Twitter Is Killing the Blogosphere, and More Insights from Internet Marketing Whiz Neil Patel
Neil Patel claims he doesn’t know much about the world. “There’s only one thing I’m good at,” he says, “and that is getting traffic from Yahoo and Google.”
It’s a peculiar skill, but it has definitely paid off. Patel taught himself the art of search engine optimization about nine years ago, after he had started his first company (at age 16). He has since co-founded a number of Internet marketing firms—including ACS, Crazy Egg, and KISSmetrics—and is one of the up-and-coming tech angel investors in Seattle. He has invested in a number of Web companies around town, and has served as an advisor to startups like BuddyTV, Cheezburger Network, and LiquidPlanner.
Patel, who moved to town last year from Orange County, CA, gave a tutorial on Internet marketing last night at Twiistup’s “startup session” at Fenwick & West in downtown Seattle. The focus was on how entrepreneurs could optimize their company’s website to rank higher on Google and other search engines’ result pages. But it was the stuff in between the basic SEO lessons that I found the most enlightening. I’ll give a quick summary of it all here.
First of all, everyone wants to know how this 25-year-old whiz kid investor made his money originally. It’s been a well-kept secret for long enough. Suffice to say that doing search engine optimization, especially for online poker companies, was pretty lucrative back in the day (like five years ago). If you want to know more, you’ll have to ask him about it.
In his talk, Patel emphasized the importance of ranking in the top three results in Google (not just the first page), and about choosing “descriptive keywords with few competitors” for your website, rather than focusing just on words that a lot of people will search for. “It’s the long tail that will drive traffic, and conversions,” he said.
He also stressed the need for having compelling, fresh, yet evergreen content on the site that will attract incoming links. As good examples, he mentioned Zappos (now part of Amazon) and Cheezburger Network. Things to avoid: duplicating content from other sites, letting content get old, and adding lots of content and pages all at once. (It turns out search engines track websites’ content-to-links ratio.)
Probably the most interesting comment he made was about how micro-blogging and URL-shortening services like Bit.ly and TinyURL are reshaping the way Web content is linked together. “Twitter and URL shorteners are killing the blogosphere slowly,” Patel said. “Tweets are killing how many links are going to [original content] sites, making it harder to get ranked than before. URL shorteners are getting credit for the links rather than the sites.”
Nevertheless, the key to ranking high on Google is link building—getting relevant, authoritative sites to link to your content. And that’s nothing new. “Links is the thing you want more than anything else,” Patel says. Though people do buy links, they’re still the hardest thing to manipulate in the whole page-ranking scheme of things.
To that end, Patel urges companies to create “buzz in the blogosphere.” Although Twitter and other services may be eroding some of its power, more people will hear about the content on your site, he says. Lastly, he suggests contacting owners of relevant websites and providing constructive feedback about their content, while also asking them to link to your site in a friendly way; expect about a 5 percent hit rate, he says. That last bit feels like downright old-fashioned salesmanship—which is probably something not even Twitter can kill.