Posts Tagged ‘link building


Off-site Content–good, bad, or ugly?

Seriously. It's right under the picture of Lady Ga-Ga chihuahua.

Publishing off-site content is one of the most frequently mentioned SEO tricks.  Of all the ways to gather topical, relevant backlinks, off-site content has a lot going for it—you can have control of substance, link text, and to some degree, placement.

Or not. Depending on the content publisher.

Still, it’s totally worth it, right?


We’ve mentioned the strategy a few times before (here’s one in case you’ve forgotten 10 Step SEO # 6: External links (part b).

Let’s review, shall we?

A quick list of some possible off-site publication tactics:

  • press releases
  • articles
  • guest posts in blogs
  • customized content in aggregators (like Squidoo)
  • online community participation
  • forums
  • wikis
  • news groups
  • blog comments
  • social networking

All-in-all, we’d have to say that off-site content can be a very useful tool, particularly in long-term SEO campaigns. Still, there’s some things you should consider.

  1. Are links in the published content “no-follow”?
  2. How long will the content stay up?
  3. Does the content publisher allow other sites to duplicate their content?
  4. Does the publisher allow contextual links? Or just a link or two in the bio/attribution blurb?
  5. Do they publish other articles or content on the same general topic as yours?
  6. How long has the publication site been active?
  7. Do their internal pages have any PageRank?
  8. If it’s a blog or forum, do they archive?

And perhaps the biggest question we always ask our clients and ourselves:

Is off-site publication the best use of this content?

Because if you’re writing 300 word articles just to gain a link or two on a no-PR page, that stuff might do more for you as a new page of content on your own site. Think about it.


Top 5 Stupidest Link Strategies that Might Kind of Work

Well, you know us….

We are really NOT huge fans of spam in any of it’s greasy forms. However, we do confess that some of the slimy things that spammers do are grounded in some measure effective. Otherwise, why would anyone pollute the universe with their dreck?

So, in the interest of full SEO disclosure, here’s a list of very questionable link tactics that seem to bear some fruit. Tainted fruit. Cursed, tainted fruit.

  1. Blog comment spam. We hate this shit. No really. If you’ve got a blog, you’ve seen it: “Wow! what an idea ! What a concept ! Beautiful . Amazing.” (Actual comment submitted to us.) They submit this en masse, to pretty much every blog anywhere, hoping enough suckers approve it to give them some link joy. Of course, we do approve them sometimes, only we change the referral name to “Asshat Spammer” just in case whoever hired them takes a look into their referral logs…. Effective? Maybe. This is one of the things SearchDex got in trouble for.
  2. Reciprocal link request spam. We hate these too. You know the ones. An email out of nowhere, with boilerplate stuff like “My name is [random name here], Web Marketing Consultant. I’ve greatly enjoyed looking through your site and I was wondering if you’d be interested in exchanging links with my website, which has a related subject. I can offer you a HOME PAGE link back from my PR 4 related website… ”  These requests are generated by software, which is purchased by losers who then flood the world with crap hoping to get a link or two from unsuspecting webbies. Does it work? If you send a million spam emails like this, you might get 50 or so links. So if you don’t mind being an asshole, you might get some return on investment. If you want to hate them even more, here’s a kind of fun exposé….
  3. Fake blog posting spam. This is where your genius black-hatter might create a host of one-post blogs that are nothing more than a vehicle for a backlink or two.  They are usually sort of on topic with whatever page they’re linking to, but of little to no content value. The content in them is also copied (sometimes with minor changes) from one fake blog to the next. Does it work? Meh. Used to, maybe. Nowadays, while Google likes links from blogs, they seem to lose value if the blog doesn’t update at least semi-regularly. And duplicate content gets picked up pretty easily now.
  4. Multi-way reciprocal link network spam. Some of these get complicated. It’s an effort to fool Google by trading links in such a roundabout fashion that the Goog can’t tell they’ve been traded. At first, they were all three-way links: A links to B, B links to C, C links to A. That worked pretty well in the old days. For a while, lots of sites had “link networks” set up. Of course, Google caught on to that. So then it was four-way, five-way, many-way link exchanges, which you can buy your way into pretty easily. Do they work? Maybe, but not very well, unless every site in the network is in a similar topic space. Which would make it kind of easy to spot, we think.
  5. Referral log spam. This one is kind of obscure, but still epidemic.  Here’s what they do: using software that mimic internal search engines, they pull lists of blogs within specific topicspaces, then fire off an automated click to all of those sites. What the site gets is fake traffic, but traffic that shows up in their referral logs. Since some small percentage of web hosts leave their referral logs on unsecured severs—in theory—those logs should get spidered and then count as backlinks to the originating site. Does it work? We really kind wonder how it could.  First, do that many hosts really leave their logs unsecured? And second, do search engines really index them? And third, what possible link value could be derived from a giant text page full of thousands and thousands of links? Dunno. But there must be something to it, because the sonsofbitches keep filling up our traffic reports with them.

