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The Art & Science of Building Links By Debra Mastaler


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From the SMX East Conference in New York City, September 27-29, 2016. SESSION: Link Building Fundamentals. PRESENTATION: The Art and Science of Building Links - Given by Debra Mastaler, @debramastaler - Alliance-Link, President. #SMX #13D

Published in: Marketing

The Art & Science of Building Links By Debra Mastaler

  1. 1. Debra Mastaler, President @debraMastaler#SMX #11D LINK BUILDING FUNDAMENTALS The Art & Science of Building Links
  2. 2. What We Will COVER: Link Popularity Unnatural Links Penalties and Disavow Tactics Lightning Round @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  3. 3. Algorithms & Link Popularity #SMX #11D @debraMastaler
  4. 4. Most Popular Search Engine? Desktop Mobile Devices #SMX #11D @debraMastaler
  5. 5. 200+ Factors Determine How A Page Ranks Paid Featured snippet Organic  Domain & page level links  Page level content (Title, tags, etc.)  Machine learning (Rank Brain)  Mobile  Query data (clicks, bounce rates)  Site load speed  Location personalization  HTTPS HTTPS #SMX #11D @debraMastaler
  6. 6. Authorship Removed “In the News” Box Penguin Everflux Authorship Photo Drop Page Layout Panda 4.1 Pigeon Expands (UK, CA, AU) Payday Loan 3.0 Penguin 3.0 Unnamed Update Panda 4.0 Pigeon Pirate 2.0 Payday Loan 2.0 HTTPS/SSL Update Most of the changes/filters added are done to help DEFINE, EVALUATE and RATE links and the pages they come from. Image from: @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  7. 7. What Is Link Popularity? Link popularity measures the quality and quantity of links pointing to a webpage. Considered an off-page factor. Engines weigh off-page factors more heavily than on-page. SLANG: Link Juice, Link Love, Link Pop, Link Equity It is NOT just the number of backlinks pointing to a webpage. @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  8. 8. Four Components of Link Popularity #SMX #11D Quantity Quality Relevance Anchor Text @debraMastaler
  9. 9. Link Quantity The number of links pointing to a webpage from “outside” or different website/pages #SMX #11D Your Webpage (website) Webpage A Webpage B Webpage C Webpage D Webpage E @debraMastaler
  10. 10. Link Quality Determined by the authority/trust/popularity of the host pages/sites and the sites linking to them. #SMX #11D My Website Site A Site X Site Y Site B Site Z @debraMastaler
  11. 11. Link Quality PageRank™ measures/computes quality #SMX #11D PageRank™ TrustRank @debraMastaler
  12. 12. What Makes A Page “Quality” Characteristics: Rank well Show topic expertise Answer questions Trusted Linked to frequently by trusted sources Clicked on frequently High reliability Relevant to the query #SMX #11D @debraMastaler
  13. 13. Relevance What is your page talking about? #SMX #11D @debraMastaler
  14. 14. Relevance Clicks help Google determine the topical relevance of a page Sports Wiki - handbags Wiki - business Sports Business Sports Handbags Automotive #SMX #11D @debraMastaler
  15. 15. Relevance Inbound links from “similar” sites best #SMX #11D Costa Rica Vacation Rentals “Baby Stroller” Diamond rings petfinder wfmz pawlooza huffingtonpost donatenow.networkforgood peternity somepuppytolove saveacat PETFINDER.COM @debraMastaler
  16. 16. Anchor Text Endorsement of what’s to come #SMX #11D Anchor text is the clickable part of the link you see, it is a query ranking factor My daughter is freshman at Villanova University. My daughter spends a lot of money buying college text books. Visit for more information. …”anchor text influences the queries your website ranks for in the search results. Google …”anchor text helps define the theme of a linked page” Bing @debraMastaler
  17. 17. Anchor Text Hyperlink when it makes sense Make your anchor text conversational Doesn’t matter what you do, if Google * thinks* your inbound links are anything but editorial, you lose. #SMX #11D “ Any links intended to manipulate… a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Additionallym creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines.” @debraMastaler
  18. 18. Your Goal When Building Links: #SMX #11D Attract a large quantity of links from Quality and Topically (or geographically) relevant pages using Smart and conversational anchor text @debraMastaler
  19. 19. Unnatural LINKS What to Avoid #SMX #11D @debraMastaler
  20. 20. What Might Be Considered An Unnatural Link? Paid links Large scale guest posting Low quality directories Footer links Template links #SMX #11D Large-scale reciprocal linking Massive press releases Blanket widgets and badges Forced forum drops BEER From Google’s guidelines @debraMastaler
  21. 21. Avoid These Flags and Footprints #SMX #11D Do not acquire a lot of the same links quickly Avoid using same anchors over and over Avoid linking with low quality pages Avoid placing links in navigation and sponsored areas Avoid pages/sites hosting excessive reciprocals and template links Don’t make directory links (even niche directories) a large part of your portfolio Avoid sites with excessive Adsense Avoid sites with no Contact or About Us information's info @debraMastaler
  22. 22. Questions To Ask Before You Link Question Yes No Is the page hosting your link ranking “well” in the search results? Been cached lately? Do they use no follow attributes? Does the website participate in social media? Is the website tied to a network? Is the content relevant to my site? Did you search “complaint” + URL/name of owner/site? Is the site mobile friendly? @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  23. 23. Penalties & DISAVOW @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  24. 24. Google Penalty? Or Algorithm Update? Not hard to figure out but stinks either way. Disappeared from the search results (poof!) A manual penalty Lost substantial ranking (ouch) Affected by changes/filters to an algorithm IF YOUR SITE: YOU EITHER HAVE: OR OR @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  25. 25. Manual Action Notice Google love notes in your Search Console… not so lovely @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  26. 26. Cleaning Up and Disavowing Links @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  27. 27. Reconsideration Asking Google to review your site after manual penalty (REQUEST A REVIEW) A good reconsideration request does three things:  Explains the exact quality issue on your site  Describes the steps you’ve taken to fix the issue  Documents the outcome of your efforts @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  28. 28. Ranking Drop Due To Algorithm Change How to determine which update affected you Check Google/Other Analytics Google Algorithm Updates History @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  29. 29. Watch Your Rankings, Watch Your Backlinks Watch your backlinks like you watch your rankings. Analyze your backlinks and identify potential trouble. Try to get them removed when you find them. Disavow as last resort. Just do it. Be proactive, don’t wait for a slap down! @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  30. 30. Link Building TACTICS @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  31. 31. Three Link Building Facts To Keep In Mind: It is less about what you do and more about where. Links help get you ranked but clicks show you deserve to be there. You need to have something worth linking to before the links will come. @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  32. 32. Link Building Tactics We Will COVER: Foundational Tactics • Reclaiming broken links • Unlinked mentions • Credibility links • Resource pages • Image gifting Content Tactics • Media outreach • Image galleries • Reviews • Roundups • Lists • Curators @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  33. 33. Foundational LINKS: Help position you as a brand expert and credible, factual source Identify your brand in an ever-growing link graph Puts you on credible/authority sources Tend not to change Inexpensive to acquire Content marketing SHOULD NOT be your only link building strategy! • Reclaiming broken links • Unlinked mentions • Credibility links • Resource pages • Image gifting @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  34. 34. Credibility LINKS • Chamber of Commerce • Industry Associations • Better Business Bureau • Wikipedia Establish trust signals, set expertise @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  35. 35. Using Wikipedia Indirectly For CREDIBILITY Wikipedia = hard to get on Backlink all pages associated with your terms/industry Offer same/similar content @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  36. 36. Resource PAGES Find opportunities on government and academic outlets Your keyword + “RESOURCES” “USEFUL LINKS” + your keyword “HELPFUL LINKS” + your keyword “Links on this page will take you away from” + your keyword Free Tool: @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  37. 37. Reclaiming Broken LINKS Tools: Citation Labs (paid) Ontolo Tools (paid) Check My Links (Chrome plug-in) Free Run on blogs, magazines and Wikipedia @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  38. 38. Reclaiming Broken LINKS - TIP @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  39. 39. Another Broken Link Method Look for competitors broken links, offer your content/links as replacement @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  40. 40. Unlinked MENTIONS Find unlinked mentions of a brand/company/URL These sites mention the company ( but are not hyperlinking the phrase. (free to use) @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  41. 41. Unlinked MENTIONS Not a big brand? No problem. • Find unlinked keyword phrases • Find mentions of out-of-business competitors @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  42. 42. Image GIFTING Giving an image to content that needs it! • Search for blog posts and magazine articles using your keywords but not showcasing images. • Offer photo at no charge • Own the photo! @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  43. 43. Gifting With CINEMAGRAPHS (.gif) Do something different Creates memorable content Stimulates linking! Make your own: Backlink topical .gifs found in directories such as @debraMas#SMX #11D
  44. 44. Gifting With MEMES Be unique with your quips Use hashtags associated with your company or company name if it fits @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  45. 45. Link Building Tactics Using Content I think link therefore I am @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  46. 46. Content Best Practice RECOMMENDATIONS: Do not over-use keyword anchors in posts/articles/bios, hyperlink conversationally Avoid blog networks Avoid guest writing on sites with basic About Us or lack contact information Produce content that makes you become a weekly habit. @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  47. 47. What type of content can I create to attract the most links? & What are the best distribution channels for my content so it’s seen by my target audience? @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  48. 48. Content Distribution CHANNELS You are 6x more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than you are from a tweet.- Campaign Monitor • Email campaigns • Media (press) campaigns • Community groups (Chambers & Assn’s) • Forums • Social networks • Paid ads (social) • Newsletters • RSS @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  49. 49. Content Creation People are looking for answers, community and to be entertained! Mentions Lists Images Media Round Ups Curators Reviews @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  50. 50. Product Reviews You WRITE • Written reviews with images are most frequently linked to (the longer the better) • Keep best reviews on your site, promote from there, (unless…) • Issue press release for substantial reviews • Bundle reviews into ebooks, add email paywall • Add teasers to YouTube • Target social networks for distribution (Facebook ads work great!) @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  51. 