Moderated by Detlev Johnson Presented by Justilien Gaspard, Greg Boser, and Jim Boykin
Detlev introduces the session and says that link building is core to developing a presence in the search engines. Good links can build good traffic in their own right.
He introduces Justilien Gaspard (justilien.com) who has a link building business and is a contributing author to SEMPO Institute and an author of SearchEngineWatch.
He says that for linking, some methods work better than others. You should find one that fits you best.
One of the ways to do this is through directories that are made for people and that people use. People found things through directories before search. There are low-quality directories around now but you should look for older ones that have been trusted by users and search engines. Trusted neighborhoods are important.
Niche and vertical directories are also neighborhoods that are trusted and often overlooked. He only uses directories that rank well in Google. (e.g. search Google for "travel directory" if you are working in the travel industry and submit to the top results.) The one time fee is worth it for many of these.
Other good directories are local directories, organizational directories, and chamber of commerce directories.
When you're looking for them, look at whether human edited, what they are listing (sites you want to be associated with or spammy ones?). How many links? (Less is better), age, and high-quality backlinks. PageRank is a litmus test - don't focus so much on it. The backlink is most important. Avoid directories with nofollows, selling sitewide links to mortgages/pharm, or few pages indexed.
Some tipes: follow their guidelines and appear natural (use good anchor text that are not keyword stuffing or look like you're using an automated program). Have non-spammy sites.
Another thing that is important is content + research which will yield links. Find out from your customer service what people want and focus on content for that. Do keyword research and find out what is attracting links in your industry. Don't reinvent the wheel. Look at the top 20 results in your keywords and see what tools and resources that your competitors create that attract links. Don't copy them but do something similar.
You can use blogs, wikis, and forums as well. Blogs help and establish you as an industry expert. Blogs also attract attention from the press - you can get contacted for interviews, etc.
You need to be proactive. Promote. Don't sit and wait for links to come.
A good way for promotion is to find influential media - reporters, newspapers, televisions, radio stations, and bloggers. Some media directories are Gebbie Press (gebbieinc.com) and Burrelles Luce (burrelleseluce.com).
Take advantage of social media for promotion - Digg, Netscape, StumbleUpon, MySpace, YouTube, etc.
Another way to link is press releases. Press releases and social media - progressive media relations.
You want to build a solid foundation, create useful content, promote it, and use social media for promotion.
The next person who speaks is Jim Boykin, CEO of WeBuildPages.
He says that links can be looked at as currency. If you get a link from a good trusted website, that's like getting quarters or dollars. The quality of backlinks is important - how you're linking.
Submitting to search engines is long dead. They find you.
Meta tags and on page optimization without backlinks is dead.
Don't use the Google toolbar to look at your backlinks. The best way to do this is on Yahoo linkdomain:yoursite.com -site:yoursite.com
Don't link a bunch of your sites together. The IP addresses of the sites are important. Google is a domain registrar now. They know who owns what, even if you use Domains By Proxy.
Link trading is dead. Here's why - if you link out to 500 places and they all link back, this is not beneficial for you because the results get filtered out.
Buying PR8 and PR9 is semi-dead. Some of these might not count in Google.
Getting new sites ranked quickly for competitive factors is dead.
4 Trust Factor categories: unique content, who do you link to (and their neighborhoods), who links to you, and is your link found within the content?
On Google, the "similar pages" link gives you a neighborhood of pages in your linking network. Similar pages share common backlinks.
Google is getting better at seeing link maps - who links to who. What is the neighborhood, what is the trust? www.touchgraph.com shows you this neighborhood.
Solutions: produce good quality content, link out to other related/trusted sites, get good quality places to link to you, and get your links within the content of a webpage. Block level analysis - if the header is the same and navbar is the same, the things that the search engine will analyze is - what is that middle area (that differs?) You want your links in a different area - the middle area - within the content. Add lots of text to your homepage, make sure your existing pages have content, add new pages (resources, FAQ, testimonials, manuals, guides, tips, linkbait, etc.)
Who do you want to link to: trusted sites, edus, govs, non competing resources
Natural backlinks are best. Think: do backlinks look natural or "SEO'd?"
The better links you have, the better you rank.
Greg Boser from WebGuerilla speaks. He focuses a lot on competitive analysis - analyzing what others are doing to build our own strategy. A lot of people don't understand the trustrank issue. What are good links for you and what are good links for your competitor are two totally separate things. Older sites have more leeway with regards to what's accepted algorithmically. Newer domains have more trouble.
Linkbaiting strategies can help the whole domain. The problem is that sometimes there are links from sites that are not contextually relevant. Forbes.com hosts pages that are not about finance that still rank well - that's becoming a problem. Ultimately, Google will have to find a way to make domain trust contextually related.
When you are linking, think ahead - find out where people are headed. Google is going down that road to focus on contextually related domains.