Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Up Close Look at Eric Ward's Link Building Desktop

I was reading Matt Cutts post the other day titled My 8.7M Pixel Display, and it hit me.

There is no site devoted to showing the various desktop rigs for those of us who earn our livings in the SE/SEO-SEM/Link Building/Online Publicity field (seorigs.com is available, btw). I've found a couple other people like
Matt and Danny Sullivan who've posted pictures and descriptions of their desktop setups, monitor's etc., and having been asked many times over the years how I manage my daily workflow, I decided to explain it in pictures.

How I Work - Full View
This first shot shows the full command center (click it to enlarge). Bookend laptops, an HP on the left and a Dell Mini 9 on the right. Under the desk is a Dell Studio XPS. Four monitors (15 inch on the left lap, then to the right a 24 inch, a 22 inch, and a 9 inch). Note there are no wireless keyboards or mice. They were always more trouble than they were worth, plus having wired mice and keyboards makes it easier to hurl them greater distances when I have one of my moments (tip: If you use the cord like a lasso and the wind is blowing, you can sail a keyboard over 50 yards.

The Mini Me
That tiny laptop in the above picture (larger picture to the right) is a Dell Mini 9, and that's the one thing I take with me when I leave the office. Very handy. Mini Me's sole mission during the day is to run TweetDeck, which is what you see in the smaller photo. When I take it in the house after work, I use it like a Kindle. My first cell phone was about the same size. Seriously, I had that phone. In fact, note to Dell: please make the Mini a phone for us old school types.


ADD Cental
Just above the Mini is a 22 inch monitor, pictured closer at right, and this is what I call "Feed Central" aka ADD Central. It's blurry becasue that's what it looks like to me most of the time. Feed Central is my iGoogle homepage, and it currently has 57 feeds from folks I keep up with. I use this to scan all the news my brain can tolerate during the day, the amount of which varies depending on my Mtn. Dew blood level. On the positive side, this overload approach will help me know before anyone when my brain is turning to mush, because one day I'll look up at that monitor and ask who this Matt Cutts guy is?

Side Note: I use Firefox's find feature for the feed Central page to highlight the word "link" so that any time link appears in any post's title, I see a visual cue. That way I can scan and spot any post from any of the 57 sources that might be more pertinent to my work.

You can't see it very well, but the first three feeds across the top are Matt's, SEL, and WebProNews. I set all 57 sources to show the maximum 9 posts, so that's 513 posts live on that monitor at any given moment. Thank goodness for OCD, ADD, and Red Bull, or someday I'll be giving interviews like this nice chap to the right, mumbling "linking quid pro quo is spam, Clarice..."

The Main Workhorses
The HP Laptop and the 24 inch Dell monitor on the left are where the real link building takes place. I run Firefox, IE, Thunderbird, assorted tabs and tools, plus a remote session to my link analysis script box located at...Ha! Like I'd give that secret out. If I'm in a phone consult, I'll have skype, a web cam, glance screen sharing, and often trillian running at the same time. I usually have about ten windows open via tabs when I'm in heavy duty link dev mode. My Firefox is tricked out with about 25 add-ons. If you look closer, you can see that I keep a sidebar open on the left, and my tab bar open on the right. I do a lot of dragging and dropping, and even though there are countless link building tools, apps, and thingamabobs, it's often the simplest approach that works best. It's sad that I would call what I just described in this post simple, isn't it?

Multitasking Without Distraction
It's worth noting that when I go deep into link building mode for a client, I go invisible to outside communiques except as they relate to that specific project. I also turn off the Feed Central monitor and TweetDeck. Too distracting. There are some days where all I do all day long is I.D. targets and send email or make phone calls. Pure link seeking. I try not to do this too many days in a row, because it can get tedious, but...it's been proven to me through the years that you can't work at link building for just an hour or two a day. It takes long stretches of intense focus. I devote at least 4 consecutive hours or more of each day to client link building work. Back in the day, when I was starting out and the web was exploding, my wife and I worked side by side, often for 12 hours straight. This was before we had kids and mortgages.