51. Using Facebook Ads For Exposure and (eventually) LINKS Target journalists and influencers by job title, company and ADI through Facebook ads. Great way to get attention to your content @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  52. 52. Target Media Mentions PAGES • Contact review company to host your review! • Search Strings: Media mentions + keyword Media reviews Media coverage Media library Media center Product reviews • Add to review sites such as @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  53. 53. Using Reviews Others Write for LINKS Use what other people have written to gain links Search for older reviews Back link, look for sources Offer your “new and improved” review as a source or Write a comparison piece @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  54. 54. List POSTS People love longer list posts See what’s already out there and create a different number of items in your list post. Make each list item short and to the point Don’t write a long intro Include visual elements Add a “click to tweet” button after each list item. Break long lists into categories. Encourage readers to leave an item in comments, keep adding to the list. Repurpose list posts into e-books, use each list item as a chapter. @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  55. 55. List Post TITLES How To ___ in # Easy Steps How to Find ___ How to Generate More ___ A Complete Guide To ___ Best ___ Ideas Ultimate Guide To ____ Most Popular Ways To ___ # Tips For Busy ____ Top # ___ Tips # Mistakes To Never Make Again # Amazing Secrets Of ____ # Foolproof Tips For ___ # Things Everyone Should Know About ___ # Effective Ways To ____ # Super Tips For ___ # Creative Ways To ___ The ___ Guide You Need To Read #Lessons Learned About ___ # Predictions You Should Prepare For Top # Useful ____ Ideas # Excellent Free ___ The # ___ You Need In Your Life # Incredible ___ Tools and Resources # Of The Best ___ Case Studies TIP: Throw in an outside source or two when creating list posts, the people you feature will help promote your content. @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  56. 56. Link ROUNDUPS A collection of favorite posts from around the Web 1. Identify blogs/sites showcasing roundups 2. Ask to have your content included Search Strings: Daily Link Roundup + keyword Link Roundup + keyword Weekly Link Roundup + keyword Web Roundup + keyword Set an alert and let roundups come to you @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  57. 57. Using Curators For Links And SOURCES “ + keyword” Rebel Mouse “rebel mouse + keyword” FlipBoard “flipboard + keyword” • . @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  58. 58. Using Images To Attract LINKS 1. Offer images, include attribution license 2. Let the media and publishers know your image gallery exists (press release) 3. Create .gifs from images 4. Conceptual, factual and historical images work well! 5. Run images through TinEye twice a year (reclaiming images) @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  59. 59. Reclaiming Images @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  60. 60. Use Flickr And WikiMedia Commons To find similar images Backlink images for sources Find freelance photographers/directories WikiMedia Commons also hosts recordings @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  61. 61. Getting Links From The MEDIA Everyone knows about HARO (Help A Reporter Out), there are others!  (free)  (free)  ($)  ($)  ProfNet ( ($) Journalists like research backed content Surveys Case studies Images/Video Factual rebuttals Newsjacking @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  62. 62. Using Press And Media RELEASES Find media sources writing about your industry/services/products by back linking press releases from major brands. @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  63. 63. Niche Wire/Press Release Submission SERVICES Topical niches @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  64. 64. International Wire Services Translating content, press release submission services to/for foreign countries For the UK @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  65. 65. Lightning Round @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  66. 66. Key Insights Going FORWARD • Keep the key components of link popularity in mind when building links. • Don’t scrimp on a copywriter, don’t scrimp on a photographer. • Make sure your links sit on mobile friendly sites/pages. • Invest in SEO/link tools after using free trials. • Create evergreen content that has been personalized for your target audience. • Add email capture to everything, look into “content for a tweet”. • Create “Knowledge Vault” quality content. • Site uses nofollow but the link is worth having? Point it to your social profiles for traffic. @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  67. 67. More Key INSIGHTS • Contests, sponsorships, scholarships, etc – all good ideas but one-off, time sensitive tactics. • Follow key media on Twitter and LinkedIn. Engage and stalk their Lists! • Fax press releases directly to media, forget the press release submission outlets. • Local media outlets love, love, love interviews and factual content. • Media doesn’t link out except when they have to. Images are that exception. • HARO (Help A Reporter Out) and others, great resources but be quick! <3 hours • Buy stock photos (own the rights) from Shutterstock (etc.) to give away @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  68. 68. Another Key INSIGHT: Keep an eye on the sites ranking behind you. Yes, that’s right, behind you. They are the webmasters looking to unseat you. Watch what they are doing, follow on social media. Load their domain/brand names in your alert services. @debraMastaler#SMX #11D
  69. 69. In CLOSING: #SMX #11D Emotional triggers cause people to link. What is your 4.7 seconds? @debraMastaler
  70. 70. Thank you! #SMX #11D For more information on my custom link marketing services and link building training, visit @debraMastaler @debraMastaler The slides in this deck are copyrighted to Debra Mastaler/Alliance-Link and may not be reproduced without permission.