Revised link building course now available at Search Engine College

SEC-laptop-2014-colourAfter several months of revision, I am pleased to announce that we have just re-launched our Link Building 101 course at Search Engine College.

The course content has been completely updated with new material and videos to reflect Google’s revised stance on acceptable link building tactics. This 10 lesson course also takes into account the impact of recent tweaks to Google’s Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird algorithms.

The course is now available to all students with a paid subscription. We have also added new assessment items including review quizzes, 4 tutor-graded assignments and a final exam available exclusively to subscribers who want to upgrade their subscription to Certification.

Just as a reminder, Certification is for current subscribers who want to benefit from tutor supervision, complete set assessments to reach our knowledge benchmark and receive formal, industry-recognized certification following completion. You can upgrade your subscription to Certification at any point for any course.

Hope to see some of you in our new link building class.

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Q and A: Should I source backlinks from a link merchant?

QuestionHi Kalena

I’m working through the link building course at Search Engine College, but I’m a tad unsure where to source links for my website. I know I can get them from industry related websites, but think this might be a slow process. Is it therefore deemed appropriate for me to source links from a service such as linksmanagement.com? If so, can you please answer the following questions:

1. How many links should I acquire on a weekly/monthly basis?

2. Can I focus on 1 page of my website at a time when building links, or should I spread them evenly on various pages of my website say 3-4 pages at a time?

3. Should link building be an ongoing process, or can I stop when I’ve achieved the ranking I desire….and we all know what position that is! :-)

If linksmanagement.com is not a source you would recommend me to use, can you recommend another please?

Kind Regards
Alistair

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Hi Alistair

Links should be acquired organically – at a moderate pace. I recommend adding no more than five new links a week to a site. Sites that acquire large blocks of links in a short space of time are more likely to attract attention from Google’s anti-spam team.

Whatever you do, DO NOT use a link selling site such as LinksManagement to buy backlinks. Links must be earned, not bought. The selling or purchasing of backlinks is in direct violation of the Google Webmaster Guidelines and could earn your site a ranking penalty or removal from Google’s index altogether.

Instead, I recommend that you use Raven Tools or another all-in-one SEO tool-kit with which to manage your link building efforts. These suites of tools generally enable you to research, find, contact and track link partners all in the one location. Raven’s link research tools in particular are brilliant for finding potential link opportunities and keeping track of who has linked to you.

We are still editing the remainder of the Link Building course, so you’ll probably find that (when published) the remaining lessons will answer your questions. But in the meantime, can I suggest that you review the Link Building lessons within the SEO101 and SEO201 courses? Also look at the recommended reading and resources for those lessons. They contain a wealth of information about link building.

Finally, take a look through my previous blog posts about link building as they should give you some inspiration about where to find new link partners.

Hope this helps!

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Fast Five in Search – Week 29, 2014

fast-five

 

If you’re a long term reader of this blog, you’ll know that I sometimes write articles for SiteProNews. Sometimes I’ll get a reader question here and I’m able to say “I just wrote an article about that topic” and point to the article over at SPN. But apart from the occasional Q&A reference, I’m not great at promoting my own articles.

So for today’s Fast Five, I thought I’d share with you the last 5 articles I wrote for SiteProNews.

Here’s this week’s Fast Five:

1) What to Blog About When You Have Nothing to Blog About – This article was inspired by the many, many webmasters who approach me about the difficulty they have finding topics to blog about. In this article, I bust the “blogger’s block” myth and show you just how easy it is to come up with topics for your company blog. I even suggest a range of topics to suit blogs in various industries.

2) Five Must-Have Spreadsheets for Online Marketing Professionals – A short piece that highlights five spreadsheet-based marketing tools that I use myself or recommend on a regular basis.

3) 11 Easy Ways to Build Editorial Links – Another article inspired by questions I get on this blog. This one talks about all the ways you can safely build incoming links to your site in the wake of Google Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird algorithm updates. This is a two part article, with Part Two over here.

