Link Building News


How to gain high Rankings using Link Building

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How to rank higher using Link Building



Link building is an integral part of the off-site optimization of your website.  Every individual that has a website for commercial purposes wants to rank as high as possible via search engines, in terms of SEO.


Apart from on-site optimization there is also an additional way to ensure that your website will rank high on search engines or at least that you will have the potential to rank higher than you already rank. An effective way to ensure this is by utilizing the link building process.


Before you start the link development process you need to have one thing in mind:


’Find link-worthy and high quality links/sites that will lead to my website’’


Why do you need to have this in mind at all times?


The new Penguin algorithm penalises low-quality links while it rewards those links that are of high-quality. In particular with the advent of the new Penguin algorithm, you must avoid keyword stuffing, over-optimized anchor-text and of course low quality links.


Link building is not a one-day process, but it’s a continuous effort which will be rewarding once you see the rankings that you have on search engines. That is why it is important to have high-quality links.




The manual link building process is one aspect of the off-site SEO process that consists of a strenuous approach which, however, in the long run, will bring the results that you seek for: help you receive higher rankings on search engines.


What needs to be done for the case in point is to firstly find high quality sites. Consecutively these high quality sites consist of one of the many factors that will help you increase your rankings on search engines.


If you submit your website manually you also need to submit:

The Meta-titleThe Mata-description (in some cases the meta-keywords)The Link of your websiteYour email addressYour nameThe category that your website belongs to (hotel, car, media industry etc.)

Once you manually submit your website, then you will have to wait for the link to be accepted. This might take some time and thus you need to be patient.


It should be noted down that the directory submission websites that accept all websites are usually of low quality. On the other hand the directory submission sites that are selective (and sometimes they even reject your submission) are the ones of high quality.


Regarding the manual submission, one of the options that you have and is STRONGLY advised to implement is the unpaid submission of your website, even if this means that your submission will be rejected.


Another option that is offered is that of Reciprocal Links which is STRONGLY advised to avoid. Why? Reciprocal links or exchange linking is the process where you exchange links with another website with the ultimate purpose to artificially enhance your rankings. However the artificial enhancement of your ranking may have negative repercussions for the rankings of your website. Thus, it is strongly advised to avoid this approach.


Another option that is available on these sites is the paid option (express links, or featured links). This means that you have to pay a small fee for your submission. However this approach is not the best possible one and therefore it is also STRONGLY advised to avoid. Whatever is uploaded with a fee doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s of high value/quality.


In order to start finding high quality links/sites you need to start using effective SEO tools that will facilitate your efforts finding these high quality links/sites. One of the most effective tools is the Backlink Hunter of Web SEO Analytics. By utilizing this tool you will be able to find some of the best URL submission services saving valuable time from any personal time-consuming research.  Another effective tool is the Backlink Analysis where you can analyse and assess the value of the incoming links to your website. The advantage of the Backlink Analysis of Web SEO Analytics lies on the fact that it enables you to analyse the link building strategy of your competitors as well!

Find high quality links, using trustworthy tools like Backlink Analysis or Backlink Hunter of Web SEO Analytics. Manually submit your website (your meta-title, meta-description, the address of your website, your email address and your name) and choose the category that your website belongs to.Choose the unpaid website submission option. Avoid Reciprocal links or paid options (featured inks etc.).Don’t take for granted the fact that since you are going to submit your website it’s going to get accepted! The directory submission websites that may reject some submissions are usually the ones of high value. Thus, aim for these directory websites! Social media channels are important for the link building process. Don’t overlook them. It should be pointed out that within the link acquisition process, social media channels like (Facebook, Twitter, g+, YouTube) and social bookmarking services (like Delicious, Stumble Upon, Digg etc.), can play a significant role which should not be neglected when you set your link building.



Another actionable link building step that can define your off-site presence is guest blogging. It is an effective way of increase the number of links leading to your website.  So, it is very important for you to identify the most important targeted keywords that you want to focus on and the text link(s) should lead to the pages that are of great importance (e.g. homepage, services, accommodation etc.)


Important Tip: Make sure that you have found the ideal blogs that will provide more inbound links to your website’s most popular pages… how are you going to find the best possible blogs? Again, the best tool that will help you identify the most popular blogs (with the highest PageRank, domain score etc.) is Backlink Hunter of Web SEO Analytics 


Another effective way that can help you enhance your link building presence is utilizing the social media sites (and the social bookmarking/sharing services, like Digg, Delicious etc. as well).  Let’s take into consideration the given fact that Google takes into account, as ranking factors (for the SEO) the links that come from Twitter, Facebook etc. Thus, it’s important for the website owner to maintain or further enhance his/her presence on Twitter or on Facebook, via links (on Twitter, on Facebook and other social networking sites like Google+, Pinterest).


Try to develop a steady presence on a product or service that you sell (e.g. either it is in the tourist industry, the SEO industry etc.) on various social media channels and gradually you’ll be rewarded.

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Top 10 Link Building Tools – Must Have SEO Tool Kit

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We recently gathered up a list of all the link building tools and resources we turn to daily across the company at Ice Clear Media. In the “TAGFEE” spirit of generosity, we thought it might be useful to others and we thought we’d share it here.


