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Posted by Justin Briggs

If you want to boost rankings, few things are as effective as link building. It’s also the one of the hardest and most time consuming parts of SEO. I’d love to hear from others, so in the comments below share your best or most unique tips for link builders.

Following are nine of my tips to help you as a link builder. You may already be using some of these, but hopefully you’ll find a helpful nugget of information in here.

#1 Hide Behind Content StrategiesSomeone Hired a Link Buildersomeone hired a link builder

If you want to want to engage in less than pearly white link building tactics, do it behind cover of content based tactics.

Consider some of the tools available today, which can publicly show link velocity graphs (links acquired over time).


Graph from MajesticSEO.com

If a spike in links acquired happens without any other change to your site, it may appear a bit suspicious. I recommend starting your link building push at the same time as launching content. This way, there is a corresponding purpose behind a spike in your link profile.

#2 Be Approachable

When sending out link request emails, try to be approachable. I recommend including an offer to speak with them over the phone. It’s just one more trust element, and can set you apart from mass link request emails. Another way to be approachable is building links as a girl. Girls seem to build links more effectively than boys.

girl link builder Geoff, who’s been working with me on link building recently, wrote a pretty clever post about using OKCupid data to improve link requests.

Being non-traditional can help put people at ease. Recently, I got a link by using this in a link request email.

 "I think it’d be epic to bust out in Spanish like Stewie on Family Guy while blowing the head off a zombie with a shotgun"

A non-conventional link request is more effective than a standard "Dear Webmaster" email. And always test your emails, because some small changes can go a long way. I was able to increase my response rate on a campaign from 20% to 87% by reframing the link request. I find that less formal emails work better.

#3 Know the Basic of Sales

A few of my more valuable experiences as a link builder were the ones that taught me how to be better at sales. Knowing how to be persuasive can improve your link building. I recommend approaching a link building request as a sales pitch to be closed.

  • Build a relationship first.
  • Help them out.
  • Be a bit manipulative.
  • Frame the request.
  • Create a sense of urgency.
  • Overcome objections.
  • Make them a hero.

Some books I’ve enjoyed reading are Never Eat Alone, Predictably Irrational and the Little Red Book of Selling.

#4 Mining for Information

Dig in deep to find a prospective linker’s contact information. It’s a bit like stalking, but spending the extra time to find a way to get in touch can pay off.

I’ve found it useful to search email address on major social media sites, then cross reference any usernames or screen names I found with KnowEm. This can help find alternative ways to connect with a webmaster other than email.

I recommend using CTRL + F to search for rewritten email addresses. For example, check for [at], (at), a/t, [dot], d0t, etc. A lot of webmasters hide their contact information from spam bots by rewriting it. This destroys any obvious pattern, which can make finding the email tricky, but searching for some common rewrites usually does the trick.

#5 Get Smarter About Guest Blogging

“Matt made a point to mention that users are more likely to click on the first link in an article as opposed to a link at the bottom of the article. He said put your most important links at the top of the article. I believe it was Matt hinting to SEOs about this.” – Search Engine Land

As guest blogging becomes mainstream, it’s getting spammed more. I think guest blogging is great, but if this becomes a spammed link building tactic, expect it to become less effective, especially as SEOs start to automate guest blogging.

#6 Paid Links Work

Although I don’t support paid links, let’s just say that paid links work. There is a lot of risk associated with buying links, but if you’re going to.

  • Don’t buy obvious paid links.
  • Don’t buy from networks.
  • Don’t buy from anyone who discloses selling links.
  • Don’t use perfect anchor text, especially high value terms.
  • Buy links to link magnets and linkbait.
  • Mix it up and have no pattern.
  • Buy for juice / trust and not just anchors.
  • Donate and sponsor.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean I’m saying you should. SEOmoz doesn’t endorse buying links and there are ways to buy links without buying links.

#7 A Robust Profile, Not Just A Robust Link.

We all have a concept of the “perfect” link, but obtaining a link that’s relevant, high authority, and has the right anchor text is challenging.

I recommend building out a robust *profile*. Get what you can, where you can. I can get my juice in one place and my anchors somewhere else.

A lot of tactics that shouldn’t work still do, especially on sites that have an authoritative link profile otherwise. If you have a site with a strong link profile, but lacks anchor text optimization, think of some easy ways to get the anchor text you want.

#8 Understand Diminishing Returns

Shoot for domain diversity when building links.

At a certain point, the marginal value of a link from a particular domain starts to reduce. If you look at a factor like anchor text, the marginal value of a link may become negative.

diminishing returns

  1. Get a link from a domain
    and move on. (20 links on 20 domains > 20 links on 2 domains)
  2. Vary your anchor text often. (Over optimization can suppress rankings)

#9 Keep Up With New Tips and Tricks

Some of my favorites over the last few months are link profile visualization, Multi-links for Firefox, and that Excel and Google Docs have hyperlink functions. (Thanks to Tom & Ben for the hyperlink protip.)

I’ve even shared one of my own tricks, which is using GCSE to replace Yahoo! linkdomain.

Keeping your finger on the pulse of the link building community can help you find these little nuggets. Other than SEOmoz and Distilled, I really like stuff put out by Wiep, Ontolo, SEER, Blogstorm, and SEO Gadget.


I’d love to hear everyone else’s tips and ideas.

Feel free to connect with me on Twitter if you ever want to chat about link building. 

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Don’t spend your money on generic blog lists

BlogSave your money and spend your precious time where it will benefit you. Yahoo only submits 46 personal blogs and costs 9 per year to be listed. Even broad directories like the open directory project is not worth the time because of their long wait time, tough criteria and subpar acceptance rates.

If you are a larger organization and have the time to dedicate to a project like this it still provides a small SEO value. Your time is still much better spent focusing on Social Media or other online options.

.

Niche blog listings sites can be much more effective

Local or Niche listing sites can provide you with valuable backlinks and direct visitors to your site. Examples include

Boston Food Bloggers
Seattle Startup & Tech Blogs
San Francisco Mom Blogs
Consultant Talks

By using your search engine and seeking “Niche blogs” “Niche Bloggers” “Niche Blog List”. Try using tools like Yahoo Site Explorer and Open Site Explorer to search for a site that is popular and similar to yours. You’ll often find a few hundred opportunities.

Related posts:

  1. 40 Free Blog Hosts
  2. Top 50 Social Media Bookmarking Sites
  3. RSS Feed Directories

Joel Goldstein

Posted by randfish

I’ve gotten to spend some time recently with folks who run small, personal blogs (including my wife, friend Kim, and a travel blogging dinner meetup SEOmoz sponsored in Seattle this week), and many of them have asked me whether SEO, in particular link building, is an activity they can take on to help grow their online presence. I can certainly empathize with the challenges – from reading many of the guides and posts about link building here on SEOmoz or elsewhere in the industry, you could be forgiven for feeling "in over your head" or that "only real businesses can do this kind of stuff."

This post is intended to provide answers specifically targeted to individuals running their own blog, personally or semi-professionally, on how to engage in activities that will draw in links from other sites and grow you potential to rank in the search engines.

#1: Generic Directories Aren’t Your Best Bet

Thinking of spending a few dozen or a couple hundred dollars on a generic directory listing like Yahoo! or Best of the Web? For personal bloggers, my advice would be to save your money. These directory listings may provide some small amount of value, but there are dozens of different activities you could engage in that cost less or have higher ROI. Generics are also extremely unlikely to send you direct traffic (and what’s more – Yahoo! only lists 46 personal blogs now; it might be hard to make the cut)

Yahoo! Directory Listings
_
Not worth the 9 for personal bloggers

Even those like the long-neglected Open Directory Project have such long wait times, tough criteria and poor acceptance rates that it’s barely worth submitting these days. There may be a few exceptions here and there, but on the whole, I’d urge personal bloggers to shy away from large, subject-agnostic directory sites.

Note: These generics may make sense for larger operations and sites, depending on your goals.

#2: Niche Blog Listing Sites Can Be Much More Effective

Don’t give up on directories or listing sites entirely. For personal blogs, particularly those with a targeted niche, there are a lot of good places to create listings or fill out a submission form. For example, here’s some blogs in specific niches I’d be very You can find these types of sites quite easily through searches, but looking at the link profiles of other blogs in your niche that perform well in the search rankings can also provide a lot of value.

You can use search queries like "niche+blogs," "niche+bloggers," "niche+blogs+list" at Google/Bing or try Yahoo! Site Explorer or Open Site Explorer – plug in the blogs you’re most jealous of (or most similar to) and you’ll often find a few dozen to a few hundred opportunities.

#3: A Few Well-Targeted Searches Can Reveal Hundreds of Link Opportunities

Finding quality, targeted directories and lists can be a good start, and may bring traffic as well as better search rankings, but if you get creative with your searches, you’ll often find even more specific and sometimes valuable opportunities. Think of these queries on three levels – overall blog topic (similar to the suggestion above), category theme (of or related to one of your primary, consistent topic areas) and post-specific (related to an individual piece you’ve authored or are considering writing).

For category themes, you’ll want to identify a particularly strong category-focus on your site. For example, my wife has a collection of posts about air travel, and could find opportunities for links specifically to this section or posts in them using queries like air travel blogs suggest or air travel resources. Don’t give up if you don’t find opportunities on the first page of results -dig deep – it’s often where you’ll find the best opportunities.

You can also use this tactic on individual posts – particularly those that tackle important, controversial or high-demand topics – the kind that fit nicely into resource collection lists.

Link Acquisition Assistant in Labs
_
This Labs tool can help make running the right queries easy

Once you have a few posts or categories in mind, leverage link searches from this SEOmoz list, this one from SEJournal or this one from SELand. You can also use the Link Acquisition Assistant from Labs and this free tool from SoloSEO to help.

#4: Answer Questions in Online Forums / Q+A Sites 

When you participate positively in online forums, it often sends referrals to your site from those who check out your profile. Many of these are nofollowed (meaning they don’t pass link value in the search engines’ eyes – more on this here), but the traffic you receive from those who ask the qu
estions or who find value in your response can be useful – and earn you links.

As an example, for the past 6 months, I’ve been answering a question or two each week on Quora, a relatively new but well-regarded Q+A site focused on technology and startups. My answers page shows that I’ve left 77 total answers since April (~11/month) and you can see the impact that has on traffic back to SEOmoz:

Referring Traffic from Quora
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SEOmoz’s traffic from Quora (past 30 days)

While not stellar, it has been building as the site grows and the answers get indexed by search engines and seen by more people. For personal bloggers, spending a few hours each month contributing to 5-10 relevant Q+A sites or forums can have a substantive impact on your traffic and on links that you generate inside your community. It’s a great way to "interact" with those who, otherwise, might never stumble across your site.

Some of the broad Q+A sites I recommend looking at include:

  • LinkedIn Answers (particularly if you have a professional focus)
  • Yahoo! Answers (depends on your topic – some areas are very low quality)
  • Wiki Answers (gets good search traffic, but a less active intra-community population)
  • Facebook Questions (very new, but big possibilities for the future)
  • Askville (from Amazon, generic, but large and well-trafficked)
  • Quora (the above mentioned startup – currently has a tech/valley bent, but is growing and expanding fast)

Of course, you’ll also want to identify niche and subject-specific sites where contributions can be made. A good example starting point would be something like StackExchange’s list of Q+A sites on their platform or using a list of communities (e.g. ODP’s Math Chats & Forums). 

#5: Submit Your Best Work to Relevant Social Portals

If you have posts that you feel are especially brilliant, interesting and potentially "viral" (meaning lots of web visitors will want to share them with others once they’ve seen it), there are a number of portals that can help drive traffic and attention through social "voting" or editorial review. A relatively good list is here (though it’s not fully comprehensive), but I’ll also tackle some specific examples:

  • Kirtsy – a niche social site focused on fashion, arts, style and family.
  • Care2 News – one of the most popular niche social voting sites on non-profit, environmental and societal stories
  • Hacker News – a very popular community around startups, technology and entrepreneurship
  • Subreddits – Reddit has grown to become one of the most trafficked social sites on the web, and they have categories (aka "subreddits") for many topics

Just be aware that submissions should be carefully considered. If you spam these types of sites with everything you write or even a few inconsistent or irrelevant pieces, you can be banned, downvoted or simply shunned by the other contributors/voters. The best way to know what to submit vs. not is to read the site’s top pieces regularly and get a "feel" for what’s appropriate.

#6: Use Twitter (and possibly Facebook + StumbleUpon) on Every Post

While you should be cautious about submitting every piece you write to social voting sites, there are fewer reasons to hold yourself back from promoting everything your post on Twitter, Facebook and StumbleUpon. In fact, may of your fans, friends and followers on Twitter/Facebook may be surprised and disappointed if they don’t see a stream of your latest content through those channels. While subscribing via RSS or email are still quite popular, many folks use Twitter/FB as a way to keep up with your content.

I do strongly recommend that if you’re sharing via Twitter (in particular) that you use a URL shortener like bit.ly that captures and dispalys click-through data so you can measure an improve (see my blog post on Twitter CTR for a more in-depth analysis of that issue).

StumbleUpon Interests
_
StumbleUpon’s "Interests" include hundreds of topics

StumbleUpon is bit different, in that you earn traffic from it based on the ratio of visits to "thumbs up" received by those seeing your work. However, unlike a Reddit, Hacker News or Digg, there’s no stigma or restriction on thumbing up / submitting every post you create. Providing a good, relevant description and careful categorization is a must, and there may be cases where the type of site you’re running just doesn’t have the relevance to SU’s audience. But, in many cases, regular post submission, at least on the top 50% of your work, can make good sense and drive very nice traffic. SU gets smart about your site, their users and the tagging/categorization system, sending only those visitors who have some interest in your topic to the pages you submit.

#7: Guest Post Strategically

One of the most common pieces of advice I see on growing one’s blog audience and links is to "guest post" (a practice where one blogger creates content for another site and earns readers, recognition and a referring link). This is, undoubtedly, an excellent way to reach a new audience and create value for both parties. However, like many common tactics in link building (blogrolls, generic directories, reciprocal links), it can easily be abused.

The past few years have seen a bevy of low quality guest posting submissions and it’s reached an extent where many bloggers and sites that engage with them will publicly message that they don’t accept guest posts. A must-read piece on this topic comes from Kelly Diels on ProBlogger – Guest Posts: How-to, Where-to, Where-Not-To.

The only other critical piece of advice I have for thinking about and choosing guest post options is to be strategic in your decisions about your use of time and content. If you have an amazing piece of content that could perform well, earn lots of traffic and links, it could be a great move to use it on your own site OR guest post it on someone else’s. To choose correctly, you need to weigh the potential positives and negatives:

  • Is the content evergreen (meaning it will remain useful and valuable for a long time)? If so, you may want to favor keeping it on your site, as it can continue to build value and earn links long after publication. If the content is highly temporal, it coul
    d work well as a guest post, earning you immediate attention, but not costing you as much in the long run.
  • Do you have the content/value to take advantage of an inbound traffic rush? If you guest post on a powerful site this week and 5-10% of those visitors check out your site, will they be inspired to stay, subscribe and read more? If you’ve neglected your own blog and don’t have content as powerful, compelling and interesting there as the guest post you’ve just authored, you could be losing a considerable amount of the potential value.
  • Have you guest posted on this site before or have they linked to you frequently? When that’s the case, the value of the link from both a new-audience-exposure and SEO perspective may be diminished. Preaching to the choir has it’s use, but it should probably be done on your own site. You want to branch out, find new sites and audiences to connect with and not get stuck in the same small community. The exception to this rule is when an extremely large, influential site wants you to write for them regularly or semi-regularly. If the NYTimes travel blog is ready to host a 4th article from you, don’t say no.

Finally, if you’re considering guest posting or hosting guest posts, I can heartily recommend My Blog Guest, a great community resource/tool for making contacts on both sides.

#8: Maintain a Smart, Detailed Blogroll

A long time ago, blogrolls were similar to "following" an account on Twitter – if someone interesting linked to you on their blogroll, you’d likely peruse their site and link to them. Today, it’s rare for this reciprocation to take place unless you’ve made your site stand out in some way. Blogrolls, in the traditional sense (long lists of sites on a sidebar) are also less useful from a user’s perspective, particuarly when no description or segmentation is provided.

