Monday, November 02, 2009

Using "Outposts" in your SEO Strategy

I attended the Cambridge SEO Meetup again tonight, and was once again reminded why I go: there are some great people that attend. Props to Derek Edmond for giving me a great link-building idea, and thanks to for bringing food!

Tonight's speaker was Stuart Foster. He has an interesting resume and it sounds like he's done some genuine legwork to create a meaningful following on Twitter. However, I'm iffy on his SEO recommendations, and I disagree pretty strongly with one of them. He recommended that people follow a strategy that he credited to Chris Brogan: that you "syndicate" the articles that you write to 5 or 6 "outposts", like Facebook, a blog, etc, and that you then funnel links from those "outposts" back to your main money-making site.

Now, I first heard the name "Chris Brogan" about two or three years ago when he came to speak at one of the Cambridge SEO meetups. I later heard him speak at Affiliate Summit in Boston after his star had ascended a bit, and I have to say that he came across as a genuinely decent human being. And further, he does appear to have written a post titled: "Using Outposts in Your Media Strategy" which uses a lot of the same words and concepts that Stuart used. But, for Chris' sake, I'm going to assume that this strategy makes more sense for personal branding than it does for SEO -- because it's a really bad idea for SEO.

Here's the idea behind using "outposts": if you set up 5 or 6 mini-sites on different hosts (maybe a Facebook page, a MySpace page, your LinkedIn account, etc) then you can point all of those sites to your main (money-making) site, and Presto! -- instant inbound links | PageRank | link juice. You'll have the magic of Facebook's PageRank 11 site to push your money-making site up in Google's rankings.

Here's the problem: If you want this to actually work, you now have 5 mini-sites plus your money-making site that you need to update. Let me say that differently: instead of simplifying the work it takes to get inbound links, you have multiplied it six-fold!

Let's say that your brand-spanking new Facebook page has exactly one article on it, plus a link to your money-making site. Guess how many visitors it will get per month if you don't promote it? 3,000? 1,200? 8? Nope. Zero. The only way to get people to visit your Facebook page is to go out and promote the page.

Make no mistake -- getting editorially chosen links is really, really hard. Why in the world would you want to increase your link-building workload by a factor of six? Especially when the link juice passed from 5 of those 6 sites doesn't flow directly to your money-making site? Insanity!

Take all that hard-earned content and publish it on your money-making site. Spend all the time you would tell your friends and acquaintances about your MySpace page, and tell them about your money-making site instead. Stop tweeting. Stop retweeting. Write more content; promote that content. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.


Andy Sweet said...


Have I told you lately that I love you? Well, maybe not so much YOU, and maybe it's not so much LOVE, but I do thoroughly enjoy your posts here. It is so 180 degrees contrary to the garbage spewed out there today. Compared to many out there who are always searching for twists, tricks and exploits to boost traffic, your approach come off as almost austere! However, I believe that your approach (write good content, go out and get real high quality links) is inarguable and as solid as bedrock.

It's just that most people (sadly myself included a lot of the time) are looking for the quick hit and don't want to put in the legwork for long term benefit.

Chris Brooks said...

Hah, thanks Andy!

I think mostly I'm lucky in that I'm building my own sites, and I don't have a client breathing down my neck looking for this month's bump in the serps.

Hey, you should keep blogging by the way, I used to read your blog regularly. ;-)

Andy said...

There. A new post is up. Enjoy. It'll probably be the only one for another 6-8 months.