Why most link building campaigns fail

Why most link building campaigns fail

One widely accepted and unquestioned ‘truth’ in SEO seems to be that being passionate about the subject of link building makes you a good link builder.

Knowing a lot about link building doesn’t make you an effective link builder. It helps, but it only takes you so far. In fact, I’d say that, ironically, being passionate about link building really only makes you great at link building in the SEO industry.

What it really takes

Surely, the essence of link building is knowing  a lot about ‘link building’?

I guess, but, it takes a certain type of arrogance to claiming to be an expert in link building, given what a subjective task it is.

It’s impossible to be ‘good’ at link building for 5, 10, 20 different clients, trying to hit vanity targets at the end of each month. How can you understand each of them top-to-bottom, inside-out?

Being well knowledged and passionate about your subject is what allows you to truly build valuable links effectively. To actually provide a valuable service to a client, you need to become a mouthpiece for their product, their company, their culture.

You need to be able to hold an intelligent conversation with someone in their industry, about its past, its present, its future.

A question I’d pose is that out of these two people, who would you rather employ:

  • Someone with an expert knowledge of your industry, but with very basic link building skills
  • An ‘expert’ link builder, with a very basic knowledge of the industry they’re building links in
The answer, I think, I hope, is obvious.

Get out of the building

I know this post might be perceived as quite pessimistic, but that’s really not its intention. The sooner we wake up to the subjectivity of link building the sooner we can make real strides in improving the link building product offered by agencies.

David Ogilivy’s advice to young account executives was for them to set themselves on becoming the best-informed man in the agency on the account to which they are assigned.

If it is a gasoline account, read text books on the chemistry, geology and distribution of petroleum products. Read all the trade journals in the field. Read all the research reports and marketing plans that your agency has ever written on the product.

He goes further:

Spend Saturday mornings in service stations, pumping gasoline and talking to motorists. Visit your client’s refineries and research laboratories. Most young men in agencies are too lazy to do this kind of homework. They remain permanently superficial.

I appreciate this falls well out of the pragmatics of how most agencies operate today and absurd given the budgets companies allocate to link building and internet marketing in general.

But surely the way forward is to fuse advanced link building and marketing techniques with the expertise of the client’s industry.

The only way of doing this is to get inside the belly of the industry you’re working in.

John Doherty’s wrote a post recently about the benefits of working on-site for his client, which is part of what inspired this post and, I’d recommend heading there now.

Link Building, Self-Control and Marshmallows

As part of a series on self-improvement on the 99 Per­cent, Joce­lyn K. Glei recounted Wal­ter Mischel’s now iconic Marsh­mal­low Test, which analysed the abil­ity of four year olds to exhibit delayed gratification.

Each child was sat in a room with a marsh­mal­low or donut on the table. They were told by the sci­en­tists that they could eat the treat now or, if they waited 15 min­utes, have two treats.

All the chil­dren wanted to wait, but many sim­ply didn’t have the dis­ci­pline to and crum­bled. Some, how­ever, held out and received the extra treat.

Most inter­est­ingly, when sci­en­tist checked back on the chil­dren years later, those who had the self con­trol to hold out were bet­ter behaved, less prone to addic­tion and scored bet­ter in exams. read more about self controlling at https://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/ptn/2014/12/self-control

Self Improve­ment in Every­day Life

Glei dis­cusses how our day-to-day pro­duc­tiv­ity is often depen­dent on mak­ing the right trade-off decisions.

We are faced with hun­dreds of these ‘trade-off’ deci­sions every day.

In the office, these come in the form of e-mails, tweets and noti­fi­ca­tions. Stay­ing focused and pro­duc­tive requires real self con­trol and dis­ci­pline; it is so easy to veer off-course.

James Shel­ley con­tends that pro­duc­tiv­ity actu­ally boils down to being the dis­ci­plined abil­ity to choose to do one thing at the cost of not doing another (often more tempt­ing thing).

Link Build­ing

You can­not help but relate this to the process of build­ing links, where again, we’re often faced with daily trade-off decisions.

Should you develop a com­plex, long-term link build­ing strat­egy, or should you buy that blogroll link?

We know one will be more ben­e­fi­cial long-term, but it’s so, so tempt­ing to buy that direc­tory link and see it right there in front of you today (espe­cially when it’s not your own site you’re charged with get­ting results for).

See­ing instan­ta­neous links make you feel bet­ter about your­self; it jus­ti­fies why you got up and went to work that morning.

In the future, self-control and patience may well become major fac­tors in sep­a­rat­ing the more effec­tive SEO campaigns.

We’re told to resist the temp­ta­tion of con­ve­nient low-hanging link-fruit; that the rewards are greater if we have the dis­ci­pline, strat­egy and self-control to look at the big­ger picture.

At the moment, you can achieve the same or sim­i­lar ends with the quick-wins as you will with a cam­paign that requires more sweat and blood.

Every­body wants to imple­ment a com­plex, mulit-level cam­paign that’ll yield pre­mium links; but not every­one has the patience required to see through its execution.

The ques­tion is then, how and can you bal­ance the trade-off of short-term link grat­i­fi­ca­tion with your long term mar­ket­ing goals?

The chil­dren who resisted the temp­ta­tion of the marsh­mal­low used ‘strate­gic allo­ca­tion of attention’.

If you want to change the way you build links, you need to stop obsess­ing over sites that have employed this tech­nique and had suc­cess; oth­er­wise, you won’t be able to resist the temptation.

How to Land a Graduate Job in SEO

As the scram­ble for grad­u­ate jobs con­tin­ues, leavers with­out degrees spe­cific to a par­tic­u­lar indus­try are des­per­ately look­ing for a start­ing role that allows their career to flourish.

The dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing and SEO indus­try has exploded over the past decade. Sub­se­quently, there are a host of entry-level jobs up for grabs for those will­ing to show a bit of gumption.

This guide should serve as sound advice to any grad­u­ate inter­ested in land­ing a role within search engine opti­mi­sa­tion (you’ve made the first step by find­ing this post).

Note: I’ve tried to tai­lor this more towards grad­u­ates using my expe­ri­ence. I’ve listed other resources I found use­ful at the bot­tom of the page.

Read this Book

As you’d expect, there are a host of good online and offline resources for those look­ing to form their understanding.

Before you can start mak­ing enquiries any­where you need to form a solid under­stand­ing of the prin­ci­ples of SEO and a broader under­stand­ing of dig­i­tal marketing.

Read­ing The Art of SEO cover-to-cover will firmly estab­lish these core prin­ci­ples inside of you.Ini­tially, it can be tempt­ing to cut costs and assume you can just use the end­less free resources avail­able online (you are apply­ing for a dig­i­tal role, right??) Not so.

You take in knowl­edge dif­fer­ently when it is medi­ated through a screen, as opposed to in book-form. You’re never more than a click away from being dis­tracted online and you’re never more than a click away from your favorite social network.

Most grads will already be well aware of this; try­ing to read a jour­nal on-screen is infi­nitely harder than print­ing it out and find­ing a quiet cor­ner where you can concentrate.

As well as this, you’ll be invest­ing some of own (prob­a­bly quite sparse) finances into the book.

Hav­ing an invested stake in the book can be a huge moti­vat­ing fac­tor. The money you’ve spent will be wasted if you don’t make the effort read and under­stand it.

Yes, this book is towards the higher end of the price-scale of what’s avail­able. But, it is writ­ten by real indus­try author­i­ties; names it’ll be good to drop at the interview.

Graduate Job in SEO

Regard­less of whether you’re cap­ti­vated by the sub­ject mat­ter, you should have enough aca­d­e­mic dis­ci­pline to read a book cover-to-cover. If not, you might as well stop read­ing here…

Immerse Your­self

What­ever degree pro­gram you have grad­u­ated in, you should be more than equipped with the skills to con­tinue your research and acqui­si­tion of knowledge.

SEO, more than most jobs, requires you to be on the absolute cusp of the indus­try. It is imper­a­tive you keep abreast of indus­try devel­op­ments, a tricky task when you’re not in and around it day-in day-out.

High­light a few indus­try blogs or web­sites and incor­po­rate them into your nor­mal net-surfing rou­tine. Add SEO­moz or Search Engine Watch to your ‘check e-mails, check BBC, check Face­book’ rou­tine and you’ll soon be up to speed.

If you have only just grad­u­ated and you are unem­ployed, there should be a gap­ing void in your life that was pre­vi­ously filled with your studies.

Those who find gain­ful employ­ment imme­di­ately fill this void with their new indus­try. The key here is to fill this gap with­out hav­ing already landed a job.

Work Expe­ri­ence

Read­ing books and blogs is great but, as with any-line of work, there is no sub­sti­tute for real-world experience.

There are two routes you can go down here; both involve offer­ing your time and new-found knowl­edge for free.

The eas­ier of the two paths is to get work expe­ri­ence in an exist­ing dig­i­tal agency. There are sev­eral advan­tages to this:

      • You’ll be around peo­ple who live and breathe SEO
      • You will be at the front of the queue for any roles that become avail­able at that organisation
      • They can point you in the right direc­tion as to your next move

The sec­ond, slightly trick­ier option is to iden­tify a local busi­ness who could use SEO but, are unaware of it or do not have the bud­get. The kind of tar­gets you might want to iden­tify are dri­ving instruc­tors, restau­rants or small trade businesses.

It can be dif­fi­cult to moti­vate your­self to work for free; how­ever, you will have to bite the bul­let. If you don’t, then you can guar­an­tee some­body else will.

Make enquiries

By this stage, you should have acquired enough knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence to demon­strate you are seri­ous about a career in SEO. Your degree, enthu­si­asm and work expe­ri­ence should make you an attrac­tive propo­si­tion to poten­tial employers.

Make a list of all com­pa­nies you could pos­si­bly work for, your rel­e­vant point of con­tact at that organ­i­sa­tion and their e-mail/phone num­ber. It’s impor­tant you get a name so you can con­tact the per­son directly.

The best way to organ­ise this is to put together a basic Excel sheet, for example:

Ide­ally, this would be the SEO Man­ager or Head of Dig­i­tal. For smaller com­pa­nies, you may be best placed to con­tact the Man­ag­ing Direc­tor.

If you can’t find a con­crete e-mail for the per­son you want to con­tact, they gen­er­ally fol­low this rule:

(first name initial).(last name)@(business’ website)

Dig up as much dirt as you can on the com­pany before you apply. Even the most arbitary of knowl­edge can prove use­ful. As a rule, try to find out:

      • When they were established
      • Their cur­rent client roster
      • Areas they spe­cialise in
      • Hob­bies and inter­ests of employees

Find­ing this infor­ma­tion may mean hav­ing to go beyond the company’s web­site. LinkedIn and other social media chan­nels are par­tic­uarly use­ful here.

If there is already a role adver­tised, great, you are in the per­fect posi­tion to apply. If not, it does no harm to make an enquiry and put your­self on their radar.

