Backlinks are Like References

Today’s analogy compares resumes and references to websites and links. I’ll translate afterwards, but something tells me you’ll get it as we’re going along.

Scenario: You’re conducting interviews and have two candidates who have applied for the job. They are both qualified and have excellent resumes. They are clean, well organized, use proper grammar and both candidates have previous experience that is relevant to the position for which you are hiring. They both seem equally qualified and capable to do the job. But when you look at their references, there’s a significant difference.  Candidate one has a list of over 100 references. At first, you are impressed with all these people who are willing to say that candidate one is a good choice. But upon further inspection, you notice that some of these references include his mom, his third grade teacher, his next door neighbor and eleven of his fraternity brothers. Candidate two has only ten references on his list, but they include a college professor that teaches the very subject for which you are hiring, several prominent local business owners and even the mayor. And the references who are not well known are experts in the field for which you are hiring. So, who are you going to hire? I don’t think there’s any question.

Let’s Translate!

You’re the search engine. You have to choose who to hire, or in this case, rank higher.

The two candidates’ resumes are websites. Their websites feature their products and services, their expertise and their skills. The websites are written in clean code that is easily understood by you, the search engine. In other words – their onsite SEO is in good order and they have good content.

And the references . . . you guessed it. They represent backlinks from other sites on the web. Candidate one went with the idea that more is better.  He got a lot of links, but they weren’t authoritative or relevant to his business. Candidate two got links from both authoritative and relevant sources.

Now to be fair, search engines like a mix of both quantity and quality. In fact, if you only have sites with high PageRank, that may do you more harm than good. What you really need is a good mix. But I would argue that quality beats quantity in order of importance.

If you know of a complex web strategy that needs translation, let me know. I’ll do my best to make sense of it for the masses.  🙂

Thanks for reading.

David McBee

Google BLOOP and other Silly Google Terms

Ever talked to someone about SEO and they started throwing around terms that made no sense to you? I know I’m guilty of it. I’ll say something like, “That backlink will give you some really good Google Juice,” before I realize that the person I’m talking to hasn’t the slightest idea of what I mean by that.

So in today’s post, I’m going to provide brief explanations of some of these terms. If you want a meatier, more in depth explanation, you may have to go to one of those blogs that is a little deeper than mine. LOL.

Google BLOOP: Back Link Over Optimization Penalty. This happens when you build backlinks that don’t look natural. Maybe you get too many all at once or perhaps you have too many keyword specific anchor texts or simply not enough branded links. Read more about Anchor Text Optimization Strategies. The only thing I don’t like about this term is the P. Most SEOs believe that the Penalty for over optimization is really just an algorithm filter rather than a manual penalty. I’ve seen cases where this penalty resolves itself when the links in question are taken down or changed to create a more robust, natural backlink portfolio.

Google Juice: The amount of “Value” passed through a backlink. In a nutshell, every backlink provides a different amount of value to your site. When a site is said to be Juicy, that means that a link from it would provide value to your site and improve your SEO. For example, a link from your cousin’s blog about fishing lakes in the Ozarks is going to be less juicy than a link from Bass Pro Shops. If you’re site is also about fishing, links from both of these sites are a good idea, but the Juicy link from BassPro.com is going to have a much greater impact on your rankings.

Google Sandbox: Refers to the idea that a brand new site can’t rank until it proves itself – or – it’s a place where sites go when they are penalized. Based on everything I’ve read, there may or may not actually be a Google sandbox. There’s a lot of debate on the subject.  Google the term yourself and have fun, but pay attention to the dates of the articles you read on this one, okay?

Google Bowling: The strategy of using poor links to bring down the rankings of a competitor. (Hey, just because I’m explaining this doesn’t mean I condone it!) Google bowling takes place when someone buys or builds links of low quality (unrelated to subject matter, low authority, foreign language) to their competitor’s website. For example if Dave’s Plumbing is beating my site in the rankings, I could go get some links on adult, pharmacy or gambling sites and point them to Dave’s site. It would look to Google like Dave is buying a bunch of garbage to try and improve his own SEO and they would give him a Google BLOOP. (Don’t do this, people. It’s really slimy.)

