Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Announcing Link Insight Beta Program Invitation

Today I am proud to announce Link Insight and the Link Insight Beta Program, offered exclusively through search intelligence firm AdGooroo.


For many years I have wanted to find a way to take what I have learned over the course of 14+ years of link building and link marketing, and turn it into a diagnostic and strategic tool that can help web sites better understand links and the link building methodology I use. Link Insight will be that tool.

Here's a
summary of Link Insight's features and a quick screen grab below.

Many of you know AdGooroo as a highly respected provider of keyword, PPC, advertising, and natural search intelligence to search engine marketers. Their founder, Rich Stokes, and I collaborated to create Link Insight.

At the heart of Link Insight is a unique link scoring system that I've honed over many years. Link Insight can boil down hundreds of linking related signals and assign them to a few specific categories, greatly simplifying what can be an incredibly confusing amount of data.

Below is a snippet of copy from the Link Insight features page.

Forget learning dozens of useless statistics. We simplify the scoring process using a technique honed over 14 years of real-world experience!
  • Every backlink is assigned to one of four categories: TrustSignal, SpamSignal, CuratorSignal, and GeoSignal
  • TrustSignals identify authoritative backlinks which have an immediate impact on traffic and rankings
  • SpamSignals identify links which should be avoided
  • GeoSignals reflect the global distribution of your backlinks
  • CuratorSignals show how frequently a site is mentioned on social networking, bookmark, and resource sites
It took me 14+ years to know what I know about link building, and a large part of that knowledge is available now in the form of Link Insight. Please feel free to take it for a test drive via the Link Insight Beta Program.

There are many features available now, more to come, and I'll continue to provide my expertise to AdGooroo and Link Insight as we work together to adjust and fine tune it. The tuning and tweaking of the signal scoring metrics for example, is a nonstop process, and improves every day. That's what Beta's are for.

The goal is to make Link Insight as close to replicating my own private
methodology as it can be.

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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.



-----------------------------------------------------
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. You can also email your question
to eric [at] ericward [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, December 10, 2009

Link Building for Personalized Search (LinkMoses Resurrected 9)

In the wake of the recent news Danny Sullivan covered excellently at SearchEngineLand in Google Now Personalizes Everyone's Search Results, some of you may be having a link building PANIC ATTACK.

Don't.

For the most part, high merit content owners should have no fear, because personalized search doesn't somehow turn your high-merit content into no-merit content.

I feel a small sense of vindication. It seems like forever since I wrote Google Personalized Search, Google Bookmarks & Link Building. You might want to re-read it. It was a couple years ago.

I'm finally working on that Personalized Link Building Strategies Special Report I mentioned two years ago. The report will not include tricks for fooling algorithms. It will include practical, ethical, and responsible link building advice specific to personalized search results, My goal is to explain what you can and can't influence, as well as how and when you should.

If I decide to sell this report, it will be at a fraction of the $299 16 page "chart driven unactionable crap the big city consultants put out. I'm a real practioner. I do this stuff, I'm on the keyboard, not the golf course. Even if all I wrote was a full page of tips and advice for every year I've been doing this, that's 16 pages from an expert willing to back it up. That's worth a few bucks, isn't it? Email me at PLBreport@ericward.com if you'd like to know when the report is ready.

The key takeaways from all this...

On the web, where engines index URLs by the billions, (the good, the bad and the ugly), signals of trust, merit, and intent of source will be crucial to any search result, including a personalized search result.

Signals of trust, merit, and intent of source can be determined in a couple ways...with an algorithm that looks at on-site or off-site signals, or without an algorithm at all, using offline factors (rarely discussed, BTW).

So links, citations, inclusions and connections, along with confidence, intent, credibility and veracity, aren't going anywhere, because what other signals are there?

Seriously, if you had a billion dollars and wanted to start a search engine, what's your big fancy algorithm going to study in order to produce useful results?

What's likely true is the sources of all signals are getting more and more algorithmic scrutiny, and end users play a larger role in this process in many ways. The links you depend on for both traffic and rank better be bullet-proof and not a house of cards waiting to crumble. If your link building tactics and targets have not been wisely chosen, the day is coming (or already has) when you will not be happy.

