Secrets of Link Building

Yesterday I had three people from separate companies ask me to sign an NDA, actually they weren’t people they were clients. And clients have a much higher status than people, at least they do around these parts.

The bigger the client of course, the more you are likely to trigger an NDA and of course an NDA can cut both ways. It protects you if you are offering seo services and protects your client who is hiring the seo company. So, everyone should be happy and signing the NDA is all good stuff.

But that got me thinking. What’s the point of the NDA? Ultimately is about protecting confidential information and secrets.

Secrets!

It’s a massive word, much over used in online marketing of course. Come learn the secrets of link building, buy the latest ebook, SEO secrets revealed.

The Zen master will tell you that the secret to success is that there are no secrets. That the secret lies within yourself.

Megh!

Whilst there is truth in that, I know of a high ranking authoritative website where you can drop a dofollow link, point it at a target page, using the correct keyword and get it to rank quickly and rank well. But, I’m not going to tell you where it is. It’s a secret. If I published it on this blog the harvest would be shortened and the fruit would soon be over ripened and riddled with maggots.

So it stays secret. The point is, there are secrets, little bits of information floating around that would benefit your online marketing efforts.

No this isn’t a lead in to a “Secrets of Link Building” ebook.

To get to know these secrets of link building you do have to revisit the Zen Master and learn that there are no link building secrets. The reality is, there is nothing that you cannot know in the click of a mouse that will teach you all you need to know to create the most amazing online marketing campaign.

Because, it’s not the secrets to link building that will make you a great link builder. It’s the other stuff, the stuff that expert link builders give away for free on their blogs, it’s what gets talked about at SEO conferences, in free downloads of pdf files. It’s what given away in the seo books stacked on the shelves of you local book shop for a tenner.

The secret stuff, probably only makes up 5% of the mix, if that. The other 95% is hard work and focussing on what works.

The reason why people are looking for that link building secret is because link building is boring, simple and hard work. Which is why people outsource to link building agencies.

Link Building is like Planting Potatoes, Simple, Boring and Hardwork

Link building is Like planting potatoes

Link building is Like planting potatoes

Although in the past I have been known more for my link baiting skills, for the past 6 months I have been hunkered down and concentrating more on less prosaic building of links. The down and dirty stuff that does not glisten in the sunlight like a finely crafted piece of linkbait.

Here are a few thoughts on the subject:

Link building, as we know is a process.

A process that can be replicated.

Correct implementation requires the correct methodology.

So it’s really just of case of find what works, make it as efficient as possible, construct the process in a way that’s easy to scale and then implementing. Easy until you realise that it’s the implementation that can be the tricky part.

It’s not difficult to find what works, but it does take time and concentration, hence my hiatus from regularly blogging and Tweeting in 2010 . You need to run your own tests to confirm the effectiveness of any link building.

It’s important to realise that you can only confidently know what has worked in the past and even then it’s very tricky to be absolutely definitive. Only by repeat testing and observation can you really have any idea of what really works, and of course you have to constantly test to see if what worked yesterday is working today.

Past performance does not guarantee future performance.

Causation and correlation are two words you need to get to know intimately.

We know what happened in the past, but this is no guarantee of what will happen in the future. But, we do have a very good idea. Or should know if we heavily test.

Some people say that certain techniques work and certain ones don’t. I’ve found that people tend to say some techniques do not work simply because they do not implement correctly. I don’t like to say you should only ever do one technique, if you have time and resources do them all. Constantly testing to see which works and which doesn’t.

Many times I have heard people claim a certain technique does not work only to find on the next blog that it does. You only really find out when you do your own tests.

My wild theory and it is only a theory is that everything works. That every link will benefit your ranking, but sometimes that benefit will be minute. I certainly don’t know for sure and it’s probably impossible to be absolutely sure.

Take blog commenting for example. You drop a link, leave some juicy anchor text with some witty comment. The link is of course nofollowed. I have done numerous tests with this but find it difficult to isolate the results so I cannot be entirely sure, but my informed opinion is that commenting on blogs directly effects your rankings.

