Link Building in 2010

It wasn’t long ago that you could join a link exchange network or add free link building software to your site and watch the links pour in. Well, let me rephrase that, you can still watch the links pour in but the quality and the value of the links has diminished. You can sign up at the popular LinkMarket and watch the link swap offers pour in from hundreds of new websites that aren’t even indexed yet or the masses of template built funnel pages created for a few clients of “Dirty Dan” the SEO. Or you can add a hundred or more link partners from Asia or the Middle East because those are the “partners” that you think your visitors will find value in, right?

There are many conflicting theories on where Google is with filtering link swaps and farms. Although Google seems to be hiding the page rank for some of these built out link swap pages some people believe they still count. If you have thousands of inbound links from unrelated low quality sites with overflowing outbound links it still appears to work according to some “experts”. But is it working for the new sites? Is Google leaving the old link swappers rank alone but discounting the newcomers? Do the filters only apply for the new sites using the old tricks? Is Google just hiding the pagerank on link farms to discourage others from joining in or are they filtering the results and value passed by these farms? Is the toolbar page-rank any indication of the value or the actual page rank of a links page, or is that page’s value actually higher? If your URL includes the word “link” or “links” is it penalized? Should it be? A real test would be for someone to take a well positioned site with a high number of “low quality” inbound links that were acquired with a link swapping campaign and start removing those links. Obviously this would be a challenge because the link partners would have to be contacted. It would be a time intensive manual process to undo an automated build and it put’s the site at risk for a drop in the search results. The inverse would be easier, take a new site and try an old-school link swap build. That still wouldn’t tell us about old builds though.

What about blog spam and the boneheads that use keyword laced link text rather than a name when they comment? Is there still a value in that? Do forum signatures still work? Should they?

We have seen so many abuses in the past like the early days of meta keywords and tiny or hidden text that you just know we are going to see some innovation in “real time” search results abuse. Do the search giants have a plan or did they roll out the feeds as quick as they could for fear of being last or missing the game?

Should we all be spamming twitter with links to our website and blog posts right now? Is one tweet enough per site, page or post? Should we tweet swap? You tweet me I tweet you! Can I pay you to retweet me? Should I? We have all seen the spam that ruined Twitter Trends.

So I have asked a lot of questions and given no answers. For now  I can only say that in 2010 you still have the same old reliable opportunities. The following is a list of link building techniques that should always work, they are so white-hat that you should not incur penalties. As always, you need content and you need on page optimization and conversion optimization. Without those then what’s the point in building traffic?

  • Request links from friends, affiliates, and business partner sites
  • Join relevant industry groups and request or add links to your profile
  • Find business directories that are still known to count like Best of the Web , Yahoo Directory and the Open Directory Project (DMOZ)
  • Join business networks like linkedIn and Merchant Circle
  • Write and submit articles to quality article networks (Read and obey the rules). Be sure your profile and the article links to your site.
  • Add your blog to your profile at sites like Technorati , MyBlogLog , BlogCatalog
  • Make sure you have set your blogging software to ping update services like Technorati, Pingomatic, URLfan etc. *
  • Blog, Blog, Blog – Write good content and it will get linked to if it can be found. It’s perpetual.

While most do-it-yourself web masters could manage these tips on their own there is still plenty of work involved and I see plenty of work for SEOs in 2010. Not just the hard stuff, most successful business owners will not have the time or be inclined to perform these simple tasks. Not only are they time consuming but most search professionals will provide more than what I have listed here even for entry level link building.

Good luck in 2010 ad post comments on what has worked, what stopped working, and what is working for your link building campaigns in 2010.

* In WordPress the update services can be found under Settings > Writing and scroll down to Update Services.

Link Building 2010 Revisited – Why Blog Networks Don’t work

Link Building – White, Gray, and Fade to Black

SEO PoliceThis year, search has changed for a number of reasons, including the popularity of social networking. The SEO community is seeing change, and with change is fear, and we see plenty of talk about the effect it has on traditional link building. Two months ago, a heated battle between Aaron Wall and Rand Fishkin resurfaced about outing and link buying. Some think we should police the competition, and some think we should get better at what we do and leave the detective work to Google and Bing. Either way, there is more than one sheriff in town, so you better watch out.