We have a variety of people helping our clients get more links in different ways and in different roles at Ice Clear Media. We have:


1. SEO consulting focussed on strategic changes


2. SEO execution and creative focussed on content creation and relationship building Digital PROutreach


3. We also just have an ever-increasing number of people spread across three offices and eight timezones!


It’s therefore inevitable that people will do things differently and use different resources. Over the years we’ve talked about a wide range of tools and resources in blog posts, at conferences and in client work – but the ones below are the ones that seem to have stuck around (or that we’re trialling at the moment) and that came out in the canvassing of the team. In that spirit, I hope you’ll find something of use here.


Without further ado, here is the list of link building tools people in Ice Clear Media are using right now:


Link Building Tools : Raven Tools




I’m sure you’re all familiar with the Raven toolkit – it’s great for reporting and analysis as well as having a bunch of tools to make your actual link building efforts more effective.


Link Building Tools : OpenSite Explorer


Open Site Explorer


Another tool that needs no introduction. Personally, between this and the moz toolbar, I cover off the majority of my day-to-day link data needs.


Link Building Tools : Ontolo SEO Link Building Tools




I love what the Ontolo guys are doing with their toolset. This is one we are actively looking into to work out how we can get more out of it.




Link Building Tools : Majestic SEO Tools




Just like you should always read two newspapers, you should always have two sources of link data. Majestic complements the SEOmoz data nicely. I most often find myself turning to Majestic data when I want to spot unnatural spikes in link growth, lower quality links (Majestic discards less of its crawl) or link growth comparisons over time.


Link Building Tools : SEO MOZ Link Building Tools


Tom Anthony's Link Profile Tool


It’s funny how little hacked-together tools can make it into your core toolset and especially in the competitive analysis (or pre-sales) phases, it’s great to get a quick gut-check about a link profile.


JavaScript Bookmarklets




Link Building Tools : Citation Link Building Tools


Citation Labs


There are a bunch of useful tools here – go and have a poke around if you haven’t already.




Link Building Tools : Link Diagnosis SEO Tools


Link Diagnosis


Depending on how you’re looking to slice and dice a link profile, linkdiagnosis gives you another view over the data.




Link Building Tools : Wordtracker


Link Builder from Wordtracker


When you’re analysing link target data, there are a bunch of things you’d ideally like to automate and Wordtracker’s tool makes a bunch of those manual steps easy.




Link Building Tools : Community Guest Blogger


My Blog Guest


Depending on the level of client and content available, we take a variety of approaches to finding guest post targets. My Blog Guest has a genuine community element to it and is definitely worth a look.




Link Building Tools : Blogger Link Up


Blogger Link Up


Similar to My Blog Guest is another source for guest posts and guest post targets.




Link Building Tools : Vocas




Although its effectiveness has declined as its popularity increased, HARO is still a good source for breaking into the PR game. Pro-tip: follow them on twitter to jump on breaking opportunities. Pro-pro-tip: build your own list of journalists on twitter to really take this to the next level.


Link Building Tools : Boomerang




The link building benefits of Rapportive are outlined above, but even if you’re not building links day to day, if your job involves building relationships (and whose doesn’t?) I strongly recommend using Rapportive. I’m great with faces and terrible with names, so it’s good to see people’s photo alongside their emails if nothing else.




Link Building Tools : Multi Links


Multi Links for Firefox


Lets you open, copy or bookmark multiple links at the same time rather than having to do them all individually.


Link Building Tools : Scraper


Chrome Web Scraper


Scraper is a Google Chrome extension for getting data out of web pages and into spreadsheets. For all those times when it’s not worth building a dedicated tool, but you need to grab a bunch of data off a page.


Link Building Tools : Linkclump


Chrome Link Clump


Lets you open, copy or bookmark multiple links at the same time in Chrome. Choose your browser, choose your poison.




It sounds stupidly basic, but we’re increasingly seeing the social networks as link building tools. The power of private twitter lists in particular shouldn’t be underestimated! I’m also a big fan of hacking around with the streaming API both to gauge “demand” (i.e. the number of people talking about different topics) but also for building quick monitoring and response tools.


Link Building Tools : Google+




With the novelty of G+ and its high penetration in the world of webmasters and web marketers, it’s a great way of building relationships with the “linkerati” at the moment.






Pro-tip with LinkedIn – get your executives and sales guys (or anyone in your organisation with a well-connected account) to trawl their account for the contacts you need. Bonus points if they’ll let you work through it with them.




Although of course links from Facebook are rarely even scraped / republished elsewhere (unlike Twitter), we’ve seen people increasingly using it for work (presumably as they get slightly more comfortable with the privacy options that G+ seems to have provoked). Relationship building and outreach can be surprisingly effective through Facebook with certain demographics.




Link Building Tools : Buzz Stream




We are currently building our entire outreach CRM into Buzzstream. It’s the most effective tool we’ve found for collaborating on shared contacts and keeping track of the links they give you.


Link Building Tools : Vocas




Along with more PR-oriented solutions like Gorkana and Meltwater, it’s sometimes nice to have access to blog data sources as well.


Advanced Search Operators


It’s an old one, but still totally relevant (apart from the search engine naming!). Don’t forget about the basics!As we try out new search queries or ad-hoc tactics for clients, we need agile tools to go with them. Google Docs gives us one of the easiest platforms we’ve found for that kind of thing.


Link Building Tools : Vocas




Mmmmm. Followerwonk. You’ve no doubt heard about it from all kinds of sources, but if you haven’t checked it out yet, you should do that right now.


Link Building Tools : Vocas


We Follow


WeFollow is a directory of Twitter users organized by interest. It’s probably not rocket science to work out how to use that…


Link Building Tools : Vocas


Blog Dash


A permission-based blogger database. You get a different kind of opportunity out of this kind of directory, but you can also promote things in a different way when expectations have already been set.


Link Building Tools : Vocas




Zemanta suggests your content to relevant bloggers. We’ve made no secret of loving the concept and rating the service. We recently ran a meet-up in NYC in partnership with the Zemanta guys. For certain kinds of content and in the right niche, it’s very effective.




Link Building Tools : Vocas


Seeded Buzz


Seeded Buzz allows you to promote your content to relevant bloggers.




Link Building Tools : Vocas




The more we work on creative content, the more inspiration we need. Pinterest is great for this. When sharing internally, we use a combination of G+ (private) and Tumblr (public, great visual archive pages).


Link Building Tools : Vocas


Creative Review


When I spoke to our creative team about where they get their inspiration from, the first two answers were CR and ffffound (I never know how many “f”s to put in that!).


Link Building Tools : Vocas




A great combination of on and offline inspiration.


We’re always trying out new tools and evaluating existing ones. Our current evaluation backlog (not all of which are for link building) looks like this:


I’m sure there are both obvious tools that we should be using that we aren’t and tools that we are using that we forgot to include in our list. Got some favourites? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.


If you’d like to learn more about how we (and other link building experts) go about things, we’d love to see you at Linklove.


We’re running our dedicated link building conference in London on Friday 30th March (costing £449 – or £349) and in Boston on Monday 2nd April (costing $699 – or $549 ). You can check out the speakers and tickets by contacting Ice Clear Media on

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Having a No.1 Ranking in Google Doesn’t Always Get Results

Posted by | Content Marketing and Optimisation, Google, Link Building (SEO), Link Building News, Marketing Tips, News & Insight, Olivia Naire, Online PR, Search Engine Marketing, Search Marketing (SEO, PPC) | No Comments

Having a No.1 Ranking in Google Doesn’t Always Get Results – Yes, you did read that correctly. You may have achieved your ultimate goal – the number one placement on Google. Is it getting the results you had hoped? Is your phone ringing or Inbox being filled with people seeking your services? If not, there may be a very good reason for that.

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Internet Marketing Tips to Promote Your Business in 2011

Posted by | Facebook, Google, Latest News, Link Building (SEO), Link Building News, Marketing Tips, News & Insight, Olivia Naire, Search Engine Marketing, Search Marketing (SEO, PPC), Social Media Marketing, Twitter | No Comments

Internet Marketing Tips to Promote Your Business in 2011

Just because you don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on marketing and advertising doesn’t mean you have to sit back and hope for the best in 2011. In fact, there are many free online marketing methods small businesses can use to connect with potential customers. Below are eight proven marketing strategies you can use to boost customer acquisition and increase sales in 2011 – which will cost you only your time.

1. Create a simple, clean website.
There are lots of self-service website creation services, such as Weebly, BlinkWeb, and Squidoo, which allow non-technical users to create simple, functional sites for free. Your site should include key words about your business so that people looking for your products or services can find you.

2.  List your business on all free directory sites available to you.
MerchantCircle, Google Local Business Center, Angie’s List, Yahoo! Local, Yelp,, SearchLocal, and SuperPages are some of the online business directory services that allow businesses to create a free listing. If the site already lists your business, you can “claim” it by adding more details to the listing, such as your company website URL, a map, phone numbers, or business hours.

3. Use email to stay in touch with your best clients/customers.
You likely already have the email addresses of your best clients or customers, so use them! An email newsletter is a great way to connect with your loyal customers. Create an email that includes a quick update on new products or services, and perhaps a printable coupon or promotional code. You can also add an image, a link to your website or a video you’ve posted on YouTube, or a link to you’re a business directory page that includes lots of positive customer reviews.

4. Create business pages on Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites.
Social networking is here to stay, so your company needs to join the fray. Start by creating a Facebook business page and a Twitter account in your company’s name; both are free. If you have video content about your business, create a free “video channel” on YouTube, while B2B companies should also create a LinkedIn profile that details your business profile, lists key contacts, and provides information about your products and services. Make sure to encourage customers to sign up for your pages by printing your Facebook address and Twitter handle on all business materials.

5. Get creative with promotions.
Everyone loves a bargain, and people are increasingly price sensitive after recently living through one of worst recessions in decades. Try offering different types of promotions: downloadable and printable coupons people can bring into your store or office; online coupon codes redeemable for a one-time discount; a 10%-off coupon for signing up for your email newsletter or Facebook Page; a refer-a-friend discount; or a discount for writing a review of your business on a directory site like Yelp. You can promote these discounts via free or inexpensive advertising options: your email newsletter, in-store banners, Twitter, and Facebook.

