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|Researching the ideal SEO hub|
Hub theory for the larger SEO company
While working for a SEO firm, my leap into the hub idea came about when I began to earnestly research Google two years ago. I saw patterns of these hub-like sites linked to domains that were riding high in the SERPs. Now, granted there werenít a lot of them but enough for me to latch onto the idea and to take a closer look at it. What I saw were bits and pieces from different hubs that I liked and I began to figure out how to create what I considered the ideal SEO hub. Whatís happening for me here at Webmaster World is me doing exactly that, in a very public way :)
I think the idea for my first hub was pure genus (patting myself on the back). I fought real hard for it but in the end gave up my job over it. The problem was it was outside the box of what SEO was back then. The group I was working with wasnít able to fly with my vision and so much of it was in my head, developing and I was asking them to take a leap and work with me almost on faith alone. I did get my first hub and I wish I could go back to it now, with what Iíve learned since then and remake it.
The original idea was terrific I think for larger SEO companies with a multitude of unrelated clients and a program of optimizing for them using off site domains. With Google it was obvious that linking was crucial. Now I know that many companies in this position have come up with terrific ideas that they use quite effectively without a hub. I just saw the hub as the perfect solution in my mind to this linking and interlinking dilemma. Particularly if you wanted to stay on theme, which is difficult when working with such a variety of unrelated subject matters.
There was also the question of how to do this without it being a link farm or a link program, which at the time was all the rage but didnít connect to the theme theory I was then developing. This was all previous to finding Brettís theme ideas or finding Webmaster World. Without these resources I was really winging it. My first hub didnít utilize canonicals either and in fact it was someone from the team I was working with who suggested them originally, just as I was leaving that position.
Fortunately for me when I left I was given the opportunity to create my first unrestricted, unchallenged dream hub (at a considerable loss in income). This was a totally themed hub, different from what my original quest was. I will probably never get the opportunity to develop my dream SEO hub so Iím just going to explore it here with all of you SEO experts and you can take it or leave it. Consider it my Christmas gift to all of you that may find interest with it.
Iím doing hubs mind you, but theyíre all very specific to a specific topic or industry. What Iíd like to explore is the ideal SEO hub. Iím starting this new discussion in the research forum because I think it applies better here.
This initial post is a little teaser so if youíre interested stay tuned.
One more point. Please ask questions. Add your comments. Disagree with me. I donít want Brett to boot me out because Iím carrying on a monolog here. :) Plus, this is all about research and I donít have all the answers and probably do have as many questions as all of you so if we explore this together maybe youíll help me get the one step closer to my ideal SEO hub.
My initial task that led me to hubs was to research Google and find out how to get high rankings there. Google wasnít quite the king it is now, pre Yahoo days, but we thought we should explore the possibilities of ranking well there.
My initial research started me on the quest for figuring out two things, themes and linking. I determined that both of these appeared to pull weight with Google, along with the well-optimized and content rich pages that Google also appears to love.
Time and again in this research I found hubs. Many utilized ODP data although they were modified to relate to a specific theme. Some were very pure and others borderline. Other really good hubs were corporate hubs from large Fortune 500 companies. They lacked a consistent interlinking though, a big problem I see with corporate sites.
I developed a goal then. It became my challenge to somehow link all of our clientís sites to each other and do this with a theme in mind so the linking made sense. Linking a donut company directly to a credit card company didnít make sense so how could I do this without diluting the themes?
There were many problems to overcome. Given time Iím sure I would have found a way to get past those. Also I lacked the support and encouragement I needed from the team, which held me back considerably. Instead of dealing with each issue as we discovered it we were fighting the basic premise. I donít know if this is a think tank type problem or what. I encourage you though that if you have a team member with what might appear to be a sort of oddball idea but this drive to pursue it, it may be in your best interest to go out on a limb and support them, otherwise what could have been working for you may find itself in an open forum two years later. This is not meant to be a stab either, at the company I was working for. What I was developing in my head just didnít work for their program or how they were developing as a business. It may not work for yours either but I know thereís someone out there that this will work for so this ones for you :)
So, my idea was to create this SEO hub whose purpose was to link multiple unrelated sites to each other without diluting their themes. Additionally many of these were fortune 500 companies, which presents a unique set of problems. Iíd like to explore how I did this initially and what I would have liked to do and what Iíve learned from doing.
I also want to explore specific problems that I havenít found answers to and maybe you all came help me with those.
How many sites would you need for a idea SEO Hub?
It's something that i had a look at when i got displaced in google by a three page site which linked into a seo hub (no sorry a seo directory over 1500 urls).
since then i realised what the really power of a good hub could be.
but I only have maybe 50 - 100 hundred sites mainly non-themed and not really the time or money to invest the resouces needed.
But i would love to hang around and chew the fat.;)
The example I'm working up will only have 6 companies with an as yet undetermined amount of domains. This is to keep it simple in developing the theories and share the principles I've researched.
I believe but haven't proven it yet, that the amount of domains is not the issue rather it's the quality of the hub development and the quality of the linking. How you link this all together and theme it more than how many, although with each developed domain linked I do believe it must become stronger.
Thanks for joining the party :)
I am in for the ride too. I hope I can help and learn!
Paynt, send me a sticky with your email. I alsmost opened a can of worms here and probably should not with this stuff.
i'm up for this...
i've chewed over most of the stuff you've posted here paynt, and i find it a very exciting area ... and have started very recently to develop a couple of experimental hubs, no results as yet to report - hopefully the next google index will show something to me directly rather than my observations of what i think others are doing.
i'm convinced like you that it is the structure and quality of the linking thats important, i'm coming from a place of trying to maximise pure page rank to pass on to my chosen pages combined/extended with the extra benefits/boost of the whole theme theory stuff.
lets hope we can all make some good progress
Welcome abertone and click_watcher,
Glad to have you along. I so hate to think itís just me doing the blah, blah, blah thing.
click_watcher Iím very excited to hear about your hubs as they progress. Itís through the sharing that we learn. Plus how you work the page ranking in sounds exciting. Sounds like youíre taking it to the next level. Good stuff.
Netcommr, I sent sticky of email. Very cryptic post so respond quickly please :)
|I so hate to think itís just me doing the blah, blah, blah thing. |
hehe, can't tell you how much this thread [webmasterworld.com] got me thinking when i first came accross it. and i'm surely not the only one!!
will certainly report on my progress as it happens, as a retailer developing my own sites i don't have much time in the pre xmas period (thank goodness), but i wanted to lay some seeds down in order to get embedded in the google directory and kick the experiments off. so i've done that in the last 2/3 weeks, ... more to come as they say.
Thatís cool click_watcher and good luck during this shopping season.
Iíve talked lots about my hub theories so I donít think they need to be repeated here. For this topic I want to look at it from the SEO company perspective. Donít get mad at me folks if you think Iím giving away trade secrets. These are all theories I have developed on my own and like any other tool we talk about here I simply want to explore it. Iím up for anyone adding to my research and theories or exposing the problems with them. This is fair game, so bring it on. I have not seen any discussion anywhere yet equal to this one so if folks are talking in these terms itís in a backroom somewhere that Iím not privy to.
Iíll start with some of the problems I think SEOís have with developing a hub site for their collective clients.
The first involves Fortune 500 companies not wanting to be attached, through linking, to companies they didnít elect to link to. I think this is a myth and should be easily dispelled if the Fortune 500 company in question realizes first the benefit of the hub and being linked to it and secondly that anyone anywhere can link to you, without your control and this in no way should be thought of as an endorsement of the other companies linked to the hub. You cannot believe how I fought over this one. Potential cost versus potential benefits is what this one is about, added to the communication problems inherent with corporations in general. Mr_dredd2 brought this to the forefront in seo for BIG companies [webmasterworld.com] and the issue of spam techniques.
Mr_dredd2ís discussion is part of what triggered this discussion for me, along with the ongoing discussion about hubs at A question of hubs [webmasterworld.com]
Bringing posts together and answering questions...
I would love input from others on how they would handle or dispel this myth.
The next problem is cost.
Letís be real and look at what this is going to cost to put together, in general and without the actual $ amounts.
Iím giving you most of the research costs so if you consider Iíve spent a good two years of my time on this consider yourself way ahead of the game in the money department. Although I had issues with the company I worked with in regards to my darn hub theories we should send lots of good kudos their way for paying for nearly 9 months of research costs for me to get to where I am and what Iím into sharing here. So, quiet moment -> sending kudos! Seriously folks, send that kudos. Plus, shameless plug here and with gratitude to lawman at [webmasterworld.com...] who reminded us to send $ through paypal to Brett for allowing us to even go there with this in his living room on the web :)
Enough of that.
Talking costs, weíre looking at a domain. Weíre looking at a host, and one that provides excellent raw logs to analyze plus enough MB to handle whatever search/directory or whatever you come up with. I think you also want them to allow unlimited canonicals and the ability to create them, at will. I absolutely do not like to have to go through the host to create my canonicals. And I do not want to be charged for them. And a big nix on Inktomi for charging canonicals as a separate domain even though we do receive a benefit from canonicals as being almost a separate domain. Go figure! Yes, I want it all.
We also want to look at a great (not just good or getting by) log analyzer. The hub moves you into a whole new realm of analysis and you want this accurate and you want this right.
Technical expertiseÖ.. Letís give a big cheer to the techie folks who can make this happen. I could never create a hub without them. ODP dump may be free and a wonderful gift to the hub developer but without a techie type who understands it then forget it. You will also want tech support for making the ODP info non dynamic where possible. Youíll want tech support to create a search feature for your hub. If you develop a separate hub structure that is not ODP dependent then you will also need tech support for that. To add a message/bulletin/chat board -> tech support. Just accept the fact that that if you canít do it yourself you need to find someone who can. Think in terms of email notification, email opt in, so on and so forth.
Design. We may be SEO experts but how are we with design? Find a designer that can work with SEO and you have found yourself a gem.
It will probably take a second post just to talk money so feel free to add you own input with this. Iím sure Iím forgetting something.
An example of a good hub we can study while following this tutorial would be handy; any suggestions?
Iíve thought about your suggestion glengara but I think it might be better to go it without an example. First I donít know of the perfect SEO hub site yet. The one Iím considering is still in my head. I worked on one but like I said in the beginning I would love to go back to it now with what Iíve learned this past year and recreate it. Not working with a large SEO company now means I donít have access to the same base of clients to make it an actual SEO hub.
I have hubs and Iím sure others do who would be willing to share but even if we found a really good SEO hub I think weíd find ourselves picking it apart instead of creating one from the beginning.
Also, and I think this is a key point to this theory and to hubs and themes in general, you could give three SEOís the very same set of domains to create a hub with, the same rules to follow, the same budget and such and all three will come up with a different final product. Thatís the beauty of this. We actually donít have to compete with each other, not exactly. Our approaches will be different, our content different and our source of traffic will differ simply in the approach we take to create our hub.
Hopefully with questions and examples this can develop to a point where weíll all have a picture of our own ideal SEO hub in our head.
So far, I don't see the difference between a "SEO hub" and any other hub. Is it the fact that the links are not related thematically? Is the topic of this discussion really "how to create a hub of un-related links"?
Your point about Fortune-500's not wanting to associate with each other. The same could be true of small mom-and-pop e-commerce sites in the same competitive field. If the hub is analogous to the phone-book yellow pages, then maybe they can see the advantage.
I'd settle for an example of a good hub unrelated to SEO, just to have something to study.
Yes tilt, point taken. It is about a lot of unrelated domains interconnected. The point is finding a way as a SEO company to link them together to give them the most powerful push possible while not compromising their integrity I suppose. I suppose a yellow book could be the approach you take, itís got to be what works for your team. Itís also about how you promote the visibility of the separate clients, how you deal with cloaking and redirects, how you create a product that you can get accepted into the directories. Not to mention that most SEO campaigns Iím aware of use multiple domains for each client.
This may help some who are willing to take a stab at an alternative method of promoting their clients sites. Iím constantly asked about how to incorporate themes into the large SEO experience. We see topics started about working with large corporations, the spamming issues, the communication problems, problems with getting these offsite domains into directories. I hope this will give new insight perhaps or a new concept that may not have been tried before or was discounted because the problems seemed too large to overcome.
