Friday, July 18, 2014

How to Create Amazing Backlinks

Go to any SEO forum and you’ll find the obligatory post from a confused, link building noob wondering, "How do I create amazing backlinks?"
In the post, the frustrated linker claims they’ve tried everything to build quality backlinks: free directories, profile links, article submissions, comment spamming, etc. But nothing works. Despite all their low value efforts, they can't leapfrog their competitors in the SERPs, so they're pleading with others to share their secrets to building amazing, stupendous, superfantastic backlinks.
Trouble is, those secrets don't exist.
There are no magic shortcuts, no highly classified insider hacks to getting quality links for your website. Building amazing backlinks takes work. But that's the last thing the forum vagrants want to hear. They want a quick fix, and creating something of value is a whole lot harder than slapping a forum signature on a discussion thread post. So that message often falls on deaf ears.
However, if you're willing to bust your ass, then I'll share my process for building amazing backlinks. It's not simple. It's not easy. In fact, it requires creativity, tenacity, dedication and hard work. But unlike low value link spamming, if you follow these steps, you can build some amazing backlinks.

5 Steps to Creating Amazing Backlinks
  • Find Links
  • Link Prospecting
  • Content Linkworthiness
  • Linkbait
  • Link Outreach

Step One: Find What People Are Linking To

The first step in getting amazing backlinks is to ferret out the sites that already have fantastic backlinks and scrutinize their link profiles. The logic being that good content attracts links, as site owners feel compelled to share it with their audience. So in this first step, you’re looking for pages with ‘lotsa links’ because they’ve already proven to have link worthy content.
To find out which blog posts have attracted the most inbound links, follow this process. Note: for this entire blog post, we'll use a hypothetical example of Jim's Pet Shop, an online pet store looking to attract links, traffic and attention for its line of dog toys.
  1. Install the SEO for Firefox Toolbar (it’s free!)
  2. Run a search in Google (for this example, I’m running a query for “dog toys”), select "show options" button (below the search box, left) and click “blogs” from the categories
  3. Click the “100” option (just below the search box, right), which will give you the Top 100 search results
  4. Once that’s resolved, click the "CSV" link (just below the search box, right) and export the results file
    Finding quality backlink opportunties
  5. Firefox for SEO gives you a lot of great information, but for this exercise, we just want the data for the column “Y! Page Links,” so you can delete the rest.
  6. Sort the list by “Y! Page Links” from “largest to smallest.” Your CSV results should look like this:
Quality backlink analysis
We now have a collection of all the blog posts about "dog toys" that have attracted the most links. The next step in the process of building quality backlinks is to see which sites are linking to these posts.

Step Two: Find Out Who's Linking

Now that we know which content pieces are the link magnets, let's figure out who's doing the linking. Why is the "who" important? It's because these website owners have already pre-qualified themselves as link prospects by demonstrating their willingness to link out to a particular type of content, which in this example is content about "dog toys." So chances are good that they might link to our dog toy content.
So to find out the "who," pull up the CSV dashboard we created above, select each of the top linking posts and drill down into their link profiles. This can be done using the "Yahoo Page Links" button on the SEO for Firefox Toolbar or you can use the Yahoo link command:link:
This produces a SERP list of all links pointing to this page, minus any internal site links from the root domain, which looks like this:
quality backlink data
After running this analysis for link prospects, there are two sites that keep popping up in the link profiles of these top dog toy posts: and Given their willingness to link out to dog toy related content, they are great candidates for outreach campaign (covered in step five).
Now, if it's not clear yet, the objective of this step is to assemble a list of qualified prospects for outreach. This can be done in a simple spreadsheet with multiple data columns. For my own outreach lists, I like to collect data on :
  • Target website URL: note the name of the website as well as the deep page I've found that's linking out
  • Toolbar PageRankhere I use TBPR to sort by relative value (loosely)
  • Contact name: personalizing your outreach letter is key; addressing an email "To Whom It May Concern" is lazy and for losers
  • Personal email: don't send emails to info@ black holes or contact us forms, unless you like having your emails ignored or deleted. I give detailed information on obtaining hard to find personal emails, in this article about 12 advanced tactics on how to find someone's email address.
  • Social media profile(s): what's their Twitter or LinkedIn handle? don't know? figure it out.
  • Notes: additional information about the blogger or website to help personalize my outreach letters even more
Also, remember that many blogs have a stable of bloggers on staff. So I recommend you dig around and find out which ones link out to your type of content more frequently and cite that in your notes section as well.

