SMX Melbourne : Designing a Bullet Proof Link Building Campaign

This is a summary of the presentation given by Ian McAnerin, CEO of McAnerin International Inc. at SMX Melbourne last month, about how to design a bullet proof link building campaign.

Link History

Twelve years ago, pre-Gooogle, search engines just analyzed content in order to rank sites, says Ian. Linking wasn’t part of the ranking algorithm. Google put paid to that by making links part of the equation. Suddenly, SEO became a lot more difficult.

Ian explained Term Vector Analysis (TVA) and Citation Analysis and how they influenced the concept of links. TVA is how keywords appear on a page (relevance). Citation Analysis is the influence of keywords on a page (authority). Google was built by students who were using citation analysis on a daily basis. Keyword density isn’t used by search engines. However, it is kinda similar to term vector analysis, which IS used by search engines.

Every web page stored in Google has a term profile containing number of times a keyword is used, density, proximity, position etc. Google then looks for clusters of terms that appear in proximity to the search phrase and finds the Representative Average to display in the SERPs. The process of TVA is excellent at figuring out informational pages such as Wikipedia pages.

The problem is that TVA can’t give search engines the entire picture – it’s difficult for them to tell the difference between spam and awesomeness. This is how search engines worked up until Google. Then Google came along and threw links into the equation. The more links you had to the page, the higher rank you would have in the SERPs.

Typically, the better writing, the worse the SEO, because good writers use flowery, descriptive language.

Types of Links

Now, to rank, you need three kinds of links:

1) Authority (aged)

2) Relevance (current)

3) Buzz (social)

So you need a combination of old and new links. Therefore you need to be constantly building links!

Stinking Linking – reference to articles by Mike Grehan about the prob with aged domains and links.

Link Quality

Link page quality is measured by:

  • PageRank of the page
  • cached
  • nofollow
  • number of other links on page
  • topic

Remember that it’s the PR of the PAGE that’s important, not the PR of the domain or main site. So if someone is offering you a link and bragging about having a PR4 on their home page, but your link is going to go on a inner page that has PR0, there’s no value there.

Page sculpting is not as influential now. No point no-following all your links on a page as they all leak PR anyway.

Sources of Links:

  • Seeds – Yahoo, DMOZ
  • Directories and connections
  • competitors (meet then beat)
  • articles and blog posts
  • widgets
  • reviews
  • case studies
  • contests and publicity
  • profiles
  • social media
  • internal linking campaign
  • link reclamation
  • pick up the phone!

Ian suggests starting any link campaign with your own site. Make sure you are cross linking internal pages. Then go and do link reclamation – check your 404s in Webmaster Tools to see if anyone is linking in to pages that no longer exist and ask them to update.

As an idea to attract links, Ian suggests holding a contest e.g. school laptop giveaway – put the rules of the contest on your web site and then the school / parents etc link to your web page for the rules.

Anchor text is virtual content. Rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t spam your web site with the same keyword phrase, don’t do the same with your link building. Mix and match the anchor text linking to your pages and ask people linking to you to do the same.

Deep links are the best links. Don’t ask everyone to link to your home page! You’ll get better crawls and better rankings and your audience gets a higher quality experience if you inner pages are well-linked. Plus the crawler starts at inner pages that it might have missed before.

Tools for Link Building:

Link Don’ts:

  • Use Free For All (FFA) links
  • Off topic links
  • Non-editorial
  • Obviously purchased links
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Q and A: Why Do I Need Regional Search Engines for Link Building?

QuestionDear Kalena

You’ve mentioned on your blog about the importance of using resources to locate regional search engines for link building purposes. Could you explain a little further how one would use a regional search engine, and could you give a concrete example of finding one?

Thanks a lot.

Terry

Hello Terry

The reasons you might want to locate regional search engines include:

1) Your / your client’s web site contains information limited to a particular region / country.
2) Your / your client’s business owns multiple web sites with different TLD e.g. widgets.com, widgets.com.au, widgets.co.nz.
3) Your / your client has multiple country target markets they wish to reach via search engines.

The situations above mean that you need to have the web sites listed in the relevant regional search engines so they can be found by the specific target markets. This is all part of the vital link building process – having your site listed in as many relevant locations on the web as possible. This is especially important now with Google placing more emphasis on local search.

Some regional search engines may find your site automatically using their crawler (e.g. Google.com.au, etc.) but others, such as niche search engines and hand-edited directories, may require you to submit the site/s manually. This is why you need to have a list of regional sites handy so you can check them all for the existence of your site/s and submit them if needed.

A couple of sources you can use to find regional search engines worldwide include:

These sites list different sub categories of search engines for various countries and regions. So, for example, if you were looking for a list of search engines and directories specific to Australia, you would click on the relevant country category and be taken to the Australian list. You could also simply type a search into Google for *list of Australian search engines* and find other lists.

You should do this for every country market that your / your client web site targets.

Kalena

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Q and A: Is this a legitimate form of link building?

QuestionDear Kalena

So, I’m a freelance writer, cruising through Elance.com, looking for projects to bid on. I see a project for a site called buildmyrank.com. They say they are looking for 150-word blog posts that will be website summaries. I can do this work, but…are these sites legitimate SEO tools or just ways to get around link building that is considered acceptable?

Thanks for your thoughts!

Denise

Hi Denise

I think your spidey-senses are accurate! This site looks and smells fishy. They’re also hiding their domain registration details, which, while not necessarily suspicious, is a common practice amongst sites employing less than legitimate SEO methods.

There is a very easy way to determine if they are *white hat*, have a look at their Google Toolbar PageRank. Oh look! A zero PageRank score. If Google doesn’t think they’re trustworthy, that’s a big red flag right there.

I would avoid them like the plague.

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Q and A: How do I check my Backlinks?

Question

Dear Kalena…

Hi there, I hope you can help. When I have a look in google webmaster for my site, I see 216 links back to my site but when I do a link:domain.com in google, it comes back with zero backlinks. Can you explain why that would be? Is this affecting my SERP? How can I rectify the issue?

Thanks! John

Hi John,

Monitoring the third party sites that link to your site (backlinks), is an important activity, as the quality and quantity of backlinks you receive is considered one of the more important factors that will influence how your site is ranked in the search results.  There are plenty of third party tools available to help with this (try a Google search for “Backlink Checker“), but, it can be quite difficult to get an accurate list of your backlinks.

You can also use search engines to help determine backlinks, however, they are notorious for only providing a subset of the total number of backlinks.  One advantage this method has though, is that you are also able to check competitor backlinks (which can be very handy for linkbuilding).

Traditionally Yahoo backlink data was much more accurate than that provided by Google – however since the Yahoo/Bing merger, the functionality of Link: and Linkdomain: commands under Yahoo has been restricted. You can still get an indication of backlinks via a command of the following form (under Yahoo or Google).

linkdomain:yourdomain.com -site:yourdomain.com

Which is intended to show which pages link to yourdomain.com, but exclude any inernal links.  For your site [URL Provided] Yahoo shows 363 links and Google 214)

Rand Fishkin (SEOMoz) wrote an excellent post in August outlining some alternate methods for determining backlinks  (see: 6 Ways to Replace Yahoo’s Link & Linkdomain Search Commands )

Googles Webmaster Tools is probably one of the better ways to determine backlinks on your own site (although you are not able to use it for competitor sites) .  It is widely accepted that webmaster tools will again not show all backlinks – however, it is believed to show most of the pages linking to your site that are likely to have an impact on your rankings.

Andy Henderson
WebConsulting SEO – Brisbane

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Q and A: How do I choose a backlink strategy?

Question

Hi Kalena,

After a search of backlinks to the page one ranking sites for my main keyword ‘carpet cleaning Brisbane’ I noticed that the top spot at that time was a site with 29 backlinks to their main URL and 29 backlinks to their whole domain. The number 2 site at that time had 253 / 349 backlinks respectively and the number 3 site had 195 / 9873 backlinks respectively. How are we supposed to determine the best path for our own backlink strategy with such variation?

Thanks Mark

Hi Mark,

As you are probably aware, there are many things that can influence search rankings (Google has indicated that they take over 200 factors into account).  Clearly some factors are more important than others, and it is generally accepted that backlinks (links to your site from 3rd party sites) are amongst the most important.  In my opinion backlinks come in position 2 of ranking factors – right after good quality, keyword rich, unique content.

It is important to recognise that not all backlinks are equal, and it is not just the number of backlinks that you should be considering. In fact the “quality” of your backlinks is more important that the quantity – Some backlinks are much more likely to improve your rankings, and some can actually have a negative impact.

What makes a Good Backlink?

Some of the factors that influence how useful a particular backlink might be include :

  • Site Authority – How “important” the site is generally (Page Rank is a rough guide to this) but also in terms of the keywords relevant to the niche
  • Relevance – How relevant the linking site is to the linked site – a site about Carpet Care is clearly going to be of more benefit to you than a site about Acne
  • Anchor Text –  Does the text used in the link contain relevant keywords
  • Neighbourhood – Are other sites linked to from the same page/site related, and trusted?  If the site contains lost of links to unrelated sites – particularly if many of the links are spammy.  The “neighbourhood” can extend to the server and other sites hosted from the same server

Backlinks are not going to be the ONLY factor that influence your competitors rankings – but they are likely to play a significant part. 10 Great backlinks are likely to be more effective than 100 good ones, or 1,000 OK ones, and 100 bad backlinks can have a negative impact on rankings.\

What about “Bad” Backlinks?

I’ve had a very quick look at the backlinks to your site (URL provided), and you currently have over 8,000 backlinks – which on the surface might seem a good thing. Dig a little deeper though and we see that many of your backlinks come from sites about such topics as – weight loss, yeast infections, various other health issues, making money from home, weddings, iphone apps, and a host of other topics – in fact I was hard pressed to find any of your backlink sites even vaguely related to carpet cleaning.  This is a very good example of “bad” link building and to the search engines is obviously not the result of natural links, and may very well cause ranking penalties (which could very well be the reason you are appearing well down page 2 of the search results).

Analysing which sites link to the top ranking sites in your niche is likely to provide you with a useful insight into the types of sites that you should be pursuing for your own link building strategies.

Andy Henderson
WebConsulting (SEO Brisbane)

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