6.Search online for all businesses like yours.
Use Google, Twitter, Facebook, and other search engines to find similar businesses in your city and in other areas to get a sense for what marketing tricks your competitors are using. Check out their social networking pages and their websites, and try searching for their latest promotions. Sign up for their email newsletters. Armed with this free competitive intelligence, you can see what’s worked for companies you admire, and fine-tune your own marketing strategies to compete with them.

7. Show your expertise.
There are many sites where experts can provide answers to people asking questions about anything under the sun. Yahoo Answers, MerchantCircle Answers, and LinkedIn Answers are some of the most popular question-and-answer sites. Search all of these sites for questions related to your business or service expertise, and then provide answers to them. Offer thoughtful, expert advice people can really use; that’s great PR for your business in and of itself.

8. Create some online marketing videos.
Most people prefer to ‘see’ something rather than ‘read’ something – so create some videos for your business! There are several sites, such as Jivox and Spotzer, where you can create simple marketing videos for free using stock footage, then add your company’s URL, phone number, address, and clickable coupons. You can also shoot marketing videos yourself using an inexpensive hand-held camera, and then polish them with free online editing tools like JayCut. Post your videos on your Facebook Page and on YouTube, and use them on your website and in your email marketing campaigns.
Small business owners are a creative and hard-working bunch, used to doing a lot with few resources. In 2011, take the time to invest in the growth of your business, implementing a few creative marketing strategies that deliver real results in return for just a little elbow grease.

How to Build Links Without Fancy Tools

Posted by | Facebook, Google, Latest News, Link Building (SEO), Link Building News, News & Insight, Olivia Naire, Search Marketing (SEO, PPC), Social Media Marketing, Twitter | One Comment

A question that I get asked quite a bit is something along the lines of “what link building tools do you use?”.

The honest truth is that I don’t use that many on client sites every day. I’ve certainly paid for and used quite a few over the last few years, but when I first started in SEO, I didn’t have the cash to buy tools or subscribe to them. This forced me to do things manually for quite a long time, but it helped me learn how link building really works from the ground up.

I’m still a bit of an old school SEO in some senses. I still believe that anyone learning SEO should not be allowed to use tools straight away and should learn manual processes first. Here are a few things I believe every SEO should do before being allowed anywhere near tools -

  • Build a website using only Notepad and an FTP program
  • Manually submit your website to paid and free directories
  • Write an article which targets a specific keyword
  • Write a press release in four paragraphs
  • Hand write META data for an entire site based on a keyword list
  • I could go on…!  But I’m sure you get the idea.

The point is, I believe that its vital to know the manual process so that you learn how these things really work.

In the interests of giving away some actionable tips, I’m going to focus on the link building process and explain how I believe an SEO should start the learning process.

The Tools You can Use

  • An email program
  • A spreadsheet
  • Google
  • See – I’m not totally mean, you can use some tools!

Below is the step by step process for getting links using only the three tools above. If you follow this process and learn to link build manually, it will help you much more in the long term and force you not to be reliant upon SEO tools. Whilst SEO tools can help you a lot, when it comes to link building, they should only assist your efforts – not do the link building for you.

I’m not going to talk too much about this, but the key thing here is to learn how to search. Sounds simple, but its something which is often taken for granted. You should start with the basics which I talk about in this post. The key thing here is to start with basic search queries, then learn how to refine those queries to save time and weed out results which you are not interested in. You can do this using some advanced search queries. However before you go off and use those outlined in the Ice Clear Media guide, try to come up with your own which are tailored to the site you are trying to get links for.

After working on this for a while, you should feel pretty comfortable with finding link targets manually and quickly filtering out the ones that you are not interested in. All by using your own advanced search queries – don’t use any tools for this!  Trust me, it will help you in the long run.

[list style="list1" color="blue"]
  • 1. Find contact details!

So many people spend ages figuring out if the site is a good one and looking for a page where they may get a link from. Then can’t find contact details!  Which means you’re a bit screwed – find contact details first.

  • 2. Use a Spreadsheet

At this point you will probably have had a quick look through the site and will have a feeling whether or not this site is relevant to you. If you feel it is, then add it to your spreadsheet.  Do NOT use any tools to record these sites yet, there are tools out there that allow you to manage link targets in a CRM type system. However you need to learn manually what data you should be capturing about each link target. Some CRM tools allow you to capture tons of data, but do you really need it all?  Maybe, maybe not. But the key is to decide for yourself what data you need in order to contact the website about getting a link. Once you have decided what data you want to capture, put it into your spreadsheet and make it easily sortable in columns.

It seems to be the norm to collect link targets into a big spreadsheet, then email them all in one go. Sure this can work, but this isn’t the best way to develop link building skills. I’d advise you to send the outreach email straight away whilst the site is fresh in your mind. This also means you have to write an email that isn’t templated and is totally personal to them – this is fine. This will help you develop a sense of how to personalise emails to give yourself as much chance as possible of getting a link.

