This is the third and final installment of the link building tutorial. If I have left any types of links out, please add them to the comments and we can discuss them there. I have been very opinionated throughout this tutorial as I have been hands-on numerous campaigns since the late 90’s to date, much of what is here is based on experience and not necessarily on fact, as I believe only Google can give us the facts (which of course no one is going to give away all the answers), all we can do is utilize what we see working in each industry and make decisions on the types of links to use based on research.
To read this tutorial in its entirety, please start at the beginning:
- Part 1 : Link Building & Determining Link Quality
- Part 2 : Link Building : Social Links, Reciprocal Links and .edu & .gov Links
Article Links and Press Release Links
I classified these together because they are both syndicated and loose value over time as they get archived. Similar to blog posts in adding a quick short burst of link weight. Unfortunately most article sites are devalued by Google the way directories are since they are often used for spam and generally offer recycled content. Most articles are duplicated via syndication and can cause duplicate content issues to occur, so to some extent these need to be monitored to avoid negative effects which are rare until they happen to you.
There are three kinds of articles. The first are the garbage articles written solely for the purpose of a content link to the target site and/or to generate clicks on paid search links (not paid text links), but ads like Google Adsense ads. The second are articles made for traffic. WoooHooo! What would you say if I told you articles lead to traffic and/or business? You would do it yourself, well here you go.
It is my understanding, and many other SEO’s that I speak to seem to share this opinion, that Search Engines like articles for multiple reasons that may include the link bait factor that many articles may have.
The Fading Power of Articles: Like blogs, articles start out with a link from a top level page and as a sole original piece of work. Many MFA (Made for Adsense) sites will pull article feeds. Some good sites will use them as well so you generally get a mix when syndicating. They tend get archived and become less powerful of a link as they fade in presence and importance to the sites architecture. They also get duplicated out of Google and fall into the supplemental index, or into the world of duplicate obscurity. Unfortunately Google does have a duplicate content filter that lets a percentage of original content fall victim to duplication and it buries it in its index. I recommend that you do NOT syndicate articles that you also place on your site. We forbid our clients to do this as a large percentage of duplicate content on a site can potentially cause the whole site to be devalued. This is not a stab at the Search Engines, just a fact that should be addressed because if the writers and artists loose their work and even after complaining cannot get credit for it, then the current method of analyzing is just plain old wrong.
Press releases offer a similar syndicated power, but usually across better networks of sites (to some extent), or at least the higher paid syndicated releases do. We like the PRWeb.com releases. Press releases often reach news sites, portals and even get exposure on large news networks (with broader syndication more along the lines of a PRnewswire release which has the largest distribution of all the PR Syndication services). Press releases are often commented on and some do in turn generate traffic for a short period of time. Press Releases can, like articles, also generate interest and conversions for your products and services. Press releases pass PageRank from the initial syndication and then the sites that pick them up. They have a slightly better performance then articles and sometimes better than blogs, but that is really a speculative theory. We recommend the use of Press Releases as a great part of any link baiting and/or link building campaign.
Resource Page Links
They are what they say they are, links on resource pages of websites. If they are not on networks, these links can be powerful as it is one link on a related site. Keep in mind related is the key. This increases the theme-ing of the on-page SEO and the Industry based popularity. Resource links are best as one-way links. Many companies now try and make them three (3) way links, which means links are exchanged from multiple sites. The three-way links are believed to have banned some companies from Google feeling at the time it was spam. Threeways do not seem like a problem, but because they have a desired goal of increasing one-way link popularity, that could be considered spam. The interesting way to look at this would be to say something to the effect of “anything with the intention of increasing ones rankings could be considered spam”, which in turn would be called SEO which would technically mean that anything we do to make a site rank better is against some Search Engines Terms of Service. – Go Figure.
Whether or not a site will actually be banned in this day and age for three ways is unknown, I would assume it is not likely and more likely to be a devalued exchange since no Search Engine states that this method should not be used, let me know in the comments if I missed this somewhere.
This also falls into cross linking, which means multiple sites link to each other or within a network having a linking relationship that may be intentional to increase PageRank, so in effect this type of three way link exchange linking can cause trouble if it is excessive.
Resource links are an older and traditional method and are usually, but not always, reciprocal links. However sometimes some companies will add related sites they like, but this is generally rare as everyone seems to want something for something.
Resource page links on good quality related sites are recommended. We try and use them for our clients depending on the industry terms and the competitions methodologies.
If you’re like every marketer out there you most likely post and chat on topics in a few industry forums. Many forums allow links in signatures, some do not. Forum links have helped sites rank and do pass some good value. Despite the sometimes off-topic links added to signatures, they still show in Google backlinks for sites that do rank well (then again so do nofollow links, so we need to measure by trying to notice an effect from this strategy as a sole campaign method).
These however are not in my opinion the best links. They may be earned links, but too many people sell signatures and sometimes they forums are flooded with them, that they become an eyesore. We place little values in these, and we never use them for clients. The extent to which Google utilizes this is really anyone’s guess, but the quality factor still remains and some of these forums are very powerful sites and authority domains. So I would NOT rule them out. It’s just a preference as anyone can get a link from any forum that allows them, simply join and post.
Presell Pages / Content Advertising Pages
Some links are placed on a single page of a site and integrated into the navigation to fit seamlessly. These are sometimes called Presell Pages and other times the more traditional term used is Contextual Advertising Pages. Where someone is basically paying for an entire page on a site. Google, in its anti-text-link-ads war, has made little mention of these. Its common sense to understand that Google would most likely consider these spam pages and deny that there may be advertising values of the ads as the reason the ad was placed. These are used by a small number of SEO firms and generally are quite pricey. The pages themselves have the ability to rank well on search engines and I have seen high-powered sites using these having great ranking presell pages making them extremely valuable for the advertiser.
If integrated properly these will pass traffic to the sites and on good portals and can be very effective. However, they are generally sold for PageRank as most sites that offer them are not always authorities. I have seen them with .edu links selling for close to $1000/month. They better pass a ROI for that buck, otherwise put your ad on a non edu site. I have seen them on major authority domains take top 10 rankings for competitive terms, and that is really where the ad value is. Getting direct links that a search engine may pass some weight to would just be a bonus.
These types of links on the right sites can be great for advertising purposes and the link value is generally good if the site is good. Keep in mind that PR means nothing in these ads if the site gets no traffic. The best usage is to have both traffic and PageRank. So again, if you feel that there is a benefit here then you can consider this. I personally do not use these in SEO campaigns.
Keep in mind not all good traffic has to come from search engines! High converting traffic also comes from press releases, articles, forums, blog posts and advertising. So again, utilize several methods for link building and the return will have multiple avenues.
The best way to approach any SEO campaign is to use multiple methodologies to increase the scope of a sites exposure online. Think from the perspective that if the Search Engines did not pass traffic, how would I get it? Advertise on sites that can potentially pass traffic and exposure. Avoid the gray-area of SEO by buying ads for traffic and not for PageRank. If they also pass PageRank, that is simply a bonus and secondary. In reality if your business can maintain and even improve without any rankings, then you will most likely have the ability to maintain a successful business for a longer time than someone reliant on a single method of traffic and leads. The search engines should come second, so get targeted traffic and links for the purpose of increasing your business. Send out press releases to discuss great features of your business, syndicate articles that discuss topics related to your service.
Limit exchanges and try to get one-way links from other sites by using link baiting ideas within your articles and press releases, be sure to keep the real link bait on your site, although sometimes it does pay to give a little to get a little.
When Google starts stating that it likes earned links, its time to try and base campaigns on them and make them a strategic part of every campaign. Get friendly with major digg news submitters to try and gain diggs to your site which help in-turn in getting social popularity. Ask for diggs from friends. Get written up on by bloggers and expose your site to your industry. Participate in industry forums and be active in your community to help your ideas and opinions have more weight and to help links naturally appear to your site.
My best recommendation on link building is to be well-rounded as different types of links are treated differently and pass different weights. So focusing on a single aspect may help in a campaign, but it would not properly serve for long-term rankings. Why? Because if any Search Engines devalues a methodology (and they all do every 6 months or so), then your campaign could be totally devalued if it only relied on one aspect of link building.
Utilizing competitor methodologies is a great way to strategize a campaign and selecting backlink targets from those campaigns can help you develop a list of good quality link targets that may already be proven to work for your terms.
Please feel free to add any comments, ideas and strategies below. If you have a great way to build links then by all means feel free to let us all hear it.
Alan Rabinowitz is the CEO of SEO Image, a New York based SEO and Internet Marketing company which focuses on corporate branding and positioning in search engines.