In religious parlance, Justin Briggs might be described as a crusader who is committed to spreading the “gospel” about SEO best practices. His mission? To help others ascend to a higher place in the universal order of search engine marketing. Yes, there is a path of righteousness in SEO. If you are so inclined, Mr. Briggs can help you find that enlightenment, and aspire to the blissful state of Google and Bing search engine ranking Nirvana. Amen to that!
Make no mistake, the affable, personable search marketer is hardly a religious zealot. Justin describes himself as a “passionate” and “holistic” (not “holy”) SEO consultant at Distilled and an Associate at SEOmoz, which he describes as two of the best SEO companies in the world. In fact, Justin actually likes movies AND zombies, a Boolean combination that would surely offend SNL’s “Church Lady.”)
Still, Briggs has an enthusiasm to preach the good word on SEO. And he did just that at a recent WordCamp Seattle convocation to a large ” flock” of rapturous Wordpress disciples. His good-willed southern evangelism (Justin hails from Nashville, TN) and his fascination with the culture of SEO has even included a pet project studying and blogging about the Mormon Church of LDS as a phenomenal SEO superpower.
Truth be told, before he found the light, or the “white hat” of search, Justin was a confessed “SEO sinner.” As an early computer prodigy, the young upstart found a way to promote a site with an eyebrow-arching 25,000 links in only a few days time and suddenly found himself banished from the search engines. To save his SEO reputation (and mortal SEO soul), Justin choose the path that lead to search and site salvation, deciding to turn “SEO Pro.” For those who have seen the folly of their search engine ways, Google’s Reconsideration Request form for penalized sites serves as the cyber-equivalent of the modern confession booth, where after admitting any misdeeds, the search giant may grant dispensation and a second life in the search index.
The Mormon Tabernacle SEO Choir
Justin’s talk at WordCamp Seattle covered all the bases of how SEO can combine with WordPress to create heightened search marketing visibility. All of the SEO basics still apply to blogging, but WordPress can make SEO easier with its unique plug-in architecture and versatile content management system. As an example of how to orchestrate a complete SEO campaign, Briggs chronicled how organizations like the Mormon Church of Later Day Saints use the power of their flock to build extensive link networks based on both religious and secular keywords and generate heavy traffic at the top of the search results.
For example, the Mormon church currently ranks #3 on Google for the word church, #3 for Jesus Christ and #3 for new testament. Is link building thoroughness next to godliness?
Looking at their work not out of insolence but admiration, Justin observes how: “The LDS website is targeting a diverse set of religious terms such as Jesus Christ, church, church music, scripture, and new testament.” What’s more, they’re also targeting some interesting non-religious terms including friend, young women, chastity, and safeguarding children.
How is the SEO doing? If you sort the Top 500 Most Important Sites on the Internet by External Links, LDS would sit right under MTV.com (3,508,016 links) in link popularity. That’s a lot of links.
As Justin would hasten to explain, the power of links is only as useful as the anchor text associated with the links themselves. In other words, if all of the LDS links pointed solely to the initials LDS then only that term would rank highly on Google. Instead, the Mormons have shown themselves to be more savvy search marketers by using anchor text across a wide range of targeted keyword terms. The Tag Cloud shown below indicates the distribution of these various search terms with words that appear in larger type size indicating a greater preponderance of links.
Some interesting facts uncovered about LDS.org’s links include the following:
- Over 100 unique domains link to LDS.org with the EXACT anchor text “church”
- 60 unique domains link to LDS.org with the EXACT anchor text “Jesus”
- 70% of the domains linking with the exact anchor “Jesus” are from domains with the word “Mormon” in the domain name
- There are directory submissions anchored with “Jesus Christ”
- The most powerful exact “church” anchored link comes from Microsoft.com
SEO Education: The Church “Gets It”
Knowledge is power when it comes to building a link network. The Mormon church has shown it has learned these lessons well. An LDS blog that got started as ldsWebguy.com (Larry Richman), and which has now rebranded as LDSMediaTalk.com, does a great job at educating members of the church on the basics of SEO. By the end of 2007, LDS had written a blog post on How to Build Links to Your Website, a post that corresponds well with the upturn in link acquisition. They have also posted not once, but twice, on how to optimize links.
The SEO takeaways for marketers of all faiths can be summed up as follows:
- Keep up with current marketing trends.
- Target a diverse set of non-branded relevant terms that will attract interested searchers.
- Target terms that will attract first time visitors.
- Links matter, and so does anchor text.
- Leverage your community, partners, and resources available.
- Educate your internal team and external colleagues on SEO best practices.
- Leverage your community to build links.
- Create great content that people can link to.
Can church and state mix with SEO? Mitt Romney, a U.S. presidential candidate of the Mormon faith, is predicted to be at the forefront of the election process in 2012. It will be interesting to see how the LDS link network might mobilize around his candidacy. “Google bombing,” or the act of associating and linking unfavorable search terms with targeted sites, has purportedly been rendered inoperative by Google, but there are still plenty of techniques for organizations with political or religious agendas that can be deployed across a broad-based network. In politics, as in business and religion, he who has the most links could win the most clicks, if not votes.
Justin will be presenting at the upcoming SMX Advanced symposium that is coming to Seattle this June. You can follow him on Twitter at @justinbriggs or connect through his personal profile site at http://justinbriggs.org/ [24×7]