Linking Strategy Articles by Eric Ward

In this section of my site I update and rotate through previous articles. For my most current content, subscribe to LinkMoses Private.

Ten Commandments of Link Building

Ten Commandments of Link Building (updated)

I – Linkest not just to seek favor from Google*
(*If your site’s success is dependeth on Google alone, it shall destroy you, or worse, be featured in the Knowledge Graph without attribution. The irony…)

II – Those who link in exchange for gold are link whores*
*Caveats:
a) Linking in exchange for return link is sometimes kind of slutty
b) Philosophically, I agree that all links are paid in one form or another, but this discussion gives LinkMoses a headache.
c). Offering discounts to students via links on .edu domains has may have jumped the temple. I recently saw one for paternity testing kits. Demographically relevant? Sure, but slimy. Saving 10% on a paternity test is the least of your worries.


III – Thou shalt not link to thine own site from 367 different social media profiles. And don’t get me started on link wheels.

IIIb – Thou shalt not take advantage of Google’s current love-fest with Pinterest (look who ranks#1 for link building infographics even though LinkMoses has never created one), nor will thee send an email to all employees telling them to Plus the corporate homepage.

*Caveats
a) It is acceptable to include a couple of those cute little share, add, tweet, plus, etc., buttons on your own content.  They work nicely. Here, try one Tweet this

b). If you seed YELP with fake reviews, a swarm of locusts will follow you to the next SMX conference, or worse, you might get sued.

IV – If thou beginest thy link request email “To whometh it may concern”, it shall hastily be deleteth

IVb – Please stop telling LinkMoses “You just came across my site“. No, you didn’t.

V- Thou shalt not refer to content as “link bait”, any more than thou shall refer to your site’s users as “carp”

VI – Thou shalt study or analyze, but not covet, thy neighbor’s links*
(*if thou doest covet them, please try and limit your desires to highest trust TLDs. Links from .info domains are pretty much penguin bait already.  Extra shame is reserved for those who volunteer to be webmaster at child’s school and then secretly add anchor text links back to company site.

VII – Thou shalt never use the name Matt Cutts in vain*
(*at least not where it can be crawled, and be careful with javascript and flash, they can index it now)

VIII – Just because you thinketh bing search is stupideth does not giveth thee permission to link spameth them

VIIIb – Although if you do so under the guise of “testing”, it’s not a formal violation of this commandment.

IX – If thou has truly reformeth, beg forgiveness via the reconsideration formeth
(If you receive no response, do not hang thine head. Contact LinkMoses and he may be able to deliver a formal scroll documenting your heathenism so it can be cleansed in an attempt at link reformation. LinkMoses does of course charge for this as he has three children who require 15 Happy Meals per week)

X – The link schemer may eat today, but the link earner eateth from a bountiful table for a lifetime*

Link and share wisely,

Eric

Is White Hat Link Building a Myth?

Is White Hat Link Building a Myth?
Updated August, 2015 (Originally posted May, 2006)

weatheronyoursite

The original Weather Channel widget

At what point does a link-building tactic make the leap from acceptable to not? When does white hat become black hat? Or gray hat?

See this little Weather Channel box? Once upon a time I helped The Weather Channel with a project that was designed to give any webmaster the ability to add a snippet of code to their site that would allow them to show the current weather for their site’s visitors. The project was extremely successful. Thousands of sites added that code, extending The Weather Channel’s brand online quite quickly and in a useful, clever way.

Today you’d call that a “widget”. Back then they called them “magnets”.  Today you’d better make sure you “nofollow” any link in widget code. Back then it didn’t matter. The widget/branding mattered more than the link.

And who is to say what is acceptable and what isn’t? Google? Isn’t what works is what’s acceptable, and vice-versa? It’s not your fault blog comment spam got out of control. It’s the other guy. It’s not your fault your competitors are all buying links on PBNs. If they’d stop so would you. Right?

I think the whole white hat / black hat link-building and SEM argument clouds the larger point. Appropriate link building tactics will be different depending on the site you are seeking links for. This site needs a different approach than this one. Your link pursuits should always be driven by your content, and yes, I agree sometimes your content can even be driven by link opportunities, though that’s a slippery slope.

In its most simplest terms: to me white hat link building means the links you seek are not being sought for organic search rank improvement. This does not mean you can’t improve your search rank via that approach, but that it’s a residual effect, icing on the cake, if you will.

If I can go Miyagi on you for a moment, I would say “high rank is the by-product of content judged well, then well linked”. But this isn’t all. Even non-SEO links can be spam and make the web an uglier place. “Intent” is at the core of the white hat / black hat debate. Why do you want that link? Answer that queston honestly and you’ll see why I wrote last week’s post.

The sad downside of the algorithmic link analysis is that when combined with increased user generated content and links, the intent of the linker can no longer be trusted. So links today are becoming like meta tags 10 years ago. Anything goes as long as it gets me traffic, right?

