Stop Building Links And Start Attracting Them

5 Comments
October 5  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

Since the year is getting close to being done, I thought another large link building post is in order – although we could have called it “Attracting Links in 2013″ just as easily. To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot of new information out there so I’ll do my best to recap on everything that’s been working great for our clients. It has been the craziest year for inbound marketing companies, mainly due to all the hype surrounding Google’s Panda and Penguin updates. While I still see link spammers ranking even faster and higher post-Penguin, there is a clear and strong signal coming from the link profiles of brands that haven’t felt a pinch of the flightless bird.

For us here at Linkbuildr, not much has changed in regards to our strategies as our mentality has always been “Think Beyond The Link”. While our name suggests we just build links, that could not be further from the truth. We tend to focus on content marketing that attracts not only links but social followers as well, thus helping to establish our clients as leaders in their vertical.

I will go into what we see – and mainly what I think – but as with any advice from “SEO Gurus”, do your own research and check everything. I’m not always going to be 100% correct or even 80% correct, for that matter… I don’t know all of the secrets of Google’s algorithm (no marketers do), so all I can do is take note of what’s worked for us and focus on doing things that get great results for our clients.


Skip My Ranting And Jump To Part 2: What We’re Doing To Attract Links

What Link Analysis Has Taught Me

Those illuminated in the ways of ranking well know that large numbers of anchor text links have been the major reason a site will rank for said keyword. Not everyone will agree with me on this, but I don’t really care nor am I in the business of NOT ranking clients’ websites. You can go to any car insurance, payday loan or Viagra SERP result and see 2-page websites ranking in the top 10 that have gotten there in a matter of weeks. I literally just went to the first 10 Google SERPs for “payday loans” and ranking high in the results was spam… Actually half of the listings are there because of link spam. Remember how I also mentioned link spammers are ranking faster than ever? Check this:


Pardon my language but this is a complete f$#%ing joke. Penguin does absolutely nothing against this for at least a few months, and mission critical results needed by people are not being met. Matt Cutts and the search quality team obviously know about this and I imagine Penguin or another update will factor in new elements to put a stop to this. Perhaps my F-Bomb was a little harsh, as I imagine making the tweak to the algorithm so that it doesn’t bowl over a million other legitimate websites in the process is probably quite tricky, but still: this problem needs to be addressed by Google.

Stop Caring About Anchor Text Completely

Stop now… Seriously! Since our first week helping clients, we’ve always stuck to not caring at all about what anchor text they got. Our main focus is on creating amazing content that attracts links naturally. It’s not a cheap strategy and usually we like to think that “slow and steady wins the race” when it comes to building a brand. Obviously, a viral marketing campaign is going to flood in natural links from all types of places, and while that’s all fine and dandy, it’s not going to make you rank for everything after one go. That’s the type of content you need to be doing every month for as long as your business is running with its feet on the ground.

From my thousands of hours pouring over backlink data I’ve noticed one very important aspect to ranking really well and staying that way for years: anchor text ratios. Sites that are doing what Wil Reynolds from SEER has coined “real company shit” are not getting caught up in Penguin or any other link issue. This is what their link profile looks like, and if you go to any of the top 10 search results for any big keyword, you will notice this too. This is what a proper anchor text scenario should look like:

Not All Hand Built Links Are Bad

I’m quite active on all the SEO forums, LinkedIn, Reddit.com/r/SEO and other places and I see a lot of fear in regards to building links without earning them. 99% of the time these folks have been doing nothing but spam anyways, but definitely don’t think that just because you built a link yourself that you’ll get penalized for it.

Going back to anchor text abuse yet again, you’ll want to avoid picking any anchor text besides your brand/site name or something that makes sense… Don’t be spammy. This means you’re not influencing your own ranking for a targeted keyword. You may not get the best result (sorry to say), so working on everything other than a spam blast of anchor text links will be needed to earn it. While I may be just giving link spammers the idea to blast blog comments, forum profiles and junk directories with brand anchor text, it won’t work for long. I mentioned that Google knows their faults and as we’ve seen in a Google patent, that junk link detection is coming and it’s going to be nasty.

Depending on what type of company you are, what kind of products you have, and the type of content you’re producing, you need to figure out which unique link opportunities will most require your attention. I think the major difference between you going out and building low quality links and – say – listing your public company on Yahoo Finance is the reason why. Junk links blasted out in the thousands from private blog networks, blog comments and forum spam not only waste people’s time, but its soul purpose is to inflate your own rankings.

A tech startup should be listed in Crunchbase.com, a skateboarding company should be in a skateboarding directory, your iPhone app should be listed in app sites… See what I’m getting at? Now that I’ve explained that, let’s take a look at real examples so we all get a better idea of a proper and naughty hand (or robot) placed link.

Ze Robots Attack!

Automated link spam is a huge problem and mostly resides in two scenarios in the wild. Firstly, affiliate marketers trying to earn gobs of cash are always throwing down with the likes of Scrapebox, Xrumer or any service you’d find in a SEO/Webmaster forum. The second scenario, and the one that bugs me the most, are SEO companies who utilize these tools and other junk like paid blog posts on clients who have no idea what they’ve just paid for. That’s partly the fault of the company not doing its research beforehand, as well as Google displaying bad marketing at the top of the SERPS. If you do a quick search for “white hat link building” right now, all the ads are selling low quality services that will get you in trouble eventually.

** A note to the Google webspam team as of 09/21/2012 that if we get an unnatural links penalty for this I’m going to be pissed :)

I don’t want to out anyone so I won’t, but use our other site Luxury Branded as an example of Scrapebox and Xrumer at work. Why that site? Well, we first started it off running BuddyPress and soon learned that automated spam bots were too much to handle and we had to kill it and go back to standard WordPress. I started noticing huge jumps in our backlink profile when we had been doing nothing but content marketing. The worst part is that one of the spammers was trying to rank for “preeteen underwear model porn” that’s WAY ILLEGAL and so disgusting that I had to send our logs to the FBI cybercrime division.