Note, I did not say how much the effect is, nor did I say how the effect actually comes about. Because a nofollow link is not supposed to pass Google juice. I cannot for sure say why it has an effect on rankings, but I believe it does.

If you think the only purpose of a link is to pass Google juice you are missing a trick.

Because humans click on the links in comments, and humans give links and sometimes they give links that let the Google juice flow like Niagra Falls.

As a webmaster I have clicked on every link that has been posted in the comment of my blogs and assume most other bloggers do the same. You go and check out the blog of the commenter, it’s what humans do.

There have been many times I have done this and it has led to me linking to the blog. The blog comment initiated the sequence of events that caused me to drop a link. Of course it helps if you have linkable content, which is easy enough to produce if you have the time, money or the right skill set or peferably all three.

Now, I could have said that perhaps the Google bot sometimes has an electronic sneeze and accidentlly follows the links by mistake. But, I have absolutely no way of confirming this. And doubt any of the representatives from Google are going to give me any answer unless it’s wrapped in dense fog which slightly smells of sulfur.

But it’s a nice thought and that’s the problem, sometimes hope can infect thinking.

And of course you have to factor in that the landscape is constantly changing, the variables that influence where you end up in the rankings seem to be constantly in flux.

If you hold the premise that every link has an effect it simply becomes a matter of scale. Which in turn becomes about logistics, who can implement in the most efficient manner and on the largest scale wins.

It’s scale which can negate the flux, if you can do enough of what works, or what you think works and keep from becoming a target of the Google spam team then I think you can influence your ranking.

And that’s why link building is like planting potatoes, plant enough of them, water and weed them and enough should survive to bring you a good harvest. However, it’s really hard work and it’s really boring to implement on such a scale that you know it will work.

I am of course talking about competitive industries which is where I work.

So over the past 6 months I been testing out anything and everything, been very surprised at some of the results and been able to build a link building machine made up of systems and process which any of my employees can simply crank up and start planting potatoes.

Not as fun as writing linkbait, but it’s scalable and it’s easier to predict the results.

If you want to do the same it can be done, you simply have to invest the time, money and focus to build your own system. However, a lot of people are very good at selling widgets and not developing link building machines and so come to people like to myself and others like me to help them.

Another one of those boring, "What the hell am I going to do in 2011" SEO blog posts

I feel like I have been living in a cave the past few months. Gone are the times when I attacked writing on this blog like a starved rat trying to get into a bin liner full of last nights kebabs.

I have been busy link building for clients. I’ve developed a few techniques that are quite effective in getting results, actually when I say developed what I really mean is I had a good look round at what others were doing, tested a whole range of techniques, threw out the ones that worked and kept the ones that do the business.

This type of link building is not as exciting as linkbait, but it’s steady and a lot less risky. It’s not really a big secret what works, the problem is what works is hidden in a forest of other stuff that does not work.

The trick is setting up a lab and testing everything and observing the results. Always keeping in mind that what once worked, may not work tomorrow. But, that’s OK because you should constantly have new techniques that are being tested and then tweaked.

This kind of link building is like planting potatoes, simple, dull and time consuming. The more spuds you plant the more spuds you get back. Yes this is obvious, but how many of us stop before the job is properly done.

Link building these days is not about some secret black hat technique being exploited. It’s about logistics, it’s about scale. It’s about the ability to organise large amounts of troops to go fight in a battle.

The competition for eyeballs on Google organic search is immense, even in minor niches these days. If you don’t have an organised link building strategy in place, you may as well just put your feet up and switch on Jeremy Kyle, whilst having a tinny of course.

Most business people who desire an effective web presence don’t have the time to deploy an effective link building strategy. They hire people like me to do it for them. Those who don’t hire specialists are up against people like me who eat, drink and sleep link building.

I love it, I know it’s weird but link building, when you really get into it is a fascinating subject.

Another interesting point that often comes up is how does a business know how much to spend on link building? After all, it’s very difficult to say that X amount spent on link building is going to bring Y amount of profit. Expertise and knowledge of a niche should be able to inform on how much profit you will gain if you have a number one for a specific keyword.

