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Archives For Linkbuilding

Online marketers, and SEOs especially, like to talk/write/read about linkbuilding. SEOmoz has a category of linkbuilding articles that has the most, and most well linked-to, blog posts on the site. Heck, Distilled even has our Linklove conferences in the spring, which are one day conferences all about linkbuilding.

But many SEOs, especially those who do not linkbuild full time and are hopefully decent at it, miss one main consideration when doing outreach for links.

What’s in it for them?

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People often come to us and say that they want linkbuilding. I assume that this is because many people are under the understanding that SEO = linkbuilding = rankings. While there have been posts written about why this is not true, this scenario plays out again and again.

I bet this happens to you as well, if you are an SEO consultant or work in an SEO agency. Sometimes it is quite difficult to know whether or not to take them on. On the one hand, the money is nice. On the other hand, we have to do what is right for the client and not always what is right for the office bank account or personal wallet.

The goal of this post is to provide you with a framework for success when deciding whether or not to take on a client for linkbuilding. I’ll walk you through what I check before I agree to take on a client for linkbuilding, which will hopefully help you to do the same.

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Linkbuilding is always a hot topic within SEO, and different schools of thought exist. There’s the Throw Away Your Form Letters approach, and then there’s the school of form letters are great, just make them personalized. I did a lot of linkbuilding at my old job, and am doing some now for clients, and I prefer to take a more nuanced approach.

Different targets require different approaches. Let’s break the types of link prospects into three groups:

  • High level – these are the most important links. High quality sites.
  • Mid-level – these are valuable sites, but maybe not as hard to get.
  • Low-level – when you need mass.

Let’s examine the different approaches required for each.
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Google has an author search. Did you know that? We’ve been talking about author authority for some months now, and in earnest for about the past five or six. When rel=author was announced back in June, the SEO world went nutso talking about “SEO is dead” and “The Era of Linkbuilding is Over” and “We all have to go in-house now” and all sorts of craziness.

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Note from John: This is a guest post by Tom Mcloughlin, who works for The WebMarketing Group, an SEO company based in the UK. You can follow them on Twitter for more link building tips, or add them to your circles on Google+.

Twitter has taken the world by storm since it burst on the scene in 2006 and now sees more than 100 million people log in every month and has a total of more than 200 million registered users. It’s an absolute juggernaut and now even your nan and your dog are tweeting the latest from their action packed lives.

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15 Linkbuilding ProTips

John Doherty —  February 2, 2012

Recently at our Distilled-a-thon in London, Phil Nottingham decided that he was going to ship some pro-tip videos, which are short videos of under a minute in length, where we gave away some actionable soundbites. We have a lot of really smart people in Distilled, so I decided to go watch them for myself.

HOLY MOLY. The content on our Distilled Youtube page is amazing, with tips being given by everyone from our CEO (Duncan) to our PR Exec (Lexi) and many others, including Analysts and Consultants who are stuck in every day moving the needle for their clients. Watch and learn! Continue Reading…

SearchLove NYC happens at the end of this month. This is the first time that Distilled has brought a conference to the City that Never Sleeps, where I am fortunate enough to live and work.

Full disclosure: In case you don’t know, I work for Distilled in New York. That being said, I would write this post anyways. In fact, I did write a very similar post back in February about Linklove London.

My Story with Distilled Conferences

Back in the beginning of the year I heard about Linklove and decided that I wanted to go. My two coworkers went to a different conference, but I saw that Rand, Wil Reynolds, Russ Jones, and many others were speaking in London and knew that I had to go, since I was going to be on vacation in Europe at that point anyways.

Long story short, I went to the conference and it absolutely blew me away (and not least because Distilled announced that they were going to be opening an office in NYC. Here I am. Oh, and we’re hiring.) You can read my recap of it here.

Here’s the crux of what I got from the conference:

I came back and, using the link prospecting tips I gained from the conference, took a 30,000 local searches/month keyword from #16 for my then-employer to #4. Oh yeah. I did it in 4 weeks.

Wil Reynolds at LinkLove

Wil Reynolds at #Linklove

This conference was also where I began making real friends in the SEO industry. I had the chance to have breakfast with Wil Reynolds the day after, I met the Critchlow brothers (now my bosses), Rand Fishkin, Russ Jones, and many many others. I even was first introduced to Gianluca Fiorelli via Twitter, and then met him in July at Mozcon.

