Creating Link-Worthy Content and Link Marketing : Types of Link Building (part 1)

1/10/2011 11:17:10 AM
There are many different link-building tactics—too many to list in this book. This section will examine in depth some of the more common ones.

1. Using Content to Attract Links

In natural link building, the publisher must provide compelling content. Publishers need a good reason to provide links to another site, and it is not something they do frivolously. Superior content or tools are the key to obtaining such links.

Aggressive publishers can even let their content strategy be guided by their link-building strategy. This is not to say that they should let their link-building strategy drive their business strategy.

Normally, however, there are many different types of content a site could produce. The concept is simply to identify the link-building targets and what content will most resonate with the publisher of the target sites, and then tweak the content plan accordingly. Keyword research can also help identify content related to your target market, and can play a role in identifying topics that may help attract links.

Content is at the heart of achieving link-building nirvana—having a site so good that people discover it and link to it without any effort on the publisher’s part. This can be done, but it does require that the publisher create content that truly stands out for the topics that its site covers, and that it thinks about link acquisition in every aspect of the publishing process.

The types of content that can attract links vary by market. Here are a few basic rules that a publisher can follow to maximize its results:

  • Use content that helps establish your site as a leading expert on its topic matter. When you produce really high-quality stuff, it builds trust with the user community and increases your chances of getting links.

  • Minimize the commercial nature of the content pages. As an extreme example, no one is going to link to a page where the only things they see above the fold are AdSense ad units, even if the content below it is truly awesome. Of course, there are less obvious ways to present too many ads, such as too much advertising in the areas around the content or obtrusive overlays and animations.

  • Do not put ads in the content itself or link to purely commercial pages unless such pages really merit a link based on the content. No one wants to link to a commercial.

  • Do not disguise the relationship between the content and the commercial part of your site. This is the opposite side of the coin. If you are a commercial site and you hide it altogether, you run the risk of being viewed as deceitful.

You can use many types of content to attract links. Article content, compelling images, videos, widgets/tools, or even developing online games can be effective link-building tactics.

When content is published on your site, you have other decisions to make, such as whether the content goes in a special section or whether it is integrated throughout the site.

As an example of how you can make this decision, an e-tail site that publishes a large catalog of products may not want all (or some of) the pages in its catalog laden with a lot of article content. A site such as this might build a separate section with all kinds of tips, tricks, and advice related to the products it sells.

On the other hand, an advertising-supported site might want to integrate the content throughout the main body of the site.

2. Marketing Content for Link Acquisition

Content can be marketed in many ways. These include:

Content syndication

A publisher may choose to create content for placement on another site. One reason for this would be to provide the content to another site in return for a link to its site. This can be an effective link-building strategy.

Social media

Social media sites such as Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and Delicious can be useful in marketing content.

Spreading content via blogs

Blogging can also be a great tactic for link building. Bloggers are very social and interactive by nature, and they tend to link back and forth quite freely. As with other forms of social media, it’s best to do this by being an active contributor to other blogs through commenting and building relationships.

3. Directories

Directories can be a great way to obtain links. A large number of directories are out there, and they may or may not require cash to be paid to obtain a listing. Table 1 lists some examples of quality directories.

Table 1. List of quality directories
Directory nameCategory
DMOZ (open directory project)General
Yahoo! DirectoryGeneral
Librarians’ Internet IndexGeneral Recommended Start-Up ResourcesBusiness Recommended LinksScience
The Vegetarian Resource GroupHealth
Open Source InitiativeComputers
Best of the WebGeneral
eHub by Emily ChangGeneral
Environment DirectoryScience
Audioholics Buying GuideBusiness
Fast Company Talent & Careers Resource CenterGeneral
Yudkin’s Recommended Publicity & Marketing ResourcesBusiness
Wheelock College Recommended WebsitesGeneral
New Zealand Tourism OnlineRecreation
Eat Well GuidePeople
American Library Association Great Web Sites for KidsGeneral
Princeton University Outdoor Action Program Guide to Outdoor Resources on the WebRecreation
Essential Links to Sports ResourcesRecreation
Blog ToplistGeneral
Blog CatalogGeneral
Online Ethics CenterBusiness
I Train OnlineComputers
The Library of Economics and LibertyBusiness
The TalkOrigins ArchiveScience
TESL/TEFL/TESOL/ESL/EFL/ESOL LinksArts and Humanities
National Institute of Nursing ResearchHealth
National Marine Fisheries Service Northwest Regional OfficeGovernment
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the USHealth
U.S. Global Change Research ProgramGovernment
American Society for QualityBusiness
ReadWriteThinkArts and Humanities
American Philosophical AssociationArts and Humanities
Art History ResourcesArts and Humanities
Rethinking Schools OnlineGeneral
International Reading AssociationArts and Humanities
David Chalmers Philosophy LinksArts and Humanities

The key to success in link-building to directories is to identify the high-quality ones and stay away from the poor-quality ones. A good-quality indicator is whether the directory exists for users or for webmasters; if it’s the latter, stay away from it.

3.1. What search engines want from directories

Here are the essential factors the search engines look for:

  • The paid fee is made in payment for an editorial review, not for a link.

  • Editors may, at their whim, change the location, title, and description of the listing.

  • Editors may reject the listing altogether.

  • Regardless of the outcome, the directory keeps the money (even if the publisher doesn’t get a listing).

  • The directory has a track record of rejecting submissions. The inverse of this, which is more measurable, is that the quality of the sites listed in the directory is high.

Ultimately, “anything for a buck” directories do not enforce editorial judgment, and therefore the listings do not convey value to the search engines.

To take a closer look at this, let’s examine some of the key statements from Yahoo!’s Directory Submission Terms:

For websites that do not feature adult content or services, the Yahoo! Directory Submit service costs US$299 (nonrefundable) for each Directory listing that is submitted.

I understand that there is no guarantee my site will be added to the Yahoo! Directory.

I understand that Yahoo! reserves the right to edit my suggestion and category placement; movement or removal of my site will be done at Yahoo!’s sole discretion.

These statements make it pretty clear that Yahoo! will in fact reject your submission if your site is not a quality site, and it will keep your money.

3.2. Classifying directories

You can divide directories into three buckets:

Directories that provide sustainable links

These are directories that comply with the policies as outlined earlier. Most likely, these links will continue to pass link juice for the foreseeable future.

Directories that pass link juice that may not be sustainable

These are directories that do not comply with the policies as outlined earlier. The reason such directories exist is that search engines tend to use an “innocent until proven guilty” approach. So, the search engine must proactively make a determination of guilt before a directory’s ability to pass link juice is turned off.

Even so, link juice from these types of directories is probably not going to be passed in the long term.

Directories that do not pass link juice

These are the directories that the search engines have already flagged. They do not pass any value. In fact, submission to a large number of them could be seen as a spam signal, although it is unlikely that any action would be taken solely on this signal alone.

3.3. Detecting directories that pass link juice

The process is relatively simple for directories that pass sustainable links, as defined earlier:

  • Investigate their editorial policies and see whether they conform to what search engines want.

  • Investigate the sites they list. Are they high-quality, valuable resources that do not contain spam or manipulative SEO tactics?

  • Investigate their track record. Do they enforce their policy for real? This may be a bit subjective, but if there are lots of junky links in their directory, chances are that the policy is just lip service.

  • As another check, search on the directory name and see whether there is any SEO scuttlebutt about the directory.

The process is a bit harder for directories that do not conform to the policies search engines prefer. There are still some things the publisher can do:

  • Search on the name of the directory to see whether it shows up in the search engine results. If not, definitely stay away from it.

  • Take a unique phrase from the directory’s home page and see whether it shows in the search engine results. If not, definitely stay away from it.

  • Does the directory have premium sponsorships for higher-level listings? This is a sure signal that indicates to the search engines that the directory’s editorial policies may be secondary to its monetization strategy.

  • Does the directory promote search engine value instead of traffic? This is another bad signal.

  • Evaluate the directory’s inbound links. If the directory is obviously engaged in shady link-building tactics, it is a good idea to avoid it.

  • Is the directory’s target audience webmasters and SEO practitioners? If so, stay away from it.

  •  Creating Link-Worthy Content and Link Marketing : Further Refining How Search Engines Judge Links
  •  The Art of SEO : How Links Influence Search Engine Rankings (part 2) - Additional Factors That Influence Link Value
  •  The Art of SEO : How Links Influence Search Engine Rankings (part 1) - The Original PageRank Algorithm
  •  Developing an SEO-Friendly Website : Optimizing Flash (part 2)
  •  Developing an SEO-Friendly Website : Optimizing Flash (part 1)
  •   Developing an SEO-Friendly Website : Content Management System (CMS) Issues
  •   Developing an SEO-Friendly Website : Redirects
  •  Developing an SEO-Friendly Website: Content Delivery and Search Spider Control (part 3)
  •  Developing an SEO-Friendly Website: Content Delivery and Search Spider Control (part 3)
  •  Developing an SEO-Friendly Website: Content Delivery and Search Spider Control (part 2)
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