Lesson 4

Beware of OLD Information

Probably the biggest threat to your search engine ranking success is old information. Sure, by now everyone knows the key to high rankings is links! But there are an unbelievable number of places to get bad information about link building.

For instance, many seemingly reputable sources fail to report that some inbound links help more than others, while others can actually damage your ranking efforts. And if you think the key is reciprocal links (two sites that agree to trade links) then think again.

The sun has long since set on virtually every reciprocal link strategy. In fact, some reciprocal links are like two gunfighters who pull the trigger simultaneously only to succeed in wounding the ranking efforts of each other.

In the meantime, you should know that…
Building high-quality incoming links is the single most effective strategy for boosting your site’s search engine rankings.

Although it may also be the most challenging, it is clearly the most rewarding in terms of ranking well for your chosen keywords and for staying ranked. The challenge for most sites is to accumulate enough incoming links to dominate their niche
without tripping any one of the many spam filters that trigger the ranking penalties. The problem is that a lot of search engine optimization (SEO) firms and SEO educational websites are still recommending outdated, potentially damaging SEO tactics.

Warning: many of the standard link building strategies that once formed the backbone of an SEO campaigns are no longer effective. In fact, some of them are actually detrimental to your Web site’s ranking efforts. So, pay very close attention to this lesson.

Linking Basics

Anchor Text
A typical link looks something like this: Search Engine Optimization.

Here is the HTML code used to generate the above link within a Web page:

<a href=”http://www.searchenginenews.com/”>Search Engine Optimization</a>
|—————————URL——————————-| |————-Anchor text————-|

The most important parts are:

The URL (Uniform Resource Locator): This is the web address of the Web page being linked to.
Anchor text: This is the visible text of the link (in this case it’s: Search Engine Optimization).

As we’ve mentioned several times already, getting your keywords into the visible, aka anchor, text of the links that point to your Web pages is one of the most important rank-boosting strategies you can employ.

Inbound & Outbound Links


You’ll often hear reference to inbound and outbound links. An inbound or incoming link is a link that points to one of your Web pages. An outbound link is a link *on* one of your Web pages that points to someone else’s Web page. To illustrate, let’s say that A and B represent two Web pages hosted on different sites.

In the diagram above, Web page A links to Web page B. Thus, page A has an outbound link to page B, and page B has an inbound link from page A. We can also say there’s a one-way link between pages A and B.

Reciprocal Links


In some cases, Web site owners (or SEOs) may agree to “swap” links with each other. These are called reciprocal links; a term that refers to a situation where Web pages from different sites link to each other. Trading reciprocal links is hard work and their value has been increasingly diminished over the past few years. A few are ok, but to actively pursue them for the sake of just building a large quantity of links is a strategy of the past. Don’t waste a lot of your time on this; we’ll show you better ways to get better targeted, higher impact links.

Link Popularity: An Evolving Concept


Not long ago, search engines ranked pages based on the sheer number of links pointing to them. They called this Link Popularity. The reasoning was that good pages attracted lots of links. At that time, it was purely a numbers game—the more incoming links, the better. Unfortunately, this made search engines fairly easy to manipulate. It encouraged sites to acquire large numbers of links from low-quality sites or through aggressive reciprocal links campaigns. The goal, of course, was to manipulate the rankings.

Today, link popularity has evolved to place more emphasis on the linking site’s “importance” when viewed from the search engine point of view (SEPOV). Pure popularity is still pretty good, provided you aren’t trying to trick the engines, but getting links from important pages is even better than just getting lots of links. So, ideally you want the search engines to think YOUR pages are important.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Get some links.
  2. Get a few more links from important pages.
  3. Use both 1 and 2 to attract more links.

As the cycle repeats itself, YOUR Web site becomes important from the SEPOV. Important websites, by definition, are either linked by a lot of unimportant pages, or else linked by other important Web sites and Web pages, or both. Getting links from important Web sites and Web pages is the quickest and most effective way to get your page highly ranked. In other words, pages that are linked from important pages are themselves considered to be important! And the more important links you have, the better.

popular-linking

To give you an idea of what we mean, take a look at the following diagram:
popularlink-select

Page A has three incoming page links. Page B, meanwhile, has just one incoming page link.

What page would you rather get a link from, page A or page B?

If you answered A, you’d be right. Page A has more incoming links, and therefore is viewed as more important (assuming, of course, that all of those links are from high-quality pages). Even though pages C and D both have just one incoming link each, page C’s link is from a more important site. Therefore, page C is going to rank higher than page D.

Although this is an extremely simplified illustration of what takes place over billions of interlinked Web pages on the Internet, it captures the basic idea. Not all links are equal.
Just a few links, coming from important pages, can do far more good for your ranking efforts than a bushel of links from unimportant pages.

PageRank and the Google Toolbar

One of the measurements commonly used to gauge the importance of a page in the eyes of Google is known as PageRank. This measurement is displayed within the Google Toolbar once it’s installed in your browser. To download it, go to: http://www.google.com/toolbar although toolbar PageRank can be a useful measurement tool when gauging the importance of a site, it is often criticized for not being updated as frequently as some SEOs would like. The gap between what Google really thinks of a site, and the score being reported by toolbar PageRank, is a source of irritation for many SEOs.

Suffice it to say that, regardless of the spirited discussion that revolves around Google’s toolbar PageRank, the following facts prevail.

  1. Once installed, the Google toolbar will produce a PageRank (aka, an importance) score for every page you visit. For instance, Yahoo scores a very high PR=9, while WebMD scores an also high PR=8. This means that Google sees Yahoo as a little bit more “important” page than WebMD. Therefore, an incoming link from Yahoo would carry a little more weight than an incoming link from WebMD.
  2. Although PageRank is an importance score, it should not be confused with, or misconstrued as, a ranking score. It is entirely possible for a low PageRank page to score high on a specific keyword search if that search is more relevant to the page with the lower PageRank.
  3. Remember, you want to be linked-to by important pages. That being the case, PageRank remains the best insight you have into ‘who’s who’ from Google’s point of view.
  4. Here’s a warning, though. If a page is showing a PageRank=0, or the PageRank bar is ghosted out, then you don’t want a link from that site. It could mean that Google doesn’t trust that site — perhaps they’ve been caught spamming Google’s index. However, it’s also possible that Google simply doesn’t know about that Web page or Web site, or the ToolBar value may be incorrect If the PageRank appears to be 0 or ghosted out, you may want to check the page again later. Either way, having a link from them, or linking to them, will NOT help your ranking efforts and could possibly hurt them.
  5. The graphic below shows what PageRank looks like on your browser interface.
  6. As we alluded to earlier, Google isn’t updating their toolbar PageRank scores as frequently as you (and others) might like them to. The result is occasionally inaccurate PageRank scores and long waits before you see your own toolbar PageRank score respond to your optimization efforts.
  7. If you happen to notice your own toolbar PageRank score slipping, this can indicate that it’s time to rethink your optimization efforts. There is a distinct possibility that you’re doing something wrong, from Google’s POV, and the ranking penalty they’ve assessed is being reflected in your PR score. If, on the other hand, you have a new Web page and its PageRank isn’t going up as fast you’d expect, this could simply mean that Google hasn’t updated their toolbar PR scores lately.

Essential Strategies for Building & Structuring Inbound Links

One of the trickiest aspects of search engine optimization is the process of building high-quality incoming links. It’s also the single most effective strategy for improving your rankings. In raw simplicity, the more inbound links a Web page has, the more popular it is.

Search engines like popular pages.

The challenge for most sites is to accumulate enough incoming links to appear relevant to the engines without tripping any one of the many spam filters and penalties that are applied to sites that cheat. So, the secret to getting it right is to take the search engine’s point of view (SEPOV) when building your incoming link structure.

The key point to remember is that search engines like natural link structure they hate artificial link structure. Therefore, you must know the difference between

Natural & Artificial Links.