Quite simply, if you want to meet some of the smartest, most helpful, and kind people you will ever meet, come to SearchLove. It’s not networking, it’s relationship-making.

The Words of Others

I don’t want you to just listen to me and what I did from the conference. Here are the words from David Cohen of CollegePlus, who came to ProSEO Boston:

[blackbirdpie url="http://twitter.com/#!/explorionary/status/122328999107104768"]

Rand said about Linklove in an SEOmoz post:

“Distilled’s Link Building day in London has just, in my opinion, grabbed the title of “best single day of content” ever at an SEO event.”

And Tom Critchlow said:

And Wil Reynolds tweeted:

[blackbirdpie url="http://twitter.com/#!/wilreynolds/status/48702321084989440"]

If you missed it, Rand also wrote a post over on the SEOmoz blog with 10 Pictures Why SearchLove NYC is a Must-Attend.

Seriously, Come

There is still time left to buy your tickets. The price is $899 with a Moz Pro discount. Believe me, you will not regret it. If I did not work for Distilled and could not get work to pay for it, I would pay for it myself. It’s that good.

See you there.

Today I want to talk about a simple tactic that you should try if you have been working on linkbuilding for a specific site for a while and have had some blog posts written about your site, without links.

The Skinny

At my old job, my coworker had been working on building links to the site for a while. He came up with the idea of doing a blogger awards series, whereby we would give a blogger in a specific industry-related niche an award. They would receive a badge to embed on their site, and sometimes they would write a nice blog post about the award.

For a while, my coworker sent a Press Release with the award announcement email, and asked them nicely to publish it. Many of them did, but unfortunately a lot of them also took out the links back to our site.

Enter Operation “Get Those Links!”

When I was at Linklove London, I heard many speakers talking about reaching back out to old contacts for links. I realized that we had many sites that we had awarded these awards to, yet were not linking to us.

Luckily, we had kept the list of all of the past contacts.

What I did

I went back and found all of the sites that we had contacted. Then, I ran the OpenSiteExplorer backlinks report for the site.

Next, I put all of the award winners into one Excel spreadsheet workbook, and all of the links to our site in another. Then, I got the clean URLs of those sites using this formula (assuming the URL was in column A):


Then, I did a simple VLookup between the two spreadsheets to find the sites that were already linking to us. Here’s the Vlookup formula:


Then I sorted out all of the sites already linking to us, and boom, there was my initial list of prospects.

Next step: Qualifying

Since I also knew the name of the name of the campaign, I was able to put that into Google in quotes. For the sake of anonymity, let’s use the example of “The Werewolf Club’s Young Werevolves Award”.

I ran the following search:

“The Werewolf Club’s Young Werevolves Award” -site:http://www.mysite.com

Now I simply opened the sites that had this text and manually qualified if they were actually already linking back to us. If no, I put an “N” next to the site so I could reach back out to them. (PS: I’m sure there is another way to automate this.)

Important: I also made a note of the sentence in their blog post where I could insert a link. This helped me to customize the link request!

Outreach Time!

After going through all of the sites, which took a bit of time, I finally had my link targets and could reach back out to them.

Here is how my link request email looked:

Hi [name] –
I want to reach out again from (my site’s brand) and congratulate you for winning one of our awards. We hope that you have found the information helpful. Also, thank you for writing a blog post about the award!
I was wondering if you might be willing to add a link back to (my brand) from your post (insert post link). Doing so would really help us out!

Here is what I would propose:
(Their text with the link embedded)

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Cheers -

So what happened

I sent out about 30 of these emails. Guess what my response and success percentage were?

Close to 50%

I was building links towards a very competitive keyword as well, with 33,000 local searches a month yet one of the most competitive in the niche.

When I started this campaign, we ranked 18th behind a lot of strong domains. Our domain was strong (700+ linking root domains and a bunch of links related to the keyword phrase I was targeting), yet we were way behind the competition.

So I added 14 links, from old articles, to our page. Guess what happened?

In 4 weeks, we jumped from #18 to #5. These are the only links I built to the homepage during this period.



Evil GeniusThe Internet is a dodgy place. There is a lot of bad information and people get things wrong. Also, there are a lot of bad people on the Internet who want to profit from your hard work.