There is plenty of information available now that suggests that building links too fast can result in discounted links or reduced value. Link text is a factor too, and some of the self appointed sheriffs might be using the same tools they use for link research to find “spammers” based on link text patterns, and then they can report web SPAM to Google. It’s very common to build links using directories and article sites as well as making trades. Natural links are often built with link bait or just good content (imagine that), but sometimes the need might arise for even the whitehat to bleed a little gray and buy some links. With recent changes, you could burn some links and some cash if you get too aggressive too fast.

What about the old fashioned spending spree? Well, SEOmoz used to endorse buying text links:

“… and the process of buying links couldn’t be easier. Inventory at Text Link Ads is of a very high quality, and the links often provide more than just a boost in organic rankings, but also some click-through traffic. The company’s dedication to service and willingness to provide exceptional quality links makes them my first choice for a link broker with every client.” – Rand Fishkin

But in September, they released their new SEOmoz position on link buying. No more link buying from SEOmoz? If they can pull that off and still be successful then times have really changed.

Not everyone has given up on buying text links though. SEOROI is still in the game and at your service for discrete link buying services. 🙂 Some call it ballsy, and some call it honesty or transparency.

Whichever direction you choose to throw your balls, there is one thing for sure: link building, link acquisition, and link value has changed in 2009.

SEO for Bing

bing SEODo I need to specifically perform SEO for Bing? After all, the stats show that Bing doesn’t have anywhere near the traffic that Google has, so why perform Bing SEO? I say don’t perform SEO for any search engine specifically; perform SEO for your website. All of the known factors for on-page and off-page optimization should help you with Bing, Yahoo and Google. I won’t even bet money that meta keywords are 0% at Google. Maybe they lied to us. 🙂

Bing might put more weight on one factor than Google, but SO WHAT? Optimize all factors and stop trying to micro manage a single factor for a single search engine like Bing. Quality titles and descriptions with keywords are a must for Bing and Google. It only takes seconds to add some meta keywords, and Bing suggests you should still take advantage of the meta keywords in this article: Put Your Keywords Where The Emphasis Is. They won’t help much, but it all adds up and you never know what the next algorithm update holds. It’s a safe bet that your copy needs to be at least 250 to 300 words per page. Link text counts as copy, but your page should not be primarily link text. Usually only authority sites like Wikipedia can get away with that crap and still be top 5.

  • Create great content that targets the audience that is most likely to convert for your product or services.
  • Make sure each page you create has a specific topic.
  • Use keywords naturally in your copy.
  • Stop worrying so much about some magic keyword density number.

Links are the primary key to search optimization even when performing SEO for Bing. A few outbound links to authority sites can’t hurt, but make sure they are relevant for your page topic. Inbound links from relevant authority sites is the “right stuff”, but you can get results with the proper blend of lower value inbound links. Use social media to put the word out and you should get some natural links, assuming you wrote good content. There are still some quality directories that aren’t filtered, so those can help too. Buyer beware when it comes to paid links.

You have heard this same information over and over everywhere you go, and it still holds true when you perform SEO for Bing. And yes, Bing is important no matter which stat you believe.

What is SEO? Is It Real?

To the SEO bashers, I present this argument: Some people hire a lawn service because they don’t have the time to mow their lawn; they don’t like to mow their lawn; they don’t like wasting their weekends mowing; they don’t have the tools for it; or they tried it and they ruined the lawn and killed all of the plants in the yard. For whatever reason, they pay to have the lawn mowed. How silly would a person look if they posted an article stating “anyone that pays to have their lawn mowed is an idiot”? They continue about how it’s easy to do, they have been mowing their own lawn for years and it looks great. They declare “Lawn men are con artists! I will even tell you how to trim your hedges, edge your sidewalk, weedeat, and prune your trees, and I will tell you for free.lawn man reading SEO book

Believe it or not, I started writing this because I just finished reading “It’s All About The Links” over at SEOWizz. Ahh, the mind is a terrible thing. How did I turn Tim’s great post about links into a discussion about lawn mowing?

SEO work can be fun and educational during the on-page process.  Onpage search optimization is the act of optimizing copy and HTML based on a set of known and  perceived search engine guidelines. It takes a certain skill set to evaluate key words and phrases and incorporate those into HTML elements and body copy so they satisfy your target audience and the search engines. You can change your page title, description, and copy and watch your SERP position and sales pitch change. Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done and there aren’t known factors. Then we get to link building, which is a whole different animal.

Sadly “Links! Links! Links!” is very true. I’m not sure we should be calling link building SEO, to me it’s more marketing and should be listed as SEM. Finding the links that are providing your competitors with an edge or finding quality links that will improve your search position is a different skill set than on-page SEO. New rules from Google and “juice” protection from websites is making SEO link building even more tedious and time consuming. It is also raising the cost of hiring an SEO/SEM that gets results. Specialists who can provide quality links that will hold their value don’t come cheap. You can get your site bot-spammed to hundreds of blogs cheap, but it’s not going to help.

The SEO community has been labeled con artists by some, but these people are blowing smoke when they tell you all you need to do is write good content. It’s just not true. You might not be capable of writing good content anyway. You need good content and you might have to pay for it, and then you need people to link to it. The content on its own does not get you traffic, and nobody knows you have good or even great content until someone links to it. Sure, it can go viral but first somebody needs to light the fuse. Some of the anti-SEO crowd are giving advice like “just tell people about your website” (so they will link to it?). Well, guess what; you just committed the “act” of link building. They tell you to have your friends and co-workers tweet about your site and mention it on Facebook or in email. Guess what; that too is link building. Sure, if you have the time and will to learn then you can do it yourself, but most business owners don’t sit at home blogging all day (or mowing their grass). They have a business to run and they need help promoting their website.

There are the basics that should be done when optimizing a website, and it will usually squeeze out some competition. Generally, the basic onpage optimization with no regard for links will not get you in the top 10 if you are in a market that is the least bit competitive. Don’t get me wrong; you need to study keywords and phrases, because they have to be used somewhere, either in content, titles, or link text, but that research is generally wasted without quality inbound links.

Are you listed on Best of The Web?

What Is Inbound Marketing

SalesmanWhat is inbound marketing? Is it hype? On Monday, I got a phone call from a merchant service company and the girl went straight into a pitch about “when is the last time you had your rates compared…” I told her I didn’t know what she was rambling about, but if she didn’t have a service contract I couldn’t help her, click. Yesterday, a two man team of door-to-door salesmen came in to our office. They wanted to inspect our fire extinguisher. Stop laughing, it’s a job. Right after demanding to speak to “the boss” and just before they could finish the opening sales pitch, they were being told that we weren’t interested in their service and to have a nice day. It might sound a little rude, but the truth is that cold-calling is rude. You expect the client to be available when “you” decide to show up or call. Both uninvited calls were made while I was in my office with a client. How many times has your credit card company or DirecTV called while you are eating supper? If you still use cold calling as your primary or only sales force then you are a dinosaur; your model is becoming extinct.

AlligatorInbound Marketing to the rescue. If you make your company available 24/7 via Internet or phone service, then you are available when the customer is looking for your product or service. When you make your services available through your website and you optimize your website so your target client or customer can find you, then you are 1/2 way to the goal. You never hear the words “no, I’m not interested”. The customer is already interested in your service or product. It’s like dangling a chicken in front of an alligator (yes, that works, but don’t use your hand). Actually, I like that analogy because the customer is ready to snap the service right out of your hand rather than bite your head off.

So is inbound marketing just hype? No! Inbound marketing is not hype. It’s necessary. You need to make sure your business can be found for the products and services you offer. You should try to interact with large numbers of people on the web and build name recognition so when they need your service, they know who to call. Customers are out there and they want you, can they find you?