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Let go of the wire: Why you have to stop link building

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A presentation I gave to Distilled's September Seattle SEO meetup in 2012.

A presentation I gave to Distilled's September Seattle SEO meetup in 2012.

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  • 1. LET GO OF THE WIRE BLOW UP THE LINK BUILDING Ian Lurie @portentint ian@portent.comThis is an annotated version ofthe presentation I gave atDistilled’s SEO Meetup inSeptember of 2012.
  • 2. I always create a link bundle to go with presentations. You can check it out here.PORTENT.CO/DISTNAR (Yes, use .co, not .com)
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  • 4. No explanation necessary. I’m not the brighest of bulbs.
  • 5. When I rewired my first house, Igrabbed what I thought was aground. It gave me a shock.Unlike laboratory animals, Ididn’t learn from that, andgrabbed the wire 4 more times. Hey, stupid: Do not touch Especially you, Ian Sigh.
  • 6. But SEOs are doing the same thing, and have beenfor years. Going back before even the Floridaupdate, Google’s hammered site owners who triedto rank through link spam. Let’s build linksGoogle says any form of link acquisition could bespam. But we keep trying to ‘acquire’ links.We grab the wire again, and again, and again. Bzzzzt Let’s build links Bzzzzt Let’s build links Bzzzzt
  • 7. I MEAN THIS IN THE NICEST WAY
  • 8. I really do mean this in a nice way. ‘We’ includesSEOs, clients who believe link building is a goodlong-term strategy, pundits who recommend it, andme. Why do we keep doing this?! ARE WE ALL IDIOTS?!
  • 9. I suspect link building is now Google’s favoritedrinking game. Every time an SEO mentions it ortries another harebrained scheme to ‘fool’ Google,someone at the big G gets a free beer.They get lots to drink there. LINK BUILDING G O O G L E ’ S FAVO R I T E D R I N K I N G G A M E
  • 10. Of course, the moment guest posts became trendy, we turned those into spam, too. Bzzt.“  
  • 11. Or, how about this. A link exchange?! In 2012?!!! Bzzt.“  
  • 12. The best analogy I can think of is the old days of PR. We’d contact journalists to let them know why our client’s story would matter to the journalist’s readers. If we’d done PR the way we now do link building, we’d call journalists and say: “   can you write about Hi, my client so he can sell more stuff?”It’s nuts. Note that I’m not saying ‘Artificial linkbuilding never works!’ Of course it can work. It justdoesn’t work consistently, or permanently. And thewake-up call can be a nasty one for a businessdependent on Google traffic.
  • 13. CONTENT MARKETINGBut wait! It gets better! Now we have ‘contentmarketing.’ It’s all the rage. Marketers everywherepush it as a new strategy that can get you rankings.
  • 14. CONTENT MARKETING A G R E AT WAY TO S E L L M O R E B O O KSWhat it really is is a trendy term that doesn’t meanmuch. Mentioning ‘Content Marketing’ may getfolks to read a blog post or buy your book. It’s nota strategy. It’s not even a tactic, the way mostmarketers define it.
  • 15. I WROTE ALL THIS STUFFSo now, marketers and site owners say, “I wrote allthis stuff…”
  • 16. …And by ‘stuff’ they mean 5+ articles for$100 or less, each, with specific keyworddensities. aka: Crap
  • 17. …and they get nothing for their efforts. uh. cheep?
  • 18. LET GO OF THE WIRESTOP IT. Let go of the damned wire. Stop looking for easy solutionsto authority-building. ‘Cranking out’ crappy content won’t do it.Neither will buying, begging for or otherwise artificially acquiringlinks.Understand this: THERE ARE NO EASY SOLUTIONS. Acquiring linksin such a way that Google won’t quickly detect it isn’t easy. Nor issuccessful content spam.You’re better off focusing on marketing.
  • 19. LET GO OF THE WIREStop grabbing the wire.Rant: The truth is, we keep grabbing the wire – we’re not clinging toit. We just keep grabbing it and getting shocked, again and again.
  • 20. Create marketable content Don’t build a marketing strategy around ‘cranking out’ content. Build your strategy around creating marketable content. That means good stuff. This isn’t the focus of this talk, so I’m not going to go into more details. Hopefully you know the difference between marketable content and total dreck.
  • 21. Build authority through conversionTHIS is what I’m talking about tonight: Build authority by startingwith the assumption that everyone converts in some way. Everyvisitor to your site should read something, or share it, or ‘like’ it, orsubscribe to your blog/newsletter, or request info, or buy…Everyone converts, somehow. That’s the goal.
  • 22. MARKET YOUR CONTENTTo do that, you start with marketable content. Then you market it.
  • 23. MARKET YOUR CONTENT (This is content marketing) CONTENT MARKETING: Building authority for your site and your brand by creating & promoting fantastic content. NOT CONTENT MARKETING: Writing one 500-word blog post per day, for as little money as possible, then announcing it to my 10 Twitter followers.
  • 24. THE RULE
  • 25. EVERYONE CONVERTS
  • 26. EVERYONE CONVERTS READS SHARES SUBSCRIBES LINKS BUYS
  • 27. OH CMON IAN, REAL BRANDS DONT DO THAT.First thing I hear when I talk about this kind of marketingis ‘Real brands don’t do that’. Oh no?
  • 28. USA Network created their ‘Ask a Spy’ series: Free, shortvideos you could watch on YouTube or on the USA website. The goal? Promote the show Burn Notice.
  • 29. They promoted the heck out of these videos, withcommercials, PPC ads, etc..
  • 30. I don’t know what the results were, but the show is goingon its 4th season and has a solid following.
  • 31. How about a knitting company running a PPC ad fortheir free patterns? Why advertise free content?Because they’re doing CONTENT MARKETING.s
  • 32. ConsumerSearch does the same thing.
  • 33. THE PROCESSThe process:1.  Create great, free content so good that it’s a service in itself.2.  Promote it.3.  Convert readers into fans into customers.Lots of people talk about #1 and #3. I’mgoing to show you some tools and tacticsfor #2.
  • 34. OUTBRAINOutbrain: A service that lets you placelinks to your content in an ad widget theyput on major sites, like Slate. You pay bythe click. The links are not crawlable, so noGoogle TOS problems.
  • 35. Then you get a report kinda like this.
  • 36. IMPORTANTNOTE: I’m not suggesting you write crapand then spend $9999 getting visitors toit. I am suggesting that you have a lot ofcompetitors, and waiting for organictraffic to something you slaved away atwriting for a week may lead to indigestion.Paid advertising is a great way to givegreat new content a boost.
  • 37. Once you do that, you need to see if it’s working. That means looking at content effectiveness.TEST YOUR CONTENT
  • 38. Sigh. My bounce rate is ridiculous… MEH MEH GAH!This report shows traffic from theOutBrain network, and whether it’s doinganything for me. If I was tracking goals likesubscriptions and sales, I could look atthat, too. In this case, I was sloppy, so all Iget is visito duration and bounce rate.
  • 39. HMMMM. I’LL KEEP TESTING THESE. These two titles aren’t doing all that bad.
  • 40. AS FOR THIS ONE…
  • 41. Portent.com/reading-time.htm And, for that top article, I need to see how long it SHOULD take to read. We built a quick little tool that lets you evaluate reading time and grade level. Here’s the report on that article. 2:37 to read. So an average time-on-page of :24 is pretty awful.
  • 42. Average blogbounce rate: 66%
  • 43. sigh
  • 44. REFINE THE CAMPAIGNNONE of this means you give up!!!!Instead, look at where traffic’s comingfrom.
  • 45. In Outbrain, I can turn off articles thataren’t performing. So I took the worstperformers from my content report andremove them from the stream.
  • 46. $.14 CPCAll this cost me $.14/click. About $100 in 2days.
  • 47. 5% RESHARES (so far)And generated a 5% RESHARE RATEthrough Google+, Twitter and Facebook.Every reshare helps build site authorityand rankings, AND increases the chancessomeone will link to that page.So this is a win, to say the least.
  • 48. STUMBLEUPON PAID DISCOVERY Stumbleupon has an amazing advertising program called ‘paid discovery’. You pay a per-Stumble fee to have your content inserted into the stream for relevant readers.
  • 49. TEST YOUR CONTENT
  • 50. I decided to test a time-managementpresentation I did.