Nope. Not for me.

So, either I don’t get it, or you don’t.  I’ll bet on myself, and let’s see who ranks for link building expert in a few years.

Eric

.edu Link Strategies, Fallacies and Common Sense

.edu Link Strategies, Fallacies and Common Sense
Updated August 11, 2015. Originally written September 12, 2006
tweety
eduOne of the ongoing link building hot topics is the impact that inbound links originating from .edu domains can have on your search rankings. Lost in the discussion is that the quality of links from within the .edu domain varies significantly.

Rather than making this concept more complex than it needs to be, let’s boil it down by example. A link from a student homepage or school paper web site isn’t as valuable as a link from a professor’s page, or better yet, the University library site. Why? because it’s easy for those who are into black hat stuff to buy links from students, whereas a librarian isn’t likely to be bought. Thus the content EARNED the link, and the source and citation can be trusted. Engines know this and will tweak algos until they get it right. I hope, anyway.  Give me 10 library links instead of 100 student page links any day.

About 155 Years Before The Link Spam Would Begin

Another .edu link seeking tactic that’s been used to death is the “discount” approach, where you offer a discount on your products to the faculty, staff or students at a University, and by doing so you end up with a link on their discount page, like this. I’m not saying this is a bad strategy 100% of the time, but if you are doing it just for organic search rank, it could come back to bite you.

Likewise with .gov and others. Any TLD has junk, and any TLD has gold.

Another linking topic that gets “experts” all excited is geographic IBL variety.  This is another way of saying you need links from a bunch of countries.  Not true.  Links from around the world may not matter one IOTA for your particular site.

More fallacy regarding directory inclusion. I can say with certainty that the older the site the more useless those directory IBLs are. I rank 1st for all key terms and I’m in only two directories. Why do I rank? Simple.  Because a). I never went after rank, and B). I stayed true to my content and expertise.  That said, since I do rank high I can reverse analyze my links and learn why.  I can say with an absurd confidence what your links need to look like in order to rank well, but just because I can tell you doesn’t mean you can get those links.  You have to earn them via meritorious content.

For a newer site, the game changes. The new site’s IBL profile or “link transcript” or “link signature” needs to slowly percolate towards becoming something that looks natural and trustworthy. I see evidence every day that the links that help me rank 1st will not help every site site rank 1st.

So what works for one site WILL NOT work for every site, which is why it’s such a challenge to create software/tools that can analyze links with any degree of confidence. In the end, a human still has to make some very tricky decisions about whether or not ANY link is worth pursuing. The answer will be different for every site, and thus the potential link target sites need to be different as well.

If you’d like to learn more about this topic and others, I cover them in detail the LinkMoses Private

Link well my friend,

Eric

Teeny Weenie Bikini Linkbait

(In this section of my site I rotate through my older articles for your reading pleasure. For my most current content, subscribe to LinkMoses Private.)

I always get bummed when I don’t clearly state my position on a link building topic and it gets blown out of proportion. I had the pleasure of being a guest on the SEO Rockstars podcast last Friday, where among the topics discussed was linkbait as a link building tactic.  To be funny, I mentioned industrial ball bearings. A listener (well known SEO pro whom I greatly respect ) thought I implied linkbait was not possible for certain sites about certain topics, and went on to blog about me in a way that I feel needs clarification.

Just to be clear, I never said you couldn’t link bait certain types of content. I’d be wrong and that would be silly for me to say, since that’s how I got started in 1994 when I suggested to a local coffee company that they run an online special Christmas offer, which back then was unheard of.  The site is gone, now, but here’s the original post.  A few months later a local boat company (Sea Ray) with a vanilla web site went with the idea of giving 360 degree views of the boats and interiors. That’s linkbait circa 1995. Site gone, but bones remain.

Don’t pin your hopes for business success 
solely on linkbait. Use it as part of a larger strategy…

Like anyone, I can sit here and think up endless types of link bait. Girls in bikinis for ball bearings. Yep, no brainer. That’s sort of what Ridgid tools has done in the offline world forever with those calendars you see in auto shops. They make an unsexy topic sexy.  And by the way, pssst… hey Ridgid.com, what are you waiting for?  You are sitting on a vein of linkbait gold and all you give us is this? With no real online linkbait you managed to get quite a few mentions and links. Imagine if you actually tried.

So again, I NEVER said you couldn’t linkbiat any given topic. I said it may not be the best approach for every site, and if you DID do it, remember it’s just one piece of an overall link building strategy. I’m not out to bash anyone or any tactic. But please don’t misunderstand me. Yes, you can link bait for any type of site.

Linkbait Directions:

Step one, create site.
Step two, add bikinis.

Bingo.

Link and share wisely,

Eric Ward

Linking Mistakes To Avoid, Part 1: Link Optimization and Short URLs

(In this section of my site I rotate through my older articles for your reading pleasure. For my most current content, subscribe to LinkMoses Private.)

