Today’s post is a guest post by Tyler Herman. Tyler is a web designer, internet marketer, and has some great insights into quality link building. As we all know with recent updates in Google and more updates sure to come, quality content and links are now vital to the success of your online business. Tyler shares some great strategies that work. I do have to warn you that there are some advanced tactics in here like building “pumper sites” or buying links that are probably not a good idea for everyone. However, Tyler is simply sharing what many companies do to rank their sites, the choice to follow any of this advice is up to you. Overall, I think Tyler captures well the amount of effort and time it takes to truly build up a real quality link profile. Enjoy the post!
I decided to write this post because it seems like a lot of people in the internet marketing community don’t know how to build a quality link profile. For a while now many internet marketers have been building link profiles that consisted of entirely:
- Automated blasts of wiki links, social bookmark spam, spam comments, and spun article submissions
- Tons of forums profiles with zero forum activity
- Thin web 2.0s propped up with crappy links (see above) made into tiers or pyramids, or broken wheels or rainbows (made that up) or whatever “system” is the new fad
If you are one of the people still doing this, let me be the person to burst your bubble. These types of link building practices are working less and less successfully with every Google update. Not only that, but you are setting yourself up for a penalty. It really is time to consider learning how to build a real link profile. Even if you only build 2 or three real links to your site, it may mean the difference between getting the Google hammer and surviving to see another day.
Just as a disclaimer of sorts. These techniques actually take lots of time and/or money to complete. They are not quick, or easy, and are harder to automate. Which means they probably aren’t meant for thin, niche sites, but you might find a few things here you can use, or if you decide to build a real authority site, here is how you do it.
A Solid Base of Valuable Content
If you want to rank for a truly difficult keyword, having amazing content won’t necessarily help you get there. But what it will do, is make it much easier to keep that ranking once you get there, because of longer time on page, lower bounce and exits rates, more social buzz, plus, more natural links. So if you plan on putting huge amounts of time into a site, which many of these techniques will require, you are going to want the very best content in the niche, or as close to it as you can muster.
Your entire site doesn’t have to be quality, but the handful of money pages you are ranking need to be targeted, relevant and highly useful to your users. You can probably rank a five dollar article to the first page, but it will be a lot easier to keep it there if you write better content.
One way to judge the quality and shareability of your content is to throw targeted traffic at it. An example would be Stumbleupon’s Paid Discovery. You can spend a small-ish amount of money, to get a few hundred targeted visitors to your page, and see if they thumb it up or down.
OK, quality content, duh. Lets get to the link building.
Building Highly Linkable Properties
There is only so much you can do with blog posts or pages on your site. Some content just isn’t that shareable or link worthy. Are you going to tweet a link to that article you found that helped you with your herpes outbreak? Probably not. But it isn’t just embarrassing topics, some content is simply too dry, boring or too mundane to share or link to.
So in order to build links you’ll have to build some properties that can and will get shared easily. There are lots more than even these listed, you just have to be clever and think of 1) what will people find valuable and 2) can I put a link on it. Here is a sample list:
- Web themes, plugins, and templates
- Screencasts and Videos
- Web apps and mobile apps
- Ecards and greetings
- Vectors and other free graphics
- Powerpoints and other presentations
- Audio files
- Other downloads
- Meetups and webinars – things people will signup for, talk about, blog about
But as you probably know, if you build it they won’t come. You have to get these assets in front of the people who want them. We have a few tricks to do this.
Here’s one little trick for people planing on selling products from your site like ebooks. Start out by writing one ebook, and put it up for affiliates to sell at 100% commission. You give it away for free to affiliates to make 100% of the profit. Which will bring in far more affiliates willing to hock your product, increasing the number of links and traffic heading into your site. One of the cheapest forms of advertising online is letting affiliates do it for you.
Another way to promote your assets is to pay or make an arrangement with popular blogs in the niche to promote them. Not hard to get some buzz around your freebies.
You can submit your assets to blogs, download sites, galleries, anything that will take them. They almost always give a link back to the creator of the asset. This is a nice way to get links from high PR software company sites.
The basic idea is to build or buy sites for the sole purpose of linking back, and driving traffic to your money site. You control the amount of links and the anchor text. They are tougher to maintain than 2.0s because they require their own hosting and domain and take more work to create and maintain.
If you have a money site that doesn’t get a lot of natural links on it’s own, you’ll want to build pumper sites on similar or related topics that are easier to get links and traffic for. Then you can funnel that traffic to your money site.
