Monday, April 12, 2010

Bye Bye Blogger, Hello Wordpress

Blogger will be discontinuing FTP support shortly, and I'm using this time to migrate over to a new blogging platform.

The focus of the new blog will be much more about linking case studies, specific linking tactic selection and execution, on a site by site basis.

The biggest problem in the linking and link building industry is people are confused. They've tried every tactic that every expert told them to, and aren't happy with the results. This is still happening, because vendors continue to sell linking related services that are 100% piles of steaming shit, and I'm sick of it.

I'm not going to blog about which companies are evil. Instead, you'll see by my writings which services are helpful, like Link Insight below.

In the meantime, get over to Link Insight and sign up. It's the single most powerful linking strategy tool I've ever seen. I know this, because I helped build it. Here's a training video to give you an sense of it.

See you again soon.

Eric

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The Link Building Best Practices Q and A is provided free by Eric Ward. For sites with high value content, I offer several fee-based strategic linking services on a project basis.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Link Diversity Defined and Explained with Video (LinkMoses Resurrected 10)


Ahhh, Link Diversity...

Linkmoses loves it when a seemingly technical and complex concept can be broken down and simplified, and Rand Fishkin at SEOmoz is one of the best at doing this. Give him a whiteboard and I do believe he could solve global warming. I've embedded a video of his that beautifully explains link diversity below.

Link Diversity means different things to different people. Some folks think link diversity is the number of links you give to other sites from your site. Links out, not in. There's also the school of thought that link diversity is the total number of pages from your site that are linked to by other sites. Meaning if your site has 173 pages, and you have links from other sites linking to 28 of your 173 pages, that's link diversity. That's getting closer, but not exactly.

Here's the most basic definition of Link diversity. Link diversity is the number of different sites linking to your site. To confuse it a bit, link diversity is also when another site links to more than just one page of your site.

We can take this many steps further, and invoke the old quality of diversity mantra. Having links from 652 different domains is useless if all 652 domains come from a link farm to begin with.

Linkmoses takeaway?

Lower diversity numbers from highest quality sites trump higher diversity numbers from low merit sites.


A site with 10 inbound links, where those ten inbounds are comprised of three libraries, two universities, and five non profits, will have a much more appealing and diverse link profile than a site with 100 links from 100 different make money fast domains.

Achieving link diversity is another matter completely

The approach needed to improve link diversity will depend on your site. Sorry, no magic bullets here. The link diversity potential for a site that sells tennis gear versus a site that helps handicapped people find companion animals will be quite different. In that sense, for link diversity to have any lasting impact on traffic or rank it must be dependent upon the subject relevance of that diversity.

Below is Rand's video. It's just a few minutes of your time, and well worth it. If it wont load, you can find it at

http://vimeo.com/7973233

SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday - Link Diversity from Scott Willoughby on Vimeo.



-----------------------------------------------------
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the "comments" link below, or the
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The Link Building Best Practices Q and A is provided free by Eric Ward. For sites with high value content, I offer several fee-based strategic linking services on a project basis.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Picking The Right Shovel (LinkMoses Resurrected 4)

For backdrop, read Stephan Spencer's
Link Economics 101: A Prerequisite For Advanced SEO.


When you focus and practice a specific skill set long enough, one of the unexpected benefits is you become an unintended expert in spotting those with no skills at all. In fact, at this point my bullshit meter is a finely tuned instrument.

More than anything else, I wish the "sellers of the useless" in the link building industry would just go away.
But they don't.

The frenzy for link building today must be like what I imagine the gold rush was like in the 1800's. You could probably pick from many different types of gold digging shovels, all claiming to be stronger or better than each other, all making sale after sale after sale. Only after you got to the desert did you realize your shovel handle was made from cheap wood instead of Ash and the blade was stamped, not forged. If only you'd done a little homework first.

In my industry niche, I can spot a bad shovel a mile away, and I've saved many a company from making a very expensive link building vendor mistake. Some of the advice I give I am amazed I still have to give period. "Don't use a company in India to build your links?" Well...duh. "Join the local Chamber of Commerce and get a link on the member section?" Well, yes, of-freeking course. "Don't buy anchor text links across 47 school newspaper web sites?"

You mean like this pile of crap below? Click for a close up look.

Good God please help me. When was the last time a college kid needed restaurant supplies? Or a limo in Orlando?

I think it's funny that all over the country school newspaper publishers are wondering why their ad revenue is sky high while the rest of the economy is in the dumps. They think it's their content, when in fact it's .edu link chasing morons. And I mean that whether it works or not. It's crap. Stop it already.

At the same time I'm not so vain as to think I have what everyone needs, because I most definitely do not. But what I do know better than most, perhaps due to longevity, experience, and trial/error is what type of link building approach and service(s) is most suited for any given content deployment scenario.

Call it a link building blueprint.

Every site needs to create a link building blueprint, and whether they create that blueprint in-house or hire someone to create the blueprint for them (like I've been doing for oh, two decades), that blueprint needs to be created by someone who understands the complexity and nuance of link building etiology. Every link building blueprint must be 100% custom to the site it was created for, in order to have any long lasting impact.

And sites that have been around a long time need more than a blueprint. They need a link portfolio evaluation and a forward moving strategy that maximizes what they have already, and augment it with all they have missed without knowing they missed it.

I hate to beat this horse, but it is true; every site has specific optimal inbound link potential. Few sites ever reach that potential, because they don't know what that potential is, or they spend too much time (and money) chasing the wrong types of links. My job is to show them what their site's true link potential is, and help them get closer to it, even if that means sending them to a provider other than me.

Linkmoses can't help everyone.

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About The Link Building Best Practices Q and A
The Link Building Best Practices Q and A is provided free by Eric Ward. For sites with high value content, I offer several fee-based strategic linking services on a project basis.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

LinkMoses Resurrected #3 - When Cheaters Win, aka Peewater for Links

(Editor's note: See Peewater, as defined by Urban Dictionary)

You'll hear the following question/argument asked at just every online marketing conference, discussion/forum, and I'm asked it at least a few times a month.

"Why should we play by the rules when it's still possible to cheat and rank?"
I understand your frustration, and I can't argue your point, because every day my own analysis shows the exact same thing.

It annoys me as well because I will not use those tactics nor advise a client to try them.

When I begin working on link development for a client, I study the inbound link portfolios of the top 30 or 40 ranked sites across the four largest engines. And plain as day I see countless examples of pure peewater ranking well.

But...

Taking a deep breath, I begin to crunch the backlink data, and I mean hammer on tens of thousands of backlinks across 40 or 50 competitors, all fed into my old school but wickedly cool macro laden excel spreadsheet (60k records at a time, anyway).

What I see emerge time and time and time again is that it isn't always JUST the crappy links and tactics that are working. In other words, the crappy links are there, yes, but there were also some sort of merit based earned inbound(s).

I'm not saying this is the case every time because it isn't. Yes, some sites do rank with nothing more than pure peewater for links. But almost every time I've seen that happen, it's a site in a niche where there is little to no hope of getting merit based links in any volume in the first place. If the keyword searched for happens to fall into one of these niches, Google still has to do what Google does, i.e., rank them. And even if the signals are nothing but the aforementioned junk, Google will faithfully do its job, and rank someone #1 and someone #100, according to whatever signals Google can find, even if those signals are weak, or yellow. After all, is it Google's fault you are lying cheating stealing online pharmacy? No it isn't. (online pharmacy was only an example, please calm down.)

I repeat what I stated, and stick to it...
"...Yes, some sites do rank with nothing more than pure peewater for links. But almost every time I've seen that happen, it's a site in a niche where there is little to no hope of getting merit based links in any volume in the first place.
Since I know the engines are all trying to improve detection of junk links from impacting their result pages, I can't in good conscience recommend or use a tactic I know helps make the results that much worse, and which will stop working, whether tomorrow or next year.

But I also understand business. I just choose not to participate in tactics that make the web uglier.

Next up on LinkMoses Resurrected: How To Make Sure Your Press Release Is Completely and Utterly Useless

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The Link Building Best Practices Q and A is provided free by Eric Ward. For sites with high value content, I offer several fee-based strategic linking services on a project basis.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Revenge of the Librarians - Don't Hate me for Being Right

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Revenge of the Linking Librarians

Today I saw the below announcement.

I-Schools Announce Reference Extract Web Search Project

If you're so inclined, I suggest you have a look at the RefEx site, and read the above article, because it will help you understand what I have been preaching about links for over a decade.

Some perspective is in order. I spent a couple years in Library School back in the early nineties under some amazing professors, Jose-Marie Griffiths and Carol Tenopir among them. I watched as the web seemingly came out of nowhere and in some ways snuck up more than a few library school's curricula. Jose and Carol were among those who did see the web of the future, and helped me tremendously (and boy did the web kill Gopher).

I left a few courses shy of my MLS degree to start my content linking and publicity company (dubbed NetPOST back then), and have predicted to whoever would listen ever since that underpaid and hard working librarians would one day arrive en-masse and help make sense of the mess that is the web. They've already been doing this on a library by library basis for years.

I've called it Revenge of the Librarians, and it's why for many many years I have been methodically reaching out to and building contacts and rapport with librarians all over the globe. I bet over half the links I have sought for clients over the years have been from librarians. True, this is easy when the content you are seeking links for is from PBS.org, or NationalGeographic.com, or Discovery.com, but that's the point. Meritorious content earns trusted links. You can't fool a librarian.

Back when I wrote columns under the pen name Linkmoses, I preached for years about meritorious content and earned citation trust, and most of you looked at me like I was an alien. I talked about etiology and trust flow, and you laughed. Called me old school or worse. When I told you your sites weren't good enough to earn the types of merit-based links that would then result in long term earned search rank, you hung up on me and hired a black hatter. For those of you who have heard me speak at conferences, you know that at the end of my sessions I am famous for taking a moment to predict where search is headed, and the potential implications for link building. I'd whisper just one word: Librarians. I think Shari Thurow was the only one in the room who smiled.