Linking to other web sites has been part of the natural order of things on the web ever since the web began.  Even so, it wasn’t until the search engines started factoring external links into their rankings that people with web sites started getting serious about link building.

I’ve always preached that regardless of what the search engines do, a network of links pointing to your site is the simplest, easiest, and most cost effective method of building traffic there is.  I see evidence every day to prove this sermon correct.  Yet even so, there are many sites that do things that discourage links.  You’ve probably heard of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but what about Linking Optimization (LO)?  Ever heard of that?  Linking Optimization isn’t about content.  Let’s assume you have great linkable content and a strategy to get it linked. If you don’t, contact me.  Link optimization is the process of making your existing great content linkable at the URL level.

The easiest way to make your URLs linkable is to remember one core rule. Shorter URLs are better than long URLs.  Why? First, have you ever received an email message that had a URL is it that wrapped to two lines? Clicking on a wrapped (broken) URL does one thing: sends the clicker to a file not found page.  The moment your email software wraps the URL, that URL is no good unless the reader copies and pastes both lines of the URL into their browser window perfectly and then hits the enter key.  What a hassle, especially for those who aren’t online as much.  Or for anyone who is challenged with a mouse.  I’ve been online for 10 years and I still have problems copying and pasting two line URLs into the browser window easily.

So if given the choice of the two URLs below, in an email message, which would result in getting the reader to the page?

http://www.ericward.com/library/articles/columns/by-year/1995/linkbuild
ing/portal_link_audit/070901.html

or

http://www.ericward.com/articles/070901.html

Answer: The second URL, since the first one is broke when it wrapped and now sends clickers to a file-not-found page.

The same holds true for linking by another web site.  Which of the above URLs would a webmaster be more inclined to link to?  It’s human nature to take the easiest path, and in this case the easiest path is the shorter URL.  Having conducted linking campaigns for several Fortune 500 companies, I have experienced first hand the problems with getting links for long URLs.  I’ve had to apologize for long URLs, put directions for copying and pasting, send shorter redirect URLs, etc.  It’s no fun to go link seeking and have to apologize for your links in your link request Email.

URL wrapping in email is just one area where long links can hurt you.  Other areas are social bookmarking sites and discussion boards that only permit a certain length of text per line.  Try sending a post to forum with a long URL in it, and watch is it is rendered useless from a clicking standpoint.  I promise you that this one seemingly small glitch is enough to keep people from coming to your site.  It takes a split second to click a good URL, it takes 15 or twenty seconds to try and scrape it with a mouse off two lines and paste it back into the browser.  That annoyance is plenty to keep readers from even trying.  The wrapped URL is the silent deal breaker of clicking.

URL wrapping in email is just one area
where long links can hurt you

Many deep content sites have database generated content that results in long URLS.  If this describes your site, one workaround is to use redirects for linking.  I’m  doing some linking work for WARNER BROS right now and using short static redirect URLs that send the clicker to the URL where WARNER needs them to go.  In my Email link request, I explain that I have sent them a short URL so as not to cause them to have to deal with a wrapped (broken) URL.  While some webmasters don’t like to link to redirects, if there is a legitimate reason why it has to be done, most will link to the URL you ask them to link to, even if it’s a redirect. Likewise with forum boards.  I post the short URLs, or in some cases, both the long and short URLs, explaining that if the long one isn’t clickable, use the short one.

Thus while redirects are scorned in the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) community, they are accepted and often necessary in the Linking Optimization (LO) field.  If the primary objective is to simplify things for the person you are sending the URL to, then of course it’s completely acceptable to send a shorter URL that redirects.  But to be on the safe side always explain to the reader of your link request message or forum post why you are redirecting them, as otherwise your linking motives might be questioned and the link won’t be granted.

Link well my friend,

Eric Ward

About the Author Eric Ward founded the Web’s very first service for announcing, linking, and building awareness for Web sites, back in 1994. Ward is best known as the person behind the publicity and linking campaigns for Amazon.com, Weather.com, The Link Exchange, Rodney.com, AMA.org, and PBS.org. His services won the 1995 Award for Internet Marketing Excellence, and he was selected as one of the Web’s 100 most influential people by Websight magazine. In 2009 Eric was one of 25 people profiled in the book Online Marketing Heroes. In 2013 Eric wrote The Ultimate Guide To Link Building for Entrepreneur Press. Eric has spoken at over 100 industry conferences. Today, Eric publishes LinkMoses Private, a subscription based linking strategy newsletter read by people in over 20 countries. He also consults and trains others on how to maximize their online presence. Eric has written linking strategy and advice columns for SearchEngineLand, MarketingProfs, ClickZ, Search Marketing Standard, SearchEngineGuide, Web Marketing Today, and Ad Age magazine. Learn more about Eric and his content publicity services at ericward.com|Contact Eric

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