The laws of the market should then dictate that you simply have to spend more than the dude ranked at number 2. Of course it’s not that simple as the factors on where a site ranks are many and a lot of the reasons are shrouded in fog and fuzzy at the edges.

Is link building an art or is it science? It’s the wrong question, as a painter I know that scientific principles are crucial to good art, that techniques must be quantified, tweaked and reused. Painting a good picture is not simply about art, just as effective link building is not always about science.

I thought I would share a few thoughts on link building rather than pledge to write a blog post a day for the whole of January (how tedious) or do one of those lists of 145 Social media sites that give a dofollow link. Which although are inane to write are quite effective in getting a few links.

So, 2011 for me is about ramping up the link building business. Sure, I still knock out the odd linkbait, but the regular link building business is something that can produce more reliable results and can also scale nicely and I have now eschewed the lone gun slinger mentality and have a number of employees who are absolutely fantastic link builders.

My link building service is not for everyone, it’s not the cheapest and it’s certainly not the most expensive and you really need to be geared up to take advantage of it. But, most of my business is with repeat clients. Something which tells me I must be doing something right.

Lyndon Antcliff

May your links be many and aged.

How to get links by gently farting into a leather sofa

In a recent post I mentioned that “some bloggers only have to fart softly into a leather sofa to get links”. This wasn’t an attempt to get links to a leather sofa site, although now I think about it…..

It was to highlight that some people got it and some people aint got it.

So the questions that are important are.

  • What is it that they got that others aint got?
  • Can what they got be got by others?
  • Can what they got be taught by those that got it?
  • How do I know if I aint got it
  • Will listening to the Bangles, “Manic Monday” help in any way?

The zen part of this post is that even if you have the answers to all these questions you will be no closer to getting what they have got.

Which makes me wonder about the efficacy of all these, “Give me $1,000 a week and I will show you how you can charge $1,000 a week showing people how to make $1,000 a week from showing people how to make $1,000 a week” type sites.

Before you spend the $1,000 a week to find out if you got what they have got , spend £12.99 and £16.99 and book your self 2 weeks in that Scottish Highland croft.

I know I’m mixing currencies here, but I live in multi currency world. And no I am not trying to rank for “multi currency”.

The £12.99 is for, Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin.
The £16.99 is for the hard cover of Outliers, by Malcom Gladwell.

The 2 weeks in the Scottish croft is to give you time to read and let the information sink in without you being distracted by wanting to tweet that you just ate a corned beef bagel with dijon mustard.

The point is….

What I hope will happen is you come to a realisation that you don’t really have the desire to do what it takes to get what those have got and to spend your cash and time on something more useful like making a model of Hugo Chavez out of the sticks you get from Starbucks to stir your liquid caffeine delivery product.

In conclusion….

Those bloggers who get links are those types of people who get it. Most of the time they don’t even understand why they “get it”, they just get on with it.

And if you are thinking right now that, “I don’t get it.” Then you are probably right.

What is Content Based Link building all about?

What an awful label, “content based link building”. Doesn’t exactly fire you up to run to your keyboard and bash out ass achingly good linkbait does it?

Labels are interesting, within them you can find out lots of stuff.

What I specialise in has many labels, linkbait, content, magnetic content, etc.

None of which really capture the essesnce of what we do.

At the recent SASCON conference people asked what I did and I told them I produced content such as “13 Kittens on Crack go on Holiday to Holland”. How can you put a label on that?

The interesting thing is there is quite a strict process to creating linkbait, highly creative people tend to have patterns of behaviour which allows them to tap into their creative resevoir. Sometimes the headlines seem like they were thought up in minutes, but the reality is a casual headline which works has usually been crafted for hours if not days.

I am still shocked when people are surprised I work on a specific headline for days, I am sure most bloggers take about 30 secs. It is possible to come up with a great headline for 30 secs, but you will probably find that your sub-conscious as been mulling it over for years.

So, back to the question, What is content based link building all about?

Most of it seems to be about mediocrity, most content is medocre. I guess by pure definition that would be the case, if everything was exceptional then it would become average.

The important thing to focus on then, is successful content based link building. This is not that hard to backward engineer.

