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Beanstalk's Internet Marketing Blog

At Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization we know that knowledge is power. That's the reason we started this Internet marketing blog back in 2005. We know that the better informed our visitors are, the better the decisions they will make for their websites and their online businesses. We hope you enjoy your stay and find the news, tips and ideas contained within this blog useful.


October 31, 2013

Dear Clients: Links Have Left the Building

I rarely mention my job title in my personal social media circles. This is for a few different reasons: first, if you say the letters ‘S’ ‘E’ and ‘O’ together, you are just asking to be followed, retweeted, replied to, and generally overwhelmed with auto-responses from eager SEOs who are just waiting to pounce on any mention of the industry. Second, it’s because I was originally hired to be a linkbuilder, and that’s not really the case anymore.

Elvis StampWith the Hummingbird algorithm swinging into its second month of life, we in the SEO industry have had to change – sometimes radically – the way we provide our services. It’s not entirely unprecedented; the Panda and Penguin updates killed a lot of the old bad mass linkbuilding tactics (thank you, Google). But a lot of clients are still thinking in terms of link quantity; there have been many times where our monthly updates to clients have been met with dismay from their end because we haven’t provided a quantifiable number of new links that month. But just ‘grabbing’ links is an exercise in futility in many cases, and the most successful campaigns are those in which the client embraces a more esoteric, long-term plan.

While you can try to keep up with hints dropped by Matt Cuts or analyses from the top search engine commentary websites, the jargon is enough to make your head spin. The crux of it all is this: when you come to an SEO, you are trying to solve a problem. You don’t have as much traffic as you’d like, so you enlist the aid of people who have a specific skill set in that area of communications and marketing. We want to show people that you are a fantastic resource to help them fill a gap in their life. You, as the business, have a solution; your potential customers need you to help solve a problem in their lives. Our role as marketers is to facilitate communication between the two parties, putting your name out there to new markets and ensuring that you stand out from the crowd.

For a long time, I feel like SEO stood apart from other marketing specialties because it required so many fiddly mathematical things – it was all about the number of links you got, their PageRank, their relevance, and how to mathematically game the system. With Google’s increasing restrictions on old-school SEO tactics, I think we still stand apart from the ad departments (a la Mad Men) and traditional marketing agencies, but for a different reason. The guys making billboards and TV commercials are still, mostly, relying on manipulation, clever psychological tricks, and memorable catch phrases. On the internet, people have the power to navigate away with nothing but a click, abandoning your business forever. We still want to accomplish the same goal: to get you in front of a larger audience of potential customers. But our tactics are no longer jargon-heavy and link-based; I find the most rewarding, refreshing campaigns are those where we assess your business’ strengths, build solid tools and resources to back those strengths, and approach the desired demographic with open palms and genuinely useful reasons for them to visit your website. No tricks, no gimmicks, no falsehoods. Links are still acquired, but the means by which we get them are much more based on the human connection.

Links were once a major metric by which we measured a site’s success; the right combination would result in high search engine positioning. However, the best tactics nowadays are more honest, long-term strategies, utilizing a business’s strength and going forth with honesty. It’s a brave, big new world, and it’s intimidating, but it’s also a lot of fun.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:08 am


 

 

June 29, 2008

A Beginners Guide To Link Building

Link building is an essential ingredient in ranking your website highly on the major search engines. There, now that we’ve got that brilliant grasp of the obvious out of the way let’s move on to what you can do to actually create them. Before we launch into the nitty-gritty of link building, no beginners guide would be complete without a brief explanation as to why links are important and the different elements of them. Being a beginners guide this won’t be an entirely complete list but it will be enough to get you going on the right path. Understanding what you’re trying to do will help you do it better and more importantly, understanding the “why” of the situation will help you stretch your tactics outside of this and other articles on link building.

Why Are Links Important?

To put it simply: a link is a vote. Every link pointing to your site from another website tells the search engines that the other site finds your resource valuable and thus, the engines read this as a vote for your site. So it must be about getting tons of links and you’re done right? Wrong. This is incorrect as …

Not All Votes Are Created Equal

Unlike your own vote in an election, some votes are worth more than others and some votes are worth SIGNIFICANTLY more than yours (unless of course you’re a content writer for the Google.com domain in which case you obviously have the top vote). The basic factors that affect a link’s value to your website are:

The site strength – the strength of the site that is pointing to yours is a significant (and historically abused) factor in the valuation of links. In the absence of other easily-visible criteria let’s look at PageRank as a key valuation of a site’s strength. If a site with a PageRank 8 links to your site, this vote is worth significantly more than a link from a PageRank 3 site. This is because a PageRank 8 site is, in Google’s eyes, a more important site than the PageRank 3 site.

Relevance - the relevance of a site linking to you is, if anything, more important than a site’s strength. If you run a bed a breakfast in Utah a link from a PageRank 3 bed and breakfast will be worth more than a link from a PageRank 5 web design site. This area is a bit grey in that it relies on the engine’s ability to determine what is relevant and what is not however we’ve seen evidence that this area is strong at this stage in the game and is only becoming more important over time.

Anchor text - the actual text used to link to your site is extremely important. I’ve seen extremely strong sites get beaten out by weak ones simply due to the poor use of anchor test. If you’re building links to your site be sure to include your keywords in the text that links back and, if possible, the exact phrase you are trying to rank for. At the same time, you can’t make all your anchor text exactly the same – how can that possibly look natural?

Position – the position of a link on a page and the number of other links on that page impacts the value of a link. A link in the footer of a page is given less weight than a link near the top, a link in the content of a page is given more weight than a link in a list of links and a link on a page with 50 other links is given less weight than a link on a page with only a few other links. If we think about it – this makes sense. All of these things indicate whether the site with the outbound links actually intends for one of their visitors to click the link or not. From an engine’s perspective – the more it appears that a site wants a link to be clicked on, the higher the weight that link (or vote) is given.

Admittedly there are a number of other factors but this is a beginners guide. Following the considerations above will insure that as you make each link decision – you’re odds of making the right choices will be significantly higher than if you ignore them. Ignoring them may not get you penalized or banned but it will make your task far more time consuming as you secure less valuable links and thus need to build far more than following he right methods.

So far we’ve covered briefly the why of link building, now let’s get into the real-life, here’s-how-to-do-it side of things. Below I’m going to cover three of my favorite link building tactics. These are tactics that apply to virtually every scenario. The number of ways to build links is only limited by your imagination however and this should not be viewed as a comprehensive list. This is, after all, a beginners guide and I’m trying to list the tactics that apply to virtually every scenario.

Side Note: Reciprocal Link Building

I’m not going to count this as one of my favorite and so it won’t count as one of the three noted above and I’ll only touch on it briefly. There have been a number of assertions that reciprocal link building is dead. This is simply not the case. I have seen and competed against sites that were very successful with reciprocal links as their primary link source.

The problem with reciprocal links isn’t so much in their value which does seem to be a bit lower than non-reciprocal links however often more easily attained. No, my problem with reciprocal links is in the management. Unethical webmasters’ removing links after you’ve put the link up to them, sites expiring and not being renewed, sites getting penalties of their own due to their bad tactics are all inconveniences the reciprocal link manager must deal with.

As an SEO company, a huge issue we faced was leaving our clients with this task after a campaign was over if they decided not to go on a maintenance package. Non-reciprocal links may be a bit harder to attain in some cases however that issue is much easier to overcome than the sum of all these issues.

And now on to the top three …

Articles

If you’re paying attention as you read this you’ll probably have guessed that I’m a fan of article writing as a link building method. If you look to the “about the author” section you’ll notice a link to the Beanstalk site (and if you don’t, well … let me know as somebody’s stealing it without permission). While I genuinely enjoy writing and sharing my experiences with others – the purpose of getting the article distributed is primarily as a link building tactic, secondarily as a great source of qualified traffic and thirdly for my own enjoyment.

You are an expert in your field. Who knows more about your business than you? So share. Writing an article may not be easy but it is rewarding. If you can’t think of a topic, think of what you get asked. If you’re asked common questions repeatedly then chances are, it’s a good topic for an article. I often get asked about link building, and you’re reading the result.

Once the article is completed you need to get it syndicated. Using an article submission service is a simple way to get your article out to a large number of publishers quickly. On top of this you’d do well to seek out specific sites in your field using one or all of the major search engines to find highly relevant sites that accept articles and submit to them.

And oh, don’t forget an “about the author” section. :)

Directory Submissions

Directory submissions are likely the most painful of the link building tactics you’ll employ. Why? Because it’s tedious and time-consuming work.

To be done right directory submissions must be done manually, the titles and descriptions must be tailored to the specifications of the directory in question and often, you’ll have to decide if a review fee is worth it.

While there are a good many directories that accept free submissions there are also a large number that’s require a review fee. The fee can range from a few dollars to a few hundred. If you see that a directory has a low PageRank, is general in it’s nature (i.e. it isn’t about your specific field) then it likely isn’t worth more than a couple dollars if that. If the site is strong, and strongly related to your site then it’s obviously worth more.

There is no hard-and-fast set of rules for how much a listing is worth. I’d recommend to start your hunt for directories (don’t forget the topic and/or region specific ones), submit to all the free ones and make a list of all the ones that require a fee. After you’ve gotten a solid number in you “needs to be paid list” you can get a general idea as to what’s out there and what you can get and for how much. This will enable you to make solid choices knowing what all your options are.

Forum Posting

I just know I’m going to get a couple comments and/or emails for listing this as a link building tactic but if it’s done right there’s nothing wrong with it. Forum and blog posting got a bad reputation as a link building tactic when it came under huge abuse by unethical webmasters spamming forums with useless garbage just for a link. They even went so far (and still do) as sending out spiders to automatically submit posts. To this end, I have to agree that it’s a bad tactic however …

If you’re seeking out forums related to your site, reading the threads and responding with solid advice or with questions and not just firing off some sales-pitch then you’re doing what you’re supposed to be. Another perk to this is that, like articles, if you do this right you’re gong to see traffic as well and what more can you ask from a link building tactic than traffic as well as links.

