Link Building Strategies and Ranking Tactics

Great SMX Toronto session with Dawn Wentzell, Shalom Issenberg, and Christina Keffer, with Gillian Muessig moderating.

Writing content that gets links naturally

Dawn Wentzell
Dawn Wentzell

Dawn goes first, with great suggestions about writing content that attracts links. The common theme is to do a little legwork, go back to the fundamental ideas of good journalism, and you’ll be rewarded.

Do original research

  1. Find an article that hasn’t been done before in your niche
  2. Present research visually- graphys, maps, infographics

Bad news does better than good news. Their “Worst of” lists get a lot more links than the “Best of” lists. [I find myself more attracted to links about “The 7 deadly sins of …” than to positive posts. Ah, the power of the dark side.]

Don’t forget to use an embed code on your images.

Infographics can generate a lot of links, and embeds.

Create the Definitive Guide

If there’s no good industry guide in your industry, do it. Keep it updated.

If you’ve done a series of posts on a topic, compile them together. If it’s a valuable resource, your users will promote it for you for years.

Become the GoTo guy in your industry.

Example: Joost de Valk created the #1 resource on WordPress SEO. Plugins, podcasts, posts. He comes up #1, above, for WordPress SEO

Write compelling posts

  1. Have an Opinion
  2. Add spice to your normal content every so often. Don’t create controversy, that can backfire. But use existing controversy. As Lisa Barone says, be polarizing.
  3. Take a side
  4. Don’t become the Boy Who Cried Wolf
  5. Be careful

[Note: Some of this depends on how you want to position yourself. Dawn and Lisa work for a company called “Outspoken Media,” that who they are and what they do. I wouldn’t advise Matt Cutts or Danny Sullivan to be polarizing.]

A provocative columnist link-baited with a “Why are bloggers male?” column. The next day, perhaps planned in advance, they “reacted” to the controversy by having a live forum with many of the women they pissed off. Double win. [If that’s what you want.] They got 82 links in 24 hours.

Use humor

[She spelled it with a “u” though. They do things like that in Canada. Did you know that many of the spelling differences were deliberately put in by Daniel Webster when creating a US dictionary for the purpose of giving “American English” some uniqueness? Amazing to me how this need to be different, to be individual, to stand out, is all over the American psyche. But I digress …]

  • Humor is infectious
  • Take from personal experience
  • Keep it relevant
  • Avoid being offensive

Industry coverage

  • Conferences, award ceremonies, AGM’s, sports matches, TV events, etc.
  • Libe blogging, live tweeting, regular link/ news roundups

This gets you links from a variety of sources, and additional benefits

Lisa liveblogs probably half the conferences in the search industry, and people tell her that it was just as good as being there. She got 293 links to the liveblogging articles from PubCon.

[Lisa’s liveblogging coverage is an outlier. Other people liveblog too, and don’t seem to get nearly the same coverage. And I’ve tried liveblogging. It’s HARD. That (and jet lag) are why I’m up at 3 in the morning turning my notes into something readable. That said, the idea works, IMO, which is why I’m doing this. I do a “Best of” post for each conference I attend, and they’re my most popular posts, and they get the most incoming links. Which is also why when I saw that Lisa, Barry, Virginia, and the other live bloggers weren’t here I decided to jump in and cover the individual sessions.]

How to’s & tutorials

  • Simple to create
  • Great for long tail searches
  • Excellent for guest posting
  • Get heavily promoted in social media

Aaron Wall’s How to Build Links Fast got over 6,000 links

Shalom Issenberg

Shalom Issenberg
Shalom Issenberg

Next up was Shalom Issenberg. The core of his presentation was 4 slides describing high value links and how to get them.

What makes a link high value

  • Domain / Page Authority
  • Domain / page trust
  • Relevancy to target
  • Technical qualityies of page + link
  • Distribution of authority
  • Exclusivity

Link Readiness

  • Professional Design
  • Compelling Content
  • Social Profiles / Activity
  • Reliability – Technical
  • Legitimacy: BBB, badges maps, etc.
  • Brand “Trust” and Recognition
  • Clean Link portfolio

Finding link opportunities

  • Multiple search engines
  • Directories
  • Social News and Bookmarking Sites
  • Offline
  • Analysis of Competing and Non-Competing Sites

Since we had to stop buying links, link-building got really expensive. [I loved that comment]

Press: Make news. Make it easy for journalists.

Build relationships. Give before asking. Connect w/ webmasters, social networking, etc.

Utilize all your resources

  • Writers
  • Designers
  • Technical
  • Marketing

Utilize your existing networks / connections

Budget for free links

  • Sponsorships, donations, memberships (e.g., Scholarship for .edu)

Use your links to build more links

Secondary Link Ideas

Christina Keffer
Christina Keffer

Last up was Christina Keffer. How can you not like somebody that one wrote a blog called Sarcastic Incredulity? There was a time crunch, so she speed through it, but here’s what I got.

Social Media Link Building is very different than Traditional Link Building because we’re focusing on NoFollow links with no juice, no ranking benefit, but tons of targeted traffic.

Any site that allows users to interact with each other while sharing and / or creating content. Especially Promo Sites

Find where your demographic is hanging out.

  1. Research
  2. Build your persona
  3. Identify your targets
  4. Build relationships
  5. Choose the best pages on your site to link to
  6. Start plugging, but stay classy


The Retweet

  1. Use TwitterGrader to find local power-tweeters
  2. Keep your tweets under 120 chars.
  3. Once you’ve found them
  4. Use Tweetdeck to stalk them, find out what they’re retweeting
  5. Start a conversation
  6. When they mention something closely related to the page they’ve chosen to link to, pounce
  7. When they RT you, make sure you thank them

The Scavenger Hunt

Raven Tools just did this, across their product pages, before Easter. Converted very well. Also

  1. Hide clues of some sort all over the site.
  2. Let everyone know what’s up weeks in advance
  3. Build the buzz
  4. Run the competition across all platforms
  5. Award the prize. Give them a widget linking back to you if you can.
  6. If it’s a success make it a regular occurrence

The Promotion

  1. Figure out a promo
  2. Create a coupon code for it
  3. Promote your promotion through these promo sites:

Great for last minutes or perishable deals

These links drove 30K+ visitors to a client’s site.

More SMX Toronto coverage: