David Leonhardt’s SEO and Social Media Marketing

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Archive for the ‘linking’ Category

REALITY CHECK – one way links

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

It seems I have been encountering an awful lot of doctrine at webmaster forums recently about the high value of one-way links or the low value of link exchanges.  This is a myth, based on those people who engage in what the search engines view as “unnatural” linking patters.  If most of your links come from reciprocation, then it stands to reason that your website does not have a lot of value, or else it should get lots of links based on the quality of its content or its usefulness.

But if your links come from a wide variety of sources and in a wide variety of formats, there is no truth to the myth that a link exchange is worth less than a one-way link.  When faced with Internet marketing issues, it is often worth doing a reality check.  What would you do to promote your business in the real world?

Suppose you owned a tourist attraction and you wanted to place your brochure in the lobby of a local hotel. The hotel might say:

  • Great. That’s a wonderful service to my visitors.
  • No problem. That will be $50 a month.
  • Sure, if I can place my brochure on your counter (like a link exchange!)
  • OK, if you give me a season’s pass.

Does it matter which way you get the brochure (link) into the lobby (webpage)?  No.  What counts is that you are where your target market can see you.  And that is what counts with link-building.  Find the p[laces you want to be seen by real people and by the search engines and get your site listed there in whatever way you can.

A note about paid links.  Google do not like paid links.  But does that mean it is wrong to buy a link if that’s what it takes to be where you want to be?  No, that is just good marketing.  But it does help to understand what Google is doing.

Google does not care how you do your marketing.  Google does care that the public perceives it as the most useful search engine.  Google is a business, just like you, and the customer is always right.  To keep customers coming back, Google has a very complex and carefully balanced ranking algorithm. Who is ranked at what position is a moot point to Google, but if the overall integrity of its results is placed at risk, Google has to take action.  The massive purchasing of paid links on high PageRank websites, often irrelevant to the topic of the link, has the potential of skewing Google’s results.  For that reason, these are not looked on favorably.

I do not recommend as a matter of practice that you buy or lease irrelevant links to boost PageRank.  I do not recommend that paid links be a major portion of your linking campaign.  And I do not recommend you buy links where there are a dozen other paid links all together.  But if there is a relevant link that you want and the price is money, I do recommend that you don’t feel obliged to keep your money in your pocket.

One way or link exchanges.  Barter or paid.  Three way or five way linking.  Do whatever it takes to get the highest quality, relevant links to your website.

 


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Mature Domains – Ranking Advantage at Google

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Those of us who have been paying attention new about the importance of domain maturity already a couple years ago.  But it looks like 2008 might be the year that the webmaster community starts to realize the importance of the issue, with Google’s United States Patent Application: 0080086467 being publicized.

The bottom line is that it is to your advantage to hold a domain that has been around — and in your ownership — for several years.  Maturity counts, and SEO gets easier as your domain ages.  It is also to your advantage to see links from mature domains, although I don’t think I would waste time checking the ages of every domain I hoped to get a link from (more on this in a moment).

Why are mature domains better?  Like so many things, especially on the Internet where much is ephemeral, a mature domain has stood the test of time and therefore is more likely than average to provide useful information or services.  An established domain is much, much less likely to be a spam site set up to turn a quick profit and disappear.  The bottom line is that a mature domain is more likely to be a trustworthy one.

And trust is what it is about.  When Google sends traffic to your site, it is placing trust in the site.  Maturity is one way Google can measure trust.  However, it is far from the only way.  PageRank is another.   There are likely dozens of measures of trust that Google employs, which is why I would not waste my time checking domain age.  A much better trust test is too see how well a site ranks for its own target search phrases.  If it ranks well, Google must trust it at least a fair amount, and therefore it is a good website to be associated with.

 


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Deep Links in Bloggeries

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

With all the tempting examples of silly things we see on the Internet, not to mention pure stupidity, it is sometimes easy to overlook those who do things right.  Such an example is Bloggeries Blog Directory .  This is a mid-priced paid directory specifically for blogs.

First, they give you a link in the category listings, as 99% of directories do.