The Inter­view

Con­trary to pop­u­lar belief, you don’t ‘blag’ interviews.

If you lie on your CV you’ll  get found out in the inter­view (you’ll be grilled by peo­ple who know their onions, remember).

If for what­ever rea­son you don’t (highly unlikely), you will be found want­ing in the first week of the job and politely shown the door.

Fol­low each of these steps (or some­thing sim­i­lar) and you won’t need to ‘blag’ any inter­view. You can relax and talk freely about your expe­ri­ence and your knowledge.

Your enthu­si­asm for the role will shine through naturally.

Use­ful resources:

SEO­moz — How to get an SEO job

SEO Gad­get — How to get an SEO job

Tamar — How to Inter­view for an SEO job

3 Habits to Make Your Link Building More Productive

One of the hard­est things about link build­ing is man­ag­ing sev­eral spin­ning plates at the same time.

With so much going on, it’s easy to let oppor­tu­ni­ties slip off the radar. It might just be from not fol­low­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties up, not get­ting feed­back or spread­ing your­self too thinly.

The fact is, get­ting links live requires per­sis­tence. It needs the per­fect blend of being both proac­tive and reactive.

Here are three tech­niques I have found have helped me have a more pro­duc­tive day’s link building.

Tomorrow’s to-do list, today

This is actu­ally a sales tech­nique I stole from Cold Call­ing for Chick­ens, which is effec­tive for any­one who needs to get things done on a daily basis, not just sales­men and link builders.

It is impos­si­ble to get every­thing done you need to do everyday.Often, just by proxy of com­plet­ing one task, you imme­di­ately cre­ate at least one other.

Some peo­ple write their to-do lists first thing in the morn­ing; I guess it serves as a nice, gen­tle intro­duc­tion to the day.

I’ve found there is a prob­lem with this though: tomorrow’s most press­ing tasks look dif­fer­ent in the morning.

I hate start­ing each day with a blank can­vas. It’s eas­ier to get in, know what needs doing and get on with it.For good link building you need to understand search operators, they will make your life easier.

Writ­ing down tomorrow’s most impor­tant tasks serves as a com­mit­ment to putting them into action.

Each day then, I work off two to-do lists. The first one:

  • fea­tures the tasks I have iden­ti­fied as pri­or­i­ties from the pre­vi­ous day
  • is allo­cated to parts of my sched­ule to my sched­ule and worked through systematically

The sec­ond list is for the next day and:

  • is dynamic; I’m con­stantly adding to it as the day as a con­se­quence of my work that day
  • fea­tures tasks num­bered by their pri­or­ity and whether or not it has to be achieved the fol­low­ing day

Obvi­ously, it requires a bit a dis­ci­pline, but when you sit at your desk each morn­ing know­ing the bare min­i­mum of what you want to achieve, it makes it a lot harder to pro­cras­ti­nate daunt­ing phone calls, or what­ever else you’d rather put-off.

Work out value and do more of it

Most peo­ple will be aware of the Pareto prin­ci­ple; that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

Under­stand­ing this can help you be more effec­tive and work at the things that really make a dif­fer­ence to your results.

In the words of Bob Etherington:

There is a huge dif­fer­ence between being pro­duc­tive and being busy”

With link build­ing, the value comes in the con­tact; the back and forth of e-mails, phone calls, and the work that needs doing off the back of this.

As soon as you start to over­com­pli­cate things, you lose sight of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

Per­son­ally, I’ve found the idea of link build­ing being a num­bers game as a bit of a myth. It’s a qual­ity game. What mat­ters is the num­ber with which you have success.

Don’t delude your­self into think­ing you’re engag­ing in pro­duc­tive behav­iour, just because you are keep­ing your­self busy.

When you spend pre­cious time putting together clever Excel tables, or sat in meet­ings, or com­plet­ing other admin­is­tra­tive busy­work, then you are avoid­ing your most impor­tant func­tion: talk­ing to people.

Think about the work you do that actu­ally pro­vides value and moves the nee­dle. Focus on this.

Sep­a­rate proac­tive and reactive

I’ve already men­tioned the impor­tance of bal­anc­ing time spent being proac­tive and time being reactive.

If you under­stand the dif­fer­ence here, you can actu­ally sep­a­rate the two when plan­ning your daily or weekly schedule.

Proac­tiv­ity is defined as:

As opposed to reac­tiv­ity, which is defined as:

They’re both impor­tant. On one hand, you need to be con­stantly drumming

The dif­fer­ence between the two is that being reac­tive is the time spent deal­ing with the con­se­quences of being proactive.

The bet­ter you get at being proac­tive, the more time you will have to spend being reactive.

You can define time spent being proac­tive as:

  • Drum­ming up lists of poten­tial leads
  • Mak­ing fresh, cold con­tact with people
  • Work­ing old or inac­tive leads
Com­pare this to reac­tive activities:
  • Respond­ing to the con­se­quences of proactivity
  • Push­ing it through to the next stage — con­tent writer, design­ers, etc.
  • Deal­ing with required byt non-value adding tasks

The rea­son you need to sep­a­rate the two is that if you don’t there’s no focus to your approach; you’re not work­ing as effec­tively or as efficiently.

You’ll end up sat wait­ing for e-mails to come in, des­per­ately hit­ting F9, paus­ing what­ever you were doing to respond to every­thing as and when it happens.

Per­son­ally, I don’t like to slog it out for hours and hours.  I like to work in spurts; short, sharp, force­ful streams of energy.

