Session Summary: Need links? Of course you do! In order to rank well and successfully promote your online business, you need an effective link building program as part of your over-all SEO strategy. Link guru Debra O'Neil Mastaler, Owner of Alliance Link walks attendees through the world of links. Find out why search engines rely so heavily on links, where to find links and why a good link can send sales through the roof.

In this session Debra is going to discuss why links are valuable, ranking influences, tools to help you and some actual tactics. She provides an intro as to how the Internet was birthed back to ARPANet. In the early nineties, search engine were born. So the idea behind link popularity is a set of collective minds linking to one another - co-citation.

When Google came along, they incorporated link popularity into their algorithm. Links connect sites like the threads in a web. They also provide a way for search spiders to find other sites. Link popularity therefore measures the quality and quantity of links pointing to a web site or web page.

Anchor text is one of the most powerful components of link popularity as it provides both users and search engines relevant contextual information about the pages that are being linked to. Link relevancy relates to the text that surround the link and is also important in link popularity. Linking out helps to classify your site as to where it topically belongs.

Authority sites - what are they? Sites that rank well, are well known in a niche, and have strong inbound links. She shows a tool called TouchGraph which shows how a site fits in a community by showing graphically which sites are linking to each other. Getting links from authority sites is becoming one of the most important factors in link building.

Factors to avoid in link building - control your rate of acquiring (not too fast), avoid repetitive anchor text and don't use the same tactic over and over again. Because search engines are so against manual link building techniques, perception is key when link building. She points out that reciprocal linking is fine so long as it is somewhat relevant and it is not the only tactic one uses.

For optimal linking success, screen who you are linking to carefully, try to place links in content areas (avoid navigational and sponsored areas) and understand that all incoming links have value (e.g., low PR, nofollowed linked). Remember that some will bring valuable traffic. She reminds us that redirected links will not pass link popularity. Also she suggests using a 301 redirect as opposed to a 302 when redirecting. Also be consistent in the way you link to your pages (i.e., www or no www, home page, etc.)

Debra begins to show some of the free tools she uses to learn and implement link building tactics. Resource sites include Matt Cutts blog, Search Engine Guide, Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Land. She also makes reference to forums such as High Rankings, Webmaster World and Cre8asite to name a few.

She mentions some free tools -

Now Debra is going to talk about actual link building tactics that work. Everything still works but strategies using content generation work best long term. When asked by a conference participant about cross linking, Debra says to be very cautious in this. Linking tactics include authority links, directories, article writing, link reclamation, credibility links, reciprocals, and link bait to name a few and even Web 2.0 techniques such as social aggregation and social bookmarking. She points out that journalists are using and Magnolia to find resources to write stories.

Debra emphasizes that if she had limitless funds, she would place 99% of her effort on obtaining authority links. Separate by media contacts and editorial and commercial sources. Do whatever you can to get the links (i.e., beg, pay, incentives). One way to find authorities is to locate top reviewers on sites such as Amazon and Epinions. They most often have their own blogs and/or sites.

She next talks about directories. (a show sponsor) is a good one. Niche directories are especially beneficial. Avoid AdSense riddled directories or site-wide links. Debra also points out that DMOZ is a hot property once again and she has much success getting sites listed. Check Search Engine Guide's Directory of directories as well as Directory Big Boards, and Blog Catalog.

She talks about article writing as a link building tactic. She recommends writing longer versions for your own site and then sending out shorter versions to article sites. And always include article bios.

Next she talks about content networks such as Squidoo, Helium and HubPages to name a few. What is nice about them is that they are getting a lot of media attention right now.

Guest blogging and guest writing is a great way to host content and acquire links. Debra recommends staying out of the networks and look for individual bloggers.

Link bait is content created and submitted to social news and bookmarking sites for distribution. Digg, Mixx, StumbleUpon and then niche sites such as Small Business Brief.


Note: These are raw notes taken while live-blogging sessions at the Small Business Marketing Unleashed conference in Houston, Texas. Please excuse any spelling or grammar errors.

April 21, 2008

David Wallace is CEO and founder of SearchRank, an original search engine optimization and marketing firm based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is experienced in search engine optimization and marketing, pay per click and pay for inclusion management, directory submissions and web site design usability. David is a frequent contributor to various search engine related forums, an active editor of popular directories such as, Joe Ant and Zeal and has had several articles published on industry related sites. Since 1997, David along with his company have helped hundreds of businesses both large and small increase their search engine visibility and customer acquisitions.


301 redirects are the only way to redirect.

301: Resource moved permanently.
302: Resource moved temporarily.

There's some great information there on link building. As Debra says, authority sites are key and the way I look at it is to contribute valuable content to these sites to get the desired link. For instance, I have a travel site and I am planning on drawing city / sights maps and then contacting the webmaster of authority sites, suggesting to use my maps with a link back to my site. I would vary the anchor text across the board.

There's some great insights there on link building and a great deal of diversity too. Thanks for sharing.

Here's my best tip for getting links:

1. Sign up for Google alerts for all of your keywords.

2. Google then emails you sites and blogs about your keywords on a daily basis.

3. Go to the sites, and comment on the articles, and leave your link.

4. Gain free links

Do this every day for a year... You'll be SMOKIN'!

Hi David, it was wonderful to finally meet you in person. Thanks for this post.

I got value from every single session I attended.

But I have to say that probably the link building session is the one where I got the most help, mainly because most of us "don't know what we don't know" when it comes to link building. It's easy to dismiss link-building as a simplistic topic and assume that it can be mastered in 15 minutes. Wrong! Debra brings link-building to an art form.

I am looking forward to recommending the Unleashed conferences to my readers -- definitely the best online marketing program for small biz.


What the hell is "link reclamation"???

I hate it when things go under my radar.

Thanks for the write-up David and for everyone's comments. You're right Anita, there's link building in everything we do, you just have to think about it when you're working.

Rob, I'm pretty sure you know the deal here, it's just the name that's throwing you! Link reclamation is the process of manually changing in-place links. If you change domains or keyword emphasis, you can contact the webmaster hosting your link(s) and ask/pay/beg/barter with them to change the anchors. Or change the destination page. Or both. :)

Hope that helps. Debra.

Great post! Thanks for sharing all these insights and valuable information. I will surely take note of all of these. Thanks!

Being a successful small online business owner is not something that every individual can accomplish in life but if you start out on the right foot and always look ahead towards the future.

Great post! Thanks for sharing all these insights and valuable information. I will surely take note of all of these. Thanks!

I especially appreciate the tools provided.

Thank You.

Thanks for bringing the tools to my notice. Will surely try them and post my feedback again. Keep up the good work.

I strongly agree that internet marketing is the key of promoting a website. Even if a website is well designed and maintained there is no use of it until the website is promoted to get people’s attention. One should consider Internet marketing an important part of web development.

Another tool is Advanced URL Catalog a bookmark manager compatible with all browsers.

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