  • 3. Crafting an outreach email from scratch

It is very important to learn how to craft an outreach email from scratch. At this point, do not write a template. It isn’t the best way to learn. Make each and every email personal to the link target, this will teach you the value of personalising an email and exactly how you can do so.

  • 4. Personally track who you contact…

As mentioned above, forget any fancy CRM or tracking systems, you’re still learning the ropes. Do it the basic way and use a spreadsheet. This will teach you to keep things simple and to only collect the data which is truly valuable, it will force you not to collect tons of metrics and details that you don’t really need. As you email each target, put a note in the spreadsheet so you know whats going on and can sort by who you have already contacted.

5. Follow up emails
If you haven’t had a response after a few days, send a short, friendly follow up to them. If you still don’t get a reply, I’d leave them be. If you have a response, obviously make sure you respond promptly!  If the response you get isn’t positive, still reply to them in a friendly way. Perhaps ask them if its ok to contact them in the future if there is other stuff you have which may be of interest to them.

  • 6. Keeping track of responses

Keep track of the responses in your spreadsheet. You can mark each response with traffic lights to make it easy to see at a glance what the responses have been like -

  • Green - good response, probably going to get a link
  • Amber – warm response, will need some more work
  • Red - no way am I getting a link!

Make a note of the links that you have secured in your spreadsheet.

  • 7. Link Building Metrics[/list]

Think about what metrics you should record about each one. Do you need the following?

[list style="list3" color="blue"]
  • URL Anchor text
  • Page being linked to
  • Cache date
  • Domain Authority
  • PageRank [/list]

I’m not saying you need all of these, you should decide for yourself what is important and how you are going to measure the value of a link.

What’s next?

Well once you have mastered the process manually, you’ll find that there are many tools that can speed up certain parts of this process. Using these tools is fine, but be aware that I’m yet to come across the perfect link building tool that does all of this to a high level of quality without human intervention. So knowing where you can automate and where you can’t, is vitally important.

Doing this process manually will also help you choose your link building tools better as you’ll know what attributes really matter to the whole process.

That’s it for this post, I hope you found it useful and please feel free to leave any feedback in the comments.


White Hat SEO: It Really Works

Posted by | Facebook, Google, Latest News, Link Building (SEO), Link Building News, News & Insight, Olivia Naire, Search Marketing (SEO, PPC), Social Media Marketing, Twitter | One Comment

White Hat SEO:  Proof that it still works!


I hate webspam. I hate what it’s done to the reputation of hardworking, honest, smart web marketers who help websites earn search traffic. I hate how it’s poisoned the acronym SEO; a title I’m proud to wear. I hate that it makes legitimate marketing tactics less fruitful. And I hate, perhaps most of all, when it works.


Here’s a search for “buy propecia,” which is a drug I actually take to help prevent hair loss (My wife doesn’t think I’d look very good sans hair):


Buy Propecia


Like most search results in the pharma sphere, it’s polluted by pages that have artificially inflated their rankings. This is obvious to virtually everyone who’s even partially tech-savvy and it does three terrible things:

Marketers and technologists who observe results like this equate SEO with spamming. If you’ve read a Hacker News or StackOverflow thread on the topic, you’ve undoubtedly seen this perspective.SEOs new to the profession see this and think that whatever these sites are doing is an effective way to earn rankings, and try repeating their tactics (often harming their sites or those of employers/clients in the process).Consumers learn not to trust the search results from Google, killing business value for everyone in the web world, e.g. this post on Why You Should Never Search for Free WordPress Themes in Google

Spam removes economic and brand value from the search/social/web marketing ecosystem. If you create this kind of junk, at least be honest with yourself – you’re directly harming your fellow marketers, online businesses, searchers and future generations of web users.


Last week, Kris Roadruck wrote a post called “Whitehat SEO is a Joke.” He was upfront about the fact that it was intentionally provocative, not entirely truthful and more sensational than authentic. Despite these caveats, I think a response and some clarification about my thoughts on black hat in general are in order. I’m responding less because I think Kris believes it and more because of the surprisingly supportive response his post received in parts of the search community.


Kris begins his article with a personal realization:


“… I started realizing there were only really 2 kinds of white-hats. The ones complaining about how they were doing everything by the book and getting their asses handed to them by “unethical tactics”, and the ones that were claiming success that didn’t belong to them… because they… happened to be in a niche that bloggers find interesting or entertaining…”


“It’s easy to preach great content when you have a great subject. But no one gives a shit about non-clog toilets or pulse oximeters or single phase diode bridge rectifiers. Sure you might be able to piece together 1 or 2 bits of link-bait but you can be sure that you aren’t going to get the anchor text that you want.”


Kris’ premise seems compelling and even has elements of truth (great content does work better in fields where there’s more interest from web-savvy site owners), but on the whole, it’s a lie. That lie – that “great content” doesn’t work in boring niches – is one told out of laziness, jealousy and contempt. It’s told by spammers to other spammers because it glosses over the fact that white-hat, legitimate marketing can work well in ANY field, for any site.


