not a real link).

But to your friendly neighborhood webmaster, it might look something like this:

<a href="">NRVLiving</a>

While that is all well and good and will create a link, there are certain areas you can optimize for search. When I build a link, here is how I do it. (The color coding will be explained below the example.)

<a href="" title="Blacksburg homes for sale">Homes for sale in Blacksburg, VA</a>

To the average web visitor, this link looks like: Homes for sale in Blacksburg, VA and it still works just like the link before it, but now it incorporates all the colored elements.  Try hovering over that link, you should see the green text pop up in what’s called a tool tip.  And if you click it, you will be sent to the internal page on that website.

Okay, so an explanation of each color section:

  • Purple (/properties) : This is what some folks in SEO refer to as a deep link.  It’s really not that deep technically, but what you want to do is NOT have every single incoming link point to your home page.  Spread that incoming authority around your important pages that you would like to show up in the search results.  If your internal/deep pages have enough authority, you can get a result in Google, etc. where you have more than one link show up in the results.
  • Green (title=) : This is the title attribute of the HTML anchor element.  What it does is create a tool tip when you hover over the link providing further details of what the linked to page is about.  The side benefit is that the search engines also pay attention to how other websites link to you and use this title attribute as another element in their algorithm arsenal.
  • Red : Again, the search engines use the actual link text as an element in their arsenal to figure out what that link is pointing to.  You want it to be normal sounding yet have a keyword or two in there.  Don’t be spammy though!

The hip bone’s connected to the back bone

All of these links act like connections and endorsements across the web and form a picture in the (artificial) mind of Google’s data crunching mainframes of what the pages within your site are about.

So take my advice.  Vary up your back link profile.  Don’t use the same words and phrases.  Think like a client.  Heck, ask your clients.  “If you were searching for a home in __________ right now, what would you search for?”  You can also check out a site like Google Trends to see what people are actually searching for.

Human Spine from Grays Anatomy

Marty Martin is an accomplished SEM/SEO anti-consultant with a broad range of experience working for a wide variety of clientele including colleges and universities, regional and state tourism, government and business. An advocate for business, Marty works hard to share accurate information in a world suddenly overrun with "social media consultants."

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  1. Jeremy Hart

    May 12, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    The website you’ve highlighted is amazing, Marty!

    I’m kidding – well, kind of. Anyway, wanted to thank you for your recent posts here. So much of this back-end stuff is just confusing as hell to me, but I appreciate you taking the time to break it down. Is there a need to go through every link on a site and change it up, or should I be focusing on making one or two changes each page?

    • Marty Martin

      May 13, 2010 at 8:53 am

      Hey Jeremy,

      Thanks for the kind compliment; I’m glad you’re finding them useful.

      As for your question, I would just gradually shake things up over time. Give the search engine crawlers something new to chew on each time they visit your site. Do you use Google Webmaster Tools? You can check crawl frequency there and adjust your updates accordingly. There’s also talk among some search experts that too many updates at once can cause Google to sandbox you for a while, but I’ve personally not seen that happen.

      I’d definitely start with the links to your pages you want the most traffic to though.

  2. Phil Boren

    May 16, 2010 at 12:35 am

    Marty: I get so focused on generating backlinks, that I sometimes forget to spread it around beyond the home page! Thanks for the info and, BTW, for the mention/link in one of your recent posts.

    • Marty Martin

      May 18, 2010 at 5:04 pm

      HI Phil.

      First, you’re welcome, thanks for the inspiration!

      And I never ever ask for a link to my home page. Always ask for a deep link, you’ll get enough home page links otherwise.

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Opinion Editorials

How top performers work smarter, not harder

(EDITORIAL) People at the top of their game work less, but with more focus – learn how to replicate their good habits to get ahead.



working smarter

Practice, practice and more practice will get you to be more competent in what you do, but working smarter isn’t always about competency, at least in business. Productivity expert, Morten T. Hansen’s studies indicate that multitasking is detrimental to working smarter. But it’s only half of the problem.

Hansen discovered that the top performers did not try to do thousands of things at a time. He’s not the only one.

Earl Miller, an MIT neuroscientist outlines why humans cannot multitask. As he puts it, “our brains… delude us into thinking we can do more.” But this is an illusion. When we interrupt the creative process, it takes time to get refocused to be creative and innovative. It’s better to focus on one project for a set amount of time, take a break, then get started on another project.

Hansen also found in his research that the top performers focused on fewer goals. He recommends cutting everything in the day that isn’t producing value. As a small business owner, you have to look at which tasks bring in the most profit. This might mean that you outsource the bookkeeping that takes you hours or give up being on a committee at the Chamber of Commerce that is taking too much time away from your business.

Taking on less work will help you work smarter, but Hansen found that it goes hand-in-hand with obsessing over what you do have to do.

When you have fewer burning fires, you can dedicate your time to these tasks to create quality work. According to Hansen, this one thing took middle performers at the 50th percentile and put them into the 75th percentile. When someone is competent in writing reports, for example, and can focus their energy into that, the work is much better.

Top performers also take breaks to rest their brains. One of my favorite analogies is the one where a lumberjack is given a stack of wood that needs to be cut down. He starts with a sharp ax, but over time, as the ax gets dull it becomes harder to chop the wood. By taking a break and sharpening the ax, more gets accomplished with less effort.

Your brain is like that ax. It works great when you first get to work. You’re excited to get started. In a couple of hours, your brain needs a break. Go outside and take a walk. Get away from your desk. Do something different for 15 minutes. When you come back, you should feel like you have a second jolt of energy to take on tasks until you break for lunch. Science backs the need for breaks during the day.