4) A Beginner’s Guide to Successful Domaining – I wrote this article after my recent experience trying to sell a domain I’ve owned for over 10 years. It’s an introduction to the murky but profitable world of domain flipping and includes a detailed list of domaining resources.

and finally…

5) 20 Free Marketing eBooks You Need to Download Right Now – Trust me, you’ll want to bookmark this one. This article is a review of my favorite free eBooks and White Papers relating to marketing, categorized by theme. In the article, I’ve linked to the jump page from where you can access the PDF file for each freebie.

Happy reading!

*Image courtesy of Threadless.

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11 Easy Ways to Build Editorial Links

link buildingIn the current post Google Hummingbird environment, webmasters are increasingly unsure how to tackle the important task of link building.

Editorial links are the most desirable of all: regular links that are given freely and naturally by sites that want to link to your content without any incentive. To acquire these links, you need to first provide information that is worth linking to.

There are a wide range of unique ways to acquire editorial links to your site. Here are 11 of them:

1) Blogging

You only need to do a Google search for *blog* to realize that blogging has skyrocketed as a content strategy in the past 5 years. Writing a blog helps you to establish authority in a subject area and – if done well – provides original, interesting content for search engines to index. It’s no secret that blog platforms such as WordPress, Tumblr and Blogger have become enormously popular with content creators, not just for creating blogs, but as stand-alone Content Management Systems with which to design entire sites.

Search engines seem to lap up blog content more so than other types of content, because the technology used to create it generally produces very clean code which is easy to index AND a lot of unique content that tends to be fresher or more current. This results in more links from the search results and more traffic than traditional site pages. Blogs are ideal for social conversation as well. If you allow comments on your blog posts, it’s quite common to find yourself engaged with a number of people about the content of your post, which can lead to even more links.

There’s really no trick to this method. Create a blog, add unique content and keep it fresh by posting regularly. No-one reads a dead blog.

2) Industry / Community Involvement

It sounds obvious, but if you want to be noticed and attract links to your content, you need to visibly participate in your online community. It’s not enough to publish great content, you have to go read and comment on other blogs and news sites and keep up with what’s happening in your industry or niche, otherwise you are operating in a vacuum.

Subscribe to news feeds, comment regularly on blog posts that get you thinking, participate in forum discussions, attend conferences and events and become more visible. This will build up your profile and authority in the field, spark ideas for blog posts and new content of your own and naturally trigger more links and referrals to your blog/site.

3) Link Bait

Link bait is simply a form of viral marketing, where web site content is published specifically for the purpose of gaining attention and building a lot of incoming links in a short space of time, usually with the intent of boosting the ranking of a page or site in search results.

As the object of link bait is to gain attention, the content used as *bait* is generally something that appeals to a wide audience and is memorable. Link bait tends to contain one or more of the following elements or themes:

  • controversy
  • humor
  • shock
  • rumor
  • history
  • celebrity
  • politics
  • discovery
  • current affairs

The most successful link bait has an intriguing headline and a killer hook (first paragraph). It also needs to be easily shareable.

One example that springs to mind immediately is the Bacon Explosion recipe, developed and blogged about in 2009 by a SEO and his systems administrator friend as part of a local BBQ competition. The recipe gained attention for its enormous calorie count (over 5,000 calories) and pure meat ingredients, resulting in national media attention from the likes of the New York Times, CNN and even a guest spot on Good Morning America. As you can imagine, the recipe brought thousands of links to the inventor’s blog and launched an entirely new business for them.

While this was a happy ending, you have to be super careful with deliberate link bait, because it can blow up in your face. Blogger Lyndon Antcliff found this out the hard way, when his parody blog post written for Money Magazine in the UK in 2008 made front page news across the Internet as an authentic news story until it was finally *exposed* as a fake.

4) Article Marketing and Syndication

An excellent way to attract links to your site is by writing articles about your areas of expertise and encouraging other sites to re-publish the articles for free in exchange for a link back to your site. The way it works is you use a by-line at the top and an author bio at the end of the article which contains a link back to your site. You can use anchor text in the link that integrates relevant keywords and provide the whole article, including link text, for re-publishing. This is called article syndication and the idea is to build up a new link to your site every time your article is re-published. However, you need to approach the way you go about doing this very carefully.

In the past, it was recommended and commonplace for writers to create a large number of articles and submit them to what’s known as Article Directories e.g. EzineArticles.com and GoArticles.com. These directories would then make that content available for re-publishing on hundreds or thousands of sites across the Internet. But just recently, Google advised that syndication via article directories is something they would not recommend in terms of a link building tactic.

According to the Webmaster video uploaded by Matt Cutts on the subject, they consider article directories to contain mostly low quality content and are using filters to prevent links from such content from influencing ranking. You can see Matt’s video here.

So if you do decide to use article syndication as a link building method, just make sure you do your research carefully and only choose syndication sites that have a good standing with Google and other search engines. No matter what syndication method you use, be sure to publish your articles on your own site first, to establish authority and original authorship. That way, you can promote the availability of your articles for re-publishing, but within terms that are clearly specified on your site and within your own control e.g. using a Creative Commons license.

Also be sure to take advantage of Google Authorship and link your articles to your Google+ profile so your author profile and photo shows up in the search results alongside your article.

5) Lists

Lists work well as blog posts and can be highly linkable content. You know the type I mean. Things like: Top 10 Kids Movies, 50 Ways to Propose, World’s Richest People Under 30 etc. There’s a very good reason why US Late Show host David Letterman always ends his show with a list of Top 10 Things. Because they work. They’re funny, they’re memorable and some people will sit through the entire show just to see them.

6) How To’s / Tutorials / FAQs

I’m not sure if it’s still there, but in the foyer of the Googleplex in Mountain View California, there used to be a large screen that displayed search queries typed into Google from around the world in real time. Watch it for a minute or less and you were bound to see a search query that starts with “How do I…?” or “What is the best way to…?”

Clearly, a great deal of people use the Internet to research how to perform a particular task or answer a specific question. You can take advantage of this habit by creating content that answers common questions. If you have good skills in a particular area – in a certain piece of software for example – you could create a web page, short tutorial, PDF or blog post about how to use that product/tool/software and publish it on your site. Game cheat sites were born out of “how do I…?” search queries, as were sites like WikiHow and the now defunct Google Answers.

The nice side effect of writing How To content is that you build up your credibility as an expert in your field and increase the likelihood of your site becoming an authority site in your niche.

See if any of your existing site information lends itself to creating How to or FAQ style content and re-write it for maximum link value. Or better still, create a How To video and upload it to YouTube.

7) Original Research

Another logical link acquisition technique, and one that Matt Cutts refers to in his video blog post on the subject is the creation of original, unique and/or exclusive research into a particular subject.

If you conduct a new study or undertake research that is not available anywhere else on the Internet, chances are that it is extremely valuable to others. Product comparisons, statistical research, software reviews, experiments and detailed analytics can all be translated into pages of content and shared online. Such unique content is bound to be picked up quickly by search engines and shared by others, particularly if you circulate it via your social media channels.

8) Interviews

Let’s face it, some personalities build a huge following on the Internet and will attract traffic no matter what is written about them. I’m not just referring to celebrities either. Every industry or niche has evangelists and personalities that are well known for both good and bad reasons. You can use this to your advantage by writing articles about them or better still, scoring an interview with them and republishing it.

But just like in traditional journalism, if you want the piece to be shared and linked-to, you’ll need to spend some time carefully planning your questions in a way that will elicit unique information and candid responses from the person that can’t be found elsewhere.