How about some examples, you ask? Happy to:


Ready for Zero

Here’s Ready for Zero. It’s a Y-Combinator backed startup tackling the horrificly spammy and, worse-than-boring, field of credit card debt relief. They don’t rank yet (as they’ve just launched), but if they invest in SEO, they will. They have content – in this case a great team, great story, great investors and the right product – to earn all the links they’ll need. If I were an SEO consultant for a company seeking rankings for debt relief type searches, that’s exactly the “great content” I’d recommend.Here’s one that does rank – Oyster Hotel Reviews. Today, they’re on the first page for nearly every hotel they’ve covered, and in position 5 for the massively competitive phrase “hotel reviews” (and they’re the best result in the SERPs).Another that ranks – Pods Moving Company. It’s not the most exciting site in the world, but it’s a good idea with good marketing and it’s on the first page for “moving company,” another incredibly competitive result. And guess what? No links from bloggers, either (nor any black/gray hat links I could find).Speaking of not exciting but white hat and “great content,” here’s Ron Hazelton’s DIY Home Improvement. A mini-celebrity thanks to a home repair-focused TV show, his site isn’t exactly drawing in the Linkerati, but he markets it well and his stuff is good, so when you do searches like ‘toilet replacement’ Ron’s site is #1.Slightly less boring, but more competitive and equally un-blogger friendly is the world of business invoicing and bill paying. Yet, the gang at Freshbooks is kicking butt and taking page 1 rankings all over the place.Sound effects are another unlikely arena for building a big SEO success story, but despite avoiding every black hat tactic leveraged by the typical ringtone spammers, Seattle-based has kicked serious butt here. They generate millions of visits from more than 750K keyword phrases each month, and they’ve built a serious brand in an industry rife with manipulation.Kris specifically called out bridge rectifiers as being an impossibly boring industry, yet here’s AllAboutCircuits, who shows up on page one for virtually every diode-related search. There’s nothing fancy there, either – it’s just great content, like this one on rectifier circuits. The illustrations are detailed, the content is awesome and they follow an almost-Wikipedia-like model to get contributors, many of whom link back.

I try hard, in my writing, my presentations and my professional contributions to this industry to be warm, generous and understanding. But, black hats telling the world that they turned their back on white hat because it’s impossible is a load of crap, and I’m not feeling very empathetic toward that viewpoint.


Yes, white hat SEO, particularly in boring industries for non-established sites is a tremendous challenge. It requires immense creativity, huge quantities of elbow grease and a lot of patience, too. Black hat takes some creativity sometimes, but often it’s about finding or learning the tactic Google + Bing haven’t caught up to and applying it over and over until it burns down your site and you have to find another. Black hat is fundamentally interesting and often amazingly entertaining, much in the same vein as movies and TV shows featuring clever bank robbers. But a statment like this has no legs to stand on:


“… the longer I practiced and studied greyhat, the more annoyed I got with the piss poor advice and absolute falsehoods I saw being doled out by so called SEO experts to newbie’s who had no way of knowing that the advice they were soaking up was going to keep them at the back of the search engine results pages (serps) for the foreseeable future. Whitehat isn’t just a bit slower. It’s wishful thinking. It’s fucking irresponsible.”


Thankfully, it’s easy to refute Kris’ points with hard, substantive examples (something his post doesn’t do at all).


Simply Hired


Job searches are among the most challenging, competitive results in the SERPs. Back in 2008 (when we still had a consulting practice), we worked with the crew at Simply Hired to set up a long term strategy to win. It involved a syndication strategy with smart linking and anchor text, embeddable widgets, a search-friendly, crawlable site, a data-rich blog and a massive online brand building campaign, too. After 6 months, Simply Hired had improved rankings and traffic, but they certainly weren’t #1 across the board. Today, however, I’m incredibly proud of their progress and I continue to stay in touch with their team and help out informally when/where I can. They’re on page 1 for “job search,” they rank for hundreds of thousands of job title + geo combinations and thanks to SEO (and dozens of other successful marketing + sales programs) they’re poised to be industry leaders in a massive market.


Simply Hired


These strategies that worked for Simply Hired (and worked for other former SEOmoz clients like Yelp, Etsy and Zillow) aren’t some dark secret, either. I wrote a lengthy blog post explaining the process in depth in a post called Ranking for Keyword + Cityname in Multiple Geographies. And I’m not alone, blogs like those from SearchEngineLand, SEOBook, Distilled and all of these others give tremendously valuable advice day after day.


I think Kris owes us some examples of “piss poor advice and absolute falsehoods” being “doled out by so called SEO experts.” I’ll agree that there’s some bad advice floating around the SEO world, and I’ll even admit to giving some myself (remeber when I thought XML Sitemaps were a bad idea?), but that’s a bold statement to make without any evidence.


Unfortunately, this next statement can’t be written off so easily:


“If you are charging your clients for service and not being competitive then you are ripping off your clients. It’s as simple as that. I know you whitehats are squirming in your seat right now shaking your little fists and saying, “It’s not sustainable. Our strategy is based around long term results!”. No, it’s not. Your strategy is based around wishful thinking and hoping that someday Google will do your job for you so you don’t have to. Until Google starts enforcing the rules, there aren’t any. And as long as that is true anyone who is not waiting around for them to be enforced is going to rank. Anyone who does wait around won’t. You have an obligation to your clients to do everything in your power to rank their sites using the most effective methods currently available to you.”


