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 Strategies
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.
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.
- Get a link from a domain
and move on. (20 links on 20 domains > 20 links on 2 domains)
- 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
Joel Goldstein will teach you the 10 things to keep in mind when building a website. This is applicable whether you currently have a website or are considering building one in the near future. Mr. Goldstein is the President of the Peer Marketing Group as well as a best selling author on marketing.
1) Attract and Hold the viewers attention immediately. This is different for each generation however here is a synopsis on what they like to see. The Baby Boomers enjoy seeing well put together material with quotes and credentials. Generation X is attracted to Bold words and when an advertisement raises a question. Generation Y or Millennials are drawn to large in your face pictures, they also are more likely to purchase something if their friends do. Don’t expect that your customer will look around your site for hours, they will only stay engaged as long as you have their attention. Give a clear path to a end goal, whether that be calling you or an online purchase. The more simple the better.
Best Practices Include: avoiding graphics, flash animation, large pictures.
2) Target your customers by demographic and generation. Build your website according to what kind of customer you are looking to reach. If your website is directed at professionals, make the site bright and clear. If your site is targeting young teenagers, make the website more informal and relaxed. Give them an action to act on from your website.
3) Narrow down your website. Do not offer multiple products on the same page this will only confuse your customer. Dedicate a separate page for each product. If you wish to advertise your other products, do so in a subtle manner in the footer or sidebar.
4) Build your credibility immediately. Having a great website is a good first step, however if you are looking to build trust in your future customers state your credentials upfront. The Internet creates a air of mistrust in each website visitor, in order to sell your products you must first build the trust in your visitor to a level where they are confident buying from you.
5) Give correct information about yourself including an address, email and phone number. Going a step further and adding a clear privacy statement is a good tool for establishing credibility.
6) Offer a money back guarantee or a satisfaction guarantee. Give the client control of whether you want them to keep the product or not. The 5% of clients who return your products will eliminate any actionable negative bloggers or bad pr from being released online or to the press.
7) Make the money transaction on your website as easy as possible. Making the process short is essential for eliminating buyers remorse and eliminating confusion. Give your clients as many payment modes as possible including credit cards, online payments, electronic checks and a mailing address for customers paying via the mail. Amazon.com has patented the one click checkout process, due to the power of eliminating hurdles in the buying process.
8) Make navigating your website as simple as possible. Each page should lead seamlessly into the next. Creating a 1. 2. 3. step process is a great solution to streamlining your process.
9) Create the website with a color palate that matches the look and feel of your company. If you are marketing your product or service to professionals make the palate neutral and light, if you are targeting a younger generation you can take liberties and have a more bold color palate.
10) Keep in mind that most of your customers will find your website in the search engine. Design your pages so that your product pages each have individual titles and keywords to give you as much targeted exposure as possible. Use title tags and description tags to narrow this SEO scope down. By creating 15 landing pages for your website you will maximize exposure and increase traffic 15 times!
Bonus: I saved this obvious but most important tip as last. Give good information and give your viewer the option to get more good information by signing up to get more information from you. To that point if you would like to be informed on my future articles please visit my website http://JoelGoldstein.com and sign up to receive emails from me.
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This is the third time we’re speaking with Merrick Lozano of PRLeap, so let’s dive right in. The last time we talked here was 2007 when we spoke about local search. What’s new in the area of press releases that people should know about?
Thank you for having me back Michael.
When we last spoke in 2007 the press release had just celebrated its 100th birthday. It had evolved into an effective tool for increasing a brand’s search visibility. You can use an online press release to reach customers and writers who are searching for the type of information you are writing about.
With the emergence of social networks, the press release has continued to evolve – showing its flexibility – as it becomes a tool for sparking conversations and engaging customers and influencers. The social media press release, also known as the social media release (SMR), bundles together videos, pictures, links, and other social objects into a story ready to be distributed via online press release services like PR Leap.
This summer we upgraded our social media release template with the Facebook Like button and the Tweet button from Twitter – to make it easy to spark a conversation in those respective communities. The impact was immediate: with only a few Likes and Tweets, a news release not only gets an increase in visitors from Facebook and Twitter, but it also gets a spike in search traffic.
… socializing a press release into a social media release makes it easier to spark conversations on communities where your audience is participating. You’ll get much better results if you help get the conversation started by liking, tweeting and submitting the social media release to target niche sites…
The benefits of socializing a press release are clear, but not all social media releases are equal. Traditionally, a press release was written for the press. This meant writing a news story in the third person. Giving the social media release the flexibility to be written in conversational tone for most audiences makes it more engaging. But most press release services and newswires will not distribute or publish a release unless it’s free of direct address.
This is why at PR Leap we no longer require that press releases be written in third person. We believe you know your customers best. You decide if conversational tone is right for you.
I must admit we didn’t fully embrace the social media release when it was first introduced in 2006. Instead, we immediately adopted what made sense and decided against making any hasty changes until we had a better understanding of the role social networks would play in online PR.
Probably the first important step in a successful press release is getting picked up and included in Google News. What are some tips you have for people to increase the likelihood of that happening?
If you want your press release to get picked up by Google News, then it has to be in acceptable format. There are 16 specific crawl errors the Google Newsbot can trip on.
Here are 5 tips if you want your press release to get picked up by Google News:
- The press release should be more than 80 words
- The headline should be between 2 and 22 words (Ideally 7 words)
- The body should have paragraphs of a few sentences each
- Bullet points and lists tend to cause a problem when they are preceded by 1-2 sentence paragraphs
- If you need to reference an old date in the body of the press release, make sure the publish date of the press release is at the top
Once you’re in Google news, the next big thing most people want to happen is for blogs, magazines, newspapers, or any other media to notice and cover the story. What are some tips you might have that can help people reach that goal?
…Including videos and pictures in your press release is definitely worth the effort. After optimizing your press release, images by far are the easiest way to increase the reach of your press release…
It’s important to establish relationships with people before you actually need something from them. If you have already made the time to establish relationships in advance with Bloggers and reporters, then you should definitely share your announcement with them. Don’t send them your press release; instead, contact them privately with a short preview of what you’re going to announce. Most blogs have a contact section that outlines their rules of engagement and reporters typically have a link to their profile where they list how to contact them.
I don’t recommend buying email lists and blasting them with your press release or else you might end up on blacklists like this one created a couple of years ago by Gina Trapani from Life Hacker.
Here are links to articles from bloggers and journalists about how to pitch them with your story.
You obviously would prefer that everyone use your service to distribute their press releases, but are there any circumstances in which it makes sense to use more than one service? Maybe to put out two press releases with a different editorial slant, or on different dates? Are there any tips you can give about how to track the effectiveness of one over the other?
If you are a big company with a big budget and you want to put your news release in front of the largest audience possible, you can certainly pay for that. Business Wire or PR Newswire would love to take your money and send out your release to their list of newspapers, magazines, radio, and television outlets. There is no guarantee that you will get any coverage from it but, if you have the extra money, it’s an option.
Some of our clients send out their press release through multiple services, including PR Leap, on the same day. Here’s are a few ways to track results for such comparisons.
Most press release services track how many page views your press release has to date. If you have something like Google Analytics installed you can also see how many visitors are being referred by from your press release on each site you sent it out through.
You can track customer inquiries via email by customizing the email address on each release, like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. An easier way to do this, if it works, is to add a + sign and any text you like after the + sign. Doing so will allow you to customize your email but still receive the emails in your inbox. For example:
email@example.com (emails received at firstname.lastname@example.org)
email@example.com (emails received at firstname.lastname@example.org)
You can track rankings, which should correlate with future traffic, by searching for your press release. Here are a few searches to track your press releases for:
3. brand name
Keep track of which press release ranks above the rest on Google Search on day 1, day 7, day 30, day 180, day 365. During the first few days you may see your press release on page 1 inside a News, Images, or Video One Box within the search results.
A more automated way of tracking rankings across search engines would be to use RavenTools.com SERP Tracker or the SEOBook.com Rank Checker to track the keyword phrases/headlines from your press releases.
Social media experts often tell clients that press releases don’t help social bookmarking efforts on sites like Digg, Reddit, and Stumbleupon. I don’t know that I agree with that advice. For example, recently OK Cupid released a study talking about pictures, and one of the conclusions they reached was “iPhone users have more sex”. I think this would have been something worthy of a press release. Have you seen any other examples where press releases work with social media or social bookmarking campaigns?
If you think about it, news is inherently social – we talk about it, link to it, bookmark it, tag it, and more.
Digg, Reddit, Stumbleupon are definitely a more challenging environment for press releases to thrive in, but it’s possible to find an audience in those communities. Here are some examples of press releases on PRLeap.com that did well on social bookmarking and social media sites.
New Rogue ADHD Memoir By Gifted Writer Digs Fiercely Into Adderall Addiction and Psychiatry
Received 2,800+ page views originating from StumbleUpon with only 29 thumbs up.
New ModuLock system provides HT20/22 Replacement
Received 3000+ page views originating from Hacker News
with only 49 up votes.
Those are two communities where experts will have you believe press releases are ignored.
Dhani Jones launches new U of M bow tie to support C.S. Mott Childrens Hospital
Facebook sent hundreds of visitors to the social media release within a couple of hours of the press release being shared on Facebook. To date the press release has 98 Likes on Facebook.
As I mentioned earlier, socializing a press release into a social media release makes it easier to spark conversations on communities where your audience is participating. You’ll get much better results if you help get the conversation started by liking, tweeting, and submitting the social media release to target niche sites.
I noticed you have the ability to include pictures and videos with press releases that are distributed through your service. Is this worth the effort, is one more effective than the other, and how can I best use this my advantage?
Including videos and pictures in your press release is definitely worth the effort. After optimizing your press release, images by far are the easiest way to increase the reach of your press release, while video keeps visitors engaged with your news longer. If you have the media, including both pictures and video is a winning strategy.
Here is how to increase the reach of your press release on Google Search, Google News, and Google Images with just an image.
Upload a large image to be embedded in your press release. Make sure to optimize the filename to include the brand name and keyword you are targeting for the particular release. We’ve optimized our social media release template at PR Leap for Google News image inclusion such that your image maybe included next to your news article and also next to other news articles for your target keyword.
All right. Since you were nice enough to answer these questions, I’ll let you wrap up by telling everyone about some of the benefits of using your press release service.
Thank you Michael. PR Leap helps businesses:
- Increase their online visibility
- Make their brand findable on Google, Bing, and Yahoo
- Spark conversations about them on Twitter and Facebook
- Drive more traffic to their website
- Manage their online reputation
- Save money when compared to the cost of advertising
- Track their results, which are long-lasting
- Get started with helpful articles, an easy-to-use platform, and friendly email support
You can visit PRleap to learn more about their service, pricing, and create a free account.
Thanks for taking the time to talk us today.
As always it’s a pleasure, and I appreciate the opportunity.
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Merrick Lozano of PRLeap Gives Tips About Press Releases
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)
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.
- Travel Blogs
- Technology Blogs
- Crafting Blogs
- Law Enforcement Blogs
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.
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:
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’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:
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:
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.
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: 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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Listed our USPs
- Used these USPs to find the links we want
- 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
- Blog commenting
- Send them traffic
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
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.
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.
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.
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 richardbaxterseo
If you think about it, search engines are more or less constantly driving us SEO people to keep our technical SEO strategy in a state of constant refinement. This “evolution” of the marketing environment we thrive in is a great thing, it challenges us to come up with new ways to improve our traffic generating capabilities, user experience and the overall agility of our websites.
Here are a few ideas (6, to be exact) based on issues I’ve encountered in QA or on our recent client work that I hope will provide a little food for thought the next time you’re planning SEO enhancements to your site.
1) Leverage UGC (review content) beyond the product page
UGC is brilliant, particularly on product, content thin or affiliate sites. Making it easy for users to leave a review is powerful stuff, but are you making the most of your precious user generated comments? Consider this scenario. So many users leave product reviews on your pages that you decide to limit the number of reviews visible for that product. You could cherry pick some UGC for category listings pages, adding to the uniqueness of those otherwise content-thin pages too.
2) Use “other users found this document for”
I know Tom loves this trick
, and rightly so. You can turn insightful recent searches data into valuable on-page uniqueness. Internal search and external referrals are great, but how about extending the process to make it easy for users to evaluate, extend, tag or remove terms they feel are irrelevant to the page?
This simple example shows how users of a forum site may have found that thread. I think there’s a whole lot more you can do with this trick, but it’s a start:
3) Consider delivering search engine friendly URLs in your internal site search results
I know how “out there” this might initially sound, but why settle for search engine unfriendly URLs on your internal site search pages? I have seen lots of examples of links being awarded to unfriendly, internal site search URLS. Why do we spend so much time carefully crafting our external URLs, only to completely forget our internal search URLs? A little extra development work to apply a meaningful pattern to your search result page URLs today could lead to the construction of an entirely new content type down the line.
Look at how folks are linking to these search query pages, and note the first example (where instead of a URL rewrite, this site is using breadcrumbs to make their ranking page URL appear more friendly):
4) Microformats are really gaining traction – be creative with them
What we’ve found with Microformats is that webmasters tend to apply the markup to web pages hosting the content, but that’s where they stop. Imagine you have a website that sells tickets. Do you add hCalendar to your event page and walk away? No! You can nest other Microformats such as hProduct and hReview, and syndicate your formatted data to other internal pages, snippets on your homepage and category pages. Any mention of an event, a link to a product or a review snippet should use the appropriate mark-up, consistently across your website.
5) Work hard to resolve errors and improve site speed
Think about how Google have placed site performance at the top of their agenda. I genuinely believe that a site riddled with performance issues and errors is tolerated less today by search engines than ever before. Websites with platform issues can raise serious problems for SEO, users, conversion and repeat visits. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools (including SEOmoz Pro, IIS Toolkit, Pingdom Tools and Webmaster Tools from Bing and Google) to help you identify and tackle these issues head on. Go and set aside some performance maintenance time, if you haven’t done for a while.
6) Watch your homepage title in Google’s SERPs
Google can be pretty aggressive when it comes to choosing the most appropriate text to appear in your title snippets. Sometimes, you might disagree with Google’s choice! Our tests so far indicate that the NOODP meta tag (used to prevent Google using the DMOZ description from displaying in your SERPS) can prevent Google from doing this, even if you have no DMOZ listing.
That “penny drop” moment when a new technical SEO strategy idea presents itself has to be my favourite part of SEO work. I’m glad that technical strategy has to evolve as search engines develop. I really can’t see a time in the near future when that will change.
If you’d like to hear more tips, I’ll be speaking at next week’s A4Uexpo in London on exactly this topic. If you’re there, be sure to drop by and say hello. My buddy Dave Naylor will be introducing me (I have no idea what he’s going to say) and hopefully there’s going to be some time to do a preview of the session over on his blog soon.
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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog