link-building-fundamentalsPresented by Debra Mastaler, President, Alliance-Link (@debramastaler). A live blog of an SEO Boot Camp session at SMX West in San Jose, CA, March 11, 2013. 

Part One: Concept of Link Popularity

There are five major engines, but Google is by far #1. The other four don’t even amount to half of Google’s combined.

All search engines have paid and organic results. Multiple signals are used to determine the organic rankings: title and tags, domain authority, query factors, domain age, bounce signals, etc. They all use link popularity to rank.

Link popularity is the measure of the quantity and quality of the links that point to a particular page.

Four factors of Link Popularity:

  1. Link Quantity: the number of links pointing to your page.
  2. Link Quality: determined by the link’s host site and the sites hosting to it. Google calls this PageRank. Google may also be starting to test an “Author Rank” that measures social signals to a particular content creator.
  3. Relevance: This tells the search engine where you are from a topical or geographical standpoint. Linking out to authority sites that are relevant helps your own relevancy. 
  4. Anchor Text: Still the strongest. The text you click on. Query ranking indicator: anchors using KW phrases provide additional “weight” and semantic value. 

Anchor text considerations:

  1. Don’t use the same phrase over and over. Google can recognize synonyms and semantically-related terms. 
  2. Link your name and company name to your Google+ account
  3. Don’t over-link in content areas.
  4. First link in a paragraph has more weight than the rest.
  5. Use key phrases from your social media circles
  6. Include your primary KWs in your G+ and Bing profiles especially if you use an EMD (Exact Match Domain).

Your goal when building links: secure a lot of links form quality pages using appropriate anchors on thematically related pages. Google is still not so forthcoming, but it is obvious that social is being used by them. For Google, the main influence is the Google+ platform. The rel=author attribute helps tie your content in to Google+.

Part Two: Social Media Influence

Bing comes right out and says that they are using social signals in ranking. They have a relationship with Facebook.

Is there a ranking boost for rel=author? In their introduction to Google Authorship, Matt Cutts and Othar Hansson said that they “hope to use it as a ranking signal.” We unofficially call this “Author Rank.” Not certain that it is yet a major factor, but given Google’s emphasis on it, you should definitely take advantage. Build a powerful Google+ profile and link it to all your content on the web.

Part Three: What to Avoid

Red Flags (or footprints that look suspicious to the search engines)

  1. Do not acquire a lot of links too quickly.
  2. Do not secure the same type of link over and over
  3. Avoid pages/sites hosting excessive reciprocals and site-wides
  4. Avoid sites with too many ads above the fold or excessive Adsense.
  5. Don’t exclusively use networks
  6. Eon’t use alpha directories or a directory mentioning the word SEO
  7. Avoid sites with no contact or About Us info
  8. Avoid placing links in navigation and sponsored areas.
  9. Is the site’s content relevant to my site?
  10. Is the site active on social media?

Part Four: Tools

Lots of free and paid tools that analyze your back links.

Use the alert services: Google Alerts, Giga Alerts, Social Mention, TweetBeep, What the Trend, Topsy.

For link building:,,, TweetLevel – helps you find influential people on social media sites.

Social Crawlytics shows you which platforms are helping you most for particular blog posts.

Part Five: Tactics

What’s working: Everything that used to, but you need to be more careful about how you use things. More important than ever to look for quality.

Attraction Content is the #1 link building tactic now. Followed closely by local sourcing, universal linking (YouTube results, news results), and foundational linking (the basic link building necessary to get indexed).

Foundational Links:

  1. Very few general directories that are good left. Look for quality niche directories. 
  2. Avoid making directory linking a large part of your back links.
  3. Credibility links: trust signals. Links from Chamber of Commerce, BBB, industry associations. WhiteSpark Local Citation Finder is a great tool to find good local places where you want to have citations.
  4. Broken link building: finding broken links on quality, relevant sites that you can ask to be redirected to your quality content.

Universal Linking:

  1. Create an on-site photo gallery. Offer images to others in exchange for links back. Issue a press release when you have the gallery ready. Have a prominent message that you own these images and they an only be used with permission. 
  2. Image reclamation: Use Google image search to discover people who “borrowed” your owned images and ask for a link back.. And offer them more of your images.
  3. Guest blogging. Still useful, but it’s gotten a bit burned over. Don’t accept a guest post unless you know and trust the author. Use mutual friend introductions to “blog up” (get guest posting opportunities on higher authority blogs).  Try to get an agreement to have a regular “column” on good blogs. Flaunt your social followings. Check Google Blog Directory, Technorati, BOTW Blog Directory for guest blogging opportunities. Also check out Triberr – join communities of similar bloggers who help each other out.
  4. Article Sourcing: Finding people and then finding where they write.
  5. Building Links with Reviews: You review your product and explain how it works. Also get industry experts to review your product. Video is best for explaining your product. Use “How to” in the title. Include a written transcription with the video for SEO. Use stills from the video to make SlideShare presentations. Also convert your reviews into podcasts. Rebundle your reviews into an eBook (by topic).

Key Takeaway Tips

  1. Always promote substantial new content through social media, especially Google+ 
  2. keep the key components of link popularity in mind
  3. Look for partner sites with good social sharing
  4. Don’t scrimp on your copywriters
  5. Keep up with forums
  6. Creat a media center on your site
  7. Add email capture to everything
  8. Link to become the authority in your niche. <– link to presentation when SMX gets it up.

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