So there are five link spam tactics that we better never catch you using. Because they suck. And they all pretty much piss us off. And we know where you live.


The Trouble with Backlinks

Google started it. Yeah, blame them. Blame them hard and often. Back in 1996, two Stanford PhD students came up with a “better” way to categorize and rank websites in order to create an index that would help people find treasure amid that horrifying mess of 488,000 registered domains. Can you even imagine? Almost half a million websites?

Growth of Internet Domains from 1996 to 2011

We used to think 500,000 was a big number.

At the time, the search engine landscape was pretty impressive, with such luminaries as Alta Vista, Infoseek, Lycos, and others whose fame and glory lives on to this day…. no wait. Check that. They are all completely forgotten. This is because every one of them relied completely on things like keyword density and the keyword metatag to rank sites for their search results. Which, it turns out, was really really really easy to game. So you’d see sites selling tennis shoes with the words “free sex mp3” appearing like 4 thousand times at the bottom of the page. Fun days for us SEO youngsters!

Until those Stanford brainiacs came up with a little thing they called “Backrub.” Which was an algorithmic way to categorize sites based—not on their content—but on their popularity. Well, the boys took out a few patents, tweaked the thing by adding a couple of hundred other mysterious ranking factors, named it Google, grew to gigantic size practically overnight, went APO, and became the richest geeks in the universe.

Which is getting ahead of our story, just a bit. Because at first, this new approach truly ruled the net. Google grew to enormous size because their search results were amazing. Compared to all the once-was engines, it was revolutionary. If you entered something into the little white box, you actually stood a decent chance of finding a relevant page or two. Remarkable!

Pages stuffed with irrelevant keywords suddenly dropped way, way down the ranks in favor of sites that lots of people had made lots of links to, just because they were awesome.

Time passed, and Google evolved. They tweaked and fine-tuned. They worked tirelessly to make their little engine the best little engine. And all the while, we SEO-types schemed and plotted to mess it all up. What we wanted to do (and still want to do, of course) was trick the Mighty Google into thinking our sites were better than our competitors’ sites, whether they were actually relevant to the search or not. We did this in many ways. We’d come up with something that really seriously gamed the algo and won top ranks, then Google would counter with more tweaks. So we’d think of something else.

This escalation cycle has gone on continuously since the first Google release. Google wants to make all the content on the internet easy to locate through a simple keyword search. We want to sidetrack, obfuscate, control, and manipulate those searches to point you to sites that have paid us to do so.

Sniff. Sometimes we’re a little ashamed. Most of the time we’re figuring out new ways to short-circuit Google’s algorithm.

Which brings us to backlinks. And the Trouble with them.

As of the latest survey of SEO pros from the good folk at SEOMoz (which we highlighted as a Site of the Week a few weeks ago), the consensus is that links still account for something 40% of the Google algorithm. So they still carry a boatload of weight.

Even though we SEOs have been busy jamming up the works with fake links, crappy links, irrelevant links, imaginary links, 8-way reciprocal links, purchased links, blog comment spam links, and any other kind of oh-so-clever link garbage we can imagine, backlinks still work.