  • Natural links vary in anchor text while artificial links tend to be identical.
  • Natural links increase gradually as referral sites add links one by one over time; artificial links can sprout in great numbers all of a sudden.
  • Natural Links have anchor text that varies. Artificial links have anchor text that is suspiciously uniform or even identical to one another (they call this over-optimized).
  • Natural links are only occasionally reciprocal. Artificial links are often made up of an unnaturally high percentage of reciprocal links.
  • Natural links are not purchased or sold. Search Engines specifically hate it when links are bought or sold to influence search ranking and are continually on the hunt to penalize sites engaging in link buying if they can catch them.

Furthermore, sites with natural links do not link out to other sites that attempt to manipulate the search rankings. They refrain from linking to link farms, web rings, link brokers, mini-nets, or any network of sites whose primary purpose is to exchange links to increase link popularity.

As you might suspect, Google is getting very good at detecting these so-called link schemes. Google knows how to find these isolated nodes (i.e. Web page groups that link to each other but lack inbound links from outside trusted sites).

Be forewarned: if you participate in link schemes, you are courting disaster within the search rankings. Maybe not right away, but almost certainly, eventually. And Google, with all of their resources for storing information, remembers! …YOU, your site, your company name and so forth. Getting busted by Google *can* mean that everything you touch will never again rank well in a competitive search ever again. So, be very careful.

As previously mentioned, sites designed around natural links don’t usually swap links, so their outgoing links tend to point to pages that are known by the engine to be in good standing. Oftentimes these pages have been indexed for many years and may even be white-listed; a term used to distinguish trusted sites that never get penalized no matter what they do.

Natural links tend not to be reciprocal. Artificial links, however, rely heavily on link exchange tactics, suggesting that the sole purpose of the link is reciprocity—having little or nothing to do with adding value for the site visitor by way of providing worthwhile content.

Keeping these facts in mind, one should strive to build the most natural-looking incoming-link structure possible. From a search engine’s point of view (SEPOV), the best kinds of links are unrequested links. The engines are looking to bestow high rankings on only those pages that people voluntarily link-to due to their great content – not because some site owner, webmaster or SEO firm has managed to arranged a lot of link swapping or link buying.

Choose Your Links Wisely

While it’s true that almost any link from any legitimate Web site will add something of value to your Web page’s popularity, it’s best to get links from authoritative (aka, important) Web pages. Such link-getting Web pages are then also considered important. And, these so-called important pages can usually be identified as important via Google’s toolbar

PageRank scoring system.
The higher the Web site’s PageRank means the better the link. Directory examples would include sites like Yahoo and DMOZ. Others like PBS.org, National Geographic, CNN, or ZDNet would be outstanding authoritative site links regardless of topic since each has been assigned a PageRank of 9 (PR=9) or better on Google’s ten-point PageRank scale.

Get Links from Pages that Match Your Topic

Your next best option is to acquire links from pages that are trusted. Trusted pages are sites that have been indexed for a while and have already been assigned a Google PageRank—usually PR=5 or better.
It helps even more if these pages are on-topic—i.e. they match the topic of your page. Links from on-topic, trusted pages can give you a significant boost in rankings. However, if you do gather links from less than PR=5, then the on-topic factor becomes even more important.

Count the Number of Links on the Referring Page

Another point to remember is; the fewer the number of links on the referring page, the better. Ideally, the referring page would have only one link and it would be to your page. Of course, that’s rarely practical. But, having your link on a page that hosts a hundred other links is almost pointless because the value of your link will be divided by the number of links on the page—a condition we call link dilution.

While easier said than done, the ideal would be to get your incoming links from popular, on-topic, trusted sites scoring PR=6 or better but have very few outgoing links.
Now, short of the ideal, bear in mind that every link you can get is likely to help you somewhat—and if you can control how those links appear (in terms of incoming URL-format and anchor text); you’ll be in even better shape.

Use your Site Strength Indicator (SSI) Tool to check a page’s incoming links and overall Page Rank: http://www.searchenginenews.com/ssitool/

Maintain Format Consistency of Your Incoming Link URL’s

consistent-urls
Even though each of the URLs below will land the site visitor on the same Web page, these are technically SIX different URLs!
…That’s right.

And, if those who link to you use six different URL formats to point visitors to your “home” page then your PageRank is being diluted by a factor of six – not good!
You simply must do everything in your power to standardize your incoming URL-format in order to consolidate your PageRank. This is often referred to as choosing the Canonical URL, which means it’s the preferred URL you want to have indexed in the search engines.

Doing so will produce the maximum relevancy-boost possible from your incoming links.

Get Your Keywords into Your Anchor Text

It’s very important to get your keywords into the text of the link (anchor text) that other sites are using to point visitors your way. True, this may be difficult with directories unless
the name of your company includes your keywords. Regardless, the boost in keyword relevancy is significant enough that it’s worthwhile to contact everyone who is using keyword poor anchor text to link to you. In such cases you should specify a more keyword-rich text link in your request that they upgrade your link. This will provide better value to their site visitors and better rankings for you.

If you happen to be selling model airplanes, then anchor text such as airplane models or model airplanes will be infinitely more valuable to your relevance efforts than anchor text simply saying click here. From the SEPOV, the former states the theme of your page while the latter gives the engine no clue whatsoever what your page is about.

A word of caution: it will look more natural from the SEPOV if the anchor-text links that are pointing at your site are NOT identical. Strive to maintain slight variations as would occur if the sites that are maintaining them were generating the anchor text independently. Of course, the nature of your business and the name of your company might dictate the range of options available to you. However, do everything in your power to ensure the text being used to point visitors and engines to your site looks natural from the SEPOV.

This strategy can make a HUGE difference. Generally speaking, from the SEPOV, it’s the anchor text that determines the theme (topic) of your Web page.

Go for Deep Links

Deep links are links that point to your Web pages within your site, your sub pages; and NOT to your home page. From the SEPOV, a lot of deep links indicate that a site has a lot of valuable content. On the other hand, if all of your incoming links point to your home page, then the engines think that your site is nothing more than a ‘one trick pony’ …offering very little content, and therefore, not an important site.

From the SEPOV, important sites have lots of deep links. In fact, many important sites have more links pointing toward their deep pages than to their home page. Therefore, you should strive to make at least 20% of your incoming links point to deep pages. And, if you can manage to get even 70-80% of your incoming links to point at deep pages, that’s even better in terms of making your site look important from the SEPOV.

Beware of the nofollow Attribute

See to it that your incoming links from off-site pages do not include the rel=”nofollow” attribute (often referred to as a tag) within the source code of the link; nofollow renders the link useless to your ranking efforts because Google doesn’t credit your page for having that incoming link.

When you are ready, you have a couple of Advanced SEO Tutorials available to you that explain and expound on this important topic in detail at:

Don’t Get Involved with Run-of-the-Site Links

Avoid run-of-the-site links. These are links where every page on another Web site links to your homepage. When you have, say, 1000 incoming links all originating from subpages within that one external Web site, it appears to Google that your link count is artificially inflated.
Link brokers are notorious for selling you run-of-site links. While you should avoid link brokers in the first place, you should be especially cautious that another Web site does not link to you from all of their pages. This will not only look artificial to Google, it will also look like you purchased the links—something that Google does not like (unless the links are nofollowed
which means they won’t help your rankings anyway). With the recent updates to Google’s algorithm you have to be more careful than ever to avoid link schemes.

Avoid Link Farms, Web Rings, & Site Networks

Focus your efforts on collecting all the links you can from authoritative sites. Avoid getting links from any site that may look remotely like a link farm or web ring (i.e. Web page groups that link to each other but lack inbound links from outside trusted sites). Linking back to these unnatural linking structures can get you penalized. So always be very careful about what Web pages you link back to. Even if you aren’t penalized, any benefit that would otherwise be derived from your incoming link will most likely be diminished due to Google’s spam-related opinion of the page.
And, in terms of building page relevancy, there is rarely, if ever, any benefit to linking back to sites that are insignificant, untrusted, or suspected of behaving badly in terms of SEO protocol. It can even hurt you.

Be Careful Who You Link To!