Step Three: Find Out Why People Are Linking

To create linkable content, you must determine why certain pieces of content attract links. Let's examine the blog posts in the example above and see if we can discern why these five blog posts about dog toys have attracted more than 11K total links. Is there some shared element, some common thread that makes them so link worthy?
It just so happens that in this case the clues are pretty clear: the top link performers are all articles about weird, odd, whacky or silly dog toys.
build backlinks seo
It's really not surprising because life can be pretty mundane, so people love anything that's out of the ordinary. That's why creating odd or funny posts or videos is often a sure fire way to attract links.
Dog Mustache Toy
Backlinks for the dog mustache
Michael Vick Dog Chew Toy
Backlinks for the Michael Vick dog chew toy
I mean, how can you not share or link to that Michael Vick dog chew toy photo, right?
So if you're the owner of our hypothetical Jim's Pet Shop and you're hunting for content ideas that will attract links, writing a post about weird dog toys looks like a fantastic strategy. Which brings us to our next step. 

Step Four: Create The Bait

To attract links like the top link worthy posts, you need to create something of similar value. Now, I’m not saying outright copy it, and I’m also not saying you need to reinvent the wheel. You can absolutely do something similar, but make it your own. If it’s a handy widget, create a widget. If it’s a whacky list, create a whacky list. Point is, the content that you create needs to be valuable and interesting to your target market.
For example, take the premise above that people love content about weird dog toys. Now, there are many different ways you can turn that intelligence into an effective content strategy. I've thrown together a few ideas for articles that I'm grading by degree of effort and difficulty:
  • Easy: Create a blog post about a whacky dog toy: It's not entirely original, but I bet it attracts a stray link or two.
  • Harder: Create an article about "10 Weird Dog Toys Your Dog is Gonna' Love." This involves more work, but there's more opportunity for links.
  • Wicked Hard!!: Fire up your big brain, get super creative and start a contest on your pet shop website where people submit and vote for pictures of their dogs with bizarre dog toys, with the top pics all win a prize. You create a contest page (with contest details, photo galleries and voting component), write a blog post announcing the contest and one announcing the winners, with the winning pictures, names of the dogs and their owners.
Now which of these ideas is most intriguing? Which do you think will attract the most links? Point here is that the effort matches the results, which is why I listed each idea by level of labor involved. In my experience, the harder I work on a piece of content, the more links it attracts. This isn't rocket science, but it bears mentioning.

Step Five: Pimp Your Content

Okay, so it's time to market your content via blog marketing. You're going to get to work reaching out to the site owners, key influencers and bloggers for the sites in backlink profiles that you've gathered in your pitch list from step two. Now, you're not going to boldly ask them to link to your page about X in your request. That's way too obvious and heavy-handed. Instead, you're going use a more subtle approach, by writing to make them aware of your content and asking if they'd be willing to "share it" with their audience, as they've done with similar types of content.
To give you a better idea of what I'm talking about, here's what a sample letter might look like using the "Whacky Dog Toy Photo Contest" idea for Jim's Pet Store. Note: this email template is based on successful outreach letters I've used in the past.
Dear (name of blogger or site owner):
I read your recent article on the Top 10 Weirdest Dog Toys on the Planet (note: add a link to that story here to add further legitimacy and to remind the blogger of the article) and it was very funny. I liked it so much that I shared it with my friends on Facebook and on Twitter (actually tweet the article and drop link it that tweet here for proof).