The value of certain types of links cannot be underestimated...

Why? Because they are so hard to get, and are based on a decision made by a person (as in, um, personalized) who is a passionate subject expert. They don't have to be a Ph.D or a librarian or a famous blogger. They just have to be able to provide algorithmic confidence signals. And you need to know what those signals are. I know what many of them are, only because I've sat in front of a PC screen for way too many years studying this, working at it, over and over and over. If I'm an expert at all I'm an accidental expert.

And as you know, I'm happy to teach what I know to you.

The ability to identify who and what a true influencer is and why is crucial, for both broad and narrow topics. For any topic. Just as important is knowing how to interact with each one of them in the right way, in order to get what it is you seek. This is where I've screamed at the conferences for years that link building and public relations at the highest levels must be thought of both in tandem and as one.

Things are getting interesting, and frankly, I like where I'm positioned,
pun intended.
There's a reason my site (and more importantly, my clients) rank well. A merit based, vertically driven, and etiologic link building methodology doesn't seem so crazy, silly or old school now, does it?


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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, October 8, 2009

A Peek At Google's Future (Link Moses Resurrected 7)

Below are several interviews conducted this week by Businessweek's Rob Hof with key execs and engineers from Google. Rob spoke with Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Udi Manber, Google's vice president of engineering in charge of search, Amit Singhal of the core ranking team, Scott Huffman who runs the change impact evaluation team, and Matt Cutts, head of Google's Webspam team.

Most SEO's would miss these interviews because they're in a mainstream pub, and who has time for rags like Businessweek when we have all those SEO blogs to read that are never wrong, right?

You can click their names above to go to the interviews, or any of the links below.

http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/oct2009/tc2009102_694444.htm

http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/techbeat/archives/2009/10/googles_udi_man.html

http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/techbeat/archives/2009/10/google_search_g.html

http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/techbeat/archives/2009/10/googles_scott_h.html

http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/techbeat/archives/2009/10/matt_cutts_goog.html


I've read them all, and as much as I'd like to think I've learned in 14 years of link building and linking strategy related work, it's never enough. So go forth, and read. Then read again. Why take the time to read them? Because collectively, if you read the text and between the lines, you will better understand just how amazing Google is at what it does, as well as what you can expect in the future, and for you link builders, you'll glean several insights that you may want to incorporate into your strategies. And I pity any site whose rankings are based on trickery.

-------------------------------------------
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. You can also email your question to eric [at] ericward [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, 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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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, June 18, 2009

Riding The Twitter Link Waves

(Updated August 1, 2009)

Over at SearchEngineLand is an article of mine written on titled Twitter: Incredibly Valuable Or Utterly Useless As A Link Building Tool? .

In the article I wrote:

"Where I see the real value in Twitter as a link building tool is in recognizing that many people who use Twitter have influence in very specific subject areas. If I'm announcing a niche health related web site, I can do a bit of research and quickly find which Twitter users are regularly tweeting similar health related URLs, and reach out to them...Twitter's surface allure is about fame and followers, everything shiny and bright. Twitter's deeper value, for those of us laboring away to constantly improve our search marketing campaigns, is about resource discovery and new links via a handful of experts behind the scenes, in the corners of the web most people ignore, but engines don't."
Let's follow up with a live case study, using a newer article from SearchEngineLand titled

Understanding Federated Link Building: A Primer With Examples.

The above article was posted at on Fourteen minutes after it posted, a Twitter user named @seomasterlist tweeted a link to it. Here it is (image below).

Waves and Echoes
Since seomasterlist has 1300+ followers, that means at least 1300 people had a chance to see and click that link to the article I wrote.

But this is just wave #1. In addition to @seomasterlist's tweet, 40+ other Twitter users have tweeted or re-tweeted that link.

I like the analogy of tweets and re-tweets as waves and echoes, with waves being high follower influencials and echoes being less followed but still extremely important. See this Twitter search result list which is only accurate for a few days or weeks after this post was written.