It could be any hub, for any purpose. I selected to use the idea of a SEO hub because of the unique problems involved as well as the unique opportunities. Not to mention all the talk about crosslinking problems between domains and potential banning fears, etc. I believe a hub such as this is a vital alternative that not only alleviates some of these problems but also can actually work as a powerful tool to strengthen all aspects of the SEO work.
Glengara, Iíll think about a hub that could work. I would really prefer one that meets the unique qualities of this particular type of hub. I do hope though that folks will find this interesting whether they work on large SEO projects or like me now have a smaller client list, mostly my own projects with a partner and want to then bring those all together. Weíre personally working in stages towards that goal.
Because I can and I think itís the ultimate hub idea, Iím working on created mini hubs that are theme specific. At some point Iíd like to develop a mega hub to connect these mini hubs together. I think thereís a lot of power with that. At a canonical level about.com comes close to this idea. I think about.com is a very good example of a hub. Not the type Iíd like to talk about here but the structure is certainly good and thereís a lot that could be said about it.
> It is about a lot of unrelated domains interconnected. The point is finding a way as a SEO company to link them together to give them the most powerful push possible while not compromising their integrity
Paynt, thanks for clarifying. This is an interesting and valuable discussion. Keep up the good work :)
Iím thinking about tiltís questions again and comments. I tell you that is what makes this fun and stimulates the research, stimulates my brain. I think this will become clearer when I begin to discuss the benefits, as I see them of a SEO hub.
Itís a tool. The whole purpose of it is as a tool to facilitate linking. One of the big problems I hear SEO folks have is in getting reciprocal links. Initially the benefit I saw for the company I was working for was getting these links, even if through a neutral middle ground. I thought it much easier to get links to a hub than to cloaked gateway pages. We can explore that further if youíd like.
The other issue was crosslinking. We were heavy into crosslinking as a way of building link strength. I saw it as diluting potential themes. Remember this was two years ago when I began this research and strategy and at the time we were just beginning to see the importance of linking. FFA and link farms were very popular. There was hardly any information available on themes. I didnít find Brettís ideas until June of that year so I was basically developing these ideas and strategies through research without anyone substantiating it.
The other big problem with these linking strategies we were following was the Fortune 500 companies we were working with began to discover they were, through the off site domains, linked to other of our clients. Now for one we were divulging who all our clients were with this linking. Thatís not particularly a good thing in SEO. Another problem then is that in the uncommunicative world of corporate life, where you have to go through multiple channels to get a decision, if their warning lights go off forget it.
At the same time I began to see the power of hubs and began to develop a theory of linking these sites to each other through a neutral hub, under our control. Iíve admitted that my first attempts didnít come close to what I know I could develop now and that I wish I could go back and make this first SEO hub attempt all that it really could be. Maybe there are other SEO companies doing this. I havenít heard it spoken of though, anywhere. I keep hearing the same problems with linking as Iíve presented above, so Iím assuming that there are companies that could benefit from a tool such as this.
As long as Brett doesnít mind the use of his space for this discussion and along as someone is benefiting from it then I think itís probably worth my time to continue. Please keep joining in. Iíll be in and out this weekend with guests coming to visit but Iíll add to this as I can.
Outstanding thread, Paynt. I havenít thought this hard since the ďthemeĒ thread. This will be the first time Iíve attempted to really contribute my own idea/thought process to a thread, so please be gentle;)
So, with all these themes and hubs rolling around in my head, a word suddenly popped in my head.
Remember that dreaded word from high school/college English? After a quick Google query, I discovered that the two are very similar.
Here are a few examples I found in my search-
|A successful working thesis has three characteristics: |
1) It should be potentially interesting to your intended audience.
2) In itís language, it should be as specific as possible.
3) It must limit and focus a topic enough to make it manageable.
A thesis allows both reader and writer to find their ways through a labyrinth of ideas by following a thread of thought. That is, a thesis crystallizes the controlling idea of an essay and, thus, helps us to keep track of that idea as it develops through the body of the text.
When we formulate theses, we male experience comprehensible: we organize the chaos. As researchers, we begin to pick up facts and experiences that are relevant to our theses Ė just as magnets pick up fillings Ė and we leave what is irrelevant behind. Thus, for both reader and writer, a thesis cuts through immense confusion to make one point perfectly clear.
