Debra Mastaler is Laying Out Links

This is just a head’s-up on a series that started this week on Search Engine Land about linking that is gonna be a good ‘un.

Search Engine Land

Authored by the zenfully talented Debra Mastaler, this promises to be a great primer for anyone who wants to know something about linking. A Link Building Blueprint is a fine idea…coming from Debra, it becomes a must-see.

I know a little bit about linking, but I always pay close attention to everything Debra shares. (Yeah, she’s one of those.) I have never regretted it. I pretty much always agree with her too, which is a plus, if you’re me. She can always defend herself well if challenged, and is not driving by ego – something that appeals to me every time. Really sharp, very measured, and always as nice as anyone you’ve ever met. But she always tucks little value nuggets in her posts and writings out there – yeah, she’s definitely a nugget-tucker too.

As illustrated: Even with this introductory post, she hipped me to using DMOZ better than I am, and supported my current approach to directories is not too bad.

Debra’s been doing this for a long time, and she tells it like it is – no matter what the platform. She is the resident Link Queen moderator in the SEOBook forums where I hang out. In there, she is more candid than she is in her articles for Search Engine Land – but her articles are always just as honest, just as straightforward and just as warm as her most personal posts.

You’ll like it. And it’s good for you, too.

I’d also use this time to remind you to look at the post I did last July covering Rae Hoffman’s seminal linking post – there are a lot of great things in there to make a companion to Debra’s Blueprint.

I am going to update this post with the updates she offers to this series.


Here’s the second installment:

Here’s the third:

Review of PPCBlog Membership Site Part 2

Review of the PPC Blog Membership Site: The Community and the Tools

In part one of this thrilling masterpiece, I covered PPCBlog’s training modules, and the tone and approach of the materials offered by Geordie Carswell.

To wrap-up my review of this site, I am going to quickly mention the proprietary PPC Tools and the PPC Community offered by this site.

ppc blog welcome page

For background stuff, revisit the first post.

The Tools

The tools for streamlining and optimizing PPC hinge on the things you can automate: Keyword Research, Bid Pricing, Ad Testing, Data Collection and Reporting. In a nutshell, PPC efficiency often boils down to having tools that make it easier and faster to research, deploy/test, measure, and refine your efforts for greater profitability.

I am an old school guy. I remember doing everything by hand, dumping piles of data from various sources into spread sheets to try to see what was happening. Keyword research was fairly irregular at best, and extremely time-consuming. Creating lists of keyphrases that were concatenating any kind of decent geographical data required two programmers, thirty working hours and a penguin.

Enter the dawn of a new age: PPC Tools. I guess ol’ Grampa gets a boost from Geordie and the folks over at PPCBlog.

tools for ppc

I would describe what each of the tools do, but instead, I made the picture big enough for you to see. Geordie’s (?) descriptions do a fine bit of justice to what these tools will do for optimizing your time in putting together or managing a campaign. Online marketing can be optimized from a simple dashboard.

Case in point: I am running a campaign where Google told me I was getting hits from a specific region (think: multi-state). So I wanted to try a couple of regionally-focused campaigns, targeting phrases that blended various specific locations and my offers.

In the olden days (when I was a boy), I would have had to create a regional database, that I could then concatenate with my keywords. But with my PPCBlog membership, I used the local keyword tool to explode some geographically specific data by simply entering a few zip codes and using a 50 mile radius…it was a pretty neat little thing.

In a few seconds, I had plenty of relevant regional stuff I could blend into my ads. I fed some things into the Mass Campaign Builder, and had it ready for AdWords importing in less than an hour. I coordinated a TON of research and campaign setup in what boiled down to a few minutes — stuff that would have taken me hours (and dinosaurs) in the past.

Are you going to use every tool for every campaign? Of course not. But they could all come in handy, for sure. I don’t scrape keywords, so I can’t see the clean-up tool being of much use to me. But I played a bit with all of them, and was impressed. Simple interfaces, good speed, nice data outputs. Much like Aaron’s team did with the SEOBook Organic SEO Tools, I found these PPC Tools are really efficient at simplifying specific mechanical tasks to make your life as an online marketer easier. Time is money. These tools save you both.

The Community

This is the true selling point of PPCBlog’s membership, to me. Why? Because there are some brilliant people in this community, and the membership fee does a good job of filtering out the lame-os. No frdeetarding in here: everyone has a mission, and we call it online advertising!

community in ppcblog

Think of it like this: if you have a question about what you are doing, or thinking about doing with a campaign, how much is it worth to you to get a valuable second opinion? And a third? A fifth? The point is, multiple viewpoints from like-minded (and more seasoned!) professionals is an amazingly powerful tool.

