2nd Edition of The Link Building Book is Live!

After lots and lots of work and way too many delays (sorry!) the 2nd Edition of The Link Building Book is now live.

For existing customers – you get the update for free

If you’ve already purchased (thank you!), you should have received an email from me with a link to the new edition. If you haven’t, please check your spam folder and if you still haven’t got it, fill out this form in as much detail as possible and I’ll get the update to you as soon as I’ve processed your submission.

What’s new?

Well, the 2nd Edition is 50% bigger than the first edition and is now nearly 100,000 words of pure link building goodness. But what exactly is new?

Eight new chapters

There are eight new chapters for you to read and are a mixture of guest chapters, new ones by me and expanding on existing ones.

Link building for Ecommerce websites by Brian Dean

Brian aka Backlinko has written a chapter full of link building tips and techniques for Ecommerce websites. Brian details a few different methods for generating links and also gives a few real examples of outreach emails that have worked for him in the past. He also gives plenty of advanced search query examples and tools that you can use for link building to your Ecommerce website.

Link building with images by Alec Bertram

I came across Alec after seeing his awesome tool Image Raider which can really help image heavy websites reclaim links after someone has used the images. In his chapter, Alec steps through the full process he uses for image based link building and gives two full case studies that show you exactly how he has used this process on real websites. He gives you some keyword research tips too and talks about how to optimise your images for image search – which can help your images be found in the first place, leading to even more link opportunities.

Link classification by Patrick Hathaway

One of my favourite tools right now is URL Profiler, it has so many uses, particularly when it comes to link building and auditing. In this chapter, Patrick goes into loads of depth on how you can use URL Profiler to classify your entire link profile. This means you can find potential issues and low quality links that could be causing you ranking problems. He also touches on other tips such as finding contact details and connecting to various APIs that can help you with link classification.

Getting more from BuzzStream by Stephanie Beadell

Another one of my favourite tools is BuzzStream, so it’s great that Stephanie contributed a chapter to the book which talks about some of the smaller, little known features of BuzzStream that can help you get better results and get more efficient. Stephanie talks about mining social websites for link opportunities as well as making sure that you never lose touch with important contacts.

Local link building by Darren Shaw

For the second edition of the book, I wanted to provide a deep dive into niche areas of link building. One of which was local link building and Darren from Whitespark was kind enough to controbute a chapter which goes into detail on the challenges of local link building, as well as detailing a bunch of strategies for getting local links.

Finding influencers and what they love sharing using Buzzsumo by Steve Rayson

One of the key parts of the link building process is finding influencers who you’re able to build relationships with. This can help you get more social shares, links and traffic to your content by leveraging their audience. This is particularly useful if you don’t have an existing audience yourself. Steve from Buzzsumo walks through the steps for finding these influencers using Buzzsumo – a great tool that you need to use if you haven’t already!

Link building case study using Kerboo by Gareth Hoyle

One of the most popular parts of the first edition was the case studies section. As well as adding some more of these myself, Gareth from Kerboo has written a chapter that talks through the steps he used with a fashion client to build links. The process ties in with the Peek feature of LinkRisk and shows how you can connect LinkRisk with BuzzStream to make your link building process as efficient as possible.

Paid content promotion to support outreach

For this edition of the book, I wanted to include some more information on leveraging social channels to support your link building. There is a lot of potential when it comes to using channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Outbrain or Taboola when it comes to getting more traffic to your content. In this chapter, I talk you through the process you can use to get traffic to your content, working alongside your manual link building and outreach efforts.

Two new case studies

One of the most popular parts of the first edition was the chapter that featured case studies from my own experience. I wanted to make sure I expanded on this for the new edition. So I’ve added two new case studies to this chapter and there are also additional case studies contributed by the guest authors above including two detailed ones from Alec regarding image based link building.

I’ve also researched and included some case studies from other SEOs that have been published online so that you have everything in one place.

Updated section on content based link building

Given the important role that content plays in the link building process, I’ve expanded this section to include some information on how to come up with good content ideas. I’ve gone into detail on the Made to Stick principles and outlined how you can use these principles to come up with content ideas that have a chance of getting links and social shares.

Alongside this, I’ve also talked about the different types of content you can create and the goals that each type can help you hit.

Updated link based penalties section

I’ve expanded the link penalties section to include the various types of link penalty warnings that you can receive via Google Webmaster Tools, as well as reviewing the manual actions feature. I talk about the differences between manual and algorithmic penalties and what you should do regarding each one. In particular, I talk about when to use the disavow tool and Patrick covers this in his guest chapter too.

The other stuff

As well as the big stuff already mentioned, there were lots of details to be updated including –

More link building resources and tools

Two years can be a long time when it comes to new resources and tools that are created. I’ve added over 50 links to new tools, videos, case studies and resources to help you learn more about link building.

Updated algorithm updates

I’ve updated the section on Google updates related to link building to include anything that has happened since the last edition, along with some commentary and resources to read more on these updated.

Guest blogging updates

Since the last edition of the book, we saw more info from Google on what kind of guest blogging they didn’t like. I still think that guest blogging is a perfectly viable method to promote yourself online, but there are things you need to avoid. I’ve updated my guidelines on this so that you can continue this technique but is a quality, sustainable way.

Infographics and link building updates

Again, I believe there have been a few changes in this area since the last edition, so I’ve updated the section outlining how to build links using infographics to be more in line with quality.

Link prospecting and finding email addresses

I discovered the power of FullContact after publishing the last edition of the book and have now included a section on how to use the FullContact API (you don’t need to be a developer for this – I’m not!) to gather additional information about link prospects in bulk. If using the API isn’t your thing, I’ve also outlined how to use their Chrome extension too.

