Do It Yourself SEO: An Essay for

I wrote this a couple of years ago for a journal of friends called Sundayed. Writing for Sundayed gave me a chance to stretch my wings and write about topics other than the accounting industry.

Do It Yourself SEO, August 21st, 2010

It’s not my intention to take food out of the mouths of hungry social media strategists.

One fine Boston afternoon, early in my blogging career, I met Chris Brogan, Aaron Strout, Rachel Happe and Jim Storer.  At the time I had a vague idea what they did, but I thank my lucky stars they were big enough to try to understand what I do.  None of them were too interested in the accounting industry but for some strange reason they were interested in me. They took me under their wing.  I’ve benefited from their advice and counsel. Since then, I’ve learned more about blogging and the tools of social media moguldom from many advertising, public relations, creative, community, and “digital media” professionals.

My first blogging teacher, however, was a guy in New York, a would-be novelist writing about his life as a bouncer. His blog used simple narrative form, but it’s what he wrote – essentially the same stories over and over – that made an impression on me.  Each post may have described a different night and a slightly different drama, but the themes and the words he used to describe them were repeated, over and over, like a Catholic mass.

I was watching when he hit the big time – linked-to by Gawker.  Traffic went through the roof and things suddenly changed.  Not that he varied his style or his subject matter.  The fights, the guidos, the drugs, the personal relationship disappointments remained the same.  But he sharpened his focus.  The Gawker link had exposed a new, subtle kind of media machinery that could make a blog, and therefore a writer, buzz-worthy and popular.  It wasn’t long before he got an agent and a book contract.

When I meet “blogging experts” and “social media strategists” now, some of them ask me questions.  How did you build your blog traffic?  How did you make so many media contacts so quickly?  How do you balance objective, investigative, journalistic writing with a biased, subject-matter expert POV? How do you monetize your significant time commitment? How do you generate inbound links?  How do you choose your outbound links? How did you get such high Google page ranking and high placement on so many key words?

Much of what I’ve done is to model or emulate those who’ve succeeded in the way I wanted to.

Like The Bouncer.

And Gawker.

I attribute much of what I’ve accomplished to measurement, first and foremost.  I’ve used as a primary metrics tool since the beginning. I look at the data in detail every day.

Try something new. See what happens. Rinse. Repeat.

One of my favorite techniques has been reviewing the “recent came from” links via Statcounter that show the Google searches that referred my site. I punch those up, see what else comes up and reach out to those who write about the same things I do.  By doing that during the first year, I met Dennis Howlett and many others who are now fellow travelers and strong supporters.

Another approach I use is called the “matchbook effect.”  I listened to a formal version of this concept back in July of 2008 at the Andy Sernovitz Word of Mouth Crash Course.

But I had been doing it instinctively.

Smoking is not very popular in the United States anymore. Restaurants and bars don’t give away matchbooks – reusable mementos with a name, address, and creative logo – to help customers remember them.  I collect matchbooks, even though I don’t smoke.  I’ve traveled all over and to many unusual places.  I’ve returned to some cities many times but sometimes after a long time away.  I collect matchbooks so I remember great restaurants and bars and can find them the next time I’m in town. I like to have recommendations ready for friends.  I have many unique matchbooks, in particular from South America, Oslo and Paris.  Some of them date all the way back to 1987 and my first trip to Brazil. I look at them every once and a while.

I’m thinking about how to generate the “matchbook effect” with every piece I write.  How can I leave my readers with something they’ll remember, something to lead them back to me, something that encourages them to tell a friend about me?

6 replies
  1. Joe
    Joe says:

    Francine that’s a great tip!

    Another metric to look at is Google Analytics or some other software that measures the stats on your website. This too can tell where people that landed on your site came from and what keywords they used to get there. Using stuff like this will give you a great birds eye view on what’s going on with your site.


    University of San Francisco SEO Training

  2. Francine
    Francine says:



    I have Google Analytics available, but have just not found it to be as timely or thorough as Statcounter. Maybe I’ve just gotten used to Statcounter. The key for me is to do it every day. You never know when someone new has found you. They don’t often give you warning.


  3. Sean McVey
    Sean McVey says:

    That’s interesting you prefer Statcounter. I’ll have to check it out. I have been learning a lot about analytics from this blog by Avinah Kaushik:

    He talks a lot about not only looking at the “what” in analytics (# of visits, time on page, etc.) but also the “why.” Sometimes you have to look beyond Statcounter and GA to understand how people are interacting with your site. This may mean giving surveys to users, or doing usability testing. I’m not expert, but I just think all of this is very interesting.

  4. Francine
    Francine says:

    @ Sean McVey

    Thanks for your comment. I find the Google Search analysis, along with keywords, to be the most informative. Certainly I am also surprised at how many interact with the site from their company computer, including visits from government agencies and regulators in US and abroad. It’s pretty amazing that they either don’t know or don’t care (the law firms too) that I can see what they’re looking at and how they are finding me.

    I have tried surveys but I get such a small response rate… I have tons of folks who send me emails directly and comment. Commenters can mask their email address but they often put it in for my benefit. So even though most interact with my site in a publicly anonymous way, I often know who they are and who they work for. I also moderate all comments. Sometimes folks message me though the comments knowing that I will read them but not publish them. Whatever works for you…

  5. Mike Dayoub, CFP®
    Mike Dayoub, CFP® says:

    Francine FYI I was amused to see my StatCounter ring up some visits from a Big Four right after I commented on one of your blog posts!

    They quickly saw it was just little ole me and my financial planning comments, not anyone that will change their business approach.

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