Capitalizing on the brain power of the community, members help each other to reach greater levels of success. Better still, if you pose a question in here, you are almost SURE to get an answer directly from Geordie. Having a resident expert to bounce your questions off of is a wonderful balance. I have seen him give many folks some support in a direction, or suggest perhaps something else to test. But he’s in there.

The activity level in this community was growing every day I was in it. Questions range from basic beginner validations, to mid-level and even expert level stuff. It might be about ads, optimizing landers or the peculiar way Google treats somethings opposed to others.

I saw Geordie responding, often multiple times in the same thread, to help ensure that all community members get their questions handled in some way. But this is a vibrant, growing community – so experts from different parts of the globe, and practitioners of every shade are willing to chime in when appropriate.

This is not a forum full of BS posts, and flame fests (the freetard, lame-o norm) – this is people working, and finding better ways to work, together.

I have a great deal of respect for ALL of the members I have encountered in this community so far. I would have to ask how many people are actually in there, but I don’t really care. For all realistic purposes, I want an activity level that matches my own involvement. I hit a forum like this, maybe 4-5 times a week or so – so it was perfectly moving along, to me. The answers were coming within 24 hours of any question being posed.

And again, getting an expert like Geordie to give you some pointers or feedback can make a HUGE difference in your AdWords, or other online advertising ROI. But Geordie is only one of the many experts in there, so do the math yourself. Odds are pretty well stacked in your favor when your direction is coming from some of the best minds in the industry.

And there is a good camaraderie in there, even for people facing similar niches. This is cool, because it prevents a lot of the one-upping crap you might see elsewhere. Everyone behaves, because we are all there for the same reason.

Final Summary on PPCBlog Membership

I want to obviously recommend the PPCBlog membership. I would suggest this for anyone who spends more than $100 a month on PPC, Facebook, Bing or other online ad campaigns. Maximizing your profits is easier when you have experienced professionals helping you.

The training modules are succinct and easy to understand, as well as being complete with some insights that will improve the ROI for most campaigns. Geordie Carswell is a fine PPC ambassador here – he is willing to share his time, patience and best of all his depth of experiences with any member who asks.

The tools are great time savers – allowing you to efficiently wrap-up many smaller things necessary in researching  and setting up a well-balanced campaign. Yet perhaps best of all, the community behind the PPCBlog site is a worldwide gathering of online professionals. The experiences range from beginner to expert, but it is a warm and inviting place to learn. The people were great – all the way up to Geordie, Giovanna and Aaron.

Ultimately, if you want to improve your earnings from online paid advertising channels, there is no resource I would suggest to you more than PPCBlog membership.

PPC Blog: Membership Site Review

Part One: PPC Training Modules

I have a little experience and training with PPC, but not a ton. I tended to get frustrated a lot doing PPC, because Google seems to do things in a very peculiar fashion. They sure do seem to enjoy it when you broad match!

But I started thinking recently it might be my own hang-ups. Maybe PPC wasn’t so bad, and maybe I am leaving money on the table. (Sorry for the sales guy cliché…please set fire to my low-hanging shame.)

And then I realized it has been a couple years since I did any meaningful PPC training.

I needed a refresher course on paid advertising.

Maybe I didn’t really distrust PPC – maybe I just didn’t get it anymore. And maybe things were getting better than I remembered. Maybe Google didn’t try so hard to push you into the broad match body slam anymore.

I have a couple live PPC accounts that are very tightly clamped down these days, and I could optimize them. I also have some new ideas brewing that might need some help. So I signed-up for membership on the PPC Blog.

Here’s my review of what you get when you opt for the paid membership of PPCBlog.

The facts:

  • The site was founded by Aaron and Giovanna Wall, and is run by them and PPC expert Geordie Carswell
  • There are three main sections of the site offering value to those learning or improving PPC skills: PPC Blog, PPC Community, and PPC Training
  • The monthly fees for membership are $179 a month, and membership would be required to see what I will be talking about in this review
  • I was not paid to write this – I am simply offering my opinions on the value of this site. There is no affiliate connection. (oh, that there was!)

I am not going to review the blog, because you should go read it for yourself.

Giovanna and Geordie (and the occasional post by Aaron, Peter or other guests) tend to be spot-on, detailed and chock-full of great insights. The blog topics cover more than simple PPC techniques-you really owe it to yourself to soak it in. Wonderful blogging is happening out there, year after year, quietly building into a great resource.

So this part is not going to cover the blog. In part one, I am going to review the training modules. I got a little wordy (ha!), so I cut it up, and made part two about the tools and the forum.

Digging In: The PPC Training Modules

A big part of a site like this is you want to get some expert training. I personally prefer to do it on my own time, and so I like a site where I can easily sift through the information, getting what I need as I see fit. My own pace can be pretty erratic.