The rest of my day is spent publishing URLwire, doing outreach and rep mgt., research and running link analysis scripts. Over the weekend I usually have 5-10 link audit scripts running, so on Monday there's always a pile of linking data for me to distill into reports.

That about covers it.

Why?
Part of the reason I've posted this is that many folks in the industry refer to me as "old school", and while I take it as a compliment, others regard that term with disdain, thinking my approach to link building is something like this. Hardly. As you can see above, my control center is not for the faint of heart or for those who can't multitask with abandon. Total the info points across my desktop, be they tweets or IMs, add in six email inboxes, and I figure I'm handling and scanning through roughly 3,000 items every day.

If that's old school, so be it.

What has remained old school is my ethos and outreach communication style and technique. And guess what? They work even better today than they did then.

Desktop Rig Links
If you have a page where you've shown and/or described your desktop setup, send me your link, and I'll post it here, hopefully creating an ever growing log of how we all actually do our thing all day.

Eric Ward (your on it)

Matt Cutts
Danny Sullivan
Craig Burgess of Digital Tsunami

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About The Link Building Best Practices Q and A
The Link Building Best Practices Q and A is provided free by Eric Ward. For sites with high value content, I offer several fee-based strategic linking services on a project basis.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny! So which SE person would play Clarice?

May 5, 2009 3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How the he** do you not lose your mind?

May 5, 2009 3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eric: Any truth to the rumor that Google or Intelius, Inc. are both vying to buy PeopleSearches.com?

http://www.PeopleSearches.com

May 5, 2009 10:54 PM  
Anonymous Stephen said...

What kind of bandwitdth are you using for this? Are you sites/servers hosted on those boxes?

May 6, 2009 11:54 AM  
Anonymous Jim S. said...

I think this is the second post of yours I've read where you referenced Silence of the Lambs. Are you trying to tell us something?

May 6, 2009 12:09 PM  
Anonymous mike said...

Do you have a technique for alerting you immediately when new links appear to your client's sites?

May 6, 2009 3:36 PM  
Blogger Eric Ward said...

Cable modem from Comcast. My sites are hosted elsewhere, but I keep a full copy of each site (ericward.com, urlwire.com) on my local box for editing, then I FTP them over to the live box. This blog is the only real CMS I use. Everything else is hand edited, and it shows :)

May 6, 2009 3:38 PM  
Blogger Eric Ward said...

Mike - yes, that's my next post :)

May 6, 2009 3:39 PM  
Anonymous Shimon said...

Eric,
Which monitor is connected to Mini? The one with 57 feeds?

May 6, 2009 6:19 PM  
Anonymous supaswag said...

A very interesting post. Thanks for sharing Eric. Your SEO karma is expanding all the time : )

May 7, 2009 7:02 AM  
Blogger Eric Ward said...

Shimon - Yes, the mini is what runs that monitor. When I bring the mini with me, feed central comes along, but it's tough to read the iGoogle page when detached from that 22 inch monitor and running just on the 9 incher.

May 7, 2009 8:48 AM  
Anonymous Shimon said...

Eric, let me go off topic a bit then. How well does Mini handle two screens? I assume monitor has 1680x1050 resolution, right?

May 7, 2009 2:55 PM  
Blogger Eric Ward said...

Yes, 1680x1050 on the 22 inch, 1024x600 on the mini. It's surpisingly crisp considering the low cost. The mini was $399, the monitor was $199.

May 8, 2009 7:57 AM  
Anonymous Shimon said...

Thanks, you've inspired me to make some changes to my workplace!

May 10, 2009 10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You wrote...

"plus a remote session to my link analysis script box"

Can you explain this in more detail without giving away any secret sauce?

May 29, 2009 9:37 AM  
Anonymous chris said...

A very interesting and funny post.

June 5, 2009 5:32 AM  
Blogger Thynks said...

what i find especially funny is how you have three keyboards to choose from, yet, you still use a physical calculator. me too.

July 30, 2009 10:14 AM  
Blogger Eric Ward said...

And paper sticky notes!

July 30, 2009 4:04 PM  

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