  • Look at the niche
  • Identify the content with most links
  • Deconstruct content
  • Analyse backlinks to identify patterns

The data you need to end up with is, why did these people link to this content? It’s difficult to be definitive and some of the gaps must be filled in by instinct and guess work. But you will notice certain interesting things:

  • 80% of the links come from 20% of the linkers
  • The links are given by real people, not machines
  • Human contact increases the chance of a link
  • Linkers may not agree with the content

We can divulge a lot more information from the why did these people link to this content question. And this data can help shape your own link building strategy within the specific niche.

But is content based linkbuilding all about relationships? I don’t think it’s “all” about that, there is a whole lot more to it, but it is a very important part of the mix.

Should I Buy Links to Improve my Rankings

Mark Cook, over at Further.co.uk has written a thought provoking article on why buying links is a dumb idea

As someone who offers clients a linkbuilding service using web content it would be a “of course he would say that”, kinda thing if I said don’t buy links. I’m not an expert on buying and selling links so my opinion is coloured by that fact. But what Mark presents is a logical case for the case against links. Of course it is one of the weapons in the arsenal and does a specific job and you have to know how to handle the weapon to be able to maximise its efficiency. Anyone who has been banned selling links know this.

An interesting quote in the article is from Shaun Anderson,

“If buying links was ineffective, it wouldn’t be against Google TOS. Think about that.”

Another interesting passage from the article:

I love it when our competitors do this, I really do. By outlaying £6k a month, they are taking money away that they could be investing in enhancing their existing content, improving the conversion rate of their website, or investing the money in campaigns to create hooks, interest and engagement.

I’m always shocked when I hear the budget some websites pay for paid links. £6,000 a month can build you some very juicy linkbait. What I would add to this is that the links that are generated through linkbait are natural, organic and extremely hard for competitors to replicate. And as pointed SEO Chicks pointed out this week, there are ways to nobble paid links. Although how many people actually do this I am not sure, I don’t know of any.

You could pay to produce beautiful content such as this which I assume has resulted in buckets of links and rightly so. Most scratch their heads and let the dandruff fall on their keyboard whilst they explain why their insurance – credit card – kitchen worktop website can’t make use of such content. But, that’s where content agencies like mine come in, we look at what content fits your niche and create something that will in all probability get links.

The fact will always remain that fantastic content will go links, so all you have to do to build links is create fantastic content.

Getting Links for a Poker site is easier than you think

How do you linkbait for poker or similar uber competitive terms?

In fact how do you go about getting success for mortgage linkbait or hotel linkbait. All apparently difficult topics to get links for, not because few people link to such subjects, but because so many want links for those niches.

It is important to know why it’s hard or why people think it’s hard. I’ve played around in these sectors a bit and the reality is, it’s not as hard as you think, In fact, it’s just has hard to get links to a non sexy niche such as marble flooring, although I have met some people who find the smooth, cold marble floor rather arousing. But I no longer have her number.

Consider this, how many poker websites do you think there are?
Narrow that down to websites that will link to other websites based on the content (rather than being paid)
Then look at the actually number who are worth getting a link from.
After that consider how many people are competing for links within the niche.

Self referential niche linking are not the only links that work.

Consider how much easier it is to get links outside of that burned niche?

Next question:

Why would a non poker website link to a poker website?

The answer is simple, “because they want to”.

If you answered, “because their prize winning Shitzu was being held hostage and would only be returned if a link was placed”, your partly right. The Shitzu provides the motivation and the reason they want to link. But ultimately it’s “because they want to”. The point being it’s the desire you want to create, it’s desire that is our focus.

The point being, you do not “get” the linker to link, but you create a desire in them to link. If you want to think you got them to link your wrong, they linked because they wanted to link. You gave them a reason to create the desire.

масиYou link because you want to, not because someone makes you.

Which leads to the next question:

How do you create the desire within a linker to link?

Lets stick with the poker theme. How do you get someone to link to a poker site?

You create the desire.

What is desirable?

To answer this we must be specific, we must focus on the the linker. I say “the linker” instead of linkers because my method involves picking a single target and developing a strategy for that one linker. You can go wide and gather info on the whole niche and that’s fine initially but to really get under the skin of the whole niche you need one person as a totem for the whole group. We can get into how you would do that in later blog posts.

