This guest post is from Paddy Moogan, currently travelling the world and still finding time to write a pretty big book about link building. Enjoy!
For this post, I wanted to address some of the most common link building questions that I see from SEOs. I wanted to offer my opinion for the answers but would love to hear what you think in the comments.
Will guest blogging be devalued as a link building tactic?
There has been lots of discussion around this question, as well as several videos from Matt Cutts where he gives his opinion on the technique. Personally, I think that guest blogging is going to be a legitimate tactic for a long time to come and it is a genuine way to market yourself and your website online. Like most link building techniques, it can be used the wrong way and in general, this happens when you introduce too much automation and scale to it.
Whilst there is nothing wrong with trying to make a process more efficient with automation and scale, there is a line you need to draw when the quality of the output starts to suffer.
I’d say that if you’re going to use guest blogging as a link building tactic, you should use the following to guide you:
- Write content that you’d happily publish on your own website
- Include extra media in the content including images, diagrams and video
- For written content, invest in a detailed article rather than a short one – I once heard someone say that guest posts should never be more than 400 words in length – this is NOT true and not the way to approach this tactic
- Tie the content back to a genuine Google+ profile
- Share the guest post on your social networks, if it is good quality this shouldn’t worry you at all
- Respond to any comments that are added to the post
- Cross link between your guest posts to send traffic and some link equity
- Don’t overdo commercial anchor text, focus on branded anchor text
There are some forms of guest blogging that Google may decide to devalue, such as:
- Low quality content on a mass scale, all linking back to the same website
- Content and links that match patterns, indicating no effort to produce unique content that is customised for the website it is on
- Paid for guest posts, although I’m not sure how they’d do this on scale without clear footprints
- Clear use of blog networks that are all tied together
In summary, if you’re focusing on high quality content and placing it on good websites, you don’t have much to worry about.
Are press releases worth doing for link building?
For link building purposes, press release syndication used to be a decent way of getting a large amount of anchor text and domain diversity. But for quite some time, their effectiveness as a direct link building technique has reduced. This position was recently confirmed by Google but this confirmation came under question after an SEO test seemed to prove that links from press releases can affect rankings. This could mean a few things:
- Matt wasn’t telling the truth and was just trying to put SEOs off using this tactic
- Matt was only referring to the website in the original forum thread and how the particular press releases it has used were affecting it’s ranking – therefore not intending to say that all press release links do not impact search results
- The query used in the SEO test is a made up one and even the low quality links combined with the authority of Matt’s blog meant that it ranked
Either way, right now, I don’t advise doing them at all for direct link building purposes. Even if Matt wasn’t being totally truthful, do we really think that Google want these types of mass produced links to impact their search results?
However I do recommend a well-written, accurate press release if you genuinely have something news-worthy to share with a wide audience. When you send out a press release like this, it isn’t with the intention of getting links from syndication websites. The goal is to get genuine coverage from quality news outlets because journalists and writers find the story interesting and write about it. These are the type of links that Google do want to reward.
How much should I care about PageRank?
You should care about PageRank and use it for your link analysis, but I wouldn’t obsess over it. You should also be aware that the only PageRank we can see is Toolbar PageRank which isn’t always 100% accurate. This is because it is usually only updated every three months, in contrast to actual PageRank which is very fluid and always changing based on how the link graph of the web changes.
Having said that, here are some uses for PageRank:
- Finding low quality links – see my post on State of Search for more on this
- Quickly filtering large sets of link prospects – for example eliminating all domains with a homepage PageRank of 2 or below. I know that this isn’t perfect but it is a decent way of filtering big sets of sites quickly
- Diagnosing site architecture issues – ideally, you want to flow PageRank to your most important pages and you can achieve this by having a good site architecture
When I’m doing link building, I will check the homepage PageRank of a website, but it is only one of a number of metrics I care about. Here are a few examples of other metrics that play a part in whether or not I pursue a link:
- Domain authority from SEOmoz
- Recent Google cache date for the homepage
- IP address
- Social presence i.e. Facebook and Twitter followings
- Community presence i.e. comments on blog posts
- Recency of blog posts
It changes from client to client, but these are usually a good starting point.
What do I say to a client that insists on copying competitors who are using low quality link building techniques?
This has always been a tough one, but since Penguin, it has become a lot easier! The short answer is to send them something like this:
This can usually have the desired effect. But it can be tough because sometimes, the client will see their competitors using tactics and appearing to get away with it. My approach often depends on the type of person I’m talking to but usually, I’ll use one of the following triggers:
Take screenshots of some of the low quality links and ask if this is where they want their company appearing. Would the owner of the company be happy to see his or her company mentioned on low quality websites. Does it create a good impression of the company?
Show them graphs like the ones above and explain how Google is becoming far more aggressive with clamping down on low quality links. I’d cross reference this with examples of websites who are doing link building well and show them traffic graphs for those guys. Ask them which one they’re prefer.
Get them to put themselves in the position of Google and if they looked at these types of links, would they think that these links are the ones that they want to reward?
What ratio of commercial vs. non-commercial anchor text is best?
This was a common question even before Penguin came along and Penguin did seem to hit a lot of websites who had way too much commercial anchor text in their link profile. The power of exact match, commercial anchor text in Google’s algorithm has always baffled me because I can’t think of many things more unnatural than it.
It has always been quite hard to make an exact recommendation for what ratio of your link profile should be commercial anchor text. My own feeling is that it should “look natural” but I appreciate that this is quite hard to quantify. If I had to put a number on it, I’d certainly aim for only one or two exact match commercial keywords in your top 10 keywords. The rest of them I’d expect to be non-commercial including branded and random anchor text. I’d also be looking for partial match commercial anchor text rather than exact match. So rather than “car insurance” I’d be looking for “company name car insurance”.
Ultimately, if you look at the top anchor text pointing at a domain and it becomes obvious that they have been building links, then it is probably not a natural ratio of anchor text.
How many links should I build a month?
It is quite funny that as much as the SEO community share with each other, there are a few things that very rarely get shared such as:
- How many links an agency builds a month
- What conversion rate they get on outreach
- How many outreach emails they send a month
I can understand this to a certain extent because there isn’t really a fixed baseline for what is a “good” number so agencies won’t want to reveal where they stand in the big picture.
As a sidenote, I do give away a few numbers from my own projects in my link building book and share a few case studies.
The best answer I can give is actually to not think of link building as a pure numbers game. You do want to run some analysis on your industry and find out how you compare to competitors in terms of pure link metrics. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that your objective should be to go out and match the same metrics, you need to be a bit smarter than that. I wrote about this in quite a bit of detail over on SEOmoz but the essence is that you should be focusing on the metrics that matter to the client such as:
The answer to the question: you should build enough links to make a positive difference to these key metrics. You need to build links that go beyond the value of the link itself.
Have other questions? Feel free to chuck them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.