Ken McGaffin Interviewed by Eric Enge

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Ken McGaffin

Ken McGaffin is Chief Marketing Officer at Wordtracker. He is an experienced internet marketing consultant and has worked for major pharmaceutical companies, advertising agencies, government bodies and non-profit organizations.

Wordtracker recently announced their new link building tool, Word Tracker Link Builder. This tool is based on the Majestic SEO link database.

Interview Transcript

Eric Enge: Could you tell me a bit about the nature of how you’ve worked with Majestic?

Ken McGaffin: We’ve worked very closely with Majestic for the last two years. They have been providing us with specific keyword information, which really adds value to the metrics we are able to do. Because they also have tremendous backlink information, we have been looking at ways to also utilize that. Link analysis is brilliant because, when used the right way, there are absolutely fantastic things to find out and understand.

People ultimately want to build links so when we were thinking about this tool, our thought was to work very closely with Majestic, take their information via an API, and build a tool around that information. Ideally, the tool would not only analyze inbound links, but would also help people through the process of link building, which is where we see ourselves adding value. It’s not simply taking the API from Majestic and labeling it. Our goal is to offers real value in terms of people researching, and implementing link campaigns.

Eric Enge: It looks like you have some interesting innovations on the surface such as the utility to look for URLs that rank for a given keyword. Does that feature go beyond the Majestic data and actually use search engine APIs?

Ken McGaffin: That is correct, but it is just one innovation. There are other ways to enhance that, which is what we are planning right now. Link analysis can tell people so much about what they really need to understand and what they should be analyzing. A lot of people stop the process once they find their competition, but first and foremost, even though it might be boring, they need to analyze who is linking to them now and learn from that. That’s a step that people rush over.

The people who are linking to a site are doing so for a reason which needs to be understood. Analysis also needs to delve into what the links tell them about their market, what relationships they can build with those people, and then very importantly how those people can help them find more link prospects.

Looking at who is linking to their site is a good benchmark, but all of those sites are in their direct market place. By going further and doing a link analysis of all the sites that are linking to those sites, a bigger picture of the market place or the community around that topic can be created. Also, deducing who the first level of linking sites are linking to is another part of the jigsaw puzzle.

In the end, our tool goes beyond link analysis, and is a way to find out what competitors are doing. It provides an understanding of the online community in which a business exists which is much more important.

Eric Enge: I agree, I have actually argued in columns in both Search Engine Land and Search Engine Watch that the main reason to do competitive link analysis is to get ideas for campaigns. It is certainly possible to contact some of those people and request links, but by looking deeper it is possible to also learn about the market, and it is that knowledge that really empowers the most interesting possibilities of link building .

Ken McGaffin: Absolutely. In doing this deeper analysis, someone might find that they are under-represented in a particular sector. By doing a comprehensive analysis, they might see that the non-profit community, who could make use of their tools, is under-represented because they have no links, which therefore suggests that a targeted link campaign to the non-profit community could be beneficial.

It’s really an understanding of the market place. When doing link analysis, there are four areas that are most important. First is self-analysis which is incredibly productive and something that people overlook. Second is analyzing competitors focusing not on what they are doing, but rather on why they are doing it, and using that to become better than them.

The third important thing is to analyze who is linking to authoritative blogs and news site. That is tremendous information because blogs and news sites tend to interlink and reference other people’s articles. Analyzing a non-competing news site in the marketplace is a way to find a huge number of linkup opportunities.

The fourth one is really interesting. Great information can be obtained by looking for old news stories in the target marketplace and analyzing who picked them up and what bloggers wrote about them. The example I use when teaching is a supermarket in the UK who did a great PR story on ugly fruit. The real story was that ugly fruit, which doesn’t look as good as supermarkets want it to, is nonetheless absolutely fresh, gorgeous, high-quality fruit. They offered it at a 20% discount and called it ugly fruit. That was great story, but a search on Google for “ugly fruit” returns a bunch of websites writing about organic food, quality food, grainy food, supermarkets or food habits. It’s a really pleasant way to find a new site that perhaps competitors haven’t even thought about. The basis of link building, and searching for potential link prospects is broadening the horizons beyond the competitors. To sum that up, it is thinking about the marketplace, not about the competitor.

Eric Enge: I couldn’t agree more. Having played with the tool, I like the ability to list a number of domains at once and pull the data almost instantly for all of those domains. It’s nice to simply enter a bunch of domains, and get a list of results with how many links are to each one, and to also be able to click for the details. The other feature that struck me is the ability to show links that contain or do not contain certain constraints, which enables further filtering and allows more data to be pulled out of the system.

Ken McGaffin: It gives insight into a competitor’s strategy. A very good example is, the big online pet foods retailer. An analysis of them, filtered for dot org, shows that they have a great number of links from smaller organizations involved in animal welfare. They have created a community involvement campaign that supports these groups and in return PETCO gets a ton of links coming back. This is the type of valuable information that the tool can isolate.

It is also interesting to filter the results on simple word news which returns news articles which are helpful in finding news websites. Doing a search on just the single word blog is also interesting. It won’t pick up all the blogs, but it picks up the ones with a blog in the URL which is a great starting point. I did a fountain pen website, and analyzed the top four brands. Within three minutes, I identified over 600 blogs that have written a byte and linked to fountain pen websites. In a short period of time I had a large number of prospects that the tool then ranked, which is a tremendous help. Anybody who has done link building knows how hard and time intensive the work is which is why anything that saves time and direct efforts to the strongest prospects is really worthwhile.

Eric Enge: Is there a way to extract this data into a spreadsheet?

Ken McGaffin: Funny you should ask. We are working on that as we speak and it should be deployed imminently.

Eric Enge: Is there a plan to be able to extract all the data rather than the first 2,000?

Ken McGaffin: Yes, that is a potential function as well. It’s not one of our priorities at the moment, but it’s on the list of things that we want to do.

Eric Enge: Can you tell me about the ideas that are priorities at the moment?

Ken McGaffin: We want to help people be creative when thinking about their targets. At the moment, the additional feature that we are providing involves searching on a keyword. The idea is to enter a keyword and isolate the blogs or news sites that are appropriate to that keyword.

Eric Enge: So it basically gives an analysis of the total link space, and then it is filters by the chosen criteria whether that is blogs or a news site?

Ken McGaffin: Yes. Rather than going through all the results if the goal is to create a blog campaign, with one click, it gives all the blogs relating to outdoor clothing or whatever the interest is. It shortens the process. Another interesting resource is lists which the internet is full of, whether it’s the top 100 cycling blogs, the top ten outdoor clothing blogs or the top 50 travel blogs. These are incredibly important for two reasons. First, the sites that publish these lists are obvious link targets. Second, the featured blogs are obvious targets as well, because they are the top blogs in the area or have been defined as such.

There are lots of clever things that experienced link builders can do that we want to make available to those who are not as experienced in link building, or perhaps not as creative as they could be. The idea is if people want to create links, they can use our tool and quickly generate a ton of ideas. In turn, that means we have to add a level of thinking to the results that come from Majestic SEO. In terms of building this tool, the possibilities are almost limitless with the data from Majestic.

Eric Enge: The whole strategy is to help people better qualify and categorize. When conducting a link building campaign, typically more experienced link builders think about the segments they can go after. Being able to breakdown and classify data enables someone to more readily pull information out and embed it into categories of campaigns such as a blog campaign. Categorization would be a nice tool.

Ken McGaffin: Yes. Categorization is really useful. We’ve also created an ability within the tool to assist with optimizing campaigns. This feature allows the user to look at sites of interest and make notes about whether they liked the site, if it accepts articles, or to make a note to remember to send them an email, or an article. The user can also flag prospects as having been contacted and when to contact them again.

