Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Who Controls Link Building Success (LinkMoses Resurrected 6)

Who Controls Link Building SuccessIf you are seeker of link building services, and are evaluating companies or persons to help with your linking strategies or link building, it's logical and reasonable to have some questions you want answers for.

One of the most telling questions of all is this one:

"How many links can you get for us and how much will it cost?"

If you asked me this question, the best answer is the most honest answer, and here it is.

For highest quality content seeking links, once you have identified the highest caliber and most credible targets, it is never me, the link builder who gets you the link, and it is never me, the link builder who controls anchor text or any other HTML based editorial choices. It is your content that dictates the ultimate result, not me or any other merit-based link builder.

Put another way, the higher the quality of the target site, the more likely it is the editor/owner is a "curator" of links, passionately picky about what does and does not get on their pages, links, text, anchors, and otherwise. Thus it is not the link builder who controls the success or failure of that process. Even fantastic content doesn't assure links will be granted, or granted in the manner you, as the link builder, wish they were. To try and hold a link builder accountable for editorial decisions made on high merit sites they do not control is, frankly, silly.

Example? Sure.

Let's say I want on this page. For this client. Pagerank 8 blah, blah, blah. It wasn't me that got this link. It was the quality of the kbb.com site I was seeking a link for. All I did was match content of merit with link curator of merit.

Yes, I agree it's easy to do this when the content is that strong. But again, this is the exact point of merit-based linking. And it's why the engines give them such weight. And once again, notice, no anchor text. It isn't needed, isn't used, and to ask for it from this particular target site is like asking the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld for an extra roll with your Crab Bisque.

Just shut up and be happy a link is there at all.

At best, the link builders role with merit or citation based link building is to have the skills to identify the right targets and editorial contacts at those targets, make a brief and polite content introduction, and then leave.


NOTE: To ask a question, click the "comments" link below, or email your question to eric at eric ward dot com

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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, 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 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, April 29, 2008

Updated - Farewell LinkMoses, Hello Link Building Q&A

Regular readers know I've been building links since the launch of TheTitanicJustSank.com, or close to it. This wasn't by design. I just had the bad/good luck to lose my advertising job at the right time; Early nineties. I needed something new to do, I went to grad school, and the Internet fell into my lap. The full story of the early years of ericward.com is yet to be written, but I hope to get to it this Summer.

The whole LinkMoses shtick was also an accident. A few years ago someone at a conference made fun that I was still link building, like it was a disease. So I made lemonade out of the joke and turned it into a few thousand new inbound links. Don't mess with a link builder...

I've never intended to be an expert at anything, and the only reason I know so much about link building is that I had the sense or stupidity to stay focused on just that one skill as the web exploded around me. I could have done a thousand different things, but I stayed the link building course. I passed up a $1.3 million buyout offer from BCentral. I ignored Overtures from Overture. I didn't move to San Francisco, Seattle, or New York like everyone thought I should. I stayed right here in my garage office. I didn't write a book when the publishing houses called. Instead I kept doing what I liked. Studied web sites and links. Watched how content gets known, linked, found, by who, when, and where. I did a few industry shows back when just us geeks went. Back when real talent like Danny Sullivan was working his rear off at his kitchen table for just a couple hundred appreciative readers. Somehow my business strategy resulted in other authors writing about me in their books. Again, accidently successful. I was and remain to this day very happy doing what I do. I hope to continue being a content publicist/link builder for many more years.


For several reasons I'm a bit reflective right now. I'm also worn down a bit due to criticism, some deserved and some not, from folks who have have taken issue with my contributions to several link building expert articles. They say I don't give up any secrets. I don't provide worthwhile advice. My answers to link value factors questions are too vague.

Fair enough. This month I begin Link Building Best Practices - Q&A With Eric Ward.

I'll take questions from all comers and turn the best of them into posts where I provide my opinion on what the best practice should be for that particular topic. Send them to lbquestion@ericward.com. I don't pretend for one moment to believe that my best practices should be your best practices. I'm just using this avenue as a way to provide very specific advice and opinion developed over the course of building links for 1,000+ new and old sites from 1994 til today. Here's the link to the Link Building Best Practices RSS feed

Link well friends!

Eric Ward


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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, April 10, 2008

Anchor Text Best Practices - Update 8-24-09

I've contributed to several Link Value Factors type articles, including SEOmoz's and Wiep's, and was glad to be included by Rae Hoffman in her awesome Link Development Experts Group Interview. I always have a tough time providing the kinds of answers that would be useful without being so long as to put people to sleep. I can't sum up my own best practices for something like link anchor text in a few words. But I can try to do so here. If it bores you then think of my words as a cure for insomnia.

Here are several anchor text BPs that I hope do a better job of explaining the challenge and nuance of link text.


1). The most trustworthy pages will NEVER let you control your own anchor text, and it is obnoxious to ask. Case in point. See the below site.



Here's how they link out...
The Queen of Trees view more info comment email item
Website for a program that looks at the relationship b
etween a Kenyan fig tree and the wasps that pollinate its flowers. Includes background about fig trees in general and about sycomore figs trees in Kenya, a photo essay on sycomore figs and fig wasps, video clips, and related essays and links. From the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) show Nature.
URL: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/queenoftrees/
Added to LII: 2006-06-08
If you were the link builder for the site being linked to above, of course you'd be thrilled if the above link instead had words like Kenyan fig tree or wasps or pollinate flowers. But that's not going to happen, because every content editor has their own fairly evident method for how they link to other sites.

Asking someone who has put a lot of time and effort into finding great sites to change the protocol they use for outlinks, just for you and your site, is not very polite nor effective. Be happy you got a link at all. This doesn't mean you cannot ever get the exact anchor text you want, but let's be real. Anyone willing to grant you that kind of control over what's essentially part of their content must not have too stringent a requirement for what they call "content". As Groucho Marx once said, "I would not join any club that would have someone like me for a member." If Groucho were a link builder today, he'd say "Any site willing to give me a link plus whatever anchor text I ask for is not a site I'd want a link from in the first place".

2). As much as you might want to include HTML code in the email you send to the target site editor, don't. Why? Same as above. And don't you love it when you get email from someone you don't know telling you what to do?
"Dear webmaster, please add the below code to your website..."
Any site that will do that for another site based on receiving that type of instruction is nuts.

3). The fastest way to create a suspicious looking inbound anchor text profile is to pay too much attention to it. There are some sites that rotate the anchor text using random generation tools in hopes of approximating a natural looking anchor profile. Yes, and Burt Reynold's plastic surgeon is approximating the way Burt looked when he was thirty. See for yourself.

Yep. No doubt about it...perfectly natural...

4). Start with your own on-site anchor text first. By that I mean the anchor text YOU use to link to YOUR OWN PAGES from your own pages. This is especially true for sites that are already ranking fairly well. Here's an example that illustrates the power of on site anchor text.

Do this Google allinanchor search: allinanchor: link bait strategy

Of Google's
27,300 results, the first page listed is mine. See below.

Results 1 - 10 of about 27,300 for allinanchor: link bait strategy.
Expert Link Bait Consulting and Link Bait Content Strategy Plan...
Eric Ward . com -
My approach to link bait is based on nearly 15 years of successful link building and publicity generation for timely or new content. I use my experience to perform a link bait analysis/audit of any existing linkbait in your niche, to determine what role link baiting can play in your online marketing strategy. I then work with you by phone to concept the types of linkbait/content you can create for the best strategic effect. www.ericward.com/linkbait-services.html- 21k -Cached - Similar pages
Here's the kicker. That page from my site ranks first out of 27,300 pages, but there is only one (that's 1) page linking to that page, and it's from my own site's homepage. Let that sink in. No other sites or pages are linking to my page using that anchor text, except my own, and Google has plenty of other pages they could rank ahead of me, but they don't. The primary conclusion I draw from this is Google has a great deal of trust for the anchor text I use to point to my own pages. It's true that the trust I speak of comes from the overall collection of inbound links I've earned over the years in the first place, but the point lost in this is once you have such trust, don't ignore it as a driver of rankings for...yourself.

Over a year ago I wrote a related piece for Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land called
Are You In The Circle Of Link Trust? The point of that column?
"In the course of seeking new links and publicity for new content on an existing site, don't ignore your already trustworthy content as a driver of reputation for the new content. If you are in the enviable position of already having high rankings, if you're in the circle of link trust, leverage it"
5). There is no perfect percentage for keyword anchored vs. non-keyword anchored backlinks. People want to hear me say something definitive like you should try to keep your off site inbound keyword anchored backlink profile to no more than 20% of your overall IBLP. If that makes you happy, go for it.

I wonder what percentage of Adobe Acrobat's backlinks say "click here" in the anchor text? Looks like more than 20%


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

To request a private
Link Building Strategy Session, Analytics, and Blueprint read more here.

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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.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

What are the best practices for submitting to directories?

It will depend on whether you mean directories like Yahoo or directories like the hundreds listed around the web that nobody ever heard of and nobody ever uses? Seriously, when was the last time someone looking for a new bicycle started their search at link-a-pa-looza.biz? How about never?

The best practices for directory link building depend on several factors all driven by the site you are seeking links for. If you are seeking links for a brand new site at a brand new domain launching for the very first time, then you have nothing to lose and a few decent links to gain by submitting to the many non-descript directories available. Just don't expect much. Now, if the site you are seeking links for is CNN.com, then there is zero value in submitting to directories. So, what I tell clients is to think of their web site as existing on a continuum. On the far right are sites that are well known already, that have many good links, that rank well. On the far left are new sites with no links at all. Where does your site reside on such a continuum? The more your site falls to the left side, the more those directory links might be worth chasing. The more your site is falls to the right side, meaning it's already established and pretty well linked, the less likely it is that directory links -even Yahoo- will help you, and the best practice would be to ignore general directories altogether. I have a site that ranks 1st, 2nd, or 3rd for my most important search terms, and I am not listed in any directories other than Yahoo and DMOZ. You will never convince me that all that stands in the way of bumping my 14 year old well linked site up to position one is a few new links from marginal non-subject-specific directories.

-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.