This week I visited London’s Internet World show, mostly in the name of keeping tabs on the latest commercial web related offerings and to sit in on a couple of interesting keynote seminars from Google and Unilever. Whilst I was there, I caught a seminar from Patrick Altoft of Internet Marketing specialists Branded3 (also proprietor of Blogstorm). The talk was entitled ‘off-site SEO strategies for eCommerce sites’, but actually had little to do with eCommerce specifically (I’m guessing this title was so B3 were able to grab a slot at the eCommerce lecture theatre, which was marginally quieter than the others) – it was about SEO and off-site linking strategies for any website.
Whilst the seminar didn’t deliver any particular revelations for those of us acquainted with SEO and contained the customary undercurrent of thinly disguised self promotion, it nicely summarised a solid method for gaining back-links. Feel free to check out a PDF of the whole branded3 presentation, but to summarise, the process Patrick described is as follows:
- Create some (ideally non-commercial) content worth linking to. You’ll be more likely to attract links from others if you have for example: guides, reviews, a blog, news or photos.
- Perform competitor analysis by identifying 20 target keywords, make a list of domains ranking in the top 20 search results for each keyword.
- Using seoMoz’s Open Site Explorer, export .csv files of to compile a list of external followed & 301 pages linking to all pages on the root domains of these sites.
- After deduping and tidying up, you end up with a theoretical list of the top sites in your area to receive links from. You can refine the list further by sorting on domain authority, then filter for influential TLDs (like .ac.uk and .org).
- Evaluate whether it’s worth spending time trying to get a link on each site. Try to figure out how your competitors have gained links. In some cases, you may not be able to get links, because you don’t have the same relationship with the linking site that your competitor does. Sometimes, the links are paid for and may not be worth pursuing.
- Whilst evaluating, check more stats about a site using seoMoz’s Firefox SEO toolbar.
- If a site looks like it’s worth getting a link on, make contact in as personal way as possible: speak to people over the phone; send personal emails to people who run relevant websites; make sure emails don’t start with “Dear Webmaster”; ask about advertising; ask bloggers if they accept guest posts.
- You should take advantage of any partnerships you have: talk to your suppliers & offer reviews; do interviews for industry news sites; give discounts to customers in return for links; offer to write news articles or guides for websites in your industry, make friends with people who control websites.
Patrick added that if you’re buying a link, make sure it doesn’t resemble advertising, as you will get little or no credit from search engines. Buying text links is actually a somewhat unethical practice, at least in the eyes of search engines, so you should think twice about doing this – it can lead to being penalised or getting bad press.
In a slight twist of irony, a number of top SEO companies use this method to gain a competitive edge – I recently published a post about Just Search (who were also present at Internet World) using this tactic to gain a lot of ‘link juice’ from paid links.