He’s dead wrong on the false choice between either being black hat or “not using the most effective methods.” A tax advisor that recommends quasi-legal, high-risk shelters might be using “the most effective methods,” to protect wealth, but that doesn’t make his more responsible peers obligation-dodging sissies. Search marketers, whether in-house or consultant DO have an obligation, in my opinion, to know and understand the full spectrum of tactics, white hat or black, but we also carry the same responsibility as any other professional with specialized knowledge: to recommend the right strategy for the situation.


Unless your manager/company/client is wholly comfortable with the high, variable risk that comes with black hat SEO, you’d better stay clear. I’m also of the mind that there’s almost nothing black hat can accomplish that white hat can’t do better over the long run, while building far more value. Unless it’s “I want to rank in the top 5 for ‘buy viagra’ in the next 7 days,” you’d better explain that you’re recommending black hat primarily because you’re not smart, talented and creative enough to find a white hat strategy to do it.


But, Kris makes a fair point with regards to Google (and Bing as well). The engines are not doing enough to stop spam + manipulation from black hat tactics. And, for as long as they fail on this front, there will be those seduced by Kris’ viewpoint (Kris himself used to be quite white hat). To be fair, they’ve done a good job on several fronts recently – pushing down low quality content farms in the Panda/Farmer update, making original content rank better, and putting more high quality brands in the SERPs (even if they’re not doing perfect SEO).


The biggest problem currently (IMO) are manipulative, black hat links through paid sources, automated link drops, reciprocal spam, article “spinning” (possibly my least favorite tactic on the rise), low quality directories, link “rings,” etc. There’s not a lot of truly new types of black hat link manipulation, but the old ones are, tragically, working again in a lot of niches. I hope that’s next on Google’s + Bing’s radars. If it is, a lot of black hats are going to have some painful times, but I think that’s the only way to solve the problems webspam creates. One of my favorite parts of being a white hat is chearing for the search quality teams rather than against them, and getting that little bump in traffic every time they improve the quality of their algorithms.


The last point of Kris’ I’ll tackle revolves around the jobs an SEO performs:


“If your main offering is quality content – YOU ARE NOT AN SEO, You are a writer. If you are billing your client SEO prices for writing services you are ripping them off. If you didn’t go to college for or otherwise study writing and literature and you are offering writing services to your client rather than advising them to hire someone who actually specializes and is trained in writing, you are ripping them off.


With the exception of very large sites, most onsite optimization opportunities can be identified and charted in an audit in a matter of a few days. Implementation in most cases won’t take very long either and doesn’t even really need to be conducted by an SEO if the audit is written up properly. What does that leave; content strategy and off-site SEO. The content strategy is just that… a STRATEGY, which can be handed off to a competent writer. If you are still charging your client after this point and you aren’t competing with all the tools available and you aren’t advising them of someone else who could or would, then you are doing your client a disservice.”


These are ludicrous statements, but I think Kris realizes it and is simply using them to generate controversy. Anyone who honestly believes that the extent of an SEO’s job is to develop content strategies, audit for on-page SEO and build links has never done the job professionally.


I wrote a blog post back in 2007 highlighting why SEO is so hard. In it, I talked about the massive quantity of things that affect SEO and that number has only grown. Today, a responsible SEO needs to be thinking about:

The business’ overall product, marketing and sales strategy and where SEO makes the most sense.Keyword research + targeting (a process that requires tools, patience, intuition, testing and experience)Funnel optimization (CRO has both direct and indirect SEO impacts these days)Testing + optimizing content for users (time on site, bounce rate, engagement, etc. all matter directly + indirectly, too)Content strategy (which ties into overall business strategy at the highest levels)On-page optimization (black hats were actually some of the earliest to notice that Google’s gotten so much smarter about on-page analysis than just keyword use and repetition, so I’m sure Kris knows how in-depth this process can be)Making the site search-engine friendly (a complex project even on many simple sites as features like faceted navigation, AJAX crawling, different treatment of Javascript/Flash and many, many more now exist)XML Sitemaps (we recently gave a 90 minute webinar on this topic that generated dozens of questions; it’s no fire-and-forget tactic)Analytics – visitor monitoring is just the start, there’s webmaster tools, link monitoring, brand/mention alerts, social media tracking and more Alternative search listings (local/maps/places, video, images, news, blogs, shopping, etc. Just one of these can be a full-time job.)Usability + user experience issues (since these can have a huge indirect and possibly direct impact on rankings)Reputation tracking + managementCompetitive researchSocial media marketing (FB shares are the most highly correlated metric we found to Google’s rankings. No SEO can afford to ignore social today, and that’s a massive strategic and tactical undertaking)Syndication, scraping, copyright and duplicate content issues

And hundreds of others.


If Kris thinks pounding links at a page until it ranks is the majority of his SEO responsibilities, I’m worried (Note: I don’t actually believe that; I’ve met Kris and he’s a very smart guy. Instead, I suspect significant hyperbole went into his writing). If anyone out there tells you this is how they’re going to do SEO, you’d better make sure they’re either a highly specialized contractor or find another provider who can help think holistically about all of the above.