Google Bomb: Using backlinks on a competitor’s site to make them rank for an unwanted keyword. This happens when a someone builds or buys backlinks using unwanted anchor text and points those links to their competitor. Example: Back in 2006 the search term “miserable failure” returned the official biography of George W. Bush as the top result.

-David McBee
Internet Marketing Education

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Anchor Text Strategies for Backlinks

I talk to people every single day about anchor text and I am constantly surprised by how much peoples’ opinions differ on the subject. Most are basing their opinions on what they’ve read on blogs from 2009 and 2010. Others have had personal experience with running campaigns and know what works and what doesn’t. In my role, I read as much as I can to stay up to date on the subject. But more importantly, I see the real live results of how anchor text impacts SEO, and I’d like to share that here.

First of all, let’s define anchor text. In the role of link building, anchor text refers to the words used in the hyperlink. Here’s an example: Anchor Text. I’ve used the words “anchor text”to link to the Wikipedia page about anchor text. Another example might be: Teardrop Trailers. You’ll see that when you click on the link, it takes you to a blog about teardrop trailers. This anchor text is important because it tells the search engines what the link is about. If the search engines crawl this link: Click Here, it doesn’t provide any signals as to what the page is about.

The use of anchor text can impact your overall ranking as well as how your site ranks for very specific keywords. But how the search engines interpret those anchor text signals has changed a lot over the last year. I remember attending a seminar in January 2010 at SMX where the hottest advice at the time was to use your keywords as your anchor text whenever possible. Well, a few things have changed since then, so here’s my best advice as of September 2011.

1) Use your brand, business name and your URL as your anchor text. (i.e.Nike or http://www.nike.com)At least 35% of your backlinks should fall into this category. Don’t believe it? Run a backlink report on the top competitors in your space and see what percentage of their links use their brand, business name or their URL as their anchor text. You may be surprised at what you find.

2) Take advantage of before and after text when possible.

This will give you an opportunity to use your brand and your keywords together.

Examples: • Custom Jewelry by Moshiri • Contact David McBee to learn about Internet Marketing.

3) Stop using your main keyword(s) over and over!

It doesn’t look natural.Let’s say you want to rank for the keyword “wedding photographer”.  Do a search for this keyword and look at the bottom of the page. G pretty much gives you the keywords you should be targeting in your anchor text. Use these variations to make your backlink profile look more organic.

4) Use variations of your keyword.

Maybe you want to rank for “cheap Florida vacations.” Use alternatives for the word cheap. Try “affordable”, “bargain”, “low-cost”,”deals” etc.

5) Get internal links in new content.

One of Big G’s favorite things is fresh new content and links within relevant content can be particularly effective. Of course it’s great to get content and a link from sites other than your own,but don’t ignore the power of your own site. Add new content on your web page as often as you can and place internal links back to other pages of your site within the new content. Follow the same rules regarding the anchor text of these internal links. (Mix it up!) In the spirit of this strategy, here’s an internal link to an older post of mine regarding link building best practices.

6) Acquire backlinks to your internal pages.

So you just posted a new article on your site. You placed an internal link within the content, pointing it back to your home page. Good. Now go out and get some backlinks to the new article and that will have a positive impact on the new page and the overall site. G likes this and it looks very natural. BTW, if anyone wants to link back to this article, feel free.  🙂

Big picture – links gotta look natural, and anchor text is a big indicator. If 100 sites posted links back to you, wouldn’t it be fair to say that over 35 of them would probably use your brand, business name or URL as the anchor text?And the others certainly wouldn’t all use the same anchor text over and over. Some would use before and after text. Still others might pointtheir links to your internal pages, rather than directly to your home page. When you’re building your links – see if you can think like those 100 sites.

-David McBee

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A List of Different Kinds of Backlinks

I was recently talking with a business owner who was all about do-it-yourself-SEO. He’s gotten his website to rank on page one for several of his local keywords, but I’m suspicious that his competitors didn’t have a whole lot going on in the SEO department. So even his part-time SEO efforts as a hobby were more than effective enough to get him where he wanted to be.

One of the topics we discussed was links. He knew that links are important to SEO, but what he didn’t know was how to get links, nor did he realize that there are a lot of different kinds of links. I shared with him that a diverse backlink portfolio was essential to good rankings. I even used the analogy, that acquiring backlinks to your website is a little like getting all the different colors of pie while playing Trivial Pursuit.

That of course led to a question about all the different kinds of links. When I couldn’t find him a comprehensive list of all the kinds of backlinks that are out there, I decided to put one together.  Here’s my best shot at a list of different kinds of backlinks.

• Directories – Think yellow pages. A directory lists sites by category. Examples of well-known web directories are Yahoo! Directory and the Open Directory Project.

• Article Marketing – Businesses write short articles to showcase their expertise on a particular subject (including a backlink back to their site). The article is distributed to article sites where others can find the information.  Examples of well-known article marketing sites are E-Zine Articles and GO Articles.

• Guest Blogging – Writing a post on another person’s blog.

• Blog Comments – Commenting on a blog post. Examples on TinyHouseBlog

Forum Comments – Commenting on/participating in a forum.  Sample Forum: Tycoon Talk. Note: It can be difficult to get a backlink in a forum as they are often human moderated.

• Social Bookmarking – Sites for organizing a person’s favorite sites. These lists of favorites are often tagged and available publicly. Top social bookmarking sites are Delicious, Digg, and reddit.

• Web 2.0/Social Profiles – Web 2.0 is all about information sharing and social profile sites like Squidoo, Weebly and Quizilla allow users to create free websites/profiles. Similar to article marketing, the business owner writes content about their topic or business and includes a backlink.

• Press Release – Certainly not new to internet marketing, a press release is an announcement directed at the news media. The goal is that another site will pick up the press release (keeping the included backlink) and re-print on their site. Examples include PR Newswire and PR Web. Note: G’s Panda update has made press releases less valuable as duplicate content is looked down upon in SEO.

• RSS Feeds – Most commonly explained as Really Simple Syndication, an RSS feed allows businesses to share their content to users who subscribe to their feed.

• Link Swap – “I’ll put a link to your site on my site if you put a link to my site on your site.” (Basically worthless for SEO, IMO)

• Link Exchange – In a link exchange the HTML code causes the display of banner ads for the sites of others members of the exchange, on member web sites. Check it out on Wikipedia.

• Industry Associations/Partners – Getting a link from other businesses in your industry. Example: Members of the ARA – American Rental Association can qualify for a backlink at RentalHQ.

• Webmaster Outreach – Contacting webmasters via email or phone and simply asking them to place a link to your site on theirs. This is possibly the best link to acquire as it is often an authoritative and relevant site, but also the hardest as it isn’t easy to convince a webmaster to freely promote your site.

• Link Bait – Any content or feature on a website that exists for the sole purpose to encourage others to link back to the website.  Some types of link bait could include breaking news, rumors (iPhone 5), jokes, tips and tricks, saying something unpopular to get attention, widgets, tools, videos, pictures, info graphics and more.

There you have it. The most complete list of backlinks that I can come up with. Tell me if I’ve missed something!!!

So… if you’ve read any of my posts, you know that I encourage do-it-yourself- SEO  – to a point.  There are some very basic things that a person can do on his own that can have a great deal of impact on his website’s ranking. But as things start to get more competitive, SEO can take a lot of time, and nothing takes more time than link building. It’s arguably the least fun part of SEO. That’s when I encourage business owners to let professionals do their thing.

David McBee