Getting links from off-topic, and perhaps even untrusted, sites may not be your first choice, but at least it won’t likely hurt your rankings; they might even help a little. However, beware of getting yourself into a link exchange relationship with these sites; and remember that you should NOT link back to them.

Currently, the rule is that:
incoming links won’t hurt you, but outgoing links to sites that behave badly can. In other words, if you’re swapping links, be sure you do so carefully because linking to a site that has been penalized for policy infractions (i.e. search engine spam) can cause your site to be penalized as well. To help you avoid such a scenario, here are four cautionary steps you should take before linking to another site:

1. Search for their domain name on Google and Bing. If they’re not listed on one or either of the engines, that’s a bad sign. Linking to them could get your site penalized and possibly banned. Besides, even if they aren’t a so-called “bad” site, linking to a site that the engines don’t know about won’t help you in the rankings anyway. However, if they are listed you can proceed to step two.

2. Determine who is already linking to them. Go to Google and type in link:www.thedomain.com to see if Google will display what sites are linking to them. Note that this tool is regarded as being very incomplete, but Google may display some of the links it is aware of. Smaller high quality sites often won’t return any listings, this is normal. Google heavily restricts what information it will display. The more incoming links they have, the more ranking boost you’ll receive if you can get a link from them. And, the more important the sites that are linking to them, the better the ranking boost for your own site if you can get a link. Their PageRank score is also one indicator of how important Google thinks the site is. Beware of linking to sites or pages with a PR=0 (zero). This could mean that Google has penalized them. Granted, this warning may not apply to very new sites but links from them won’t help you right away, anyway. Regardless, if a site has been around for
a while, and lacks any PageRank, then you should be wary of linking to it.

3. Avoid linking to sites with controversial topics. Examples of such sites would include gambling, adult, pharmacy, or loan/debt sites (unless you happen to be in one of these industries and the topic matches the content of your page).

Remember: You probably won’t be hurt by who links to you. However, your ranking efforts can definitely be hurt by who YOU link to.

Remember Your Primary Goal Profits!

Of course, our biggest assumption is that you’re optimizing your Web site with profits in mind. That being the case, you’ll want to always focus your efforts on strategies and relationships that will generate the most revenue relative to effort. Therefore, look first for link relationships that will produce traffic that fits the profile of your customer market. While it’s true that incoming links from just about any site provides a slight boost to your page popularity (leading to better search engine rankings), such links all too often fail to produce targeted traffic which is what you really should be looking for. This is one of the many reasons a link from a topic related site is immeasurably better than a link from an off-topic site.

The Best Place to Start Getting Links

You should begin by getting links from directories by submitting your site. You can find a complete list of the top directories here. The Yahoo Directory, (not
to be confused with the Yahoo search engine), for example charges a $299/yr review fee. And, considering that you get a link from what Google considers a very important site, it is worth it. This is especially true if your Web site is just getting started building its web presence. As a bonus, when you get listed in Yahoo’s paid directory, you’ll often get additional links coming from Yahoo’s international locations—which are all considered important links.

Once again, our Guide to the Major Web Directories provides an updated list of directory sites and citation resources that are helpful for Google Place Pages. You will find that some of them charge a fee but may very well be worth it in exchange for the trusted inbound link they provide. To add your site, look around on the main page of each of these directories for a link that says something like Add URL, Suggest URL, Add Your Site, or Suggest a Site. Follow that link to get details about exactly how to add your site to their directory.

By the way, to avoid unnecessary delays in getting listed, be sure to submit your site to the proper category within each directory. Submitting your site to the wrong category can result in a ridiculously long delay or simply not getting listed at all. Remember that the directory editors receive an enormous number of site submissions. So, save yourself some grief by carefully considering exactly which category your site belongs in before submitting.

A worthy directory is DMOZ

A listing in DMOZ is a worthwhile and trusted link if you can get listed. That’s because they supply the results for the Google Directory (not to be confused with Google’s main search engine). However, it can take up to a year to get your site approved. So, we recommend you submit it and forget it. Check back every few months. If you get in, great! If not, oh well! Don’t stress over it. The editors at DMOZ are volunteers and they’re swamped. But, if you’re lucky enough to get listed, be happy to know it’s free.

The reason for starting out getting listed in directories is because the submission process is relatively quick, the effort relatively easy, and because each directory link validates your site in the eyes of the search engines. You get an incoming link from a trusted site and another new source of targeted traffic. However, once you get listed in a few of the major directories, the relevancy boost levels off pretty fast. In other words, it isn’t important to get listed in all of them. Just get listed in a few and that will give you about as much ranking boost as you can expect to get.

Acquire On-topic Links

Links coming from pages that are topic-related to yours are considered good (i.e., relevant) links in the eyes of the search engines. If your site is about model airplanes, and another site is about airplane history, then each site shares a common topic, namely airplanes. Each of these sites would benefit from having a link from the other even though the links are reciprocal. This is what’s known as on-topic links.

Once again, directories can be great places to get links whenever the directory is on-topic. So, if your site is about model or radio control airplanes, then you should seek out directories that specialize in hobbies, scale models, airplanes, or radio operated toys and so forth. For a list of topic-specific directories, visit the Internet Search Engine Database at: http://www.isedb.com/html/Web_Directories/Specialty_Directories/

By the way, when getting listed in topic-specific directories, be sure they provide a direct, static link to your site. In other words, you do NOT want a dynamic link—one that is processed or created on-the-fly by some tracking software the directory has running on their server. Although this is not a concern with the major directories because they all tend to use static links, many smaller or niche directories like to create their links dynamically. Although this will add to your traffic count, it does nothing to help your search engine ranking efforts. That’s because engines fail to see the connection between the dynamic link and your site’s actual URL.

Link outside the Box

Figuring out where to get your incoming links from is like solving a puzzle. It takes a little creativity while following known formulas and patterns. Ask yourself; who else has a site that might benefit from linking to me?
Suppliers you do business with or professional organizations you’re involved in might be willing to list you on their referrals page. Legal advisors, accountants, or financiers you do business with might also like to list you as a client or maybe showcase your business in their online portfolio. Your employees may have blogs or personal homepages that could link to you, and so forth.

Here are a few more ideas to help you spark that creativity…Many online business owners write articles about topics related to their sites. Then they offer to let other sites use them as content in exchange for a link back to the author’s site. You’re probably an expert in the business you’re in and therefore an authority on certain subjects that may lend themselves to interesting reading that becomes worthwhile information for a basket of ancillary products and services.
Whenever you can do so easily, we recommend that you swap links with a partner company that you closely do business with—whose services compliment your own. Look for business partnerships with other websites that are useful to your own customers and whose customers are useful to you. Look for compatible (but not competing) businesses, and then form a partnership where you link to each other actively through mutual promotion. Not only can this bring in new traffic and boost your PageRank, but you may also develop important business relationships this way.

Press releases can be a good way to gain relevant links to your company’s site. Again, be creative—chances are good there’s a number of reasons (product launches, staff additions, promotions, partnerships, new services, etc.) you can find to release news about your company to the press. The engines quickly pick up press releases and the links contained within them are typically trusted. They also tend to remain on the Web for a good long time.

A Pro’s Guide To Optimizing Press Releases for Today’s Online Markets another interesting way to promote your own site is to submit testimonials, along with a link to your site, about products you are really enthusiastic about. If the testimonial is well written,
the company will often post it on their site. Sometimes they will even link back to you.

One of the more under-utilized “secrets” for gaining incoming links is to participate in topic-related forums that allow a text link to your site within your forum signature. Look for topics that you are knowledgeable in and begin posting—asking and answering questions. Assuming that you make legitimate contributions, you’ll find that your participation will be a welcomed addition in spite of the plug for your site. Most forum software, but not all, uses nofollow tags on the links. When this is the case, they don’t tend to help rankings, but they can be a good source for traffic.