Xrumer At Work

So the spammer’s member profile page had a bunch of spam links and dupe content dropped on our site, and from there they spammed that page all over the place. After that happened, we then noticed Scrapebox going to work and it was dropping comments all over the place to the member page and all the other spam hubs this person had set up. It was just the start of the spammer’s efforts, so they weren’t quite ranking just yet.

I tracked the spammer back to their “money site” and saw a shining example of link spam, although it was very diverse in regards to the types of links and anchor text being employed. I think it’s pretty safe to say they’re most likely a member of Blackhat World or Warrior Forum, as the link profile looked like a service you see offered all the time in those forums. Here’s some ad copy from one of those services:

Spammy Links

 
A Natural Link



 
I’ll continue on with a tech startup as an example, and since I’m not outing anything but a normal good link that will send referral traffic and some link juice, I’ll give the example company a natural link. I cannot think of a better place to get all the benefits of a mention for a tech startup than Mashable’s Startup section. On the front page today is Soldsie which launched on Wednesday (read our post on launch bait) and they got some huge coverage.

This kind of link has lead to them being re-blogged a ton, as well as receiving a plethora of social buzz which has shot their Twitter follower number into the thousands. It’s too early to grab a link graph even from Ahrefs, but we can take a look at who’s covered their launch via an easy and quick Google search. Either way, they’re off to a great start and business should be booming for them in the coming month, so kudos and good luck to the team @Soldsie.

Down the road I imagine they’ll be listed with a Wikipedia page, an Aboutus.org page, in Tech Crunch an all over naturally… Some of which they might have to build themselves. So long as they don’t try and influence their anchor text keywords, they’ll do just fine. You can refer to some of our older posts which cover tons of link building ideas that you have to do by hand, but you need to be a legit business to benefit from it. I recommend you read:


Read Part 2: What We’re Doing To Attract Links

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Start Choosing the Most Profitable Link Prospects for Guest Posting

2 Comments
October 2  |  Link Building  |   James Piper

Choosing which link prospects will provide the best return on investment is an overlooked element in the link building industry. Too often, the single factor when weighing profitability of a link prospect is domain authority. In fact, SEO agencies have been known to pay freelancers to link build — with compensation solely based on DA… however, if you are building links for REVENUE, and not solely based on rankings, you really need to take other elements into thought.

Good Guy Greg Prioritizes

1. Relevancy

Writing high-quality content takes up time, brainpower, and can really be a daunting task. While the hard work will be incredibly rewarding, you can lighten the heavy lifting by targeting blogs relevant to your subject and are also likely to accept a guest post. This will always be the first step while you’re evaluating your link prospects, and here are some techniques to test if you have landed on the right spot:

  1. Relevancy is essential, but it doesn’t always have to directly target your niche. For example, if your team just pumped out fifteen articles about video games, give them a break and target Zombie blogs. It gives your writers a chance to write on a fresh subject, and you’ll be given the opportunity to target the Zombie market – which most likely is similar to the video game market.
  2. Advanced search – site:prospect.com + guest
    1. Shows if someone has guest authored here before.
    2. If not, in the email include something such as I did not see any existing guest posts on your website, and am wondering if you folks would be open to the idea?
  3. Finding contact information – Don’t waste too much time looking for contact information from blogspots, typepad, wordpress, etc. And in general… forms. If it is hard to find their contact information, it’s unlikely they’re agreeable to a guest post anyway.

If you have a long list of prospects, use the Ontolo URL reviewer to speed up the process. The tool is free, and it rocks.

2. Domain Authority

Domain authority is highly dependent on a couple of moving variables. This is the part of the process where the experienced link builders begin cutting the less-profitable prospects. You need to consider how often your team can produce guest posts, how relevant the blog is to your target market, and evaluate the entire landscape of your niche.

In general, with the Penguin and Panda Google Algorithm updates, and the fact that guest blogging takes additional resources, I aim for opportunities with at least 40 plus domain authority. The less often the client, or our internal team, is capable of producing a quality article, then the higher minimum domain authority. In addition, it is critical to judge the value of the potential referral traffic. Getting your video game brand in front of a bunch of gamers, let a lower domain authority slide, but if it is in front of a bunch of general computer nerds, raise the domain authority back up.

To speed up this process, I use SEOMoz’s OSE Chrome extension. You can quickly click link data right in your toolbar and get some valuable metric data.

OSE

While the first two elements (resources and relevancy) will weigh in on what domain authority website you’re targeting, the most important to consider is the competitive landscape. Some niches are so specific and narrow that it is highly unlikely for them to be featured in high domain authority websites, and that ultimately means a lower overall amount of link juice for the entire industry. For example, we have worked with a client in the Liverpool Football Club niche, and we wanted US-based websites to link to us (for US rankings). The link targets had an overall domain authority much lower than we were used to, but we included other valuable metrics to build a prioritized list of prospects.

3. Social Media

Domain authority is incredibly important in terms of increasing your website’s organic rankings. But, you should really be including social media metrics when evaluating the value of a link prospect. Depending on the niche, taking a look at their Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest will usually cover all angles. Here is why you should be checking social media –
Three out of the top six traffic sources are coming from a Social Media channel.

Remember, the point of guest posting is more than a link, it is about building a profitable relationship. After guest posting on a website with a popular social media following, make sure you follow-up and continue nurturing that relationship – it can result in a simple tweet like this –


Seems simple… but the Tweet led to over 1,750 visits!

Begin evaluating all of the valuable metrics to choose the most profitable link prospects. The combination of relevancy, domain authority, and social media make a perfect mix for the quickest and most profitable wins. In the comments below, tell us what else you folks like to look at when evaluating a link prospect!

Building Social Media Profiles For Fun & Profit

3 Comments
September 19  |  Brand Building  |   Ryan Clark

Building a targeted social media follower base is no easy task. However, there are certain ways to speed things up and get a quick ROI for your time spent. It’s really hard to see the value when you’re starting out, especially when trying to get upper management to put good money and manpower towards the cause. It’s one of the toughest areas we have with our clients as they hate waiting for results, and really they should only be using an outside company to send them in the right direction.

