Knowing where successful competitors have gotten their links can be of course valuable. Getting detailed reports on this information is actually quite easy. There are a variety of readily available and easy to use tools online which do just this. Some options are Yahoo! Site Explorer, Majestic-SEO, Linkscape, and Link Diagnosis. Each of these tools will provide you with lists of inbound links to your competitors.
Though Yahoo! Site Explorer is a search engine provided tool, it’s result are somewhat limited, so consider using another, or all, of the other tools available in order to get a full picture of your competition’s back link profile. The data you accumulate will be far more comprehensive in nature, and as we all know, knowledge is power. Information on PageRank, MozRank, and MozTrust will give you a keen view of where their linking power is derived. By identifying your competition’s most powerful backlinks, you are identifying powerful potential links for your own sites. By pointing out the areas that have worked for them, you have opened your eyes to potentially powerful options to add to your own game plan.
Contacting those who link to your competitors is a good plan, and should be explored, but do not limit yourself to this as your complete strategy. Odds are that you want to surpass your competition, not just follow down their footsteps. Use this as a part of your overall link building strategy.
Remember if your backlink building strategy is to simply to get the same links as your competitors you will always be one step behind them.
Starting a blog can be a highly effective means for acquiring links. Of course the success of the blog will be highly dependent upon its content quality, the market space it operates within, and how it is promoted. Something that should be noted by bloggers is that operating a successful blog is a big commitment. If you’re not publishing new quality content on a regular basis, you will not be successful. How frequently you update will depend largely on the niche in which you are operating. Some blogs may necessitate a weekly update, while others may require as many as several per day. The simple fact is that if you can’t commit to a blog you will be simply wasting your time.
Successful blogs are based very much upon building a solid reputation within the community. Quality informational content or very entertaining content will be the keys to success. Remember a quality blog takes time to develop. Don’t expect overnight success as you need to build your readership over the long term. As your readership grows, your blog will gain popularity and authority which of course will result in people linking to your quality content.
The best place to acquire links for your blog will be from other bloggers. This is best achieved by networking with other popular bloggers. Earning the trust and respect of other bloggers can be a laborious process, and isn’t something that is generally achieved over night. Below are few key points to keep in mind while building relationships with fellow bloggers.
- Firstly be patient. As with any relationship, trust and respect must be earned over time. In the blogging community.
- Target a large portion of your content towards the interests of those you wish to build links with. Give them something to discuss that interests them, plus of course something that they may potentially link to out as a point of discussion.
- When you begin receiving links from major bloggers, this tends to get noticed by other lesser known bloggers, which often results in further linking of your pages.
While interacting with other bloggers is a point of importance, don’t forget to communicate with your own readers. If someone comments on one of your posts, it is important to reply with a personalized and detailed response. You may wish to take this to the next level by delivering an emailed response with a link back to the post for further discussion. This all works towards deepening the interest of the commenter, inciting a dialog between you and the commenter, and pulling other commenter’s into the mix. By nurturing discussion and dialog between you and your readers you create a feeling of community which results in trust, authority, and more potential for naturally occurring inbound links to come your way.
Sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious, and Reddit can be highly effective properties to build links to your pages on. Building a link campaign centered around social media sites such as these can work wonders for you, and becoming popular in these communities can unleash a flood of traffic and backlinks upon you.
Although these sites can bring in a large amount of traffic, it is generally low revenue traffic for the publisher. The real strategy here is to rake in the additional backlinks that result from the popular interest in what you have posted. As an example, look at any story which has made the Digg homepage. A front page placement on Digg can result in tens of thousands of viewers, and hundreds of additional backlinks. While the viewers may come and go, those links are left behind feeding your site’s strength within the engines.
While acting out your social media strategies, you may want to keep these “best practices” in mind.
1. Work with the community. The key to social media sites is the “social” nature of their traffic. Offending or irritating the site’s community can quickly lead to being called out, or exposed and ridiculed by the readers. your success depends on the response of these readers, so work with them in your posting, give them what they want and be a positive contributor to the community as a whole. Work towards having built a solid reputation amongst your peers on the site.
2. While writing articles for social news sites like Reddit, Digg, or Propeller, stick to the topics that relate to your business. You may find that your articles catch on and rise in rank quite quickly for your targeted keywords. The relevance of your inbound links will be higher than those made in an unrelated post.
Be sure to use your competitive keywords in both the title of the article itself, and the title of the submission on the social site. These are generally the most common elements used as anchor text when people link into your posts and articles.
3. Delicious and StumbleUpon are structured ina way quite different from other social news sites. Delicious is a social bookmarking service, in which users “tag” pages on the web which they wish to return to easily at a later date. StumbeUpon is similar with some added content discovery options. Both sites have an option for viewing popular pages in the system, leading users to content on hot trending topics.
Users coming to your site via a tagging or bookmarking site tend to hold a general interest in your topic. So as opposed to someone who may have found your page via a catchy headline on a social news site, these users are generally more targeted towards your business market. So the traffic might not be as big, but the quality is much better, which also leads to lots of opportunities for users to link back to your content. These sites are best used in an attempt to reach major influences in your market space, and can lead to some high quality backlinks of significant power.