However, many forums (and blogs) are now providing dofollow links if your contribution is worthwhile. For how to tell the difference, see these two (previously mentioned) Advanced SEO Tutorials:

Bear in mind that whenever you’re successful in getting another Web site to switch their link from your competitor’s site to yours, you gain twice. Once for gaining a new link, a second time for reducing the incoming link count of your competitor.
If the link is an especially good one (authoritative site in good standing with great incoming links, few outbound links, and high PageRank), then discreetly PAY them if you have to. Offer them a better deal than the one they have (if any). Do whatever it takes to get those quality links! Convincing another site owner to switch a link from your competitor to you is one of the single most productive link-building tactics you can use.

By using your imagination and dovetailing the nuances of your own business into the mix, you’ll no doubt discover an abundance of opportunities for gaining legitimate incoming links.

The Problem with Reciprocal Links

Our best advice when speaking of reciprocal links as a link-building tactic is to be conservative because, when done badly in the eyes of Google, it is viewed as an artificial linking pattern—something that search engines are getting increasingly sophisticated at detecting.
When you think about it, it makes sense that having a high percentage of reciprocal links would look like an artificial linking pattern because natural links are not typically reciprocal. If Yahoo lists a site in their directory, that site doesn’t routinely link back to Yahoo; that’s one of the reasons a link coming from Yahoo looks “natural” to Google.

Of course there are plenty of exceptions, but, regardless, the engines are looking for pages that rank well due to popularity based on content—and they want to avoid sites where it appears the site owners (or hired SEOs) have put a lot of effort into swapping links.

So, look at your incoming links from the search engine’s point of view (SEPOV). If CNN runs an article about how great your company is, and your company’s site links back to the CNN article, does that look normal from the SEPOV? …sure it does. Besides, CNN is an authoritative, important site. That reciprocal link looks like part of a natural link structure from the SEPOV. And, your site’s page can expect a substantial boost in ranking.

On the other hand, if your site (with its PageRank=4 or 5) is linked by Joe Blow’s homepage with a PR=1, 2, or 3 and you link back to Joe’s page, you shouldn’t expect much, if any, boost in your rankings. In fact, it’s entirely possible the two links are discounting each other based on an assumed link exchange arrangement that looks contrived because neither page is “authoritative” from the SEPOV.

Now, if you had, say, 50 similar link arrangements, and the links were all on-topic, and none of the pages involved had tripped the spam filters, then your page should get a reasonable boost in rankings. Still, you’d fare better simply by getting a single link from an authoritative site like CNN, Yahoo Directory, DMOZ, ZDNet, and so forth.

Evaluating the Quality of a Link

Much of effective link building focuses on topical relevance. In other words, pages linking to each other should, ideally, cover similar subjects. When the two pages are related in
subject or topic, the link will look more relevant from the SEPOV. This rule applies both to the sites that are linking to you and to the sites you’re linking to.

As ranking algorithms become increasingly advanced, search engines are evaluating Web sites in terms of neighborhoods of related sites. By linking to, or being linked from, an unrelated
site, you’re venturing outside of your neighborhood. Sometimes search engines view this suspiciously unless, of course, the page that is linking to you is considered “important.” Otherwise, the most valuable links come from Web pages that feature content related to your site. Links to or from off-topic pages are less useful, and, in some cases, too many of these off-topic links can even be harmful to your site’s search engine ranking efforts.

Stated another way, you should find your linking neighborhood and live there. The more sophisticated the search engines become, the more important it is to get links from important sites within your niche. This trend is likely to stick around for the foreseeable future. Acquiring on-topic links is key to establishing your site as an important destination from a SEPOV.

And, although it’s been clearly established that links from high-ranking, on-topic Web pages have become the gold standard of link building, there are other factors to consider when judging the quality of a link. For instance, traffic to the linking page is an important factor when you remember that links are not just for improving your search rank, they’re also an important source of targeted traffic.

The more people who visit a page that links to your site, the more traffic your site is likely to receive. If people like what they see, this can result in more links, more traffic and, ultimately,
more sales.

You should also bear in mind that Google and others are putting a lot of effort into tracking people’s web browsing habits. Our research indicates that highly trafficked sites are receiving a
preferred ranking status.

One way to get a rough idea of a page’s traffic is the Alexa service. On the Alexa siteinfo page, you can enter your target site (the page that you may want a link from), into the Site Lookup field and get a snapshot of their Traffic Rank, Pageviews, and so forth as seen in the screenshot below.

Bear in mind that Alexa can only track the Web browsing habits of people who have the Alexa toolbar installed. Since Alexa tends to attract a fairly tech-savvy audience, the Alexa numbers
probably don’t represent an entirely accurate picture of the relative traffic to a site. Regardless, it’s a useful tool to begin gaining a comparative idea of a site’s traffic numbers.

Accessibility to Search Engines
Obviously, Web pages on external Web sites are good link-prospects only if they are already known to the search engines. If your link-prospect’s site is architecturally flawed—and
therefore inaccessible to the search engine, then their pages may not be indexed. In such cases, a link would be absolutely worthless to you; at least in terms of improving your search
engine positioning.

To see if a search engine has indexed a Web page, simply select a unique phrase from that page and enter it (“surrounded by quotes”) into the search field. The quotes say, “Look for this exact phrase.” If the engine has indexed the page, then it will most definitely show up for that search.

Assuming you find the page is indexed, your next step is to see how often it is crawled by that search engine. Google has a little link that says Cached next to each of its search results.
Clicking that cache link will show you the date Google last spidered that page.

The more recent the cached date, the better. A recent cached date indicates that Google crawls this page regularly. As such, it also means that you’ll get credit for that link sooner.

If your link is already on the page, check to see that your link is in the cached version of the page. If not, something is amiss, and it’s likely the page employs some trick to prevent search
engines from seeing its outgoing links. Next, make sure that link is a direct link to your Web site. If the link is a JavaScript link, or a redirect, or a nofollow link, then it’s of little value to you, ranking-wise. Usually, placing your mouse over the link will cause the destination of the link to appear in the bar at the bottom of your browser (i.e., the status bar), but there are ways to manipulate this feature so it’s always best to check your link within the page’s HTML source code.

Let’s say that your site is called www.your-site.com and you’re being linked from a site called www.their-site.com.

A direct link in the HTML source code would look like:
<a href=”http://www.your-site.com/”>Click here!</a>

A Javascript link in the HTML source code would look like:
<a href=”javascript:void(0)” onclick=”window.open(‘http://www.your-site.com/’)”
onmouseover=”status=’http://www.your-site.com/’; return true;”
onmouseout=”status=defaultStatus; return true;””>Click here!</a>

A redirected link in the HTML source code would look like:
<a href=”http://www.their-site.com/redir.php?r=http://www.your-site.com/”>Click
here!</a>

And a nofollow in the HTML source code link looks like:
<a href=”http://www.your-site.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Click here!</a>

Incidentally, click here is horrible anchor text. Ideally you’ll want your keywords to appear in the visible portion of any text link pointing to your site. Getting your keywords into the anchor text of your incoming links is one of the most powerful page ranking strategies available to you. Besides, it’s unlikely you’ll want your pages found for the keywords click here.

However, be advised that a small number of click here links isn’t terrible. Having all identical incoming link anchor text indicates to a search engine the possibility of artificial link manipulation, which could result in a ranking penalty for your site.

Since your objective should be to achieve a natural looking incoming link structure, it’s a good idea to mix up your incoming link anchor text a bit. A few sporadically placed click here links make your incoming link structure appear more natural and diverse than a network of 100% keyword-rich incoming anchor text links.

By the way: The powerful effect of anchor text can be dramatically demonstrated by searching Google for “click here.” You’ll see the Adobe Reader download page grabs the top spot for that search term, even though the words click here aren’t found anywhere on the page itself.

Instead, Adobe’s page ranks #1 purely on the power of the anchor text within the incoming links that point to their page.
Incoming and Outgoing Links – Remember what we said about keeping your pages in their own topically relevant neighborhood?
The same advice applies to the pages that are linking to you. Check the incoming links of those potential link partners, as well as the other pages they are linking to. The more the page stays in its own neighborhood, the more valuable a link from that page will be to you.

