I wrote up my summary on this morning’s first session, Blow Your Mind Link Building Techniques, and then I felt that I should revise a bit once I heard Matt Cutts refute (yet again) many of the techniques that were discussed. He asked the audience in his “You and A Session with Matt Cutts” if they wanted to be the Milli Vanilli of search? As we all know, Google has taken an aggressive stand, with Matt leading the way, to combat paid text links. And that over the last year, users have submitted thousands of paid link reports to Google all to help improve the quality of their index. So what’s a webmaster to do when trying to gain quality inbound links? There are still some great tips on how to find links, which today’s panel covered in detail. So let me boil them down for you here.
Roger Montti, of MartiniBuster.com, covered how to find Dot edu links. He said this is the whitest hat type of link you can get and that nobody has gotten banned for having too many of these links (as far as he knows). The benefits of Dot edu links are mainly that they aren’t usually in bad neighborhoods and that they house original, expert content. However there are drawbacks if focusing on just this segment alone. Drawbacks include that the page might not have many inbound links and not be crawled often and that the link page might look like a link farm without structure and content.
Roger gave the audience some Yahoo! Link Search commands to help find pages within the Dot edu sites that might provide links. The root of the command is: linkdomain:example.com site:.edu “links”, where you can replace “links” with terms such as bookmarks, favorite sites, or your product or service.
The colorful Jay Young of Link Fish Media was up next. Jay was colorful not only in his pink shirt but also in his opening statement, “The two things you need most in link building are brass balls and big bucks.” And that we are “marketers and not moralists”, which this comment flies in the face of Google’s stance and Matt Cutts being later referenced as the moral compass of SEM.
He said that many of the traditional directories are still useful places to get links: Best of the Web, Yahoo, DMOZ, Joe Ant, and Blog Catalogue. He then went on to talk about link buying, but didn’t rattle off a list of services, saying instead that “we knew who they were”. Link buying still works but you must be relevant, natural, and vary your anchor text. Jay also covered some spamming techniques that he claims still work: commenting on blogs that don’t use nofollows, along with posting trackbacks, reciprocal links and link farms. But the best piece of advice I thought was recommending that you think outside the box and beyond link baiting. Creation of widgets, blog templates, sponsorship of templates, contests, and content syndication all provide great sources of links and can all be done on the up-and-up.
Stephan Spencer of Netconcepts was up last and covered the continued importance of PageRank. His techniques include looking for sites that are one click away from Google. For example, try to get relevant links on sites that Google references. He also stresses the importance of varying your anchor text and redistributing your home page links to cover more of the site. A few tools that Stephan recommends include Internet Marketing Ninjas’ Backlink Analysis Tools, SEOmoz’s Back Link Analyzer tool, and SEO Book’s Back Link Analyzer tool.
Stephan recommends using conditional 301 redirects, however in a later session, Matt Cutts dismissed this and said that this is especially bad if the bot is Google. Stephan cites an article by Chris Smith about how Amazon is doing this through their affiliate marketing program. While affiliate marketing can provide many inbound links, many of them are discounted with 302 or nofollow links. However, LinkConnector and DirectTrack provide 301 redirects.
That’s my updated recap from today’s first session. Remember to start with the foundational link building elements of looking at your current inbound link sources, anchor text and link page, along with those of your competitors. Don’t forget to reach out to your audience by blogging, commenting, and providing good content that garners good links. And one final word from Matt – is to follow the golden rule and not deceive your users (or Google). I think Matt made a good point on the importance of this rule in that breaking this rule just causes our industry to get negative press, which nobody wants.