30
Mar
2011
The Link Builder's Guide to Tracking, Documentation and Productivity

Guest post from David Wolf of InBusiness, Inc. an internet marketing firm.

When you are as busy as I am, you look for any way you can, short of drinking coffee while going to the bathroom at the same time (that one actually cost me time). People often think that massive changes are needed in order to make gains in productivity. Thousands are spent on software, training, and management to try to get more out of workers in all industries. In reality, we need only to focus on ourselves to get massive gains in efficiency. Jason Freid of Basecamp is a big evangelist on worker efficiency and how proper communication methods can improve it drastically. I have spent a good deal of my time attempting to do to my company's SEO process what Mr. Freid has done for communication.

Setting up best practices and documentation for anything and everything that you do on a regular basis can make a world of difference in how effective you or your team's link building efforts are. It comes down to three very simple pieces. The great part about these pieces is that as SEO's we are all familiar with them.... Tracking, Documentation and Productivity.

Tracking

There are probably some better names for these three pieces, but these ones will work well enough for me to get my point across. The first part of the process is tracking. The real world works the same way as the web. Would we ever consider doing an internet marketing campaign without having analytics? If you would, you may want to take a few refresher courses. Tracking what we do, and how long we do it is the best way to determine where we are strong and where we are terrible. It doesn't matter if you are tracking salaried employee's or unpaid time. It is so you can see where you need improvement. It works in any industry and SEO is no exception. It even works for people on diets. Tracking calorie intake makes people more cognizant of what they are eating and they have to be honest with themselves. It forces them to make changes. Tracking where your time and effort is going makes you realize how ineffective you actually are. This will be especially helpful if you constantly get stuck in the research process or are always worried about rankings.

When you do finally start tracking your time, you are going to notice a lot of places where you are not really accomplishing anything. The majority of your time should go to implementation. By implementation I am referring to acts such as outreach or building content. Not to say that planning isn't important. It is, but at a certain point you have to be able to say that planning is complete and get something done. Tracking also allows you to discover where the easy wins are. If prospecting for potential link targets is something that is currently taking copious amounts of time, you will know that it is a prime target for you to trim the fat and find a better method for doing it. Ontolo's tools happen to be an incredible resource for reducing time spent in this area. Once you have identified the things that take up all of your precious time, what can you do about it?

Documentation

This leads us into documentation. Most of us hate it. Regardless of how much of a rebel you are, you should be willing to explore the fact that having a system for doing something will make you much more effective at getting it done. It removes the need to spend your brain juice thinking and allows you to focus on doing. A great example is documentation of previous link building campaigns that you have done. If you started over planning from scratch every time it would be horribly inefficient. By using the to-do's of a previous link building effort, you can save yourself countless hours of writing down and clarifying the tasks of your new project. Documenting may take longer the first time, but then it never has to be done again. Take a cue from franchises and document as many of your processes as you can.
Several things will happen when you begin to do document. You team will begin to communicate more effectively because you will all be on the same page with know what things need to be done. You will find that the planning portions of your project will get significantly faster without any sacrifice in quality. You will also find that project move much faster. This is because you have documentation to support your claims. When you can support your claims with facts, people tend to argue them less. Because of this, things get done faster.

Productivity Tools/Automation

We are all fans of these in SEO, but we need to be aware of what makes a good tool and what slows us down. Automation is great for any repetitive task that requires no thought and lots of time, but as SEO's we have a tendency to automate things that should never have been automated in the first place. What are some great examples of effective automation?

  • Serp Tracking
  • Gathering of link prospects
  • Identifying link prospect metrics
  • Early stage data segregation
  • Reporting
  • Anything to do with tracking

What are bad things to automate?

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Link requests (Although templates are a great idea)
  • Content generation
  • Evaluating link prospects
  • Spell check (I'm guilty)

Productivity

Productivity tools are a different animal all together. This can be loosely explained as anything that allows you to do more in less time, without losing quality. If quality suffers, you may want to think about if it is really going to add value. Ontolo's worksheets fall under this category. Other productivity tools I would highly recommend include the SEOMoz bar plugin for firefox. It has helped me dramatically reduce my competitor benchmarking process to less than a minute. This exclude taking into account how relevant the audited page is to the search term in terms of on page factors and link text, but eye balling these two factors only adds about 30 seconds. I use this simple process because I found that it provide about 95% the information I need to revisit our link building strategy and what is needed. I can dig deeper but end up getting very little additional actionable information (unless I am searching for link prospects in a competitors backlink profile). I have a different defined process for this. Anyone who has ever stared at a screen wondering which tool to use for what can relate to this.

In closing

Increasing your personal and team productivity is more important now than it ever was. Older people in other industries being forced to retire complain about being pushed out and over value their experience for what they are paid. Many of them end being pushed out because they can't keep up with the productivity of younger employees due to their technological skills. That is only because they decided not to put any effort in. No one in their right mind is going to force the most productive and most experienced person on a team. Become more productive, and you are worth more. Combine it with experience, and you are invaluable. That goes the same regardless of whether you are a solo practitioner, or a 30 person link building team.

About the Author

David Wolf is the founder of InBusiness, Inc. an internet marketing firm based in Orlando, Fl. After only a year and half in business, his firm was acquired for an undisclosed amount. David has created dozens of innovative strategies for both national and local clients and continually strives to expand the realm of knowledge in the SEO industry. He has absolutely no authority whatsoever :). Infact, listening to him is probably not a good idea. Linking to or hiring his firm is even worse. To find out why don't visit http://inbusinessinc.com/find-out-why

Comments

  1. Well put David! It definitely

    Well put David!

    It definitely helps being more productive in your link building efforts if you have a system in place. I use the SEOmoz toolbar as well to help in daily tasks.

  1. Big advocate for 37signals' approach

    Great post. I don't just follow Fried's philosophy, but actually use one of his tools. Highrise is a CRM tool for keeping track of conversation, contact info, etc. Turns out it's an idea tool for keeping track of emailed link requests. You can tag all your outbound messages, see when they were last sent (always send a second request!) and also watch their tweets from inside the tool - great for starting emails with "Loved your tweets on..."

  1. Automated Reporting?

    Regarding reporting, would disagree that this should be automated. For example using a 12 month project as an example, in months 1 - 6 emphasis going to be on rank and increase in visits.

    However once optimisation takes effect better guide for many projects are enquiries, once visits are sufficient to convert as more of site is indexed and content ranks well.

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