An Ode to My Favourite Advanced Search Operator

For a short, Sunday morning blog post to keep things ticking over, I thought I’d write a brief tribute to my favourite (and often overlooked) search operation, related sites.

I use this search operation all the time. All Google does is throw up sites it thinks are similar to whatever you’re using as your base.

It’s perfect for:

  • Finding overlooked competitors
  • Looking for similar, relevant sites when link prospecting
  • Identifying quick-wins from places similar to where you’ve already had success
  • Throwing up new ideas when your efforts reach an impasse

What’s amazing is how often good quality prospects come up in related searches that haven’t shown up in your previous research (well, for me anyway).

Whenever pitching content at a website, I’ll always make sure I run a related search on the website like if you want to search Web Design Ireland, you need to have search operators to search that site.

The first few sites that show up are usually also good targets for the content, so I can increase the chance of it being taken by pitching it at them too.

I sometimes think the best sites to target are the ones that don’t rank well. As Paddy Moogan says here, they’ve not been already been hounded by other SEOs and tend to be more receptive to your approaches:

This is why Twitter and particularly Followwonk are so useful. (See John Doherty’s post on link prospecting with Twitter for more on this.)

Anyway, that’s my relatively inane tribute to related searches. I’m also looking forward to Think Visibility next week and hoping to get a few more substantial posts on here over March.

Is William Hill Dumbing Down Sports Gambling Advertising?

Anyone who watches live football will have noticed the advertising campaign William Hill have been running for past six months.

Essentially, William Hill have created the televisual equivelent of a fruit machine, using the most basic psychological techniques to encourage prospective punters to think about betting.

This is a far cry away from the previous advertising campaigns by bookmakers such as Ladbrokes and SkyBet, which we’ll detail later in this post.

William Hill have taken a no holds barred approach to advertising sports betting, playing on the primitive pleasure buttons that gambling pushes.

Breaking Down the Advert

The series of William Hill advertisements in this campaign check all the psychology boxes that keep fruit machine enthusiasts coming back for more:

  • Light and Colours

Initially, this could’ve been a problem for Billy Hill. Its famous Royal blue hues are at odds with the warm reds psychologists find stimulate the gambler and encourage him to bet more.

The firm therefore had to get the balance right between keeping the brand’s signature Royal blue punters associate with the William Hill brand the warms hues that encourage the action to bet.

Scientists have found that gamblers will bet more and bet bigger under red lights – hence the proliferation of reds and oranges in casinos and on fruities. William Hill have found a way around this by subliminally fusing the brands trademark blues with recommended reds, yellows and oranges.

Is William Hill Dumbing Down Sports Gambling Advertising

The pace of the advert allows them to snap quickly between the reds that encouraging betting and the Royal blues that are essential in the branding of William Hill.

  • Music and Sound

Researchers found that gamblers part with their money faster if the music is upbeat and energetic – which explains the ultra high-tempo music on the adverts.

Not only this, but William Hill’s tune is beyond catchy, helping it quickly forge an association to gambling with the viewer. The short, sharp hook penetrates the entire home, ensuring you can’t escape it when you go to boil the kettle for your half-time cup of tea.

Just like Pavlov’s dog, the viewer is quickly conditioned to understand the music as a stimulus to bet. William Hill have already been primed to become their bookmaker of choice.

  • Language

What is glaringly obvious is that the adverts make absolutely no reference to ‘the skill factor’ that has previously been the cornerstone of other sports betting adverts, particuarly Hill’s arch rival Ladbrokes.

William Hill are ploughing more money than ever into advertising and marketing in a bit to establish itself as the UK’s leading betting firm. The explosion of online betting has widened the playing field, with more firms than ever vying for a slice of betting pie.

The Past & the Future

Traditionally, the marketing strategies of major betting firms have tried to cultivate the idea that sports betting rewards intelligence or, that it is harmless fun.

They encourage the punter to perceive their bet to be an informed and rational decision, drawing upon their own personal expertise to predict what’s going to happen.

An idea is sold that betting on sport is something that can be figured out. This is logical and effective because everyone either is, or knows someone who is, an aficionado on sport.

The wall-to-wall ubiquity of the Premier League coverage cements people’s perceived notion they know what’s happening: it gives them two cents.

It also means that football always appears to follow a narrative. It therefore makes sense to ask the punter to predict the next chapter.

These campaigns are then seasoned by playing upon masculine insecurities. Betting becomes a matter of pride; not backing down when your opinion is challenged.

Until recently this has been par for the course in the marketing of sports betting. It is the natural approach a marketer would take: persuade people they can predict the unpredictable.

It will be interesting to see how Ladbrokes respond and what the future holds with regards to the branding of these two firms.

One might think there will be two sets of consumers, both engaging with the same product but with a completely different set of perceived values.

One thing I’d be interested to find out more of is whether the demographic of punters changes in different firms in the same way they differ between Waitrose and Iceland.

Previously, I’d always assumed a bookies was a bookies and that the punters inside were generally the same.

William Hill are pushing sports gambling as a primitive hedonism. Some might argue they’re not giving their potential consumers enough credit; others might argue it’s working.

Non-spammy Tips for Link Building with Forums

Even with your best dis­guise, it’s dif­fi­cult to get away with being an imposter on a forum.

For some, link build­ing with forums is set­ting up pseudo-profiles and start­ing con­ver­sa­tion threads, per­haps drop­ping a sub­tle link to their web­site if and when the oppor­tu­nity presents itself.

You might even to be to stick around and inanely com­ment every time you can, hope­fully hang­ing around long enough to stick a link in your forum signature.

Even when done with the best inten­tions, you’ll stands out like a sore thumb and rile a few of the locals. Whereas you might get away with it once or twice, it’s really not a sus­tain­able tac­tic, nor does it do you any favours with com­mu­ni­ties you really could do with get­ting on your side.

It’s easy to spot imposters and the back­lash you face when you’re caught out isn’t nice — believe me. Here are a few less-spammy tips for using forums in your online mar­ket­ing efforts.read more about link prospecting by clicking here

N.B. These tips assume you’re not already knowl­edge­able in the sub­ject of the forum

Repur­pose pop­u­lar forum content

This tac­tic errs more on con­tent cre­ation than link build­ing, but they’re two sides of the same coin, so here we go.

Forums are amaz­ing places in terms of the exper­tise peo­ple share.

The lengths and detail at which peo­ple go to help each, debate prob­lems and resolve issues is incred­i­ble, espe­cially given the peo­ple have rarely con­nected in real life.

One thing you can do rel­a­tively eas­ily is mine this knowl­edge for your own content.

Ross Hud­gens, among oth­ers, has spo­ken about lear­ing how to repur­pose con­tent.

Forums are the per­fect place to start if you’re look­ing for con­tent inspiration.

Try search­ing for your head terms and related terms in the forum. What you want is the posts that have had the most input and have pro­voked the most dis­cus­sion. When you get your results then, refine the search by ‘Replies’.

(Most forums have the option to sort by replies and views. If not, you’ll have to scan the threads manually.)

It’s a good idea to cross ref­er­ence the topic on a num­ber of sim­i­lar forums. Usu­ally this gives you a breadth of opin­ions and tid-bits of advice to include in your cre­ated content.

If the topic hasn’t been men­tioned on one forum, then there is scope for reach­ing out to the com­mu­nity armed with what you know so far and ask for advice.

Once you’ve fin­ished your research, you can let  it guide your content.

Reach out to high pro­file members

Forums are a great place to reach out to peo­ple who know about your market.

If you’re work­ing in a dif­fi­cult niches, find­ing appro­pri­ate fig­ures of author­ity to try build rela­tion­ships can be a bit tricky.

High pro­file forum mem­bers are prime can­di­dates here.

Whereas they might not have Hollywood-metrics in terms of Twit­ter fol­low­ers etc, they’ll know the indus­try you’re work­ing in bet­ter than anyone.

You might want to ask for their feed­back on con­tent you’re devel­op­ing, inter­view them on your own site or sim­ply pick their brains about the industry.

There’s no need for any smoke and mir­rors here; just be hon­est about who you are.

Robert Kozinets has spo­ken at length is his book Netnog­ra­phy about the impor­tant of being com­pletely hon­est when research­ing using online com­mu­ni­ties for mar­ket research or any other purposes.

If you decide to lie or mis­lead peo­ple about your inten­tions, you risk your own and, worse, your client’s reputation.

You’d be sur­prised how recep­tive peo­ple are when you’re upfront.

Encour­age client use

One, per­haps obvi­ous (and quixotic) point to sug­gest, is to actu­ally use the forum in the man­ner it is intended to be used by the client.

The cop-out here is nor­mally: (a) ‘Where am I going to find the time?’ and/or (b) ‘What am I pay­ing you to do?’

The ques­tion is, why wouldn’t they want to get involved? If you really care about your busi­ness and indus­try, why not try invest you’re own time in one of its online communities.

This boils down to the vendor/consultancy ques­tion and the role you’re expected to perform.

Rhea Drys­dale defines con­sul­tancy in her WBF:

 “A con­sul­tant is some­one who receives the busi­ness goals from the client, but then they com­mu­ni­cate the strat­egy back to the client, and say, “What we’re hear­ing from you is this is what you want to achieve, but in order to do that we’re rec­om­mend­ing that you pur­sue these dif­fer­ent meth­ods, which we’re going to help you with or maybe we’re going to actu­ally bring on dif­fer­ent resources or we’re going to help man­age resources within your own orga­ni­za­tion and staff this project.”

If your role is as a con­sul­tant and then you should encour­age your client to grow their own pres­ence wher­ever their mar­ket is online, not sim­ply in forums.

You can hold their hand at first, with a view to let­ting them stand on their own two feet one day.

As I say, per­haps this obvi­ous and dis­lo­cated from real­ity. Still, it would be nice…

Experimenting with Custom Reports in Citation Labs’ Link Prospector

As much as I enjoy link prospect­ing, in my heart of hearts, I know it’s not where my time is best spent.

I work in an agency and my time is bet­ter served on the out­reach and acqui­si­tion phase of link build­ing than it is drum­ming up lists of prospects.

I know the less time I have to spend link prospect­ing, the more time I can spend on the work that cre­ates value. The 20% that gives 80% of the results.

One thing I love about Cita­tion Labs link prospec­tor is that it dras­ti­cally reduces the time I need to spend link gath­er­ing link prospects.

Crudely bro­ken down, here is how I used to break up my time spent link build­ing for indi­vid­ual campaigns.

This is how it looked when I was doing a lot of man­ual link prospecting:

Com­pared to now, with a large part of the link prospect­ing automated…

Less time prospect­ing means more time spent mak­ing con­tact and fol­low­ing up, which increases the chance of build­ing more links.

Tools like Cita­tion Labs link prospec­torBuz­zStream and Ontolo are only ever as good as the peo­ple using them.

It is impor­tant to strive to find ways of mak­ing them work for you. A good tool lets you work smarter, as well as quicker.

It is good to be cre­ative in their appli­ca­tion and chal­lenge them to com­plete tasks that would be impos­si­ble, or highly time con­sum­ing, to com­plete manually.

With this then, I’ve been exper­i­ment­ing and test­ing new ways of using Cita­tion Labs using cus­tom, advanced search operators.

Here’s what happened:

Related searches

I blogged recently about my love for ‘related:’ search oper­a­tor.

Usu­ally, I just man­u­ally run these queries one site at a time, scrape the results and then qual­ify them.

It is par­tic­u­larly use­ful at the begin­ning at cam­paigns when you’re research­ing com­peti­tors. I like to make sure I’m aware of every con­ceiv­able com­peti­tor to the site I’m work­ing on.

Usu­ally, the more obscure, the bet­ter, as they’ll have back­link pro­files that haven’t been mined by other SEOs.

I was curi­ous to see what would hap­pen then if I run these queries in bulk.

First then, I set up a cus­tom report…

For the sake of this exper­i­ment, the niche I was research­ing was box­ing and the key­word I chose was box­ing gloves.

I’ll start by tak­ing 10 com­peti­tors and putting them next to the related search query for my search:

My hunch was that the related sites here wouldn’t tell me much I didn’t already know, as I was see­ing sim­i­lar results in all the dif­fer­ent vari­a­tions of ‘box­ing gloves’ I searched for.

I took a sam­ple of urls from dif­fer­ent search queries here, as opposed to just the 10 that appear for the term box­ing gloves, to try make sure I got a bit of diver­sity, whilst still being relevant.

I also think it is impor­tant to find out who your client iden­ti­fies as their com­peti­tors, as they may not actively be opti­mis­ing their site for the search engines.

If they do come up with some­one I’ve not already found, I’ll always throw that site in.

My trep­i­da­tion here was def­i­nitely a bit mis­placed, the search yielded 225 domains. As you would expect, there was a bit of junk in here (MySpace, Face­book etc.), on the whole though, the sites it brought back were rel­e­vant and useful.

Although they weren’t the crème de la crème of the com­pe­ti­tion but this was a good thing. They were decay­ing web­sites but, the point is, they have rel­e­vant back­links I oth­er­wise wouldn’t have found.

If I was being thor­ough here, I’d run another cus­tom related report on the new sites the pre­vi­ous report had identified.

I’d then com­pare the two lists using Ontolo’s Fil­ter Prospects tool to see if there were any more new related domains.

I would then have a com­pre­hen­sive list of sites com­pet­ing with my own. I’d down­load every back­link these sites have and then review to see which might be worth try­ing to accrue.

If you want to pull out all the stops in com­peti­tor link analy­sis, then run­ning a cus­tom related search in link prospec­tor should def­i­nitely be part of your process.

Using tildes

Next up I exper­i­mented by using tildes. Tildes (~) is the syn­onym operator.


(If you want to read more, Gar­rett French’s Guide to the Tilde is a good place to start.)

Again, I used box­ing in my exper­i­ment, just because I like boxing.

First of all I defined the oppor­tu­nity I was look­ing for. In this case, it was guest posting.

To keep this exper­i­ment sim­ple, I’m just used the head term ‘fitness’.

One thing Gar­rett under­lines in his post on tildes is that the impact on using them is diver­sity.

If you con­struct your queries to include all vari­a­tions (which I would advise at least test­ing) and aggre­gate your SERP results, you clearly get a far greater diver­sity of domains. This obvi­ously doesn’t mean that the results are more qual­i­fied, just that there’s more diver­sity with less think­ing on your part about what prospect­ing phrases to use.

What I want then, is for link prospec­tor to run the tilde oper­a­tion quickly and bring me a diverse set of domains, with

My three oper­a­tors were:

~fit­ness –fitness

I popped these into Ontolo’s Query Gen­er­a­tor, which shows 132 foot­print queries that could yield good results.

Nor­mally my next step would be to go through these indi­vid­u­ally and use the scraper tool. Need­less to say, this is tedious time con­sum­ing. With the link prospec­tor tool, I just down­load these queries as a csv and copy and pasted them into a cus­tom report.

When it came back I’ve got the results from the 132 tilde queries above in about, 4 min­utes, mean­ing I could move quickly onto the qual­i­fi­ca­tion stage and more impor­tantly, the out­reach :D

My process from here on in is this:

  • Export the paths to csv (I like to see the path, rather than the domain, so I can work out why it has been identified)
  • Next I want to trim the fat. I order the results by PageR­ank and cut out any­thing above 5. These are nor­mally too high pro­file or sites like Face­book and Twitter
  • Then it is just a case of going through the nor­mal qual­i­fi­ca­tion process using Ontolo’s prospect reviewer


Ulti­mately, the Link Prospec­tor is a time sav­ing device that runs mul­ti­ple search queries for you . It allows you to weight your time onto the business-end of get­ting links.

The point of these exper­i­ments was not so much to show the qual­ity of results, but the ease of which run com­plex search query com­bi­na­tions. It feels like a math­e­mati­cian being given a cal­cu­la­tor to use when you’ve been pre­vi­ously laboured with an abacus.

I’ve only really tipped the ice berg here. Would like to see other peo­ple exper­i­ment­ing with cus­tom reports, see their process and see what kind of results they get.

The 3 Best Link Building Books

There is not yet a defin­i­tive book on link build­ing. There is a nice ebook by Gar­rett French and Eric Ward is set to pub­lish one in the near future, which you can bet will be good.

This does not mean there aren’t books out there, how­ever, that will indi­rectly help with your under­stand­ing and encour­age you to become a bet­ter link builder.

Here are  three books that I’ve per­son­ally found use­ful that aren’t strictly about link build­ing. I’d wel­come any other sug­ges­tions peo­ple want to make :)

Cold Call­ing for Chick­ens
by Bob Etherington

If I could only rec­om­mend one book for link builders who are new to the indus­try it would be this one by sales expert Bob Etherington.

Although cold call­ing is tra­di­tion­ally per­ceived to be almost exclu­sively the domain of out-and-out sales roles, the prin­ci­ples are directly related and apply per­fectly to link building.visit http://www.eatsleepsearch.com/finding-link-building-opportunities-with-competitive-link-research/ to read more about link building opportunities.

What Ether­ing­ton stresses in this book is that it is not just about that moment you pick up the phone and dial a num­ber, but more about being able to effec­tively and reg­u­larly make cold con­tact with peo­ple is a lifestyle and atti­tude choice.

It is about being able to cre­ate effec­tive habits and under­stand­ing how peo­ple make buy­ing (or ‘link­ing’) decisions.

Sell­ing is not telling

Per­haps the key point the book stressed and the best take-away for link builders is that sell­ing is not telling. You can rarely per­suade peo­ple to buy from you; peo­ple per­suade themselves.

Just think about what under­stand­ing this can do for your link build­ing. Mak­ing that first cold con­tact is the first step to the estab­lished order of flow in which you need to influ­ence their thinking.

No one is say­ing you have to like cold call­ing. What you have to under­stand though, is that 85% of the busi­ness out there is won by the 5% of the sales peo­ple able to make cold calls.

I would wager that there are sim­i­lar per­cent­ages for the best links that are won.

Trust Agents
by Chris Bro­gan and Julien Smith

I really was torn between includ­ing this or Seth Godin’s Per­mis­sion Mar­ket­ing. Both tackle the same idea, how­ever, Bro­gan and Smith’s book edged it onto this list because it is a bit more online centric.

Its cen­tral theme is about max­imis­ing human con­nec­tiv­ity and inter­ac­tion online. You need to be able to under­stand the inter­net as a tool and be able to think strate­gi­cally about build­ing your own pres­ence online.

Whilst a lot of the con­cepts intro­duced in the book will not nesses­sar­ily be ground break­ing to most online mar­keters who already ‘get it’, what it does do is per­fectly artic­u­late the econ­omy of build­ing trust online, which comes as a use­ful rein­force­ment even to peo­ple with vast experience.

This is an espe­cially good start­ing point for peo­ple com­pletely new to online mar­ket­ing and the book that, in an ideal world, all clients would read.

One thing that struck me from both this book and Godin’s Per­mis­sion Mar­ket­ing is that for a busi­ness to really thrive online, it requires a fun­da­men­tal shift in its culture.

If its tra­di­tional ways of oper­at­ing stay the same, throw­ing money at mar­ket­ing agen­cies becomes like try­ing to cram a square peg into a round hole.

Bounce: How Cham­pi­ons are Made
by Matthew Syed

My last choice is moti­vated by the fact I think it’s impor­tant to under­stand that peo­ple aren’t born nat­u­rally good at link build­ing, mar­ket­ing, or any other dis­ci­pline for that matter.

They may have been exposed to sit­u­a­tions that have cul­ti­vated the basic skills needed to excel quickly in the pro­fes­sion, but it is not a god given talent.

That’s why I have included Matthew Syed’s Bounce on this list. Sim­i­lar to Mal­colm Gladwell’s Out­liers in its theme, it looks at why and how peo­ple excel in cer­tain sub­jects and sports.

Ulti­mately, it dis­pels the myth that peo­ple are born tal­ented and reit­er­ates how impor­tant pos­i­tive prac­tice is.

I guess this is impor­tant to grasp because even if your work isn’t at the place you want it to be today, you can have faith that through cul­ti­vat­ing the right habits, you can get it there tomorrow.

That’s it then. As I say, I would love to hear other people’s sug­ges­tions. Other notable men­tions that nearly made their way onto my list were:

Sell­ing to Win by Richard Denney

Influ­ence: The Psy­chol­ogy of Per­sua­sion by Robert Cialadi

The Inner Game of Golf by Tim­o­thy Gallwey

If you are look­ing for other SEO-related books to sink your teeth into, check out Paul Rogers’ rec­om­mended dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing and user expe­ri­ence books.

Finding Link Building Opportunities with Competitive Link Research


Finding Link Building Opportunities with Competitive Link Research

Link build­ing can be tough at the best of times, so if there are any ways to shorten this process and find some quick wins then I’m always happy to try them out. I thought I would share some meth­ods that can be used to find rel­e­vant link tar­gets for your web­site. This involves some­thing that any link builder should be aware of: com­pet­i­tive link research.

Com­pet­i­tive link research essen­tially involves look­ing at the link pro­files of your com­peti­tors in order to find oppor­tu­ni­ties for you to build links. In a nut­shell, you’re look­ing at where your com­peti­tors have built links and then tar­get­ing these sites your­self whilst avoid­ing all the hard work that went into acquir­ing them. This could be through find­ing blogs  rel­e­vant to your niche that are tak­ing on guest posts, iden­ti­fy­ing higher qual­ity, rel­e­vant direc­to­ries to sub­mit your site to or by dis­cov­er­ing some really orig­i­nal, unique link build­ing ideas.

Analysing Your Com­peti­tors’ Back Links

There are a num­ber of tools that you can use to scout out the links that are point­ing to your com­peti­tors’ web­sites, but I am going to focus on Majes­tic SEO’s, Site Explorer tool and SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer tool. Both of these tools need to be paid for in order to get the best out of them but they will def­i­nitely prove their worth over time.

Majes­tic SEO

Majes­tic SEO has to be my favourite link analy­sis tool and it has helped me to both iden­tify new oppor­tu­ni­ties for links as well as find­ing poten­tial issues with links com­ing into my sites. I have taken a snap­shot of the links to the Web Design Galway web­site that I have been work­ing on through Majes­tic SEO’s Site Explorer, which we can look at in a bit more detail.

Majestic SEO Links

The first thing I always do is down­load this list to a .csv file so that I can fil­ter through the list of URLs that are link­ing back to the Wow Inter­net web­site. What I’m look­ing for is some sites that are bring­ing in par­tic­u­larly pow­er­ful links and ways in which I could pos­si­bly take advan­tage of this.

Remove NoFollows

Once the .csv file has been down­loaded I will need to fil­ter through a few parts of the results. Firstly, I’ll hide all of the links that have been flagged as deleted and then also hide the nofol­low links so that I am only focus­ing on links that are pass­ing PageR­ank through to the web­site. If I then fil­ter the SourceCita­tion­Flow (this is a met­ric used show the qual­ity of the link­ing URL) col­umn in descend­ing order, I can see the higher qual­ity links at the top of the list.

Top Links for Wow Internet

Instantly I can see some poten­tial link­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties that com­peti­tors of Wow Inter­net could take advan­tage of. The top link is from a blog arti­cle on the SEO­moz web­site and then the next is from the pro­file link on my SEO­moz account that points back to the Wow Inter­net website.

A guest post on the SEO­moz blog can pro­vide a web­site within my indus­try with one of the most valu­able links pos­si­ble. Now this is old news to many of you within the online mar­ket­ing indus­try but when you look at the sec­ond link (the pro­file link on my SEO­moz account) you will see that the ‘nofol­low’ has been removed from the link. The rea­son for this is that I have over 200 ‘Moz­Points’ on my account, which I gained by sim­ply answer­ing ques­tions on the forum and com­ment­ing on the blogs, etc. This could be a quick win toward your link build­ing if you are already pay­ing for your SEO­moz sub­scrip­tion. You will find that there are many instances of this in other niches among high pro­file com­mu­nity sites.

The third link is from a tes­ti­mo­nial that I wrote on the Word­Stream web­site after using their prod­uct. This rep­re­sents one of the best links going back to the Wow Inter­net web­site and can be a great strat­egy toward devel­op­ing links to any web­site. At the end of the day, every­one wants to good PR for their busi­ness. Just from a quick cou­ple of min­utes of scan­ning through the link­ing pro­file of the site it is clear to see that there are many oppor­tu­ni­ties that can arise from car­ry­ing this research out.

Open Site Explorer

For those of you who pre­fer SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer then you are able to do a sim­i­lar task. If I take a look at a com­peti­tor of the Wow Inter­net web­site then I can see this same type of analy­sis from a dif­fer­ent point of view.

Open Site Explorer Filters

Open Site Explorer has some handy fil­ter­ing options that mean you don’t always need to down­load to a .csv to get the best from the results; how­ever, I would rec­om­mend doing so. Through the fil­ter­ing options within OSE I’m able to drill down on only fol­lowed links from exter­nal sites and it’s also pos­si­ble to group the links by domain, which is a par­tic­u­larly handy option. We can then sort the results by domain/page author­ity to see the high­est qual­ity links going to the site.

Open Site Explorer

Tak­ing an instant look at some of the links that this web­site has, I have noticed that the top result goes to an open source SEO tool project where you can donate money toward the project and receive a list­ing on the ‘dona­tions’ page. This page has a page author­ity of 63 and a domain author­ity of 62 so it could be a quick and valu­able link prospect that would only need me to donate a bit of cash toward a good project. Win!

Another link that I have noticed is an SEO/web design-specific online direc­tory that I could add the Wow Inter­net web­site to in order to get an extra back link from a related web­site. Online direc­to­ries shouldn’t be relied on for links, but if they are niche rel­e­vant then they can cer­tainly be quite helpful.

What You Should Be Look­ing For

Hav­ing access to all of this data is invalu­able toward build­ing an effec­tive link build­ing cam­paign, like if we are try to build links for Web Designers Ireland. It allows you to under­stand what your com­peti­tors are doing and gain some quick insights into how to build some extra links. Hav­ing said this, just because your com­peti­tors are flood­ing blogs with spammy com­ments, doesn’t mean you should be doing it as well. Try to look for guest blog­ging oppor­tu­ni­ties by find­ing links that your com­peti­tors have gained by doing all the ini­tial out­reach ground­work and you’re sure to reap the rewards. Also, try and look for some of the more orig­i­nal ideas for back links, such as the Word­Stream review that the Wow Inter­net site had and the dona­tion page link that one of the com­peti­tors had. This is where you will find some real gold.

Also, keep in mind that your com­peti­tors may well be doing the same as you so keep ahead of the game and always be on the look­out for orig­i­nal link build­ing ideas. On top of this, try to focus on build­ing links that are hard to repli­cate by build­ing social com­mu­ni­ties or tak­ing advan­tage of offline rela­tion­ships. Either way, always keep an eye on your competition!