Uh-Oh. She’s Got a Case of UOL (Unnatural Outbound Links).

Unnatural outbound links. It kind of sounds like some sort of communicable disease – “Oooh, did you hear? Melissa has unnatural outbound links. UOL. Ewww.”

And the truth is that it is kind of an icky thing. It feels like I’ve been caught doing something dirty, and that I should perhaps hang my head in shame. And Google doesn’t make the notification a pleasant one:

Unnatural Outbound Links

Google has a long list of things deemed “linking schemes.” Things such as:

  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link.
  • Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking.
  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links.
  • Using automated programs or services to create links to your site.
  • Low-quality directory or bookmark site links.
  • Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature.
  • Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank.

If this happens to you, don’t sweat (like I did). It can be fixed. Webdesy has a good explanation of the Google penalty and how to go about fixing it (probably the right way).

I was lazy, and just installed the WP External Links plugin, which allows you to add the rel=nofollow tag to every link on your site automatically. If you don’t want to add the tag to everything, there is also the Ultimate Nofollow plugin, which adds a little checkbox when you create a link asking if you’d like to add the rel=nofollow tag. Good for adding the tag when you’re writing a new post… not great for fixing previous mistakes all in one fell swoop.

Well, I certainly haven’t been making any real money from this site, and I never intended to manipulate my PageRank by having guest posts or anything like that. SocialAmateur.com was my first website. It was my baby, and like any parent, I’m sure I made a lot of mistakes when it was young. But then I kinda got the hang of how to handle raising this little website, and more baby sites followed. As all my little sites grew, SocialAmateur.com is still kicking – the often-neglected apple of my eye.

Google is questioning my skills and I’m forced to say, “Yeah – I probably had no idea what I was doing – but I didn’t MEAN to hurt the site or manipulate my PageRank. And the site turned out ok, right? Isn’t that what counts?”

Something tells me Google doesn’t care much about intention, only application. So I’ll fix it. And apologize. And promise to be better.

Lessons from Superheroes at #ICNY

ICNY 2014It’s been a week since I returned from Real Estate Connect (#ICNY), and after putting out all of the fires that arose while I was gone, I’ve had a little time to think about my experience.

There are few things more inspiring than being surrounded by heroes. The speakers at Connect may not wear capes or save damsels in distress, but these men and women are champions in the world of real estate marketing and technology. I was fortunate enough to attend, listen and spend some time with a few of them last week and the lessons I learned carry far beyond the reaches of real estate.

Background for those of you who are unfamiliar with this conference: Inman News is one of the best resources a real estate marketer has. It’s a regular source of industry news, technology reviews, innovative marketing ideas and top-notch educational events with a forward-thinking edge. The Inman team is awesome and the contributors are some of the brightest in the business. Real Estate Connect is held twice per year, in NYC and San Francisco.

My Biggest Takeaways

Be a great leader. Keynote speaker Arianna Huffington kicked off #ICNY with an inspirational talk on leadership and the benefits of sleep, exercise and good nutrition. The charismatic powerhouse said that every bad decision she’s ever made could be traced back to her being tired, stressed and busy. She reminded us all that moments of inspiration don’t come when when we’re deep into our inbox, but rather in moments of stillness and quiet. Breathe, laugh, show gratitude, and live in the moment. “To define a good life, start where you are.”

(These lessons really resonated with me, and reading [amazon_link id="0062515675" target="_blank" ]The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams & Reaching Your Destiny[/amazon_link] on the train home only reinforced the message. More to come in future posts about my new focus on reducing stress.)

Hire the best. Robert Reffkin, Founder of Urban Compass, says make sure you can answer yes to these four questions about a potential employee:

  • A+ test: Is this person good at what he/she does?
  • Airport test – Would you want to spend 4 hours stuck in an airport with him/her?
  • Shower test – Is this person passionate enough about the opportunities to be thinking of ideas in the shower?
  • Half-glass test – Would this person see a glass half-full as an opportunity?

 

Discover the new SEO. Thanks to Google’s Hummingbird update, search is less about keywords and more about high-quality content. It’s about the customer discovering the perfect opportunity. I think a big “a-ha” moment for many of those attending the SEO 2014 and Beyond session was when one of the panelists said “SEO is more than an hour a week or 20 minutes a day. Good SEO, SEO worth doing, can be a full-time job.” I’d like to thank the panel for pointing that out, because so many just don’t get it.