This section also includes some public case studies that I found that detail when websites have recovered from various types of link penalties.

Links within JavaScript / AJAX section updated

I’ve spent some time updating this section to reflect how Google has improved their capabilities in this area and how this affects your work as a link builder.

Section on planning and executing a link building campaign updated

I’ve added some more steps on how to use project management systems including Trello to better plan and manage your link building campaigns. It’s important to stay organised so I’m sure this improved section will help you.

Finding link targets – updated section on finding link targets using Followerwonk

I’ve added a new section on how to use the awesome Followerwonk tool to find high quality link targets for your content and outreach campaigns.

That’s just a few things. Go take a look at The Link Building Book now for more info and I hope you enjoy the new version!

Coming soon – 2nd edition of The Link Building Book

tl;dr – if you’d like to be the first to hear about the release of the second edition of my link building book, go signup here. If you’ve already purchased the book, you’ll be getting the update for free and be receiving an email very soon.

I can’t quite believe that it’s been over two years since I published the first edition of The Link Building Book. A lot has happened in my career since then but more on that in a future post. For now, I want to give you an overview of what’s new in the 2nd edition of The Link Building Book.

While I believe in quality over quantity, one of the first things I wanted to point out is the fact that the second version of the book is about 50% bigger than the first edition. It has gone from 65,000 words to just under 100,000, spread out over 32 chapters which means it’s even more in-depth and comprehensive.

If you want to take a look at the full table of contents, take a look here. If you just want to know what’s new, read on!

Eight new chapters

There are eight new chapters for you to read and are a mixture of guest chapters, new ones by me and expanding on existing ones.

Link building for Ecommerce websites by Brian Dean

Brian aka Backlinko has written a chapter full of link building tips and techniques for Ecommerce websites. Brian details a few different methods for generating links and also gives a few real examples of outreach emails that have worked for him in the past. He also gives plenty of advanced search query examples and tools that you can use for link building to your Ecommerce website.

Link building with images by Alec Bertram

I came across Alec after seeing his awesome tool Image Raider which can really help image heavy websites reclaim links after someone has used the images. In his chapter, Alec steps through the full process he uses for image based link building and gives two full case studies that show you exactly how he has used this process on real websites. He gives you some keyword research tips too and talks about how to optimise your images for image search – which can help your images be found in the first place, leading to even more link opportunities.

Link classification by Patrick Hathaway

One of my favourite tools right now is URL Profiler, it has so many uses, particularly when it comes to link building and auditing. In this chapter, Patrick goes into loads of depth on how you can use URL Profiler to classify your entire link profile. This means you can find potential issues and low quality links that could be causing you ranking problems. He also touches on other tips such as finding contact details and connecting to various APIs that can help you with link classification.

Getting more from BuzzStream by Stephanie Beadell

Another one of my favourite tools is BuzzStream, so it’s great that Stephanie contributed a chapter to the book which talks about some of the smaller, little known features of BuzzStream that can help you get better results and get more efficient. Stephanie talks about mining social websites for link opportunities as well as making sure that you never lose touch with important contacts.

Local link building by Darren Shaw

For the second edition of the book, I wanted to provide a deep dive into niche areas of link building. One of which was local link building and Darren from Whitespark was kind enough to controbute a chapter which goes into detail on the challenges of local link building, as well as detailing a bunch of strategies for getting local links.

Finding influencers and what they love sharing using Buzzsumo by Steve Rayson

One of the key parts of the link building process is finding influencers who you’re able to build relationships with. This can help you get more social shares, links and traffic to your content by leveraging their audience. This is particularly useful if you don’t have an existing audience yourself. Steve from Buzzsumo walks through the steps for finding these influencers using Buzzsumo – a great tool that you need to use if you haven’t already!

Link building case study using LinkRisk by Gareth Hoyle

One of the most popular parts of the first edition was the case studies section. As well as adding some more of these myself, Gareth from LinkRisk has written a chapter that talks through the steps he used with a fashion client to build links. The process ties in with the Peek feature of LinkRisk and shows how you can connect LinkRisk with BuzzStream to make your link building process as efficient as possible.

Paid content promotion to support outreach

For this edition of the book, I wanted to include some more information on leveraging social channels to support your link building. There is a lot of potential when it comes to using channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Outbrain or Taboola when it comes to getting more traffic to your content. In this chapter, I talk you through the process you can use to get traffic to your content, working alongside your manual link building and outreach efforts.

Two new case studies

One of the most popular parts of the first edition was the chapter that featured case studies from my own experience. I wanted to make sure I expanded on this for the new edition. So I’ve added two new case studies to this chapter and there are also additional case studies contributed by the guest authors above including two detailed ones from Alec regarding image based link building.

I’ve also researched and included some case studies from other SEOs that have been published online so that you have everything in one place.

Updated section on content based link building

Given the important role that content plays in the link building process, I’ve expanded this section to include some information on how to come up with good content ideas. I’ve gone into detail on the Made to Stick principles and outlined how you can use these principles to come up with content ideas that have a chance of getting links and social shares.

Alongside this, I’ve also talked about the different types of content you can create and the goals that each type can help you hit.

Updated link based penalties section

I’ve expanded the link penalties section to include the various types of link penalty warnings that you can receive via Google Webmaster Tools, as well as reviewing the manual actions feature. I talk about the differences between manual and algorithmic penalties and what you should do regarding each one. In particular, I talk about when to use the disavow tool and Patrick covers this in his guest chapter too.

The other stuff

As well as the big stuff already mentioned, there were lots of details to be updated including –

More link building resources and tools

Two years can be a long time when it comes to new resources and tools that are created. I’ve added over 50 links to new tools, videos, case studies and resources to help you learn more about link building.

Updated algorithm updates

I’ve updated the section on Google updates related to link building to include anything that has happened since the last edition, along with some commentary and resources to read more on these updated.

Guest blogging updates

Since the last edition of the book, we saw more info from Google on what kind of guest blogging they didn’t like. I still think that guest blogging is a perfectly viable method to promote yourself online, but there are things you need to avoid. I’ve updated my guidelines on this so that you can continue this technique but is a quality, sustainable way.

Infographics and link building updates

Again, I believe there have been a few changes in this area since the last edition, so I’ve updated the section outlining how to build links using infographics to be more in line with quality.

Link prospecting and finding email addresses

I discovered the power of FullContact after publishing the last edition of the book and have now included a section on how to use the FullContact API (you don’t need to be a developer for this – I’m not!) to gather additional information about link prospects in bulk. If using the API isn’t your thing, I’ve also outlined how to use their Chrome extension too.

This section also includes some public case studies that I found that detail when websites have recovered from various types of link penalties.

So if you’ve already purchased the book, you’ll be getting an email soon. If you haven’t, go signup here to hear when it’s released.

Advanced Guide to eCommerce Link Building by Jon Cooper – a Review

Update: Jon has given me a discount code on the guide which you can retrieve by going through this URL.

Some of you may have already seen the Advanced eCommerce Link Building Guide by Jon Cooper. I was fortunate enough to get a peek at the guide a couple of weeks ago and I provided Jon with some feedback. Quite honestly, after having written The Link Building Book, I wish this was a guide that I’d written! So I decided to write a review of the guide for a few reasons:

  • It’s only online for a week – so waiting for reviews by readers to come out won’t work as it will be taken off-sale by the time they’re published
  • I really like it – as I said, I wish I’d published it!
  • Let’s be honest, it’s not cheap so it can be a big decision to invest into it

If you work in eCommerce SEO in one form or another, it’s definitely worth the investment though. I’ll outline the guide, give you my opinion on the most valuable bits and let you decide. I’ll also provide Jon with some constructive feedback at the end 🙂

Structure

The guide is purely online and accessed via a secure login, so you can bookmark it online and come back later and it’s all contained within a single page with a table of contents for navigation. There are three main areas:

  1. Strategy
  2. Attracting Links
  3. Tactics

Whilst this may seem light (I thought it was when I first saw it!), each section is then broken down into sub-categories which take a deeper dive. Let’s go into each section in a bit more detail.

link-building-ecommerce-2

Strategy

Jon starts by explaining a few things that you need to consider before embarking on your link building campaign. This is really important because it can be very easy to dive into building links without really knowing a few things such as:

  • What you’re really trying to achieve (links don’t pay the bills)
  • What the competitive landscape looks like
  • Where your website sits in this landscape
  • How the size / scope of your website and product range affects your approach

Sometimes, you’ll do this work and realise that a certain niche is just far too competitive right now and your website isn’t likely to get anywhere. This is frustrating but far better to know what you’re up against rather than sink time and money into something that is unlikely to pay off for a long time. So the alternative may be to go a bit more granular with your keyword targeting.

This section also includes some advice on building relationships and how to go about this the right way. The fact is that this is a long-term approach and needs to be treated as such.

Attracting links

The next big section of the guide is focused around the idea of attracting links rather than actively pursuing them. I was happy to see this section included in the guide because it’s one of the most valuable ways of approaching link building for long-term success. Having said that, it’s really hard. I won’t sugar coat something like this and it’s one of the reasons many people buy links. However Jon breaks things down into a really logical structure which is easy to follow and understand. The implementation is key though and you need to remember that link attraction will be an investment on your part but if you get it right, it will work very well for you and your business.

Within this section, Jon talks about attracting links to your existing pages vs. attracting links to new pages that you create. Something I really like about this section is that he contrasts good examples of landing pages vs. bad examples which makes the point a lot easier to understand. Importantly, he illustrates the differences between a page that is likely to attract links and one that isn’t likely to attract links. This is crucial because this doesn’t necessarily mean that a page that doesn’t attract links is one that converts badly. There is a massive difference between a page designed for conversion and a page designed for attracting links. Aligning those two things is tough and hard to balance.

Having said that, Jon makes a good point in that product pages can often be so good, that they can attract links. This is pretty unique and requires lots of time and investment because unfortunately, many products are available via many, many retailers so you need to provide a unique experience to your visitors. Again, there are lots of examples here to show how to approach this challenge.

Aside from product and category pages, Jon also explains how you can use content pieces with the sole intention of driving links to your website. I like one of the points he makes which is that if you’re doing this, it’s best to create a page that solely serves this purpose – not one that is half category / half content. Basically, for this approach to work, you need to really focus on making the page as content focused as possible.

Tactics

This is the biggest section of the guide by far, taking up more than half of it!

There is a lot of detail on each tactic with plenty of examples of people using the tactic, along with steps on how you can do the same. Again, he gives outreach email examples where applicable which makes it easier to follow.

One thing I like about this section is that Jon approaches the topic of what can constitute breaking webmaster guidelines and gives his opinion on how to carry out the tactic to remain within the guidelines. I’m glad that he addressed this and didn’t just brush over certain tactics that may pose some risk to websites.

This section is a bit hard to review without giving all the tactics away! But I will share this which I thought was smart:

link-building-ecommerce-1

This is the top of a table containing all the tactics along with:

  • A summary of what is required to use the tactic
  • What kind of pages you can expect to build links to
  • The effort required to carry out the tactic on a scale of 1-10

This makes it pretty easy to sort and filter the tactics to see which ones you may want to try first.

What I really like about the guide

Lots of real examples

There are lots of real examples using real eCommerce websites – small and large. Jon doesn’t just tell you to “be Amazon” or “be eBay” – he also uses smaller, niche websites that are more likely to be the types of websites most of us work on. This makes the guide far more useful because it shows that smaller sites can compete with the right approach, yes it’s really hard, but it’s possible.

Outreach email examples are also included showing the different types of link building you may choose to pursue. Whilst it obviously isn’t a good idea to copy them word for word, they do a great job of illustrating the point. These examples range from just a friendly hello to start building relationship, right through to asking about editorial calendars.

Lots of tactics

I know from experience how valuable these are to SEOs. There are lots in the guide with each one explained in great detail along with examples. These alone are worth the price of the book and you only need to nail a couple of them in order to get a decent number of links pointing at your website.

Each section has a short tl;dr

Whilst you should read as much as you can, the guide acts like a great reference piece (almost like a textbook) because of the short and sharp tl;dr sections which Jon puts at the end of every major section. This makes it easier to refer back to certain sections and remind yourself of the key points.

It’s honest

Jon doesn’t sugar coat something that is difficult. You can get a preview of this from his sales page:

link-building-ecommerce-3

 

This tells you that there won’t be any major shortcuts to success – although Jon includes lots of hacks / tips to make you more efficient and speed things up.

What I don’t like as much

As good as the guide is, I can’t help but give some feedback to Jon. I don’t think any of these are deal breakers that should stop someone investing in the guide, but they are probably things I’d look to change / improve if there is an updated version at some point.

A bit more on the logistics of a campaign

One big addition to the guide could have been to step through a single example campaign from start to finish using a single, real example. So it would start with Jon showing how he’d come up with a strategy for a certain eCommerce website, do analysis of their niche, set goals, select tactics and implement them. All the information is in the guide though, I just like to see how people approach this which is why I mention it.

Update: Jon will be covering this in the webinar he is doing to accompany the course 🙂

A bit more on tools

Whilst tools can obviously apply across a number of niches, not just eCommerce, I think for completeness, it would have been good to do a quick overview of what tools Jon uses day-to-day with eCommerce link building. Again, insight into how link builders work is very useful to readers.

Honestly though, those are me being picky! It’s a great guide and Jon has done a great job on it. You can check it out here where you can also get a discount on the standard price.

Link Prospecting the Efficient Way with Buzzmarker for Chrome

There are all sorts of awesome link metrics available to us these days, many people reading this may not remember the days when we didn’t have Domain Authority, Trust or Citation Flow or when Yahoo Site Explorer was the go-to place for backlink checks. Now we have lots available to us and they’re great for sorting and filtering huge lists of link targets.

There is one thing though that, in my opinion, a metric can never replace – your gut feeling.

I feel like a few years ago, you could have argued that metrics alone were good enough when it came to link prospecting. You can’t argue that now, the bar has been raised far too high in recent years and when it comes to building links, there is no point in taking unnecessary risks as the consequences can be severe.

Any scalable link building technique will be moved outside Google Guidelines at some point. Ironically for a company that is all about doing things that scale, Google doesn’t like link building techniques that can be scaled. This is because they feel (and they’re right) that scaling something and maintaining a high level of quality is very hard. It can be done, but it isn’t done very well by the majority of people when it comes to link building.

Over the years, the question I’ve been asked over and over again is “how do I scale link building?”. The fact is, you shouldn’t unless you’re prepared to take some significant risks. So the problem is no longer asking yourself how do I scale my link building, it becomes “how do I make my link building more efficient?”.

One of the best tools that I know for this and one I’ve recommended for years now, is BuzzStream. The product just keeps improving and they’ve just released a new feature called the BuzzMarker for Chrome.

I’ve had the chance to play around with the extension over the last few weeks as it was being developed and I really think that it helps take link building efficiency to a new level.

Use cases – how to use the BuzzMarker for Chrome

I’ve been playing around with a few ways to combine features of other link building tools with the extension, let’s take a look at a few examples so far.

Majestic SEO and the BuzzMarker

There are a couple of ways to use Majestic SEO that immediately stood out to me which I’ll outline below using an example.

Let’s imagine that you were working on a piece of content for a client in the music industry, the content will focus around the history and evolution of rock music. One technique for finding potential places to get links from is to take a look at what similar pieces of content have been published before and seeing who linked to them. There is an added benefit here in that if you find that previous pieces of similar content didn’t get many links, it may question whether or not you have a good idea!

Something else to point out here is that if similar content has been done before, you really do need to bring something new in the piece you create. It can be some new data, a new type of visualisation or a much better design, either way, you can’t just rinse and repeat old content and expect it to perform better than previous pieces.

After a quick search, I came across this website – Rock Music Timeline. It has some great information but let’s be honest, the design isn’t great. I know that our piece can do a better job of design and visualisation. A quick backlink check using the Majestic SEO plugin shows me a few links going to the domain which is a good start:

majestic-1

 

Trust and Citation flow doesn’t look too bad so I take a look at some of the backlinks themselves by clicking on the backlinks tab:

majestic-2

 

There are a fair few in here with matching anchor text which makes me a little sceptical, as well as a few /links pages which may not be great in terms of sending traffic, but the metrics look decent for a few of these so it’s worthy of exploring a little more. Now I’m doing to click on the tools tab and open a report directly in Majestic SEO:

majestic-3

 

Now, this is where things get a bit more interesting and efficient. You have a nice list of backlinks in Majestic SEO, next you need to right click on the page and select “start prospecting”:

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 18.59.42

The following will appear on the right hand side of the screen which is basically a scrape of the links on the page:

majestic-5

There is a slight flaw here in that the tool will also pull in non-relevant links, for example in the screenshot above you can see the Majestic SEO Facebook account which is obviously one we’re not interested in! If you hover over the prospect though, you can remove it from the list:

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 19.48.48

Next up, click on “start prospecting” and you’ll see something like this:

2014-04-30_1950

You can navigate your way around the website and the Buzzmarker will remain in place, so in the example above, I can also go to the contact us page and start entering information:

2014-04-30_1955

I’m sure you can imagine the possibilties here but the key for me is that this doesn’t require me at any point to go to BuzzStream. I can use my existing workflow and prospecting process and basically enter information into BuzzStream as I go. This makes the process much more efficient and makes prospecting and keeping quality high very easy.

Using BuzzSumo with the BuzzMarker

I love BuzzSumo, it’s a really quick and easy tool and considering it’s relatively new to the market, the data it gives back is pretty good. Let’s stick with our rock music content example and go and do a simple search on BuzzSumo:

buzzsumo-1

 

The results will look like this:

buzzsumo-2

 

As we can see, this content is getting a decent amount of social shares which is another good signal to get as you’re doing this work.

Now we do what we did before with Majestic SEO, right click on the page and start prospecting, you can start going through the list of sites very quickly.

I want to keep going with this example and show another feature of BuzzSumo which can be tied in nicely with the new Buzzmarker. Let’s switch the example to change things up a little bit and imagine we’re working on a piece of content for photography, so we may want to look for influential photographers using a search like this:

buzzsumo-3This gives me the following list:

buzzsumo-4

You can do all sorts of things with this list but in this case, I’m going to sort by the column for number of retweets:

buzzsumo-5

 

As you can see, most of these results also have websites which is great because it may also mean they have a blog where I could get coverage or a link from – on top of their social influence. So now we just right click on the page again, click start prospecting and get a nice list of websites to go through:

buzzsumo-6

 

When I click start on prospecting, I can cycle through this list very quickly.

The fact that I’ve used BuzzSumo to gather and sort this list of influencers means that I’m spending time trying to connect with the right kind of people – again making me more efficient.

Using Followerwonk with the BuzzMarker

Followerwonk can be great for finding influential people in certain niches who are active on social channels, so I wanted to show an example of how to use it to prospect for influencers. Also, Followerwonk doesn’t allow for you to scrape contacts from the page in the same way Majestic and BuzzSumo do, so I wanted to show a little hack that fixes this.

Firstly, start with a simple search on Followerwonk:

followerwonk

Unfortunately, right clicking on the page and starting to prospect doesn’t work very well with Followerwonk, it only pulls in Twitter handles (which is ok) but we also want the websites that these people control too. So hit the download button in the top right corner:

followerwonk-2

Now this gives you a CSV file where you have a list of URLs for each of the people in your search:

followerwonk-3

Now, copy and paste this list of URLs into URL Opener and click submit:

url-opener

You’ll get something like this:

url-opener-2

Don’t click open all! Right click on the page and select the Buzzmarker and select start prospecting:

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 20.03.30

Done! You can use this little hack on pretty much every website where the Buzzmarker has trouble pulling the right links from a page or where the URLs are present in the source code.

Collaboration

Aside from the tool uses above, another really cool feature of the extension is that it allows for better collaboration when link prospecting. Under the old system, you wouldn’t know whether a colleague had approached the same website as you until you tried to add it the the database. Now, BuzzStream can highlight links on a page that are already in your account. To do this, right click on the page that contains your list of prospects and select “highlight contacts in BuzzStream”:

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 20.10.27

For me, this was the effect on my search results:

2014-04-30_2009

 

See how the top two results are highlighted in light blue? This means that are already in BuzzStream.

This also works nicely if you’re doing prospecting and come across a site that is already in BuzzStream, like the following example where I can see the previous note that has been placed:

2014-04-30_2014

In this case, anyone prospecting who comes across this will know to speak to me about the prospect before proceeding which can be really useful when you’re part of a large team.

That’s about it! I’m sure more blog posts will appear over the coming weeks with uses for the Buzzmarker, if you have any ideas already, feel free to add them to the comments below and download the extension here. If you don’t have a BuzzStream account yet, you can get one here.

Blackhat vs. Whitehat SEO – My Opinion

Should you use link building techiques that are outside of Google guidelines?

Before we get too deep into this, the definition of Blackhat SEO can vary. As I mentioned in this article, I tend to think of blackhat as activity that is illegal or bordering on illegal. But for the purposes of this article, let’s say that blackhat is anything that is outside Google (or other search engine) guidelines.

Here is the summary of where I stand:

  • I don’t have a problem with blackhat SEOs in most circumstances
  • If you do blackhat SEO for someone else’s website – you must be clear about the risks to their business
  • If you do blackhat SEO for yourself, you need to be comfortable with the idea that Google can switch off your income overnight
  • I’m not comfortable building someone else’s business on blackhat SEO techniques, but that’s just me and why I don’t practice it for clients
  • I don’t want to come into work every day and think is this the day of the Google update that will affect my client

Few SEOs would argue that techniques such as buying links can give you a big boost in traffic as a result of higher rankings, the fact is that right now, a range of link building techniques that are outside of Google guidelines can work. Buying links is one of them. Link building can also be very hard, so it is little wonder that SEOs take the easy route and put budget into buying links in order to get results. Part of me doesn’t blame them.

But should you do it?

I’m sharing my own experience to try and explain my thinking here.

I learnt SEO via black / greyhat tactics

I first got into SEO at University when I was meant to be studying for my law degree, I was short of cash and eventually found my way to Google Adsense and a bit of CPA / affiliate marketing. I built some websites and wanted to get them to rank so I could make some money (mainly for beer) and I didn’t really care whether what I did was inside Google guidelines or not. I messed about with a bunch of techniques that, looking back, were pretty spammy and shouldn’t have worked, but they did. I didn’t make a fortune but I made enough to go for a few good nights out every month with my mates and not worry about buying a round of beers.

I was far from being a blackhat, but I wasn’t whiter than white either. Mainly because I didn’t even consider what I was doing to be that wrong, loads of other people were doing it and it worked. I knew it wasn’t illegal so where was the problem?

After a while, I started learning more, reading more and become more aware of this thing called web spam and that apparently, Google had a team of people dedicated to fighting it. So I started to look into the techniques they were fighting and low and behold, it was pretty much the kind of stuff I had been doing.

Meh. I still didn’t care. What’s the worst that was going to happen? If I got caught, I’d lose a bit of beer money. I wouldn’t be in the position of not being able to pay bills or lose my home or my car. I knew it was risky but I was fine with it, it was only me that would get “hurt” if Google caught me.

This is the key thing you need to consider when deciding the level of risk you’re willing to take.

Let me be clear:

I was taking risks with my own websites and my own income, 100% my decision.

If you are comfortable with the idea that your income could be pretty much switched off overnight, then why worry? I was comfortable with this and knew what I was doing. I know that many may not agree with this but it is your choice, if you want to get in, make some cash then get out, that is up to you.

Irish Wonder published a very timely post showing how a certain group of spammy websites were ranking for a very competitive gambling related keyword. The techniques used to rank this site (not just those pointed out in the post) are very spammy and I’m positive they will be caught by Google. However for such a competitive keyword, you only need to rank for a short amount of time before you’ve made a profit. It’s a case of get in, make enough to profit, get out. Rinse, repeat and scale.

I know some blackhat SEOs who have made a fortune through spam, they have then taken that money and invested it offline. Part of me can’t blame them for doing this, I think I actually admire them! They’ve found a way to make money, done it, then got out and done something smart with what they earned. They haven’t broken the law to earn what they have, you could argue that what they have done is unehtical, but I’m not getting into that here because it’s too subjective.

The bottom line for me, is that if you’re comfortable with the churn and burn approach, fully aware that any day, your income could be turned off, then go for it.

When this changes

I will say this though – this is NOT an acceptable approach if you’re employed to do SEO for another company or individual. This, for me, is where the line gets drawn. If you’re doing SEO for a small business that has been offline for 30 years and are just moving online, you should not be risking their online business and growth by using churn and burn tactics. That is not your decision to take.

As an SEO company, you’re paid to get results for your client, but all too often I read and hear “it works and gets results so what’s the problem?”

The problem is that the duty to get results doesn’t give you license to take risks with your client’s business. But what if the client demands results right now?

I feel like you have two choices here:

1 – Full disclosure

Full disclosure to the client of what tactics are outside Google guidelines and the consequences of getting caught using those tactics. They could do very well in the short term but you can’t guarantee that they will never get caught. Showing them something like this can probably help demonstrate what could happen if things goe wrong:

penalty

If the client is comfortable with this and happy with the risks, then you may decide to go for it. This sits better with me because the client is deciding to take the risk with their company in the full knowledge of what may happen. This is very different to the SEO company who offer the moon on a stick and don’t give a shit what tactics they use.

2 – Don’t compromise

The second option is to not compromise on your tactics because of the risks involved and walk away from the client project. If you do this, I bet that at least once in a while, they will come back 12 months later saying you were right. At which point they’ll be paying you to take links down rather than build them!

Whichever you choose, is clearly your choice and I wouldn’t judge anyone on what they do. But as stated above, there is a line that should be drawn and if you’re doing blackhat SEO for a website without being clear about the risks, then I don’t think that is right.

What I do now

In terms of my agency life, I can’t recommend blackhat SEO to clients, even if they understand the risks. I don’t want to live a life where with each Google update I have to log into analytics and see if my client has been hit.

Having said that, I do experiment and test stuff with my own websites. I think all SEOs should test for themselves and not blindly take the word of others. This is an old post from Rishi but it is still relevant today and to this discussion.

I don’t earn money from Adsense or affiliate sites anymore, those sites were burnt a long time ago. Plus, it was a LOT easier back then. Now, you have to actually work hard to even make spam work enough to make a good income 🙂

BuzzBar – New BuzzStream Feature

Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of BuzzStream. I’ve written about using it for guest posting, infographic link building and broken link building before. They have just released a new feature which I’m really pleased to see. Before going into the detail of the new feature, I wanted to explain why I think it is such a great addition.

If you wanted, you could use BuzzStream to pretty much automate and scale every step of the link building process. You could do prospecting, import all the websites that you find, keep the ones where you have contact details, then send outreach emails to them all – without ever actually looking at the target websites.

For obvious reasons, I do NOT advise this.

With BuzzStream, I’d still go into each and every link target and open the website to check it manually before doing outreach to it. Whilst this isn’t a time killer, it did probably take a bit longer to do it than I’d have liked. But this is where I had to draw the line and not compromise on the quality of websites that I was contacting.

The new feature is called the BuzzBar and allows me to still manually check websites, but at a much quicker pace than before. Below I’ll go through the steps for using this feature.

Step 1 – Add a link prospecting search

From within BuzzStream, you can do link prospecting using your own advanced search queries. The advantage of using this over just searching Google is that the results are automatically pulled into BuzzStream along with various link metrics.

Click on Prospecting at the top of your screen:

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Now select your options:

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It will take a few minutes for BuzzStream to gather your results.

Step 2 – Open up your prospecting results

After a few minutes, your search will be done and you can view the results by clicking here:

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Step 3 – Filter your results

Now you will see a screen that looks something like this:

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With the old BuzzStream system, you’d accept or reject the websites by clicking on one of the options highlighted in the red box above. But to do this, you’d have to open up each website individually, then come back to BuzzStream to accept or reject the websites. This worked fine but wasn’t massively efficient.

Now, you can do this instead:

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Now click on Research in the top menu, then select this:

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This will open a new tab in your browser that looks something like this:

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This is awesome, in this example, I can go through 34 link prospects one at a time and accept or reject instantly. My decision will then be fed directly into BuzzStream and all I’ll be left with is the link prospects that I want to reach out to.

I also have various metrics that I can take a quick glance at too but I usually scan the page first to get a feel for it before looking at metrics. If the page looks a bit spammy and not great for users, then I probably don’t worry too much about metrics and I’ll just reject it.

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Generally, I’ll reject any site that has a homepage PageRank of 0 and perhaps a DA of 25 or below. It depends on the client and how wide their niche is though. If it’s a pretty small niche, then I’ll bend the rules a little.

Then I’ll click on one of the following:

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The thumbs up means that it is a good site and you want to outreach to it later. The thumbs down means that it is a good site but not quite right for your current campaign, so pressing this will remove it from your project. The last option is to blacklist the domain which isbest used for very spammy results that you not only want to reject for this project, but to stop BuzzStream from suggesting them in the future. This can also be used for sites that you’re probably never going to get a link from such as Amazon or YouTube etc.

That’s about it!

Link Building Tip: Boomerang and Canned Responses for Outreach Follow Up

A really quick and easy link building tip for Gmail users today. I’ve mentioned before that I always get more outreach responses when I follow up with prospects. Chances are that you won’t catch everyone at just the right time first time around, so following up is always a good idea.

However this requires you to be reasonably organised so that you not only remember, but don’t make the mistake of following up with the wrong people. You can use BuzzStream to keep yourself organised but if you’re looking for something a bit more basic, this tip may be for you.

You will need: Gmail + Boomerang + Canned Responses

Step 1 – Install Boomerang

Head over to Boomerang and install the plugin. Once it is installed, you’ll see this added to your compose email screen:

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Step 2 – Install Canned Responses

Canned Responses is a Gmail Labs feature so you’ll need to enable that first. Once you’ve done this, go to Settings, then Labs where you’ll see this screen:

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Step 3 – Write your responses and save them

Now you need to write your follow up emails. You’ll probably write a range of these depending on the link building campaigns that you’re running. You can save them all within canned responses:

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Step 4 – Remember to Boomerang outreach emails as you send them

The feature of Boomerang that we’re going to use is the one that will send the email back to us if we haven’t had a response in a certain period of time. When you send an email, select the following:

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I tend to select either 4 days or 1 week, depending on the campaign.

If you get a reply, Boomerang will not remind you to follow up. If you get a reply then Boomerang will send the email back to you, at which point you can hit reply and insert your pre-made canned response. I recommend personalizing if you can with at least their name:

Screen Shot 2013-01-24 at 20.38.01

Click send and you’re done! You’ll make sure that you follow up on every outreach email you send and better still, it hardly takes you any time!

Non-SEO books that SEOs recommend

I enjoy reading books that are not about SEO but still influence my work in some way. I think that SEO is still a relatively young industry and we have lots to learn from elsewhere. There are lots of things we can learn from other fields if we open up to it a bit.

I randomly thought it would be interesting to find out what books my peers recommended so I emailed them and asked. I thought it would be nice to share it publicly so I’ve created the list below to share with everyone. You will notice a few books are repeated, this is deliberate as I wanted to show the popularity of them.

On a related note, my link building book is starting to take shape so if you’d like to hear about it when it’s released, sign up using that link.

Sam Crocker recommends

Switch: How to change things when change is hard
  E-myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It
  In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives
  Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions
  Persuasion: The Art of Influencing People

Dr Pete recommends
  Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
  Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Duncan Morris recommends
  Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
  First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently
  The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
  Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Wil Reynolds recommends
  Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing
  The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything
Switch: How to change things when change is hard

Ian Lurie recommends

 

  Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
  The Ultimate Question 2.0: How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World
The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
  Confessions of an Advertising Man
  My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising

Mackenzie Fogelson recommends
Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose; A Round Table Comic
  E-Myth Mastery: The Seven Essential Disciplines for Building a World Class Company
  The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
Rework
  The One Minute Manager

Rand Fishkin recommends
The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Made and Gave Away a Fortune Without Anyone Knowing
Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies
  The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic
Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City
Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain

Joanna Lord recommends
Fire Starter Lessons
Rework
  The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business
  The Phantom Tollbooth

Will Critchlow recommends
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
  E-myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It
  First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently
  The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
  Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way

I’d love to hear your own recommendations in the comments, although I should really hold back on downloading yet more books for my Kindle!

An Outreach Experiment for Paid Links in the Travel Industry

Update: Given the various comments this piece has generated, I just wanted to reiterate that the point of this article isn’t to criticise travel bloggers or SEOs. If you own a blog, it is your choice to charge for links if you want. If you’re an SEO, you can buy links if you want. The type of outreach conducted in this experiment is not what I’d normally do and is not what I’d recommend other SEOs do, but it was necessary in this case. I accept it may have altered the outcome of the experiment slightly but not significantly.

One of the common problems I come across when doing outreach is bloggers replying but asking to be paid for the link.  It seems to be a common problem for others too judging by the number of times that other SEOs have asked me how to overcome this problem.  The fact is, it is a hard problem to overcome, only once can I recall turning a paid link into a free one from my own experience.  To be honest, most of the time I’ll just make a note of the domain selling links and move on.

I decided to run an experiment and get some hard numbers on this. This is by no means definitive or a full representation of the travel industry, I’m one person doing this test, hence the relatively low numbers, but since very few people publish this kind of stuff, I still wanted to share.

The numbers are probably not as bad as I expected, but are things only going to get worse?

Also let me say this (I wish I didn’t have to make it this clear): I am NOT outing anyone here. I am not publishing the list of who I contacted, who replied and who were prepared to sell links. If you happen to work in this industry and are in the business of buying / selling links, that is your choice. I very much doubt this post will change anything for you.

Bottom line outcomes:

  • Of 122 emails sent, I got 53 replies
  • Of those 53 replies 26 would only link to me if I paid for it
  • Of the 53 replies, 10 immediately said yes to a guest post
  • The remainder, 17 wanted more information, neither saying yes or asking for money
  • 9 people quoted prices in their reply, the average cost of a link was $285

The experiment itself:

  • To keep things fair, the same email was sent to each website but was personalised to that website in several ways
  • I was offering a guest post but didn’t mention which company I was representing
  • I didn’t mention that I wanted a link in return
  • I didn’t offer money
  • I only contacted travel websites
  • I used a persona, not my own name for obvious reasons

A few thoughts occurred when I looked at these numbers:

  • Have SEOs brought this upon ourselves?
  • What would Googles opinion be on this? What’s the advice for SEOs?
  • Is the problem only going to get worse?
  • Is this normal and the same across other industries?

I’m not drawing conclusions based on this rather small experiment, but here are some of my own thoughts.

Is this our fault?

Judging by the wording used in the replies (see the section on advertising below) it is clear than these bloggers are quite savvy when it comes to SEO and they know the value of a link. Is this a result of constant outreach emails from SEOs? Have we sent so many that they have realised that they can make money from this? To be honest, I don’t blame them! Blogs can be a nice source of income and as they are a hobby for most people, who wouldn’t want an extra few dollars a month?

It’s supply and demand. These bloggers have seen a demand for something and decided to charge for what they have.

It is tempting

I can see why SEOs would say yes when offered the chance of an easy link, it can sometimes be hard to just get a reply from a blogger so when they do reply, it can be tempting to just accept it and pay up. It is still clearly against Google guidelines and as mentioned previously, I just make a note of these and move on if I’m outreaching for a client, many wouldn’t though.

They didn’t want to sell me advertising

Advertising online has always been normal, you pay for exposure on another website and get traffic to your own. But it was clear from the replies I got that I was not being quoted advertising rates, many mentioned “links” “SEO” “backlinks” “anchor text” which is not what I’d expect if the blogger was just trying to sell me a banner ad. They knew what I wanted and the value of it.

How hard is it for Google to do this?

I’m one person doing this test and I can easily repeat it, scale and gather data for 1000s of travel blogs. What could Google do?

I know that Google have always verged on the side of caution and have always wanted to build scalable, algorithmic solutions to web spam and paid links rather than manual work. But this has changed in the last year, Google are getting aggressive and have shown they will take manual action when needed (or pushed).

I wonder what would happen to the link graph if Google did this for say 100,000 blogs and turned off the PageRank for all websites that sold links.

How much is a link worth?

The average quoted price was $285. The highest quoted price was $700! Is this worth it? I can certainly think of better ways to spend $700 on a client’s SEO campaign that would probably get them more links without buying them.

How to use a Google Custom Search Engine for SEO

One of the tips I gave away at MozCon was to use a Google custom search engine (CSE) to dig through your competitors links and find easy wins.  I wouldn’t advise this as your only link building tactic because ultimately you want to get the links that your competitors can’t get as these will make the difference.  But a few easy win quality links is always welcome and can give you some diversity.

Since MozCon, I’ve had a few people ask me more about this tactic so I thought I’d write a blog post and go into a bit more detail.

What a Google CSE is

You can get an idea of the basics from this page too but I’ll go into some of them here and provide some SEO context.

A custom search engine allows you to use Google search technology to search pages and domains that you specify.  So rather than doing a standard search on Google.com and having to filter down to the level you want, you can define exactly what you want to search which can cut down the number of results to a more manageable and reasonable size.

You specify the domains and pages you want to search by copying and pasting into your CSE – nice and simple by copying and pasting your list.  At this point you can tell Google whether you want to search an entire domain or just the pages.

How this helps you if you’re an SEO

There are a number of uses but the one I talked about at MozCon was using a CSE to dig through your competitors backlinks to find easy win links.  So let’s go through the process for this.

How to create a Google CSE to mine your competitors backlinks

Step 1 – Go to your link analysis tool of choice, in this example we’ll use Open Site Explorer and enter your competitors URL:

Tip – exclude links from your own domain so you have a cleaner of results.

Now export the report to a CSV from the right hand side:

You’ll have to wait a few minutes for the CSV, then you can download it.

Step 2 – Create a Google Custom Search Engine, start by going to this URL whilst logged into your Google Account.  Then click on the big blue button on the right hand side:

Now you just need to fill in the fields which are easy:

Now you need to copy and paste your list of links from your CSV into this bit:

Agree to the terms and conditions, then click next.

If you want, you can define the colour scheme of your engine, I usually leave it at default but you can change it if you want:

Now we need to give the engine a quick test before finalising it, just type a word into the search box:

You’ll get a feel for the results very quickly and see how good they are.  Remember, depending on your competitors strategies, you may not find a certain type of link such as guest post if they haven’t done them.  So try a few and see what you can find.  If all is well, click on next.

Step 3 – Paste onto your chosen page using the code that Google gives you:

I tend to put this code up on a hidden page somewhere on one of my sites.  So the URL is accessible to anyone that needs it but it can’t be crawled or found easily.

That’s it!  Once you’ve done it once, it will take you a few minutes to do again.