Then, they give you a details page, which maybe about 2% of directories do.  This is nice, because it is a page that is totally optimized for your website.  If the page has any link juice at all, it is a good page to have a link from.  This blog is listed here: David Leonhardt’s SEO Marketing Express.

Third, they offer deep links.  Now you have surely heard me expound upon the benefits of deep linking.  Directories I am involved with, such as WV Travel and DevDream, not only feature listings on multiple pages, but also include the option of up to three deep links for each listing.  Well, Bloggeries have outdone me on this.  Look at our listing again, and you will see they offer three deep links, and they also include links to our most recent posts across the middle of the page, thanks to the magic of RSS.

On top of that, they have a forum that is quite busy and one incentive to participate is that they provide backlinks in your signature line plus a link to the post you wrote (which is a great enticement for people to visit your blog, so write provocative titles!)

This really was not intended to be a review of Bloggeries, as much as another chance to talk about deep links.  But I suppose plans change.  :-)

 


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Link Exchanges: It’s not the size of the PR, but how you use it

Friday, February 8th, 2008

If you plan to haggle over PageRank with me…goodbye.

That’s right, I have kicked the habit.  The size of your PageRank doesn’t impress me any more.  PageRank surely is still real, but an individual page’s PR can often shrink or grow so that neither you nor I can really know its real size.

  • The Toolbar PageRank has always been at best an approximation. 
  • Pages that show with PR3 or PR4 in the Google Directory are now often showing PR0 (PR Shrinkage)
  • Whole sites are now showing PR0, even while they continue to rank as well as when their pages showed PR3 – PR4.
  • Increasingly link-pages or directory-style pages are showing PR0, sometimes after showing PR3 or PR4 just a week earlier.
  • The gray bar used to mean a page was not cached in Google – a sure sign of a penalty or a brand new page.  No longer.  Many pages with PR are now displaying the gray bar.
  • Toolbar PageRank is dead!

Until very recently, I was assuming that the Toolbar was only showing false negatives – that if a page showed PR4 it was a pretty good bet that the PR of that page is at least PR4.  But recent observations have lead me to question this assumption, and perhaps I am jumping the gun, but I believe the toolbar is now showing false positives, too.

What I look for in a link exchange

Rather than PageRank, I look for a few other key items on the page where my client’s link will appear:

  • Most importantly, I want to know the page is cached by Google.  Not only is that absolutely vital for the link counting with Planet Earth’s most important search engine, but it is a fairly good indicator of whether other search engines and real human beings will find the page, too.  Not cached?  I won’t even look at any other factors.  This is the show-stopper
  • Is the page relevant to my topic?  If not, it had better be superb in every other area.
  • Is the page relevant (optimized) to my search phrases?  Again, if not, it had better be superb in every other area.
  • Is this page optimized for words like “link exchange” or “reciprocal links”?  Why not just type “SLEAZE” in big bold letters across the top of the page?  And don’t think the search engines can’t read words like “link exchange” or “reciprocal links”.  This is another factor that comes pretty close to being a show-stopper, too.
  • Is the page part of some automated link machine script?  Let’s face it, you don’t want to send the search engines a message that, “Hey, I can’t get real links from real people who just love my site, so instead I found an automated script to keep me warm at night.”  This is usually a show-stopper, too.
  • Once I see that a page is cached and passes the four eyeball tests above, it’s time to get critical.  The first thing I look for is a page that can easily be found.  If the page is one of 50 categories in a directory whose main page is linked only from the home page, that’s not a very good sign. Two clicks deep, and sharing link-juice with 50 categories?  I don’t think so.
  • I also check that the page is not the last in a series of pages that link one from the other…that’s how many clicks deep from the home page?  Never go to dance with someone if she’ll make you stand in line to dance.
  • I like a page that is either directly linked to from the home page or is linked to from a page that is in the sitewide template.  From an internal linking perspective, this tells the search engines that the page actually counts.  And you want your link to count.
  • Of course, I also look at the quality of the website overall.  Is this a website that likely carries a lot of trust value?  Does it rank well for similar search terms to the ones I am targeting?  Is the link directory full of all sorts of totally unrelated categories, perhaps some of them even unsavory?  If this website sleeps around too much, be careful what you might catch.
  • Is the page a content page?  I can forgive a number of other items for a genuine link in the midst of a page of text.
  • Is my link last on a page with 500 links?  I really prefer pages with 50 or fewer links, but if there are more, I am fine with having our link added near the top of the list, but not at the bottom.

Tell me you have a high-trust website and a linking page that is well linked internally, relevant to my search phrases and clean from the flotsam that shouts out “sleaze”.  But don’t tell me your page has bigger PageRank than mine.  It’s not the size that counts; it’s how you use it.

 


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Google Toolbar False Positives

Monday, January 28th, 2008

For some time I have been pretty much ignoring PageRank in the Google Toolbar.  I know too many sites that lost big PR on certain pages and not others or lost it across the board, all with no noticeable affect in their rankings. 

More and more I see that link pages on websites register PR 0 (solid white bar) or no PR whatsoever (solid gray bar, which used to mean a site with a penalty) but which I can see by the PR of the rest of the website and the link structure should be all countr by PR2 or PR3 if not more.

But I have been assuming that the Toolbar shows PR lower than reality, never higher.  That is, it gives lots (and lots and lots and lots) of false negatives, but never any false positives.  However, lately my faith has been shaken.  There have been a couple offers of link swaps involving pages that just intuitively should not have such a high PageRank.  Today one of them struck me as odd enough, that I though I would blog about it.

This is a home page of a website that, according to both Google and Yahoo has 2 pages and shows less than 300 backlinks at Google.  Furthermore, it is a blog with just two posts, both from 5 days ago.  How would it get to be PR5, which takes a lot more links than it once did?  And why am I suddenly getting an email for a home page link swap (becasue the savvy owner realises that he has something to capitalize on quickly before it turns to dust!)?

Don’t trust that green and white bar. 

 


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Link Building by the Specs? No Thank You!

Friday, November 30th, 2007

So somebody needs to build links to help his search engine rankings, and has come up with a very precise list of exactly what he wants.  It includes 19 exact specifications, which perhaps he pulled from a handy article somewhere on the Web.  Here is the list he presented, but this post could be abut any such list… 

1. One way non-reciprocal links only, no link exchanges.
2. THREE WAY Links where all links are in the same theme is OK
3. All links must be permanent.
4. Only 10% can be in directories.
5. No blogs
6. ONLY OUR THEME , (our theme is quite common so you will not have problems).
7. NO hidden links or any site that has hidden links.
8. No directories. No link farms, link-exchange programs, forums, Google banned site, black hat website. No guestbooks, links within forums, links within newsgroups or links from link exchanges etc. and never participate in any commercial web rings.
9. No sites banned by Google.
10. Link page must have a recent Google & Yahoo cache.
11. Must be manually submitted.
12. No Automated software (e.g., Zeus, Arelis or others)
13. All links must be from a different domain and IP address (geographically diverse, different class-c IP address block).
14. Only 10 to 15 links per week per language per site
15. Link pages must be static urls (no variables or parameters in the url)
16. No blacklisted or spam sites.
17. No more than 40 outbound links per page.
18. The link text must be from our keyword list and point to that keywords target page
19. All links must be static and without “nofollow” tags, no redirects, or javascript
20. Links must be on a PAGE with a Google PR of at least 2
21. All links must be on a page of the same language
22. Links must be on domains where we have no link

This post is about why I refuse to build links according to lists like this.  First, I must note that some of the items such as #9 and #7 and #15, for example, all make perfect sense.  These are deal-breakers that make a link useless. 

However, other elements are judgment calls: stipulating how many links per page, the PageRank, that a three-way link is acceptable but not a two-way link, among other factors.  What people hire me is to exercise that judgement.  To decode when a page might be PR1 but incredible on-topic and worth going after.  Or when a page might have 200 links, but with PR4 and lots of real human traffic it is worth its weight in gold.  Honestly, the client can just have his secretary or an offshore link-builder do the manual job of seeking out the links.  He does not need me for that.  What he needs me and my trained staff for is to exercise judgment – judgment that he is overriding with a pre-fab list. 

Does the client really think we have control over how many links are built in a week?  That depends on the response rate and the amount of back-and-forth with various webmasters.

And how much does he want to pay me to track down IP addresses to make sure they are all different?  Or check that the client does not already have a link on the domain?

That’s why I turn down offers to try to fit a strategic process into so comprehensive a list of technical specifications.

 


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Link-bait content for viral marketing

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

Today I just want to share with you Jason Lee Miller’s list of what works as good link bait and ideal for viral marketing.  His whole article is great and can be read here, but this is the list I thought I would share directly with readers. 

The Resource Approach (Becoming the Expert In Your Field/Niche)

–    Create expert articles/lists/data sheets 
–    Create practical or fun tools
–    Write How-To articles
–    Create a comprehensive blog roll (give link love, get link love)
–    Compile informative news stories and articles


The News Approach

–    Get the scoop. Be first with industry news
–    Interview prominent people in your field
–    Investigate a hot topic
–    Do an exposé


The Humor/Novelty Approach

–    Post funny/interesting/amazing photos related to your industry
–    Create humorous/unique videos (Use Blendtec for inspiration)
–    Create lists; people love lists – Top 10 Ways to…; 10 Signs You’re…

 


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How to chose a link partner

Monday, November 19th, 2007

Most webmasters are at a total loss when they try to decide whether to do a link exchange.  In fact, they are so lost that they rely on how much green is showing on the notoriously inaccurate Google Toolbar.

Here is my top-5 list of how to decide if a link exchange is worthwhile.

1. The page is cached by Google.  That is the drop-dead bottom line.  If it is not cached, Google can’t find it.  And Google is the biggest search engine by far.  If Google can’t find it, chances are that Yahoo, Ask and MSN can’t either.  And chances are that real people won’t land on the page or navigate to it.

2. Relevance. The page should not be optimized for “links”. “link exchange” or “resources”, unless are searches you are targeting in your SEO efforts.

3. Relevance.  The page should be relevant for the specific words you are targeting.  In other words, the title tag and the heading should include at least one of the main words of the search you are targeting.

4. Relevance. The page should be on topic, regardless of specific words.  If it is full of totally unrelated websites, the search engines can see that it is just a collection of random links.

5. If you can get a link on a content page, or where yours is the only external link on the page, you have struck gold!

 


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Reciprocal link heresy

Friday, October 26th, 2007

Let’s go hunt us a sacred cow today, OK?  Specifically, the sacred cow that all links must be reciprocated. 

There are a number of software programs you can purchase that can periodically make sure that all your link partners retain their links to your website so that you can notify them, warn them, threaten them and remove their links if they have removed yours.

Others spend time double-checking by hand.

Is this money well spent?  Is this time well spent?

No.

First, you have gained nothing by removing the links of those few who have reneged on their end of the bargain.  You have not increased your link popularity.  You have not gained additional PageRank.  You have not increased your website’s trust, relevance, content, number of pages or any other indicator that will lead to higher rankings.

Second, you have just spent money buying software that could have been spent elsewhere.  Or you have spent time checking backlinks that could have been spent creating them.

Third, you might even be doing yourself a disservice by making every outbound link on your resources page a reciprocated one.  The search engines are pretty clever.  They can detect when 100% of your outbound links are reciprocated.  They can detect when 100% of your links are part of a triangular linking pattern.  Do you think they are impressed with that?  My logic is that it is to your advantage if over time some of your link partners reneg and you have less of a pattern (remember that when it comes to linking, patterns should be avoided, for they indicate to the search engines that the links are contrived).

So, with apologies to everyone hocking link-checking software, my recommendation is to not waste another minute of the precious few God gave you checking up on your link partners.  A nice hike in the mountains would be a much better investment for your business…and of course for you!

 


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Inbound links – better to own than to rent

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

I like this post saying Don’t Buy Rent Links

Julia Kristiva makes a great arguement for creating content, going through the costs and revenue, and how the website benefits from the content.  In this example, she references a useful tool created for a client.  But articles, data, case studies, ebooks, and other useful content can have the same effect.

I have never been a big fan of buying (“renting”, actually) links.  Just as with home ownership, it’s better to own than to rent.  If you own something that people want to link to, you effectively own the links.  But if the links are a result only of your monthly payment, your are renting. 

It’s the difference between a cost and an investment.

 


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