Conclusion

Above we’ve covered the basics of link building. As I’ve noted repeatedly, once you’re done reading this and applying some of what you’ve read you’d do well to read other articles, forums and blogs. This isn’t a complete breakdown of everything link-related (that would be a full book) but it will keep you out of trouble and save you countless hours of wasted time getting poor links that haven’t held value since 2003.

SEO news blog post by @ 5:02 pm


 

 

March 29, 2007

Building Link Bait

Link bait (n): Link bait is any content put on a website
with the primary function of attracting links to that page or to another
page on the site.

The purpose of link baiting is pretty obvious, to develop incoming links to
your website. One thing that may not be clear however is how links to internal
pages on your site helps you rank highly. The benefits are divided into two
parts:

1. You will rank for more phrases. Building links to internal pages is a great
way to get those pages ranking for related terms. For example, if you run a
real estate site and you put out some great content on how to get a mortgage
in yourtown, somestate and who your visitors should use and provide a few useful
tools to help your visitors you can attract links to this page for mortgage-related
phrases. This will then help you rank for phrases such as “mortgages yourtown
somestate”, which in turn is going to drive traffic to your site.

2. You will boost the overall strength of your domain. Building links to internal
pages helps build the link strength of your overall site. The internal links
from the linked page to your other pages will be stronger and so, in turn, those
pages become stronger. Stronger pages rank higher.

So we understand what link baiting is and what its purpose is however, how
do you build it? This is a difficult question to answer as what makes good link
bait can vary from site to site and industry to industry. In short though, you
need to create something that others in your industry will find important, useful,
or even humorous enough to link to.

Let’s use an example we all know, YouTube. If you view any given video
on YouTube you’re going to find two ways to put that content on your site,
link to it or embed it. The link provides the link bait benefits, embedding
it provides the branding. They win either way. Now they have content to meet
any persons’ needs/wants, but what do those of us with fairly fixed site
topics do?

Here are the steps for building link bait:

  1. Figure out what appeals to those you want linking to you. This is not necessarily
    the same as what might appeal to your target market. When you’re doing this
    try to think about the types of people they are (likely very similar to you).
    Are they funny? Do they just want quick solutions to their problems? What
    do the people who own websites related to your topic want to provide for their
    visitors?
  2. Build it. If you want to provide a solution to an information gap, write
    up a great article. If you want to provide something humorous, do that. If
    you want to provide a useful tool on your site, write up your specs, hire
    a good developer and get it made.
  3. Test it. If you’re unsure as to how your new link bait will be received,
    test it. If you’ve written a great article on a subject you know people are
    interested in, try visiting a few forums and posting a link to it and see
    what the reaction is. You can do the same for humorous content and tools as
    well. Find out how they’re going to be received by your site visitors and
    site owners you are hoping will link to it.
  4. Launch it. Now it’s time to add it to your site. In the Testing stage we
    put it up on the site but didn’t link to it internally. Now it’s time to link
    to it from inside your site. If you feel your potential clients will enjoy
    it, why not add it to your navigation? If you feel it’s better for the people
    you want to link to you but not as useful for your potential clients then
    perhaps you’d be better of to build a resources page and link to it from there.
    Or, if you have a blog you can simply announce its launch on your blog.
  5. Promote it. Now it’s time to get the word out. There are a wide variety
    of methods for doing so and the most effective will vary by site category
    and who you want to reach. Here are some of the methods we have found most
    effective across a wide array of subjects:- promotion on your site: large buttons on the homepage, in the navigation
    or other prominent spots- press releases: if it’s a service or information that a wide variety of
    people will be interested in a press release is a great way to get the news
    out quickly

    - forum posts: if what you are offering will help then why not tell them about
    it in related forums. Chances are there are people looking for the solution
    you are providing – post a link to it for them, and others, to see. This will
    provide you with a link from the forum and potentially many more as people
    find the information and feel it may help their visitors too

    - newsletters: take out an add in an industry newsletter

  6. Monitor it. Now all that’s left is to watch your stats and backlink counts
    to monitor the success. If you find you’re getting solid traffic, or backlinks,
    or both it’s a sign you just might want to do more of the same. If the results
    aren’t as spectacular as you were hoping then you’d do well to consider how
    well you performed the five steps above, how they might be adjusted, and what
    else you can do.

It’s important to note that building link bait is not a “one off”.
A successful site will continue to develop greater and greater numbers of incoming
links through a variety of methods. Once you determine how to successfully link
bait in your industry you’ll want to reproduce it periodically. Fortunately,
with the results you’ll see if done properly – you’ll be happy
to take the time to do so.

Important Note: While the vast majority of our articles are open for publication on other websites this article has been written exclusively for SiteProNews. Any duplication in whole or in part of this article without prior written consent is strictly prohibited.