Be a people person. Most real estate professionals like being around people. Why would you get into the profession if you didn’t? But if you’ll remember, I am probably not what anyone would call a people person. I’m a process person – a super high C on the DISC assessment. But I think it was Tracy Sichterman of Berkeley Hills Realty who, in kind of a casual, side-note remark, said “Don’t call them leads. Call them people.” For those of us who caught it, it was a powerful moment and one that will stick with me. Even processes involve people… real people.

Ignore the noise. One of the most popular panels was about overcoming “shiny object syndrome.” Don’t get me wrong – there were some fabulous technologies showcased at Connect, for real estate and beyond. There were even drones. I’ll cover a few of these cool new technologies in future posts if I begin to implement them, but that doesn’t mean you should go grab them.

The panel, composed of some of the most tech-saavy people in the business, reminded us to take a step back. To think about how many new & snazzy apps you’ve downloaded and now you NEVER use. To think about the oh-so-cool-tech-based campaigns you now dread keeping up with. To think about what you REALLY do every day and what your customer REALLY wants. To look at the gaps and review the tech tools you already have to see if there’s a match somewhere. If not, THEN go out and grab something new.

So, 20,000 real estate agents and technology experts from around the world get together in midtown Manhattan for a few crazy days of non-stop sessions, working groups, networking events and tech demonstrations and the big takeaway from all of it is…

SIMPLIFY.

At least for me it was. It was a lesson about doing things that matter, doing them right and making real connections with the people who need your help.

Just like a superhero.

superhero

Socially Awkward in a Social World

“You must have a lot of work to do,” he says as he smiles and hands me my coffee. I drink a lot of coffee, and the gentleman at the café on this train has been pouring cup after cup for me for about seven hours now. I laugh and make some joke about fitting in in the city that never sleeps. We chat for a minute or two, just as we have each time I’ve returned for a refill.

“See? Small talk isn’t so hard,” I tell myself. It’s a lie. Small talk, for me, IS hard. Even though I do it every day. Even when I can fake it pretty well. Even when it’s about something I love as much as coffee.

In a few hours, I’ll be at the conference. I love going to big professional events like this… learning about new technologies, hearing success stories, feeling motivated, and I really do enjoy meeting new people.

ahy

But enjoying something doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.

You see, in my everyday life, I’m fairly socially awkward. Shy. Self-conscious. Anxious. It’s more about my appearance/presentation than my strengths/talents – I’m fairly confident in those. But talents don’t come into play when I start to think everyone is looking at me. Or that nobody is. And I can only feign arrogance for so long.

I think those who know me well find my career choice puzzling. Being in marketing forces me to fake a certain level of social comfort every single day. I’m grateful for that though, and fear that without it, I might just hide away from the world.

I am also grateful for social media, which has allowed me to connect with people from all over the world in all walks of life without any of that in-person awkwardness. Social media presents an opportunity for authenticity that is often missing from initial meetings. (Not that there aren’t fakes & frauds on Twitter or other platforms….) But online, I am me and I don’t really hide. If you don’t want to look, don’t. I’ll never know you didn’t.

There is something freeing about going away to large conferences. It’s a chance to be in your professional element and yet surrounded by thousands of people you don’t know, most of whom you’ll never see again. To go out on a limb and say hi. To tweet a fellow attendee. To ask a question… Out loud. To drop all of the anxiety bullshit and see what happens. To reflect. To breathe. To enjoy. And to make small talk on the train.

 

 

Do Less in 2014

Everyone seems to set New Year’s Resolutions to do more of this, more of that, in the coming year. More posts, more time commenting, more work on SEO, more adventure, more travel, more exercise… on and on. It’s always about MORE.

Do Less

I don’t know about you, but I am done with promising to do more. From 4 am ’till 11 pm, I do more. And at the end of the day, you know what – I beat myself up for not doing even MORE.

2014, for me, is a year to do less.

Less whining/bitching.
Less procrastinating.
Less beating myself up.
Less stressing out.
Less hiding.
Less telling my kids “not right now, mommy is busy.”
Less corrupting my body with harmful chemicals in foods, household products, bad habits, etc.
Less caring what other people think about me.
Less saying yes when I should say no.
Less apathy.

Obviously, these could all be turned around into things I want to do MORE. But it’s so much more freeing to resolve to do LESS. And in the end, gaining MORE.