Discover how search engines rely on link analysis as an important component for rank web pages. Learn also how to increase traffic to your site by building quality links in an appropriate manner. Moderator: · Kevin Ryan, VP, Global Content Director, Search Engine Strategies & Search Engine Watch Speakers: · Michael Gray, President, Atlas Web Service · Jeff Quipp, President & CEO, Search Engine People · PJ Fusco, Natural Search Director, Netconcepts · Jody Farmer, VP, Strategic Marketing, CreditCards.com Kevin Ryan: I see some new faces here and also some very old faces. This is a session that many years ago a guy names Mike Gray decided that links were going to be the next generation. Many of the people on this panel are experts on the topic. So I would like to thank Mike Gray for this and let him take it from there. Mike: Thank you. What we used to do back in the Alta Vista days was keyword stuffing. And it got to the point that when you have thousands of keywords on a page, how do you know which is going to be the most authoritative? So back in 1998 a computer scientist John Kleinberg did a search for Alta Vista and was stunned that it didn't come up in the results! He realized after doing research that it's not what is in your page but rather what it is that other people say about you. And then the guys over at Google took that, and developed Page Rank, and that's when link building became very important. And with that, let me introduce PJ Fusco. PJ: I'm with Net Concepts with offices in Madison Wisconsin and New Zealand. I used to be the in-house SEO for Jupiter Media. And now I have the gig for writing for ClickZ. Today we are going to talk about the strategies of link building. Quick tour of link popularity – true popularity comes from acts of kindness, which can correlate to "you attract more flies with honey". What is link building? It's an activity – an ongoing activity (not set and forget) of increasing high-quality inbound links to a document. Not web page, but a document. And obviously it's all about relevancy. There are 3 things you should have in mind when starting a campaign: Set some goals – increased search-referred traffic always assumes that more is better than less – and with links, it's more about quality than quantity. Improve your search engine visibility for targeted terms – assumes your stuff should rank better than other people's stuff. Improve relevancy signals to the search engines – presumes your stuff is relevant for specific search queries. Getting started – this looks like a monumental task – so we will walk through some free webmaster tools and understand that PR is not the only thing that matters. We will also look at free and not-free link analysis tools. The caveat of course is that tools are tools, you have to be smarter than the tools, know where the data comes from. Webmaster toolsets have come a long way in the past few years and months. Yahoo Site Explorer is still one of the best free ways for scoping out backlinks to your site and to competitors sites. Google, with its webmaster tool, has recently expanded on what they are showing. MSN, relatively new – we used to be able to count on them until advanced queries were blocked. Now they have a filter option, and the results are limited, but we can expect to see some expansion on this soon. Other basic free tools - and there are many: - Robots.txt - SEO for Firefox – goes way beyond back link analysis, had a lot of other features - Marketleap popularity checker – good for determining which competitor links you want to raid Net Concepts is a player because we developed a plugin for Wordpress so we are getting links just from that. If you are a more visual person use the more visual tools. Quintura and Kartoo are good visual search engines, and of course Google Visual Search. Hubfinder is a good free link analysis tool. There are a series of subscription-based tools: Advanced Link Manager is great for anchor text insight and backlink diversity data. iBusiness Promoter is another one. Time Investment: Is it worth it? Absolutely. Kevin: Jody is up next. Jody Farmer: I work for a company that relies heavily on SEO – CreditCards.com. We are the leading online site for credit card seekers. We are earnest SEOs, not looking for shortcuts. We have also some international domains as well. We've done a good job of high rankings for pretty competitive keywords. Link building is a tricky business because you need the cooperation of a third party. 6 Tenets of Linking Theory: Quality, Quantity, Relevance, Anchor Text, Steady Pace, Link Deeply. Now that's all theory – let's talk about PRACTICE. Link building is a basic marketing discipline. It requires specialists with expert knowledge and understanding and a special skill set. Would you let your event planner buy your media? I think in practice there are 4 Ps of link building: Practice, Purpose & persuasion, personnel, patience & persistence. 1. In terms of Planning, there are 6 distinct phases to go through: - Keyword selection and URL designation. - Set baselines and goals – SERPS rankings? New links/week? - ID target opportunities – who competes on those keywords. Where are their links from and how did they earn them? - Think about your bargain – what do you have to offer (not money and not reciprocation) - Evolve some campaigns to run simultaneously. Got a strategy for .gov? Directories? .edu? Blog comments? Social media? - Outreach – the hardest part. If you build it they will NOT come – force discipline around how many emails will be sent per week, how many directory submissions will occur etc) 2. Purpose & persuasion: Give your targets a reason to link – i.e. link bait. For some targets, likle directories, your simple existence or scale will be enough of a reason. But more likely, you'll need content or tools. Also, find the links you didn't ask for and fix them, reach out to the webmaster regarding anchor text. 3. Personnel: this to me is the most important thing – dedicate researchers to link building. They should be persistent, detailed and goal oriented. 