Remember that over time the above search result will show LESS activity, not MORE, because Twitter search doesn't archive and then grow that archive over time like Google does. In a beautifully ironic twist, as Tweets age they vanish from Twitter search, and start being found by Google. Click this Google search.

Federated Link Building site:twitter.com






Notice as of July, Google is showing over 120 Twitter users have tweeted links to my article, Whereas Twitter now shows none.

Note among the Google results the variety and style of links, all ending up at that same article. You have to follow the result to the Tweet permalink, but what you'll find is some links tweeted via a URL shortener, like this from @tweetingseo

Search Engine News - Understanding Federated Link Building:
http://bit.ly/pX9Oh


Some are to the SEL RSS feed, like this from Twitter user @mcmaktoby


And some are direct links, like this tweet from @craig_burgess

Understanding
Federated Link Building: A Primer With Examples http://searchengineland.com/understanding-federated-link-building-a-primer-with-examples-21056

Each of these links will deliver a clicker to my article. Think pass-along readership from the print world. But...remember not every tweet is seen by every one of your Twitter followers every time. When you are offline you don't see my tweets, and when I'm offline I don't see yours. By the time you log back in to Twitter, my tweet is likely off your list of current tweets, and may never be seen at all. You can't click what you don't see.


Still, here's some Twitter math to illustrate the power of Twitter Link Waves. As of 2 days after the initial tweeted link to my article...

Total Twitter users who have tweeted a link to the article
41

Total number of followers those 41 Twitter users have
53,282

Total number of Twitter users who had a chance to see a link my article

52,270
(I removed my own followers keep this honest)

As for how many of those 52,270 people saw, clicked on, and read my Federate LinkBuilding article at SearchEngineLand, only the folks at SearchEngineLand can know for sure. What's truly amazing is the speed with which links ride waves/skip through Twitter-space. It's only been two days since I posted that article, and all because of Twitter, over 52,000 people had a chance to see it.

Follower Overlap and Co-followers
Remember this is just the Twitter users, and only those Twitter users who used the article title in their tweet text, meaning I can find them by searching. Not everyone tweets an article title. Some just write "good article" and include a short-cut link, meaning I wont find those with a keyword search.

We also have to remember that within any vertical, follower overlap is higher. In other words, since my articles have a tendancy to get shared the most within the SEO/SEM industry, and since many folks in the SEO/SEM industry follow each other, I must assume that the 52,000 followers include a significant overlap.

For example, I follow 20 of the 41 people who tweeted my article link, so I would see that same link tweet 20 times. For the sake of argument let's assume a 50% follower overlap. Even then over 25,000 people received that link.

Interesting side notes

- Speaking of Twitter follower overlap, check out Venn'd which offers a nifty twitter follower overlap analysis, or twtrfrnd, which will show you the common followers for any two twitter usernames. And Who follows whom let's you do cofollower analysis for up to five usernames.

- You can search Google for tweets, by restricting your search to the twitter domain like this

"Understanding Federated Link Building" site:twitter.com

See the image above in the earlier example. The Google result will, especially over time, give a far more accurate count than Twitter's own search engine will.

What Does It All Mean?
You should be incorporating Twitter into your link sharing/building efforts, but don't make the mistake of thinking Twitter is just a link broadcasting tool waiting for you to exploit it. There are very subtle aspects to Twitter which belie the 140 limit. Tweeted links can definately affect rank, but as much as Twitter is "new school", proper use of it is very much "old school" in that you still need to identify and reach out to a key influncer on a one-to-one level. Twitter is simply a very cool tool that allows us to do this. You just have to know how to do so properly.

-------------------------------------------
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. You can also email your question to eric [at] ericward [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, 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.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Link Building Podcast and Transcript with Eric Ward

Thank you to Jerry M. for alerting me to this podcast transcript. It's a couple years old but still 100% on target.

On April 5, 2007 Eric Enge and Eric Ward, aka Link Moses, spoke about some of the latest events affecting the world of link building. Here is the transcript of that podcast.

http://www.ericward.com/link-building-podcast.html

Here is the original audio
http://www.stonetemple.com/podcasts/Eric-Ward-Podcast-040507-Transcript.shtml

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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.