I’d suggest for those leveraging blogrolls on their own sites and requesting inclusion in others, a more robust, advanced and useful way. For example:

Blogroll Segmentation
_
An example of a segmented "blogroll" with descriptions

By separating your blogroll into sections/categories and providing descriptions of the sites you include, you can provide more value to those skimming for interesting links and more context for those you mention. The second part of a good blogroll is to be strategic in focus. Listing only the biggest and most-read industry sources/bloggers likely won’t bring you as much potential reciprocation as finding great niche bloggers with less traffic. These sites may indeed see a few referrals or a link from you and check out your site, creating the beginnings of a relationship or even a possible link.

#9: Don’t Ignore Traditional Media

As bloggers, we often think of ourselves as separate from the mainstream media world and worry that resentment may be harbored. But, in my experience, traditional media often wants and needs blogs as sources for inspiration, for quotes on stories and to help understand a new niche or topic they’re writing about. There’s a number of good ways to engage with the press to help your personal blog gain exposure:

  • Story Sources: Services like HARO and ProfNet exist to help connect reporters to "experts" or amateurs relevant to the stories they’re writing (good piece on a blogger’s HARO experience here). However, connections aren’t limited to these portals alone – by following reporters/journalists on Twitter and connecting/commenting on their own personal/news blogs, you can often build a relationship that will later result in a citation/link.
  • Comment on Mainstream Media Stories: Many bloggers are well aware of the benefits of engaging with their fellow blogs and bloggers by leaving comments, but fail to do so on traditional publications. It can be daunting to see hundreds or thousands of comments on an NYTimes piece, but it also means there’s tens of thousands of visitors perusing those comments, and leaving intelligent, robust, useful replies and references can be a substantive brand-builder and traffic driver.
  • Reference their Content in Your Posts: Even mainstream media folks will look at their traffic referrers and those writing about their work, and if you add great value to the conversation, you could be a central part of it next time. Just writing about topics that are getting mainstream media attention in unique, interesting ways can bring links. For example, in October, I wrote about a study on traffic to advertising value that had received lots of press. My critique was then picked up by several other sources, including the Neiman Journalism Lab at Harvard.

The mainstream press may have financial troubles, but they still generate an extraordinary share of time spent online. Don’t ignore them as an opportunity to grow your site’s reach.

#10: Don’t Buy Links or Link "Advertising"

You’ll undoubtedly see banners, links and advertising like those below:

Ads for Buying LinksAd for Buying Links
_

Just because the ads are on Google doesn’t mean it’s not risky

I’d strongly advise you against using these paid sources to boost your blog’s links. They tend to send very low and low quality traffic and are high risk from a search engine ranking perspective. While Google has, recently, been soft on link buying and manipulation, that’s supposedly about to change, as the webspam team gets more resources (via GG’s Head of Webspam at Pubcon). Risk isn’t the only reason – there’s also opportunity cost. When you spend money buying or renting links, you lose out on the potential of those resources to be spent on other ways of earning links the engines will want to count. This post on 8 Ways to Buy Links Without "Buying Links" is a good start.

#11: Attend Local Meetups & Free Events

One of the most obvious and enjoyable ways to earn links and branding for your blog is to find local events and meetups for those in blogging, technology or your particular niche, and attend. It can be overwhelming to go to an event by yourself without knowing anyone first, so leverage Twitter and your blog’s network to find folks who comment, read, run blogs or tweet about your site and build those relationships online before you take them into the real world.

Events on Eventbrite
Several upcoming Seattle events via Eventbrite

A few great resources for finding local events include Eventbrite, Meetup.com, LinkedIn Events and Facebook (but beware, FB only shows events you’re connected to through existing friends/groups). Mashable also has a great list of Ways to Find Local Twitter Users in Your Town.

#12: Comment, Engage & Build Relationships

When you’re finding new blogs to connect with and comment on, your first instinct will be to focus on dropping relevant links back to your blog posts, getting your name/link prominent in the comments and driving traffic back to your site. These are all fine things – and they should encourage you to leave valuable, useful comments, which other bloggers appreciate (if you do anything but, your comments are likely to be erased or marked as spam). But, you should also consider the value of commenting regularly and productively simply to build a relationship with the few key bloggers/sites that matter most to you.

These aren’t necessarily the sites with the most traffic or highest metrics, but those whom you’d like to build and have a professional, friendly relationship. That means looking beyond the content to the tone, voice and emotional resonance between yourself and the blog author. If you feel a connection, try formalizing the relationship after a few weeks of chatting online (through comments, Twitter, etc). If you’re good at emotional intelligence, chances are it could become a real friendship and/or productive, professional relationship.

In many ways, these are better than just earning links, because you’ll have enhanced your online reach through another human (or many) who can then provide recommendations, connections and advice. Just be sure you’re willing to put into the relationship in equal proportion (or greater at the start).

#13: Use Plugins & Site Features that will Enhance Your Reach

WordPress, along with several other popular blog content management systems, offer a great variety of plugins and tools to help market your site, but none of them are automatic. To have an impact, you’ll need to use these features wisely, and not overburden your users with too many options/actions to take.

WP Tweet Button Options
WP Tweet Button: a plugin with lots of customization for Twitter buttons in WordPress

Tools that help make sharing content easier, promoting your blog’s reach (and providing social proof – a key element in making others interested in your work), and help you manage, monitor and improve your site are smart choices to consider. A few of my quick favorites include:

  • WP Tweet Button – as shown above, it allows you to customize a link to Tweet posts/pages for placement on your site.
  • Google Analyticator – an excellent plugin that integrates your Google Analytics traffic data right into your WordPress admin home, making sure you’re consistently aware of and thinking about traffic and metrics.
  • Feedburner Widget – Feedburner itself is a great way to get analytics about your feed; this widget makes it easy to share that link and attract signups (and you can customize the look/feel/messaging). It also enables easy subscription via email; a popular option for many who don’t use RSS.
  • Increase Sociability – Allows you to customize a welcome message for visitors from specific social sites; it’s particularly effective with StumbleUpon traffic.

However, I’d be remiss to make so short a list without referring you to some of the excellent, longer lists out there, including SEO Plugins from Michael Gray (which goes way beyond just SEO plugins), 21 of the Best WordPress Plugins from Marketing Pilgrim and Yoast’s WordPress Plugins. You almost certainly don’t want all of these, but picking a choice few and testing them out could bring better returns from every post you write.

#14: Include Strategic Links in Your Online "Bio"

A person’s online "bio" follows them around the web like a bad habit. Make yours useful, easy to embed and valuable to your site by strategically embedding links and references. You want to come across as authoritative, interesting, possibly humorous or at least approachable. Here’s mine:

Rand's Online Bio

I’ve not only chosen links on SEOmoz itself, but also to other mentions of me online. These help those pages rank well, and help pass link juice to those pages which, in turn, have good links back to my site. It’s a virtuous circle, and whenever I’m interviewed, speaking at an event or merely a contributor to an online article, the bio appears. Likewise, when anyone investigates my profile, they find those links and (hopefully) some of them follow them and possibly reference, too.


Hopefully, if you have some less-SEO-savvy/techy friends running their own blogs, this post can be a valuable resource. Please do contribute your own ideas and suggestions for personal blog link building; we’d love to see them (and feel free to link to posts/examples in your comments).

p.s. It wasn’t my intention to write another "numbered list" post this week, but this one became far less manageable without the numerical notations, so I’ve added them for readability.

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog
Post image for Natural Link Building: Past, Present and (Predicting) The Future

A while ago I wrote my case study on how I listened to Google and failed. The post got a lot of attention from the SEO community. Many people wondered whether natural link building was really dead and what was the future of building natural links. I’ll try to answer some of those questions in this post. The statements below are a mix of my opinion/my personal observations.

1. Is There a Universal Definition of ‘Natural Link Building’?

There’s one thing I’ve learned from some of the reactions of my previous post: Not all people have the same definition of what natural link building is.

Put in simple terms, a natural link is a link you get from someone who found your page and decided (on his/her own volition and  without any direct influence from you) to link to it.

Why did the person decided to link to you? Some of the possible reasons include:

- Not necessarily for the content but because you’re an authority in that topic

- For the valuable/controversial/funny content

- Or maybe s/he had a good day and wanted to link to a bunch of random folks on the web :)

As you can see, there are many reasons why someone would link ‘naturally’ to you. Valuable content is only one reason.

