This is the final post in the long tail vs fat head optimization strategies series. The focus of this post is to expand on the optimization strategy for highly competitive keywords. We are going to leverage our insights from the link analysis explained in Part 2 to build better and smarter links.
The purpose of link analysis is to identify the link sources that are providing the ranking boost to your competitor. I explained several principles that are very important when evaluating links. Ideally you will try to get the same link sources that are linking your chosen web authority to link to you (at least the most important or more authoritative ones). You will also want to make sure the links come with similar anchor text or textual context (text surrounding the anchor) and complement all this effort with some traditional and out-of-the-box link-building tactics. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.
Direct and Indirect Linking
There plenty of articles, blog posts, and sites devoted to link building. Most of the strategies focus on direct ways to get links. It is always wise to look at the traffic value of the link you are trying to acquire. If you don't get the rankings you want, you still get relevant visitors. I explained this in more detail in another post.
Instead of repeating what has been said, I will focus on what I do differently – in addition to getting direct links, I also I try to get links indirectly. But first, let me touch briefly on some of the most common ways to build direct links. I will start with the ones that require less work and I will move up to the ones that require the most. Generally speaking, the harder to get a link, the more valuable it is…
Directory submissions. Find a few dozen relevant and high quality directories in your niche and submit your site to those. I do not recommend massive directory submissions because a) you leave an easily detectable pattern of manipulation and b) many directories are flagged as not trusted/spam by search engines.
Content syndication. If you don't have a blog or RSS feed, get one. Find sites/networks that will be happy to take your feed and publish it. Beware of scraper sites, though. I include a signature in my feed that includes a link back to my blog and a nice warning for scrapers.
Social bookmarking. Make it easy for your readers to bookmark your site by adding widgets like the ones you see on this site.
Linking out. I check every inbound link I get, and I am sure every blogger does too. This is one of the easiest ways to get the attention of a blogger. John Andrews is well aware of this and took advantage of this to promote his successful sphinnbait.
Reciprocal links. Some webmasters think this is the only way to build links. ONLY build links to a few sites that are closely related but not directly competing with yours. Why would you send your traffic to a competitor? Search engines can detect massive link exchanges and penalize accordingly. Trust me, I know this from experience.
Paid links/reviews. If you are going to get paid links it is important to make sure that they don't look as such. Try to buy editorial links such as reviews. It doesn't matter how hard you try to hide them from the search engines, your competitor will always find them.
Press releases. Don't write press releases about everything you do or write. Make them newsworthy and compelling. Those are the ones that get the most results.
Contributions. Write insightful comments and guest posts on blogs, forums, newsgroups, etc. Make sure they are highly relevant and link to your content when appropriate.
Sponsorships. Identify non-profit projects that you can offer free hosting/bandwidth/web design/templates/SEO or other help. They will be more than happy to give you a link back. Think about charities, open source projects, and anything else on the Web or otherwise.
Web2.0 Profiles and Pages. Create your free profile/blog at the numerous user-generated content properties and forums. Most of them let you provide a link back to your site/blog.
Testimonials. Do you like a product or service and are you one of the lucky early adopters? Make sure you provide compelling testimonials that the owners will proudly present online. For more credibility, they usually provide links back.
Freebies. Create useful e-books/tools/widgets/mash-ups. This is one of the most powerful ways to get links. Provide something really useful and the links will follow.
Link baiting. Create content that is designed to attract links. Usually content that appeals to people's emotions works best. The links will follow—out of love or hate!
With those out of the way, let me now explain a couple of indirect ways to get links that I haven’t seen covered much elsewhere.
Buying established sites/domains. This is not discussed much, but it is one of the most effective and fast ways to rank and build traffic to your site. Buying a site that already has links and traffic allows you to link back to your own site or redirect the whole domain. If you are buying the site primarily for rankings, there are few caveats that you need to be aware of, though:
In case you don't get the rankings you want, make sure that you can reclaim your money from the site’s current monetization efforts or, at least, that you can add some sort of monetization that will guarantee you some return on your investment.
Search engines can flag your recently purchased domain as affiliated based on the registration information. It is illegal to provide fake registration information and doing so can result in losing your domain. To avoid this problem, consider setting up another company as the owner of the purchased domain. Obviously this isn’t a cheap strategy, but when we are talking about buying sites and domains we are talking about the big leagues anyway.
Branding for authority and links. This has been my primary link-building approach with this blog. Writing useful and unique content and getting high profile bloggers and influencers to notice you is not easy, but is definitely worth it. You get high quality, authoritative links that are hard to obtain and, at the same time, you gain exposure to
the audience that matters to you.
During the few months I've been blogging, I've managed to get a couple of posts promoted to Seomoz’s main blog. My blog has been included in the TopRankBlog big list. Search patents expert Bill Slawski added my blog to his blogroll. I've also attracted editorial links from Search Engine Watch Blog, Seobook, Shoemoney, Fantomaster, Andy Beard, and others. One of my posts was picked up by a journalist. All this without expending a dime on advertising. In part, this comes out of believing in what you do and loving a topic enough to really immerse yourself in it. But I've also been doing this as an experiment because I wanted to better understand from experience what blogging was all about.
After I launch my SEO product next month, I'll start doing more aggressive promotion, both paid and unpaid—but definitely not spamming.