How does this relate to a SEO hub? Well, a few phrases stuck out to me.
|-it should be potentially interesting to an audience. |
-find their ways through a labyrinth of ideas by following a thread of thought.
-we organize the chaos
It seems to me that weíre trying to find a sort of loophole to expand the hub/theme theory that has been proven to be successful. Is this correct? If so, I see these statements as loopholes, if I can only figure out how to use them!
A potentially interesting labyrinth of ideas formed from chaosÖ.Iím working on it.
Nice Mona. Good input. Now I gotta go put on my thinking cap and ponder.
Thanks for contributing. Very cool.
Ah, you think Iím a toughie Mona? Iíll try to reconnect with my soft side. Iím just a mom with kids who plays around on the computer and drinks coffee all day ;) Ok, I am a bit obsessed with the themes and hubs and linking but hey, every mom needs a hobby. I never did learn how to knit.
I love your thesis comparison. Iím for anything to make it clearer to folks. I get stuck with the spoke of the wheel and the satellites. This is a very applicable comparison and I agree with the strength of this part of the quote:
|-it should be potentially interesting to an audience. |
-find their ways through a labyrinth of ideas by following a thread of thought.
-we organize the chaos
I especially like, ď-find their ways through a labyrinth of ideas by following a thread of thought.Ē Thatís theme linking.
|A potentially interesting labyrinth of ideas formed from chaosÖ.Iím working on it. |
Let us know when you find it ok? Iím feeling connected here. Thatís very exciting and stimulating. That could be the subtitle of this thread.
I didnít finish earlier with the costs of putting a hub together and those should be mentioned. Itís often about dollar and cents, the bottom line, and ROI so I think itís only fair to be upfront with what I see as potential costs.
I am such a simple designer, nothing fancy. I have developed what I think is the perfect layout for a page and so I use it over and over again. Thatís ok when youíre cloaking or your site is simple, but a hub isnít cloaked so if youíre like me youíll want a designer involved. Like technical staff a designer that works well with SEO is priceless.
You need someone who can put this whole thing together and theyíll need support, depending on the amount of clients and domains youíre facilitating. Mapping this out is very time consuming and if you find someone who can do it and do it well I think they are worth paying for. Think about the theming involved, the linking and navigation, working with tech and design and clients. Whoever you put in charge of a project like will need to have direct contact with the client. Going through levels with clients is bad enough but to have to go through levels on your own side then through the client and back again can be a headache not worth it to the projct facilitator.
I think a great tool such as this needs both a guestbook and a message board. Remember, itís a tool and you want to feed your own monster. Youíll need someone to monitor that although outsiders spamming my tool doesnít bother me. Itís not really for community building (what a nightmare) board but a tool to feed with posts from all your clients. We had a great discussion on this although I realize we went off topic on to canonical vortals (sorry Brett).
wwwboard and inbound links Reciprocal Linkage Topics [webmasterworld.com]
<added>If you haven't read it in awhile, even though I hope my ideas have advanced in the past year, this is a good discussion to read as background for many of the theories we're discussing here :)
The monitor I believe just needs to keep it clean and free of adult links (no offense intended) unless of course this is an adult hub (which I cannot help with).
Same for the guest book. Iíd add a simple message board and guest book for each canonical of the hub and feed it regularly. Remember, you cannot spam your own tool ;)
What about the ultimate SEO site, with every subject from metas to cloaking covered by a different expert?
Interlinking would be fairly straightforward, and you can "grow" the number of experts until you run out of subjects.
As soon as you can get them all to agree on what is spam, you're away!
Youíre right glengara, not just SEOís benefit for their clients from a hub of this sort but itís a great way for industries to come together. Actually youíll probably find more of those as examples than any other. An artist hub is a good example. You could have a potter canonical which facilitates the potters and a sculptor canonical to facilitate all the sculptors, so on and so forth. What works especially well and is very easy for these industry related hubs is their common theme. This is true for city hubs or state hubs. Whenever you have a common theme or related industry itís much easier to develop your hub.