We not only want to help people create a campaign, but we want to help annotate that campaign and organize it because people are forgetful and have bad work habits. We are trying to make it easier to have really good work habits because then people will get more out of their time.

The next priority is to monitor changes, so for instance if a new link appears, an email would come saying there are ten new links to you this week. We are starting work on that later this month. You probably heard from Dickson and Alex that they are going to be updating their database weekly which will make a monitoring service even more valuable.

Eric Enge: Another good idea would be to rate a website’s propensity for providing external links. It requires some thought on how, but one way is to look for number of pages on a site, and the number of external links they’ve given. If they have a 1,000-page site and two external links, it’s probably not a good target.

Ken McGaffin: That feature is on our list as well. A website that has a propensity to link out has a different link footprint than a website that does not. The ability to analyze the link footprint, or the links going in and coming out of a particular site, is what allows someone to determine whether a site is well-linked and therefore whether it is a good target.

Eric Enge: Another interesting thought is the notion of implementing the Microsoft part of link to link from domain feature. So, you enter a name of a website and get a list of the types of links to such as a little extension of what we were just talking about. Are the other tools you are considering as extensions to this tool or in fact separate products coming out in the future?

Ken McGaffin: The answer is both. We have a lot of ideas for extensions and some that are new. I forgot to mention that at the moment it isn’t possible to see the linking text from the links that we show, so that will be the next feature to go live which should happen before the end of this month.

To answer your question, there are separate tools we are considering in Wordtracker. The vision is to create a Wordtracker suite of tools, and the rationale is pretty simple. We have been known as a keyword research company because we have been doing it for 12 years, however keyword research is only part of the picture. It is important to know what the best keywords are, but it’s also important to use those in the right way.

While Link builder takes the keywords we have been looking at and emphasizing the importance of off-page optimization, Wordtracker focuses on on-the-page optimization. It’s a very natural jump for us to go into link building. Anchor text is also very important when link building.

The other tool that has just gone live and is available on the website is Strategizer. It works with Google Analytics to show what keywords are converting for a site at the moment, and what the keyword niche around those successful keywords is. This information makes it possible to greatly expand upon what a single keyword can offer. For instance, let’s say management strategy is a keyword that someone feels could bring them lots of business. A keyword niche is all the keywords that include the words management strategy. Using this tool, if someone was successful for the keyword management strategy then it would be easy for them to also be successful for the keyword niche around management strategy.

That tool is live in test load at the moment, and we are putting the final touches on it over the next two weeks when we should be officially issuing it. The results are pretty fantastic at the moment; it’s a really exciting tool.

The big change is that we are moving from keyword research to the actual performance of keywords on a website. It’s not an opinion or a count; it’s actually what’s happening on a person’s website. When that is discovered, then we can help them expand upon that to become more competitive.

The final project in development at the moment is in the area of PPC, which is another new area for us as we’ve been seen as primarily an SEO tool in the past. For this and all the ideas in development, it’s about the excitement of getting people to use keywords in a creative and effective way.

Eric Enge: You could also leverage what you have in hand. The relationship between anchor text density and keyword volume is interesting. With the phrase management tools, you can look at the keyword volume, but you can also see how many times it appears in anchor text across the web.

Ken McGaffin: Absolutely. Our keyword tool already can do that, but incorporating that into other tools is quite interesting. There are certainly crossovers between all of the tools which is why integrating them is a very important task on our development plan right now.

Eric Enge: Of course you have a number of customers that use the keyword research tool. From Majestic’s point of view, it seems you are a channel for them because of the people who want to use your tool because they are familiar and comfortable with the other tools you’ve provided. That customer base should provide synergies for the business and help things get moving for you quite quickly.

Ken McGaffin: Yes. They really are good bunch of people to work with, and we’ve had a very good relationship. We are both confident that will continue.

Eric Enge: Thanks Ken!

Ken McGaffin: Thank You Eric!

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