The SEO Benefit of Contributing to Open Source – A Case Study

A rarity for me, an SEO post.

I’m going to share a method I got 200 okay backlinks in a period of around 24 hours (or rather 24 hours preparation).

As you all know (and am singing about it again, because I’m so proud of it), I contributed to the WordPress 3.9 release of WordPress. A huge honour which came with a few links of kudos and the like, however I was curious – what was the SEO benefit of me contributing to WordPress?

SEO is still pretty much a links game, and it can help your site by getting a legitimate amount of links. So the first port of call was checking how many sites link to my profile. WordPress – in their release post – links to all contributors’ Profile, so I thought that’d be a good place to start. I fired up Majestic SEO and checked the recently discovered backlinks. I found this:-

131! Sure, there were a few spam and scraper sites, but overall there were some gooduns. Now what about one of my properties? Well I checked out the Winwar Media site (which is linked to on the profile), and found this.

The spike was the day after, but it practically correlates. It is slightly bigger due to the fact that the next day I also published my WordPress 3.9 Feature Guide on the FireCask blog (which links to my site in the footer). But overall, there was an increase in backlinks.

So SEO Agencies, on your developer’s downtime, why not encourage them to contribute to Open Source projects? It could really help grow your profile. If not the backlinks from legitimate sources, but can also provide you with case studies for your blog, and even leads.

In terms of contributing to WordPress, getting links has been the least rewarding thing about it. However I understand that people aren’t necessarily as community focused as me, and may need some pushing to get going. I also know that there are hundreds of Open Source Projects that are crying out for talented developers to contribute.

It’s not a guaranteed result, of course. My code could’ve been cut from the release (it was an edge case, my fix), but what is? PR Pitches don’t get picked up, outreach emails get ignored and internal sites get abandoned. I truly believe that this is quite a legitimate form of building authority for you.

But, best of all, you’re making the internet a better place.

How To Remove Links & Remove Yourself From a Blogger’s Christmas Card List at the Same Time

I awoke recently with an email in my inbox asking me for a link removal. Whilst no longer an SEO, I still have a lot of friends and interests in the field, including a couple of sites that are slightly dodgy, including a Bid Directory that was for a long time my biggest earner. It is woefully black hat, but meh. It is just there for the sake of being there. But rather than the link removal being requested for one of my dodgy sites, it was actually aimed at a site that had a pretty good link profile and editorially approved content (albeit dormant) – Blogging Dojo.

Here is the email in full.

Dear Sir / Mam

Our Website XXXXXX has a link from your website. We request you to remove that link at earliest because the backlink is hampering our website ranking and seo very badly.

Page where our link is placed:


We also understand that your website integrity isn’t in question here but the penalty from google is severely affecting our business. The link has already had a very negative effect on our website SEO and business.

We believe that you would take action over it immediately or in case of no action within 24 hrs, we are going to have to file a “Disavow Link” report with Google. If we do this, it may affect your site’s Google rankings…

We would greatly appreciate your help with resolving this problem.

You can also let us know once the links have been removed by return email.

If you need any more information from us, please email me and I will be happy to assist.

We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you and do appreciate your help.

Thank you and Regards,
Joshua Bender

Interesting huh? There were a few things that irked me about this email.

We Are Not Saying Your Website is Crap But Your Website Is Crap

Lets start at the beginning, this doozy.

We also understand that your website integrity isn’t in question here….

Yes you are! The next line is this!

The link has already had a very negative effect on our website SEO and business.

So you admit to saying my website is crap, and that being linked to me is harming your business. Effectively with this line you are saying you don’t want to be linked with me? Okay, you’re saying my website, but as most bloggers put their blood, sweat & tears into blogs, it’s often difficult to say when a site ends and a person begins – case in point being The Wolf Within Me, which is written by Cass on her Lupus. By shitting over sites you’d be happy to be a part of mere months earlier, you don’t exactly endear yourself to the group that probably made your business in the first place.


We believe that you would take action over it immediately or in case of no action within 24 hrs…..