Seeing that you're a fan of weird dog toys (and who isn't right?), I wanted to let you know about a contest I'm running over at Jim's Pet Shop (link to your website), called the "Weird and Whacky Dog Toy Photo Contest".
(Include details about the contest)

If you think the contest is noteworthy, it would be great if you could share it with your audience. Here's a link to the contest page and a link to the blog announcement (note: I like to add a lot of links in an outreach email; that gives the blogger more options; and quite often most of the links I send get included in the article).
If you need any other information, just let me know.
Thanks for your time.
Jim Yastremski
Jim's Pet Shop

Now, anyone who's ever engaged in the sort of coordinated, targeted, personalized and aggressive link outreach that I've outlined above understands its value. But you'll get the naysayers who say "link outreach doesn't work" and that's primarily because:
  • They don't create anything of value
  • They're unable to dedicate themselves to marketing content effectively
  • They've never even tried it, yet slam it because they're lazy
Whatever the case, I'm here to say that I follow the same process I've laid out in this article and it works for me.
Also, don't fall for the old adage that all you need to do to attract links is create great content. Just because you write good content doesn’t mean the Web will automatically notice. You have to hit them over the head with it. It's okay to be self promotional, in fact, it's vital. Nobody else is going to pimp your content, so it’s up to you.
One last note on link outreach is that once you get all the steps in place and have an outreach list and an email template, you can have just about anyone help with sending out the emails. I usually enlist interns to send out the emails and tell them to customize and personalize each email in the various fields, using the data I've collected in my outreach spreadsheets.


So as I said at the beginning of this post, everything I've discussed here takes work. Like anything worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Now if this isn’t for you and your heart just isn’t in it, then that’s fine. There’s no shame in admitting this is more work than you signed up for. But don’t go back to bitching in the forums in a few more months about how you’ve created 300 social bookmarking links and you can’t get on page one of Google, so you need a magical way to build amazing backlinks that doesn’t involve thought or effort.
Point is, the top ranking sites work their tails off to acquire quality links. To keep pace with them, you need to devote the same level of effort to content strategy and link marketing. If your goal is to outrank them, then you'll need to do something even more exceptional. And dumping a dozen comment spam links on some poor guy's "do follow" blog isn't going to get it done.
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5 Ways To Get The Best Links For New Websites

Confession: I almost slapped Ryan Jones the other week at SMX West. “I don’t have to build links,” he said. “We put out a new product or announcement, and bam: There’s 10,000 links.”
Unfortunately, he’s right — even if the slap would have been justified. If you do SEO for a big brand, like Ryan, you typically don’t have to put effort into link building. They already have an established following of fans, critics and media just waiting to talk about them.
But for the rest of us, us commoners if you will, we don’t get to enjoy such a luxury. When you’re a new website with no established clout, no established authority, and no gaggle of swooning fanboys (or angered skeptics) waiting with baited breath over your every move, links are your lifeblood. So where should you start?

Guest Blogging

I cannot stress enough how important it is to guest blog for links, especially if no one knows who you are. Get the right topic on the right blog, and the results can be pretty astronomical. You get the link juice, sure, but you also get traffic, brand awareness, and potentially even conversions.

One guest blog post brought us 72% more traffic.
As I mentioned last month, I swear by guest blogging communities like Blogger Link Up and My Blog Guest. Instead of you finding the opportunities, they come to you. Blog owners will send out a query on the type of post that they’re looking for, and you can respond if you’re a good fit.

Offline To Online Relationships

If you’re new to the online realm, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re new to the offline world.
The first place I go when building links for a new client is finding any partnerships, relationships, or even just friends they’ve worked with or built offline. Then, parlay that connection online. People are much more likely to link to you when they already know who you are and can vouch for the work you do.

Forums & Online Communities

Whoever your target audience is, they’re probably already hanging out somewhere online. You need to be there.
Find these online communities, forums or discussion groups and join them. You can use these search queries to find these forums or discussion groups:
  • inurl: + keyword + forums, discussions or groups
  • intitle: + keyword + forums, discussions or groups
Word of the wise: Establish your credibility first. If you go in there firing out links and praise, it’s like saying “I’m Erin. Marry me?” Take some time first to get to know people there: ask questions, answer questions, tell your story, whatever. Just build the relationship first. And when you do post a link, don’t let that be your last post.