SEO news blog post by @ 5:38 pm


 

 

October 10, 2006

How To Win Links And Influence Engines

The title of this article is designed to prove (in an SEO kind of way) the very point that Dale Carnegie was making when he wrote one of the most influential business books of all times, “How To Win Friends And Influence People” (arguably one of the best business books ever written as well). In the titling of his book Mr. Carnegie was trying to do two things:

  1. Write a title that captures everything that people want in order to sell more books, and
  2. Tie two important things together that are related but often viewed as different. In the case of the book it was winning friends and influencing people which he points out are essentially based on the same core traits and actions. Similarly, in our title here we are capturing two of the key areas people interested in SEO are looking to read about and thus we will show the essential tie between winning links and the influence it will have on your search engine rankings. We will also discuss methods for actually winning them as opposed to settling for second-rate links rather like winning friends as opposed to settling for tolerable acquaintances.

How To Win Links

As with virtually every aspect in SEO, there are multiple areas of this single field. If there were one hard-and-fast answer to link building we would all be ranking highly on Google and the top 10 would be a VERY crowded place. Fortunately this isn’t the case and the rankings are becoming more and more a Darwinist exercise in “survival of the fittest” (which is how it should be). Proper link building will help you be the fittest and, over time, influence engines.

If you have a site in any competition level above “low” you will want to use at least two different methods for building links. Aside from speeding up the link building process this will help insure your site withstands changes in the way link values are calculated. While there are far too many methods for building links than can be listed here (and there are some that launch so far into the black hat tactics that I wouldn’t want to), here are some of the main link building methods you should consider using:

Reciprocal Link Building:

There are many who would write that reciprocal link building is dead. While it is undeniable that the “rules” around reciprocal link building have changed it is far from dead. That said, there are specific guidelines that must be followed to make a recip link building campaign a success. Some of the more important are:

  1. Relevancy is arguably the single most important factor to consider when building recip links. For every link exchange you are considering you must ask yourself, “Is this a site that my visitors would be interested in?” If you can honestly answer that your site visitors would be genuinely interested in a site you are linking to then it’s a good link.
  2. PageRank is not the end-all-be-all that is once was however it is still a decent measure of the relative value of a website. While not as important as relevancy, it is a factor and obtaining higher PageRank links will require less links to be built.
  3. Does the site you are considering linking to have a solid link building strategy in place? Just because you’re following the best practices of link building doesn’t mean that everyone in your industry is. A good site may be following misguided link building practices (real estate sites should not link to poker sites) and if they are then their overall value is or may well be reduced in the eyes of the search engines. If they have an active and ethical link building program in place then their overall value is likely to increase making them more valuable down the road than they are today.
  4. How many links appear on each page and where will your be positioned? If your link will appear at the bottom of a page with 87 links it is far less valuable than a link near the top of a page with 25 links. This fits into the “ethical” category of point 3 above but worth mentioning again.
  5. Links that exist within content are weighted as more natural than directory-style links. Thus, when possible send HTML code that places your link within the descriptive text rather than in the title. For example, we may use the following HTML for a link to the Beanstalk site:

<strong>Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization</strong><br>

Beanstalk offers ethical and effective <a href=”http://www.beanstalk-inc.com/”>search engine positioning services</a> that will get your site to the top of the rankings. Whether you operate a small business and need regional results or if you are the VP of a Fortune 500 company needing consulting on new site changes and internal page ranking strategies, we have a search engine positioning solution to fit your needs.

These links are won as opposed to gained by default. Finding people to exchange links with on the net is easy, it’s finding quality partners that will help influence the rankings (in a positive direction at least) that requires a clear understanding of what the engines want and how to give it to them.

Non-Reciprocal Link Building:

The area of non-reciprocal link building is a slippery one. There are many methods that can be used with varying degrees of success. Due to the sheer number of methods we won’t be able to get into them all here (and there are some that shouldn’t be used anywhere) we will focus below on some of the most significant and more widely applicable:

Directory Submissions:

This is perhaps the easiest and fastest of all link building methods though it can also be one of the more costly depending on the directories you submit your site to. Yahoo! for example, charges $299 for a commercial site to be submitted into the directory. DMOZ is free however, and is certainly the most important given that Google uses the DMOZ directory to provide the listings for the Google Directory. Note though: it can sometimes take months to get a listing there and sometimes even that’s not enough.

That said, there are MANY topical directories and smaller business directories that will accept free submissions and these should definitely be considered. While they may have a relatively low PageRank they will provide reasonably relevant non-reciprocal links and help build your anchor text relevancy.

Articles:

Writing articles like the one you’re reading righ now is an excellent link building strategy. By providing valuable and useful content to other webmasters you are providing them a service, which will generally translate into a link to your site “in payment”. One of the great features of articles is that the payment isn’t only in link value but in the actual traffic you get from the link itself. But we’re not talking about traffic, we’re talking about rankings; so how do articles influence engines?

There are three main benefits of articles as a link building tactic:

  1. The link to your site will be on a page that is entirely related to your topic. If you have a site about search engine positioning for example, including that phrase in the title and content gives you the opportunity to build the relevancy between the linking page and the page it links to.

    (note: I know I have not used “search engine positioning” in the title – sometimes one has to consider the value of the title from a visitor standpoint and the fact that you came to this page and are reading this article indicates to me that the right decision was made not to change it just for a bit of added relevancy.)