Sure you do a wide niche study first, as it’s the only way to find that one target, as you want the target to have influence and authority.

Lets take a specific niche which we want to link to our poker website, soap making websites for example.
How do we get a soap making website to link to a poker website?
The answer is to identify what the particular individual web master desires to link to.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Maybe something along the lines of a bar of soap which looks like an Ace of Spades, or a poker chip. Doesn’t really matter what as long as it contains two components. One which sates the desire of the soap making web master to find and link to cool hand made soap content and another that retains the contextual integrity of the poker site.

Contextual integrity is important because you need to retain the linguistic semantics of the link.

Or in other words, follow the rules of how information and language interact and it will turn out fine.

We could delve a little further into semiotics and language but I kinda feel I’ve already lost you. But if you are interested, check out the Elements of Semiology, By Roland Barthes and Ways of Seeing by John Berger. They are the kind of books you only read if you have to, and I had to, but in my opinion if you are a link builder or an SEO these are the kind of books that will give you the edge.

May your links be many and aged.

Smash a Brick into the face Link building

One of the problems of link building that I rarely see addressed in depth, is the issue of attracting the initial attention of the linker.

I am talking about someone we have no prior relationship with, someone who we need to reach out to.

But my points also apply to our closest link pals. Who are always good for a link or two.

You have crafted a piece of content, spent hours, days even weeks. Maybe thousands of pounds getting it just right?

How much time do you think you have to get the linker to pay attention to your content and consume it.? I put the question out on my twitter feed and the average of 2.7 seconds came back.

2.7 seconds to grab attention online seems about right.

What usually happens, is you are sitting in front of your computer and I’m probably like you have about 15 windows open. Twitter client, email, web stats digg and many other

Even talking about it now I fee I should cut back a little.

The point is, for those of us who work online, there is a huge demand on our attention as soon as we power up our computers

The linker is no different. Works at a computer, has tabbed browsing, multiple windows open.

Everyone seems to suffer from acute distraction disorder.

We have to find a way to burn through this haze of distraction to get out linker to pay attention. How do we solve this problem.

Simple

We smash a brick into his face.

A good headline will do this job. A good headline will stop you in your tracks. Engage you and draw you in, blanking out all those distractions to allow you to focus on the one task of “I must read more”.

My favourite headline was introduced to me by a top copywriter called Jon Carlton. The headline is, “Boy Eats Own Head”.

How can you not want to know more.

Headlines do not only exist at the top of the content. They are in the subject text of email,
they are in a twitter post, rss feed, digg headline etc

But the shocking truth is, Websites do not link to websites. I know what you’re thinking, what the hell is this guy talking about. Consider this, people point to the work of other people.

It is people we need to target and not the technical manifestation of a link. It is people for they are those that give the link.

Because of that understanding the way people work is crucial to successful link building.

We have to become students of the human condition, because websites do not link to other websites, people point to other peoples work

The battle for the link takes place in the mind of the linker. Not that the content is unimportant, it is merely a vehicle to allow us plant a suggestion in the mind of the linker.

That suggestion being, “drop a link to these guys”

The sub-conscious will decide if you get the link, thousands of factors will be lined up to tell the consciousness whether or not to link.

Getting people to link, means we have to be aware of and tap into their hopes, fears prejudices, desires, dreams, fears etc. Ultimately, we have to tap into their sub-conscious.

How do we do that?

We have to research the people who we want to get links from.

Fortunately, people are desperate to link to interesting and engaging information. They are hungry for it, all we have to do is show them a piece of content that persuades them to make a drop a link.

Even the Guardian Gets Linkbait

The Guardian has run a piece talking about linkbait as if it were an everyday thing. Has linkbait gone mainstream?

Jack Schofield knows his linkbait, the piece he has referenced is a cracking piece, although as I speak it has not been submitted to digg or reddit or Stumble, what’s with that? Are they awake in celebrity scandal blog world.

Still, they got a link from the Guardian. Jack, what do I have to do to get a link from you?

Good find Jack.

ps. I took the bait and dugg it.