I came across data visualization tool Tableau yesterday and am impressed, especially for what it could mean for link building.
Data In, Brilliance Out
Tableau offers user friendly tools for building interactive interfaces to data. For large data sets and for storytelling involving multiple dimensions, their visualizations are very effective and easy to put together. They even offer a free version for bloggers and other digital publishers.
It may be easy to think of Excel graphs when looking at Tableau’s case studies but these visualizations are different than what comes out of the box from Microsoft. They are built to be interactive. Instead of asking users to stare at lines and numbers to try to make sense of them, Tableau’s product invites people to start clicking and discovering.
We all know that infographics can be a great way to tell the story behind a spreadsheet of dull numbers and as a result, can be great content for link building. With so many infographics out there it can be difficult to make one that stands out. Tableau helps by adding the draw of interaction and movement.
For link builders, these interactive graphics are especially helpful. Because the graphic isn’t just a flat image, it’s more likely that publishers will link to your page rather than simply swiping the .jpg file. Plus because it’s interactive, you’re allowing users to discover their own conclusions. If the blogger you’re pitching uncovers a nugget that’s interesting, they’ll have more ownership of the tool than if you simply handed the insight to them.
But the best reason that Tableau is worth checking out is that it’s easy and free. If you’ve hired a designer to work on infographics before, you know that it can be time consuming and expensive. One firm that I talked to recently wanted to charge double to make a graphic interactive. With the simple desktop software that Tableau offers, you can set up your own graphics with all the control that you like, produce more of them and spend less money to do it.
If you have interesting data that you want to bring to life quickly, Tableau is a nice option.
Wed Dash Combo
In a follow up to yesterday’s post on evaluating potential linking sites in bulk, here’s one more way to use your new lists of links
Once you’ve pulled down all of the links from a round up page like social-media.alltop.com, you’ve got a list of authoritative sources on a niche topic. If it’s a subject that you’re interested in keeping up on, you can create a Google Custom Search Engine based on your list.
Then, when you’re interested in what the social media pundits have to say about a news item, or if you’re interested in finding posts that combine a specific idea (say coffee for example) with your niche’s point of view, instead of doing a general Google search and getting all kinds of results, you can restrict your queries to your handpicked list of experts in that niche.
And don’t forget that you can add advanced search operators such as date range to your CSE search by appending the results URL
When link building, it’s often necessary to gather a large list of targets for a campaign. Here’s one way to quickly get some good URLs, with basic metrics attached, without pulling them one by one.
Let’s say you’ve got a new infographic about coffee and you’re trying to find a list of blogs that would potentially be interested in posting about it. The first step is to find some pages that list the kind of blogs that we’re after. Lists like these are popular on the web so we shouldn’t have too much trouble. Google is a good place to start, either by searching for round up posts or by using the SERPs themselves as a list. Also try Technorati, DMOZ and Alltop.
Once you’ve got a page with a bunch of links listed, copy the URLs. It’s often easiest to use a tool like SEO for Firefox for this. Right click the page and select SEO XRay.
The SEO for Firefox plugin overlays some data on top of the page you’re on. Select external links and export them as a CSV file.
If you need to clean up your list to filter out duplicates, ads and other irrelevant links, pull open your CSV with Excel. Then copy them to your clipboard for the next step.
To add some quick evaluation metrics, try backlinks.in. It’s a tool built on SEOMoz’s Linkscape data and allows you to evaluate up to 1000 URLs per day in bulk. You get page MozRank and the number of backlinks for each URL, which can help you prioritize your potential link targets.
Paste back into Excel and you’re set to start pitching!
*Update – see a bonus use for batch link lists here
SeoMoz’s Pro Training Series wrapped up yesterday and I learned a lot listening to these company insiders talk shop. Here are a few of the quotes overheard during the event that are worth repeating:
On responding to negative reviews
“Remember that the unhappy customer isn’t the audience for your response.”
David Mihm @davidmihm
Using Google Analytics effectively
“Top level performance measures aren’t helpful. Look at micro conversion events to find what is happening with your business.”
Joanna Lord @joannalord
“When SEO is institutionalized, it dies on the vine.”
Marshall Simmonds @mdsimmonds
Keyword targeting in content
“After you’ve built pages for high- and mid- volume keywords, use tools to keep the super long tail words in front of you as you write your content. Including them naturally within your copy can help in aggregate.”
Tom Critchlow @tomcritchlow
Visual distractions on landing pages
“If it doesn’t directly contribute to the current transaction, get rid of it.”
Tim Ash @tim_ash
“Rankings are a milestone, not the goal.”
Seth Besmertnik @besmertnik
Waiting for Google to reward your big link
“Authority links don’t always add instant value.”
Wil Reynolds @wilreynolds
Building links manually
“Your best links are the ones competitors can’t get.”
Rob Ousbey @robousbey
Designing link bait
“Ask your audience about linking to your content before you write it and do it on the phone.”
Rob Ousbey @robousbey
Encouraging community participation
“Reduce the friction to participate.”
Rand Fishkin @randfish
Writing headlines that stand out
“Use active language and include references to current events.”
Ian Lurie @portentint
“SEO strategy is product strategy”
Laura Lippay @lauralippay
“Remember 45 minutes ago when we thought that links were really important?”
Rand Fishkin @randfish
“The sexiest report is a phone call.”
Will Critchlow @willcritchlow
“Engage people, not sites.”