What we want in the end are real people hitting that “follow” button so you have a real target audience that’s truly interested in your brand. The one other aspect that’s extremely important in my mind is the fact that you get to build a level of trust with consumers. If they can see you interacting with other customers, sharing new media and seeing others engaged with your brand, you’ll see an uptick in sales…without a doubt! The cream on top comes with the value in spreading content once you have a large following. If you have a truly creative content team, they’re going to have a lot more success spreading the right media because customers will actually want to share your content.

#Protip – Using a profile picture of a good looking bloke or lady from your company is going to get more follows thanks to good old “sex appeal”.

What I’m going to go over today will help get a big boost to your follower base that should be decently targeted to your brand. We will also identify your key social influencers which will be really important down the road. The world of business becomes a lot easier when you have the right connections, so make sure you know who the key players are. These relationships can lead to getting links, making new social friends, and getting help sharing your content. Just make sure you play nice and be social!

Let’s Talk About Pinterest

This site is perhaps the most fun to work on as of late, and while it’s not for business, it is a social network not to be slept on. Pinterest has a large female following (with the guys finally catching on) and while the referral traffic might be on par with StumbleUpon (aka not that sticky), this social network has other uses. You do get links on your profile, but the best marketing aspect yet? You pins can rank easily for long tail keywords and thus become a major traffic driver in and of themselves. This of course will only last as long as Google inflates their rankings like they are now, so definitely take advantage of this (and for any other social media site of the moment).

Pinterest follows will mainly come from you having good content, just like any other marketing angle you usually would be working. If you’re selling a product that’s the same across other websites and it’s already pinned, it’s time to take some custom photos for the occasion. Pinterest will send you insane amounts of traffic if done right, but don’t expect to magically go viral anymore, even with amazing content. Nevertheless, having the right audience already in place will make your life so much easier!

First up, get your staff (or yourself if flying solo) to populate your account, make sure you have your links set up, and create a dozen of your own pin boards. Fill the default ones up first and work on those amazing pictures for your custom pin boards before heading off to make friends.

Play Nice With Others…

Spend a few hours hunting down similar users by hand based on what you like and see. That’s always a great way to make sure you have future pins you’ll actually be interested in re-pinning on a bi-weekly basis. Not only that, but hopefully they’ll be something your followers will be interested in as well; chances are good that you’ll earn some like-minded followers back. By now, I’m sure you’re thinking “I’ve already done this with Twitter”… Sadly, it won’t be the last time you feel that sensation either, as I’m sure the next big social media site is just about to pounce.

Trending & Influencers

Once you’ve worked on the above task, it’s time to start utilizing the mashup sites that provide a wealth of useful information. In came Repinly and let me tell you, this is the most handy Pinterest marketing resource you’re going to see, hands down.

Here you can easily find the top influencers and pins in your vertical. Since using this site, we’ve managed to help build clients’ Pinterest follower levels over the 100k mark. You can also keep your eye out for pin boards that allow other contributors which opens you up to a world of power sharing.

There are a couple of other Pinterest mashups worth mentioning, and although I hate to favor one over the other, Repinly has really outdone themselves. You can also check out:

Pinauthority.com – tracks statistics for Pinterest users including pin stats and follower gains/losses.

PinPuff.com – This is kind of like Klout, but for just Pinterest… I don’t think I could have summed it up any better.

Don’t Skip Out On TheFancy.com

This is my personal favorite social site of the “pin kind”. TheFancy.com has been growing rapidly, although it’s not quite near the traffic levels of its arch-nemesis. We also run a luxury blog and luxury marketing company which is in the upstart stages, and that’s more so what this site is geared towards. The cooler and more fancy it is, the better luck you’ll have spreading it on this site. The bonus as well is that you can directly partner with TheFancy and they can send you sales/leads for your products. I’ve also found that the site’s posts also rank quite well in the long tail and can be another addition to that specific strategy. Here’s a shot of my profile:

To me, the overall experience of this site is way better than its competitors and I spend way too much time on it. I’ve also found the traffic is a lot more sticky and productive that Pinterest (which usually has a time on site of less than 10 seconds). There are no stats and trending tools for TheFancy, but you can use Topsy to see some hot items which I find is great for my link bait writing. Gaining followers here requires a lot of hard work and while I’ve had my items front page featured a lot, I’m still not that influential.

Instagram Is Too Useful To Ignore

Instagram is quite fun, and bringing it into the work place can be a positive work task if done correctly. It can be used to showcase your products, your team and even score some natural links in the process. Creating content is good, and that’s what it’s all about these days! Gaining target followers here is the same as in any other place: follow, like/comment and hopefully get followed back. As I’m sure you’re aware, #hashtags play a key role with Instagram as well, so don’t forget to utilize them.

Instagram is a great marketing tool because:

  • You can showcase behind-the-scenes at your company on the fly.
  • You can use it to feed content to your Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  • You can repurpose the pictures into galleries or use them on your company blog.
  • You can push Instagram followers to subscribe to your other social media accounts.
  • You can take part in trending topics with your own content.

Getting Stats and Trending Data for Instagram

Statigr.am

Since viewing anything on Instagram from the web is a complete pain in the arse, in came Statigram which makes life easier and prettier. You can get stats, view pictures and comment on images as well – all from their beautiful interface, which I think is what Instagram should have been like from the get-go. Take advantage of the search feature and go hit up your favorite #hashtag to find users to follow and discover who your influencers are.


Pinstagram

If you’re looking for another way to attract more followers and showcase your content in a purrdy way, then don’t miss out on using Pinstagram. It’s a breeze to use on your mobile phone or tablet and the whole interface is just so well done. Another perk of the 10-second sign up process is of course a link that will add a natural site/brand named link to your profile.


 

Google+ IS Worth The Effort

I’m finding that the Google+ effort by most webmasters, especially myself (shamefully), and even clients these days, is still quite minimal. I’ve been reading and researching what’s working well for other mass-followed individuals across a few verticals, and have come up with the following tactics to try out to see how well it builds an audience. Some of it is just obvious and I cannot believe how we’ve been sleeping on it all this time. If you have any tips I missed, leave them in the comments below and I’ll include it in here with a reference back to you!

Another reason I think the new social media network on the block is worth the effort is simply because of its integration. We spend so much time marketing to all of the other “Google streams” and now that they’re all flowing into the same lake, we have no choice. I definitely see it as an opportunity to take hold of as many followers as you can while the getting is good. I think it will play a crucial part in allowing any sort of top 10 ranking in whatever is left of the Google first page results in the coming years. Rand Fishkin has already covered this and several more reasons to get in on it sooner rather than later.

 
Badges & Reaching Out

This is the easiest part as there are many Google+ buttons you can get and try out on your audience, and while we use Sharebar for our social shares, I think it’s time we tried something else. We’re just not getting the desired amount of G+ shares on our content, so we’ll see what we can do for the last half of the year. You can find different badges for free all over the web (just use Google…), plus you could and should experiment with your own creative options to get that follow.

I would also highly recommend letting your social followers elsewhere know that you’re now on Google+, and/or share your brand/company community url there. This also means sending out a newsletter as well… Not many people remember to do this and that’s a big mistake. Newsletter followers are usually a high valued follower and syncing them up is going to be very well worth it. Remember that the Google “tentacles” reach out everywhere and that also means into the Gmail inbox location!

I’ve also seen the majority of shares on our end come from my blogging author bio both on our site and especially when I guest blog. Besides that, you should list it on other social media site bios(when you have the room) such as:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • About.me
  • About Us Pages
  • Scribd
  • Slideshare presentations
  • Youtube videos
  • Pinterest etc
  • Linkedin

Google+ Hangouts

This is where things get the most interesting in my opinion. Video conferencing is a very handy tool and it will most likely outpace audio only communication in the coming years. While texting is still widely popular, I think in the business world in particular the trend of video conferencing will be quite well received. This is the area I myself and the Linkbuildr team will be focusing on the most because there are a couple of unique uses for this free service.

Use 1) Google+ Hangout Air

Google has been testing Hangout Air quite a bit over the past year, and it is basically live streaming to your audience for whatever reason you may have. There are already tens of thousands of celebrities, sports teams, brands and leaders making good use of it. You can instantly save it to Youtube for marketing purposes later, or just go live to your audience. Right now you can broadcast up to 10 people, which is great for collaboration or for interacting with many people from a client’s company.

Use 2) Handle Customer Service

We’re a small team and a small company, so keeping costs down is always a plus! I know Geoff couldn’t agree with me more there as I give him and our accountant enough headaches as is. With Google+ Direct Connect, you can connect your website/brand to everything properly so Google can index your content accordingly. This can work great for communicating with clients on-the-fly, and will be a serious threat to Skype and other services like it.

I can take a video call from a client and pull in Geoff, Simon or Curtis at any time to consult on something they’re working on specifically. We’re also going to test this out with our month end reports and let each person report to the client what’s going on in their work. Most of our communication is through email still, so it will be interesting to see how this works in improving how we get to know our clients and improve the working environment.

 
Don’t forget about Google+ Local

For anyone servicing a specific location, Google+ Local is an absolute must so I really shouldn’t be listing it here in this post. As I’m sure you’re aware, the local listings are placed highly on local search results and thus give you quite the advantage. This makes up for the majority of all local leads within Google, so make sure you’re open to reviews and providing customers something to look at.

You can feed in Youtube videos, product/company images, and your Zagat rating and actual testimonials from other Google+ users here which will greatly improve your ranking amongst all others. This is extremely helpful in showcasing that you’re an active and legit brand, something a lot more companies need to work on. I want to feel as if I can trust a website I’m buying from and will often peek at your social media activities to see who’s behind the code. I highly recommend reading David Mihm’s crowd sourced mega article on ranking factors for local SEO, as it goes into great detail on just about everything you’ll need to know.

Youtube & Vimeo

I won’t – nor do I need to – go into great detail on why and how you should be using video in your marketing efforts. I will, however, quickly cover why I think these two are the only video sites worth putting a lot of effort into in the immediate future. It’s no secret that videos from these two sites can rank extremely high up in the SERPs if done correctly, and it all comes down to great content and your user base.

Vimeo.com

Vimeo is a place for high quality content, so sticking to that idea, I definitely recommend only using it for a certain type of video. I would certainly not recommend putting up boring product commercials or anything not edited well by a professional. Don’t get discouraged though; even though it’s more of a place for video art, you can by all means utilize it as a sales driving force. To give you an idea, just take a look at how GoPro has used it to sell their product and launch viral video content.

Kick ass content that lets the product do the selling without having to shove any tom foolery in a customers face. After seeing just one of their videos, you’ll want one.

Youtube

Youtube is great for all video, including artsy high end HD productions. I tend to recommend that clients heavily upload product reviews, funny videos, and pretty much anything else here. Youtube videos rank well, and if you can make your video authoritative enough, you will dominate the search results. A well ranked video comes from a number of areas such as view count, ratings, comments, and social share data, so having a well built social following can make a fast and significant impact to those rankings. I picked the random Google search query “San Jose mortgage broker” off the top of my head and sure enough, I got two video listings right at the top!

That’s why I love utilizing video, although we mainly do it for clients and not enough for ourselves. Just make sure you’re producing useful content, as it will lead to real social follows and that’s what you’re going after here. Video also lets your customers peer into your brand a little more intimately, which in turn leads to more brand trust.

A Couple More Examples

Manhattan creative agency

How to make money online

Need I say more?


Read Part 2: Build And Engage

 


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Launch Bait: Getting Links Right From The Start

1 Comments
September 13  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

One of the most important events for any business is of course its launch, and as we all know, it can either go really well or be a total flop. I love looking at new startups do their thing in the first few stages of existence and you can really learn a lot by looking at their link profile. The amount of links that are possible to nab in this time period will really help establish your new brand’s trust a lot quicker.

While I’m not going to be presenting too many new ideas in this post, I would just like to get you in the mind frame of where to start and where to go. We help a lot of new companies break out on to the scene, so we have a good idea of what works well and what doesn’t. We’ll also take a look at a couple of recent start ups and see not only how they did link wise, but also – most importantly - what they did.

If you can build a strong link base during the first 2 month window of your company/product launch, then you’ll have a way better chance at long term ranking success. Too many folks are concerned with getting x amount of anchor text links to rank well for a few key money terms, but for now just focus on getting as many natural links as possible and then worry about tweaking later(which is not really needed in this day and age anyways). So, what I’m trying to say is: don’t even really think about links for ranking now, but more so links for clicks and exposure.

Our Link Plan Of Attack

Perhaps the most important factor here is the ability to get links from coveted industry resources that might otherwise be too difficult to get on. If you’re going to launch a business, you might as well come out the gate shooting, so these tactics are where we usually start and we hit them hard within the first month. Sleep should not be a priority, so remember: you can sleep plenty when you’re dead…

Keep in mind that you’re also wanting traffic and brand exposure more so than a link for ranking benefits. Think of that latter as the gravy on top and you’ll be way better off. We recently had a client’s launch get mentioned on TechCrunch and Mashable, and those little text links alone sent over 80,000 visitors within a week from both. Not only that, but that lead to many other tech/startup blogs writing about our client and thus the links came flowing in.

Press Releases:

Press releases are the first go to place for us, and I imagine that’s what comes to mind for most businesses that want to reach out to the public. Press releases are great because they not only drive a lot of links from valuable sources, they can lead to related industry sites picking up that news as well… Or at the very least syndicating it. There are literally thousands of reporters out there looking for the next scoop, so do all you can to get your business or product in front of their eyes. I’m shocked at how little companies take advantage of these plentiful resources at their disposal. Make sure to check out our old post on advanced link building tactics to really get direct access to a lot of reporters.

What we like to do is have a different press release written for each of the major wire services for maximum exposure. Since press releases are going to get distributed the same across each network, you want to minimize the link juice loss by having a unique one for each place. If you have a good amount of coin in your launch budget, then make sure to take advantage of these wire services:

- Prweb.com
- PRnewswire.com
- 24-7Pressrelease.com
- Marketwire.com
- PRlog.org
- eReleases.com
- I-Newswire.com
- RapidPressRelease.com
- Send2Press.com
- MyPRGenie.com
- Mashable.com/submit

Social Outreach

This online social world has made the business life both easier and more difficult. While it’s easy to reach out and connect with amazing people and companies in your vertical, it’s sometimes hard to shout over everyone else. If you’re truly offering something amazing, unique, or just plain interesting, then your chances for a social screaming match are looking good. The tactics below are nothing new, nor are they easy to accomplish, so you’ll have to roll up your sleeves to get results; just remember that we’re trying to attract links, not to go out and slap a bunch of low quality junk together.

Industry Portals

Every industry has its fair share of portals, news sites and forums, and you’re absolutely going to want a link from them one way or another. Getting listed may be as simple as buying a press release distribution through their site. You may be even luckier and find out that sources like PRweb are already including your target portal site via a pre-existing partnership. You’re going to need to do some digging around and figure out just how to get your news on there, get interviewed, or at the very least talk them into sending out a tweet for ya!

Target Blogs In Your Vertical

These days, blogs are the gateway to mass exposure and I would be lying if I said not to even try and buy some exposure. There are stealthy ways of going about this, but it is also risky. To me, it’s no different than buying a press release because you’re not buying for the link. Your company will need/want that exposure, and Google can kiss my ass because if our client wants to get it any way they can, we will do that for them. When it comes down to it, there’s no way they’re going to tell if you’re getting interviewed, getting an infrographic published or providing them with a guest post. The fact is, even though a blog might accept a guest post, we often find they still want payment.

Take Care Of The Usual Suspects

There is a lot of easy and “non-threatening” links you can build for yourself that won’t get you caught up in the Penguin penalty box. For most of my readers, you’ll know what to do, but if not I’d start with:

- Getting the usual links like twitter/facebook/youtube/foursquare/yelp
- Reading this, this and this.
- Listing your company in Twitter directories
- Buying tweets
- Buying into the usual authoritative directories like crunchbase/botw/yahoo dir/manta/company.com
- Profile Building on tech sites/startup sites/venture sites

3 Real World Examples

I’ve picked a few startups and/or new businesses that have launched anywhere from 6 months ago to just within the past 30 days. This will give you a good idea of what can happen if you do things right. As I started earlier, there is no better time to get editorial news links than during the initial launch of the company. While you can do stunts and come up with press release bait later, it always seems so much easier to get something written about you when you’re fresh on the block.

Tacocopter.com

I should mention firstly that Tacocopter turned out to be a hoax, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t crave it, nor does not work for me to get my message across. I don’t doubt that services somewhat like this will eventually be legal and doable, but for now let’s take a look at how a unique business idea got the attention of the Blogosphere. Keep in mind that if you can get one post on what I like to call a “key launch target”, you’re going to see a domino effect.

The Internet is going wild for Tacocopter, perhaps the next great startup out of Silicon Valley, which boasts a business plan that combines four of the most prominent touchstones of modern America: tacos, helicopters, robots and laziness.

The news of Tacocopter.com was so exciting that it made headlines around the world and even got a spot on The Colbert Report and RT.com. I first heard about it on its Huffington Post news article and if you want to see what I mean by “key launch target,” just check out these share numbers from that one post.

From there, it spread like wildfire to all the top tech news blogs as well as big media outlets like The Guardian and Forbes. If you take a look at Tacocopter’s link profile now, you’ll see a natural link set that most businesses will envy.

Theoutnyc.com

The Out NYC is a “straight friendly” urban resort aimed at the gay and lesbian crowd, but it’s hip to all! I chose them because they launched a few months ago and it serves a niche market… I like that! Whomever was in charge of their marketing did an amazing job and reached out to all the right channels. The right PR company can really go a long way in getting the word out, and with that comes the links!

The hotel opened at the start of the year, so they’ve had a lot of time to do their launch marketing efforts and I can see how much of an impact it had. It is perfect for this post because it can be worked into the large vertical of “travel”, as well worked into the sub niches of “gay/lesbian travel” and “general gay/lesbian news”. This gives you a lot of angles to work with and the potential for links and brand buzz is great. Here’s the link graph from the first few months after their launch:


Image Credit: Ahrefs.com

As you can see, that’s a whole lot of natural link building taking place without anyone actively seeking out a link. They of course got the goods from places like Fodors.com, Trip Adviser and Travel Weekly. To break it down into the sub-niche of “gay travel”, they got hundreds of links from gay/lesbian news and blog sites…. Hell, they even got a mentioned on FOX News. You can see over 11,000 mentions about The Out NYC by viewing this SERP result.

From here, we can see that an MSNBC Travel article on them led to thousands of other travel sites picking up the news and of course providing links. Here’s a brief sample of their editorially-given links:

- http://www.wnd.com/2012/03/gay-hotel-in-nyc-opens-for-business/
- http://www.businessinsider.com/the-out-nyc-gay-hotel-photos-2012-1
- http://itineraries.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/03/01/10541161-gay-hotel-the-out-nyc-open-for-business-in-new-york-city
- http://travel.usatoday.com/hotels/post/2012/03/new-york-gets-first-gay-focused-hotel-out-nyc/649455/1
- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2109620/THE-OUT-NYC-New-Yorks-straight-friendly-gay-hotel-open-business.html

Not a bad start!

Fancy Hands

Last but not least is an NYC based startup called Fancy Hands which aims to make personal assistants accessible for anyone. They tackled their startup marketing quite well and could have most likely drummed up enough business from their Mashable post alone, but they got a much larger reach in the end. The main reason I picked them as the third in my list is because of how they got a lot of links and startup buzz simply because they’re an NYC based company. For example:

- http://nytm.org/made-in-nyc
- http://thenextweb.com/microsoft-ie9/2012/06/01/new-york-tech-scene/
- http://www.timeinc.com/pressroom/10nycstartups.php

Every business is going to have their sub-niches to work out links and buzz from, so make sure you identify what those are. Since Fancy Hands had such a unique product as well, it certainly helped them get exposure on the usual tech blogs. What I love about getting a mention on sites like Tech Crunch or Mashable is the fact that all the smaller tech blogs will pick up the story and cover it as well. I just picked a random chunk of their link profile thanks to Open Site Explorer and you can see what I mean:

All in all, they had an excellent launch for their company, and having an innovative product should help lead them down a successful path as well. Their link profile is definitely worth diving into for a better look at who and what picked up their news at launch. This can lead to discovering the actual “time path” of how their news/buzz started and how it spread throughout the blogosphere.

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Google Penguin Recovery Case Study

2 Comments
September 12  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

Lucky for us, we’ve never targeted anchor text or sought out links from questionable sources for our clients. Since the Google Penguin updates started we’ve had an *insane* amount of new clients seeking our help and since we only take on a dozen clients at a time, we were not able to take a lot of the extra work. We did, however, have one  brand, very well known in its vertical, pursue me quite aggressively for help until I finally caved. The majority of other sites coming to us for help were more of a headache to try and sort out, and this well known brand had one important thing going for them – they didn’t need to be building the types of links they had!

So how did this brand go from killing it in sales to literally 1-4 sales per week? Well about two years ago as the company was scaling and the owners decided to push the online marketing angle a lot more. They did what most businesses do and headed to Google to search for a reputable SEO company. They did make a choice from the various firms that were ranking well in the SERPs at the time and signed a year contract with this firm. Sadly this was their first mistake as they let this reputable company take their SEO efforts, both on and off site, into 6th gear for almost two years. While they got reports back with what was done, almost nobody in their marketing department had any idea that what they were getting was piles of spam.

Penguin hit them like a ton of bricks, and while you shouldn’t rely solely on free Google traffic for your business, we know that it’s a hard thing to get away from. As you can see from the anchor text levels above, they had a major focus on the big keyword in their vertical and not much else. In fact, they only had 3 site/brand styled links in their entire portfolio. We all know that link spam still works just fine and they were in sales heaven for a long time so they never questioned their SEO’s methods.

When I dived into their link profile I was thrilled with the fact that only about 400 links were pure garbage. A lot of the other troubled companies emailing had thousands upon thousands – not a mess easily cleaned. What I found was the usual stuff: forum profile spam, low quality blog comments on random blogs already spammed to death, crap article marketing, low quality directories and, of course, blog network posts. To say the least, this “SEO” company has ruined their business  and deserves a kicking in the bollocks!

Penguin Symptoms

This brand was knocked down to floating within the 5th-7th page region for their top 3 main keywords, which resulted in 5000 UV’s a day being reduced to just 50-80. That’s a huge drop that no one wants to experience! We ruled out Panda, as they’re an ecommerce site with all unique descriptions, tons of reviews on product pages, a lot of social votes and all around sound on-page SEO.

They were still ranking fine for the long tail, sadly this is what was trickling in the small amount of traffic. They started seeing a lot of shuffling in their SERPs on the 25th of May and by the morning of the 27th, it was clear that the weekend was a bad one. The date, combined with how their top keywords were thrown past the fifth results page, confirmed for me that this was definitely a Penguin hit. I should also mention that they received no manual penalty at all via their Google webmaster tools.

Removing the junk!

The main reason we never offered a link removal service was mainly that we don’t have any clients getting into “link trouble”. Secondly, it’s extremely time consuming. We only take on a max of a dozen clients at a time and we don’t outsource anything so our time is limited. Thankfully, there are services out there for nothing but link removal. I know a lot of my colleagues in the industry scoffed at the idea but I sure as hell won’t be emailing people to take down links! Here are a few that I’ve heard do a good job:

Deletebacklinks.com

I recommended this service first as they have partnerships with a lot of directories and you can tackle a bunch of low hanging fruit quite easily. As you can see, for our client we didn’t have a whole lot to remove but that’s 3 emails we didn’t have to send!

Linkdelete.com

This service we didn’t use but it has a really great interface in addition to a reasonable pricing structure. If we decide to help out another client in this area, I will definitely give them a try. If you’ve used their service, please let us know how it went in the comments below and I’ll add them to the post here.

Rmoov.com

This is another tool we didn’t try but I know it’s being used quite a bit lately. It’s a tool that allows your to import a .csv list of links and Rmoov will pull the contact data in for you. They also have customized email templates for harassing these webmasters! You can also email from their system and Rmoov will send reminders to them automatically – that’s pretty slick. To top it off, they’ll keep that spreadsheet up to date and provide reports on how things are going. Here’s the pricing:

RemoveEm.com

This is perhaps the most well known service of the group and it’s who we hired to handle the tedious link removal work. Remove Em has two options: You can either do the self-serve method and get to work, or there is the full service option, which we opted for. It costs anywhere from $10-20 per link removal and that depends on how many links you have to remove. I imagine it’s on the cheaper side if you have a lot of links to remove. There is also a $1000 setup fee as they’ll have to sort your links and your campaign which takes a good amount of time.

A lot of these services say once the bad links are gone your rankings will return to normal. This is, in my opinion, no where close to the truth. Once the links you had propping you up are gone, expect to not rank as well. Makes sense, no?

Path To Penguin Recovery

While there hasn’t be a Penguin 1.2 launch yet, we did start to see movement breakout beyond the fifth page for two of the most important keywords. I told our client to wait until the next run of the algo to see if we managed to shed the junk and create some real authority. The Linkbuildr approach to building links is to do as much natural attraction as possible, although not every link is going to be “editorial”. For example, if our client should be listed at Crunchbase.com, we’re going to make that happen.

Stop worrying about anchor text!

This is the one mantra we’ve employed here at Linkbuildr since we started consulting 5 years ago. Your website, and I mean every different page, should be easily read by both the search engines and your users and be clear on what exactly is going on. If it’s confusing, over optimized or junky looking then why should either bother? With that being said, if that part is spot on then you shouldn’t need mass amounts of targeted anchor text to rank for your desired keywords.

While it’s still just as easy (post Penguin) to spam the junkiest links for a couple anchors and rank within a few weeks, don’t bother. If you want your business to stick around for years to come, do it right the first time and enjoy the long term benefits.

For those that do a lot of link analysis like I do, you’ll have noticed that sites who’ve ranked for years have one thing in common link wise, a link profile that looks like this:

  1. domainname.com
  2. www.domainname.com
  3. brandname
  4. brand name
  5. http://www.domainname.com

By now you should be getting the fact that I think Penguin had mainly to do with anchor text ratios. It has been the most common factor, in my experience. It’s also a pretty simple algorithm to determine for Google and a strong indicator of manually built links. I have seen spammy sites ranking well with junk links but their anchor text levels mirrored to what you see above. I don’t think this will last, as I imagine Google is testing ways to determine what’s a junk link and what isn’t.

“Really Ryan?”

Sure, why not?! How hard would it be for Google’s algorithm to determine that your link profile consists of 300 forum user profile pages, 150 blog comments and 400 directories. Cut those numbers by 2/3′s and you still have a crazy bad link profile that’s nowhere near natural.

What it all comes down to? Set your brand/company apart from the rest by doing the things that make you stand out. This never fails and lets you have fun being creative. Take a look at your competition, make a big list of the things they’re doing and then set out to do them better. No one is going to notice or care about another identical company coming into the vertical, not really offering much else. I am, by no means, referring to just link building. Think beyond the link and offer amazing customer service, mind blowing content, digital media and highly engaging social media that shows your customers who you really are.

Stop Building Links And Start Attracting Them

This, this and this! If you’re link profile consists of the junk I’ve mentioned and no editorial/earned/natural links what-so-ever, then I’d be afraid. For the client we’re helping out in this case, they had less than 5 links that were given naturally so they wanted to know what we could offer.

Starting in June, we kicked off a content creation machine that would be taken over by their team beginning January 1st. This gave us a lot of time to create, try and test what worked for them in their niche. For this we chose to “think beyond the link” and tackled marketing efforts that would also bring in social followers and build brand awareness. To do this we put them on a steady diet of:

  • high quality blog content on a bi-weekly basis
  • one piece of link bait on their blog every 2 weeks pushed hard through their social channels
  • iPhone and Android shopping apps with tons of unique features
  • an iPad app for shopping as well as a built-in magazine with their own unique content
  • press releases from all the major services over time for whenever they launched something
  • Facebook contests/give-aways, which brought in hundreds of links and thousands of social followers
  • interviews in a couple podcasts from within their niche
  • guest blogging on high quality sites from within their vertical
  • two really stunning and useful infographics
  • crowd sourced interviews on their blog with industry leaders (got them links and social followers)
  • sniffed out broken links on authoritative and old pages and built content to offer a good, laser targeted replacement
  • got authoritative bloggers in their niche to review their products in an unbiased manor, and then give the product away to one of their followers
  • awesome video marketing
  • showcased customer pictures and videos and offered coupons for sending the media in

This is not for everyone, as you can imagine the budget for this client was tens of thousands of dollars for a 6 month time period. Not everyone has that, but for those that do and don’t market heavily in a competitive space, they are going to fall far behind. I think it’s safe to say “slow and steady wins the race” when it comes to building a natural link profile, but it takes doing the unique things to get there.

Client Results

While they haven’t had a full recovery, we’ve managed to bring them up to the 2nd and 3rd pages for all their keywords. I don’t think we’ll see a full recovery until the Penguin algo rolls out again here any week now. Traffic levels are back up quite high thanks to the constant content marketing and social media traffic – by this time next year they won’t depend heavily on “free Google” traffic for their business. This is key!

Building up a huge social follower base is also ultra important. The client has over 20,000 Facebook Page fans as well as nearly 8000 Twitter followers and about 100 new ones per day. They’re engaging customers and addressing issues such as delivery inquiries and bad experiences right out in the public eye. The best part of having that many followers? The next time they have a contest, publish some link bait or add a new product they have a huge reach.

Now let me ask our readers this; How many of you have heard, seen or experienced a “Penguin” based infraction? Lets hear about it in our comments below.

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Penguin Friendly Link Building Scams!

2 Comments
August 29  |  Black Hat  |   Ryan Clark

I feel really bad and scared for the businesses out there who know they need to get “SEO” done, and most of them only hear everyone chanting about “links links links”. The scary part is 99% of the providers out there are offering total and utter garbage in regards to quality, creativity and most importantly something that is not against Google’s TOS. I get messages all the time on LinkedIn and the latest one inspired me to do this quick post.

With all the updates in the past year, your link profile is either an asset or complete poison and this is where you have to be really careful in what you do(or who you hire). This sales pitch seen below is crazy misleading and they’re offering nothing but the same old spam that’s eventually going to get your company in bad health.

Hello,
Email Title: Google Penguin Friendly Back-Linking
 
I am *name omitted*
Manager (Marketing Department)
 
We have a large crew of Professionals who are expert in Quality Link Building, SMM, Search Engine Marketing, SEO and Online Business Optimization, time consuming duties for you in half of your in-house resource cost. You don’t even have to pay NI or tax contributions either.
 
Our core focus is following industry verticals:-ac
 
 Quality Link Building
 Rate Effective Link Building – Google Page rank oriented
 Keyword oriented Article & PR Submissions
 Relevant Directory Submissions
 Local Google Business Listing
 Mass Coverage of customers through SMO
 Internet Traffic – Bookmarking and Local Classified Submissions
 Link Wheeling
 Google Panda Friendly Content Writing
 Business Website Advertise Online
 
We are open to sign “NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement)” with SEO Resellers
We always adopt the Google friendly ETHICAL LINK building process/White hat technique; also follow the guidelines of Google and major search Engine.
 
We are looking forward starting a long and healthy business relationship with you. I will really appreciate you please let me know your requirement.
 
Note: – Please Share Your Email id for better and healthy communication.
 
Looking for Positive Response.
 
Kind Regards,
*name omitted*
Manager (Marketing Department)

 
After seeing this same kind of bullsh*t being spewed on pretty much all the webmaster forums, LinkedIn, Twitter and PPC ads I’ve decided we’re going to do something about it. In the fall we’ll be releasing a guide on how to pick an SEO firm. This guide will detail how you can do an audit on their practices and on any clients they list on their portfolio page. While it may seem a bit preachy for our services, we’d be happy to recommend a dozen quality companies(Distilled, Jason Acidre, SEER etc) that create things to attract links, not build them. If the majority of your link profile consists of links you did yourself and influencing which anchor text was used, then it’s time to wake up.

Wikipedia Link Leads to Unnatural Link Warning

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August 21  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

Scary title to say the least and while you may be smelling the stink of link bait in the air, I assure you it is as it sounds. I don’t like to cover news from other websites but in regards to link building, I’ll make an exception. This WebmasterWorld thread showcases a scenario I would have never thought could and would be a problem. Basically, this webmaster had his site included naturally to Wikipedia and then that page, including the links, got scraped thousands of times over. On top of that, the webmaster’s site is an EMD so he ended up getting a lot of exact match anchor text. We all know now that this can really cause problems for people and sure enough he got the unnatural links message in his WMT.

From their post;

It seems that Google has penalised me for this because from their point of view they see dozens of links with the same anchor text. Because my website is relatively young this makes up a large proportion of the link profile and I don’t think this looks natural.
 
I explained this to Google in a reconsideration request and they revoked a manual penalty as a result. A few hours prior to that I received one of those ‘unnatural link’ warnings without the yellow caution signs. Now two weeks later my rankings have not improved at all for this keyword (which is also my website name) whereas previously it was ranking quite well for this

This is pretty scary and if true, means that the Google Penguin filter has a long long long way to go! Hearing this also means scary things for the negative SEO world. In the past year we have dealt with businesses coming to us in droves with a unnatural link filtering no thanks to shady link building “companies” that are prolific throughout the web. We have yet to see anyone with a problem like this as the majority were blog network link buyers, blog comment spammers and link wheels gone wild.

But aren’t Wikipedia links nofollow? They sure are and while the majority of scrapers will append the nofollow code along with the rest of the data they’re stealing, we still have a problem. You can even read about another WW user who also had Google point out links from their scraped Wikipedia page being the “culprits”.

From Miozio;

I had the same problem when Google spam team pointed at links as unnatural from sites that scraped Wikipedia where I had a featured link. Those sites had nofollow attribute, same as Wiki but it does not matter to Google anymore. I desperately screamed in reconsideration request of such an injustice and they revoked manual action. Good rankings never returned since then.

Does anything perhaps think the Penguin algorithm is ignoring nofollow?

Here’s a very interesting tidbit from WW user klark0;

Same here. I got 1 Wikipedia link and about hundred from wikipedia scrapers. The only good thing is that almost all of the scrapers keep their copy in sync with wikipedia. So I edited the link to be Domain.com instead of a keyword-like link.

Let’s keep in mind we cannot confirm if this all actually happened, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised. This is where I’ll turn to our readers and hopefully someone has something to say about this topic. If you’ve had this exact problem lets hear about it in the comments below or email me([email protected]) and we can do a post on here together. I had thought I’d seen it all in regards to link problems, so this is certainly an interesting twist on the Penguin saga.

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ViralHeat Now Tracks Pinterest Analytics

2 Comments
August 14  |  Social Media Sites  |   Ryan Clark

 
I know a lot of you businesses out there are playing with Pinterest a lot lately and thought you may find this of interest. ViralHeat is one of my favorite web apps for tracking social media use around our clients and my own brands. Take a look at what they’ve got going on now and I really urge you to try out their free service to see if it fits your marketing needs.

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