Why you F*%$ing Suck at Link Building

I wanted to write this blog post as a response to some posts from people on internet marketing blogs and forums who feel that the Penguin Update has ruined their easy link building efforts. Well guess what it has. The barrier to entry for link builders was lowered with the simplicity of cheap blog networks and automated tools such as Xrumer and Scrapebox which can build thousands of links per day with very little user interaction. IM Forums are littered with SEO’s crying that it’s just too hard to obtain editorial/contextual links from webmasters or bloggers and guess what I’m happy. A skill set I’ve worked at over the past few years to develop has just become even more in demand.

Well I’m going to tell you why YOU suck as a link builder.

It’s all about YOU YOU YOU – I’ve seen your outreach emails, I get them every day in my spam folder and the ones that slip through are pure narcissistic egotistical waffle. Nowhere in your outreach efforts do you offer any form of benefit to the webmaster to link to your site. It doesn’t have to be an exceptionally long piece of prose but a few bullet points to explain why a link to your site would be of interest to their community would probably increase your response rates 10 fold.

Pay it Forward – Your responsibility as a link builder grown adult is to establish some sort of relationship and invest in it before expecting someone you’ve never met to do you a favour? Come on, grow up and welcome to the real world. Subscribe to your prospects blog or Twitter Feed. Comment on their blog posts, share their stuff on your social media accounts and answer their questions on Quora. If you have anything about you the first email you send to them won’t be a begging letter for a link but actually offering them some feedback, advice or technical assistance. Just remember when you are link building you are dealing with a REAL person with REAL emotions and not a website.

Put the hours in – there was a reason you were paying a few dollars per link to BMR. You haven’t worked a single day in your life. The best link builders hard working, they get into the office early just to Skype with a blogger in a different time zone. Their mobile devices are buzzing day and night with emails to let them know their prospects are checking in nearby on Foursquare or have Tweeted a question. If you want to succeed at link building you need to work hard…

 

What do you say to a failed Link Builder?

 

Y U NO Tenacity? – Wait a minute you just sent someone who probably receives hundreds of emails every day, one email? Do yourself a favour and if you haven’t received a reply in a few days send another. What you didn’t get a response the second time? Pick up the phone, dial in their telephone number and speak to them. A good link builder won’t fall at the first hurdle and if after all this effort they still don’t link to your infographic on kittehs, make sure you keep their information for future link opportunities.

You’re just playing a numbers game – you scrape a bunch of contact info from Google and then just blindly fire out emails. Guess what, you’ve probably got more chance of winning the lottery than getting a link from an authority website in your niche with that method. Research and find the right people by asking yourself a few questions:How many social followers do they have?

  • How many RSS Subscribers do they have in a search with Google Reader?
  • Who are they connected to by checking with tools such as Mentionmapp or Klout?
  • Will they link to me? Have they linked to anything similar before?

If you follow the advice I give above you’ll start #winning at Link building. We all reach points in our projects where we would rather blame a bunch of external factors than actually look at the things we can have an effect on. Just like any marketing effort link building doesn’t just magically happen, we need to plan, measure, execute and refine our processes.

Ego Bait Needs a Rebrand

A Guest Post by Gaz Copeland

What is “Ego Bait”?

Ego Bait, for those not in the know is traditionally described as creating a piece of content with the main intention of appealing to a target’s ego and (hopefully) getting a link, share or recognition from them in return.

The target is generally an influential blogger in you niche, a brand or a potential employer. Ego bait is often coupled with another popular link building tactic to ensure maximum effect, ego bait lists, case studies, interviews, surveys and crowd sourced content are all extremely effective marriages.

Here are how others describe ego bait:

“The process of creating content almost solely for the purpose of gleaning links off others” – Ben Norman

“Essentially producing something that strokes the ego of the person/people/company featured.” – James Agate

How have I used Ego Bait?

Personally I have created a number of ego bait pieces over on my SEO blog and in other places around the web, I really enjoy creating this style of post and I guess they have been successful for me over time.

One of my first ego articles was the “Awesome SEO’s on Twitter” it was fun to put together and I felt I was giving a little back to some of my favourite SEO’s who in my eye’s weren’t getting anywhere near enough credit.

Problem?

“What’s the problem” I hear you ask? “If it works, you’ve done it yourself why does it need a re-brand?” you say..

Good question, I’m glad you asked! Just look at some of the language I’ve used above:

  • Bait
  • Target
  • Ego
  • Gleaning

Hardly ”pleasant” is it? And that’s my major issue, ego bait in it’s traditional sense seems to me a very dirty, manipulative and underhand tactic. You are a cold calculated soul, carefully stalking and selecting you victims, your only intention to appeal to their narcissism and to trick them into doing your bidding. In my experience  thankfully that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I didn’t create my “SEO’s who rap” article with the intention of tricking the “targets” into linking to me or sharing my content. (Although that did actually happen) I created it because it was something I had observed and I thought it would be pretty fun to put those guys together in one place.

Solution?

I’ll tell you straight, I don’t know what the solution is, maybe you can tell me? I’d be really interested in hearing alternative names for ego bait which truly convey the process without such negative undertones.

What I do know is that “Ego Bait” is in dire need of a rebrand. If you are looking to create a piece of content to trick somebody into linking to you, or to blow smoke up their { ass | arse } then you are doing it wrong. It won’t work, they will smell it a mile off and it will backfire, especially in the SEO industry.

To create successful ego bait the first thing to do is stop trying to create ego bait, because that’s not what it is. First and foremost it’s something of value, it’s interesting content, it’s sincere.

Further Reading:

Ben Norman – What is ego bait and how effective is it?

James Agate – A guide to producing effective ego bait

Ross Hudgens – A model for link building

Find Easy Links with Chase the Footprint

Finding backlink opportunities by searching for common footprints is a fairly basic tactic when it comes to link building. It’s simply the process of searching for frequently occurring phrases on websites that offer you the opportunity to gain a link if you were to leave a comment, submit a guest post or add your site to their web directory.

One of the main ways I use footprints is to look for websites where I can have a client’s product reviewed, run a giveaway or find a potential opportunity for a link via a guest blog. By simply searching for phrases such as “Submit a Guest Post” in combination with your keywords you can find lots of sites in your vertical that offer guest blogging opportunities.

You can take your link prospecting further by using Boolean Operators and Wildcards in your footprint searches to return more advanced results. For example a search for Apples AND Pears will return results where the words apples and pears both appear on the same web page but not necessarily in the same phrase.

Another way to find guest post opportunities is to follow your competitors footprints a lot of guest bloggers are quite lazy and will use the same author byline again and again. For example John Smith writes on behalf of Big Boy Business this means that all you have to do is type this phrase in to Google in quotations and you’ll find most of their guest blogs. Quite often these sites will have a fairly low submission criteria.

Chase The Footprint is a new tool designed by Dan Bochichio to help link builders find opportunities by searching for common footprints.  Simply input the keyword phrases into the box and then from the drop down menu you can chose to search for Wiki’s, Sponsorship Opportunities, Forums, Blogs and guest blogs.

If you combine Chase the Footprint with the SEOQuake toolbar you can then export the results into a CSV file and then manipulate the results in Excel or Google Docs. Dan also has provided a javascript bookmarklet you can use to export your search results into a spreadsheet too.

The tool is very new and Dan is open to the offer of suggestions for improvements or report any bugs you can contact him via his SEO website. I have already made the suggestion that it would be useful to be able to search different instances of Google such as UK, Australia etc to help link builders cast their nets far and wide. Happy link building!

Improving the Impact of Links in Old Content

It’s a well known fact in link building circles that Links in Old content simply aren’t as good as Links in new Content.

Taking some inspiration from a recent Whiteboard Friday I decided to test this theory. Cyrus Shepard, from SEOMoz, went through the theory that a link to your website from some old content does not pass as much “link juice” as a link from a new page; you can see the video below.

What do we mean by an “old page” when we talk about these old pages? From a technical, Google definition point of view, we’re talking about something that has been previously crawled and indexed by Google. Stale content, by stale we mean content that hasn’t been updated in a long time. It was written and it just stayed that way. There are no new blog comments. It has just been for two or three years the same way it was written. And old links. So this old page, all of the links that it got, it got years ago or months ago, and there are no new links coming in. That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about an old page. If it doesn’t meet these definitions, then it’s a new page.

Tim Grice, SEOWizz, did a study in March 2011 showing that links on Old Pages just weren’t worth it. Over a 5 week period Tim monitored the changes in search rankings by adding site wide text links in sidebars or footers, links inserted on indexed static pages with a PR 1 or more and finally he inserted links within entirely new content in fresh blog posts.

New Links in Old Content

Source: Links In Old, Crawled Content Don’t Pass Weight

As you can clearly see the rankings for the “old content links” barely changed at all over the period where as the links within the new content rose quickly.

This got me thinking, especially the statement from Cyrus, that in order for Google to consider the page as new again you would need to make a significant change to it or build some links to the old content. But exactly how much of a change would you need to make to a page?

The Experiment

I decided to build links to some of my test sites using the same principles that Tim used, the old pages were already indexed by Google & they had not had any new links built to them recently.

  • Link type 1 was my control this is a link where I only added the link into the text with exact match anchor text.
  • Link type 2 I inserted the link and inserted 1 paragraph within the content
  • Link type 3 I inserted the link and added two paragraphs
  • Link type 4 I inserted the link and did 5 social bookmarks to the old page

old links 1

No surprises that the link only and link plus 1 paragraph saw very little change in rankings but after seeing the great performance of both link type 4 and 3 so early on in the experiment I decided to edit two paragraphs of text and do 5 social bookmarks with another test page.

old links 2

So not only did the page climb the rankings rapidly it has stabilised its new ranking; better than the social bookmarks only pages.

Conclusions

By no means was this a completely controlled and perfect scientific experiment as there was a new Panda update during the period of the test as well as the fact that the the content in the test pages weren’t all exactly the same. But as you can clearly see just by simply adding a link to piece of old content and editing just a small amount of text on an old page it has less value than adding a link, editing some text on the page and building a few links to the old page.

This will flag to the spiders that this page is now relevant and to recrawl the page.Which in turn means that the bots will follow the links within that text once again. In an ideal world it is preferable to build links within new content and shows how important it is to continue with content based link building methods such as using blogger outreach, guest blogging but if you are building links to old content i.e. broken link building it’s worthwhile taking the time to add some more value to the old pages.

Are .Edu and .Gov Links Really Worth it?

Every SEO forum since the dawn of time Google has been debating the power of high authority links such as .Edu or .Gov links.  There are literally dozens of articles out there in the great wide web and every few months a different debate begins on how much these links actually effect your rankings.

It’s a common belief in some SEO circles that a link from .Edu or .Gov site is the best type of link you can ever get in order to improve your rankings. This belief comes from the fact it is not easy to obtain control of these domains on the open market as you have to be an educational or government establishment.

So are Google actually giving more or less weighting to certain Top Level Domains (TLD’s) well yes they can, and do look at the case of co.cc domains, but in the case of .Gov or .Edu links they claim not to do so as Googler JohnMu stated:

In general, I would like to add that no, backlinks from .EDU domains generally do not get “additional credibility from Google.” Because of that, the whole topic of working especially hard to talk webmasters of these domains into linking to your sites seems a bit problematic…

Some in the world of SEO will scream conspiracy that Google don’t want to let out the secret recipe but then let’s look at these types of links from the proper angle. Google may actually be telling the truth their algorithm may not give these TLD’s a considerably higher weighting than a .com or .co.uk but it is all actually based on Pagerank. Remember that thing Larry Page invented which means links from web pages with lots of links themselves carry more value than those that don’t.

Below is a video by Google Head of Web Spam, Matt Cutts from 2010 that also confirms this:

These types of web pages are often well linked to and many have been around for years. So what I am saying is that despite their “perceived” authority due to their offline status as an institue of learning it is actually the quality of the pages that are linking into these sites i.e. Corporate blue chip companies, Major hospitals or large news resources e.g. the Guardian, BBC that make them an authority online not the TLD.

How to get .Edu or .Gov Links?

With the right amount of time, hustle or money you can get a backlink on just about any site you want. Building relationships, investing in the right tools and good content will allow you to get these links easily.

From past experience I have used Broken Link Building on .Gov or .Edu sites, whereby you look for broken links on a resource and inform the webmaster to replace the link with a resource to your own content.

Outreach also works quite well in order to gain .edu links as most universities now provide their students and faculty with blogging platforms and sub domains so it is quite easy to email them relevant content to their blog or studies. If you really wanted to invest a significant amount of time and resources you could look for a piece of research they produced and reference it in a piece of your own content e.g. an infographic and its highly likely that you will obtain a link back as they will naturally want to share this with their peers.

Invite an academic to write an article on your blog or even come and speak to your workforce or at an industry conference you are running, chances are they will link to you as they wish to reference their engagements. As you can see you are only limited by your own imagination as to how you can obtain these types of links but by offering useful resources for Government or Academic webmasters to link to you will have a much higher success rate.

So What is their Value?

If you were to ask me what I look for in a link then, I value backlinks on the number of visitors, neigh, the number of pre-qualified visitors that the link can send me. What I mean by that is if I could get a few hundred visitors to my site from a back link, who are motivated to buy my product or subscribe to my mailing list, I would spend more time and money obtaining these links than just chasing links from Universities and Government sites.

So do Edu or Gov links help get you better rankings, yes but they are no better than any other well linked TLD, and remember after all SEO is not just about rankings!