Apologies for the slightly tardy write-up – anyone familiar with the INTP personality type will know that we need to take time to reflect on information before volunteering an opinion. Since Friday I’ve been chewing over some of the vast quantity of material covered at linklove, the awesome link building seminar laid on by Distilled. I don’t tend to take a lot of notes (apologies for any inaccuracies) and will certainly look forward to going back over the slides when they’re available, but two days later, these are the common themes that I took out of the day – my key takeaways.
N.B. Duncan Morris, Distilled CEO, requested a spoiler alert for anyone planning to go to linklove New Orleans. I’m not really sure it’s necessary because I have zero chance of steeling that kind of thunder – nevertheless, consider yourself alerted.
The reddit resource
Action number one is to spend a whole lot more time on reddit. The social news site got a mention in most of the talks, at least twice in the context of being the new digg. By all accounts reddit currently offers the search marketer’s holy trinity: *high traffic* *active community* *easily gamed*. The stand-out tactic came from Russ Jones who posts links to previously popular but now passée subreddits – so long as the community has moved on, an off-topic link will remain undetected.
The advent of social search
Social search is here (as if there were any doubt). We heard anecdotes of social results integrated within SERPs (already in place in the US) delivering outstanding results for users. Rand‘s Future of link building highlighted some of the shortcomings of current search ranking factors and pointed toward a utopian future where Google recognises sincerity, and where twitter bots are defunct because their profiles lack the depth of real people – “[bots] don’t have girlfriends”. Rand’s argument was typically compelling – it makes perfect sense for the consumer, so why wouldn’t Google be headed in this direction?
Irrespective of Google knowing people from bots, the recent Jennifer Lopez experiment on SEOmoz shows there’s currently a lot of scope for boosting rankings with twitter, albeit for limited periods. Again loads of great ideas for how to exploit this. One tool of choice was followerwonk which allows you to search twitter bios and sort the results by number of followers to find influential people for your keyword.
Be careful what links you wish for
Wil Reynolds delivered perhaps the biggest bombshell of the day when he showed empirical evidence that one of his clients had suffered a rankings drop as the direct result of coverage (and links) on high-authority sites such as the New York Times and Cosmopolitan. His client’s back-link profile was apparently “overweighted on high-quality, trusted news sources”. I’m still struggling to get my head around this one – the idea that you could score an editorial link from Cosmo and the next day your rankings crash… WTF? It seems there’s a whole lot more to competitor back-link analysis than I’d ever really appreciated.
Russ Jones: “White-hat, grey-hat, and awesome-hat“
If there were ever any doubt about white-hat tactics being hard work then surely there is no longer. I’ve done some writing for SEO so was particularly interested to hear what Will had to say on Scalable white-hat link building. He covered some really interesting analysis of the average number of linking route domains achieved per article, comparing the BBC and New York Times with content farms. Making the case for quality content, he proposed following some the efficiencies of ehow‘s machine learning techniques to figure out what subjects to write about, then pay for real writers to produce the content – no real short-cuts to quality unfortunately.
More in the grey-hat / awesome-hat territory, I loved hearing several of the speakers talk through ideas for churn and burn sites which are variously redirected to your main site using 301 or canonical links. Cheekiest example was from Martin Macdonald:
- Set up www.yourcompetitor-reviews.com
- Write some nice things about your competitor
- Your competitor is flattered and links to the site from a blog post so more of their customers can see the nice reviews
- After a safe period has elapsed the post is archived and unlikely to ever be reviewed, redirect www.yourcompetitor-reviews.com to your main site
- BOOM! Your competitor is now sending you their valuable link juice
The importance of your network
I have to admit that I find it slightly frustrating whenever I’m reminded the of the importance of networking, chiefly because I find it difficult (that INTP thing again). But with reluctance I’m forced to accept that existing personal networks are a huge asset in link building. I loved Rand’s tip of searching Quora profiles to track down tech journalists – spending some time answering their questions could be a great way to get on their radar. Also a mad Twitter scraper from Tom that allows you to profile your twitter followers to quickly find those that carry most influence and have high quality sites linked from their profile.
My last takeaway was the glorious phrase “Plausible deniability”. If the content on your site is user generated, then it stands to reason that the user who generated it might take some pride in it and want it to rank, right? You can hardly be held responsible for their actions, can you?
Thanks to all at Distilled for a brilliant day.