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.