2. Natural Link Building: The Past

In my previous post, I mentioned this article on 25 Free People Search Engines as a case study of a successful link bait. The article got 140k+ views from StumbleUpon and also a bunch of editorial links (check Yahoo and OpenSiteExplorer for more details). Lists were quite popular back in 2008-2009 and you could write anything that was somewhat interesting as a list and get popular on Digg/Stumbleupon/Delicious.

Some SEOs realized this opportunity and started creating a bunch of these types of posts (SeoMoz is a good example. Rand once talked about how they went crazy with list posts during that time). After a while, the effectiveness of list posts as a link bait method reduced drastically because many people realized how powerful they were and everybody started creating their “top x ways to ____” type of articles.

Twitter and Facebook weren’t very popular back then, so you got a lot more links from unique root domains rather than re-tweets or Facebook ‘likes’.

Then images became quite popular (people love pictures more than text–not surprising) and a bunch of web design blogs suddenly appeared with their “30+ Beautiful ____” showcase posts. Just type “beautiful site:stumbleupon.com” or “beautiful site:digg.com” if you want to see how popular they were. As with lists, ‘showcase’ posts are also dying slowly, but their popularity lasted long enough to give rise to a whole new category of web design blogs (which are more like gallery resources, honestly).

By the way, I am talking about the ‘rule’ here. There are always exceptions. Some amazing list posts still go popular occasionally (Cracked.com is very good in making creative list posts).

3. Natural Link Building: The Present

The number of people who tried to get their posts to go viral (by writing list posts and publishing images) increased dramatically and, at the same time, Twitter and Facebook REALLY took off. People that wanted to ‘share good stuff’ found these services easier to use for sharing than having a WordPress or Blogspot blog. The result? If you create linkbait and it goes popular, then you should expect a lot of re-tweets/stumble thumbs-ups/Facebook ‘likes’ but a very small number of links from different unique root domains. Do these links from Facebook/Twitter carry any special importance?

Matt Cutts once said in a YouTube video that they rate links from Facebook and Twitter just like any other link! Yay!

One recent lesson I’ve learned about ‘niche’ link building is that you can get viral in your niche community. Take SEO and this blog, for example. I’ve witnessed how different SEOs follow each other and, in case someone has something interesting to share, then other people in the industry re-tweet him and the chain goes on. This is not the case for every niche market unfortunately.

4. What’s the Future of Natural Link Building? Is it DEAD?!??!

Okay, 3 points here:

  • Many people who link ‘naturally’ have switched to Twitter/Facebook (this is from my personal observations)
  • Matt Cutts said Google treats Facebook/Twitter links the same as any other link
  • Thus, if you want to build natural links, you need to appeal to a VERY SMALL number of people who still own sites and want to link to other resources (very, very tiny minority)

This is, of course, a very ineffective strategy, which is why, in my opinion, you have an increasing number of people who go and hunt for links (that are not natural of course). They can get some great links with great content but the result is re-tweets and so on which aren’t very important in Google eyes.

PLUS, according to some SEOs, people that own websites became stingy because of the ‘do follow’ paranoia of ‘leaking PR,’ so that could be a big factor as well.

5. What Does the Future Hold?

I am pretty sure Google will start treating Facebook shares/Twitter re-tweets as more than just 1 ordinary link from a same domain. These links will probably become more important for ranking in the SERPs.

The only problem here is spam. If Google starts giving greater importance to Facebook/Twitter, they know people will start spamming these platforms like crazy and new markets will emerge where people will sell re-tweets/Facebook shares depending on the profile ‘authority’.

I hope you found this post to be useful.

This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.

Natural Link Building: Past, Present and (Predicting) The Future

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Michael Gray – Graywolf’s SEO Blog

Posted by Paddy_Moogan

One issue we seem to come across quite a lot as a search consultancy is helping clients do their own link building. As we all know, link building can be a difficult task even when you’re a full time SEO, let alone if it’s not even your main role within a company.

To overcome this, we try and provide processes and examples which are easily followed and provide the best return on time spent. The point of this post is to provide you with easy to follow tips for finding blogs and websites to get links from. I’ll provide specific examples to help with this too. I want these to be as actionable as possible rather than just giving you theory.

As you might have noticed from my previous posts, I like to display processes in a graphic where possible. This post can be split down into this basic link building process:

What are you USPs & Resources

A USP is your unique selling point, what makes you different from your competitors. For me, this is one of the most important parts of your link building strategy. This is the stage where you are able to identify what you can use to get links that your competitors can’t. These are the links that can ultimately make the difference between 3rd and 1st in Google rankings. We’ve written about this a few times including this case study of using bespoke products to get links.

Therefore the first step should always be to list your USPs. This can help you find the quality links quicker. The USPs that you find will then feed into our research on finding places to get links from which will be covered below.

Key Pro Tip – Don’t just look at the website to try and find the USPs. There is a big difference between the USPs that you spot on a website and those that you’ll find in a company as a whole. Some of the examples below will not be found by just looking at the website, you need to get them from the company itself.

I love giving examples, but being a USP, only you can really find out what they are!  The link above is a great example of one that Tom found. My advice would be to get inside a company and find out everything you can about them to find these USPs.

Having said that, there are more generic "resources" which could be applicable to a number of websites and companies out there. I’ve listed a few examples of these below along with how they can help you secure links.

Influential Staff

If you have staff who are quite well known in the industry, then this can certainly help you on a number of fronts. They can provide you with intros to their business associates who in turn may put you in touch with website editors. They can also try and call in favours from people to arrange guest blogging opportunities perhaps, ask suppliers to give you a link from their website. 

Stock/Products

If you are an Ecommerce website, you can use spare stock and products to get links in a number of ways. You can send samples to industry experts, bloggers or just regular customers and ask them to write a review on their website. You can also donate products to a good cause like a charity or a sports team and ask for a link to your website in return.

Discount Vouchers

I love this one. You can use discount vouchers to get links by letting industry sites and bloggers know about them. Encourage them to use the discount vouchers themselves and to share them with their readers. This makes the blogger look good, will keep their readers happy and send more traffic to your website. 

Email Lists

This one can work as a link building bargaining chip. If you ask for a link from someone and they want a link in return, many of us will say we can’t do that. How about offering them a feature in your newsletter that goes out to x number of people every month?  They will benefit by getting exposure to lots of targeted people and will probably see a spike in traffic as a result, whilst you get the one way link you want.

External Web Properties such as microsites

Similar to email lists, these can be used as bargaining chips to give people exposure whilst not linking to them directly from your main site. This works even better if you have control of pages which are not domains you own. Think about Facebook business pages, Twitter pages or even pages on content platforms such as Hubpages.

Existing Link Bait or Content

Looking at the existing content on a website or reviewing previous attempts at link bait can be very worthwhile. Sometimes there may be some amazing pieces of content created where the promotion didn’t quite work that well or it didn’t attract as many links as it deserved. If you find content like this, then you have a shortcut to a great link bait campaign.

Environmentally Friendly Company Policies

I go into more detail about this one below as I use it as an example. The principle however is that there are various websites and initiatives online that will give links and exposure to companies who are conscious of their effect on the environment.

Charity Work carried out by the company

This is great from a PR point of view and can sometimes get you links from news sites, but it can also get you link from the charity websites themselves. Some will have pages where they list the people and companies who have supported them. These are good places to get links from whilst doing something great for others at the same time.

Resource in terms of staff who have “spare” time

An example here could be a client who have customer service or call centre staff who are not always busy. There may be gaps in the day when they can do other tasks to help out with the SEO. Small tasks like creating bits of content, Tweeting on your behalf or joining forums and social media sites are all simple tasks which can be delegated.

Whatever your USPs are, the key is to make sure you use list them and feed them through into your link building campaigns.

At this point, you should have a list of USPs which you can now use to find websites that will link to you because of them. Lets move onto the next step which is finding the links you want.

Start with the Basics – Google it! 

Sounds obvious, but seriously this is the best place to start. Lets take an example of a USP of our company having some “green” credentials or being environmentally friendly policies.


 

In the interests of saving time, I’m going to give an example of how to narrow this down a bit. But I wanted to stress the point that a search as obvious as this can bring back some good results.

To narrow things down a bit, you could do this:


 

The addition of inurl:links tells Google to only show results where the URL contains the word "links".
Just adding this reduced my results significantly and more importantly, gave me a better set of results and therefore a better chance of getting links quickly.

Using Advanced Google Searches

I gave a few tips on this in my previous SEOmoz post on Market Research for Link Building but wanted to go into a bit more detail here and provide a few extra search queries for you to use. Note that you can choose to add keywords to these queries. However depending on the scope of the guest blogging you can do, you could leave keywords to create less specific search results, which might open up new areas and angles.

Don’t Forget your USPs

Continuing with the idea of using your USPs, if I had a site that always had some kind of discount voucher or special offer running, I could use the following search:

frugal blog +"discount vouchers"

This will return blogs that are focused around saving money by giving tips and discount vouchers to their users. The perfect sites to contact and share your discount vouchers with.

Oh and if you want a real quick list of sites, here is a massive list of discount sites :)

Finding Guest Blog Post Opportunities

I’m not going to preach to you about the benefits of guest blogging as a link building technique, it’s enough to say it can work very well. Here are my favourite search queries for finding these opportunities:

inurl:guest-post –how to – seo

This one works on the basis that many blog owners will highlight the post being a guest one within the title which then puts the wording into the URL. Also, again to save time, I’ve excluded “how to guest post” style articles and SEO as they were scattered amongst the results and take time to filter out manually.

inurl:label/guest –how to –seo

Similar to the one above, this one is aimed at Blogspot blogs, results don’t seem quite as good but there are still plenty of opportunities.

inurl:category/guest

This is great as lots of standard WordPress blogs will use this structure for their URL so you usually get a decent amount of results.

keyword +blog +july 2010 inurl:guest

The advantage of this one is that you are limiting your results in such a way as to only show active blogs. Chances are that if a blog includes a recent month and year on the page, they are active and are therefore more likely to respond.

Finding Directories unlikely to get you into trouble

We are always asked – will I get a penalty if I get a link from this directory. Well its a tough question to answer and not in the scope of this post. Instead I’ll point you towards the guidelines in this section of the SEOmoz Guide to Link Building.

To try and help find directories that are unlikely to cause you an issue, try a search query such as this:

keyword inurl:directory –buy –anchor text –pagerank –pr

You can add all sorts of additional words to this, but the idea is that you don’t want to get links from a directory who are blatantly giving links in order to pass anchor text and PageRank in return for money.

Use the Similar Sites Feature on Google

Really quick tip here but this can be quite effective. When you are doing the research on finding sites in Google, you will come across a few gems which are perfectly suited to the types of site you want. When you find these, use the Similar feature on Google to find sites which are along the same lines:

This brings up a great list of additional places to get links from that may not have originally appeared in the search you ran.

To take things a step further, you can tweak the search to include different keywords, such as the original one we started with:
 

The great thing about this kind of query is that it keeps things as relevant as possible. It also helps if you choose a fairly authoritative website to use as your related one because Google seem to provide sites which are of a similar authority. 

Getting a bit more creative with competitor research

There are a few tools around at the moment that are designed to help with local search and finding places to get citations from. Rand mentioned this one from Whitespark in a blog post on link building last week. However I have a couple more tips that could also help.

Search for Competitor Phone Numbers

This can be a little hit and miss if I’m honest but if you come across certain competitors who are very active in getting citations and links from business listing sites, then this can be a goldmine. You can cut down the time spent on this by using multiple competitor phone numbers at the same time:

"0800 123 4567" OR "0700 123 4567" OR "0845 123 4567"

As I said, can be a bit hit and miss but certainly worth a try and very actionable.

Quality Control 

Another common question we hear from clients is "how do I know this is a good page to get a link from?"  Again, a tough one to answer as many experienced SEOs will use their instinct as well as tools, so they ‘just know’ if a page is good or not.

Unfortunately, many SEOs do not have this level of experience and your clients certainly will not be able to do this. So here are a few questions they can ask themselves instead. Some will be made easier to answer by using some simple tools which I’ve also provided.

1. Has the page been cached?

Unless the page is very, very new, then the answer should be yes if you want a link from it.

Check using the Google Toolbar or SEO Book Toolbar

2. How many outgoing links are there on the page?

Its hard to put a fixed number on this as there are legitimate reasons for lots of outgoing links on a single page. However in general, I’d be a bit wary of a page that had more outgoing links than internal links. If you are going to put a figure on it, then I’d say that if outgoing links are heading into the 100′s, then be careful that the quality of these links are good.

Check using the Search Status plugin for Firefox.

3. How many incoming links are there to the domain and page?

I’m always surprised at how many people don’t look at this, many tools make this quite easy and quick. What you are looking for is a decent amount of quality links coming into the domain and a handful coming into the page you want a link from. 

Check using the Search Status plugin, SEO Book Toolbar or the SEOmoz Toolbar

4. Does the site appear top for a Google search for the site name and the URL?

If it doesn’t appear anywhere, then there is a reason for this and this is the most surefire way of quickly seeing that a site has been penalised.

Ch
eck using Google!

5. If Matt Cutts looked at it, would he want to keep it in the Google index?

Its important to be very honest with yourself on this one. If the answer is no, then leave the page and move on!  Essentially you are looking at the site as if you were Google and being honest about whether it is a quality, useful site or not.

There is a bit more intuition involved in this one so you can’t really check with a single tool unfortunately.

Go Get Em! 

Lets recap what we should have done so far in this process.

  1. Listed our USPs
  2. Used these USPs to find the links we want
  3. Used quality control to see if these links are worth getting

So we have the final step of actually getting the links. Now the fun starts!

For me, getting the links comes down to three things:

  • Using your assets and USPs
  • Getting yourself noticed
  • Building a relationship

If you can do these things, you will improve your link building conversion rate. Lets now look at each one in a bit more detail.

Using your assets and USPs

I’ve already mentioned this above in relation to finding links, however don’t forget this when you are contacting people to actually get the links. If you want a link from someone because you are a green company, tell them!  Back this up with a page on your website describing why you are a green company so they can see that you’re genuine. Make it obvious what the USP is, here is a great example from Rackspace who are a web hosting provider -

In short – make it obvious why someone should link to you.

Getting yourself noticed

In order for someone to link to you, you need to get yourself noticed by them. I’d tend to try and get someones attention before actually asking for a link. There are quite a few ways to do this:

  • Direct email
  • Phone call
  • Twitter
  • Blog commenting
  • Send them traffic

Direct Email

By far the most popular option used by most SEOs. Yes, it can work. People say it doesn’t, but from my experience it does. There are loads of ways of approaching someone via email and here is a great article over at Search Engine Land by Garrett French on this. Also there are lots of great tips in this Search Engine Guide article by Jennifer Laycock.

These articles are really good and I’d advise you take a look at them, in the meantime here are some quick tips:

  • Explain how you can help them
  • Use a good subject line
  • Be personal and use their name
  • Mention something specific – a tweet or blog post they did
  • Use your location if they live close by
  • Appreciate their time – they’re busy people

Phone Call

This is a great way to get links, just pick up the phone!  It can be a bit tricky in some industries where the site owners are not always at their desk or work online. However you can usually get a much better response over the phone and save a lot of time by getting a quick answer.

Yes, I know, we’re all geeks and don’t like using the phone. But it isn’t really that hard and you can soon get into the swing of it after a few calls. On the other hand, if you really can’t do this yourself – get someone else who can. Especially if you have staff who are good on the phone and can be quickly trained up on this.

Twitter

Depending on the industry, this can be a great one to get peoples attention. I gave a list of ways to connect with people on Twitter in my last SEOmoz post but here is the list again for easy reference:

  • Follow them
  • Make a note of what they like to tweet about
  • Check their personal websites for more info
  • Look at what type of stuff they retweet
  • Retweet their stuff
  • Interact with them constructively
  • Ask for their opinion on something

The key it to get their attention and build a relationship so that they can help you in the future.

Blog Commenting

No, I’m not talking about dropping links on random blogs and getting attention by being a spammer. I’m talking about finding the high quality blogs of the people you want to get links from, then providing constructive, useful comments. This can lead to them clicking through to your website and seeing your name which will help for when you actually contact them. They’ll already be aware of you and your site and therefore are more likely to sit up and take notice of you.