By taking breaks, obsessing over what you have to do, and laser focusing on fewer goals, you’ll be outperforming your competitors (and even coworkers). Work smarter, not harder.

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Opinion Editorials

The real key to working smarter, not harder

(EDITORIAL) We’ve all heard that we should be working harder, not smarter, but how does one go about doing that aside from a bunch of apps?



working smarter, not working harder

I know you’ve heard the phrase, “work smarter, not harder,” but what does that mean exactly? How do you work smarter?

A new book by Morten T. Hansen attempts to answer the question. “Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More” was released at the end of January. Hansen found 7 different behaviors outside of education levels, age and number of hours worked. I’d like to take a look at a couple of the things he recommends. Read the book if you want to know more.

Let’s continue on by addressing the 10,000 Hour Theory of Expertise. Under this principle, it’s thought that if you spend 10,000 hours in deliberate practice of a skill, you’ll become world-class in any field. The Beatles are thought to have used this theory to become one of the greatest bands in history. But it’s not just about practicing until your fingers bleed or you can’t stay awake any longer, it’s really about pushing yourself in an area.

Although it has been argued that this theory doesn’t necessarily apply in business or professions, there’s something to be said about deliberate practice.

When it comes to working smarter, no, you don’t need to spend 10,000 hours in the workplace to get better at your job. But you can put some of the principles of the theory in action:

  • Pick a skill that you need to develop. There’s no way you can work on every skill at the same time. Just choose one to focus on for three months, or six months. Review your performance now. Have a benchmark of where you want to take that skill.
  • Carve out time to work on that skill. Spend 15 minutes a day doing something that helps you get better. You know the old joke? How do you get to Carnegie Hall? “Practice.” You’re going to have to find ways to practice.
  • Work on specific elements of a skill. Typically, the skills we want to improve involve a lot of smaller things. Take a good presentation. You need connect with people, have a good outline and learn to have diction and tons of other things. Work on one thing at a time. ?I used to have a real problem with looking at people when I was giving a presentation. For quite a few months, I made it a priority to be conscious of making eye contact. No matter who I was talking to, the cashier, a patron at the center where I volunteer and even my neighbors. It’s much easier now for me.
  • Get feedback. You may believe you’re making progress, but others may have a different vantage point. Find a couple of good mentors who can really evaluate your performance and offer constructive criticism.

Repeat until your skill-set grows.

To get better, you need challenge and practice. Believe me, you’re going to make some mistakes along the way. Get up, dust yourself off and keep practicing.

Competence in a particular area goes a long way toward working smarter.

But wait, there’s more – the discussion continues in part two of this series, keep reading!

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Social Media

How to quickly make your LinkedIn profile stand out from the masses

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Most of us have a love/hate relationship with LinkedIn, but no matter your feelings, you should be the one who stands out in a crowd – here’s how.




Your LinkedIn is your brand. That’s it. Whether you are job hunting (or people are hunting you), or are showing off your business, insight, acumen, or simply networking; your profile on LinkedIn needs to stay appealing and not drive potential headhunters, bosses, clients, or networking groups bananas.

Let’s start with a three part list of what you MUST do, what you SHOULD do, and what you COULD do.

Here’s what you MUST DO (as in, do it now).

  1. Get a #GREAT LinkedIn photo. Nothing sells you like the right profile picture. No selfies. No mountain biking. Get a professional headshot. Don’t lie about your age. Wear what you wear when you’re on the job. Smile. People are visual.
  2. Simplify your profile. Cut the buzzwords. Cut out excess skills that don’t add to your vision or that don’t represent the kind of job you want. (i.e. most of us can use Outlook but few of us need to mention that skill because we don’t support Outlook). Focus on the skills that are important.
  3. Keep it current. Your LinkedIn should reflect your career and current responsibilities. Update the description. Add new projects. Change your groups as you change in your career and move towards new levels. Indicate when you receive a promotion.
  4. Extra, Extra! Headlines. Don’t use something lame for your headline. How would you want to catch a headhunter to look at you if you could only say 10 words? Make it standout. There are thousands of managers – but only one you.
  5. Custom URL. Just do it. Pick your own URL. It’s FREEEEEEE.
  6. Get the app. Make LinkedIn a part of your mobile life and check it more often than you do Snapchat.

Here’s what you SHOULD DO (Set aside some time at Starbucks and go do this in the next month).

  1. Tell your story. Your summary should bring to live the content of your career. Don’t leave that section blank. Spend some time crafting a cool story. Run it by your professional mentor. Send it to your English major friends.
  2. Connect. Add colleagues. Add partners from other organizations. Use connections to broaden your network. Synch your profile with your address book. Add people after a conference.
  3. Endorse your connections. Identify people you’ve worked with and give them the endorsements – which can get them to come endorse you!
  4. Ask for recommendations. Ask a colleague, partner, or manager to write you a recommendation to help advertise your skills.
  5. Add a nice cover photo. Again, visual people. Some more on that here.

Here’s what you COULD DO (If you’re feeling dedicated, what you can do to give yourself an extra edge.)

  1. Share your media. Upload presentations, videos, speeches, or projects that you can share. (Don’t violate company policy though!).
  2. Publish original content. LinkedIn has a vibrant publishing feature and sharing your original work (or content you’ve published elsewhere) is a great way to share your voice.
  3. Post status updates. Share your reactions. Share articles. Repost from influencers. Be active and keep your feed vibrant.

That’s a quick list to get started. So go start your LinkedIn makeover (and I’ll go do the same). Let’s get connected!

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