Thursday, June 30, 2011

Backlinks Checking: Do It, but Don't Obsess

Building backlinks is as important to a sports-related website as any other. They are an important facet of your overall website optimization plan. Backlinks checking, not simply the number of them and who gave them, but also anchor text, page rank of the providing site, among other aspects of linking, are important as well.

In this short video, backlinks are explained; what they are, what they mean, how they benefit you. It also provides a couple of easy tools to use to quickly check your backlinks.

Establishing the right kind of links, backlinks that provide value to the linking site and your site, can pay great dividends. Generally, comments on blogs and forums related to your broad topic give you the opportunity to link to your site (a backlink). Also, publishing unique content with article directories and guest posting on other blogs are fantastic ways to build backlinks.

Have you checked backlinks to your site? How do they look? Let us know in the comments section, we'd all love to hear your comments and advice (commenting also provides a backlink).

UPDATE July 11, 2011: A site called is another free online tool for backlinks checking. There are lots of ads, but it provides linking site, anchor text, outbound links and flags. On the sites I checked, it shows more inbound links.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How to Write Sports Articles, That Actually Last

When you add in the qualifier, “That Actually Last,” describing how to write sports articles is no easy matter. After all, most sporting events are date- and event-specific, they come and they go, as does the interest in the event. Being lovers of our sport, we want to cover them. With some forethought, however, you can make any online sports story one that attracts and keeps readers for years to come.

An Example from this Blog (and not a good one)

On the surface the example below may sound good, but I’ll show you why it isn’t in just a moment.

The 3rd, 5th and 8th most popular posts on this blog are these:

Top Sports Writing and Freelance Jobs for Week of March 2, 2009,

Top Sports Writing and Freelance Jobs for Week of March 16, 2009, and

Top Sports Writing Jobs for Week of March 11, 2009.

(Limited job postings was a short-lived feature here)

Why is the fact these posts continue to rank highly a bad thing? Well, it isn’t BAD, it just isn’t good. Here’s why; those three posts attract most of their visitors from search traffic. They’re doing well with attracting traffic, but not giving visitors what they need.

For example, I’m certain would-be job searchers aren’t looking for “Top Sports Writing and Freelance Jobs for Week of March 2, 2009.” They’re conducting Google searches for “freelance sports writing jobs,” and “sports blogging jobs.” When they find my posts from 2009, they promptly leave this site and go to the next Google results.

It’s great they stopped by, but I’ll never see them again. Unless they find me for another search term.

U.S. Open Golf Tournament, 2011, Does Not Make an Evergreen Sports Article

By all accounts, this year’s U.S. Open was as historic as any since Tiger won the Masters in 1997. But there’s two main reasons why I won’t cover it here, or at all:

1) The big sites get all the traffic for big events (where would you rather see it, or here?). Even if by some miracle I was able to rank well in searches for U.S. Open 2011, most traffic would either not visit me or come and go.

2) Such a time-specific article would quickly die in number of searches. When the British Open rolls around in a few weeks, searches for the U.S Open will plummet. By next year they’ll be dead.

Sporting event articles need to be evergreen, meaning they have to be somewhat like the trees of the same name. They need to focus on popularity over the long haul, and not U.S. Open 2011, or Super Bowl XLVI (next year’s), or any other particular event.

If You Can’t Resist, Make it Evergreen

An eye toward retaining traffic for years to come when you write about a sporting event that is specific to time and place needs something that sets it apart from all others. Keywords and keyword phrases have to be distinctive.

If I were to write about the 2011 U.S. Open, I can mention the winners and losers, but a more enduring angle will have to be my focus. I could center on and attempt to rank for (and I’ve done no keyword research with these, mind you) “youthful Rory McIlroy,” “golf’s younger generation,” or “pga golfers under 30.”

Keeping such a focus, with a memorable title, and not simply regurgitating the outcome and events of the tournament, could make it last and set it apart from the others.

Go Green with Your Writing

I’m not poking (much) fun at the green movement. We need to go and stay evergreen if we want to build successful sports blogs and popular sports articles that stand the test of time.

Without the “why” and “how” of writing a good sports article, lots of traffic can be lost. Also, without the evergreen aspect, our blogs will become like the articles I mentioned above. Visitors will bounce off them like a football off Ocho Cinco’s hands when he’s having a temper tantrum.

Visit this blast-from-the-past for another "evergreen" article.

Evergreen image courtesy Filip Maljkovic.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Google Panda Case Study and How to Turn it Around

Today’s case study is truly heartbreaking. A tale of hard work and determination dashed and devastated by the recent dreaded Google Panda search results algorithm updates. A (true) tale of how progress can be a steamroller.