I’m talking about scraper sites. A lot of top sites and blogs get scraped and copied every time a new blog post is published. SEOmoz is one of these.

I read an article once upon a time (probably 6-8 months ago) that was talking about why you should always link back to yourself in any blog post you write. At the time, I did not understand why, other than for basic-level linkbuilding purposes.

Now I realize why.

Last month, my The Tweet Effect post on YOUmoz was promoted to the main blog. I had made the judgment call to include a link back to this site using my name, because I am trying to rank this site for my name, which unfortunately is not super easy because my name is fairly popular overseas.

So I linked back to my site using “John Doherty.” Once the post was promoted, I looked at the incoming links discovered by WordPress. 20 new links coming to my site because my blog post was scraped and curated around the Internet!

Why not turn lemons to lemonade, then?

5 Steps to Inbound Links via Scraper Sites

1. Create great content that you can guest post on well-trafficked site. Make it noteworthy. In this post, link back to other posts on your site, or your company’s site if that is your main sounding board. (Pro tip: if you’re in the Internet marketing business, you should build your own site.)

2. Find the influential sites in your niche. A simple way to find if their content is scraped is to take a chunk of text (a sentence will do) from the post, throw it in quotes, and do a search for it.

Take the below example for Tom Critchlow’s “Agile Tools” post:

3. Curate relationships with the webmasters or influencers at these influential sites. (Another pro tip: don’t do this to use them. Be nice. Relationships build natural links.) This way, you have a good chance of being published on those sites.

4. Submit the post and give it a bit of a social push with your contacts online. I’m not saying this will increase rankings of any sort, but you might get links to that site from your followers, which will increase the strength of the links back to your site from your post.

5. Once the scrapers do their dirty work, check your backlinks. If you use WordPress (like I do on this site) you can easily see these links on your dashboard when you log into your admin panel. Otherwise, wait for OSE to be updated and then check them. You might get a lovely surprise.

Until next time, happy linkbuilding.

Most linkbuilders constantly hunt for new ways to find new link prospects for their clients. Many of us use tools like SEOmoz, Ontolo, Buzzstream, and others to find new search queries. Sometimes, though, we have to think creatively, outside the box, to gather prospects that no one else has leveraged yet. One such way is to use Twitter for linkbuilding.

I have been playing around with ImportXML scripts in Google Docs for a few months now, thanks to inspiration from a few other Distilled guys. One day I decided to figure out how to grab prospects from Twitter using some free tools.

*Disclaimer: I originally began gathering these prospects by scraping a resource site. Don’t do this. The Google Doc linked to below uses the free Twitter API, and the JSON was (relatively) easy. Don’t scrape. Simply open my Google Doc (it is read-only) and make a copy for yourself. You don’t even need an API key. Enjoy!*

Tools You Need

The Process

There are five steps to this strategy:

  1. Use Followerwonk to find initial Twitter accounts for your niche
  2. Use FriendorFollow to download all of their followers
  3. Clean your data so you have a quality preliminary list.
  4. Use the free Twitter API to pull the websites (or make a copy of my Google Doc)
  5. Clean your data and actionize!

Step One: Use FollowerWonk to gather prospects

Let’s say that we are building links for a poetry site. Go to FollowerWonk.com and search for “poetry”. You will receive a long list of Twitter names that include the word “poetry” in their biographies. FollowerWonk provides the ability to sort by relevance, follower count, or friend count.

I usually sort by follower count, in order to use the accounts with the largest numbers of followers so that we can gather as many link prospects as possible. We can always narrow down the list later using some Excel wizardry (I realize I’m using “wizardry” frequently. I think I have Harry Potter on my mind…)

Now use MultiLinks in Firefox (a free extension that I have not found a comparable Chrome extension for yet. If you know of one, please leave it in the comments). You have the ability to set MultiLinks to allow you to highlight all of the links on one page via right-click click-and-drag. Use this capability to gather all of the Twitter profiles returned to you with FollowerWonk. Paste the gathered links into Excel, where you will now have the Twitter handle and Twitter site of each account.

Step Two: Use FriendOrFollow.com to download all of their followers

Now run the top Twitter accounts through FriendorFollow.com. I recommend running the top 10 or so because these are the accounts with the most followers. You’ll get some junk followers, such as bots, in your list, but we’ll sort those out later in Excel. I also recommend only running the top 10 or so because this will give you a large set of prospects and will also not take up your whole day!

FriendorFollow allows you to sort by “following” (people followed by the account, but who are not following it back), “fans” (people who follow the account, but are not followed back), and “friends” (people who both follow and are followed by the account). I recommend downloading all three lists and combining them into one Excel sheet. Do this for 3-5 large accounts, and now we have a huge list of potential link contacts/targets.

You should now have the Twitter name, location, description, and follower counts of each Twitter profile.

Now we are getting somewhere, but we’re not there yet. We still need websites that are associated with these profiles. This is where Twitter API wizardry comes into play. First though, we want to scrub some data.

Step Three: Scrubbing Data in Excel

You now have a huge Excel spreadsheet of Twitter profiles, including their usernames, biographies, and follower counts. We want to now clean out the profiles that are not relevant to our niche, in this case “poetry”.

First, let’s clean out the sites that do not have “poetry” or “poet” in their biography. We do this by using the Custom Filter function in Excel.

Your spreadsheet needs to be in a table (on a PC, CTRL+L and select if your columns have headers or not). Click the down “Sort” arrow on the column header and choose “Custom.” Here is how I set mine up:

This will filter the list to include only biographies that include

Once you click “Ok”, Excel will sort out any entry that does not have “poetry” or “poet” in the biography.

Now we can proceed to step four, where we will plug the Twitter usernames into a Google Doc that is set up to gather the website associated with the username.

Step Four: Use Twitter’s API to gather associated websites

This is the step where all of our hard work gathering the prospects pays off. Copy and paste the Twitter usernames into a Google Doc spreadsheet. You can either create your own sheet using the following script, or use a copy of the Google Doc I have linked to below:

function getURL(url) {
var jsondata = UrlFetchApp.fetch(“http://api.twitter.com/1/users/show.json?screen_name=”+url);
var object = Utilities.jsonParse(jsondata.getContentText());
return object.url;}

Basically, the above script is named “getURL” and is saying “Fetch the URL for the given screenname from the Twitter API and return the URL”.

Here is a screenshot of websites that I have gathered for some of my followers:

You can also use this spreadsheet (create a copy):

Make a copy of this Google Doc to use it.

*Note* You will need to register for your own SEOmoz Free API Access ID and Secret Key. You can do this here. Enter these on the Config sheet in the specified cells. These will copy to the APIdetails sheet.

Learn on your own

If you are interested in learning how to use APIs on your own, here are some good resources. If you are lazy and have a JSON developer friend, buy them dinner in return for a script!

Official Twitter API documentation
PrototypeJS intro to JSON (pretty technical)
Tom Critchlow’s “Using APIs to Track Your Social Media Strategy” post
Building Agile Tools using Google Docs (Distilled blog)

Now all you need to do is copy and paste the websites associated with the Twitter usernames back into your Excel spreadsheet so that we can scrub the clean and sort the data again and end with a quality list of prospects.

Step Five: Clean Your Data to Qualify Potentials

Hopefully now we have a long list of “poetry” prospects in an Excel spreadsheet, but it’s just that…a long list. How do we narrow it down to create an actionable list of Twitter accounts to target for outreach?

We only want to keep the entries that have associated websites. You should go to the Website column and click the Sort arrow in the column header. The easiest way to clean out the accounts without websites is to unselect the “Blanks” option. Presto! You now have a list of Twitter usernames with websites that are affiliated with poetry niche.


You now have a long list of Twitter accounts that are related to poetry, as well as their follower counts (which can tell you how influential the account is) and websites. All you need to do from this point is plug the website URLs into a bulk URL opener (like URLopener or Ontolo’s URL Reviewer) and set to qualifying them manually.

How can we take this further?

If this tool is popular, I’m going to try to deploy it onto AppEngine, so that it will be more accessible and widely available to people. If you do too many API calls from within GDocs, you may be limited and not able to make API calls for 24 hours. Be careful!

Please leave any comments/suggestions below in the Comments section!

Bon chance! (Good luck!)

*Update* It is also possible to use this tool for competitor analysis, to get a quick overview of your client’s site and their main competitors. This simply involves adding a column after the column pulling the Twitter API info (column C), inputting the URLs into one of the columns (I put them in column D) and updating Column E to pull the Column D cells instead of Column C. Bonus!