Sunday, December 27, 2009

Notes on Link building

Hello again, Zakmata here, reporting now on the well known and controversial field of link building.

First off, a little info for the newcomers. What's link building? It's all the work a webmaster/blogger/Internet marketer does to get links from other websites. It not only includes getting a link, but also all the necessary research that comes before, and also the follow ups to ensure links stay in place, and that they are not being cloaked, hidden, or otherwise not count.

What goes into link building? First let's start with motivation. We who build backlinks do it to get better rankings in search engines for terms related to what we have written, a product we sell or anything else we want to push to online consumers [ see my make money guide for beginners for how to do this ].

The first thing to determine is what keywords do we want to rank for, because those keywords and their variations are what we are going to use as anchor text for the links we build. Before we do this, you need to choose a link building strategy: Heads or Tails.

Heads is going after the big keywords, those that get thousands of visitors per day. Note that this strategy could potentially be a long term thing, but the potential money to be gained could be an order of magnitude higher than what you get from other methods.

Tails is going after the so called long tail keywords, those that get anywhere from 1 to 100 visitors each. For this to work, you need to go volume on how many different keywords you are going to target, because not one keyword will get you enough visitors to sustain you economically for your efforts. One advantage over going for the big keywords is that the long tail is not very competitive, if at all. Rankings should be easy to get, and can be monetized faster.

Now on to selecting the keywords, for this you can use a number of keyword suggestion tools. There are many keyword suggestion or analysis tools around, but the estimates of traffic are mostly off, so they are only useful for determining if there are other keywords that get at least enough traffic to get an estimate on them. Also note that the keywords suggested on those tools are most likely just a combination of the keywords entered, and may not be a real reflection of what visitors type in the search boxes.

Now that you have a list of keywords you'd like to rank for, its time to start the linking process.

Once again, there are two main ways to go about it: Networking/Social media, Article marketing, Reciprocal linking, and finally, link farming.

With networking and social media, you basically use services such as twitter, facebook, digg and others related, where webmasters and bloggers go to hang out and start building connections/friends, so at one point in the near future you can request links from them, either directly or indirectly, by pointing them to "linkbait" articles you wrote.

There are benefits and downsides for this. Good things are that links you get from posts or articles written by your "friends", will probably be the best optimized links you could hope to get, that is, they will use your desired keywords in a relevant link in the middle of a keyword rich and related post in one of their blogs or sites that have quite a few links themselves. Also, most webmasters/bloggers have multiple sites, which is always a good thing to have links from different sites.

The not so good, is that to get links from most webmasters/bloggers, you need to have spend quite a while to develop the trust for them to even consider linking to you without requiring a link back, or you'll need to be quite a personality [ read famous ] webmaster/blogger to get some kind of attention. Also, linkbaiting articles are mostly time dependent, that is, you may get links/traffic to those pages, but only as long as the event that generated it still hold valid or has some appeal to the audience of webmasters/bloggers.

Then there's article marketing. The way this works is that you submit an article, how-to, new piece or other text based "product" to article directories, news sites and press release sites, with a link to you website as credit for being the author of the piece.

The links you get as credit from the articles are the second best yo can get [ second only to those from the social media crowd discussed above ], in terms of anchor text and authority, since the best article directories have many links pointing to them, so any link you get has some inherent link power, albeit small, flowing from them.

One of the things people like about using article marketing and press releases is that they get heavily syndicated, meaning that many other sites and scrapers [ sites that get their content directly from others, without their permission ] will pick the article up and provide a link back, because most times they don't even bother [ or are not allowed ] to remove the author credit links.

The downside to this is that there are not enough article directories to get a diverse link profile, and search engines could easily spot your site as getting SEO only links [ that is, links from articles, directories and exchanges ], in case you get any sort of complaint, they can be quick to take you down for "questionable linking practices".

Next in line is reciprocal link building. This could be good, only if done in moderation. Reciprocal linking is asking other webmasters/bloggers to link to you, providing a link from your own website to theirs.

As I said before, this can be beneficial only if done correctly and in moderation. For this to work, only a fraction of your backlinks should be reciprocal or search engines [ read google ] will start discounting or not even counting the link value they could provide, because at some point in time, reciprocal links have been abused by spammers trying to get to the top of results pages.

To ensure benefit from reciprocals, you need to make sure that the site you'll link to doesn't have links to spam or unrelated sites, because it could end up hurting you. Also, make sure to only get reciprocal links from related sites, if you get [ and give ] links from unrelated sites, search engines can mark them as link spam and hurt your rankings.

One last route, and one that deserves quite a bit more attention than it currently gets is link farming. Historically, link farming has had a negative connotation, because it referred to pages and websites created for the sole purpose of sending links out, most often to unrelated and spammy sites.

The kind of link farming I'm going to be writing about here is quite a different game. The thing that separates old fashioned link farms from modern ones is spam, or more accurately, lack thereof. Modern link farms operate on content people will benefit from reading [ that is, relevant ], as opposed from links to any and all sites with spam to fill the content that old fashioned farms used and use today. search engines have come a long way, and they are able to detect those kinds of link schemes, and of those that pass or avoid the algorithmic filters, all it takes is a few spam complaints and whole networks of upwards of thousands of sites will get removed from the indexes.

The game is a combination of all of the above discussed link building strategies, put together in a way that will allow you to control a large network of sites, and their links and content, for use in ranking new pages, or sites that are making you money with ads or product sales.

The basic premise is to build a site, get it indexed in search engines, get some link power to them, point a link to one of your money sites [ or maybe even a gateway "link launder" site ], rinse and repeat. There's far more to it than this simplified explanation, but it serves to show you the basic structure of a modern link farm.

What we do is to layer up the links we get, first layer point their links to one or more of your money sites, second points to the first, so on and so forth. This is to avoid getting a bunch of links from the same sites [ or more specifically, from the same IP block ], by re routing links to a third, different and often trusted site that already points to your site.

This technique [ called link laundering ] is also used a lot by spammers, to get millions of low quality links, and layer by layer, get them to become two or three good quality links. Not to be confused with link spamming like this, what a good quality link farm [ that is far more effective for its use of quality links in the first place ] is doing is to allow you control of the pages that link to you, because you have created [ or bought ] the original content used in those, instead of relying on other webmasters/bloggers for your link equity, as its called.

The sites that are used for publishing content are most of the time free hosts or article directories [ examples are blogspot blogs and hubpages hubs, click link to sign up ], that have the benefit of not being as penalized in case you get too greedy and start spamming links and search engines detect it, putting your money sites one vital step away from such questionable practices.

Other, less useful ways to build links that have been spammed to death are web directories, blog comments and trackbacks.

As you can see, link building is no free ride; you need to get your research and work right from the beginning. Getting links and spamming are the difference between high rankings and a permanent ban from search engines.

- Zakmata

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