Send them Traffic

All quality bloggers and website owners will check their analytics to see who is sending them traffic. If you can get yourself onto this list, they will come take a look at you and become familiar with you.

You do not even have to link to them from your own site, remember the USPs of microsites and email lists?  You can use a microsite to link to them or you can link to them from an email you send out to your subscribers. Either way, they will notice you and you’ve put yourself in a much better position to contact them and ask for a link.

Building a Relationship

If you are successful and secure the link you want, don’t just take the link and run. Keep in contact with the website owner as you never know when you may be able to help you again. This can even lead to deeper business partnerships which can benefit you both way beyond just getting a link.

Image Source and Good Article from Stoney De Geyter

If they don’t give you a link, don’t just ignore them. Reply and be thankful for their time and ask if you can contact them in the future if other pieces of content may be of interest to them.

In short – don’t burn your bridges.

Conclusion

Above you have loads of hands-on tips and a process for getting quality links, use this yourself or pass it to a client for them to use. Either way just make sure you actually do it!  Link building doesn’t need to be that hard.

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Posted by randfish

In the last year, there’s been a plethora of entrants to the field of link building services outside the traditional software basis of reversing competitors’ backlinks (like our Link Intersect, LAA or Open Site Explorer tools) and consulting/direct purchase. In this post, I’ll try to cover some of the interesting major new services, as well as present some long-standing options that some SEOs may not have discovered.

I’ve segmented the services below into unique sections to help differentiate the types of link building they offer. Some are more service-based, others are pure-software and the first section is more visibility-based than direct link  acquisition.

Zemanta

One of the more unique offerings in the last few years, Zemanta lets publishers submit a feed of content or images to them, which then appear in front of bloggers in the "composition" window (while they write their posts). These are labeled as "related posts" and have multiple benefits:

  • They can improve branding amongst a blogging audience (as bloggers will see your site/brand name while they write)
  • They can draw in direct links (if the blogger chooses to link to your work in the post or as a "related post" at the bottom – or through links from image references)
  • They can attract direct traffic from the bloggers themselves, who are likely to click on links/content that appears to be interesting

Zemanta's Content Recommendations
You can try Zemanta’s service via a demo on their site

Zemanta has (according to their team) been formally approved by Google’s search quality folks as a white-hat service (which makes sense since all they’re doing is showing advertising content to writers, who then determine if they want to link or not) and is now included in WordPress and Blogger.

SEOmoz has been using them for over a year now (we started with a trial and continued on) and we’ve seen good results – we tend to get a half dozen or so links to our content (the blog and YOUmoz) each month which can be seen through their reporting system (which has some upgrades in the works).

*Other than our paid use of the service, SEOmoz does not have any affiliations with Zemanta or its founders.

MyBlogGuest

Founded by Ann Smarty, MyBlogGuest provides a platform for those seeking to write and receive guest posts. The service is relatively simple, but potentially quite powerful. If a reasonable number of quality blogs and sites participate in the marketplace, the opportunities for providing great posts and receiving traffic and links back are tremendous (as are the opportunities for those seeking more content and relationships).

Blogging is an inherently social field and while the links may be a primary driver for many interested in the site, Ann has made it clear that she hopes deeper relationships will emerge from the connections. The site’s layout and signup process are impressive and compelling, though driving action once inside the platform could still use a bit more polish.

MyBlogGuest Screenshot
The marketplace is currently based on a forum connections system

You can read more about the project in SearchEngineLand’s interview with Ann from February.

I’ll be surprised if some Silicon Valley style startups don’t pop up to copy this model. Hopefully Ann can stay far enough ahead of the game through a network effect to remain compeitive. It’s a terrific idea that needs only enough branding and awareness in the space to take off.

*SEOmoz does not have an affiliation with this site, though we have contracted Ann, personally, to do projects for us in the past.

EightFoldLogic’s Linker

Originally known as Enquisite, EightFoldLogic, a software company with offices in Victoria BC and San Francisco has recently launched a marketplace of their own for website owners of all stripes called "Linker." The premise is similar to MyBlogGuest, but the audience is wider and the interface more customized for creating one-to-one, private connections.

Eightfoldlogic's Linker
Linker enables the creation of "criteria" much like personal ads for linking connections

EightFoldLogic Linker
Within a day of signing up in a single category, I had four potential "matches"

Linker’s goal is to connect sites and marketers interested in partnerships or link relationships with one another. Since their service ends at the time of connection, the method of obtaining the link is up to the parties involved. This means plenty of white hat options, but also potential gray hat ones – however, EightFoldLogic’s Richard Zwicky and the audience they’ve traditionally attracted lean white hat, so I expect this won’t be an issue unless the audience changes substantially.

The concept of marketplaces for link acquisition and connecting to site owners interested in links is a compelling one, but the key, as with MyBlogGuest above, will be achieving the critical mass of users necessary to make the service valuable. To that end, Linker’s made their product completely free for the next couple months – you can sign up here.

*SEOmoz provides link data via our API to EightFoldLogic but does not have a financial stake in the company or this product.

Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about a tactic to grow your Google local/maps rankings that involved a similar principle to the automated tool built by Whitespark and Ontolo.

The concept is to find sites that are included in Google Local’s "sources" for maps and local review data that link to or reference multiple sites that rank in the local results. It’s a simple idea, but well executed and incredibly useful for those seeking to optimize their local listings. You can try the Local Citation Finder here – results take just a few minutes to be returned.

Whitespark Local Citation Finder
Enter some data about your site/goals and the citation finder will email you potential sources for listings

A
s the local results grow in importance and competition, and as the value of having these consistent, multiple listings rises, I suspect this tool will be incredibly popular. I’d love to see further productization around showing more data about the importance/value of particular local listing sites, and some opportunities to help control and manage those listings, but this first version is pretty exciting on its own.

*SEOmoz does not have a financial or product relationship with either WhiteSpark or Ontolo, though we have been talking to the latter about use of our API in other products.

—————

Although there are dozens of other services I’d love to cover, these are some of the most interesting to me, personally. As always, looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations, too!

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Posted by scott.mclay

A lot has changed since I got into link building a few years ago – link exchange is dead, ad banners are no longer all about gaining referral traffic, and buying links is more dangerous than ever before. Because of the changes mentioned and a whole load of others the majority of link builders don’t like to give away their secrets to sourcing links, even though it’s all pretty much the same at most agencies.

Most of the advice I will be giving throughout this post is most likely available from a large number of sources including SEOmoz but I felt it would be great to bring everything together under one simple guide.

Creating your link building strategy
Before building any links to a website it is important to ask yourself a few questions like:

  • What kind of links do you need?
  • Do you need nofollow and branded links?
  • Do you have a wide enough range of anchor text and landing pages?

Sadly every strategy is different and people can’t answer these questions for you but hopefully you can use the following information to help answer the questions.

Link Placement
In recent times Google has started placing value in link placement, in-content links passing the most value and footer links passing the least, although a good link profile should make good use of every link type as going out and sourcing only in-content links would be a very big sign of an unnatural link profile.

Nofollow & Dofollow
A lot of people go out and source dofollow links, but in doing this they do more harm to their link profile. Every website should have a good balance of nofollow links – there have been cases where sites with a very low number of nofollow links have not ranked as highly as others who keep a good balance.

Branded Links
I believe Domain Authority and Domain Trust make up a fairly large chunk of the ranking algorithm. Even though there are loads of factors in measuring these attributes, one good sign of both is having a good number of brand based anchor text pointing to your website. Some people make the mistake of only building branded terms to the homepage, when in fact there is more value in building links using these terms to landing pages throughout your website.

Anchor Text & Landing Page Distribution
When working on a link building campaign, it is important to work on a wide range of landing pages, using a variety of anchor text for each. Working on a small keyword / landing page set can upset the balance of a website and can have a very negative impact long term.

Content Relevancy
Since the Google May Day update this year, relevancy seems to play a larger role in the ranking factors. Even though the days of keyword stuffing are over, there is still a need to reference your keywords within your content, header tags, URI structure and title tags. Content may not be king but it is one of the keys to a successful link building campaign.

Sourcing Links
Once you have your link building strategy done and dusted the next step is to find suitable websites to source links from. There are many techniques that can be used for this job, some of which rely on tools and others that use manual search queries.

Link Building Tools
If you plan to use link building tools then chances are you will be looking at links going to competitors’ websites. This is one of the best ways to start a link building campaign and can lead to positive results, some of the best tools for this job are:

Manual Search Queries
It is said that it’s not the links your competitors have that will give you the edge but the links the competitors don’t have. To find these you will need to find link opportunities using manual search queries – the best way to do this is by using advanced search operators.

Advanced search operators are not as complicated as they sound but if used correctly they can provide a very nice set of search results. An introduction to advanced search operators can be found here and a short introduction can also be found on my personal blog under the post finding the links that matter.

One search string I would recommend when looking for suitable blogs for most niches is:

[search term] -site:Wikipedia.org -site:blogspot.com -site:telegraph.co.uk -site:wordpress.com -site:about.com -site:nationalgeographic.com -site:guardian.co.uk -"directory" -"add link" -"advertising"

Depending on your niche other domains can also be stripped from the results.

Directory Submissions
Directory submission is the most boring and repetitive job, but sadly it is an important task in any link building campaign. These links make up the numbers when it comes to branded links. Submit to the right directories and they will improve your overall domain authority.

Blog and Forum Commenting
Blog and forum commenting for links is seen as spam due to many people taking advantage of unprotected blogs and forums. If blog and forum commenting is part of your outlined strategy then some effort should be put into them.

The best way to act on this kind of link building is by using Google’s blog search to find the most recent articles published within your niche then make a genuine comment based on the content of the article, using the Name field for branded anchor text. This type of link building is best for increasing the number of nofollow links to your website.

Guest Blogging Communities
Guest blogging is a great place to find blogs within your niche, but instead of offering to do a guest post why not offer to write a few pages (I say pages as they are linked to via the top navigation) of content for them? After all these people want content and being able to source multiple pages not only saves time but can also lead to Google seeing the links as trustworthy, just remember to link out to authority sites within your niche as well.

Widgets & Theme Designs
There has been a lot of talk about creating widgets to increase the number of natural user generated links, which does work, but
the widget you create does have to be unique and worth having so there isn’t a gap for this in every niche.

Another way to increase the number of user generated links is by creating a WordPress theme, a lot of people have said there is low value in this but if the theme is good enough it can generate 40k+ links (from previous experience). If you wish to go down this route the best way to market it is via your monthly newsletters, just put in a small section about it and wait for results, but remember to also submit it to theme hubs around the web for additional exposure.

Link to Us Pages
Link to us pages are not only great for increasing the number of user generated links but great for masking other link building activities. I would suggest having a link to us page displaying all the branded terms used within your campaign and have different types of links for each (Banner Ad, Contextual Ad, Text Link).

Competitions
If you client is running competitions contact bloggers in your niche and ask politely if they would blog about it. Although getting targeted anchor text through this tactic is harder it can help build the number of generic keywords linking to your domain.

Contacting Webmasters
Making contact with webmasters is one of the most difficult jobs – just about every email sent out needs to be personalised and in some cases contact is needed via social media before an email has been sent.

When sending an email to a webmaster, remember they are a real person just like you, so ask yourself a few simple questions before drafting:

  • If you were the webmaster what would persuade you to link out?
  • Would you rather a relationship was formed before receiving a link request?
  • Should the email be from an SEO’s point of view or would it be better keeping it simple and to the point? 

Tracking Progress
Tracking the progress of your link building campaign is something that needs to be done. This can be done in a variety of ways but the best solutions I have found is using Raven Tools for overall tracking of performance and using an Excel document to keep a list of links built containing metrics such as Page Rank, mozRank and Domain Authority.

Having a list of metrics for each link enables you to display a variety of information relating to your link building campaign which helps when generating reports for your clients.

Conclusion
Although link building is a tough task in itself if you plan your strategy properly, build the correct links and track the progress of your strategy the job will become easier over time and you will begin to see what works and what doesn’t for your client.

Just remember every link building campaign is different, even if you deal with clients within the same niche as each website has a different infrastructure and domain history.

If you enjoyed this post then why not visit my Blog or follow me on Twitter.

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Posted by Aaron Wheeler

 In this week’s Whiteboard Friday Rand Fishkin clues you in on four link building tactics that you likely haven’t heard about. Given the importance of link building to SEO, this video should prove to be worth its (virtual) weight in gold. (I mean that in the best possible way ;-p)

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Video Transcription


Hey, SEOmoz fans!  Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday.  Today we’re talking about link building and specifically four tactics that are relatively creative, not talked about a ton in the SEO sphere, that can help you get some direct links to virtually any kind of site.

Let’s start with number one up here, giving testimonials.  I know this sounds a little odd.  You’re thinking to yourself, "Wait, I’m a marketer.  I should be trying to get testimonials about my product, my service, my company."  But in fact, give and you shall receive.

So in this case, if are you are a site owner and you have a business and you say nice things about a product that you use, products that you like, free web apps, tools on the webs, blogs, resources, whatever it might be, or specific products or companies, and you email them and say, "Hey, I just wanted to let you know, I really like your service.  I enjoy using it.  If you’d like to use this as a testimonial, feel free."  You can say some nice words and then have a, "My name is Rand Fishkin and I am the CEO of SEOmoz."  When they publish that, they will take it and put it on their GoodProduct.com website, and you can see that gets embedded right into their site and it will link back over to your site.

So, it is a great way to build up a repertoire of contacts, build good relations, and do something nice for the people who are doing something nice for you.  I would definitely not do this disingenuously.  Make sure that you are actually recommending things that you would recommend to a real friend.  It will come back and bite you otherwise.  But if you do this, you can get those great links too.

The second one, design galleries.  This is an odd case because you do have to jump through some hoops.  If you can contract some of those exceptional, high quality, CSS and web design folks to build a really great looking site, something that looks nothing like this horrific drawing.  I don’t even know why I put so many boxes and lines.  I am sure there was a reason.  You can get featured on sites like CSS REMIX or Drawer or CSS Gallery.  If you do a search for CSS galleries, in fact, you will find literally hundreds in the first few hundred results of places where you can get a live link pointing back from those pages just by submitting your site and having a site that looks great.

Now, what I would recommend is that before you go through the design process make sure that you visit a lot of these places and get inspired.  See what makes it.  See what is hot right now.  Those designs have the added benefit of being often very good for users.  Using CSS properly means that you’re loading pages, you are keeping code and design separate.  It can often increase your rate of attracting links as well.  Linking and quality of design are a direct relationship.  As the quality of design rises, so too does the likelihood that people of all kinds, not just design galleries but of all kinds, will link to your site.  They’ll find you more credible.  They’ll want to show you off.  They’ll want to share.  This is a great investment both for the direct links you can get and for the future.

Number three.  This is sort of an interesting one.  Thanks to sites out there like HARO, which is Help a Reporter Out, and a few others, I think PR Newswire runs one as well, you can be a press source simply by combing through databases or lists of people who say, "Hey, I am a reporter in need of a story about a business that keeps dogs in their office and what the impact of having dogs around is.  Can we interview you, show off your business?"  Those stories when they get written about, they might appear in sources as big as "The New York Times" or as small as your local newspaper, but they appear online as well.  When they do, that link will point back to your site giving you a link from a nice press resource, which is a great place to get a link.

Number four, the last one here, turning raw numbers into a data story.  I like this a lot because the idea here is that people produce a lot of interesting data about virtually every industry, but they don’t always do great things with that data.  They’ll produce interesting numbers or numbers that seem boring on their surface but can be used in interesting ways.  It is up to you to be creative about, hmm, okay, comScore published this, Nielsen published that, Forrester published this data research.  If I combine some of those numbers or if I think about how they play out, I can come up with a great story and maybe some cool graphics too about what that means.  I can take some of the data over time and build a story about what’s happening.  I can show that data next to something like Google Trends data or Search Insights data or data from a second or third source.  When I combine those, I have great link and media bait.  The nice thing about producing this is it is not just sort of classic link bait where, "Oh, that’s interesting, I
want to share that." But it is interesting because when you are the reference resource for the data, everyone else who writes about the story or who wants to share it has to link back to you.

A good example of this, check out www.seomoz.org/dp/free-charts and you’ll see a bunch of places where we have taken data from great folks like Eightfold Logic used to be Enquisite, comScore, Hitwise, Nielsen, Forrester, and we’ve combined them into unique and interesting ways to view that data.  We didn’t even do much with it, just showed sort of, "Hey, they said that 30% of searches come from Europe and 40% come from Asia, etc., so we’re going to build a pie chart of that that looks great and people can embed that."  Now when they do, they link back to SEOmoz and have the source in there.  We’ll always say what the original source is too.  But by hosting this stuff and creating it, you get all these great links.

All right everyone, I hope we have helped out your link building efforts here today.  I look forward to the discussion in the comments.  We will see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.  Take care.

Video transcription by SpeechPad.com


If you have any other advice that you think is worth sharing, feel free to post it in the comments. This post is very much a work in progress.

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

A while ago I wrote my case study on how I listened to Google and failed. The post got a lot of attention from the SEO community. Many people wondered whether natural link building was really dead and what was the future of building natural links. I’ll try to answer some of those questions in this post. The statements below are a mix of my opinion/my personal observations.

1. Is There a Universal Definition of ‘Natural Link Building’?

There’s one thing I’ve learned from some of the reactions of my previous post: Not all people have the same definition of what natural link building is.

Put in simple terms, a natural link is a link you get from someone who found your page and decided (on his/her own volition and  without any direct influence from you) to link to it.

Why did the person decided to link to you? Some of the possible reasons include:

- Not necessarily for the content but because you’re an authority in that topic

- For the valuable/controversial/funny content

- Or maybe s/he had a good day and wanted to link to a bunch of random folks on the web :)

As you can see, there are many reasons why someone would link ‘naturally’ to you. Valuable content is only one reason.

2. Natural Link Building: The Past

In my previous post, I mentioned this article on 25 Free People Search Engines as a case study of a successful link bait. The article got 140k+ views from StumbleUpon and also a bunch of editorial links (check Yahoo and OpenSiteExplorer for more details). Lists were quite popular back in 2008-2009 and you could write anything that was somewhat interesting as a list and get popular on Digg/Stumbleupon/Delicious.

Some SEOs realized this opportunity and started creating a bunch of these types of posts (SeoMoz is a good example. Rand once talked about how they went crazy with list posts during that time). After a while, the effectiveness of list posts as a link bait method reduced drastically because many people realized how powerful they were and everybody started creating their “top x ways to ____” type of articles.

Twitter and Facebook weren’t very popular back then, so you got a lot more links from unique root domains rather than re-tweets or Facebook ‘likes’.

Then images became quite popular (people love pictures more than text–not surprising) and a bunch of web design blogs suddenly appeared with their “30+ Beautiful ____” showcase posts. Just type “beautiful site:stumbleupon.com” or “beautiful site:digg.com” if you want to see how popular they were. As with lists, ‘showcase’ posts are also dying slowly, but their popularity lasted long enough to give rise to a whole new category of web design blogs (which are more like gallery resources, honestly).

By the way, I am talking about the ‘rule’ here. There are always exceptions. Some amazing list posts still go popular occasionally (Cracked.com is very good in making creative list posts).

3. Natural Link Building: The Present

The number of people who tried to get their posts to go viral (by writing list posts and publishing images) increased dramatically and, at the same time, Twitter and Facebook REALLY took off. People that wanted to ‘share good stuff’ found these services easier to use for sharing than having a WordPress or Blogspot blog. The result? If you create linkbait and it goes popular, then you should expect a lot of re-tweets/stumble thumbs-ups/Facebook ‘likes’ but a very small number of links from different unique root domains. Do these links from Facebook/Twitter carry any special importance?

Matt Cutts once said in a YouTube video that they rate links from Facebook and Twitter just like any other link! Yay!

One recent lesson I’ve learned about ‘niche’ link building is that you can get viral in your niche community. Take SEO and this blog, for example. I’ve witnessed how different SEOs follow each other and, in case someone has something interesting to share, then other people in the industry re-tweet him and the chain goes on. This is not the case for every niche market unfortunately.

4. What’s the Future of Natural Link Building? Is it DEAD?!??!

Okay, 3 points here:

  • Many people who link ‘naturally’ have switched to Twitter/Facebook (this is from my personal observations)
  • Matt Cutts said Google treats Facebook/Twitter links the same as any other link
  • Thus, if you want to build natural links, you need to appeal to a VERY SMALL number of people who still own sites and want to link to other resources (very, very tiny minority)

This is, of course, a very ineffective strategy, which is why, in my opinion, you have an increasing number of people who go and hunt for links (that are not natural of course). They can get some great links with great content but the result is re-tweets and so on which aren’t very important in Google eyes.

PLUS, according to some SEOs, people that own websites became stingy because of the ‘do follow’ paranoia of ‘leaking PR,’ so that could be a big factor as well.

5. What Does the Future Hold?

I am pretty sure Google will start treating Facebook shares/Twitter re-tweets as more than just 1 ordinary link from a same domain. These links will probably become more important for ranking in the SERPs.

The only problem here is spam. If Google starts giving greater importance to Facebook/Twitter, they know people will start spamming these platforms like crazy and new markets will emerge where people will sell re-tweets/Facebook shares depending on the profile ‘authority’.

I hope you found this post to be useful.

This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.

Natural Link Building: Past, Present and (Predicting) The Future

tla starter kit

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Michael Gray – Graywolf’s SEO Blog

Posted by Tom_C

We all love backlinks. We all love visualisation. Boom! Let’s mash those two things together. In this post I’ve collected a bunch of different techniques for visualising your link data. Some of these are useful for analysis, some are useful for management and some are useful for keeping Dr. Pete entertained…… :-)

Which Are My Top Folders

The top pages function of OSE is one of the most useful features ever. Ever since I saw the first incarnation in labs I’ve been a heavy user of this tool but Rich Baxter has taken things one step further yet again and given us a way to see the top linked to folders on a site. Here are the most linked to sub-folders and pages on www.google.com:

Get the step by step walkthrough to creating your own version of this over on seogadget.

Creating Geo Link Maps

Yes, I know that this involves a competitor. But the graphs are too super cool not to share! Take a look at the geomap of Distilled’s backlinks:

Anyone would think we have a presence in the US or something! To learn how to make your own version of this go check out Wiep’s wonderful article. You never know, one day this feature might be native to either OSE or Majestic…. I can but dream :-)

Pretty Tag clouds

Ok, we can probably file this one under "not management friendly" but you never know. If you do SEO for a dinosaur website….

These are the top anchor texts for SEOmoz visualised as a keywordasaurus. Hat tip to Dr Pete and SeanWF for this tool: http://www.tagxedo.com/app.html which let’s you make the pretty pictures.

Visualising Directory Links

When quickly scanning a site’s backlink profile there’s a few different things that I look for more or less straight away. One of those is the split between quality links and umm non-quality links. It’s not that the non-quality links don’t work (depends how bad they are!) but the quality links are almost always the more interesting ones to analyse. These are the ones you really want to copy from your competitors. If you download an Open Site Explorer report into excel and then create a new column and paste the following formula in:

=IF(IFERROR(FIND("directory",A2),IFERROR(FIND("directory",B2),IFERROR(FIND("Directory",B2),0)))>0,"Y","N")

This formula is a little messy but basically just looks to see if either the URL or page title contains "directory". While this doesn’t catch everything I’ve found that it get’s you a long way there very easily. That will then let you create a nice little pie chart like this:

Venn Diagrams

Kelvin recently wrote a very interesting piece on creating venn diagrams between your links and competitor’s links that looks a bit like this:

Kelvin has a nice handy video that walks you through how to create these charts (which I think are super management friendly!) over here.

Broken Links

I know this tool has been written about before and it’s not technically a visualisation as such, more of a visual representation of your links but I love how quickly you can see which of your links no longer exist using Carter Cole’s chrome extension "SEO site tools":

Of course, with yahoo site explorer not hanging around for much longer it’s useful that this tool also works with Google Webmaster Tools:

I like this view, especially when I’m looking at a particular page as it gives me an indication of how many actual links might be pointing at the page and how many might have dropped off recently.

SEOmoz Labs

While this tool has been around for ages some of you might not know about it and especially some of you might not know how awesome this is for sales and non-technical people! Our sales team uses these kinds of charts all the time to quickly and easily get an overview comparison of a brand new website that they might be on the phone to:

Get your own one of these over in SEOmoz labs.

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog