Linking Strategies

Dec 6, 2006 - 1:15 pm 3 by
Filed Under SES Chicago 2006

This session was contributed by Amy Edelstein of Ascent Copywriting.

It’s 8:50 am, just before what’s meant to be Danny Sullivan’s first moderated session this morning on Advanced Linking. But frankly, all the buzz over double espresso and avocado tofu vegetable breakfast wrap is…well…you all know…Danny’s big Third Door Media news release yesterday, and the mark of a landmark juncture in the Search Engine industry road. I imagine he’s going to be a little busy this morning.

What’s the buzz? People are shocked. People are stunned. People are happy. People are incredulous at Incisive Media’s seeming lack of advance knowledge. People are sentimental and genuinely appreciative of Danny’s friendship, humanity, and unquenchable passion for this rough and ready cowboy (and cowgirl) industry.

So, it’s with that caveat that I snap my laptop shut and head downstairs for the Link Building session to see just what this morning might bring.

I pass Danny in the hall, heading the opposite direction from the session he’s meant to moderate. Big smile, long stride, heading towards who know what, and still a warm connection in the midst of the bustle. That’s Danny. And that’s what we all love about this industry.

The other aspect of this industry is that search marketing always marches on. Or accelerates exponentially, morphing, innovating, evolving with the changing times.

Somehow, appropriately for this fast-paced industry, the session starts, sans Danny, with the inimitable and sardonic Mike Grehan, giving a Biblical history of links, link value, and all good things connecting, starting from the beginning of time, way back in our dim and ancient past. Circa 1994.

Grehan educates and entertains, talking about linking strategies and the deeper implications and knowledge that can be derived from linking data. From Brian Pinkerton tinkering in U of Washington’s dorm room, to Jon Kleinberg development of hubs and authorities. Then the next chapter, heading out of Genesis into the book of Search Exodus with the almighty revelation of PageRank, before which Larry Page and Sergey Brinn decreed, “we can never be spammed.” But verily, they were wrong.

As he builds a picture of the foundation of linking, Grehan than teaches us bleary-eyed seo’s about heuristics, about social network theory and its connection to connectivity properties, and an appreciation for how for example, relevancy can be built through citation analysis at the end of white papers, where who’s who can determine the quality of your link, and therefore rank.

Now just before you relegate Grehan to an anthropologist of search, he moves into some of the technical underpinnings, discussing the algorithmic bases for analysis of linked anchor text: PageRank and HITs. Before getting lost in the myriad mathematical complexities, Grehan keeps it simple. Real simple.

The buzzword is signal. What is the quality of the information coming though? How is it related to everything around it. For practical application, the take away is:

If you can get the query term to match the title text to match the anchor test than you’ve made it.

Eric Ward, the maestro of linking, took the podium. Now for anyone who doesn’t know Eric by now, you must be brand spanking new to linking. Eric, in his free-access, throw back to the love and happiness, share and share alike mindset of the 60s, makes all his hard won knowledge available on his site. Anything you missed or want to follow step-by-step, log in, it’s there.

As a little background for what you’re in store for, Eric started building links in 1993, when seo was but a twinkle in its developer’s eye. Eric made his break linking for Amazon and the rest is history.

This morning’s Ward Wisdom focused on link reclamation and holistic linking. So, what is Link Reclamation? And when do we need it?

There are times in the course of a developer’s life, when it becomes necessary for…. Ok, perhaps not as dramatic as a declaration of independence, but when current online wisdom calls for significant strategic changes, great and dramatic breaks from the past, including moving from .asp to cold fusion, changing domain names, etc. it’s important to reclaim your link equity.

In case we didn’t quite appreciate the perils of not Eric candidly took us through a rea-client example with the massive Discovery Health site, and what he encountered when Discovery changed their site structure. Lo and behold. Can’t get better link equity, then…the pain as we watch a link on a first rate recommended site, with great views, great page rank, and the thud, a click and instead of the Discovery’s health resource, a cold, dead 404 redirect.

Now, everyone knows, 301 redirect is the way to go. Don’t lose your visitors, don’t lose your link rank with the engines. And everyone lives happily ever after.

Ward Wisdom II -- Holistic Link Building:

Remember, deep and wide linking is better. Why? Simple. Engines rank sites higher that have links throughout the entire site—both home page links and deep links. Can anyone get them? Sure. Holistic links are waiting to happen, for those who are a little creative. Play around in blog directories. Subject specific blogs. Podcast directories. Audio and video directories. Believe it or not, great links from Google itself. They’re looking for great A/V content, so they’re happy to freely take and link to your video content.

Big announcement of the morning – Eric starting a free e-newsletter, with tips and tricks for all happy linkers. Sign up everyone, it’s sure to be good content.

Last but not least, Justilien Gaspard, up-and-coming link building specialist, runs through the basics for link building success.

The list is clear, complete, and comprehensible. Not earthshaking. Not rocket science. Good solid web knowledge combined with common sense, public relations 101, and long term relationship building savvy.

Here’s the low down: Use Directories- They’re the foundation for stable links and stable visibility. Of course, older directories give better results. It’s a trust thing.

Capitalize on Vertical and Niche Directories. Go for both industry and local specific. Don’t panic with low cost membership fees. Good directories have strong link credibility, with backlinks from .gov and .edu. A little credibility can go a long way, and believe it or not, can give you a leg up especially in competitive industries like travel ore real estate. A tip: rely on backlink makeup as your primary quality indicator.

A little leg up-- vary the wording of your directory descriptions and the keywords in your anchor text. Show a little human touch.

And don’t forget blogs, wikis, forums, and influential media. There’s loads of link potential. Takes a little work. Creates a long standing impression. Make yourself an industry leader, set trends, let your voice be heard, and let what’s heard create links. Link with reporters, media directories, radio stations, and other bloggers.

There are ways and means of doing business with people that creates relationships. Don’t be shy, co-promote. Do business with other people who will link back to you. Find reviewers or critics in the industry, get them to review or test your product. When you do, presto, a real link, with content, and a relationship.

Finally, think viral. Viral and social situations used to carry all kind of noir connotations. No more. With social media, viral infections lead to more fun, more content, more link, more rank.

We finished with a little wrap up in the Q&A. We sang the swan song of the sad decline of Dmoz. A beloved monolith, covered in cobwebs and dust. For those who still hold out a link from the great, after this morning, you can put your aspirations and dreams to rest. With few category editors, and even Eric, a category editor himself unable to use his log in to edit his category for days, we’re looking at a behemoth in the industry. BUT, you can still rely on Dmoz to point you to quality businesses and approach them for backlinks. If they’re listed here, they’re reputable and have been around online for a good long span of time.

Mike admonishes, When you’re looking for links, take a brutally honest look at your own site. Make a list, check it twice. If you can’t list 10 good reasons someone would want to link to you, then ask who you built the site for and why. ☺

Todd Freisen, our stand in session moderator, ever the pragmatist, pipes in, “You can always go out there and buy some links, and that works just as well if you do it right.”

These posts may have spelling and grammar issues. These are session notes, written quickly and posted immediately after the session has been completed. Please excuse any grammar or spelling issues with session posts.

Posted by Amy Edelstein, Ascent Copywriting.


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