And, of course, the fewer outbound links the page has, the better. That means more of the page’s link equity is focused on your inbound link rather than being diluted by having links to several other pages. In other words, a best case scenario is for the linking page to have only one outgoing link, the link to you. That way your page would be getting all of the link equity available from that link. Seldom, however, can you get this best case scenario; so go for a link on a page with the fewest outbound links possible.

Buying Links

Occasionally we suggest that you consider buying links. While this can be a very good way to quickly acquire relevant links, there are some guidelines that you must follow or else you risk hurting your rankings and possibly being penalized.

  • 1. Avoid buying links from known link brokers. Google discounts or negates purchased links whenever they know they are purchased. Therefore, unless you are buying the links strictly for traffic, don’t. Even so, if the link broker is on Google’s radar, having a link from them could result in your site being penalized in the rankings.
  • 2. Whenever buying links for the purpose of ranking better, be discreet. Avoid link brokers or anyone else who is known to be part of a link network. Instead, you should make a private arrangement and keep the purchase details confidential. If Google believes the link is natural, then you are likely to get a rank boosting link-credit for it.

When discreetly purchasing a link from another Web site, you should always ask to see the traffic stats for the page your link will be on. The more traffic, the better the link from both a ranking and a traffic generation perspective.

  • Location of the link. Ideally, you’ll want your link worked into the content of the Web page. This gives your link the opportunity to be surrounded by lots of relevant keywords (a concept known as keyword proximity) while also increasing the likelihood that someone reading the page will see and click your link.

How to Buy Links without Getting Penalized by Google

It is possible to boost your link popularity by purchasing links but you have to be smart about it. As we’ve already mentioned, you should avoid buying links from known link brokers. Such brokers typically sell links from sites whose topic is unrelated to yours, and these links tend to be placed in a page template that results in having a link from every page on that particular site. As you now know, these are called run-of-site links and they are assumed by the search engines to be purchased links.

It’s actually much better to get a single link from the homepage of a site than it is to get 100 links from every single subpage of a site. To accomplish this, it’s best to contact the owner of the site directly and discreetly. Offer to pay them to place your link on their homepage or on one of their high-traffic subpages. Remember, you’re not just paying for the link popularity; you’re also paying for the traffic the link will send you.

Don’t pay for links on pages with a lower than PageRank=3. Lots of links from unimportant Web pages won’t necessarily hurt you, but they’re not going to provide enough ranking boost to justify paying for them. One PR=7 link (especially if it’s on-topic) is worth dozens (probably hundreds) of PR=1 or 2 links. Links from low PR sites are rarely worth purchasing.

If your link is relegated to a sidebar, try to get it placed where it’s likely to be seen. The Google AdSense optimization page describes the locations on a page where a link is most likely to be clicked. Google says…

pagebreakdown

“Certain locations tend to be more successful than others.” This heat map illustrates these ideal placements on a sample page layout. The colors fade from dark orange (strongest performance) to light yellow (weakest performance).

“All other things being equal, ad placements above the fold tend to perform better than those below the fold. Ads placed near rich content and navigational aids usually do well because users are focused on those areas of a page.” To clarify, above the fold means the part of a Web page that is visible without the reader having to scroll down.

By the way, you’ll have to keep those paid links active for at least 3 or 4 months to really see significant improvement since most search engine optimization efforts require about 6 months before they begin to bear fruit. Obviously, this requires patience. But it’s worth it because once you get to the top you tend to stay there.

The type of page your link is on also plays an important role. A link on a so-called links page, alongside a hundred other links, is pretty close to useless. You may get some mileage out of it, but it would pale in comparison to most other types of links. A much more preferable link would be from an article that mentions your site and then links to you from within the article body.

Buying Ads in Ezines and Newsletters to Build Links

Perhaps the best kinds of links to buy are newsletter links. Many sites will send out a monthly or weekly newsletter to subscribers. These newsletters are typically archived on the site that publishes them. This means that, not only do you get the targeted traffic from the original publishing of the newsletter, but you also get a permanent link from the archived version of the newsletter; a link that tends to improve with age.

There is strong evidence to indicate that Google puts a time filter on new links, in order to diminish the overall boost people expect to see from purchasing links. This means that you may not receive the full effect of a link until it has been online for several months.
If you were to buy an expensive, high-PageRank link on the homepage of a popular Web site, you may have to continue paying to keep that link up for several months before you see any kind of ranking boost. This is why purchasing links in newsletters is good, since such links tend to get archived and hang around without requiring payment to keep them online. As those links mature, they become even more valuable.

Article Links and the Value of a Good Writer

One of the most powerful link-building strategies that search engines love involves content articles.

The strategy is twofold.
1. Write articles with valuable content for your own site that others will link to.
2. Write articles with valuable content for other people’s site with the agreement that the article links back to your site. And, if you lack writing talent, then you simply must hire a good writer. Sounds simple, doesn’t it. And it is. Providing great content is clearly the most effective part of a search engine optimization campaign. And, every online business needs to have at least one good writer. And we’re not talking about hiring someone on the cheap from Elance.com to write boring “filler” articles for $5 a pop about stuff everyone already knows.

And we’re definitely NOT talking about purchasing some automatic article-generating software to crank out reams of useless and meaningless “content.”

We’re talking about hiring someone who understands your industry and has a flair for creating interesting, useful information that people want to read and link to. Someone who can create articles that build a buzz! …buzz-worthy articles that can be printed on your own site to attract links and are syndicated out to other sites in exchange for a link back to you. Someone who can build a blog that generates a passionate audience of regular readers who can be funneled directly into your sales process. You need someone who can establish your business’s identity in the forums and user groups where your customers are congregating. In short, someone who is contributing real value to the global conversation taking place on the Internet and who is strongly identified as the online face of your business.

When done right, this ‘social media’ approach to building your company’s online presence is so impressively effective that most people who are doing it won’t tell you about it. They don’t want to lose their market advantage! 😉

Writing Your Way to a Higher Search Rank

Plan for ‘good writing’ to become an essential part of your online business plan—just as important (maybe more?) as your webmaster or your bookkeeper. The first way you can utilize good writing to boost your search engine rank is to produce articles that can be featured on your site. Leveraging your Web site and content to provide information of value, like articles about your industry, how-to articles and tutorials, or interviews with prominent industry figures, will increase your site strength. Find a problem plaguing your customers or other businesses in your industry, solve that problem, and then write about your solution. All of these can make excellent articles, provided they’re interesting and useful to your audience (i.e. your current and potential customers, and businesses in your own or related fields).

Good articles are link magnets. As an SEO firm, here’s the question we hear most often from new clients: Why isn’t my site ranking higher?

In almost every case, the problem is that the site doesn’t have enough incoming links. And the reason the site doesn’t have more incoming links is because the site is boring and doesn’t provide anything worth linking to. Well-written articles go a long way to solving this problem.

Syndicating Your Articles to Build Links

While featuring your articles on your site is a great way to attract incoming links, another option is to distribute those articles to other sites in exchange for a link back to your own. However you should be aware there are right and wrong ways to approach this strategy. Done correctly it is reasonable to expect to build links to the exact pages you want and with the perfect anchor text placed into your links back to your site.

However, the problems to avoid include: Low quality links, duplicate content problems, and drawing unwanted attention to your site’s optimization efforts—something that Google frowns upon as an artificial link-building tactic.

When you are ready for this tutorial, it will teach you how to find the best article distribution partners, an easy way to produce lots of high quality articles, and how to use Article Directories to your advantage. Be sure to carefully study the tutorial before you embark on Article Syndication as a method for building links.

Using Forums to Reach Customers and Build Links

Another way to utilize your ‘hired writer’ is to make them the public face of your company in Internet forums. This is a great way to increase your company’s exposure and to interact directly with potential customers. Like writing articles, this can also be quite labor-intensive. In order for it to pay dividends, you (or your writer) will need to become established as an authority (preferably a moderator) in the forum before you can expect to have much influence.

You’ll get a lot more mileage out of forums by contributing helpful, informed advice than you will by promoting yourself or your business. Once you establish credibility, you’ll find that forums can be a fairly reliable source of targeted traffic for your business.
While it’s important to establish yourself in the most widely-read forums that relate to your industry, it’s also nice if the forum lets you place within your signature line a link back to your company’s site. Not only does this make it easier for people to find your site, it also helps build a small amount of link equity along the way.