Go Local

Every community has a local chamber of commerce. Join it. You get a great link and great exposure to other networking opportunities. If you live in a bigger city, there are also directories specifically to list local businesses in that area.
Also, target your local press. Local journalists are craving for content to write about, so if you’re doing something within the community, let the media know about it.
Whether it’s your staff doing a day of community outreach, helping a local charity or nonprofit organization, or just doing something really cool, people will write about it. We got press coverage and a link just because we hired 24 people over half a year. Whatever you’re doing, let people know.

Give Stuff Away

I don’t know where you stand on the link bait debate, but frankly: I dig it. The whole point of link building is to create things that people like and want to link to. (Of course, don’t do something for the sole reason of going viral.) And what people like is to get free stuff. Host a giveaway or contest that is related to your business (don’t just giveaway an iPad ) which will put you in touch with people in your target audience.
What are some other good links to get for new websites?
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How To Really Build Back links And Dominate Google

link-buildingWithout a doubt, the most frequent post request I’ve had on this site is a post about link building. I rarely take requests, simply because people rarely know what they really want until you give it to them, but this time things are a little different.
First of all, I have been studying SEO day and night since I was 16 (almost 5 years ago) and I’ve ranked on the first page of Google for some of the most competitive keyphrases in the world. Therefore, I like to think I know quite a bit about the topic and can provide some insights in this space.
For those of you who don’t know why links are important, let me just say that if you want to get traffic from the major search engines, they’re crucial. Links from other sites to your site are basically a ‘vote’ that tell search engines you are trusted and you are a good resource for whatever your content is about.
A large percentage of my income to affiliate sites is from traffic via Google, and the difference between ranking 2nd and ranking 1st can literally be thousands of dollars extra on my bottom line.
SEO is generally divided into two parts: on-site optimisation and off-site optimisation. On-site is changes you make to the actual code of your website to help with rankings. In my guide onWordPress SEO I gave a lot of tips on this that you can also apply to sites that aren’t running the CMS.
Today we’re going to look at the off-site side of things, which is building links.

Instead of just telling you to do this or do that that many link building guides do, I also want to share a few principles that I believe are crucial in building a website that attracts thousands of high quality links. A few years ago you could take a robotic approach to SEO, but the web is now far too social to rely on old tactics to help your website rank higher.

I can’t remember who said this phrase but it’s one of my favourites: “search engines follow people.” Not only does following this motto steer you in the direction of build an honest, legitimate website, it’s also a very true way to get links to your site.
Have you noticed how Wikipedia absolutely dominates Google search results? I don’t believe they should be ranking for 50% of the phrases that they do, but Jimmy Wales built a site for people. It is a resource that millions of people naturally want to use, and because of that, people talk about them.
For a lot of competitive keyphrases online you’ll also find popular blogs, forums and niche social networks ranking highly. If you can get enough real people to care about what you’re doing, then you can’t go far wrong.
When people talk about you online, links follow.

I talk about guest blogging a lot here but for good reason – it has lots of benefits. Not only does guest posting get you traffic from relevant websites, it’s also a great way to get links with custom anchor text around the keyphrases you want to rank for.
I have written a massive guide to guest blogging that tells you more about the practice, so read that for a detailed guide on how to get links through this process. To explain how this works in the most basic of forms, when you write articles (for free) for another website, they’re happy to give you a backlink in the byline in return for your content.

Pretty much every legitimate site on the Internet serves some useful purpose to it’s users. Facebook lets you keep in touch with friends and family. Google lets you find awesome websites. Digg lets you find news that you know hundreds of other people recommend. Youtube provides educational value, entertainment, product reviews and much more.
These are some high profile examples, but there are literally millions of useful sites online. This blog helps people leave the rat race and make a living online. PluginID helped people be who they want to be and deal with the issues that come up on the path to get there.
Ask yourself whether your site is helping people to fill a need. If it’s not, then why should people care about you? This might not sound great but everyone active online in any space online is generally just thinking about what’s in it for them.
If you can give people what they want, you can receive what you want.

When I talk about competitors, I simply mean people trying to rank for the same keywords / phrases as you in Google. For example, this site is “trying” to rank for the phrase viral marketing. I put trying in quotes as I’m only implementing a small number of these strategies as I’m not too bothered about ranking.
If I wanted to find great sources of links though, I could simply see which sites are ranking well for the phrase and where their links are coming from. As an example, a site ranking 2nd for me right now is a page on Wilson Web. If I take that URL and do a link search in Yahoo (they shows more backlinks than Google) I can find link sources I can also use:
The operator I use in Yahoo is simply “link:pageurl” (no quotes) obviously changing the parts in bold for the site that is actually ranking for your keyphrase.
Check your competitors to see if there are freely available link sources that you can also get for your own site. After all, if they’re helping that site rank, they’ll probably help you.

Most blog comments are nofollowed (this means search engines aren’t supposed to give weight to the link, though I believe Yahoo and Bing still do) so they don’t provide much link juice directly. There is a resource for dofollow blogs where you can leave comments that give link weight, but many of them get spammed and there will only be a few that are relevant to your niche.
I like using blog comments as an indirect way to get links back to your site. For example, if I contact a big blogger out of the blue and ask them to link to my latest article, it’s probably not going to happen. Yet, if I’ve spent some time interacting with their community and leaving comments, it’s more likely that they will fulfil the request (as long as your resource is relevant, and awesome).
Blog comments also drive visitors to your site, which goes back to the point of search engines following people.

One of my favourite ways to find awesome sources for links is to check the Flippa marketplace. Flippa is a place for people to buy and sell websites and has a very interactive community. Even if you’re not looking to buy or sell sites though, it can be a great way to find links.
If you take the time to look around, you’ll find a number of repeat sellers who are selling websites that have ranked well in Google very quickly. In some cases, these sites are ranking for phrases that bring in thousands of dollars, just in a few short months.
Looking at these sites and finding where their backlinks are coming from has provided me with a lot of easy-to-duplicate tactics and links that Google clearly love.

A few years ago you could write an awesome post and it would receive hundreds of links. Look at the trackbacks on old Copyblogger or Steve Pavlina posts and you’ll see what I’m talking about. With the introduction of Twitter and sites like StumbleUpon, people are more inclined to ‘share’ sites, rather than link to them from their own blogs.
The amount of links you can get for awesome content has definitely decreased, but by no means has it stopped. My post on WordPress SEO picked up a lot of blog links and is getting new ones all the time. My friend Danny also noticed the decrease in bloggers linking out and started a mini-campaign about it.
“Awesome” content means a lot of different things to different people. In terms of this site, it might be a great resource post. For a humor blog, it may be a funny image. For your Gadget blog, it may be announcing a new product before anyone else.
If you know your niche well enough, you should know what people want.

I really don’t like this tactic if I’m honest, but I can’t deny that social bookmarking links are helping a number of my sites rank. Bookmarking sites like Delicious simply give people a place to store their favourite links an organisable archive, which is generally far more useful than your browsers bookmark bar.
They’re also available from any computer anywhere in the world, so a lot of these sites have popped up due to their usefulness. Many of these sites offer dofollow links and custom anchor text, although they aren’t the best links in the world to pick up.
You can automate the process using something like Bookmarking Demon (not an affiliate link – none of those here) or you can even pay someone on Digitalpoint to submit to hundreds of sites manually.
To utilise this tactic in a more ethical manner, simply sign-up on a few sites you really want to use and bookmark your favourite links from around the web. Just don’t forget to link to your own site as well.

Unlike blogs where you get nofollow links for contributing to the discussion, most forums allow you to have a (followed) link in your signature, every time you make a post. If you’re already active on some communities online, see if you can put a link in your signature.
I really don’t recommend you sign up on lots of sites just to get links, but if there are sites that you’re really interested in and want to participate, then link back to your site. Note that if you have 10,000 posts on a forum already and add a link there, that’s not going to be anywhere near as powerful as 10,000 links where each is from a different site.
It’s far better to have links from different domains, rather than lots from the same source.

Another link source that I don’t really love but I see doing well for a lot of sites is utilising free content sites like SquidooGather and Hubpages. These sites basically allow you to sign-up, write about whatever you please, and link to yourself however you want.
Hubpages is very unpoliced and they’ll basically allow anything to stay on their site, but Squidoo (owned by Seth Godin) recently removed thousands of spammy pages from their site and are constantly policing them.
If you are going to use sites like this, at least take the time to to create a good resource for users, rather than just throwing links to all of your sites in there. Not only will that make your link more valuable (more relelvant and on a page with lots of content) but its better for these communities.

A much better source of links if you want to receive them in return for your content is using article directories. There are a lot of awful, highly spammed directories out there, but there are definitely a few worth looking for.
My favourites include Ezine articlesArticle Dashboard and Go Articles. Ezine and a number of other sites review articles manually first so you’re not going to be able to spam them (which you shouldn’t want to, anyway). However, if you write good content, or pay someone else to, then you can get a great link in return.
Ezine is definitely the most trusted and you’ll actually find the page you write the article on can rank quite well, quite quickly. Once you’ve inserted your article content, you’re given the opportunity to fill in an Author Box and you can put your links in there.

Some of the most popular posts on PluginID were the ones where I collaborated with other influences in the personal development niche. Examples include the Face-Off series that I ran and times where I would ask the same question to multiple people.
If your idea is unique and interesting, you’ll find that the people involved are often happy to share the piece via social media sites and even link to it from their own blogs.

Similar to the last idea, interviewing someone in your industry or someone high profile is likely to get you a lot of attention. There are two ways to gain links via this method.
First of all, you can interview people who you hope will link back to the interview from their own sites. Or, you can utilise your connections (or hustle, hard) and interview someone the average person couldn’t get to answer their questions.
I personally tried to interview Eckhart Tolle (an author who has been featured on Oprah and sold millions of books) but didn’t get very far. If I had managed to land the interview though, I know a lot of people would have linked to it naturally.

There are many ways to have a good looking website. I personally like to buy templates from the likes of Theme Forest and customise them heavily (like I did with ViperChill). You could also hire a designer like Reese to create something custom that looks amazing.
Once you have a beautiful site in place, there are literally thousands of link opportunities. “Where?” I hear you ask. “CSS and design directories”, is my answer. There are tons of sites which showcase beautiful designs and offer a link to the site so people can view the real thing, rather than a screenshot or thumbnail.
Many of these have a lot of authority in Google so if you want to find some, here’s a good placeto start.

There are a number of personal development bloggers giving sitewide (links from every page) links to PluginID because I created an amazing resource. That resource was a list of top blogs in my industry, but yours doesn’t have to be the same.
Can you create a free eBook that answers a need? What about a resource on 101 ways to do ‘X’? How about a list of other sites which offer great advice on a popular topic? Think about something that you know your readers would want but would take a lot of work for you to put together.
That’s the resource you should be creating.

Now that we’ve covered some of my favourite ways to get links to a site, I quickly want to run through some things you shouldn’t be doing. While search engines generally reward sites with a lot of links by giving them high rankings, there’s also a few things they don’t like.
Remember: search engines want to show the best results to their users. If you’re manipulating link counts heavily and don’t really deserve to rank for your phrase, then they don’t want you to.
Here are a few things to watch out for:
  • Building Links too Fast – Build links very quickly is usually unnatural. There may be times where write a post that gets hundreds of links overnight and that’s not going to penalise you, but just be careful about building too many links for your site as a whole. I’m not a search engine, so I can’t give exact numbers, but if you think you might be going a bit over the top, then you probably are.
  • Using Spammy Resources – Not all links are created equal. It would be far more powerful for ViperChill to have a homepage link from Problogger than it would be to have a link from Hubpages or an automated link farm. You can’t control who links to you, but just be careful where you focus your link building time.
  • Taking Part in Link Exchanges – If you want to add sites to your blogroll or resources page then add them, but don’t just do it because people are linking to you. Link exchanges worked well about 2 years ago, but are a very dated technique that search engines are well aware of.
  • Building Links Around One Phrase – You might have a phrase that you want to rank for and the best way to do that is to get links with that phrase as an anchor text, but only having links with that phrase is very unnatural. Most links help your rankings in general, so don’t be afraid to get links for different phrases or even your domain as a whole, like
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