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  • Modern Link-Building Strategies – Think Like Google


    During the past year my thinking about link-building best practices has greatly evolved, partially due to a greater immersion in social media marketing where the focus is on creating great content and an authentic engagement with the community, as well as to listening what Google has to say about how it assesses websites.

    Increasingly, I’ve come to believe that the best backlinking strategy is a 100% authentic strategy, creating content that is of value to users — build it and they will come — and engaging with the community to share your knowledge and expertise and increase awareness of what you have to offer. To supplement this, there are a handful of directories where site submissions are human-reviewed and the directories themselves have a high [kastooltip msg="PageRank" tooltip="Google's metric for how popular a site is on the Web, on a scale of 1-10 (higher is better). The biggest factor is how many external sites link to yours, and the authority, popularity and relevance of those sites."].

    What Google is Looking For — Listen Up!

    As we all know, a website can have solid on-page SEO, but if there are few or no on-topic and authoritative sites linking back to it, the on-page work is pretty much for naught. As Google’s Webmaster Guide says,

    Google and most other search engines use links to determine reputation. A site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to it. Link-based analysis is an extremely useful way of measuring a site’s value, and has greatly improved the quality of web search. Both the quantity and, more importantly, the quality of links count towards this rating.

    Because of its efforts to continually improve the quality and relevance of search results, Google is always getting better at recognizing quality sites and, at the end of the day, those sites that focus their efforts on creating keyword-rich quality content and “natural” backlinking strategies will be sitting on top of the [kastooltip msg="SERPs" tooltip="Search Engine Results Page"].

    It’s No Secret: Google Is Clear on What It Wants

    Google’s Webmaster Guidelines state that “Google works hard to ensure that it fully discounts links intended to manipulate search engine results, such as excessive link exchanges and purchased links that pass PageRank.”

    Google’s 2004 patent application,  Information Retrieval Based On Historical Data, reinforced  Google engineer Matt Cutts’ frequent advice that to encourage backlinking to your site, your focus should be on creating content for human traffic, not search engines. The big takeaway for SEOs was – and is – that Google looks for and rewards backlink growth that appears natural, without big spikes or dips in numbers, i.e., a steady increase over time. It also looks for a diversity of IP addresses and name servers in those backlinks, as well as links to pages other than your home page (called “deep links”).

    Google’s Matt Cutts, on March 4, 2010, was asked on Google’s Webmaster Central YouTube Channel what he recommended for getting quality backlinks. It was all about great content. Some of his responses:

    • Participate in the Community: “I’m not talking about signing up and spamming a bunch of blogs or forums. A good example is answering questions. If you have some value you can add … somebody appreciates that … and they’ll be more willing and receptive to linking.”
    • Original Research: “If somebody does even a little bit of work to dig into a subject, they’re more likely to get links. Original research can really make a big difference.”
    • Newsletters: “If you have people already coming to your blog, make it a little bit easier for that information to show up in their inbox.” (I think he means making easy for users to subscribe to your blog RSS feed via email.)
    • Social Media: Participating on Twitter, Friendfeed or Facebook can be another great way [to build links]. Think about where people spend their time. Getting to know those people can pay off, and not just in getting links.
    • Lists: “They tend to get a little tiresome after a while. But writing a few every so often is not such a bad thing.”
    • Blogging: “Establish yourself as an authority. There’s no excuse for a company these days not to have a blog. Just building that up as a resource of good articles … another good example is how-tos and tutorials.”
    • Good Site Architecture: “Make sure that your site has good site architecture. Can my site be crawled? Can my pages be bookmarked? Make it easy to link to individual pieces of content.”

    Getting Listed in Directories: Think like a Search Engine

    Think Like GoogleIf you’re a search engine assessing the value and relevance of a site’s content, how much importance would you ascribe to the fact that the site is included in numerous directories, the majority of which have no editorial oversight?

    When you’re searching for information, you’re looking for information from someone who’s actively engaged in the conversations around the subject matter, someone whose site content is highly relevant to your search, contains useful information, and is generally regarded on the Web as a great resource? Does the fact that the resource has gotten itself listed in a zillion directories, relevant and irrelevant, relate in any way whatsoever to the quality of content?

    Answer: No! And I’d bet Google is of the same opinion.

    Don’t Expect Much from Directory Inclusions…

    Although some PageRank is likely passed by the myriad directories out there, I doubt that a site’s inclusion in the many free and paid directories is telling Google much about the value of the site’s content. Getting your site listed in directories, paid or free, is just you voting for yourself. I don’t see how Google can assess value from that.

    Without any human/editorial mediation involved, your inclusion has no relationship to the quality of your site’s content.

    Which Directories Should You Be Listed In?

    When considering directories in which to list your site, check to see if 1) they’re reviewed by humans; 2) have a PageRank of at least 3 or 4. If they’re not human-mediated or the PageRank is low, I really wouldn’t bother.

    The general consensus among SEOs is that the following directories are the most beneficial to your SEO. Submissions are reviewed by humans, and the PageRank and authority of these sites is high. This is the creme de la creme!:

    • DMOZ – The Open Directory Project
      The best and it’s free! Edited and run by volunteers; PageRank: 8; Alexa Rank: 684. ODP data powers the core directory services for many of the Web’s largest search engines and portals, including AOL Search, Google, and Alexa.
    • Yahoo! Directory
      PageRank: 8; Alexa Rank: 3. There is a $299 Non Refundable Submission Fee and a $299 Annual Fe,e if accepted.
    • Business.com Directory
      PageRank: 6; Alexa Rank: 1,939; The cost is $299 to submit, and $299 annually, if accepted.
    • Best of the Web
      PageRank: 7; Alexa Rank: 4,108; $149 to submit and $149 annual if accepted.
    • GoGuides.org
      PageRank: 5; Alexa Rank: 22,425. The cost is a one-time $69.9 submission fee.
    • AboutUs.org ProFollow
      PageRank: 6; Alexa Rank: 1,000. A new service from AboutUs.org. It’s free and it promises to allow links without the “nofollow” attribute. Worth checking out.
    • whatUseek Web Search
      PageRank: 6; Alexa Rank: 28,901. You’ll want to submit to the whatUseek Collection which is human-reviewed. The “Velocity Submit” (w/in 2 business days) is $49.99, with an annual fee of $16.99. The “Standard Submit” (w/in 8 weeks) is $24.99 and $16.99 annual fee.

    Creating High-Quality Content: Build It and They Will Come!

    Google’s Webmaster Guide:

    The best way to get other sites to create relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can quickly gain popularity in the Internet community. The more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it. Before making any single decision, you should ask yourself the question: Is this going to be beneficial for my page’s visitors?

    It is not only the number of links you have pointing to your site that matters, but also the quality and relevance of those links. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the buzzing blogger community can be an excellent place to generate interest.

    Soliciting Backlinks: If you must…

    If your client or your boss insists on getting as many backlinks as possible, at least avoid:

    Link Farms / Bad Neighborhoods: Spammy sites that offer no value to users but are just repositories of URLs. Your site can be penalized for being included in too many bad neighborhoods.

    Irrelevant Sites: Sites that are outside the subject matter of your website. Although these won’t incur a penalty, they are of little value in increasing your PageRank.

    Link Exchanges: Google advises against excessive link exchanges and “link schemes” such as:

    • Links intended to manipulate PageRank;
    • Links to web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the web;
    • Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”);
    • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank.

    Most Importantly – Size Doesn’t Matter…

    As Google states:, “It is not only the number of links you have pointing to your site that matters, but also the quality and relevance of those links.”

    Additional Resources

    Online Directory Resources

    Comments

    1. Great general list for how a site can build links. I would add one point: build links gradually over time. One or two a day is more than enough to help you rank well and get noticed by Google.

    2. I agree with everything you said except the page rank. I am not sure how valuable it is to look at PR 3 or 4 and make a decission if it’s of any value or not. I have come across some directories that have PR 5 and are not worth submitting to because of the same reason. They abused their rank and got into Google bad directory list. I think adding no more then few links per day is awesome strategy and only add to directories you like and think it will be worth doing it. Pay special attention to local directories. Great article btw. Keep up the good work.

    3. Great Article! I found some very useful information that our company is now implementing and I can wait to see the results. Thank you for the useful information!

    4. Great article…By any chance do you know how many links i should include in my profile? for example i sign up in hi5 and i add 15 links in my profile. same domain but differ keywords, is that too much?

    5. Such a wonderful Post, good effort to write this type of informative article, i can say, slow and regular link building do wonder.
      -Regards,

    6. Thanks for including these great link building resources/information. I was excited to hear about the Aboutus.org Profollow service. Unfortunately, they are no longer “profollowing” links.

    7. Excellent article. Thanks.
      I also read somewhere that adding a link within your blog post once in a while will play in your favor through RSS feeds.

    8. Great article! Really hope the list could go a little longer, maybe listing the top 10 directories for link building strategies.
      Always wondered, if someone is doing directory submission solely for link building purpose, is it really worth paying $299 for “one link”?
      How much direct traffic are these directories really going to bring? I guess I won’t know for sure unless I really pay for one.

      Thanks for sharing.

    9. Just out of curiosity, does anyone know for certain whether or not my ip address is collected (like a tag) when I post a backlink to my website? I’ve wondered this for a long time, and in the first paragraph of this blog it does allude to the idea that this is true. If that be the case, would it be beneficial to me to install The Anonomizer so that every query I perform is routed through multiple open proxies to hide its origin?

    10. A note about DMOZ – the inclusion process can be painfully slow.

      Great list. Just a little bit of effort each day can yield links, which over time will add up to quite a worthwhile collection.

    11. FYI: Business.com and Bestoftheweb.com have lost all their PR. A good indication that Google no longer views them as trustworthy domains.

      You might want to update your list.

      Kind regards

      - Michael

      • Michael: I just visited http://botw.org/ (Best of the Web home page) and it has a PageRank of 7. You were probably on an internal page that had no PR. PR is page by page, as we all know. The same goes for Business.com, still a PR 7.

      • Michael, if you saw PR0 on your Google Toolbar, keep in mind that it does fail to grab the PR sometimes. I use the compete.com toolbar as a “page rank backup”… It has never failed to accurately depict the Google Page Rank for me.

        Only problem is that the Compete Toolbar is currently under development and isn’t readily available. In the mean time, I’m sure there are some other great PR tools out there for Firefox.

        Just thought I’d share…

    12. Love the article. I experienced problems with adding the sites to DMOZ directory. It has been extremely difficult to be listed there recently. Note also that Twitter and Facebook does not provide you with a back link as they use no Follow attribute, LinkedIn however does.

      Regards
      Magda

    13. Great to see that at least some people are providing honest advise about backlinking and the terminology. Too many sites are really pushing people down the wrong path giving bad advise. Keep it up. Backlinking, whilst a very straigt forward subject to understand is full of mine fields – Just remember a few good backlinks are worth much more than hundreds of poor quality links so be careful.

    14. OMG …. It very seldom you find such great articles online…
      This is probably the best reading I have done, on the subject of back-linking that is free…

      Most content like this you would probably have to pay for..

      Thanx for the great content, love your work.

    15. I found some fast pagerank tools, may be seo friends would like them…..

      seo41.com/pagerank-checker.php
      seo41.com/internal-pagerank.php

      one is bulk page rank checker that can check 1000 of pages PR with single click and another is internal PR checker to check pagerank of all internal pages on a website.

    16. Excellent article! One problem that many people (including me) have is trying to determine whether paid directories (reputable ones like the ones listed above) subscription fees provide a good ROI? Apart from tracking the links once established, is there another way?

    17. I could not agree with you more, in 2010 I have seen many old school link builders doing more harm than good. Any websites that are link spam having 100+ links on all sorts of weird topics are hurting websites not helping them. I do think that this is going to open the door to more Google Bombing, but I think Google has decided this is much less of a concern and a lesser evil than paid links.

    18. “Quote”It is not only the number of links you have pointing to your site that matters, but also the quality and relevance of those links…

      Do you believe posting relative links to your website on forums are still considered valuable?

      • It can be valuable, but most blogs and forums now add the “nofollow” attribute to links, which tells the search engine that it doesn’t “endorse” the link. If you’re posting to blogs and forums because you’re contributing value to the conversation, that’s a good thing and will gradually be rewarded. But I think it’s a waste of time to post “This was a great post! Thanks for the tips!” on a bunch of blogs and forums.

    19. So what do you see as the best way to build links to your site? forums and blogs seem to be what everyone says is best?

      • Most forums and blogs add the “nofollow” attribute to links, so links from there won’t be counted as a “vote” for your URL.

        The best way to build links to your site, and I mean this, is creating content that people want to link to. We blog tutorials and other info about Facebook and other social media, WordPress, etc.

        As the search engines continue to tweak their algorithms to assess *true* content quality and relevance, any efforts that try to short-circuit that will fail, increasingly.

        As the article says, think like Google. If you want people to link to your URLs, give them something to link to. Dropping those URLs in a gazillion forums and blogs isn’t worth the time or effort, unless — and this is important — you actually have something of value to say. Then people may be inclined to check you out.

        I can’t tell you how many comments I get like, Wow. Great article. I’m going to put this to use!

        I don’t bother approving those. They add nothing to the conversation and, for the most part, are just pathetic attempts to get backlinks from people who are hopelessly behind the curve of what’s really happening.

    20. I personally dont think rel=nofollow dont help in ranking. If your link is relevant it matters. There is a lot of controversy on it. But what Google or Yahoo says is not true. If u want to follow their algorithm just trial and error.

      I have done many tests and found duplicate content is a drawback. Only one content among many duplicate stands.

      Also Google is well aware much than us about normal SEO tricks and loopholes because it is their business.

      Dont follow link firms and if your site has lots of irrelevant links then your PR will fall. There is a huge chance to get penalized too.

      Thanks

      Bikram Choudhury (SEO Guy, Not Yoga Guru )

    21. Hi,

      I don’t think there can be any better advice than that which you have given which is, long term, to follow the strategy of building great content that attracts links naturally.

      I do however come across many sites that rank at number 1 for a major keyword and have low PageRank. It is not necessary to have authority and PR to rank highly. Whether or not, these low PR sites attract as much traffic overall is a question I can’t answer.

      Picking up on a some of the points in the article and comments:

      1. Since the post was first published, I believe from memory that business.com has announced it will be discontinuing its directory service (as has Yahoo UK & Ireland for anybody in the UK).

      2. Opinion that nofollow links are worth more than Google may admit seems to be growing and there was a discussion recently at Sphinn on this.

      http://sphinn.com/story/161185/

      3. Back links from Twitter and Facebook may be nofollow but there has been a recent post at searchengineland reporting that Google and Bing have both confirmed they take social signals into account when determining rankings.

      http://searchengineland.com/what-social-signals-do-google-bing-really-count-55389

      It is precisely because the link landscape is ever changing and that no one knows the exact algo that I believe your first advice is the safest and the best – in the long run.

      As a final point, I often find that when Google toolbar doesn’t display the correct PR, a simple F5 browser refresh, does the trick.

      Now I’m heading back to read your post on Facebook landing pages which is what brought me here before i got distracted :-) .

    22. Great post. I would say your post is a good example of quality researched content. In reference to some of the comments… I agree that social no-follow links and other signals like followers and fans/likes are playing a part in organic search results. This was recently confirmed by Google and Bing.
      I really like that you listed some good paid directories. I think there are easily about 10 more good paid directories that significantly help in organic rankings… like:
      joant.com
      incrawler.com
      site-sift.com
      blueurl.com
      dirjournal.com
      and some others.
      Just make sure you submit to a strong indexed page.
      Thank you for the great post :)

    23. I am confused about submitting to business.com. I just started a website and bought a business.com directory listing. The google pagerank was 5 on the page and google grabbed the link 2 weeks ago, but it hasn’t helped my search engine ranking at all. Besides this, I just have links from a previous website I owned and the site is just a month old.

      Why did the PR5 link of business.com not help?

      Thank you.

    24. @Stephen Hopefully you have noticed the Google update news. Since beginning of the year Google was penalizing low quality copy cat sites.
      However IMO business.com not one of them as the PR hasn’t been changed.
      If you are thinking about a PR update to your site normally it happens every 3 months. May be it will show up in the next update. If you are thinking about high rankings PR helps little for high rankings. There are at least 199 other factors.

      Here is something I posted on Link building:
      http://roimediaworks.com/2011/02/27/link-building-what-to-do-what-not-to-do/

      Thanks

    25. This is just a great post, thank you! Sometimes you just don’t know anymore what is important or what isn’t, but this article really helps me get back on track :)

      One question though: Google doesn’t like the socalled ‘paid links’, right? How come you do get rewarded when having a link on, say, WhatUseek, where you have to pay for a link?

    26. @ Kerst

      Hi -it depends on what the payment is for. Applications for entry into WhatUseek (had never heard of it before but just looked it up) and many others like it are subject to human review. Therefore the fee you pay is an administration fee for the cost of the review so it is not deemed by Google to be a paid link. You are not buying a link as such but buying a reviewer’s time. That’s the theory. It gets a bit woolly but my belief is that Google passes some credit for these types of links. I think the logic behind it must be that these kinds of sites do benefit the web as a whole because they filter out the ‘bottom feeders’ e.g. incomplete sites, gambling, porn sites etc.

    27. Great article. What I don’t get is that Google does not want us to pay for back links, but it’s ok to pay to get listed in those “human reviewed” directories?

    28. I agree with mostly everything you said. There are however a few things regarding link building that most people abuse.

      One of these is the use of automated commenting software. It is extremely irritating to get these pathetic and totally unrelated comments, some don’t even make grammatical sense, that it is hard to believe that anybody can actually think one would approve those comments.

      Another one is a comment that is posted but consists almost entirely of affiliate links. Do these people really think it will work?

      Keep up the good work and let’s keep SEO and Link Building sensible.

    29. great article.
      But what about link building after google released panda update? It’s there any core changes in linksbuilding strategy?

      • The Panda update only strengthens my premise that trying to game Google is doomed to failure. You may get away with it for a while, but that algorithm will continue to improve and you’ll get caught.

        If you want traffic that is high-value and driven by your great content and will continually grow in volume, create great content worth linking to, use semantic HTML markup, pay attention to your meta tags, and remember:

        SEO is page by page. Make sure each page communicates its subject matter, with an eye toward keywords, as clearly as possible, from the directory and file nomenclature, to the title and meta tags, the markup, the content, and the anchor text.

    30. Great article ! This is the right philosophy, although I’m pretty sure mass submissions in directories with good PR is still one of the strongest Backlinking methods out there and will give great results if done properly… Unfortunately. As I see it directories have absolutely NO utility at ALL but as you said, with time big G is going to ban this practice little by little.

    31. Thanks, some good info here that will help me in my article marketing efforts.

    32. kerstpakketten says:

      Great article. Now I know what to do against my collegues when they buy links!

    33. very good article . good job Tim !

    34. Definitely need to be more active in the community. Also I want to post more original content. I’ll just make a list of what I’m interested in related to my site and then write original posts. I still can’t get over how well written your posts are. I need to work on my headers and formatting.

    35. After I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment is added I get four emails with the exact same comment. Is there a way you can remove me from that service? Kudos!http://www.howtogettraffic.info

    36.  I don’t see a comment from you on this post, so I’m not sure why you’re getting notified of followups, unless you used a different username?

      If your username was a string of keywords, or you plugged “howtogettraffic.info” I would have probably deleted it. As you may know, .info sites are usually spammy.

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    3. Pilates says:

      Yoga…

      Best Backlinking – Link-Building SEO Strategies 2010: A few directories & lots of great content | HyperArts…

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