In reviewing the training modules in PPCBlog for this post, I approached them in two ways: as an initial means to retrain myself on best practices; and, as a resource I could mentally bookmark to leverage in the future, locating specific ideas to improve upon live tactics as I progress.

Categories are Your Friend in PPCBlogPPC Blog review starting page

Simple categorization is a huge plus when you’re trying to plow through a lot of detailed materials. Thankfully, the modules in the PPC Training are well categorized and clearly marked for easy identification.

When you first get in, there are some modules created to help you follow a simple, clear path through the training. It’s helpful, because if you don’t know where to start, they ease you in. Nothing overwhelming – they just offer a nice, soft starting place, with a clear pathway to grow.

I liked immediately that there was beginner information, but it was not limited in scope, nor was it in any way condescending. It allowed me to quickly review the basics again, and make sure I am still thinking about things as they are in the real world.

PPC Blog review navigation screen capOf course, there is no need to follow a training path if you come in later with a specific need. So, let’s say I came in and wanted to learn more specifically about Facebook advertising, or had a Google ad I wanted to refine.

In both cases, the simple navigation in PPCBlog allows me to go directly to the module I need from the “Training” link dropdown.

Or, I can just go to the site map.

PPC blog review sitemap screen cap

PPCBlog has enabled two solid ways for you to approach the information.

You can follow the path laid out for you, and each module will lead you into the next. This is a smart way to learn because the information in some of the modules builds on information offered by previous ones.

The other way, is to simply zero-in on the specific area of information you want to explore, and jumping right into it. This is better for people with more experience, or what you’d do once you’ve been a member in here for a while.

And look to the right – there is a handy sub-nav ready to bring you to wherever you want to pick up.

I think PPCBlog handled this well. As a result, they seamlessly accommodate professionals with varying levels of experience. It’s all there, never more than a click away.

The Modules: Tone, Flow and Information

The training modules were created by Geordie Carswell – a well respected PPC expert. He has a solid enough reputation, so I felt giving him a chance  to teach me was not a big risk.

Geordie Carswell of PPCBlog

image swiped mercilessly:

Geordie’s writing style and approach to organizing his ideas is straightforward, open and well informed. It makes these modules engrossing and easy to understand, no matter what level of experience you’re bringing to the table.

His tone is assured, but not condescending. He starts basic, yet within every module I kept finding little gems tucked in there.

These tasty morsels are unique, because they allow insight into Geordie’s range of experiences. Having information offered by an expert is exceptional in this respect – he is able to understand what most users need, and still offer something taking you beyond the rudiments.

More than once, there might be a paragraph or two of fairly detailed information.  Geordie summarizes them for you as “The main takeaway here…” or “This means you should focus on…” or something similar and gets to the heart of it.

I would share some specific details, but I don’t think that would be fair to the work Geordie has put in.

For a general example, in the Google AdWords module, Geordie has offered a variety of screen caps to walk you through setting up your ad groups more efficiently.

He then goes into detail on how to refine keywords, which variants to include, which characters to use, and how to address negative keywords to your greatest advantage. In short, he is giving you all the information you need to set up a safe, a moderate, or an aggressive campaign.

Which way you use the information Geordie offers in these modules is based only on your own personal thresholds and direction. The information is all there, complete with warnings when things might get a little risky.

This is a big plus to me, because again, it shows the value of being able to rely on this resource more than once.

Geordie’s modules have a lot of information and insight presented in a very clear manner. They are typically short and to the point, and all of them had links to deeper resources. Nice use of bullets and short, tight paragraphs.

Perhaps best of all to me, are the little asides and suggestions that Geordie offers. This is true value-add stuff, this is thinking, experience and something you won’t find elsewhere – unless you find Geordie, I guess.

I am of course, hyper-critical to the way people communicate. Geordie is worth listening to on a number of levels, and you’ll see it instantly when you read the training modules.

The Verdict?

Ultimately, you have to evaluate a training program on its ability to provide a recurring value. At least I do – I was raised in a big family, and mom didn’t like things that did not return recurring value.

But no worries here – I locked in-step with Geordie’s style pretty quickly, and can see no reason why anyone else would have a different experience.

I liked his approach for presenting a wide-based bed of information, simply. Couple this with the little nuggets of insight he offers (that I feel are pretty unique to each professional), and the value and ROI are clear. Geordie’s professional experience is definitely beneficial to refining my own efforts so far, so my own return on investment has been realized.

My mom would approve.

But wait until I tell you about the extra benefits found in the community, and the tools.

Part two is now posted, you can see it here. And go to the blog and have a look for yourself…I am telling you, these kids have a nice little spark catching fire here.