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April 13, 2007

Linking Strategies

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It’s the final day of Search Engine Strategies New York (tear) and I’m seated at the morning Linking Strategies session with Justilien Gaspard (Justilien Internet Marketing), Greg Boser (WebGuerrilla LLC) and Jim Boykin (WeBuildPages). Well, I mean, I’m not sitting with them. They’re speaking and I’m just in the audience. But you probably knew that right? (It’s Friday!)

Today the topic is link building and up first is Justilien Gaspard. Clap, please.

Justilien makes an educated guess and says that everyone here is looking for links. They’re probably feeling confused, frustrated and lost. Personally, I’m feeling hungry and not caffeinated. Justilien explains that there are lots of different ways to get links and some are better than others.

The first way to get links is through directories. Directories pre-date search engines and are the backbone of the Web. When you’re looking for directories to submit to, you want to find the old directories. Those are the ones that have proven their trust to users and the search engines. They can also help to put you in the right neighborhood – linking out to competitors, nonprofits, etc.

Niche and vertical directories are hidden treasures. They haven’t been overused by the search engine optimization companies (yet). Use directories that rank well in Google, this tells you the directory is trusted. City directories and state directories are also useful. Sometimes being adding just involves becoming a member of a group like your city’s Chamber of Commerce.

Good directories are human-edited, offer static licks, are older and have high quality backlinks. Avoid directories that use nofollows, only have a few pages indexed or sell site-wide links.

When you’re submitting your site to a directory make sure to follow their guidelines. Most often you’re paying a review fee, not a submission fee. Write your title and description to sound as natural as possible. Don’t use the same description and title for every directory.

Use content to build links. Create resources like how-to’s, FAQs, instructions, and interviews to attract links. Do keyword research and see what’s attracting links in your industry. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Another way to generate links is to create a blog, forum or a corporate wiki. Starting a news blog is a good way to product content while establishing yourself as an industry expert. It may also attract attention from the press. News organizations are now using blog search for sources.

Once you’ve created content you need to promote it. Be proactive. Find influential media and start selling them leads. Justilien says you have to think like a politician. One link can generate more.

To generate links you must build a solid foundation, create useful content, promote it and use social media for promotion.

Next up is Jim Boykin who is attempting to give a 45 minute presentation in 7 minutes.

Ready, Jim? Go!

Links can be looked at as currency. A link on a back page of a small site is a penny, while a link on a quality, established site is like a dollar (I got a dollar, I got a dollar…). It’s not the quantity of links that matter, it’s the quality. Same with dating.

Jim then lists a series of things that are dead, or at least that’s what they seem like. [They're really just pining for the fjords? --Susan] Here are some of things that made Jim’s list of dead tactics:

  • Submitting to SE is long dead. They find you via spiders following links.
  • Meta tags and on-page optimization without backlinks is dead.
  • Google dances are dead. Google changes on a near daily basis.
  • Linking a bunch of your own sites together doesn’t work.
  • Link trading is dead. If you link your 500 sites together it’s a giant flare to the engines that you’re an SEO.
  • Buying high PageRank links is dead.

Google is also a registrar which means if they wanted to sell .com’s, .net’s and .org’s they could but they don’t want to.

If other sites don’t link to you, your great content won’t count for squat. Use Yahoo to look at your backlinks. The [linkdomain:yousite.com -site:yoursite.com] to find your backlinks.

Four trust factor qualities are:

  • Do you have unique content?
  • What do you link to and what are their link neighborhoods?
  • Who links to those who link to you?
  • Is your link found within the content?

The search engines are trying to better analyze what are the clustered Web sites. Use the ‘similar pages’ option in the SERP to see your site’s neighborhood. The engines want to map the neighborhoods and see who is linking to whom. It’s not just a link from that site, it’s who else links to that site that linked to you. Think neighborhoods, not links.

Jim says if you produce quality content, people will naturally link to you. Link out to other related and trusted Web sites. Get good quality related/trusted places to link to you. Get your links within the content of a Web page.

Show you’re an expert by linking out to trusted sites, .edu’s, .gov’s, non-competing resources.

Content and links: the better you have the better you rank.

Greg Boser is up and he’s allergic to PowerPoint.

Greg says he focuses a lot on competitive analysis and creates his own strategy. A lot of people don’t understand the trust rank issue. What are good links for you and what are good links for your competitor can be two different things. Domain age has a lot to do with the kind of links you need.

In a trust rank environment, links from linkbaiting can help your site but they tend to generate a lot of links that are not contextually relevant. Ultimately, Google will have to find a way to make domain trust contextually relevant. They need to be able to say that Site X is a trusted domain for financial information, not lung cancer or real estate and be able to differentiate that. One day Forbes won’t be able to host an unrelated topic page and have it rank highly in the search engines.

And with that, it’s time Q&A.





One response to “Linking Strategies”

  1. Sante writes:

    Hello Lisa and fellow Bloggers/Readers,
    Search Engine Conferences are great, a sort of moment of truth or more in general an opportunity to review the state of the art on what’s happening. I couldn’t help but “smile” when I read a few statements by Jim B.

    I have a problem with blunt general statements like “this is dead – that is dead …”

    Is it really dead ?

    No it’s not.

    Sites linking to each other in mini nets are still up and running and ranking very well.

    Sites using spammy hidden text and hidden text links in an invisible layer of text like this:

    <div style=”Z-INDEX: 1; LEFT: 620px; VISIBILITY: hidden; WIDTH: 300px; POSITION: absolute; TOP: -132px; HEIGHT: 115px”>

    Sites that exchange links are also doing well, even when it comes to competitive keywords. It obviously depends on how you do it, which is your reference model.

    Having had the privilege and honor of speaking at important SES (and other) events, I know there are new comers to search and search engines and I don’t find it fair to simply shoot from the hip verdicts that confuse people when they actually see competitors ranking using just these techniques. What are they suppose to think ?



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