Yes, This Link-building Tip is Definitely White Hat!

A couple of months ago I found a really clever and easy way to build thousands of links to any site (with your choice of anchor text). In the spirit of sharing I try to promote in this blog, here it is…

PAD your link-building regimen

There are thousands of software developers that provide their solution as a software download (RankSense is one of those), but getting visibility for your solution is an uphill battle due to the large number of competing products in any software niche. One of the easiest ways to get a lot of visibility is to offer a free version of your product and syndicate it through free software download directories.

Now, there are thousands of such directories and submitting your software to each one manually is definitely a pain. Fortunately, there is already a solution for that. All of the software distribution sites support a standard syndication format for content similar to RSS. It’s called PAD (Portable Application Description). Essentially, it is an XML format with all the details about your software, your company, and so on. And most important of all for us marketers, it includes a space to provide our company/product URL and description. In most cases, both result in a link with the anchor text you specify.

You are probably going to say that you don’t have a software download to distribute. Here are two very simple options for you:

1. Hire a programmer on Elance or Guru and have him develop a very simple tool (like a calendar or to-do list) or enhance an existing open source one. If you search diligently, you can get lots of proposals for anywhere between $50 to $200 bucks. Most of the software directories—at least the ones that are most useful for link juice—review each submission, so if you want to increase your chances try to create something simple but original.

2. Turn your blog’s content into an e-book in executable format using one of the popular e-book creators. This strategy is even easier and I guess most of you will go this route, but I need to warn you that you will have less success with the directories that carefully review submissions.

After you have your “free new software” you need to create the syndication file—the PAD file. There is a free tool that you can use for this called PadGen. Simply fill out the forms, which are self explanatory, and let the software generate the PAD file for you. Pay special attention to the fields for your link and company name. Those are the ones that control the link back to your site and the anchor text. Upload the file to your server, and submit the URL to the directories.

Anchors away

As a regular reader of this blog, you probably understand the importance of mixing your anchor text. Getting thousands of links back with the same anchor text is not a good idea. So here is a clever strategy you can use to control the anchor text:

Write a simple PHP script and map it to your PAD file URL using Apache’s ScriptAlias, or map the .xml extension (if you don’t have other files with the same extension) or do something similar. The idea is that the script must intercept the request and randomly or serially alter the anchor text in the XML with the values of a predetermined list of anchor text that you want to target. Performing basic keyword research will give you a suitable list. The goal is to have every submission use a different (but relevant) description for your company/product. To be on the safe side, I suggest you always leave the product name with the keyword-rich description. I also recommend that in some of the variations you use only the product name and not a keyword-rich description. This will make everything look much more natural.

This sounds like a lot of work, but really it isn’t. Syndicating software is not very different from syndicating content.

All that’s left is to find a big list of software directories to start submitting your PAD file to. A search in Google for “software downloads” returns more than 70 million results and all I see are software download sites, so the sky is the limit! I recommend you don’t include your personal e-mail in the PAD but create one that you can actively monitor because many of the sites will e-mail you additional steps. I’m sure spammers set up fake download sites to harvest e-mails so be careful with that, too.

There are software tools that can automate the submissions too; do a quick search in Google and you will find some really useful ones.

Happy link hunting!

Update: I’m glad to learn that SEO expert, Nick Wilsdon, has been using this technique for years! Check  out his really useful post for more useful tips :-)

14 replies
  1. MorePro SEO
    MorePro SEO says:

    This is a terrific idea for building links. We came up with the same idea about 8 months ago for a software client of ours, but have yet to implement it due to no trial version of the software.

    Certainly an easy method of getting relevant links though.

    Great post!

    Reply
  2. Sam Daams
    Sam Daams says:

    Interesting tip indeed. Don't most of these sites nofollow the URL though? Regardless of the back links, it's also a pretty good way to brand yourself I'd think. In the long run, no matter what search engines throw your way, a strong brand will last!

    Reply
  3. Nick Wilsdon
    Nick Wilsdon says:

    Yep we've been doing this one for years. You might also want to get a copy of Promosoft (http://www.develab.net/) which will automate the PAD submission process and allow you to quickly re-release new versions.

    @Mike

    Many sites do not allow screensaver or toolbar submissions now. They have been flooded with these from the marketing community.

    The best plan here is to create something that your site users would actually find useful. For example, a paintball site might give away a small phone program that allows users to calculate paintball gun settings and distance. That way you get the community advantage + a greater chance of relevant IBL from authority sites in your niche. It can then be used for general link building beyond PAD submissions.

    Reply
  4. Eva White
    Eva White says:

    That is a detailed post on making your product more visible. I am not much into the technical side I leave that to the pros, but I can also sense that you know what you are talking about and the strategies would be successful.

    Reply
  5. Jason
    Jason says:

    Very insightful and helpful post…

    Unfortunately, as a non-PHP/ASP-savvy marketer, you lost me on how to randomize the anchor text:

    "Write a simple PHP script and map it to your PAD file URL using Apache’s ScriptAlias, or map the .xml extension (if you don’t have other files with the same extension) or do something similar. The idea is that the script must intercept the request and randomly or serially alter the anchor text in the XML with the values of a predetermined list of anchor text that you want to target."

    Can someone point me to a informational resource on how to do this?

    Thanks in advance and great post!

    Best,
    Jason

    Reply
  6. Mike
    Mike says:

    PAD-enabled sites are a great way of building back-links. Nowadays though more and more site owners are automatically rejecting screensavers, wallpaper, toolbars and ebooks so it's becoming necessary to submit useful items. More and more sites are nofollowing links too and quite a few no longer provide links to author's websites at all.

    Reply
  7. Ron
    Ron says:

    @ Mike,
    I agree with you, those site owners accepting software have been busy on improving their sites and of course, the security measures.
    I think they also associated this kind of technique as kind of spamming or tricking rankings?

    @Jason, just google it! Hehehe.

    @Eva White, yes you may tell your programmers about this one and they will do their thing as you will do yours.

    Reply

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  2. Nick Wilsdon says:

    Free Software As Link Building Technique…

    Hamlet has released a useful post on using the PAD system to distribute software and build links. My first online job was actually promoting a shareware HTML editor so this is a familiar technique for me. Here are a few notes to add to the conversation…

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