If your money site is in the financial niche (hard to rank), you could make a pumper site about ponzi schemes and other financial crimes. Not impossible to rank, lots of traffic potential, lots of potential for getting links. Not the greatest example but hopefully you get the idea.
Not everyone has the time or resources to build an entire blog network but 10 pumper sites can have a good effect on your money site. In order to cut down on the amount of work required, it helps to buy expired domains. Or if you have the cash, buy established sites.
Remember most sites that aren’t making any money aren’t worth a whole lot, so you can actually come up with some cheap sites if you look around hard enough. You are looking for sites in or around your niche with natural link profiles. Don’t buy sites from internet marketers. They’re generally crap sites with crap links. Look for real sites that have dropped or don’t seem to be in use any more.
Unlike what some of you are used to with 2.0s you are going to want to keep these sites updated. Having pumper site with real traffic is the goal. They may even make a little money on their own and could compete with your money site at times for some longtail keywords. Never a bad thing to have two or three dogs in the fight.
The little brother of pumper sites. I’m not going to go into this with any detail because you all should know about them already. One thing though, it is better to build 10 2.0s that you update once a month compared to 50 that you build and never touch again. It isn’t hard to turn a Tumblr, WordPress or Blogger blog into a PR2 or PR3.
There are some services available where people will build you quality 2.0’s and charge you a monthly fee to keep them updated. Can be as good as renting links if you stay with it long enough.
Renting and Buying Links
Not really a topic people bring up in public often, but lets be honest, it is still pretty rampant across the internet, especially with large corporations with large budgets. Having a couple of site wide links on a few PR4, PR5 sites will give your site a real shot in the arm. I’m not telling you to go buy links, but, if you want to compete for top keywords, your competition is probably doing it. With any blackhat strategy there is risk, but you’re all big boys and girls. Try ranking your site the legit way, if you still can’t get there, then consider buying links.
I would stay away from services on this one, as the sites those links get posted on have a footprint and a history of selling links. Instead try to contact individual sites on your own. Start out by asking for a guest posts or link exchange. If that doesn’t work put a figure out to them and see if they bite. Something like, “Hey I noticed you have a blog roll on your site. We feel our site fits your audience perfectly. How can we get linked there?”
Not as great as they once where but the big ones can still be worth it. The big ones:
- Yahoo – $299 a year
- Business.com – $299 a year
- Botw – $149 annual or $249 all time
- DMOZ – free but hard to get into
Another old one. If you can’t write or don’t have time, you can find lots of guest post services available around the web. You can pay anywhere from $30 to $200 per post, depending on the quality level of the writer and the PR of the blog they’ll be posting on. It can take up to a month for a guest post to get approved and up on a site but it is worth it.
One trick. Take a look at the link profile of your competitors. Eventually you’ll come across one of their guest posts. Now copy part of their author bio and do a search for it in quotes. You now have a list of the places they’ve made guest posts and you should be able to score guest posts at all these sites as well.
Authority and Social Proof
Ok, I’ve given you a few examples of ways to build authority links, and there are some more down below but first I want to talk a bit about social proof, authority and how it relates to getting people to link to you.
If you see two videos on Youtube, with the same title, same image even, but one has a million views and the other 24, you are going to watch the one with a million views 99% of the time, unless of course you’re just trying to prove me wrong. You think people can’t be gamed or duped into liking, viewing or sharing content but you are wrong.
The popular content on most social sites gets there because people paid to get it there. It can’t be total crap, but if it’s decent and promoted right you can float anything to the top. The more popular it appears, the more it get’s shared, even if the popularity was faked to start.
It really is pretty simple. The more likes, the more shares, the more views a piece of content has, the more likely real people are going to share it themselves. Humans are herd animals and tend to follow along and be validated by what the group says, thinks and does.
How many times have you not watched a youtube video because it had 70% thumbs downs or not bought something on Amazon because the reviews were bad. Those metrics can and are gamed on a regular basis, and yet we still act on them. Man we’re dumb.
I don’t think the general public is going to catch onto this for quite a while, if ever, so use this to your advantage. Social signals are incredibly easy to game. Much easier and cheaper than search these days. You can buy likes, views and shares for almost nothing. I’m willing to bet there are more bot accounts on Twitter than actual people these days.
Putting This Knowledge to Use
There are tons of very cheap ways to fake social proof and make yourself look like an authority. Never have a Facebook widget on your site unless you have a bunch of followers. For a new site, just buy them. Same thing applies for Youtube, Yelp, Google Plus, Pinterest and LinkedIn. There are plenty of services available and they’re cheap.
If you have to create your own fake accounts and share, comment on, and like your own content, do it. Or if you have a VA have them do it. Someone has to get the ball rolling.
Fake it ’til you make it
You might think this is dishonest but I guarantee all the big boys online are doing the same thing and not feeling bad about it what so ever. People want to be told what to like. So give them what they want. It might as well be you making the money instead of some other jackass.
This is a great way to get social shares, links, email subscribers, comments and of course, traffic. The most common method you see today is people giving away a free ebook for signing up on a list. It works the same way for getting social signups, comments, likes, any metric you are trying to build. It can also work for links. Create a contest for bloggers with a nice prize and you’ll get a lot of the contestants to naturally link to your contest page and share it via social media.
Any contest is a great way to dig up traffic and links. Just find a way to dangle that worm in front of them, and they’ll bite. You can use paid traffic, paid social promotion or give some other sort of incentive to authorities in the niche to spread the word.
Widgets and Awards
The biggest web design gallery awwwards.com gives it’s “winners” a little badge they can place on their website that links back to awwwards.com. This tactic can work in other niches, you just have to be clever about it. Examples might be: locally owned businesses, organic or green sites, standing for a certain cause, or maybe being a part of a specific group.
Lots of people us WordPress so create custom widgets or make your awards or badges fit naturally into a widget. Instant site wide link.
Press releases are similar to social media but are sent out to the media in hopes they’ll publish it. Essentially a short article about your business that could be about new product launches, current promotions, community service projects, local team sponsorships. You get the idea. Once you have your release written you can pay to have it distributed. The more you pay the bigger the sites are you could have your release featured on.
If you are familiar with article marketing it is very similar. You have to write content that people want to publish. Since this is about business, go have a look at Wall Street Journal and Yahoo Finance and see what press releases they’re publishing.
If your site is or is going to be a real business, you need to be doing this. Remember social proof, this is part of it. If you need links from news organizations you can either be an expert, write for them, or get your press release published.
Want to push your way into a niche. Find a way to connect with the people already established.
One way might be to create a niche-wide newsletter or curation site (perfect idea for a pumper site). You can highlight and promote the best posts, news and resources from around the web. Send it to other sites in the niche and show that you’re promoting their content. Everyone likes free promotion, and they’ll remember who you are now hopefully. So when you come calling with a favor you’ll be more inclined to get it.
These business to business connects are highly valuable.
Natural Link Building
If you weren’t aware, natural links are those from other sites who you didn’t pay, contact, or guest post for. They just liked your content, or hated it, or for some other reason felt like giving you a link.
So you have some great content, promotions, contests all that stuff ready to go. You’ve faked the social proof, making it look like there’s a bunch of buzz about your content, but you still aren’t bringing in the traffic numbers you want to see yet and you still aren’t fully ranked. You know the content is good, and people will link/share it if given the opportunity to do so. You now just have to lead the horse to water, or at least speed the process along.
Which is where paid traffic comes in. Methods include: PPC, CPA, CPM ads, retargeted ads, paid social share and promotion, paid posts, press releases, offline and traditional advertising, and so on.
Here is a good list of online advertising platforms from 3 Things.
You are probably well aware of Google ads but there are tons of other ad networks out there, and most of them are cheaper, although the quality level can be lower. You’ll just have to do some testing with each and see what your return is.
There is no diminishing returns with any of these methods but the more you can diversity the better off you’ll be. For a new site you might do something like this:
Set up your social profiles and buy followers. Create a few videos, a few tutorials, a couple presentations to share and promote them. Create an initial press release to announce your site. Pay to have one or two other linkable properties made and distribute them. Build or buy a couple pumper sites. Build or buy some 2.0s. Submit to a couple directories. Start putting out five guest posts a month. This alone should be a very solid link base for any website and may be even more than you need. But if you still aren’t ranking…
After that you can work on a promotion: adding in affiliates, starting to advertise, more press releases for your contests and promotions. Then begin to buy links, build more linkable properties and build additional pumper sites and 2.0s.
Hopefully you get the idea and some of this is helpful to you. Obviously, you can’t do this for a niche site making $100 a month but when you are ready to promote an authority site, these are the tools that will get it done.
Tyler Herman is a web designer and internet marketer. Currently, working on some free tutorials and resources geared toward small business owners. Instructing them how to build a WordPress site, create email campaign, and otherwise promote their business online, over at tylerherman.com.