Whatís unique about a SEO client hub is the often-unrelated aspects as well as many of the client concerns Iíve suggested earlier. What I didnít mention earlier was the confidentiality for the SEO firm. I doubt many want to advertise, ďHereís a hub of my clientsĒ. As a SEO firm you would probably want to make this an anonymous hub so thought would go into the purpose of the hub. What can you do to make it common? What is it that is different yet the same enough about your various clients to bring them together in one meeting place? Tilt suggested a yellow page format and if you have enough of a variety and are set up to that task then that may be a viable solution.
I suggest you keep it within the scope of what you can handle. If youíre running clients from six different industries, I suggest you stick to those initially and allow yourself to expand and grow from there. The beauty of your hub as a tool is that it can grow.
Maybe it would help if we begin by developing a template of a hub. Iím going to suggest a very simple format to help with understanding.
Weíll give our hub six categories to begin with, knowing we can add to this, as we need to. I like information as my theme, with a small hub such as this whose intent is to facilitate a variety of unrelated sites making the common theme a simple one is probably the easiest.
Ok, so I would probably create the following categories (and Iíve selected these based on my fictitious client base).
Now these are very generic terms. You could exchange money for finance, gifts for shopping, entertainment for recreation. You will want to consider your client base, the overall theme of your hub, how you anticipate growth and expansion. I like regional for a few reasons. The most obvious are the local clients you have that may want to be marketed locally and because every client could tie into a regional category, even if that region is broader than local, and this gives you additional opportunities for crosslinking and client exposure. How you market them regionally would be different than how you market them in their larger category.
If weíve determined that a money category is going to work for us then we obviously have clients that fit. I would open a spreadsheet and begin an inventory. Give clients that fit in this category their own page. List everything you have about them there. What are the separate domains youíve created for them? I would list each one followed by the keywords that domain is optimized for and ideally this is themed.
Put time into this process. This is so important to how you bring the whole hub together. I would love to hear of others experiences with this. What tips and clues do you have? I really want to learn here as well and welcome the opportunity to gather more ideas. Also if you have any questions about how I would do this that I havenít made clear, it would really help to hear them.
Once you have all the clients in the money category broken down into their lowest denominator the next level of the work begins.
To develop the money hub youíve first broken down everything you have about your money clients. Letís be real creative here and say we have a credit card client and a tax consultant. If that were the case I would stay focused on that and make the focus of the money section all about credit cards and taxes. Youíll want a main page that brings these two money clients together. Hereís where I make another list. Write out all youíve got or can come up with about credit cards and another list about tax consulting and find the meeting points. I stay focused on what each client actually has to offer and develop my keyword from the client not try to fit my client into the keywords.
What does the credit card company offer? What are their services? What makes them unique? The same is true for the tax consultant. Do they offer online services or just sell books? Develop your potential keyword list for your money section of the hub from this information.
Dig for a common theme. I go for the lowest meeting point. Remember, weíre basically talking keywords here and you all know about that so this isnít too tough. I suggest reading Brettís theme info again for tips. If youíve broken down each client already you have a wealth of information to go on to find the common meeting ground.
Without going into too much effort I can already see patterns I could develop into a common theme. Iíd love to hear what any of your ideas would be.
Finally on board; I'd misunderstood an SEOs' hub for a SEO hub.
This is definatley one of the most interesting threads I have seen here at WMW. My thinking cap has just been firmly re-attached. This is a subject that has interested me for more than a year and I have spent this time meandering through thoughts and experiments. I have a couple of Hubs setup that ahve been useful in initial SEO of smaller clients but so far it has all been very haphazard.I would very much like to move onto the next level.
I look forward to participating and learning from all here. I am also willing to lend my support in any way I can.
Thanks Conor. I promise everyone I didn't drop this. Three kids and a holiday plus a bit of work distracted me. I'm thinking about how to condense the next portion so hopefully in a few days we'll all be seeing another installment.
I look forward to yours and everyone that has thoughts on this or experience to please contribute.
Just 'checking in'.
Watching thread with interest as I want to setup a hub for my customers.
Most of my customers are in the same geographical area, so I was thinking of a regional directory sort of thing.
Haven't got any input yet, but agree that this is one of the most interesting threads for a long while.
If the suspicion of a cross-linking "filter" as came up in [webmasterworld.com...] turns out to be true, would it not have serious implications for the development of a hub?
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