4. Patience & persistence: there are so many shortcuts available. Avoid the temptation to build too many links to quickly, build sporadically, focus on one keyword, and be cautious of paid links. Kevin: Jeff is up next. Jeff Quip: Today I will talk about myths and mistakes on link building. At some point there has to be some guidelines. Myth #1 - PR matters. There are 2 types: the kind that Google knows about and hides, and then toolbar page rank. Real PR is viewed only by Google. In Google, a page with a PR 3 is ranking #1 for ranges…think about that. If it really mattered, it would be a PR 8 or 9. So don't take it at its face value. Myth #2 – reciprocal linking is dead. It's not! It's a natural pattern when used in moderation. It should be a component of your linking strategy. Myth #3 – PR sculpting is not the best use of your time (forcing links to more important pages and away from the less important pages, like contact us). PR sculpting uses no follow. Set up your linking structure properly when you set up your site, and don't really worry about it after. Myth #4 – More links is better. In reality, it's about quality not quantity. Think in terms of trust and authority. Mistake #1 – Not using text links. Text links hold 10 times the value of image links. Mistake #2 – Link farms – free for alls. It was a creative strategy at the time but ended many years ago. The engines figured it out pretty quickly and started to penalize. That could lead to bad search engine karma. If it seems to easy, it is. You will be punished. Mistake #3 – Links to the homepage only. Make sure you build links to content internally. If you have too many thinks to the main page and none to the internal pages, it shows as unnatural and can raise a red flag. Mistake #4 – Using 302 redirects – use 301 redirects instead, which are permanent, and it transfers the link power to the recipient page. Mistake #5 – No follows - Google is trying to enforce the use of no follows. Mistake #6 – No valuable content on the site. The more content you have, the more opportunity you have for natural links. Mistake #7 – Not socializing content. Socializing content creates media opportunities. Mistake #8 – Buying links. Be very very careful. If you have to buy links, make sure you know what you are doing, and buy them embedded in relative content on a site. Here is a tip: Submit your blog posts to social media sites. But the content must be good otherwise it's considered spam. Kevin: Thanks Jeff. Google developed the toolbar about 5, 6 years ago. I came across a page that was PR 0 and this page has Catherine Zeta Jones in her underwear. Could be the most important page I have ever seen. That's a 10! (gets laughs). Michael Gray: I like to make things simply. Everything you need to know about link building you learned in high school! If the cool kids say something nice about you it's much more important than if the AV squad likes you. And if the principal says you a smart, it's better than if the janitor thinks you are smart. So it all comes back down to quality and authority. Keep your core focus to where your website is. A good place to start is directories. You should have a well rounded link profile. Directories are one of the core link building exercises you should engage in. Such as BOTW, Yahoo, Business.com. Whatever your niche is, find that directory. And look at the stats to see if it's worth it. Look at what page you will be in, you want to be closer to the top of the page rather than the bottom. And see if the page in that sector is ranking. And check to see if it's in the index! If it hasn't been spidered in a while, it's not worth it. Look at popular and frequently visited sites in your sector. Look at who they are writing about and linking to and why. Create content that these sites are looking for, what will make them happy. Look at the backlinks of everyone who is ranking. Those are the kinds of sites you should try to get links from. Look at trade organizations as well. Local groups, local government resources are great as well for links. You want to have a well-rounded technique. Use article syndication sparingly. Use it to identify people are looking for content and filter for quality. Create unique content specifically for the website. Trickle out content slowly over time instead of dumping it all at once. Publish full posts!!!!!! And put links in your posts, whoever scrapes you will copy those links. There is a Wordpress Plugin called RSS footer which you should use, it adds links to the bottom of your posts. Rotate your keywords every three-four months. Look for guest blogging opportunities, blog carnival opportunities. Link building and viral content – it works. It will give you links from places you will never get on your own. Go after niche sites not just the big sites. It is easier to get noticed. And don't go after Digg 20 times in one week, go after different sites to become more well-rounded. Satellite and remote content – content sites like Squidoo and Google Knol. Image sites like Flickr. You Tube, Meta Café. Put your links at the bottom. Spread your efforts around. The currency of the link economy is attention. Don't obsess about Page Rank. It's more myth, an illusion. Trusted links are worth much more than anything else. Get deep links, just links to the homepage is not enough. And try to get 10 quality links a month rather than 1,000 random links. Session coverage contributed by Sheara Wilensky of Promediacorp.
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