At Pubcon, I was lucky enough to meet a person I’d long tweeted with, Melanie Phung. She took notes on a great link panel I wanted to attend but couldn’t.
For some background on Mel, she is a Washington DC SEO with extensive in-house experience.
She currently serves as director of new media at PBS. She’d like to remind fans of public media that they can watch TV online for free on the organization’s video portal or on PBS’ mobile apps.
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Moderator: Lee Odden, TopRank Online Marketing
Greg Hartnett, Best of The Web
Dixon Jones, Majestic SEO
Rae Hoffman, Outspoken Media
Aaron Shear, Shopping.com
It’s no surprise that a session billing itself as a low-risk, high-reward link building session would be packed. Everyone is looking for the Holy Grail.
The four speakers who will try to guide us to the Holy Grail this day are from very distinct corners of the internet: a representative from a paid directory site (Greg Hartnett of Best of the Web), a link tool vendor (Dixon Jones of Majestic SEO), an affiliate marketer (Rae Hoffman, who the moderator warns says f*ck a lot), and an e-commerce SEO (Aaron Shear of Shopping.com).
First up: Dixon Jones, Marketing Director, Majestic SEO
Dixon Jones opens by saying he avoids saying f*ck at all costs. Oops. He then promises his talk will be the easiest to blog.
His ten tips:
He gives an example of a client who ran a campaign to reach out to a small, targeted list of active bloggers who wrote about children’s fashion. But the company in charge of fulfilling the samples accidentally sent all 15 samples to the same blogger at AMothersRamblings.com, instead of 15 different bloggers.
The blogger was so impressed that she wrote up an extensive review with relevant anchor text. She put on a kid’s fashion show of all the samples and took video. It ended up being a great ROI on that campaign.
The lesson: Send samples, but send them to the right people.
Organized Blogger Meetups
This might not be relevant to every site, but a great way to get people to write about you is to organize blogger meetups. If you get a group of bloggers together, they’ll blog about it the next day.
(Obviously you need to do more than just show up at meetups, but actually organize or at least host them, or there’s no reason for bloggers to mention you. No mention, no link.)
Reclaim lost links
Use your log files or MajesticSEO to find links that point to the wrong pages.
You can’t find lost links in Google Analytics, so you’ll need to comb through your log files or a tool like (ahem) Majestic SEO. Your log files can also tell you when people type the wrong URL when they’re on your domain.
Whenever you find links or typo’d URLs, either redirect them or create a new page in that location if you your content strategy supports it.
Reclaim your competitor’s lost links.
Tip #4 is an extension of the previous tip but takes it up a notch (and requires a tool like Majestic SEO):
Scour your competitor’s link graph for 404s; that is to say, find pages on your competitor’s site that have inbound links but which just go to error pages.
Contact the site with that broken link and tell them that their page has a broken link and get them to link to you instead.
Monitor Bankrupt Companies.
Find companies undergoing bankruptcy and try to buy their domain name(s) for a song.
Don’t wait until the domain is available on the drop market [because you may never see it or because by that time the links won’t be worth anything to you]. Usually, their accountants are trying to recoup any assets possible so you can get a bargain if you approach them.
Alternatively, contact the sites that link to that site and tell them that they’re linking to a company undergoing bankruptcy. No one wants to link to bankrupt companies. Get them to link to you instead.
[I wonder if my friend’s dad, a Montreal bankruptcy trustee, might know where to find listings of such companies…
My own efforts via the Canadian government bankruptcy record search tool got very few listings in general for bankruptcies from 2010 or later.
As well, you have to pay to see results each time, even if there are NO results!]
An easy source of links is to leverage existing commercial relationships. Work with a vendor? Exchange your testimonial for the link. Have clients? Offer a discount on their next invoice for a link.
Run a good cause website
Dixon didn’t spend a lot of time on this slide except to warn that the cause needs to be legit. Especially if you’re a commercial site that has a hard time attracting natural buzz or excitement around your site, creating a site for the promotion of a cause can help you overcome that hurdle. [This might be low-risk and high-reward, but it also seems like a very high-effort tactic.]
Identify mentions of your brand
An easy win with very low risk is simply identifying brand mentions that don’t include a link.
He says that anyone who mentions your company name basically already has a “relationship” with the brand, and should be more amenable to simply adding a link to their existing content.
Use Clique Hunter
Clique Hunter is a Majestic SEO feature that lets you identify domains that link to multiple sites within a vertical (in other words, sites that link to several of your competitors).
Comparing where competitors in verticals are getting multiple links from multiple sites, let’s you identify viable link prospects because if a site is linking to more than one competitor, that ups the odds that they’ll also link to you (whereas a site that only links to one of your competitors likely has a special relationship with your competitor).
Speak at conferences.
Last but not least: make it easy for people to blog and link to you
This one is meant a bit tongue in cheek, but it’s real advice. Much like bloggers who attend a meetup are likely to blog, speaking at the types of conferences that include bloggers in the audience is sure to get you at least a few write-ups from blogs related to your niche.
Next up: Greg Hartnett, President, Best of The Web
Greg Hartnett is up next to talk about link building via directories.
It seems like he’s spent the last few years fielding “aren’t directories dead?” questions because he starts his presentation by teeing up common objections.
Q: With all the cool new ways to get links, why still get directory links?
A: Directories are like ball bearings. Not sexy, but still necessary.
Q: Isn’t a directory listing just a paid link?
A: No. There’s a key differentiator between paid links and pay-for-review sites: You may get rejected, so what you’re paying for is the review. He cites the YouTube video from Matt Cutts on the subject of whether directories like Best of the Web are paid links/useful to users.
Q: Isn’t a directory just a link farm?
A: No. Link farms are just a collection of links – no categorization, no editorial discretion. They are simply created to manipulate search results. [See video referenced above.]
Q: How can you tell a directory from a “directory” (wink wink, nudge nudge)
A: It’s a matter of common sense. Good directories have history. Here Greg pauses to qualify the statement to point out that obviously everyone has to be new at some point, but he warns that he would avoid any brand new ones. If they age well, you’ll see that. He continues: good directories contain great resources — you should see brands you recognize. And most directories that are worth being in are built for users (although he admits most users don’t use directories, just search). You should be able to tell it’s a labor of love.
Q: What about my local business?
Greg recommends finding niche-specific directories as well as local.
Good local resources (directories as well as sites that discuss local) include:
Yahoo Local – a valuable local citation
Bing – overlooked recently, but really stepping up their offerings
getlisted.org – recommended tool for submitting local listings to lots of places at once (run by David Mihm and Patrick Sexton -2 guys who know lots about local)
mihmorandum – recommended blog
Q: Can I list my website multiple times?
A: Yes! Most directories will let you if you have unique content for multiple categories. CNN, for example, has 750 local listings in BOTW. WebMD has over a hundred listings in DMOZ.
Q: Does Yahoo Directory still work?
A: Yes, it works. But if you ask “Is it worth it?” – the submission fee is $300 – you need to define “worth”. It depends on your monetization strategy. Yahoo Directory is an aged, trusted domain and it’s a primary hub of Internet mapping. If you look at the link structure of the web, you’ll see Yahoo is a central hub. The citation value remains, but it no longer sends killer traffic.
Q: Which directories are considered most trustworthy?
IPL2’s directory – very strict. Hard to get into, but worth it if you can.
The slide listed business.com as one of those trusted directories, but Greg heard just that morning that the business.com web directory was going to get shut down. RIP.
Q: How can I ensure my site gets listed if I pay a review fee?
A: To increase your chances of having your listing accepted, start by follow the rules. Specifically:
Understand that there is no guarantee of getting listed (in the quality directories)
Read the guidelines
Write a good title and descriptions (especially when it comes to DMOZ. It’s entirely volunteer-based, so make their job as easy as possible. Take out the marketing hype. The harder you make their job – by submitting to the wrong category, by writing bad descriptions, by not following the guidelines – the greater the odds they won’t even bother with you. [I was a DMOZ editor for a while, and this is absolutely true.])
Beef up your content.
Q; Where can I submit my blog?
Yahoo and DMOZ have specific blog categories
BOTW blog directory
See: SEJ’s “20 places to submit your blog”
Also: Lee’s Top Rank Blog “RSS and blog submissions” page
The formal part of Greg’s presentation is over and Lee asks Greg:
Q: Does it ever make sense for someone to create their own directories?
A: Absolutely. He encourages people to start directories if they have the perseverance. The #1 reason for his success is he has another business he could rely on for income. You need connections; it’s a long build. Years of slow rise. You need time, patience and deep pockets. “It’s great to start a directory.”
[Is he trying to convince us, or himself? :)]
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