  • 51. Stumbleupon scores content based onthumbs-up, thumbs-down and readership.I did poorly. HEADDESK
  • 52. TEST YOUR CATEGORIES
  • 53. But it turns out I was in a few sillycategories. I found the low-scoring onesand removed them from the campaign. CLICK
  • 54. I also changed the content serving priority.
  • 55. …and got huge re-shares, which let to 129simultaneous visitors on Portent.com for afew hours. Whoa.
  • 56. Facebook, LinkedIn, RedditOutbrain and Stumbleupon are just thestart. Do the same thing on Facebook,LinkedIn and other sites.But do it smart. Remember…
  • 57. EVERYONE CONVERTSEveryone converts. If you’re not gettingconversion, you may not be targeting theright content, or the best audience, orsomething else.
  • 58. And NEVER quit. EVER. Marketing is equalparts creative genius and pure pig-headedstubborness. Make sure you use both. DON’T QUIT THIS
  • 59. CLOSE THE LOOPSometimes, seeing your great contentonce isn’t enough. So you need to closethe loop by showing readers the samestuff a few times.
  • 60. FACEBOOK EXCHANGERe-targeting networks are a great way todo this.
  • 61. Outbrain Visit Pixel FacebookIn this example, a reader sees your articlefor the first time via Outbrain. Then they Adgo to Facebook. Because FacebookExchange retargeting uses Outbrain data,we can show that person an ad for thesame content again. Share/LikeIf they come back, they’re even more likelyto re-share.
  • 62. FACEBOOK CUSTOM AUDIENCESYou can also build and target Facebookcampaigns based on your ‘house’ e-maillist. That’s even better targeting. Thesepeople already like you. They just need agentle reminder that your stuff is there.
  • 63. Subscribe Facebook Ad
  • 64. EVERYONE CONVERTS
  • 65. THE INEVITABLE
  • 66. Can you even prove it works?Of course, someone will ask if I can provethis works. I wonder why? When the sameperson spent $500,000 on TV ads, or$25,000 on a print ad, or $5,000 on aYellow Pages ad, did they demand thatlevel of measurement? Nope.But anyway…
  • 67. TOO MUCH NOISEThere’s too much noise to know for certainwhen someone links/re-shares contentbecause of a paid campaign.The ‘noise’ in this case includes clicks fromsocial networks in the normal course ofbusiness, visits from organic searchbolstered by the brand reinforcement ofprevious content marketing, etc.
  • 68. BUT
  • 69. Here’s a quick case study. I posted thisarticle, then promoted it the ways I’vetalked about in this presentation.
  • 70. That got me 195 links to this page. 18 fromunique domains. Including one link fromReddit. I spent $200 promoting it.IS THAT WORTH $200?!!! HELL YES.
  • 71. ON AVERAGE WE SEE ANINCREASE OF 2-3 LINKS ABOVENORMAL ACQUISITION PER 3000PURCHASED PAGEVIEWS ONSTUMBLEUPON.
  • 72. $9/LINKOn average, campaigns like this cost $9/link. Pricing by the link is a little silly, sincesocial shares matter too, and link value isso inconsistent. But people insist, so thereyou have it.I dare you to find a less-expensive way toacquire authority this fast.
  • 73. AND…
  • 74. EVERYONE CONVERTS Plus, you’re getting more than just ranking authority. You’re getting real brand authority, because potential customers/ clients learn how much you know, subscribe to your newsletter and come a step closer to full conversion.
  • 75. i dunno, ian. Isnt there an easier, faster way to do this?
  • 76. THE SHORT CUT Of course there is! It’s much less work if you…
  • 77. Hire a nice, friendlySEO spammer.
  • 78. Or just search for ‘buy links’and then go buy some.No one at Google WILL EVERSUSPECT A THING.cough
  • 79. Let’s build links BzzzztLet’s build links BzzzztLet’s build links In other words, you can just keep grabbing the wire. Bzzzzt The problem, of course, is that you’ll continue to get shocked.
  • 80. CHANGE THE CONVERSATION Instead, I suggest we change the entire conversation. Talk about smart marketing and authority building. Talk about diversified strategies. Help people test results. Never use the phrase ‘crank out’. Accept a different definition of ‘content marketing’.
  • 81. Questions? Catch me on Twitter or Google Plus. Me: @portentintplus.google.com/+IanLurie
  • 82. cmon by!US:portent.com