Ok, that’s a little melodramatic. Ok, a lot dramatic. I’m speaking of a small portion of my own freelance writing. Articles that I wrote for a large website. Here’s the story.

First, if you have been smacked by Panda, don’t fret. This post provides some answers and ways that your sports-related site can recover. If you haven’t been hit, then it will provide you with the things you can do as you go forward.

Google Panda Updates Explained

I say updates, because their have been multiple updates since the first of these adjustments to the Google search algorithm in March.

A site called, well-known in the SEO world, has produced the best description I’ve seen yet about what Panda actually means for the future of SEO and site development. I’ll summarize Panda according to the video and then you can see for yourself in the video embedded below.

In a nutshell, “Panda” is named after the programmer that came up with the algorithm. Enough backstory.

Effectively, what occurred is that Google quality raters from across the universe formerly (and continuing, as I understand it) grouped websites into those they liked more and those they liked less. They then took the results they compiled and applied a variety of user and usage metrics to them, establishing a machine learning algorithm. Panda allowed Google to scale upward their machine learning. They find and upgrade the sites people like more, find and downgrade the sites they feel people like less.

The website for which I was writing until recently took an enormous hit from Panda. At least, that’s what I can tell from my own page views and revenue, and from the writer forums on the site.

Case Study: Me

From 2007 to 2010, I was the Golf Feature Writer for During ‘07, ‘08 and ‘09, I wrote regularly. I remain a contributor, but I haven’t been active for many months, due to other obligations and overall “moving on.” I love the site and hope it recovers, because it is a fantastic place for writers to learn and even earn a decent recurring income.

Articles submitted by Suite 101 writers, which at my last count was approaching 1,000 writers in dozens of subject areas, are all subjected to editorial reviews and relatively high standards. I wrote for the site because of it’s long history, over 10 years online when I began, ability to rank articles quickly, and its standards.

During the years I was most active, I wrote over 150 articles. Approximately 30 of the articles I wrote enjoyed good search rankings and several were on the first page and/or first position for their keyword phrases. Income from the articles is based upon Google Adwords revenue.

I was seeing between 5,000 and 10,000 page views per week, largely from that group of 30 or so articles. My monthly recurring income from the articles was between $70 and $100.

After Panda

The Panda update had a deep impact on my income from that site. Fortunately for me, my Suite 101 income is simply a nice little check I put into my kids’ piggy banks. I’m sorry for their luck now.

My page views in the last seven days, and this is representative of the past several months, sits at 597. A far cry from 5,000 per week.

My income for May was the lowest ever, $8.17. Down from $70 or so.

I feel badly for the many Suite 101 writers who have diligently and skillfully written hundreds of articles, building a nice monthly income, only to see it disappear. Of course, I can’t speak for them. Some may not have been affected, but it appears to have been a site-wide problem. I don’t know why the site was stricken, because they set up quality controls that some other sites did not have, yet those sites were not as deeply impacted.

Mine, and that of Suite 101, is just one example. There are many broken hearts and pocket books all around the world as a result of the Panda update. There are likely some success stories, too.

If you’ve felt the sting, have a look at the video from It has been touted as one of the most important you’ll see this year, and with good reason. My summary of the video suggestions is below the player.


In summary, if you’ve been affected, here are some aspects of your site you can review, and things for you to consider, to improve things going forward:

No longer does great links and great content ensure a good search ranking, now we have to think about our whole site experience. In short, an outstanding visitor experience.

Specific things we can do:

  • Focus efforts on design and user experience, they no longer have a secondary impact on search results.
  • Low quality individual pages have to be improved, because they can drag down your site rating
  • Unique, useful, grammattically correct content is good but not good enough. Content has to make everyone want to share and say wow! Photos, videos, usage/user metrics like time on site/page, bounce rate, browse rate, click through ratio (CTR) from SERPs (search engine results pages), all have to be improved.
  • Diversity of branded search and direct traffic is important.
I hope this post and my own case study helps. If nothing else, it will let you know you aren’t alone. Watch the video, it really is all that it’s cracked up to be.

If you have a Panda story or suggestion, please share it with us, good or bad, in the comments below.

Panda image courtesy Kevin Dooley.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

How to Build Your Blog's List: Step One

Every sports blog needs an opt-in list. Having a list of people you can give special promotions, breaking news, or offer your products is essential to maintaining your blog as a business and staying relevant.

The first step in starting your list is the opt-in form. This short video tells you how I do it.

You'll see how easy it is to create and install an opt-in form on your site. Once you have the form, start putting together your autoresponders. I'll do another video on autoresponder creation soon, but it's just as easy to set up.

Writing the actual emails that go to your new subscribers is the most time consuming, but once you're done, you're done.

Start building your list today!