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
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:
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.