Link building for 2010:

This link building class is designed to introduce many of the attendees (and to refresh others) to some classic link building techniques with a particular emphasis on how the techniques have evolved through the years into 2010. The list will not be exhaustive (it can't be in 45 mins) but it will be a great start. At the end of the class there will be the opportunity to ask questions, and I'll also be asking folks to share other ideas they have or successful campaigns they have created for building links.

Here are some of the link building strategies:

Get on a blogroll:
Reach out to bloggers with like-minded posts and see if they are willing to add you to their blogroll (we assume they have one, of course). One way to improve your changes of getting on their blogroll is to build a relationship with them via commenting on their blogs for a period of time, first. Let them get to know you. For this strategy to be particularly effective you really need to put effort into your blog comments - be insightful, add to the quality of their article, encourage others to participate / comment etc - bloggers will really appreciate that. Perhaps start with 5-10 targets max (you don't want to be spreading yourself too thin) - but try to go out and get yourself on 5-10 blogrolls.
*Note it is best to have 1-way links from these blogs, but reciprocal blogrolls on a very low volume are ok as well. You have real relationships with these bloggers at this point and the links are valid.

Directory Submissions:
There are fewer and fewer quality directories out there these days, but there are still some that are worth going after. http://www.dmoz.org for instance still is considered a prize if you can get listed and I believe Google and many other aggregators still use the ODP feed to populate their own directories which causes a syndication effect for your listings.
*Note if you do get a DMOZ listing you may want to consider adding a noODP meta tag to your site so that search engines use your actual title, not the ODP listing information.

Article Submissions:
For 2010 we have been building a lower volume of articles but really trying to focus on trying to rank these articles themselves as well as "building links for your links" which is a theme for our entire program. Many think that they can just submit an article, directory listing, blog post etc and it will automatically give them maximum benefit, when in fact due to the nature of these kinds of submissions the link itself is generally posted to a page many clicks deep and also gets further and further away from spiders (such as in the cases of blogs) due to pagination, and the fact that newer posts generally tend to bury old posts. So BUILD LINKS FOR YOUR LINKS!

Group blogging:
Not really all that old-school to most, but has been around for quite some time so I put it in this category. Group blogging is where several webmasters / Realtors come together to combine their efforts into a single website / blog. The most well known example of this for many here would actually be Real Estate Webmasters and our blogging platform. Other well known examples of "group blogging" include Active Rain, Bloodhound Blog, Geek Estate and Wanna Network. The power of group blogging is that there are many more individuals pooling their efforts towards submission of quality content, but also more importantly, contributing all-important link juice. Eric Blackwell would say "SEO is a team sport" - and in many ways it is - it's about "relationships" and when you can use those relationships to build stronger group resources, you are far better off than a competitor attempting to go it alone. Eric, by the way, runs his own group blog which can be found at realestateindustrywatch.com <<< The site appears broken however as there is no blogroll link to Real Estate Webmasters :-)

Social Networking

Facebook:
In my mind, Facebook is THE most important social networking tool on the internet. There are several reasons for this - here are a few:

  • It has the largest active user base.
  • It allows you to dig down and add your own contacts through association. If you know them, and someone else knows them, chances are they will allow you to add them. It builds a kind of trust right away (compare that to door knocking and it seems like a much less intrusive way to get in front of locals and potential business sources).
  • It has an advertising component with some cool features like demographic & geo-location targeting.
  • Updates provide conversation starters in real life situations: "Aren't you the guy / girl who did [x] from facebook?"

Twitter:
Status updates, much like posting your Facebook "What's on your mind?", allow you to provide short, succinct updates to your readership, friends and other influences. Another cool thing about Twitter is that there are many "autopost" services such as twitterfeed.com that allow you to automatically syndicate xml content (such as RSS) - this feature lets you automatically post your blog content AND listings (if you have a custom feed for your listings) directly to Twitter.

Link Bait (the most AND LEAST effective link building available)

Link bait is one of the hardest things to do very well (at least consistently) and it is even harder to learn how to do it effectively when so many link bait campaigns fail (not because they were poorly implemented but due to the nature and unpredictability of link bait itself). Estimates for link bait success I have encountered range from
1/4 to 1/10 campaigns actually becoming successful. This is generally why link bait specialists sell their link bait campaigns in packages of several campaigns as there is no telling which, if any, will take off, go viral or generate a decent volume of links.

So what is "link bait"? In general terms, it really is anything you can do to "entice" people to link to your site or other desired location (blog, social profile, etc.). It is something you or someone on your behalf has posted online that other people cannot help but link to.

For our purposes we want to look at link bait for three reasons:

#1: To generate traffic and exposure for our websites and profiles (increase reputation / awareness)
#2: To build links directly to our target sites (my most important site being realestatewebmasters.com -- for most of you it's your main Real Estate Webmasters site).
#3: To build links or pass authority indirectly to the aforementioned sites by baiting links to other profiles we control, such as offsite blogs (REW Blogs for example), articles with do-follow links, etc.

Let's take a look at some past and present link bait campaigns for real life examples:

No SARjacking - domain hijack campaign:
Many are familiar with this campaign and how wildly successful it was at going viral throughout the Realtor community and helping build hundreds if not thousands of links for Marc Rasmussen after his MLS board decided to steal his domain from him.

Carolyn Capalbo - Reputation management contest:
The results are still coming in on this very fresh "reputation management" campaign. As with many good link bait campaigns you need to have a "hook" (the reputation salvaging is the hook here). But let's not kid ourselves - this campaign was also just as much about building backlinks for Carolyn, who had just entered into her second full service SEO campaign. I was very happy to see the results of this campaign not just with respect to exposure and links but with the great positive response we got to support Carolyn, who has always been a great person and customer.

A few up-and-coming campaigns, one traditional and one you might not expect:

Traditional - http://www.top10calgary.com:
The idea behind this campaign is to reach out to Calgary based websites (both agents and brokers) and to play to their egos by nominating them as one of the top sites in Calgary for their respective category. We have coded a valid voting and submissions system so that the owners of these sites can syndicate their nomination via their social networks, submit other sites and of course promote their nomination on their website via a badge (this is where the links come up). The top 10 sites in each category (as decided by public votes) will be listed for 1 year with valid backlinks which provides additional incentive for the nominees to get as many votes as they can. Why Calgary and what does this do for your customers? We have several amazing sites in Calgary who also happen to be SEO customers: We will not rig the contest in any way (we feel we will get the votes anyways) but what our customers will get that other sites will not is an additional page that they are listed on (win or not) thanking them as sponsors for such a great and fun contest.

To make the contest even more official / impressive - I will be doing a video interview with Val from the SEO team regarding the contest and she will be attempting to tap her PR skills to get writeups in local newspapers, the CREB (Calgary Real Estate Board) website and other high visibility local places.

More abstract - http://www.lancesupport.org:
This is a site dedicated to supporting and showing appreciation for Lance Armstrong, world famous cyclist, cancer survivor and all around inspiring individual. The hook here is there are hundreds of thousands of fans of Lance who already support everything he does (most of whom have Facebook accounts, and many of who have blogs, participate in various forums, etc). So we will get links from all of these fans, but Val's lofty goal is to actually get a response / quote from Lance himself thus elevating the site to media-worthy status. Another angle on the site is the fact that there has been some doping controversy lately regarding Lance and the Tour de France, which as we all know the American media jumps all over - thus to make it even more appealing to Lance fans and the media - we are challenging people to look past guilt or innocence (hopefully he is innocent) and acknowledge all the great things he has done for his sport, for his fans (as an inspiration) and for all the great work he has done raising over $325 million for cancer research (another group for us to appeal to here is the cancer institutes, etc.).

What makes a good link bait campaign? Anything that a LOT of people might link to :)

Here are some things to consider:

  • It should be current, if possible
  • It should have MASS appeal (larger groups of interested people mean more potential links)
  • It should in its very nature encourage links - if people see it, and appreciate it but aren't compelled to share it via links or syndication, it is a fail
  • It should, if possible, be something you believe in. Sincerity goes a long way (Val is actually a Lance Armstrong fan, for instance)
  • You need to PUSH IT - especially to start. You can't just post something out there and hope it catches on. Send blast emails, post on Facebook and Twitter, write a blog post, ask your sphere to write blog posts, etc.
  • If it is funny, controversial, REALLY interesting, unique, sad, evokes sympathy, is quirky or uses inventive technology, chances are it's good link bait.

I am going to leave you with a presentation of my absolute favorite current link bait campaign (the fact that I am sharing it with you here shows that it is effective) - as you will see, creating link bait can also be REALLY fun to do :)

http://thechive.com/2010/08/10/girl-quits-her-job-on-dry-erase-board-emails-entire-office-33-photos/

*Reminder - we have a link building discussion forum at Real Estate Webmasters forums where you can discuss techniques, ask questions and brainstorm ideas with our more than 20,000 person member base. The forum is your friend :)