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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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, 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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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.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Answer to: After The Basics - Now What?

TravelingNinja asked...

I've taken a new site from 1 backlinks to 350 in five months of hard work. I've done the basics: submitted to niche and free mainstream directories, posted in forums, exchanged some links, and requested some links. What can I do next?

Link building for a new site with no links is my perfect scenario. You don't have to worry about previous mistakes or link spam, and you have a clean slate on which to work. But, as TN notes, after the basics what do you do? Two word answer: vertical publicity.

What's the subject of the site? You mentioned you submitted to niche directories, but depending on the niches these are just as notorious for junk and swaps as the wannabeeyahoos. I suggest you compile a list of the top sites that appear in a both the regular and blog search results for your most important phrases. Look for common citations A site that is showing up in both results, even on page two or three, is doing something right. On the blog results, bookmark every site that has mentioned the site that is also ranking well in regular search. Also compile a list of every niche content site and blog that is not a competitor. This is the start of a publicty and public relation driven link building campaign. You aren't after niche directories here. You are seeking editorial mentions or blogroll inclusions from the key influencers in your niche.

This is just a scratch at the surface, but a good scratch.





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

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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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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.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Yahoo Directory Paid Link Best Practices?

If your site is listed in the Yahoo directory, and you didn't pay for it or you got in back before they charged the review fee, then IMO you leave it alone. Make no changes and enjoy the free ride. I have two Yahoo directory links for two of my sites, both grandfathered because they are ancient. If I was asked by Yahoo to start paying for those two, I'd probably drop them both. On the other hand, there are instances where I do recommend paying the review fee. A new site in a very competitive topic may want to pay, because commercial sites already listed in the Yahoo Directory to can then also receive enhanced placement (for another fee) in certain commercial categories in the directory. Read more about the Yahoo Sponsored Listing options here. FYI, tried this program out a few years ago and in my case chose to stop after three months.

-Eric

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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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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.