SES Chicago: Linkbuilding in a Post-Penguin World

Linkbuilding is definitely one of the new top priorities in the SEO world. But not just any linkbuilding; linkbuilding that won’t get you penalized by Google, linkbuilding that will stand the test of whatever black and white animal that Google decides to throw at us next.

With that in mind, Jon Ball (@linkbuildingjon) talked about linkbuilding strategies that, while perhaps not as easy as buying links, will allow you to rest easy whenever Google releases a new update. He spent the first part of the session outlining some general philosophies of doing good linkbuilding, and the last part of the session going over some specific linkbuilding strategies that can help you know where to look to get links. I really enjoyed his presentation; he had a very entertaining speaking style, and I think some of my favorite quotes out of SES came from his session.

The three pillars of SEO are technical (is your site getting indexed properly by Google?), content (do you have good, solid, useful content with keywords in it on your site?) and linkbuilding. If you’ve done the other two and you’re still not getting rankings, there’s probably “a giant elephant in the room that says “linkbuilding” every so often.”

If you’ve gotten your technical SEO and your content SEO down, and you’re still not ranking very well, there’s probably a giant elephant in the room that says “linkbuilding” every so often.

Seven White-Hat Linkbuilding Philosophies

  • If Google didn’t exist, would you want this link? That is to say, if you sell kitten beds, are you getting links on sites where people looking to buy kitten beds will be? Plug the marketing cord into the SEO cord whenever possible.
  • Relevancy first!
  • Website owners are people, and are more likely to link to other people.  Don’t get lost in the mess of computers and internet and email. Talk to people face to face. Call them. Remind them there’s a real person on the other end of the link.
  • The most powerful linkbuilding tool is your brain.
  • Linkbuilding is a team sport. Brainstorm ideas with other people – it’s much easier to come up with ideas that way.
  • Forget viral! If it goes viral, it goes viral. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
  • FTBOM: For the Betterment of Mankind. Don’t just be self-promoting all the time. Do things for people that actually help them, and they will be more willing to give you links.

These were all pretty basic, as far as linkbuilding advice. Probably the most useful piece of information for me was the “Relevancy Tree” that was one of the slides. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to replicate the graphic he used, but the concept is similar to those “mind maps” that people sometimes use for brainstorming. Get everyone in a room, and ask them everything they think about when they hear your product. Everything from related products, to who might use or buy that product, who might need information on that product, everything you can think of. Then sort all those ideas out into a map of categories and related terms, starting with the most relevant in the middle and working outwards towards the least relevant ideas. This can give you a good place to start.

Now onto the more specific stuff, which I found to be somewhat more useful.

(Somewhat) Specific Linkbuilding Strategies

  • Have a blog! But make sure that you’re writing it to the people who buy your things, not to your other industry people.  Also, use catchy blog titles. Which are you more likely to read, “Best Children’s Books of 2011” or “Worst Children’s Books of 2011”?
  • Do interviews with people. If you write it up on your blog, they’ll probably link back to you.
  • Research your “local keyword universe” to see what’s out there. Do Google searches for
    “[Keyword] news” (or experts, associations, forums, blogs, trade shows, events, classifieds)
  • Guest posting. Write great, useful content for other people’s sites. Don’t make it pitchy. Rise above the ghettos of SEO spam. Write things that are useful for them. Then, “if it gets published, don’t just hide in your cave and laugh, promote it!”
  • Write testimonials. If you ever go to a business or hire someone and you have a really good experience, write them a very nice unsolicited email and maybe send a picture. They might put you on their blog.
  • Build a museum.
  • Build a glossary – especially if your industry has a lot of jargon, this will be very useful for your customers and potential customers.
  • Get on people’s resource pages – but only if you would actually be a resource to their audience.
  • DIY sites are very popular and content-hungry. Write a how-to related to what you do.
  • Badging! Make a really nice-looking logo/badge that people can put on their websites. If it’s some kind of recognition or award, they may be more than willing to put it on their site. For example, a badge for a “Extreme Couponing Award” given to mommy bloggers who use a lot of coupons from a coupon website.
  • Contests
  • Reviews
  • (Forums … be very careful with these. Make sure it’s a forum you actually want to contribute to and are interested in.)

A lot of these tips are certainly already out there, but it was nice to see them presented all in one place as a good reminder, especially with a dash of humor. Unfortunately, he ran out of time to talk about each one of them in depth, but I will definitely be using more of these tips in the future.