9) Products and Tools

If you have a tech-savvy team or a keen developer, you might look at mini product development as a link building technique. You can create small but useful products or tools for free and syndicate them via your site. For example, a Word Press theme, a plugin for Firefox, a simple iPhone app, a shareable game – anything that can be packaged up as a product, easily delivered and associated with your brand.

Be sure to include your brand attribution within the design interface and a link back to your site. By providing the the product/tool for free, you are more likely to achieve higher circulation, which should have a snowball effect in terms of incoming links.

10) Resources and Collections

When you compile a list of resources in a particular niche or subject, you are saving others a lot of research and tedious yak shaving. Because of the concentrated amount of information and content you offer on a particular subject or theme, you’ll often find that more sites will link to your site rather than conduct their own research, particularly if that theme is trending or attracting high search volume.

Group together your resources in a subject or pull together a new collection that you think others might benefit from and publish it. Perhaps your existing content lends itself to being categorized into different subject areas? For example, do you have a bunch of blog posts on scrapbooking techniques that could be bundled together to create a Beginner’s Guide to Scrapbooking? What about all those PDF documents on your server – could they be grouped together to form a collection or library for your visitors to browse and download?

This leads into our final editorial link building technique:

11) Existing Content

To build new editorial links, you might think you absolutely have to create new content. But that’s not necessarily the case. Revisit your existing site content and internal marketing material and see if you can recycle it or rework it to fit into one of the categories listed above.

Take a close look at the following for inspiration:

  • previous newsletter content
  • related blog posts
  • customer testimonials
  • technical product content
  • email campaigns
  • survey results
  • site metrics data
  • ad campaigns
  • PDF documents
  • case studies

Create a Fresh Content Ideas list and whenever a new idea hits you, jot it down or schedule it into your Editorial Calendar. You’ll be surprised at what a 15 minute detour into your blog archives or Google Analytics account can produce.

Finally, when you’re planning editorial content, ask yourself “Is this quality content? Will people find this interesting or useful?”. If you can’t honestly answer “yes”, it’s simply not worth publishing. Rethink and rework until you have truly linkworthy content.

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Dry Your Tears: Link Building Isn’t Dead

lost-toddler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a controversial couple of weeks in SEO land, with Google again taking action against large online communities and sites that they claim have broken their webmaster rules.

The current crackdown relates specifically to the practice of guest blogging and how it breaches Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by falling under their revised definition of Link Schemes. Manual penalties have been handed out to sites that are known to offer guest posting services on a large scale or provide a guest blogging network. The penalties follow a similar pattern to Google’s action against article marketing directories last year.

What I don’t understand is why everyone’s so surprised. People are acting as though guest blogging is new to Google’s spam radar. It’s not. If you look at Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, you’ll see the following cited as an example of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:

“Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links”

Based on my research on the Wayback Machine, this statement was added to the Guidelines sometime between the end of July and the beginning of August 2013.

Besides, Matt Cutts has given plenty of warnings about potential action taken on sites that use such methods. We’ve been duly warned, folks.

Even so, webmasters are like lost toddlers at the mall right now when it comes to the topic of link building. They are wandering around blindly, crying loudly, looking for familiar territory and some kind of reassurance that everything is going to be ok. I’m witnessing a lot of tantrums and hearing shouts of “link building is dead!”, “Google’s killed innocent links, it’s so unfair!”

If you’re one of those frightened webmasters, DON’T PANIC. Take a breath and review your current link building methods. If they include anything remotely similar to what Google describes in their link scheme definition, stop doing it. Now. Assign somebody to clean up aisle 4. Remove any incriminating evidence of said scheme and remove it from your link building plan, permanently. Breathe. Take a yoga class and chill the heck out.

Most importantly, don’t abandon your link building activities. The practice of building links is not dead, despite the rumors. It’s just different. The best link building tactics have actually been under your nose the whole time.

Don’t believe me?

Here are 11 Easy Ways to Build Editorial Links.

Now, go dry your tears.

 

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