I hinted at this in an article a couple years back titled Where Is The Mother of All Links?

Back to RefEx. I don't know what the adoption rate of this new engine/tool will be. Ultimately it will depend on the value the search results offer to the searcher. Certainly there will be value to the academic side of the search world. Consumers may need a bit of help to find it, as the inertia of search habits tends to lead us all to Google. After all, if someone with the brand, clout, and pocketbook as deep as Disney couldn't make Infoseek work, can anyone really hope to gain a foothold in today's search world? I think yes, but people wont find RefEx on their own. We can help.

In my perfect future search world, RefEx results will become a standard toggle selection option for Google, Live, and Ask, giving all searchers exposure to RefEx results, without them having to visit the RefEx site and conduct searches there. The impact of such an integration would be astounding.

-Eric

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The Link Building Best Practices Q and A is provided free by Eric Ward. For sites with high value content, I offer several fee-based strategic linking services on a project basis.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Paid Links from .edu's - Good, Bad or Ugly?

A reader asked...
"What about paid links from the school newspapers. Can those hurt your rankings?"
[Quick backgrounder - printed college newspapers sell advertising just like most newspapers do. The online version of those college newspapers also sell advertising, and since the online version of most school newspapers lives on a .edu TLD, a couple years ago this created a frenzy among Pagegank driven link chasers who (thought they) found a loophole that allowed them to buy high Pagerank links from trusted sources]

I always go back to intent. Why are you wanting to buy a link from a college newspaper in the first place? There could be many legitimate reasons why you would do so. A local bar with a web site that offers nightly specials to college kids would be a natural for such a link buy. Or a local store or salon or car repair shop. Nationally, it's logical that a beer company or even Nike or Doritos would want to advertise to a college audience and maybe even try to drive a bit of traffic to a web site by buying an online link in the school newspaper web site.

The motivations and intent in the above examples are fairly evident. Doritos isn't chasing search rankings via that link buy. Nobody is searching for "tasty triangular shaped snack chips" as you can see here. No, the motivation for the links buys from Nike or Doritos or the local bar are all simple demographically driven advertising in hopes of click traffic.

Other web sites have different intent when they choose to buy an .edu based link from a school newspaper. Take a look at the bottom of the main page for the University of Tennessee Daily Beacon. Here's a link to it, and below is a screen capture of the ugliness. Remember, all these paid links are located on a University newspaper's web site in Knoxville TN.


Now you tell me the intent of these advertisers. When was the last time a college kid in Knoxville needed to rent a limo in Orlando? Buy an artificial Christmas Tree? Use a Restaurant Supply firm? Subscribe to US News and World Reports (which they can read free already)? How about never? I went to undergrad and graduate school at the above school, and I can pretty much remember most of those days. I never bought one single kitchen sink in all my years in college.

Shocking.

So why did these companies buy these links? Bad intent. Intent to game search rank via buying links on (potentially) trustworthy content. But remember, it took my average brain all of 60 seconds to find these same advertisers and links on plenty of other school newspaper web sites. How fast does the world's most powerful brain (aka algorithm) notice them? Pretty Damn Fast.

But the question was will your site be penalized for engaging in this approach? Probably not, but the larger point is the approach itself wont work, and by participating in it you send plenty of other signals to the bots that you might be very unhappy about. Why cheat in such an obvious and silly way? Why cheat when the bots are seconds away from finding it? Why cheat at all?

As I wrote in .edu Inbound Link Fallacies, all TLD's have crap, and all TLD's have gold. Paid links on a school newspaper in Tennessee about limousines in Orlando. That friend, is pure crap.

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The Link Building Best Practices Q and A is provided free by Eric Ward. For sites with high value content, I offer several fee-based strategic linking services on a project basis.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

UPDATED: .edu Inbound Link Fallacies

One of the bigger link building hot topics is the impact that IBL (inbound links) originating from .edu locations can have on your link popularity and search rankings. Lost in the discussion is that the quality of IBL's 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, wheras 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.

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

Another linking topic that gets folks 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 complete 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, 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.

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Eric's Note: I included the updated version of the above article as it appears people are as in love with .edu based link targets today as they were many years ago. I base this on several inquiries I received, the last one of which I have included below.

Dear Mr. Ward,
We are a manufacturer and seller of high end playgound equipment designed for municipalities. Our site is http://xxxxxxxx. We would be very interested in a quote from you for the following...
- obtaining 100 .edu based inbound links
/snip

NOTE: To ask a link building related question, click the Comments link below, or the Post a Comment link at the bottom of any individual post.

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About The Link Building Best Practices Q and A
The Link Building Best Practices Q and A is provided free by Eric Ward. For sites with high value content, I offer several fee-based strategic linking services on a project basis.