Which is a pity, really. Because goddamnit, we might be SEOs, but we want to be able to find stuff on the internet! And just like you and everyone else, we frequently can’t. Find. A. Damn. Thing. In fact, we just spent something like 2 hours trying to find the data for the graph we posted above. Pssffffffft.

I guess you makes your bed, you gets to lie in it.


The Perfect Backlink

What constitutes a perfect backlink? I mean, if you got to pick one link to your site from any page on the web, what would it be? What page would it be on, and what would it look like? If you don’t already know the answer, I’m here to help. Just consult this very short list of ideal backlink characteristics.

An ideal backlink should

  • come from a highly authoritative page
  • come from a highly relevant page
  • not have a “nofollow” meta tag
  • be one of only a very few links pointing out from the page
  • consist of text composed of a highly useful keyword phrase
  • be emphasized in some non-distracting way
  • be buried in highly relevant context.

In short, the very best search optimization backlink should be the only link out from the home page of the number one site in the same industry you’re in, using a great keyword phrase, bold, and inside a paragraph that talks about your exact sort of product or service.

For instance, imagine that this page was really really important in the world of search marketing, with a Google PageRank of 8/10. Now imagine that this paragraph is about how the Eugene search optimization industry was really taking off, revitalizing downtown, bringing big tax bucks to the local schools, and hiring 20 new high-pay staffers a month. Can you spot the ideal backlink?


10 Step SEO # 6: External links (part b)

Search engines today still value the right kind of backlinks very highly. A backlink to your site from the front page of the New York Times using “Eugene SEO” as link text will almost certainly give your site a BIG boost for searches on “Eugene SEO,” “SEO Eugene,” and maybe even “Eugene.” A few links from that kind site will put you on top for those queries.

A whole bunch of links from mid-level sites can do the same thing. A billion links from low-end sites will work, also—but it will be damn hard to not get the majority of them devalued to the point of worthlessness.

Last week, I told you everything I know about backlinks: what, why, and where. Today, I’ll conclude SEO Step #6 with a more practical discussion: how?

So we all know by now what not to do, right?

  • Don’t buy or sell links,
  • Don’t link to (or get links from) bad neighborhoods,
  • Don’t get all your links by trading,
  • Don’t get too many links at once,
  • Don’t get all your links from low quality sites,
  • Don’t waste all your time submitting to directories,
  • Don’t let all your backlinks use the same link text,
  • Don’t let your link portfolio be dominated by links from irrelevant sites,
  • Don’t count on lots and lots of backlinks from the same IP address.

Okay then. Doesn’t leave much to work with. So what, then, shall we do?

Here are the main ways I get links.

  • Off-site content publication. Press releases, articles, guest posts in blogs, customized content in aggregators (like Squidoo)
  • Online community participation. Forums, wikis, news groups, blog comments, social networking
  • Link bait.  YouTube videos, free downloads, games, any attractive content that is even remotely relevant to your site. (See March 29th post, Link Bait Ideas)

You may notice that “Link exchange requests,” “Directory submissions,” and “Link packages” did not make the list.

The main thing to remember is, backlink acquisition is a way of life. No, really. It’s not something the Marketing Department puts in the section of their plan titled “Other, Web-related.” Link building is long-term. Link building is on-going. Link building is a philosophy. Link building is for everyone.

All that means is this. If you want to be a successful link-acquirer, you have to make sure that everything you do (and everyone working for you does) concerning your website is aware of link potential, link strategy, and link execution.

  • Press release about the new store opening? Seed the text with a couple (and only a couple) of relevant links, and make sure the attribution paragraph contains a single link to the website.
  • Does your purchasing team have conversations with vendors and suppliers? Try to get them to work a backlink into the next agreement. And dictate the link text.
  • Creative team looking for new content ideas? Think link bait!
  • Email blast to 20,000 customers? Put in a few well-targeted text links.
  • Do you mandate a company-wide email signature? Make sure every employee from CEO to stock clerk has a link to the website, but also encourage them to have a text link in that signature also—just not all the same text link.
  • Does anybody in your company have a blog? Or a Facebook Fanpage? Or use Twitter? LINK OPPORTUNITIES!
  • White pagers? Think links.
  • Articles? Think Links.
  • Craigslist ads? THINK LINKS.