  2. The link will be non-reciprocal. While we indicated above that reciprocal linking is not dead (and it’s not) there is a solid belief among SEO’s (myself included) that non-reciprocal links are weighted more heavily. Having more non-reciprocal links will also help safeguard your site against future changes in the algorithm that may reduce the value of recip links.
  3. You will likely have the ability to determine how the link to your site is worded and you may have the opportunity to link to more than one page on your site. Many people settle for a directory-style author bio. Myself, I prefer to submit my bio in a couple formats (text and html) both of which place the links inside the content. The text format will simply include links such as http://www.beanstalk-inc.com/ whereas an html link will contain code very similar to that displayed above. As far as multiple links; if the site you are submitting to will allow you to reference a couple pages you may want to link to your homepage as well as one or two internal pages that you would like to see rankings attained for. Make sure these pages are related to your core article topic or a service the reader would be interested in (see the bio for this article as an example).

Quality Content:

This next part might be a bit shocking. There are actually people out there who will link to your site simply based on the fact that they have found content there they believe will interest their readers. That’s right, people actually link to sites they find of value. On the Beanstalk site and specifically in our blog we often link to other web pages that we have found useful. Other articles, tools, blog posts, etc.often receive non-recip links from us due to the value of the content they contain and we’re definitely not the only ones doing this.

Providing quality content, useful tools, or other helpful services can be a great way to attract non-reciprocal links. After all, this is the entire reason links received any value in the first place, that they are perceived as a vote for the other site.

How To Influence Engines

With proper onsite optimization in place that includes attention to such things as site structure, site size, cohesion of the content across the site, internal linking structure, keyword density and those other onsite factors you’ve likely read much about, all that is left to do is to continue to grow your site (hopefully with quality content people will want to link to) while winning strong links to it.

If what you want to do is influence engines you will need to have strong onsite and offsite factors but don’t stop there. Influencing engines isn’t just about rankings today. You will need to continue building links down the road to insure that the search engines continue to be influenced by how people have linked to you in the past and kept those links in place and also how new people are finding your site helpful and relevant. If the engines see a sudden spurt in link growth and then see that growth stop you are not likely to have a strong ranking indefinitely in any but the lowest competition sectors.

And remember; don’t focus on just one link building method. To insure a solid and secure influence you’re going to need to win links in at least two of the methods discussed above or other ethical methods you may be considering.

Additional Notes

While we couldn’t possibly cover all the methods for link building here in an article I’ve tried to cover the main ones. A couple of methods that receive much attention but which we didn’t have room for above are press release distribution and paid links.

Press releases are an excellent way to get exposure but I have not found them as good as articles for links which is why they weren’t covered above. They are good for traffic however and you will get some links out of them if the release is good so it was worth a short mention here.

Paid links are a dangerous area to discuss as there are so many factors and so many ways it can go wrong. The only advice I will give to those looking to purchase links is this, ask yourself, “Am I expecting to get traffic from this link?” What this will weed out at the very least is small footer links and links on irrelevant sites. Basically, if the link is worth it without the boost in rankings then continue to pay for it and consider any ranking increases a bonus. If you aren’t getting any traffic from the link then it’s likely not worth paying for. If you’re not getting traffic then the site likely isn’t relevant or the link is in a poor location. The engines will likely pick either of these up and you’ll end up paying for a link that isn’t passing on any weight anyways.

SEO news blog post by @ 2:06 pm


 

 

December 20, 2004

Ten Steps To A Well Optimized Website – Step Eight: Link Building

Welcome to part eight in this search engine positioning series. Last week we discussed website submissions. In part eight we will be covering the importance of link building and developing inbound links to your website.

This is arguably on of the most important aspect of the SEO process and can mean the difference between first page rankings and 100th. It has to be done right and it has to be done on an ongoing basis.

Over this series we will cover the ten key aspects to a solid search engine positioning campaign.

The Ten Steps We Will Go Through Are:

  1. Keyword Selection – October 24, 2004
  2. Content – October 31, 2004
  3. Site Structure – November 7, 2004
  4. Optimization – November 14, 2004
  5. Internal Linking – November 21, 2004
  6. Human Testing – November 29, 2004
  7. Submissions – December 5, 2004
  8. Link Building – December 12, 2004
  9. Monitoring – December 19, 2004
  10. The Extras – December 28, 2004

Step Eight – Link Building

Link building: it’s pretty much understood that this is a critical component when you’re trying to attain top search engine positioning, however the confusion enters when it’s time to decide exactly what you should do.

From talk about reciprocal link building one might come to believe that this is the golden egg of SEO. While reciprocal link building can definitely be beneficial to your rankings, it is far from the only or even the best method. In this article we will cover the following link-building tactics:

  • Reciprocal link building
  • Directory listings
  • Non-reciprocal link building tactics
  • Tools to maximize your efforts

And so, without further ado …

Reciprocal Link Building

Reciprocal link building is the trading of links between two websites. Essentially it’s an “I’ll post yours if you’ll post mine” sort of arrangement. There are many sites out there that will essentially link to any-and-all sites willing to link to them. This is not a good practice.

While purely speculation at this point, there is significant debate in the SEO community regarding how search engines might be altering their algorithms to take into account a Webmaster or SEO’s ability to manipulate their rankings with reciprocal links. Whether or not these speculations are true currently, they are most certainly being integrated if they have not be already.

Essentially, the search engines need to protect themselves and provide relevant results to their users. While inbound links as part of search engine algorithms is certainly here to stay, the way these links are calculated changes constantly and in reaction to the current environment and also in prediction of future developments, the way we build them too must evolve.

There are some basic rules to follow when exchanging links:

  • Relevancy is more important than PageRank
  • Check and make sure the recips aren’t being blocked
  • Link pages with more than 50 links aren’t worth exchanging with
  • Prepare for the future

Relevancy

Many Webmasters focus only on the PageRank of a website when deciding whether to exchange links with it. Without a doubt PageRank is important however more important is whether or not that website’s content is related to yours. There are two reasons for this:

  1. The algorithms are changing to take into consideration the relevancy of links. A link from a relevant PageRank 3 page will be considered more valuable than a PageRank 5 link from a totally unrelated site. Some predict that unrelated links will soon be given little or no weight whatsoever.
  2. Believe it or not, Google is not the only search engine. PageRank is Google’s ranking of the value of a site. What Google gives a 3 out of 10, Yahoo! may give more weight to.

Basically, after a series of tests we have determined that links to related sites will never hinder your rankings. With this in mind feel free to link to any site you think your visitors would naturally be interested in if they are at your site.

Blocked Recips

Unethical website owners (or their SEOs) will sometimes block the links backs from search engine spiders. Be this in an effort to attain what appear to be one-way links as opposed to reciprocal, or simply to make their website appear to have fewer outbound links, this is not ethical and it certainly won’t help you.

When you’re looking at a potential link exchange page, check the source code for the robots tag. If it’s set to “noindex,nofollow” then the page is being blocked and the link won’t help at all.

Some wiser webmasters will use the robots.txt file to block search engine spiders. If you look for robots.txt at the root of the domain (i.e. at http://www.domaininquestion.com/robots.txt) you will see the files/folders that are being blocked. Look for the links pages and/or the directory these pages are in, in this list. If you find it, then don’t exchange links with them.

A new one I’ve recently found along this tangent is to draw the links from a script and to block the script and database folders from the search engines. The files won’t show up in the excluded list but the links won’t be counted. To detect this the easiest thing to do is to view the cache of the page. If the page is cached but none of the links appear and the script directory is listed in the robots.txt file then this tactic is being used. Again, don’t bother exchanging links.

If you find Webmasters employing any of these tactics they are unethical. Unethical Webmasters shouldn’t be rewarded with high PageRanks or good results. If you have the time and inclination you may want to email those websites listed on the page (heck, they may be good recip link partners anyway) and let them know what’s going on. You’ll be doing them a favor and they’ll probably be happy to exchange links with you as well.

Link Pages With More than 50 Links

Webmasters who are trying to actually do their link partners a favor will limit their links pages to 50 links (the lower the better). The reason for this is that every page gets one vote. A link to another website counts as a vote for that site. This is why it can help improve rankings. As each page only gets one vote a link from a page with 10 links counts at 0.1 of a vote, whereas a link from a page with 100 links counts as 0.01 of a vote. Anything past about 100 links is not counted at all.

Additionally, the higher up on a page your link appears the more weight it is given. If the page lists sites alphabetically try to insure that your title begins with a number or a letter early in the alphabet (which works well for companies like “Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization”).

Prepare For The Future

Just because a rule applies today does not mean that it will tomorrow. This is true in on-site SEO as well as link building. If generic recip links work today, consider whether you believe it’s in the best interest of your targeted engine to keep it this way. As the answer will undoubtedly be “no” it’s in your best interest to insure that you take the extra time to build links that will still be valuable months and even a year from now to save yourself a drop in the rankings and additional work later.

Directory Listings

Having your website listed in quality directories is perhaps one of the most valuable things you can do for it in regards to inbound links. Directories link DMOZ and Yahoo! hold significant weight. Google draws it’s directory results from DMOZ and Yahoo! draws it’s directory results from, well, Yahoo!. These links are given a lot of weight.

Make sure that you submit your website to both of these directories and if they’re not listed a couple months down the road, try again (and you may want to try a slightly different category if a relevant one exists, as you may have hit one of the many overworked editors who’s getting behind).

Aside from these two there are literally thousand of other directories our there. Look for others and submit your site. Some may charge a fee. If this is the case, take a look at the page your site would be listed on, take a look at the PageRank, the number of outbound links on the page and determine whether it’s worth the price. I’ve seen directories charging $10 for a permanent PageRank 5 link on a page with 3 other outbound links (though this number is certain to grow over time). Well worth the $10 investment.

You can find may great directories using search engines and, of course, the major directories. For example, were I looking for topical directories a great place to start would be http://directory.google.com/Top/Reference/Directories/ in the Google directory.

Non-Reciprocal Link Building Tactics

There are a number of other tactics for building non-reciprocal links. Here we will outline three of the most popular:

  1. Articles
  2. Press Releases
  3. Paid Links

Articles

Writing articles is a great way of getting inbound links and generating quality traffic. Articles give you the opportunity to control the content on the linking page meaning that you can guarantee that it is totally relevant, it’s a one-way link, and it’s a link that you’ll actually get traffic from.

Let’s assume that you run a small computer shop. Why not write an article about how to troubleshoot a common Windows problem (no no, it’s true … Windows can be a bit buggy every now and then). The next step is to simply find places to submit your article to and do just that. From experience I would highly recommend keeping a list in your favorites of the sites you submit to. If you decide to publish another article you probably don’t want to have to find them all from scratch again.

If you were looking for places to submit to you would run searches on the major search engines for “my topic articles” (in this case a search for “windows errors articles” and “computer troubleshooting articles” would be great places to start). If you find a lot of results only post their own articles you may want to add the word “submit” to the string.

Press Releases

Press releases are another great way to attain one-way inbound links. If you have news that you feel worth telling, submit a press release about it. While you’ll probably want to manually submit your site to the key online publishers, services such as PRWeb exist to submit your press release to a large audience at a very reasonable price.

Like articles, if the news is good you’re likely to get quality traffic from a press release and on top of that, you are likely to get some good, related links to your website.

Paid Links

Paid links are links from other websites purchased solely for the value of the link rather than for direct clicks. Paid links have become so popular that auction sites have sprouted up for just this purpose and they can even be bought on eBay.

There is no particular problem with paid links per-se however I would recommend applying the same criteria that you would to reciprocal links. If you are going to purchase links, only purchase them from related sites and try to make sure the link is not buried down at the bottom of the page.

Run-of-site links (links that appear on every page) are not significantly more valuable than single links on the homepage other than for the traffic. If you’ve purchased a link in a good location and on a good site you’re likely to get some good traffic from it. In fact, this is the general rule I go into any paid link arrangement with – purchase the link for the traffic. If the link increases my PageRank it’s a great bonus but if I’ve bought the link for the traffic and I’m getting it, then the link value becomes secondary.

Link Building Tools

Because link building has become so important to improve search engine positioning, a number of great tools have been developed to help in the process. While I couldn’t possible list them all here there have been two developments by a company named TopNet Solutions than have truly impressed me and which are the only tools that I use in every link building campaign.

PR Prowler
PR Prowler from TopNet Solutions searches the web based on your specific criteria providing results with a minimum PageRank that you determine. A very handy tool for your link-building efforts.

Total Optimizer Pro
When we first purchased PR Prowler we thought we’d found the ultimate link building tool. That was, until we found Total Optimizer Pro. Made by the same folks who put out PR Prowler this tool rips apart and tells you everything there is to know about your competitor’s backlinks, the anchor text used to link to them, the PageRank distribution of their incoming links and much more.

If you have any questions about these tools or how they are used feel free to contact us. I’m happy to answer any questions that you might have.

Next Week

Next week in part nine of our “Ten Steps To an Optimized Website” series we will be covering the importance of monitoring. This isn’t simply checking the rankings of your primary phrase every now and then but a scheduled check of all the key components on your optimization and search engine positioning efforts.

SEO news blog post by @ 5:35 pm


 

 

December 9, 2004

Ten Steps To A Well Optimized Website – Step Seven: Website Submissions

Welcome to part seven in this ten-part search engine positioning series. Last week we discussed the importance of human testing. In part seven we will cover the best practices of website submissions, where to submit your website to, and how to do so.

With services offering to help you get more traffic and higher search engine positioning by submitting your website to “18 Bazillion Search Engines For Just $19.95 Per Month!” and other such claims, there has grown much confusion around website submissions. In this article we will clear up many of the misconceptions around submitting your website and may even save you “Just $19.95 Per Month!” in the process.

Over this series we will cover the ten key aspects to a solid search engine positioning campaign.

The Ten Steps We Will Go Through Are:

  1. Keyword Selection – October 24, 2004
  2. Content – October 31, 2004
  3. Site Structure – November 7, 2004
  4. Optimization – November 14, 2004
  5. Internal Linking – November 21, 2004
  6. Human Testing – November 29, 2004
  7. Submissions – December 5, 2004
  8. Link Building – December 12, 2004
  9. Monitoring – December 19, 2004
  10. The Extras – December 28, 2004

Step Seven – Website Submissions

While there are definitely more critical areas of the website optimization process there is perhaps no area subject to as much misinformation and to such a vast audience. Here are some common misconceptions that are often believed about search engine submissions:

  1. You need to submit your website often to keep it indexed by the search engines
  2. You need to submit your website to thousands and thousands of search engines to get decent traffic
  3. Submitting your website often will keep you at the top of the search engine rankings

These beliefs are all incorrect and those who can make a quick buck selling this disservice perpetrate them. If you have not recently received an email offering to “Submit Your Website To More Search Engines Than There Are Websites On The Internet For Just $19.95 Per Month!” then I can pretty much guarantee that you will in the not-too-distant future if your email can be found somewhere on your website.

An irony of this can be found in Google’s webmaster area where they note:

Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:

“Dear google.com,

I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”

Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for “burn fat at night” diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.

Good advice as I’m sure Google has their website submissions taken care of. Just because you receive such an email, doesn’t mean that you’re missing out on anything. Let’s first look at a breakdown of which engines are responsible for which traffic.

According to research the major search engines are responsible for the following percentages of traffic as of June 2004:

Google – 41.6%

Yahoo! – 31.5%

MSN – 27.4% (MSN draws their results from Yahoo!/Overture)

AOL – 13.6% (AOL draws their results from Google)

Ask Jeeves – 7.0%

Lycos – 3.7%

Netscape – 3.0% (Netscape draws their results from Google)

AltaVista – 2.7% (AltaVista draws the Yahoo!/Overture)

Source: Neilson/Netratings

Note: These numbers total over 100% as people may use multiple search engines if they don’t find the information they are looking for at the first one they try.

So what does this tell us? This tells us that the very vast majority of search engine traffic does not come from many thousands of search engines but rather, relatively few. This would lead to the obvious questions, “Is it worth paying to be submitted to thousands of search engines?” The real answer, “No.”

Then How Do I Submit My Own Website?

Automated search engine submission systems simply access the existing and readily accessible “Add URL” pages of the search engines and automatically submit your site. You can do this yourself simply by visiting the search engines and submitting through these same pages.

To simplify this process you can visit the “search engines” page of the Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization website where we link directly to the submissions pages of the major engines.

But What About The Other Engines? Surely They Provide Some Traffic?

Quite honestly, they may. You may get a visitor or two. Is it worth $19.95/mth or some such amount? No. You can get a better dollar/visitor ratio on any of the many PPC engines out there.

An additional point to note is that you may want to actually visit some of the lists of engines on the sites offering these services to you. You will discover a couple of important facts:

  • Many of these so-called “search engines” are not engines at all but rather FFA (Free-For-All) pages and classified ads sites. They will not help your rankings, you will not see traffic from them and your listing will probably last about as long as spam in your Inbox.
  • Many of the actual search engines and directories are topical. What this means is that they are focused on a single area and unless your site coincidentally is about space exploration, topographical mapping, etc. you won’t get listed. Submitting should not be confused with “guaranteed listing”. Submitting your site to thousands of engines is not the same as getting your website indexed on thousands of engines.

The Submission Myth

The truth of that matter is, submitting your website at all can realistically be considered a waste of time. Aside from a few key general directories (DMOZ, Yahoo!, etc.) and a number of SEO directories, we did not submit the website www.beanstalk-inc.com to any of the major search engines. It’s true, not a single submission.

Are we indexed? Yes we are.

How did we get indexed without submitting our site? If you take the time that you would be spending submitting your site and spend it instead finding quality inbound links (which we will write about next week) your site will be indexed and much quicker than you think.

You’ve probably heard the term “search engine spider”. Search engines crawl websites. This means that they visit a page, follow all the links on that page and so on. If you have a link on a website that is already known to the search engines it is only a matter of time before your website will be found by default. In fact, when the Beanstalk site went live and the first link was established to it, it did not take the weeks that are estimated through the use of the submissions pages for our site to be found. The homepage of beanstalk-inc.com was index by Google three days after the site went live and the other major engines followed within a week or so.

Final Notes

If there are any points that I hope you take away from this article they are the following:

  1. Automated search engine submissions services are not worth the money they charge.
  2. You do not need to be submitted to thousands of “search engines”. The vast majority of traffic comes from the top few.
  3. You will want to consider whether it is even worth the time to submit to search engines or whether that time could be better spent building quality, relevant links to your site and submitting your site to the major and topical directories.

An additional failing to the automated submissions systems not covered above is their inability to take into consideration the exact characteristics of your website for their directory submissions. When you’re submitting your website to directories you will have to choose the exact category your site falls into. Most directories have slightly different category hierarchies and the more exact you are in your submission, the higher the chance you will be listed. Automated systems can never be as exact across multiple directories as a human can.

Submitting your website, even correctly, will not guarantee you top rankings however it will leave you with money in your pocket to spend on other promotional endeavors that may actually produce a solid ROI. And THAT’S what it’s all about.

The rankings? You’ll have to read the other nine steps of the series to find out how to attain those.

Next Week

In part eight of this search engine positioning series we will cover the importance of link building, how to attain high quality, relevant links to your website, and the tools to reduce the time it takes to do so significantly. With the importance of inbound links to your overall rankings you won’t want to miss this very important step in the website optimization process.

SEO news blog post by @ 5:26 pm


 

 

October 20, 2004

Ten Steps To A Well Optimized Website Series

Due to the great interest and feedback we received from our article “Ten Steps To Higher Search Engine Positioning” we decided to cover each of the ten steps in greater detail in a ten part series.

Below you will find links to all ten steps of this series.

The Ten Steps To A Well Optimized Website:

  1. Keyword Selection – October 24, 2004
  2. Content – October 31, 2004
  3. Site Structure – November 7, 2004
  4. Optimization – November 14, 2004
  5. Internal Linking – November 21, 2004
  6. Human Testing – November 29, 2004
  7. Submissions – December 5, 2004
  8. Link Building – December 12, 2004
  9. Monitoring – December 19, 2004
  10. The Extras – December 28, 2004

SEO news blog post by @ 2:13 pm


 

 

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