Even smaller forums often rank very well for many keyword phrases if the topic thread generates conversation in the form of posts by users. Google absolutely loves to see that participation and even goes so far to note the number of posts and authors the threads have.
Don’t overlook relevant forums as a way to reach your customer base, just make sure to observe the forum rules and culture before you post.

Blogging Your Way to Top Rankings

While it is true that blogs (aka, web logs) are easier to get highly ranked than just about any other type of Web site, it’s also true that keeping up with the demand for new and fresh information is far from easy! Blogs are a huge amount of work and anyone who underestimates the nearly superhuman effort it takes to maintain a blog AND run a business is in for a rude surprise.

It’s just another reason why it’s a good idea to have a dedicated writer on staff. In addition to writing articles that build links to your site, that person can be writing and promoting your company’s blog while you’re busy running your business.

Blog Stands For Better Listings on Google

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that blogs have clearly changed the way people communicate and do business online. Companies global and local with every kind of product and service are growing their business with the speed and reach of the Internet by using blogs for these reasons:

  • Blogs attract customers who are searching for information.
  • Blogs invite customers to learn a company’s services, products, and expertise.
  • Blogs introduce customers to people who work for the company.
  • Blogs start customer conversations.

Savvy business leaders are using blogs to talk to customers and clients and to turn those conversations into long term business relationships. Beyond the profitable people connections, blogs are the new location! location! location!.

The constantly changing, relevant content on your blog is the perfect formula for the ultimate high-ranking page in Google or another search engine—here’s why:

  • Blogs that are updated frequently are indexed often by search engines.
  • Highly indexed blogs increase visibility and sales lead generation.
  • Blogs are content-rich and relevant, which attract in-bound links and raise page rank.
  • All of those frequently updated pages give search engines more content to index, serve to searchers, and hang ads on.
  • Blogs can attract intensely loyal readership, which is social proof of its business value.
  • While a conventional Web site might have a limited number of pages, great business blogs might have hundreds. Blogs with hundreds of pages get hundreds of listings in the search engines.
  • Describe the questions and experiences which are meaningful for your audience to entice them to read your posts.
  • Discuss current industry issues. This attracts even more visitors who will look to your site for information in a frank expert fashion and establishes a trust relationship.
  • Feature interviews with leaders and customers who work in your field. These ‘experts’ will bring their friends and audiences to your blog.
  • Share ideas, create easy lists and cool widgets to help make your customer’s lives easier. This creates a community of loyal readers.

Use the power of consistent and regular updates.
Using the Power of RSS to Build Subscribers

Make sure your site feed is clearly visible. If you don’t have a subscribe link clearly visible on your blog – get one! The easier you can make it for readers to subscribe to your blog, the more subscribers you’ll get. (Also see: Help, I don’t know RSS! What do I need to know to set-up my own feeds?)

Free Blog Software and Hosting
The free hosted sites work if your purpose is private thinking, a short-term launch site or early practice before you get serious about blogging. Free services are fabulous for journals and hobby blogs. However they offer serious limitations for a business blog. The two most popular free services are Blogger and WordPress.com

The benefits:

 

  • Blogger blogs tend to get indexed almost immediately.
  • It requires no technical expertise. You can be up and blogging in ten minutes or less.
  • You can even use your own URL, such as http://yourname.com which is good practice.
  • Google also allows people to use Google Adsense and their other analytical tools on Blogger.

 

The downfalls:

  • The number of themes are limited and soon you’ll find that many others are using the same theme that you choose.
  • Finding service help when the system or the blog is down can be a problem.
  • Spammers have found the ease of using a Blogger blog a boon to their business practices. So, a large percent of Blogger blogs are simply set up to attract traffic to highly popular keywords. They also republish un-permissioned content from legitimate blogs
  • Because of the spamming history visitors tend to cast a skeptic’s shadow over businesses that use blogger software straight “out of the box.”

Submit to Blog Directories:
Embrace Email
Start a Post Ideas Log
Embrace Guest Blogging
Add Social Proof
Rotate Content Formats
Join a Mastermind Group:
There is nothing wrong with getting help with your blog from the Pros. Finding an environment where like-minded blog owners come together to collaborate, learn and network in a members-only environment is a great resource for new and experienced blog owners alike. One of the most popular is ProBlogger.com share and exchange tips and advice. Just as you would offline with your local Chamber of Commerce seeking out like-minded blogging professionals within your niche is a surefire way to jumpstart your blog.

Distributing Press Releases to Build Links

Press releases, once they are initially syndicated by Google News and other news agencies, can send you a quick burst of traffic; however, after that, these same press releases will often be archived in a number if locations. They typically remain online and indexed in the search
engines for years. This, in turn, provides you with mature links that continue to contribute to your Web site’s overall web presence and,
thusly, your Web page search ranking.

Before you begin doing online Press Releases, be sure to study this Advanced SEO

Buying Abandoned Web Sites to Gain Links Quickly

It’s been estimated that nearly half of all small businesses started in the U.S. fail within the first four years. While in the brick-and-mortar world this means closing up shop and letting someone else use the real estate, in the online world those failed business can appear to be hanging around for years while the site owner keeps them online in hopes that business will improve.

Many such businesses could be ripe for purchase at rock-bottom prices. Sure, their (lack-of) profit model might not be enticing, but what about the links they’ve already accumulated? In terms of initial cash outlay it might be a bit more expensive than other link-building tactics,
but when measured in time savings it could be a bargain.

One of the best ways to find those abandoned sites is to do a search in Google for outdated copyrights, such as: “copyright 2009” + your keywords Nothing says a site has given up trying like an out-of-date copyright footer at the bottom of each page. (Hint: to give your customers the impression you’re up-to-date, current, and still in business, keep your copyright footers updated to the current year.) Obviously, you can also search for “copyright 2010”, “copyright 2006”, (include the quotes for exact match) or any other year that’s not current.

Other good searches to find abandoned or underperforming sites that can be purchased for cheap include “temporarily down for maintenance” or “under construction”. Just make sure the domain name hasn’t already expired on the site you’re thinking about purchasing.
Once a domain expires, Google wipes the slate clean, thereby reducing to zero the value of any incoming links or PageRank the site may have acquired.

Why Would You Want to Buy an Existing Web Site?

Established Links – Why rent links when you can own the entire site? Older domains tend to have a much higher number of quality inbound links which were developed gradually over time. As we’ve discussed in previous reports, the older the links pointing at your site are – the more powerful and more trusted they’ll be seen by the search engine.

Redirect PageRank – Instead of buying a site with the intention of making it your primary site, another highly-effective strategy is to buy a site with the intention of pointing some of its links at your primary site. In some cases you may want to 301 redirect the entire site.

An Investment – If you continue to cultivate and improve the site, you can often resell it for far more than you paid. Other times, buying a site might simply be the only way you can get that great domain name you really want to use for your new venture (and starting that venture out with a site that’s already got great links doesn’t hurt either).

Where to Find the Best Site-Buying Opportunities

Once you have decided to go on your quest to acquire that perfect site, you need to know where to start looking. Luckily we have compiled a list of some of the best places to buy existing Web sites:

There really are countless forums devoted entirely to buying and selling sites

Here is a list of 7 variables we highly recommend that you consider when deciding on the value of a site.

  1. Cost: How much would it cost to build an equivalent site?
  2. Reoccurring costs: How much does the site cost to run for hosting, speciality programming and maintenance, software licenses, etc. This information is very important to know.
  3. Time: How much time would it take you to build such a site?
  4. Existing Income: Is the site making money? Is there an existing business model? (Find out their business’s expenses, such as software licensing, hosting, advertising {PPC, etc.} and maintenance.)
  5. Established Links: How many links does the site have? Where are they from? Is the site owner in control of any of those inbound links?

    Don’t get caught in a trap where you pay top dollar for a well-linked, high-PageRank site, only to find out the previous owner controls those links and doesn’t intend to keep them pointed at the site after the sale.