Due to its strict No Follow policy on outbound links, you might not consider Wikipedia to be an ideal property for link building at first. However Wikipedia is seen as an authority site in the eyes of many users. Links found on Wikipedia articles can be given significant trust and often lead to links from other publishers writing on the topic. Some of these publishers have a significant influence in your market. Therefore building trust and respect within the Wikipedia community can bring in significant rewards for your time. This will require a time investment on your part as building trust in the community does not come over night. The following are some of my best tips for proceeding with a Wikipedia campaign:
1. Be patient as you build up your credibility. Develop an extended history of contributions, get a user profile page with Barnstar awards, and do your part to appear as a virtuous member of the fold before doing anything which may be viewed as self-serving. Having a visible track record of contribution is a must within this community. Combat spam, and contribute as often as possible. Avoid doing these things anonymously.
2. Before editing any articles, be sure to negotiate any terms of the edit with the main editor in charge of policing the article. If you’re going to edit an article, get the main editors blessings beforehand.
3. Make use of the “watch” function at Wikipedia, to keep an eye on articles of significance or importance to you. There are a few great tools out there that will actually email you to notify you of any changes that occur. Check out TrackEngine, URLyWarning, or ChangeDetect for more options.
4. The flow of link juice can be directed within Wikipedia Make good use of this!
5. Play the popularity contest and make friends within the community. As in life, friends will help stand up for you when you’re in a pinch. If an article that is significant to you were to get an “Article for Deletion” nomination, would be a good example of when friends can step up for you.
6. Do not edit anonymously from your own computers. There are tracking tools which exist for Wikipedia that can easily detect anonymous editors which may damage your reputation. WikiScanner for instance is a public domain tool, which can take anonymous wiki posts and identify the organization which has made them. Keep this in mind, and do not take the risk. People in the community take Wikipedia quite seriously.
As was previously mentioned, some publishers may choose more aggressive means of link building, pushing the limits of public acceptability or altogether ignoring the Webmaster Guidelines set out by the search engines. Let’s discuss some of the more popularly used tactics these aggressive publishers put to use.
This is one of the most popular means for building quick quality links. Buying links has 2 significant advantages for the publisher. Firstly the simple fact is that It requires limited effort. You simply must find a publisher willing to sell the link, and agree upon a price then send him your url and the specified anchor text. A webmaster with a healthy cheque book can quickly obtain a quality backlink profile. The major downside to this strategy is that link buying is strictly forbidden by Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Google states:
Links placed in return for compensation may not be purchased with intent on increasing Page Rank
Links should be given freely to sites deserving of the links, and publishers should be made aware of other publishers intended linking. links should not be hidden or added to any site without the knowledge of the site’s owner.
Google is not trying to take a stance against publishers buying advertising on the web. its opinion is that links should only be purchased for traffic and branding values, not as a means to build Page Rank or to improve search engine ranking position. It is for this reason that Google recommends anyone selling links on their sites should use the No Follow attribute on their links, so as to not assign any SEO value to the links.
Something worth noting is that PPC campaigns using outlets such as Ad Words and Yahoo Search Marketing are not considered a violation, due to the ease by which these ad zones are identified by search engine spiders. Due to their nature these links do not pass on any SEO value.
Three major areas of paid links can be identified as follows:
Direct Link Purchasing
This is the straight forward process of contacting a web publisher and asking if they would be willing to sell a text link on their website. Many publishers have a specific page utilising their advertising rates and policies. This may however run the risk of being caught by human review, which needless to say, runs the chance that the link will be devalued by the search engine altogether. A better strategy is to ask the webmaster for an “in content” link on a page with the metrics you require.
Link brokers work specifically to identify sites with potential ad space for sale, which they in turn sell back to other publishers at a fee. Brokers may offer a wide variety of available link placements. Google has sought out many of these sites issuing penalties to not only the brokers but the sites of the webmasters who used their services. I simply could not recommend using link brokers.
Donations to Charity / Sponsor Websites
Another form of purchasing links, perhaps less known by webmasters is by charitable donations. Sometimes these links don’t cost much money at all, and can come with a lot of authority if placed on the right domain. This however, is another one of those tactics which Google frowns upon. You may be able to add legitimacy to your link by supporting projects relevant to your own content, but there is no guarantee that this will be accepted in Google’s eyes.
Finding these types of sites of course requires a lot of time and effort. We can though utilise search engines to help us. Try searching for phrases such as sports sponsorships. Of course I can’t list specific URLS as that would damage the actual sites and pages. Think “out of the box” a little seeking out for example teams that play popular sports but in lower divisions or perhaps young sportsmen and women. Another good example is that I was recently talking to a webmaster that had sponsored a charity bike ride. The actual homepage of the charity bike ride event was PR7 with extremely high page and domain authority!
A large number of the popular social media sites out there these days will allow you to link to your websites within your personal profile. Sites such as LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com) offer this option and also provide links which have not been tagged with the No Follow attribute. meaning the links you place will pass link juice on to your page. Leveraging these social media properties in your favour while link building can be a strong tactic.
There are other social media websites available offering profiles however, and the same strategy may be applied to them also. Consider other options like Digg, Technorati, Mixx, or Kirsty, among others. Here are a couple larger lists of social media sites you may work within your link building strategies.
Social Media Sites That No Follow
The policies each site has regarding No Follow are subject to frequent change. It is a good idea to check ahead and see what their current status is before investing too much time into building links on them.
Another popular choice for building links with social media is done via commenting. Find pages relevant to your content and leave thoughtful comments on the subject matter while referring to your own pages as a reference. I will say only fools spam blogs! Spamming blogs in the short term may bring rapid results but in the long term may well damage your site.
Start by Compile an extensive list of quality blogs which focus on subjects related to your own content. Once you have a quality list of blogs with potential start leaving quality and informative comments on a regular basis, without linking back to your website. Developing a relationship with the publisher via your comments, will go a long ways to ensuring your comments stay up, and will pass trust on to your future comments with other readers. The first steps to this relationship can be signalled when the publishers begins responding to your comments.
This tactic is meant to be applied conservatively with comments that compliment the original post. Simply spamming posts may well result in you being blacklisted from the site plus could even result in severe penalties from search engines if the webmaster chooses to report you.
The first step towards creating an effective link building strategy involves researching the potential sites on which you would like to place your inbound links, and determining the potential value associated with these links. Although the metrics available to evaluate a link’s value are wide in variety, individuals may find that assigning a specific value to some of those metrics may be difficult. It is important to consider an approach which can be readily applied without the use of too many specialized tools.
Consider the Page Rank of the home page from the site which is providing your inbound link. Google only provides Page Rank values for individual pages on a site as opposed to an overall score for the entire site. However, most SEO practitioners will regard the home page’s rank as a good indicator of the site’s overall popularity, as this is generally where the most inbound links are directed to. You can also use the excellent SEOMoz toolbar for perhaps much better metrics in regard to page and domain analysis.
Also look into the perceived “authority” of the site which will hold your inbound links. Page Rank is a measure of raw linking value with no regard to niche relevance. Authority value is much more centralized on the linking power gained from within your market space, and is given a much higher value when heavily linked by other authority sites in the given space. Higher authority sites will quite often have higher Page Rank, but the values are not directly connected to one another. As with Page Rank, the authority of the particular page on which your link will be placed should also be considered here. I will be honest and say that I prefer to use page and domain scores far more than simply just using the Page Rank of a page.
The number of outbound links on a page is another commonly observed metric, often referred to simply as OBL. This is an important point to be considered for a relatively easy to understand reason. A page only has so much Page Rank for which it can pass on via its outbound links. The more links on the page, the less of that Page Rank that is shared with each outbound link. If a page only has a few links, it is passing on much more value than a page with hundreds. This can be expressed with a rough equation of:
Pp = Pr / L
Where Pp is the passable Page Rank value, Pr is the Page Rank of the individual linking page, and L is the number of outbound links on the page. That may be a little rough for an equation, but the general idea is that the more outbound links on a page, the less the value of your own link on it.
Another quick and easy metric which can be observed is the actual page relevance. If you’re looking at the site and page’s content and it is general on topic with your own, this is a good thing.
Being sure that you are consciously aware of these values while building links will help you to achieve a greater level of success in your campaigns. You may wish to organize your collected data into spread sheets for reference and ease of use. Keeping accurate records will help you to recognize your successes and how you got there.
There is no doubt that the anchor text of links is one of the major metrics used by Google, but it is far from being the only one. Search engines have the ability to look much more deeply into the context surrounding a page. Other signals regarding the page relevance are taken into consideration.
Are the links on the page located closest to your own high quality and niche related sites? If so, this can be taken as a positive signal. Your site may gain trust by association to other quality related sites. This is why you may see links to such site as Wikipedia in articles that have obviously been created to boost search engine rankings. On the flip side of things, if the closest links to your own are for other niches such as , Viagra, or adult material, this may appear as a low quality link. It looks like the link is coming from a link farm, and that is a bad signal.
Where on the page does your link appear? Is your link located in the body of the page content, in a side bar, or buried at the bottom of the page? Better page placement can indicate higher quality links. This is referred to as “link prominence” and also can be applied to on page SEO in terms of keyword placement.
Does your link’s anchor text fit within the context of the writing surrounding it? Does that content logically relate to the content of the page your link is pointed at? This is another positive signal that your page is of high quality. This is often referred to as “proximity”.
Modern search engines are highly intelligent and look at more than just the raw textual content. They can actually look deeper into the structure of a page and the section on which your link is located. In doing so they can determine the section’s topic by way of header tags, or the nearest bold highlighted text, which often act as titles or headers to the nearby content. As you can imagine, a close relation between your page, and these headers, are another positive signal.
So the nearby content, links, and headers are all related to your page’s content. This is excellent, but to take it a step further, it’s even better if the overall topic of the page your inbound link is located on is closely related to your own page’s topic.
You should be able to see where I’m going with things at this point. You want relevant inbound links, and if the general topic covered by the entire site that is linking you is of similar nature to your own, this is another very positive signal. It tells the search engines this site is dedicated to the topic, and in linking to your related page, they consider your content of value.