SEO is a slow game, with work taking months to have any sort of effect, and as such by posting this timescale for link removal to us we’re stressed. I mean, why have you gone for this timescale? A self imposed deadline by the client? In which case it’s you who have screwed up by not managing client expectations well enough. Let me guess, the client bought on your “insta-SEO” packaged that “Guaranteed #1 Listings”, and this is it unraveling all around you.

The fact is, bloggers generally don’t operate on a 24 hour scale, but usually a few days or more. Take for example outreach, I know when I did it I’d often get replies a week or two later for some blogs. I try and operate on a 24 hour turnaround, but on occasions such as this I couldn’t (I headed out after work, and no I’m not sacrificing my personal life for free because you screwed up). And it had me stressed, largely because of my last point.

Outright Threatening of Bloggers

This was the kicker for me.

we are going to have to file a “Disavow Link” report with Google. If we do this, it may affect your site’s Google rankings

Sorry, but that is utter bullshit.

I just thought this left a sour taste in my mouth. There are ways to do things, and quite frankly, outright threatening people is probably not the way to do things. Even when I was at my most shadiest as an SEO, I treated the people I dealt with with respect, and even my competitors. After all, I was taught to treat SEO as a bit of a game (hell, you ‘game’ the search engine), and whilst I compete against fellow SEO’s, I treat them with respect.

By threatening me, you’re effectively saying that you are willing to sabotage me and my hobbies (or business) in order to get your business back on the straight & narrow, a path deviated from by yourself, not by me. To me, that is a monumentally dickish move.

I reached out to a few SEO’s following receiving the email (and me be absolutely fuming because of it), and Will O’Hara pointed me in the direction of this link – – which seemed to suggest that even if an SEO “Disavows” you, then by and large you are unlikely to yourself receive a penalty. That was the general consensus from the people I spoke to as well.

The Shape of Things To Come?

The inherent problem of disavow is that people take a chainsaw to a problem where a pair of scissors is probably all that’s needed. By removing links (which, in this occasion, was okay), you also remove the factor that ranked you in the first place. You’re going to have to get these links back in some way using natural methods. Those links are probably going to come from bloggers – if you threaten bloggers, they’re probably not going to link to you.

I’m just worried about what the average site owner is going to think. I mean, I’d like to think I have some SEO knowledge left in me, and I wasn’t sure the intricacies of Google’s wondeful disavow tool. Imagine what bloggers without the experience or connections that I have would do when they receive such an email?

I just think if you take the approach above, you’re biting on the hand that feeds you, and then shitting all over it. Not cool, folks.

We Need To Talk About Alan

Alan came into my life about a week or so ago. A message to Retro Garden – my retro gaming blog – landed in my inbox.

Alan’s email came from a generic Gmail address, but seemed to show passion for retro gaming, his avatar of the Psygnosis Owl that also stood him out from other people who are primarily looking for something. Also, something about his message was different to me. He seemingly broke all ten of the “how to pitch to bloggers” tips you see circulating on SEO Marketing Blogs. So I took my chance with him, half expecting an email back with a generic post embedded with links, that wouldn’t fit into my site.

However, Alan’s posts were superb. Well written, long pieces that showed a deep understanding of the genre. They were either fantastically well researched or they were games he played. One thing was noticeably missing from the posts, a link. Alan didn’t want a single bit of accreditation for the post. A bunch of emails back and forth (mainly my guilt trip) established that he was a chiptuner – a sub genre of electronic dance music that uses the original hardware to make tunes, so I linked to some of his work. It’s only polite.

