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 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.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Curly Theory of Link Building (Link Moses Resurrected 8)

I read today about how all three major search engines have removed the Geocities.com domain from their search indices. A site:geocities.com search on Google, Yahoo, or Bing shows that, as Matt McGhee illustrates here, geocities.com is "dead and buried".

*Sigh*

Once upon a time, in 2001, back in the day, I spent hours and hours seeking links from geocities sites on behalf of clients. It wasn't for rank, since rank wasn't link dependent yet, it was for subject affinity. I remember doing a project for AMCTV.com, the cable network who also had a great web site. They had launched a new section on their site devoted to the Three Stooges, as the online companion to the TV broadcasts of the Three Stooges they were showing every day.

They also had a contest to win a year supply of pies. There's still evidence of my work, preserved like fossils of link building past. Here's one.

There were so many Geocities sites devoted to the Three Stooges I was busy for days. I was amazed and remember laughing out loud at the hilarity of those Geocities sites devoted to all things Stooge, and while Geocities is gone those same folks likely live on somewhere else.

This period of time was also when I first started thinking about the true verticality of the web. The "Curly Theory" of link building was one of the theories that emerged. I've joked about it and never actually discussed it in writing, but the news of Geocities' passing made me misty, so indulge me.

The "Curly Theory" of link building is based on my discovery that even something as seemingly vertical as The Three Stooges was not vertical enough. You had to go even deeper. More vertical. Three Stooges fan pages of course, but there were sites devoted just to specific Stooges, like Curly, Moe, Larry, or even Shemp. Yep, Shemp.

But even that discovery was not vertical enough. It seems that within the realm of Three Stooges fans, you even had sites devoted to the different Curly's that appeared.

Discussions of Curly could incite a "flame war", depending on where your Curly loyalties lay. If you liked Curly over Curly-Joe, and were going to say so, you'd better be able to explain why.

While all these sites were great link targets and many would end up giving me and AMCTV.com a link, I was struck by the desire people had to be heard. Geocities gave them a platform, even if it was to put forth 33 reasons why Curly Joe would never be as good as Curly.

Hence the "Curly Theory" of link building: No matter how narrow the vertical, somebody somewhere cares about it, writes about it, links to it, and you'd darn sure better recognize and respect those editorial passions before you go asking for a link to something that may look like a match, but isn't.


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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.

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, 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.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

LinkMoses Resurrected #2 - What If Everything You Know About Link Building Is Wrong?

LinkMoses ResurrectedSo let it begin.

Over at Search Engine Land today I wrote Betting On The Link Building Boondoggle Bonanza. I mentioned a couple very specific link building tactics in that column, press releases and directory submissions. What's being sold is, to be kind, bad and worse.

As for directories, some of this you surely already know. I've written about it before. A year ago I wrote Don't Blame Google For Your Own Linking Failures. The salient quote from that article was...

"Are you really going to tell me you are shocked that Google no longer thinks a link from link-o-matic, link-to-my-loo, and LinksForNoGoodReason.de are of any value? Please. But if you knew that such links would someday lose value, why did you take money for that very service? And if you didn't honestly know such links were pointless, how can you call yourself a link builder?"
Here's how I can at least try to make this post constructive, rather than just calling a tactic stupid.

All sites exist on a popularity continuum like this...

Links from general directories that nobody has heard of will only be of value to certain types of sites, namely sites on the left side of the continuum. These will be sites with few links and credibility to begin with, or brand new sites with no links at all. For existing sites that have already shown the ability to earn links, there will be no value from links from these directories. In simpler terms, a site like CNN.com could care less about getting links from directories. But your site isn't CNN.com. True, but is it BrandNewSite.com? Probably not. Your site's linking pedigree falls somewhere between these two examples, as do most sites.

So, am I saying that for a brand new site links from no-name directories are useful after all? A little, but not much. In my private consults the point I make is this...
"Your site will not succeed or fail based upon getting links from no name directories. If those are the only links you can earn, you are dead. Your site will only succeed over time if it attracts merit based links within your industry's universe. And that will require content of merit that can earn such links"
I've made it pretty clear above that certain types of sites might get a small benefit from directories. But a site that can benefit from such a silly type of link isn't much of a site now is it? Why is that so hard to accept folks? Now take it a step further. Let's hypothesize. Why couldn't the search engines use those same directory links as reverse signals? Any site that has links from 57 directories, which as time passes does not also earn merit based links, has helped point itself out as pure crap to the engines. Thanks for the help. Same with press releases BTW, but more on that tomorrow.

As for companies that are selling directory submission services, yes, your service may very well be outstanding. But the best thing you can do is provide this or a similar type of disclosure to your clients before they spend money with you. Don't hide behind "buyer beware" and "free market" arguments. If you know a site will not benefit, don't sell it to them. Is that so hard?

Lastly, there are many directories that are in fact extremely good link building targets. Thousands of them. I use them all the time, when the client's site is a fit. They exist in verticals. Verticals can be subject specific, geo-specific, industry specific, feature specific, even author specific. Credibility and intent are key. If you operate a directory please don't assume I'm lumping yours into the useless category. I purposely have not mentioned one real directory by name in this article. The point can be made without 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.

Monday, July 27, 2009

LinkMoses Resurrected - Thirty Link Building Rants and Commandments

By now most who know me know the LinkMoses backstory.

I retired LinkMoses 15 months ago. LinkMoses had a fabulous run, earned over 100,000 links, (smoke that linkbait) and the post LinkMoses Linking Commandments - Part I remains one of my site's top five most visited pages.

So why bring LinkMoses back for thirty posts? Three reasons.

First, it's easier for me to speak my mind when I'm in LinkMoses mode. A defense mechanism that allows me to say things I'm chickenshit to say as Eric Ward. LinkMoses=Buddy Love, Eric Ward=Sherman Klump.

Reason 2?
The awesome post "Is Most Of SEO Just A Boondoggle?". Jill Whalen took heat for it, though she's one of, if not the most under-appreciated and intelligent voice out there. If you aren't reading High Rankings Advisor Search Marketing Newsletter, I have to ask you what the hell are you thinking? Stop reading this post immediately and go subscribe.

Reason 3?
I never wrote LinkMoses Linking Commandments - Part II. There was no reason to be greedy, and why be a Link Whore?

But, it's time.

LinkMoses will be back here for thirty posts. Rather than tell you what my goal is in doing this, I'll let the posts speak for themselves. The first LinkMoses Resurrected Post will be:

"What If Everything You Know About Link Building Is Wrong?"

It will be here Tuesday.

So let it be written...

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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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How Twitter Can Impact Link Building

Live now over at SearchEngineLand is this week's Link Week column:

Twitter: Incredibly Valuable Or Utterly Useless As A Link Building Tool?

Before you start your attack, yes, I know people are saying Twitter has already jumped the shark and become nothing more than a popularity contest. In some instances I agree it is, but from a merit based link building perspective, forget the Twitter masses.

Twitter is not just about Shaq and his 490,000 followers, clicking like sheep whatever URL the big guy tweets.

Twitter is also about small groups of subject specific influencers, and what they do with the links they learn about.

Read more


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 lbbp@ericward.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, March 5, 2009

Link Building Project Manager - SQuiD

I've been working quietly behind the scenes advising Disa Johnson on a link building project management tool. It's called SQuiD, and is still in its earliest stages, but functional. You can check it out at http://squid.searchreturn.com

I hope to see many additional features added to SQuiD, as SQuiD has already helped me with several link building projects, and as it evolves, it will solve one of the most challenging aspects of link building. Keeping track of the link building process over time.

As always, remember that any tool is only as good as your content will let it be. SQuiD wont help crap become non crappy:)

SQuiD will help those of you who are producing truly meaningful content.


Jake Scruggs, who helped Disa create SQuiD has posted a couple SQuiD tutorials on his blog, which I encourage you to check out.

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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 LBBPQ@ericward.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, January 22, 2009

Helping Clients See The Bigger Linking Picture


Good read written by Mike Moran over at SearchEngineGuide titled How do I get links to my Web site?

The site in question was an ecommerce site. Skis and snowboards.

Sites that are primarily ecommerce oriented present special linking challenges. Several times each month I get questions like Mike did. Ecommerce sites want links. How do they do it? Will I do it? What will it cost? How long before they see improvement in rank?

Owners of those sites are sometimes willing to listen to what I tell them, accept what they are up against, and decide what to do about it. But some want no part of an actual linking strategy. They want a quick fix. They may be resistant to the "let's add great content" approach, or if they try it, they short-cut the process because they are doing it only because they feel they have to. And even if they have a passion for the subject, they aren't writers, they are store owners.

One of the more eye-opening ways to show the client the link attraction power of passionate content is to find sites in their niche that have already attracted high value links as a result of specific content. Show them the links, show them the content linked to. Then show them a search result like this one for snowboard linkbait, so they see first hand how advanced some folks are already getting, as well as how silly. How many "snowboard selector tools" does the web need? Apparently 163,000. Seeing that I'd be tempted to go old school and create another snowboard glossary (shudder). Heck, why not just aggregate the already existing snowboard video tips onto one central page, living on your site? Nobody's done it yet.

After this exercise, show them subject specific sites they may have never thought of, but which illustrate the potential for high trust inbounds in certain niches. I use cocitation analysis, show them a specific example, and then hope the light comes on for them. For the ski equipment site, show them these pages

http://staff.niacc.edu/skiclub/
http://www.crescentskicouncil.org/clubs.html
http://www.scwdc.org/
and
http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/student/club/ski/Index.htm

They may not see the multiple and larger strategic linking implications and opportunities such sites present. Do you?



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 LBBPQ@ericward.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.