Every time you or someone in your company logs into an industry-related forum, or chat group, or professional organization, or leaves a comment on some relevant blog it is a link opportunity.

All of this is not to suggest you obsess about links. Because even if you get the company culture to consider the link potential of everyday communication, a lot of those links will not end up counting. Some will end up on “nofollow” pages. Some will have the hyperlink stripped before publication. Many will never make to an HTML page at all. The point is that if everybody knows about links and everybody knows about keywords over time links will accrue.

And yes, I know, in the rush to jump all over the whole linky linky thing,  I skipped right over 10 Step SEO, #4.  Next week.


SEO: The Beast with Two Heads (part two)

Yesterday I babbled on for a while about those SEO elements collectively referred to as “spider-friendliness,” or “on page.” Today we’ll continue the babble with an introduction to the other half of the search marketing equation, “off page” SEO.

Today’s topic is link building. Tomorrow we’ll finish this series, I promise.

TWO:  Off page SEO (or, if you build it, will they come?)
So we know that a website should be built with spider-access in mind. We know that the spiders need to be able to navigate to every page, need to be able to read what’s there, and need to be able to understand the content. So far so good—but now what?

Once you’re sure you’re spider-friendly on site, the job moves off site.  It’s time to start spreading the word: “I’m here, and I want company!”  Off site search marketing is, at the surface level, much simpler to understand than all that on site stuff. It can really be broken down into two concepts, both of which can pretty neatly be described as Promotion.

  1. Link building. You know you need links. Everybody says so. Sites with lots of links rank better, sell more, and smell like lilacs. At the same time, you’ve probably heard that you don’t want any “bad” links. Well, okay, that sounds easy…..
  2. Reputation management. And this is something every business that ever existed (even back in the olden days before the Internets were discovered) should be doing from day one.

Link building is really easy to say, and very time-consuming and difficult to do. Sorry. It just is. Unfortunately, you still have to do it. In fact, done right,  you’ll need to do it, and then do it again, and then keep doing it for as long as you own a website. Sorry about that, too.  But it’s true.

First, you should do all the things that every SEO will tell you to do:  submit your URL to the one or two remaining (potentially) useful directories, ask your friends for links, trade a few, start a blog, write a few articles. Okay, but not nearly enough.

Link building should really be thought of as a web business philosophy and woven into virtually everything you and everybody around you does—every single day. That does not mean that you have send out thousands of spam emails asking for links every day, or that you need to spend lots of money getting low-value content written, or that you need to hire three interns just to post spammy comments in blogs. I means that you should think about the link potential of all your normal behaviors.

Do you use email? Put a link to your website in a signature that is automatically attached to every outgoing email from you and everyone else in your employ.

Do you belong to any industry-related organizations? Make sure you register with any of their forums and/or mail groups and/or other communities, and put a link to your website in your profile (and in the signature of your forum posts and comments, if allowed.)

Do you buy advertising? Don’t just put up a single-image ad, use images with quality link-text surrounding them.

Do you post classified notices for job recruitment, selling things, buying things, dating, or anything else? Why not add a link your website at the bottom of the notice? If the classified ad is in anyway relevant to your business so much the better, but even if it’s not, it cannot hurt.

Do you have any business relationships (vendors, suppliers, sales reps, syndicates, affiliates, service providers, etc.)? Exploit them. Bug them to put up a link until they either do it, or threaten you.

Do you do any traditional promotion? Press releases? Always make damn sure anything even remotely promotional contains a clear link in the attribution line, and you might even salt a text link or two into the body of the release.

Will you be adding any more content to the site? Well, you better think about it. And if your business has any connection at all to anything interesting, amusing, or useful you’ll be well-served to develop content specifically for “link bait,” that is, content so wonderful people all over the world will want to link to you. YouTube, games, apps, instructionals, free downloads, whatever.

I’d say your work is cut out for you. So enlist help. Get everybody on your team to Think Link. Get started the minute your site goes live and keep at it for a year or two and you will be amazed at how many links accrue. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about Reputation Management.

More on link building

What are external links and why do I need them?