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Google changed my page title in favor of the anchor text from Distilled’s blog.

Yesterday I was doing some research on my blog and trying to find it using different keywords, searching old-school (like a normal Web user) using Google.com. I’ve been hoping to get this site ranking high for “John Doherty”, as it’s my name, after all.

So I searched “John Doherty”. The first instance I came across was my #linklove post, which is titled “The Distilled London #Linklove Conference” (screenshot below):

But this is what I saw in the SERP’s:

Huh? Wait, this is not the title that is on the post on the site, nor what I set using Yoast SEO:

Hang on.

So what is being displayed as the title?

After some more investigation, I realized that the title that is showing is the text used to link to the post from the Distilled Wrap-up by Tom Critchlow! Check it out:

Wow. I can almost hear Google saying “Who the eff is this John Doherty guy, with this new domain, getting links for his SEO site from big SEO players? We don’t trust him! Let’s trust Distilled. *evil laugh*

Why might this be? Here are my thoughts:

Google may think that the link text is a better description of my post than the title I gave it, since the link comes from a site that is much more authoritative than mine. In essence, Distilled is vouching for my recap, so Google trusts that their “stamp of approval” is a good indicator of quality, thus the words they use can be used to describe my post.

I cannot say I necessarily agree with this, but it is interesting! Does anyone else have any examples?

By the way, I saw this result when logged in with my girlfriend’s account. It shows the same when logged out.

*Do a search for “John Doherty”. The result should be on the second page. Let me know what you find.*

*DISCLAIMER – I do not think Distilled stole my page title. I highly respect Distilled and have met Will and Tom, who are both great guys. I titled the post this way to get you to read it :-) *

After Rand came Martin MacDonald of SEO Forums.Org, who I mistakenly called by another name on Twitter (sorry Martin!). His talk was entitled “Lessons from the dark side”, which makes me think of Star Wars, but that is a discussion for other times and places. His slidedeck is also available here. I did not take as many notes as maybe I should have, since I simply wanted to understand the dark side and not use any of the dark tactics.

A few memorable quotes that can be applied out of context:
“Any SEO that does not test the boundaries is not an SEO.”
“If you work in a black box (i.e. blackhat tactics) you gotta accept the consequences.”
“Buying a lot of links is not blackhat. It’s just lazy.”

I respect Martin because he knows his craft, and has the power to do many shady things if he wants, but does not use these powers for bad. His lessons are important to all SEOs.

*Disclaimer* I do not endorse any of these tactics. Martin does not either. He has done many of them, but says to NEVER risk your homepage or a client site. Rather, if you are going to do any of these, only do them to pages you do not mind burning. NEVER risk your homepage!

Martin began his talk by saying, in contrast to Rand, “To have a longterm you need a short term.” He said that a lot of people get rankings from shady tactics and gave the example of Tripadvisor, who has built a massive presence after starting with shady means.

Turning Affiliate Links Clean

He gives a tip for turning affiliate links into clean links. He said that you can use a pagerank transfer protocol, in which you simply build your links to have a hashtag and you can get link juice. For example, your URL could look like “http://www.example.com/#(content)”. A simple script will allow you to make affiliate links pseudo-clean, which you can find on his slidedeck. Be sure to change it, though, because scripts can leave a trace.

Instead of joining an offiliate program, if you have the site to support it and resources, you can start your own affiliate program. Martin recommends Post Affiliate Pro. At this point he mentioned “Should your site rank for this term? Is it a good resource?” which is the same question Tom asked earlier.

Widget-Nets

Martin has experience with “widget-nets”, which you can use to build links through free widgets for CMS systems like WordPress. These have downsides however:
1) You lose control of the network (as it grows and more people install);
2) You can’t modify it beyond the focus, though Martin did show how he could change all of the text links to say something else (he built 1.4 million links to Distilled’s website for about 40 seconds before changing it back, though 40-50 of those indexed! “Those are free,” he told the Distilled guys). This tactic scares me a bit, but it was also fascinating to know that it can be done!
3) A lot of webmasters remove attribution links, so you won’t get as many links as you hope for.
4) You might want to refocus your strategy, say if you have a new client, so you would have to start over for each new client. This is a lot of work!

Next Martin moved on to sneaky ways to get links from competitors. He said that you can use reputation management in the form of sneaky cross-domain canonicals to “trick” them into linking to your site. The execution is actually pretty easy. All you have to do is:
1) Create a dummy website;
2) Get them to link to a review;
3) Use a rel=canonical metatag to send the link juice to a page on your site; and
4) Copy the information to your site.
Boom. You just got links from your competitors.

Whitehat Alert

Another way to leverage social media is to pay Twitter. You can advertise (promote) tweets on Twitter by paying10c per retweet. Every time a tweet is retweeted, you pay 10c. Retweets of retweets, however, are not charged to you! Martin got 5,000 retweets and did alright! He paid 60 GBP and ranked for a day (on the first page, I believe).

*Martin’s advice* Don’t send lots of new links to your homepage. You should only do this to a new page with no rank that you can burn. And if you burn a page that you’ve built a ton of links to, you can do the following to flow the link power to another page:
1) Disallow the page in your robots.txt file;
2) Submit a removal request to Google;
3) 301 redirect the burned page to a new page;
4) Cancel the removal request.

Once again, NEVER risk your homepage!

Thanks, Martin, for helping us understand the darkside better (and I just may use some of your grey-hat suggestions!) And as Duncan Morris said during the Q/A, “Buying links gives you grey hair.”

Here is a quick summary of the conference, with a few quotes from each speaker.

Wil Reynolds

“Believing in ‘quality links’ as the way to dominate competitive SERPs is the biggest SEO mistake.”
“Over 30% of exact anchor text links is too aggressive.”
“Backlink research can show you who is ranking for the longtail. Pay attention to your market overview.”
“Don’t try to game people. Build relationship, retweet, and read their stuff. Much more effective.”

Jane Copland

“Quit complaining about paid links and do what you’re comfortable doing.”
“A good link network doesn’t just link to one site or subject matter.”
“If a site is penalized, you can 301 and the new domain will rank.”

Russ Jones

“Watch for inbound forum traffic and get involved. Social could carry you to Digg/StumbleUpon.”
“Clicky provides real-time analytics. Use these contacts to get permanent links to the real content.”
“Contact webmasters of sites voting for you on Digg/Reddit. Be willing to pay for a real link.”

Tom Critchlow

“Site language can be used to shape user language. Build a brand.”
“Have a page with a lot of focused links, but no rank? Build a new page, optimize, and 301 old to new. BOOM!”
“Make a list of 5 places you really want links from and put the effort in.”

Paddy Moogan

“You can’t outsource giving a sh*t.”
“Educate people who matter. Organize and scale. Don’t let your bosses think ‘more is better.’ Scale after benchmarking.”
“You can use old linkbait/resources in the future for big link targets.”

Rand Fishkin

“Google is looking for sites that people will trust.”
“Become a content resource in your niche.”
“You have to be willing to sacrifice short-term gains for longterm ones.”

Martin MacDonald

“To have a longterm you need a short term.”
“Any SEO that does not test the boundaries is not an SEO.”
“If you want to work in a black box, you gotta accept the consequences.”
“Buying a lot of links is not blackhat. It’s just lazy.”

Will Critchlow

“Any sufficiently scalable technique is indistinguishable from blackhat.”
“The most links go to something people need, not what they want.”
“When you block eHow, etc, SERPs get worse. Normal people like eHow.”

The final speaker of the day was Will Critchlow of Distilled. Will’s topic was “Scaling white hat link building”. He started by saying “Any sufficiently scalable technique is indistinguishable from blackhat” in terms of the number and quality of links it produces. He also said that you have to be willing to give up short terms gains for longterm sustainable gains. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.

Will continued on to talk about the SEO hustle, that SEO is not easy and you have to work hard. I can gather from Tom, Paddy, and Will’s talks that the guys at Distilled have hustle. Will sold his first website to the local hairdresser after he and Duncan founded the company.

Flywheel or Pedaling Uphill?

Next, he spelled out an idea that he gained from the book Good to Great, the idea of a business model as a flywheel instead of pedaling uphill. Essentially, when you think of business as a flywheel, you give it a bit of a push, an initial burst of energy, and then it carries itself on its own inertia. So give it an initial push, like a great idea and great linkbait, and watch the idea move on its own. Otherwise, you are like a cyclist pedaling a bike uphill. At first you have a lot of energy, but slowly your energy evaporates and your speed decreases. You lose momentum because you are not self sustaining. So what are your linkbuilding tactics? Are they a flywheel or a pedalbike on an incline?

The next point was about the Top 500 Domains (according to SEOmoz Labs Tools). What can we learn?

Linkbuilding Techniques by Top 500 Domains

1) 40% used their users to spread the word (social power);
2) Content (linkbait)
3) Embeds (widgets, etc)
4) Technology (such as Adobe)
5) Acquisitions of linkbait
6) Affiliates

Next Will cited some statistics of the amount of content different large and trusted sites have to get in order to get a link. The findings were interesting:

Articles Needed
BBC 12
NY Times 18
Cracked.com 2
Mahalo 30
eHow 47
Youtube 150
Facebook 400

Will analyzed these findings by saying that “the most links go to something people need, not what they want.” If you create content for something people need, you have a better chance of creating that flywheel effect.

Will broke down a link into three parts:
1) What is the piece of content being used?
2) Who is placing the link?
3) Where is piece of content containing the link placed?

Writing and Scaling

Will then made a point about content writing. He said that the best content writers are not necessarily the best title writers. So who’s doing that? You need diversify your efforts to truly scale well, and in the words of Kanye West (who Will quoted, though I don’t know if it was intentional, though I assume it was), “Bigger better faster stronger.”

Linkbuilders need to scale relationships. Good writers need to think in scaleable ways. Linkbuilding Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is hard, but worth it for those quality links!

Will thinks we need to redeem sites like Mahalo, eHow, and Demand Media sites, essentially the sites affected by the Farmer/Panda algorithm change. As Will said, and I agree, “When you block eHow etc, SERPs get worse. Normal people like eHow! Maybe no one else has written about how to tie your shoes!” If these sites could start thinking in scaleable ways, they would become a great resource, even more than they already are.

Recommendations for linkbuilding and emailing

Gorkana – a media database for PR professionals and journalists. This can be used to find big link targets (think of Tom Critchlow’s talk of Wishlists).
Mailchimp for emails – it has great open rates and you can track who has opened your emails. From this you can adjust your strategy.
Buzzstream – for link contact building. Paul May has built a great product that helps you easily find contact information on a page, track the relationship status (not started, contacted, etc), and scale easily.
Celebrities can be linkerati too! You can Direct Message the big influencers who follow you, which can help you build relationships, get interviews, and get links! Rand recommends something similar by using Quora for contacting journalists.

Will Critchlow Linklove

Will Critchlow and other speakers

Randfish Linklove

Rand Fishkin at Linklove

After lunch came Rand Fishkin, CEO and Founder of SEOmoz. His talk was entitled “The future of linkbuilding”. Rand took this time to talk about brands and where search engines might be heading with their ranking signals.

Rand started by pointing out that links still rule the Internet. If you have enough text and anchor links, your site will rank well. Also, exact-match domain names are still very strong (though Matt Cutts has said they are dialing back the emphasis put on this). There are now some cases where known brands rank very well for terms related to their business, even though their websites are not optimized for it (think O’Neill and BodyGlove for wetsuits).

There are currently fewer sources than ever that offer links that really matter, and since Google and Bing are taking social signals into account, your online social circle matters more than ever.

Rand offered 30 different thoughts on what makes a brand. Unfortunately, I did not get all of them, but he gave a similar webinar a few months ago about this topic, which I hope you were part of.

Rand’s Ideas on Brand Signals

1) The signals of “Community” and “Authenticity”
Brands often have a Places page, put their staff and pictures on About pages, and have a recognizable name. Generics, or strictly online business with hyphenated, exact-match domain names do not usually have this.
2) Tweets can seemingly overpower links. SEOmoz has an interesting case study on SeeYourImpact where tweets outranked links.

The following can help you become a brand authority in your niche. Higher quality is better than higher quantity, in Rand’s opinion.
3) Infographics. Brands use infographics in cool and interesting ways. Generics do not.
4) High quality research. Brands do this to know where a need is, and then they meet it. Generics often do not have this power.
5) Watch ad placement. Too many ads looks spammy. Brands often do not have ad-heavy websites, because they are not focused on affiliate or advertising revenue.

At this point Rand said “You have to worry about user experiences. You have to worry about web design.” A good user experience can be a sign of a brand.

6) Watch your text block formatting. This point goes with the above, but often brands have better internal styling and do not look generic.
7) Build robust About pages. This is usually the second page someone clicks to. If you provide real faces of real people (see Point 1), you can build trust with your audience.
8 ) Brands provide real contact details for real humans. Rand said “Real humans have locations and girlfriends.”
9) Get testimonials. Brands often have testimonials about their products from real customers. Often these are both positive and negative, and a good brand will have both, as it means they are honest and transparent.
10) Optimize your conversion funnel. Brands often have a smooth funnel taking the visitor from landing on the site through the process of accomplishing what the site wants to accomplish, whether that be subscribing to a service or buying a product.
11) Brands attempt to satisfy the User’s needs. They ask what the customer needs and then they go meet that need. Generics often only ask what is in it for them.

Thoughts on creating a brand

1) Register your business with the local business bureau;
2) Build authentic social profiles on services like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Quora.
2a) He also recommends using FollowerWonk, Zomga, and Lanyrd for social
contacts and finding people in your niche. Influencer search, done.
3) Earn branded search traffic. Get involved so that your brand becomes known for something and earns brand-name links. This could also take place by buying local newspaper advertising. (Rand said he knows that’s not a popular idea in SEO circles!)
4) Diversify your traffic. You should be getting traffic from many different places, including search, referral, and direct traffic. Look at your traffic metrics in Google Analytics. If 90%+ of your traffic comes from search, you are in a scary place. As Wil Reynolds told me, “Google can change their algorithm whenever they want!” According to Rand, you need to diversify your site traffic or risk getting caught in an algorithm update,
5) Finally, Rand said “CSS galleries are directory magic.” He recommends submitting your site design to many of them, if you are proud of your site, because the entries often stay on the front page for a long period of time and are followed links, thus passing link power for a long period of time.

Finally, Rand gave a *good tip* for getting a link from Wikipedia. He recommends using the Referral link at the bottom of the page you would like to have your site listed on. Recommend the site, and a moderator will decide if your site qualifies. If you’ve submitted to the right page, bam. Wikipedia link.

Sacrifice Short-Term for Long-Term Goals

At the end of the day, Rand said, “you have to be willing to sacrifice short-term gains for longterm ones.” I wish I had the quote, but he then said, “What if I am wrong? What if brand signals will not be used for search engine rankings? Well, then the website will be full of well-designed websites with quality information that are friendly to users and easy to navigate.”

Paddy Moogan

Paddy Moogan at Linklove

Paddy Moogan from Distilled was next, speaking on “Myths and studies of outreach success”. For those of you who do not know, Paddy is an incredible linkbuilder and is always offering great insights on his blogs for Distilled and SEOmoz, and is an approachable guy on Twitter. Paddy’s talk was full of insights and rich tips from his time in the data, and you can tell the guy loves data and linkbuilding!

You Need A Plan

First, according to Paddy, you need to plan. You need to know what links you need. Do you need anchor text? Do you need brand links? Know your needs before starting a linkbuilding campaign.

Paddy showed a great resource for structuring your campaign. He listed three major columns: Technique required for the link, type of link needed, and the resources required (developers, client, etc). He then recommended having a 3-month plan, and you can plan along the way. For example, on the 1st of Month 1 you gather the link targets, follow them on Twitter, and start creating your linkbait. On the 1st of month 2, you begin building relationships with your contacts. On the 1st of month 3, you release your linkbait and let your link targets know.

Paddy talked about the following two tips for linkbuilding campaigns:

1) Automation and outsourcing; and

2) Scaling without being spumy.

Automation and Outsourcing

Will Critchlow told me “You can automate everything except content and relationships.” Paddy definitely adheres to this mantra. Paddy suggested finding link target URLs and filtering them using different tools, such as Influence Finder, Linkdex, SEOmoz Labs tools, and Buzzstream. These help you easily gather contact information and organize it, helping you keep track of where you are in the relationship aspect of linkbuilding.

When creating content for a linkbuilding campaign, he recommends using InfoGraphic World for infographics and infographic ideas, and oDesk for finding designers. (CHECK). Paddy also said to use TextBroker, if you want to outsource content, to get content written cheaply by professional copywriters.

Paddy gave some helpful tips on scaling without being spammy. Most linkbuilders gather URL, name, and the email address of contacts. Paddy said you need more information, such as Twitter handle and a specific page to get the link from, in order to be personal on your target level. He also suggested documenting what type of link you think you can get (SEER recently published a great blog about qualifying link prospects), and writing down a few personalized sentences for the email to your contact. Paddy does all of this within an Excel spreadsheet, which is then easy to segment and scale in order to get what you need. For example, if you need “anchor text” links for a page, filter out any non “anchor text” type contacts, and focus on those that give anchor text links. Boom.

*Good tip* Paddy and the Distilled crew use SEOmoz Pro Campaigns (boy I’d love to get into that data) to track keywords. Paddy recommends tagging keywords you are tracking with the technique being used (email, linkbait) and the person working on the campaign. Brilliant! Then you can know what techniques are working and for whom.

Back to automation. Paddy suggests automating and outsourcing the basics of linkbuilding, such as articles, directory submissions, and press releases. Focus these efforts on a few keywords, so that you can measure the effectiveness of the outsourcing. Then you have the time to spend on higher level targets and linkbait.

Guest Blogging Tips

Paddy gave some helpful tips on guest blogging as a linkbuilding tactic and how to construct your emails:

1) Pitch four ideas to your target;

2) Send a templated email to many similar bloggers, as this saves time;

3) Produce the content;

4) Send it over;

5) Follow up.

*Note* Don’t send the same article to many different bloggers. This is frowned upon and most bloggers will not accept guest posts that are also live elsewhere.

Ego Bait Tips

Paddy then gave some helpful tips on creating “egobait” to get links:

1) Find active blogs and websites;

2) Write a paragraph about each on your site in a blog post;

3) Embed a survey to create a competition, so people will link in order to get followers to vote;

4) Tell the blogger and get them to spread the word via links and social;

5) Create a badge for all participants (and maybe a special one for the winner);

6) Follow up with the bloggers (Paddy says to bug them!)

Changing Old Links

Now for a strategy to use to get old links changed:

1) Move your content from a subfolder to a subdomain

2) Use OpenSiteExplorer to find links to your content;

3) Find the contact information for the linking sites;

4) Since 301s lose some value over time, contact them to change the link target URL (and maybe anchor text) to the new location;

5) Follow up.

Paddy gave some great concluding tips, such as being honest in your outreach and using humor. He cited a time when a linkbuilder accidentally sent emails to a number of high-level targets using “Link Request” as the subject line. Paddy figured those contacts were lost forever, but to his surprise, the response rate was great! Sometimes you’ll be surprised.

Using Old Content for New Targets

Paddy also suggests producing one piece of killer content and using that as an example of the fact that you (or your client) know your industry. This can be useful to build trust with a potential linker. Don’t be afraid to use old content as linkbait!

Finally, Paddy suggested using a Twitter scraping tool to find URLs. He wrote a great post about this recently. You can build you own scraper to do this (but be careful! Many sites do not like you scraping their information), or use Friend Or Follow to find your contacts. Then use Qwerly for finding your follower’s website, or Hunch.com for other publications (such as newspapers).

Interesting Q/A

Paddy was asked during Q/A if he did his emailing from the client’s domain or a different domain. Paddy said that this is something he has tested, and surprisingly, emailing from a different domain than the client’s did not hurt response rate too much.

Tom Critchlow #Linklove

John Doherty —  March 21, 2011

Next speaker was Tom Critchlow, a VP at Distilled and the leader of the new Distilled office in New York (the #bigdistillednews). Tom is currently in-house with SEOmoz, helping them increase their visibility on the web by working with linkbuilding tactics and their on-site optimization possibilities. Tom’s talk was great because of SEOmoz’s penchant towards transparency, which showed a real look into their site. His talk was entitled “How to structure a major linkbuilding project”.

Tom started by talking about how SEOmoz is “whiter than white”, so his tactics while in-house are as clean as possible.

Onsite Talk

He started by talking about content and on-site optimization. He began by saying, “Before links comes content. Does your content deserve to rank?” Tom said that linkbuilders should use social signals, or the lack thereof, to inform your decision to change content onsite so that you deserve to rank for the keywords you are targeting.

Tom then talked about language, saying that site content writers should use language that welcomes in users by building trust and encouraging them to participate on your site. He said that site language can be used to shape user language, which not only shapes a culture around your site, but also (in my opinion) can shape the way people think about your site, and when they use your language, they will think about your site and be more willing to link to you.

Now onto social metrics. “Social metrics are more important than ever” according to Tom, with Google and Bing both saying they are using metrics in ranking. See my post on “Twitter Authority Signals” for more thoughts.

Tom shared a great tool that he has put together for Twitter trackbacks and Facebook shares. Tom said that you can use this information to make your site page better so that you deserve to rank better. He cited a case where SEObook is “handing SEOmoz their ass” for the term “SEO Tools”, which was eye-opening to me. He also showed a potential wireframe that he has submitted to the Moz crew for his thoughts on how to increase the rank-ability of the SEOmoz page. No, I’m not going to give away his wireframe, but if Tom puts it up online, I will link to it.

Tom gave a word of caution about social. “Social is not a metric to manipulate. It is a way to make change happen.”

Using Data to make changes

Next, he talked about using URL and date data to figure out which pages you need to re-do in order to have them rank better. He recommends using tool described in this post to bring in exported URL and date data. Then, build your new page and redirect old to new. Boom. The 301 will pass link power from any previously existing links, your new page will rank, and you set yourself up for better rankings. Brilliant.

Crowdsourcing and Using Your Community

On to crowdsourcing and using your community to build links. Tom said to use your knowledge (or your clients) to encourage others to share their knowledge. You can encourage this sharing of knowledge with rewards (think of SEOmoz’s Mozpoints system). You can leverage your brand here if possible, and your users can/will spread the word about the information using links and tweets.

Tom pointed out that people are usually quite willing to give you information if you simply ask for it. Ask questions on Twitter, Facebook, or your establish forum. Then condense that information into a blog post and spread the word. A little ego-stroking is sometimes all it takes to get some great links. “Linkbait. Done.”

When looking your site and deciding if it deserves to rank, and also for personal SEO development, Tom put together something called the “SEO Joel Test”. The Joel Test, for those of you who don’t know, is one web developer’s seven points for things to remember while coding. Tom’s SEO Joel Test includes seven questions that any SEO needs to be able to say “Yes” to, such as “Do you have a network?” and “Does your content deserve to rank?”.

SEO Joel Test

Now the talk turned to talk about the SEO. Nurture your connections within different industries, because often these connections will be more willing to link to you. One way to nurture this community is to find a group of your SEO peers, people that you know and trust, to create a private network of SEOs. You can learn phenomenal things from others, so you need people of all levels in your community. These people can give you reciprocal links, you can link to each other’s content, promote it, and vote it up on social networks, like Twitter, Facebook, or other social bookmarking sites. You can also use this group to share knowledge, data, experiences, contacts, and questions. Tom recommends setting up a Google group for this, which is easy since most SEOs use Gmail. Also, use your connections to build links! Use these connections to take over a SERP by getting others to post your content (but of course, be sure your content ranks best!)

Getting Sh*t Done

Finally, Tom gave his favorite quote. “SEO is about getting sh*t done.” We can build huge data sets, he says, but how can we actionize it? We need to actionize the incredible data sets we build.

Tom pointed out two ways to actionize it, both of them wishlists.

Wishlist #1: Keywords, pages and anchor text. Which keywords are your “dream words” to rank highly for? Which pages do you want to rank high? What anchor text do you want people to use to link to you? Tom said we need to use better internal communication within organizations to make these happen. Does your (well known) CEO know the important terms, so that he/she can drop them in interviews and on his/her personal blog?

Wishlist #2: Sites to get links from. You should make a list of even 5 sites that you would love to earn hard-won links from. For example, if you are selling blue widgets, you could have sites like TechCrunch and Mashable. Think big within your niche.

Q/A Gold

During the Q/A directly after Tom’s talk, someone in the audience asked how he would recommend pricing a linkbuilding campaign. He gave these two thoughts:

1) Figure out what links you have and what you need (or think you need); and

2) Price your (best guess at) your time and what it is worth.

Up next was Russ Jones of Virante. Russ talked about “Where to get the old ‘linkbait on Digg’ effect”. Russ has been around since Digg was born, and has seen the demise of Digg as a link opportunity.

The main issues with Digg

1) Home page links are 301d to an internal page, then to the target;

2) Links on the homepage have a short lifespan, therefore whatever link power they pass is minimal and short-lived;

3) Nofollows will soon be implemented site-wide, thus not passing power;

4) Traffic rank has decreased; and

5) Average FrontPage traffic to his site has decreased from 40k to 12k visitors.

Russ then went on the explain the concept of subReddits within Reddit, another popular social bookmarking site. He says that there are over 9k sub-Reddits available that pass link power, are niche-specific, and are better for gaining qualified, interested traffic because of their focus. He said you can also search within these sub-Reddits, and he recommends filtering your search thus.

Filtering Sub-Reddits

1. Choose the minimum PR you are willing to try to gain links from;

2. Choose the minimum time since the blog or site’s last post, since trying to gain a link from a site not updated since 2007 might be a fool’s errand; and

3. Choose the maximum vote average for the entry on Reddit.

Then, I think Russ was getting at, go and create a list of potential link prospects and create some linkbait for them. Get involved with them, get involved with their site and get them on your site, and try to get links from these focused sites.

*note* Please do not spam Reddit. They get pissy and will ban you.

Pros and cons of other social bookmarking sites

  • 1) Delicious (PR7)
    • Links are nofollowed;
    • Links are syndicated widely, thus giving entries more exposure;
    • Delicious is easy to game with paid endorsements.
  • 2) Plime (PR5)
    • It is a small community
    • Many eclectic niches are represented; and
    • They are quick-to-ban spammers (so don’t do it)
  • 3) StumbleUpon
    • Links are iFramed;
    • Entries can send good traffic to your site; and
    • Gets good links
  • 4) Pligg (PR?)
    • Russ says to be selective with what you submit, as it only takes 10 votes to get to the homepage;
    • You can choose Pligg installs with custom searches. He recommends sites with:
      • High mozRank (found on your moz Toolbar)
      • Followed links; and
      • Sites that do not 301 outlinks.

How to find those who tweet or Share your links

*Good tip* Use Clicky to find people who have tweeted your link. Use PingoMatic to find those who tweeted and those who Shared your link on Facebook. Also, according to @jezweb on Twitter, Click has out-of-the-box plugins for Joomla and other CMS platforms, plus an iPad app. Productivity ++!

Russ pointed out that social links and shares have a very short lifespan, so you need to run these tools within the first 24 to 48 hours of releasing your linkbait. Clicky gives you real-time analytics on your shared links.

Russ Jones Linklove

Russ Jones

How to Use Clicky

1) Watch for forum inbound traffic that you can nurture (and get to vote and link);

2) Catch reposts and direct them to link to the original posting location.

Now we get into some slightly dodgier territory. I’m not so sure about this tactic, but I think that if it is used in moderation, even rarely, it could be useful.

Russ said about Digg: “Everyone trusts Imgur. No one trusts you.” By this he meant that if you have not been involved previously on Digg, no one will trust that you are not there for self-promotion. He suggested that you should create a fake image site currently in private beta. This gives the old “rare and wanted” effect for people. Then you can upload your infographic/linkbait to this site and submit it to Digg. Afterr a while, you can use the old “Linkbait & switch” tactic, where you 301 redirect (or cross-domain canonical) to your real site. You could even get competitors linking to your site this way! You can also use the image site to publish re-submits of other popular content, and use the same “linkbait and switch” tactic to get the links to your site.

Finally, Russ gave up a way to get Digg voters to link to you. He suggested keeping a record of those who vote on your articles. After a while, you can ask them to link from their site to the real source of the content (not to Digg). Russ said you should offer (or be willing) to pay for the link. Since we try to be whitehat here on The Beginner SEO, I say ask nicely, and if your content is worth it to them, they will link.

Finally, Russ recommended using boardread.com to find forums within your client’s niche. There, you or your client can get involved with the community, and if you structure profiles and such well, with links back to the client site, you can gain quality, relevant links and traffic.

Up next was a speaker previously unknown to me, Jane Copland. Jane worked for SEOmoz for a few years, and is now back in the UK working for Ayima. Her talk was entitled “Getting actions from competitor research”. She talked About some new ways of doing competitor research, and then how to build a linkbuilding strategy off this reseRch.

Jane started by saying that you should NEVER try to replicate your competitor’s link profile, simply because you do not know why they are ranking for that term, and by copying them you could be putting yourself in.

1) Market overview. You should look at the number of words you are ranking for, wherer you are ranking, and then who your competitors are, their number of ranking words, and where they are ranked (My note: SEMrush is a good place to start for this).

2. The numbers. Look at the sheer volume of links and pay special attention to spikes and drops in the number of words. Investigate these further to get insight into their efforts, or lack thereof.

3. Know their newspaper links. Simply, figure out where they have gotten authoritative links and how.

4. Look for relationship links. Use your relationships for building new links to your site (ideally these will come naturally if you really do have a relationship with them). Jane recommended maybe not using these links as anchor text link opportunities, but rather for branding purposes.

5. Even if you spot paid links, “stop complaining about them. Just stop. You don’t have the invoices. Just stop.”

She then went on to give some time to talking about directories and prerss releases. She recommends getting listed in relevant directories, even paid ones. She explained paying for directories as being different from buying links, because you are paying for a human to review the submission.

*Good tip* Jane said that OpenSiteExplorer, which is great for many many things, may not find press releases. She suggests using a “site:(brand) releases” query in Google for this information.

Jane’s next point was about link networks. They exist, so she said a) don’t waste your time approaching them for links, and b) learn how to identify them so you don’t make mistake A. She suggested looking fof commonalities in the way they link (widgets, footers). Often, affiliate links will give them away (though you need to dig into the code to find this).

As far as tools to use to identify link networks, so that you know the scope and what you are up against, she recommends the following:

1) OpenSiteExplorer for the full list of linking sites;

2) Majestic SEO to find the cClass (aka if they are all hosted on the same host);

3) Bing to find IP breakdowns (another sign of similar hosting).

Jane’s final thoughts (wow, she packed a lot in her talk, huh?):

1) Don’t ignore PageRank, linking Root Domains, and Domain Authority (the Moz toolbar gives you the last 2);

2) Xon’t be afraid to compete with big brands. It IS possible to rank against them!

3) keep note of the absolute volume of links and where they are pointing;

4) Pay attention to the location of linking sites (aka their neighborhood)

5) The number of sites hosted on one server.

*Another good tip* if a page/site is penalized, you can 301 redirect to a new site (clean up your profile too) and the new site will rank. 301s pass link power!

A question of note came from Rand Fishkin, who asked about capitalization in links. Jane said that if you see a lot of sitewide capitalized links, as opposed to varied, they were possibly/probably automated. Therefore, vary your capitalizing and placement of links to avoid looking/being spammy.

Wil Reynolds #Linklove

John Doherty —  March 21, 2011

Wil Reynolds at LinkLove

Wil Reynolds

Wil Reynolds was the first speaker. Wil is the founder of SEER Interactive, a Philadelphia-based SEO consultancy. Though he was tired from his flight across the pond the previous day, he gave an impassioned talk entitled “Pitfalls, mistakes, and traps for the unwary”.

One of the things I respect about Wil is his immense openness and honesty about his successes and his failures. He cited some case studies where what he thought would work actually led to drops in rankings, and he was also good enough to admit that he did not know conclusively why this happened.

The case study that stuck in my mind was where his client gained links from some major websites, such as the New York Times and Cosmo, yet their rankings actually went down. He expected them to rise (as any sane SEO would), yet the opposite happened. Wil cautioned us against thinking that a link from an authoritative site will always benefit your link profile, though as Tom Critchlow later suggested, you should still have your optimal link target “wishlist” of authoritative sites in your space to gain links from.

Wil also cited some interesting data regarding link profiles and some interesting ways to get the links you need, both those your competitors have and others. (ask Twitter for help on these notes). His recommendation to look at the top 100 sites, analyze their tactics, and then update them for your clients did not fall upon deaf ears. Often SEOs feel like they have to recreate the wheel. Why not update it and make it better?