  6. Traffic Count: What are the site’s true traffic stats? It’s not at all inappropriate to inquire about page views, unique users, rate of growth over time, and be sure to see some server logs to back those numbers up.
  7. Visitor Loyalty: Are the site’s users going to bail when the site owner sells? If you’re looking at a blog, or a forum be very aware that the person hosting the site is likely the key reason the users are there, and this also extends to other members of the site that people are following. It is very likely that when the site owner and other key members leave, many of their fans will follow them. If you want to attempt purchasing a site like this, do make arrangements for the previous “personalities” to stick around for a reasonable amount of time after ownership changes, and you might want to consider a non-compete agreement.
  8. Keyword Strength: What keywords does the site rank for? Perhaps more importantly – what terms could it rank for with some development work?
  9. Technology: How up to date is the site? Is it based on HTML code from the 1990’s, or is the site up to date using CSS design and modern practices? Make sure to factor in what it will cost to bring the site up to date with design, standards, and software.
  10. Resale Value: If you were to turn the site around and sell it, what could you potentially get for the domain?

Don’t overlook the value of a directory listing in DMOZ and Yahoo – there are domains out there that are grandfathered in at Yahoo (and other directories) that do not pay listing fees.

How to Analyze a Domain

Once you have a list of sites that have potential, it’s prudent to spend time analyzing the site to make sure it’s not banned or has a penalty.

  • Does the site rank for its domain name, text in the title, and different chunks of text found on its pages? Penalized sites will often have trouble ranking for easy search phrases such as the site name.
  • Look at the history of the site in the Wayback Machine to get an idea of what kind of site it has been over time. You might discover that the site was previously something vastly different than it is now.

Negotiating the Sale

If you’re buying a site through a site-buying forum, then the process is very clearly defined. However, things can be a little murkier if you’ve found a site in the search engines and are contacting the owner directly via their contact form or their whois data.

Here are a few useful guidelines to follow when negotiating the sale of a site:

  • Don’t make your initial offer more than 75% of the max you’re willing to go. Leave yourself some room to negotiate.
  • Don’t come off as overly sophisticated about the process. If the owner gets the impression you’re an experienced buyer of Web sites, they will likely hold out for a higher priced offer.
  • Always use a reliable escrow company (such as Escrow.com) to handle the transfer of funds. This protects both you and the seller from fraud. For very expensive purchases, consider having your attorney draw up a purchase contract.

How to Safely Transfer a Site to Your Ownership Without Tipping Google Off

Search engines, specifically Google, have publicly stated their desire to prevent marketers from buying domains and taking over their old links for the purpose of gaining PageRank. It’s quite likely that they monitor domain registration information and keep historic records on this data (Google is one of the largest DNS registrars around). As a certified domain name registrar, Google has access to databases of public whois information and can easily monitor changes within this data.

Google also watches for changes in the domain registration information. If they detect the site has new ownership, they may reset the site’s inbound link credit and PageRank. Google’s goal is to prevent people from capitalizing on a site’s existing incoming links and trust by simply purchasing that site. They’re much less likely to do this if the site continues on the same topic and provides the same information and resources that it was originally given credit (links) for.

If a domain expires, it is almost certain that search engines will wipe clean the PageRank and incoming link credit. Typically they will treat the domain name as a brand new one when it is reactivated. If the site is reactivated and no other changes are detected (content, hosting, ownership) then it’s possible that the site may retain its links.

Once you’ve found a domain to buy and have settled on terms with the buyer, here are the steps you’ll need to take in order to transfer ownership over to you:

  • First – you NEED access to the email account listed in the whois registration data for the admin contact. Once you have control of that email account you can approve moving the site to other registrars, switch it to new DNS servers at a new hosting company and modify the registrar owner contact information. Without having control of the administrative contact email address, you do NOT have working control of the Web site.
    If it’s not possible to get that email address transferred to your control (perhaps because it’s the previous owner’s personal email), then have the old owner change that admin email address over to an email account you do control. Ideally they’ll create an email address for you under that domain (such as admin@domain.com) and give that to you.Remember, you Do Not own the domain until you are listed as the email contact and have control of that email account. Plus…if you are planning on buying and selling sites in volume, you may want to use a different email address for this activity than the one you are using for your other sites.
  • Next, we do know that Google will not reset a site’s PageRank just for changing ISPs, therefore the first step you may want to take after you have access to the admin email account is to move the site to your own server. If you establish an email account such as admin@domain.com as mentioned above, all you have to do is update the DNS server information to the new hosting account you wish to use.
  • Finally, changing the registrant contact information. Here’s the point where things get a bit tricky. Ideally you want to avoid changing this information as it can tip off the search engines that the site has changed hands. If you decide to move the site to a new Web host, try to avoid changing the registrant contact information for several months. Move slowly through all these changes to avoid any yellow flags by the search engines.

How to Obtain Valuable Links from .edu and .gov Domains

While it’s tricky to conclusively prove, there is ample evidence that Google places high value on links coming from .gov and .edu top level domains (TLDs). Because these TLDs are only available to government sites and accredited educational institutions, links that originate from them are somewhat exclusive and difficult for the average person to obtain.

Therefore, these links are much harder to manipulate and that’s why they are trusted and valued more than links coming from non .gov and .edu domains.

In fact, unless you’re creative, it’s almost impossible to get links from these domains. However, thinking creatively opens up all kinds of possibilities. The .edu domains, especially, offer several opportunities.
First, do you have services you can donate to the school in exchange for a link back? Web design and SEO firms are especially suited in this regard, but many businesses can find some way to contribute either products or expertise to a school or their Web site.
Second, most schools give their students a small amount of web space in order to host that
student’s personal Web page. There are literally millions of these personal student Web pages
available and getting a link from any one of them can help your site in the search results. In
fact, if you attended college, you may find that your school will make one of these pages
available to you as an alumnus.
You could also consider offering a special student discount on your site. Students can receive
this discount if they link back to your site from their personal Web page hosted on an .edu
domain.
Beyond that, your potential for acquiring links from college students is limited only by your
imagination and promotional creativity. (Pizza for links anyone?)

Providing Tools & Resources to Attract Links

It is interesting to note that the homepage for blogging resource provider WordPress.org is a
PageRank=9! That’s largely because of the huge number of sites that use the WordPress
blogging software. You see, the resource cleverly embeds a ‘powered by WordPress’ link
built into its web interface. Multiply that out over millions of blogs and you get a recipe for a
very powerful incoming link structure that builds steadily and looks perfectly ‘natural’ to
Google.
Your business may not be able to duplicate the extraordinary success of WordPress, but their
example illustrates a powerful way to accumulate incoming links by building popular web-
based software and distributing it with an embedded backlink in the user interface.
The alternative is to build a tool that’s a popular resource and host it on your own site in order
to attract links.

Using your Affiliate Program as Link Magnet

Starting an affiliate program can also be an excellent way to build incoming links. As you
may know, many affiliate programs use special modified URLs to track which affiliate is
responsible for which sales. For example, Amazon has an enormous number of affiliates
linking to them with links that look like:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect?path=ASIN/123456789

Obviously, each is an incoming link to Amazon. However, in this case, the link is going to a
subpage that Amazon probably doesn’t care about ranking highly. However, to get better
mileage from such an incoming link, you should consider redirecting the link to pass PageRank
and link equity to your site’s homepage.
When you are ready to implement this advanced SEO tactic, you can learn how it’s done by
studying these two very detailed Advanced SEO Tutorials:

Social Networking to Build Links

There’s an often-overlooked social networking aspect to link building. If you’re well-known
and have connections within either your industry or one that is closely related, then you
should use those connections to get links to your site. Hypothetically, if you had a site that
sold bodybuilding supplements and your uncle was Arnold Schwarzenegger, you might
consider asking him to link to your site from his own.
Of course this tongue-in-cheek example just illustrates the fact that who you are and who you
know can also play a significant role in link building. Therefore, remember to seize this
opportunity whenever you’re attending industry conferences or any type of networking
function that might lend itself to the link building efforts.