So yes, as many of you who read this post do some sort of blogger outreach, let it be known is this is what you are up against. My blog is decent, though isn’t huge, but still get a fair amount of traffic to it and is one of those sites that gets a fair amount of requests. In fact in the past week this is what I get for Retro Garden (offers that generated a response are starred):-

  • Alan’s email*
  • 3 press releases for various Computer related stuff in the UK.
  • 5 press releases for gambling.
  • 1 Pitch to Alpha Test a PC game on Kickstarter*
  • 10 press releases for gardening equipment.
  • 16 RIMjobs – RIMjobs stands for “Relevant & Informative” Marketing Jobs. Poorly worded guest post pitches that contains the words “relevant & informative”, two words that make me close your guest post pitch quicker than a door on a double glazing salesman.
  • An unsolicited guest post on “When You Should Plant Petunias In Your Garden?” (seriously)
  • A request for a paid placement on the site*

Alan’s post you may think are one offs but it’s not the case, there are plenty of writers, particularly in fun niches, who are just looking to write out there. Often these are more attractive than your pitches.

As such, if you’re pitching to me, that is what you need to stand out from, and many other bloggers are the same. Quite a lot, in all honesty. So how do you do it? Well in short it is adhering to three simple rules.

It’s About Me

The amount of people who pitch their content to me like it the literary bastard child of Harry Potter, The Art of War and The fucking Bible is unbelievable. Also they focus on themselves, or their client, like I should be grateful that I’m being even graced with an email from them.

They then usually use the RIMjob phrase of “relevant and informative” as a way to describe their latest scribbling.

Newsflash for you folks: a “informative and relevant” piece of work is all relative. What you may have slaved over for the morning I may not like. Second newsflash for you: many “informative” blog posts are in fact not going on blogs designed to inform, but rather opinion pieces. Reviews are opinion pieces. I’ve never played more than the first 2 Grand Theft Auto games because I’m not a huge fan of them. I’ve also never played Resident Evil too. That’s not saying they’re bad games, just I’m not a fan of the genre or the game play or whatever. That is just my opinion. Retro Garden is 90% reviews.

I can understand why you are shying away from “opinion pieces”. They are controversial and could land you in hot water with the client. Try and think of offering your opinion rather than just a bland piece, maybe if you can get your client involved. Then, and only then pitch an “informative” piece. Pitch to me with the knowledge Retro Garden I have had probably only one real “informative” guest post, and that was a guy who tore apart a Japanese Super Famicom for a guest post. Unless you’re willing to go to similar lengths (and expense!), then it’s probably not a good idea to pitch an “informative piece” to me.

tl;dr: Read the guidelines, before kissing my arse & telling me it tastes of ice cream. You need to prove to me why I should give you an opportunity. Selling your content like my blog is worse off without it isn’t one of those things. Pitch ideas!

But Don’t Lie or Patronise To Me

This is a big one for me.

Look, I know why you are contacting me. I know why you are after giving me content, but don’t pretend it’s “just a little link”, don’t pretend you “are after editorial exposure”, and – worst of all to me – don’t pretend you’re a woman. I grew out of speaking to pretend women on the internet when Yahoo! Chat folded.

Be honest with me. That’s all. A bare faced liar annoys me. Don’t expect me to do work for free either.

tl;dr: Tell me who you are, tell me what you are offering, tell me what you want.

Make It As Damn Easy As Possible

This is the final thing about me – I’m lazy.

Yes, shock horror! But lazy isn’t a bad thing. Lazy people as pointed out by Bill Gates are the sort of people who find an easy way to do a hard job. I’m of the opinion that I spend 2 hours finding a way to do a 4 hour job in an hour is a good use of time.

As such, when it comes to running my site, I want the maximum results for as little as effort as possible. You may write the greatest analysis of a video game ever, but if I’m chasing you for images and corrections, then I’m unlikely to post it. It’s shocking as well how many times people don’t read the guidelines as well. Often (at least with me) guidelines are laid out on the “write for us” page usually, so if you don’t follow them, then don’t expect me to be very forthcoming with a response.

Final point about this – I’ve a lot of sites, some still going, some dead. Many use the same email address. If you contact me with an email saying “I want to guest post for your site”, at lease name the site as well!

tl;dr: Don’t make me work for your guest post. Trust me, I probably won’t bother.

I may come across as a bit of a dick with this (which is something I admit), but as a site owner, I get frustrated when marketers come to me peddling the same cookie cutter emails (often they are RIMjobs) for responses.

I know this isn’t everybody, and actually I’m quite open to many pitches. Furthermore I’m not the greatest outreacher in the world (there are so many more talented people than me at this!). Please just be honest, explain what you are going to do, work hard and butter my ego. It’s not that difficult, trust me!

The Most Important Lesson Learned at #BrightonSEO April 2013…

….was that the UK is severely lacking in talent.

I’m not sure what it is, maybe with recent events has left people scared, and people haven’t practiced their art as much as they should, but BrightonSEO left a lot of people scared, borderline quivering mess, as a juggernaut rolled through their hard work without much care and attention.

Of course, the “talent” I’m talking about isn’t SEO talent (BrightonSEO has a selection of the most talented Digital Marketers the world has to offer), but rather a talent for pinball! I thought somebody would give me a game, these two pictures show I was sadly mistaken.

Bottom Left
Bottom Left


The names of the SEO’s of which the spherical smack-down has been laid down upon have been censored for the protection of the innocent.*

In all seriousness though, it was my first Brighton SEO, but it definitely won’t be my last. Had plenty of takeaways from the speakers, many of which their slides are floating around online (you can view the slides from Alex Moss’  Brighton SEO talk on Social Structured Data here) – EDIT: Daniel Bianchini‘s Blog has a list of all the known slides put online. Plus it was great seeing so many friends, even if I do spend a large part of Sunday detagging myself from Facebook photos.

I’ll try and type the bullet points I made, and either post them here or on the 3 Door Digital blog. They are fairly substantial, and Evernote isn’t exactly behaving itself at the moment. Will probably be a copy and paste job.

Here’s to the September 2013 one, yeah? If you are a Digital Marketer with any sort of drive to succeed or care for your job you really should go.

I may even get to that Lewes FC game I was threatening to go to beforehand.

* I should add that PushON‘s Simon Wharton, if this whole digital malarkey thing doesn’t work out, should really become a hustler on the Amstar’s 1980 classic Phoenix.

** Photo Credit – Jackie Hole.

Selling Out at The End of The World….

….or how I made a three figure sum, just before Christmas, in 48 hours.

Last August I released WP Email Capture. I know it sounds daft, but in terms of “amazing things I’ve ever achieved” it’s up there. Through it, I’ve made a few friends, landed more opportunities, and made a bit of cash. I would recommend to anybody who is going it alone to have something you can sell, that’s relatively cheap to develop. That way you have at least some cash flow.

One of the biggest bonuses (as I mentioned in my post on the Blogging Dojo on the best post I read in 2011) is that there is leverage there. Obtaining coverage on blogs is really easy when you have something to offer bloggers. Also, I’ve noticed that even if I don’t get a direct link, coverage can lead to sales, many of them are non affiliate sales.

Furthermore, rather than launch a campaign, I can easily send out an email, blog post, or a couple of tweets to try things to try and drive a bit of traffic and hopefully, some sales.

This story is one of those spur of the moment campaigns, which saw an hour’s “work” turn into over £150. Not a life changing sum of money, but it helped pay for Christmas.

My Story

I was sat in The Old Grapes in Manchester, talking with a friend. It was the 18th December 2012, three days before the impending apocalypse. Yes, remember that? The alleged end of the world on December 21st.

I suggested an idea to a few friends, and with only three or so sites actually leading with something (Hostgator, Paddy Power offering 5000/1 on the End of The World & Wish’s “Money Back if it is Doomsday” Guarantee), I thought I’d run with something.

I would offer a whopping 60% discount on WP Email Capture, a discount that would make Groupon’s discounts seem rather stingy in comparison. I would sell off my plugin to obtain as much Old World Order cash as possible before the impending fall of civilization. What has everybody got to lose?

In short, this wasn’t a fire sale; this was a sulphuric gas & eternal hellfire sale.

I created a discount code in E-Junkie and scribbled together an email, which you can read here (please note – the discount code no longer works!), and sent it off to my hundred or so subscribers.

When I woke the next morning, this was the response:-

Whoop whoop!

Considering a sale day is a good day, and I’ve had four “two sales days” since launch, getting four sales in a short space of time delighted me. It was good enough for me to run with it on the blog.

When I ran with it on the blog, I got a few more sales, and directed prospects to the sale in the hope they converted. I also refunded people who bought the plugin full price during that time, which was lucky, as one chap posted it on a forum which lead to a few more sales.

In short, I broke my December target. Also I made it a very successful month, a month that I wasn’t expecting to get many sales due to Christmas getting in the way.

My Three Tips

Of course, my number one tip is to fake an apocalypse to lead to an influx in sales 3000 years later, but three tips I have are the following.

Have a List

It still frustrates me when websites don’t build email lists. Of course, unless you’re Amazon or Play you can’t really sell to them all the time, but by and large a little bit of noise when you’re consistently sending out signal is perfectly fine.

The other thing that lists are good for are experimentation. If I had judged public conscience wrong, and people had genuinely believed an apocalypse was occurring, then I’d have only offended 100 or so people (of which I wouldn’t care too much, as, you know, I’d probably be suffering eternal damnation). If I had gone public with the offer straight away, then I’d have looked foolish if it didn’t sell. I could gauge reaction first of all, and act accordingly. Furthermore you can use this as saying the newsletter has exclusive content.

Here’s the thing, my list isn’t particularly “warm”. I’ve only emailed them a couple of times, but it has usually got a few sales.

Look at your email list as leads. They aren’t buyers but they are interested in what you put out.

Price High and Discount

I believe that most people price themselves too low, or don’t believe in their skills.

I price WP Email Capture fairly high, it’s $49. I believe it is worth that, largely due the support I offer is remarkably detailed, going above and beyond to make people happy. If customers aren’t happy then a refund is offered. I don’t get a huge amount of refunds, but I do get them. Furthermore, as Tim Ferriss said in the Four Hour Work Week (read it, it’s superb), if you price high, you weed out a lot of the tire kickers. The “worst” customer I’ve ever had has sent in total four emails. Four. Knowing how many emails people send with the possibility of getting a fraction of that, I’m doing well.

And that was just one customer, most I don’t hear from at all.

If sales were non-existent, then yes I would’ve dropped the price, but they aren’t, sales are still coming in for the plugin.

Furthermore, the beauty of it being priced so high is I’ve plenty of room for manoeuvre for discounting. In this campaign, knocking off 60% still pockets me $19, which is more than most plugin sales on CodeCanyon, for example. I still make a profit (effectively costs are now zero), and the “work” I largely do is simply creating logins for customers.

Also, with this manoeuvrability on price, I also got a few people who missed the discount. A quick email with a smaller discount of 30% also got a few sales.

People Believe In You, Not Your Stuff

One of the nicest things I got was a few messages in response. I’m not a great copywriter (seriously, if you need one, hit up Super Carly Wood for copywriting), but even people who didn’t buy quite liked my sales patter. It was written to try and put off packing for the Christmas holidays. I probably could buy a book, go on a course, or read Copyblogger for a week, but I didn’t have time. I published, and I was damned.

Luckily, most people loved it. I think there was an element of (urgh I hate saying this) “Brand Building”. If you have a decent reputation, it can help you with things such as this. I refuse to believe that people were desperate for WP Email Capture Premium when they bought, I believe the people who bought were WP Email Capture users, who liked me, and took advantage of an offer.

So that’s how I had my most successful day with WP Email Capture. It was a combination of alcohol fuelled inspiration, an hour’s graft, and being the right place at the right time. I urge you to make something (be a book, theme, WordPress plugin, anything besides bacon flavoured jam, as that market is cornered), and try selling it yourself (or if you’re lazy, sign up to the WP Email Capture affiliate programme and try selling my stuff). You could get a bit of cash doing so.

If you don’t though, don’t worry. It’s not the end of the world.