Discover Who’s Linking To Your Competitors

The smart marketer knows that competitors have already blazed the trail. In many cases,
finding pages that rank well for your keywords, and emulating your competitors’ link-
building strategies, is the place to start building your own links. In other words, your
competitors’ links could be your links too. And, sometimes, they could be your links instead!
By integrating the strategies outlined above, and offering content to sites that are linking to
your competitors, you’ll soon find your pages are also in the mainstream. In due time,
persistence tends to royally pay off. And, sooner or later, you’re likely to outrank the
competitors from whom you ‘borrowed’ your link-partner ideas. Later in the next lesson on
Competitive Analysis, we’ll talk more in detail about how you might implement this strategy.

Linkbaiting via Social Media: the fastest & safest way to acquire links in bunches

We’ve saved the best linking strategy for last. Linkbaiting is the ONE strategy that we have not yet addressed and is arguably the most effective at getting lots of links quickly. If there is a problem with linkbaiting it’s this: the links you get are rarely on-topic.
Nevertheless, Google likes these kinds of links—even when they are accumulated quickly! In a nutshell, this tactic involves creating content that is so compelling that average people feel they simply must tell others about it by linking to it via blogs, forums,
email, and so forth. You place content on your site that literally “baits” people into linking to it.

Think YouTube. Use humor, outrage, demonstration, and even news.

There are seemingly endless examples of YouTube linkbait strategies that have been immensely successful in acquiring links by the thousands!

  1. Provide tools and resources that are so valuable they excite people to tell others about them.
  2. How to Lists, Top Ten Lists, etc., that are so useful that people feel compelled to share.
  3. Writing about a controversial topic in such a way that is either so shocking or so supportive that people are either outraged or impressed enough that they simply can’t helpthemselves; that have to share by placing a link to your content.

The term most often applied to this style of incoming link generation is ‘viral marketing’ which we define as:
The online version of word-of-mouth. Viral Marketing relies on self-propagating or self-replicating methods to circulate within multiple networks aimed at trying to reach a large audience in a short amount of time. It is usually spread using email, blogs, and
other social networking or marketing channels.

To fully grasp the complete picture of how this versatile and powerful method for acquiring legitimate links quickly, you must study all four of these critically important Advanced SEO

Tutorials that are located inside the membership area of SearchEngineNews.com:
LinkBaiting: The #1 *Secret* Art Used By Top SEO’s to Gather Links In
Bunches!
How to Promote Your Link Bait – 10 strategies that work!
How to Create Content, Build Links and Increase Search Rankings by Marketing
with the Digg Effect
Pinterest is HUGE! Here’s How to Harness it’s SEO Power.

Finding the Right Link Balance

You’ll want to avoid letting your incoming link structure get too homogeneous. Incoming links from only one type of site or only to your homepage or all with identical anchor text are telltale clues that could cause a search engine to flag your site for an unnatural link structure. Ranking penalties could then follow.

You should strive to achieve a general 80/20 link balancing act:

That means;

  • 80% of your links come from topically relevant sources and 20% from unrelated or marginally related sources.
  • 80% or less of your incoming links going to your homepage with at least 20% (more is better) of your links going to subpages deeper within your site.
  • 80% of your links having your keywords in the anchor text, 20% percent with something less optimized like “click here” or your domain name as the anchor text;
  • 80% of your links are one-way links, 20% are reciprocal.

Of course, these numbers are only general guidelines. The point is that you don’t want your
site to appear overly optimized, so it’s important to balance your link ratios.

Is Having a Great Site Enough?

Some “experts” claim that having the best site for your category will be enough to attract all the links you’ll ever need. While keeping a straight face, they righteously profess that, time spent on building links is better spent on improving your Web site. At best, this is only partially true. The other side of the discussion states that; If people don’t know about your site, it doesn’t matter how good your content is.

And our years of experience has taught us, that’s a fact!

Clearly there are many, many great sites out there that provide top notch content but get very little traffic because of poor search engine positioning. People would likely link to them IF they knew about them. But, without links, neither the search engines nor people will find them in first place. And, thus, the links never happen. To paraphrase an old saying: it takes links to get links!

As your site improves its search rankings, you’ll sooner or later reach a tipping point where you’ll acquire links without even asking; simply because your site is more visible. Sites on the first page of the search results for any competitive keyword can often acquire large numbers of links without even trying. But, if you’re link-poor, it can be an extraordinary challenge to get a leg up without actively seeking links to get the link building process started.

Here’s Your Link Building Roadmap!

When you are ready to embark on your link building campaign, here is one of the most important Advanced SEO Tutorials for you to study and then implement. It literally maps out your Link Building Strategy!

Your 6-Step Link Building Task Planner
And, while this may be the shortest chapter in the book, the Advanced SEO Tutorial listed above may be the one that produces your most productive results. Be sure to study it and then implement the strategies step by step.

Final Review

Congratulations! You have just finished the largest and most important lesson of this course. In this lesson:
1. You have been warned to avoid OLD link building and SEO tactics in general because old information that teaches outdated SEO strategies and tactics can truly mess up your chances of ranking at the top of the search results; possibly forever! Beware.
2. You have been taught the Link Basics. The definitions of Anchor Text, URLs, Inbound, Outbound, and Reciprocal Links.
3. You’ve learned that Link Popularity is an evolving concept and how today’s search engines place more ranking-value on some incoming links over others and they base that value on Web page importance.
4. You’ve become familiar with Google’s imperfect, but widely used, Toolbar PageRank scoring system of rating the importance of Web pages.
5. You’ve learned the difference between natural and artificial link structure and why it’s important to keep your incoming links looking natural.
6. You’ve learned the importance of getting links from on-topic pages and choosing your links wisely.
7. Now you know the importance of link equity and getting your links on high traffic pages that do not already have a lot of outbound links.
8. You’ve been warned to avoid ‘run-of-site’ links.
9. You’ve been taught the importance of maintaining consistency in the format of your incoming link URL’s.
10. You’ve learned the importance of getting your keywords into the anchor text of your inbound links.
11. You now know the importance of getting deep links.
12. You’ve been introduced to the nofollow link tag and have been warned to look for it when evaluating the quality of a link.
13. You have been warned to avoid linking to link farms, web rings, & site networks; and generally, to be very careful who you link to.
14. You have been directed to the best place to start getting links; Directories like Yahoo, DMOZ, etc.
15. You’ve learned the importance of getting ‘on-topic’ links
16. You have been given a host of alternative, frequently overlooked yet effective potential incoming link sources.
17. You now know the problem with having too many reciprocal links and how to be smart about building these types of links.
18. You’ve learned how to evaluate the quality of a link; and why it’s important that you do so.
19. You have been taught the rules you must apply whenever you buy links.
20. You know a good writer is essential to building your company’s online presence.
21. You’ve learned how to write your way to higher listings with article marketing.
22. You now know about building links with Article Syndication.
23. You’ve learned how forums can be used to reach customers and build links.
24. You’ve been shown how a blog can be used for better search rankings.
25. You know that Press Releases can be used to build quality links.
26. You know you may be able to gain links quickly by buying abandoned Web sites.
27. You now know how to buy links without getting penalized by Google.
28. You’ve learned how Ezine and Newsletters Ads can be used to build incoming links.
29. You know the value of links coming from .edu and .gov domains and have great strategies for getting them.
30. You’ve learned that providing tools & resources are great ways to build links.
31. How your Affiliate Program can be used to attract links.
32. The often overlooked link building aspects of social networking.
33. The importance of knowing who is linking to your competitors and why that can help you get your own links from their list.
34. You’ve been taught the incredible strategy of LinkBaiting via Social Media and Viral Marketing; the fastest and safest way to acquire links in bunches.
35. You have learned the proper link balance and the dangers of having too many of any single type of link.
36. Why just having ‘good content’ isn’t the key to top rankings; the critical importance of adopting a proactive approach to link building.
37. And you have been directed to Your Link Building Roadmap—likely to be the most productive tutorial in the Advanced Section of this SEO course.

 

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