To do this manipulative work, though, Bob had to work incredibly hard to have real conversations on these social sites, upload photos from events, tweet interesting stats and experiences that could be verified. In other words… He’s building great content!


My recommendation was simple – just call the account a “fan page” and suddenly, you’re 100% white hat. You’re building a great social profile; why not make it something Twitter/Facebook won’t shut down if they get word of it from the real owners? Why not go one extra step, remove the “official” title and BE white hat! Yes, you might have a slightly harder time building up the profiles, but they’ll last forever! You can sleep at night!


I highlight this story because it perfectly illustrates how close black and white hat marketing often are. It also shows why I love talking to black hats and learning from them. There’s almost always a way to take the knowledge and experiences from black hats (the best of whom, like Bob, are often massively creative) and apply it in white hat ways.


Three weeks prior, in London and then New Orleans, Distilled hosted a one-day intensive seminar on link building. One of the talks at each event was called “Lessons from the Dark Side: What White Hats can Learn from Black Hat SEO.” Two presenters, Martin Macdonald (in London) and Kris Roadruck (in NOLA), gave talks about their experiences with webspam’s effectiveness, limitations and takeaways. I thought both presentations were excellent – they clearly indicated the danger of black hat SEO (Kris’ deck started with almost a dozen slides about how + why not to do what he showed), but didn’t pull any punches in showing the ups and downs of a spammer’s life.


SEOs have a responsibility to understand and appreciate how and why black hat SEO operates. It’s certainly not the first or most important step in an SEO education, but it’s part of being a true professional. No one who does IT consulting would neglect to understand hacking + malicious attacks. No one who does public relations avoids studying the manipulative parts of their field. Even in industries like construction and contracting, it pays to understand how, why and when shoddy work and cut corners happen. So too must professional, white hat SEOs know the range of tactics at play in our field.


Knowing more about each of those practices listed can make you a better SEO. I’m not someone who pretends to have great expertise in this field, but every time I hear a black hat share a successful tactic (that isn’t illegal or just drive-by spam), I learn something and am often able to come up with a way to leverage the same effect in a white hat way.


There’s very few things in the world that I perceive as wholly black + white. Spamming the search engines vs. authentic, organic marketing, however, is one of them.


It’s my opinion that for real brands and real businesses, the choice of going 100% white hat will pay massive dividends every time. Here’s why:

There’s always a better way to spend that time + money. Spam isn’t free or easy, despite the image some black hats portray. When I hear about the actual costs and time commitments black hats invest, I’m blown away. For not much more time, and often less money, those same businesses and sites could invest in long-term, high value white hat tactics. Many just lack the creativity and willingness to do the hard work, others are seduced by the quick win or ignorant of the options available to them.White hat builds exciting companies, spam doesn’t. With a very small number of execptions, spam doesn’t build exciting, scalable, long-term companies. It creates relatively small amounts of temporary wealth. If you’re unwilling to trade short term gains for long term success, you’re probably hurting the online ecosystem – none of us should endorse that behavior.White hat rankings can be shared. That means never having to sweat hiding dirty secrets, protecting your tactics or link sources, jumping through hoops to keep your footprint anonymous or refraining from showing off your site. The benefits of transparency improve your ability to do PR, branding, networking and all of those, in turn, help SEO.Spam always carries risk. Whether it’s tomorrow, next month or 3 years from now before you’re knocked out of the search engines, it will happen. You can invest in multiple sites and tactics, shore up defenses and build anonymity to hide your online profile, but honestly, if you applied that creativity and effort to white hat…. Just saying.You’re renting rankings rather than buying them. Devaluation of spam tactics means you have to stay one step ahead of the engines, and can never spend a week free from sweating what will and won’t be found. White hat may take longer, but, if done right, it can build an unassailable position of strength long term.Reliability in the spam world sucks. The people who sell spammy links or offer spam services are nearly always fly-by-night operations, moving from one business model to the next. Spammers are almost never long-term operators.Any victory is a hollow one. I don’t just mean in a touchy-feely way, I mean that no matter how many times you rank well with spam or how much you make, it’s just money (and often far too little to sustain you, meaning you’ve got to go do more tomorrow). You’re not building something real, long-lasting and sustainable and you’re rarely fulfilling any of the other requirements for job satisfaction or happiness.The money’s not that good. Ask yourself who the most prolific, talented, high profile spammers are in the world. I can name a good dozen or so and none of them are retired, only a few are millionaires and not a one, to my knowledge, has done 8 figures (excluding a few truly dark hatted individuals who’ve earned their money from porn empires or illegal activities). There is legal danger. I hesitate to bring this up because some folks in the search sphere have over-emphasized this danger. However, the FTC, the British government and the EU all have regulations about disclosure of interests, and a lot of link buying and link spamming behavior violates these guidelines. We’ve yet to see serious enforcement, but personally, I have no tolerance for risk of this kind, and I suspect many others don’t either.Spam never builds value in multiple channels. What I love about the inbound/organic marketing philosophy is how it builds a site that attracts authentic traffic from hundreds of sources, often without any additional work. Spamming your way to a #1 ranking might send search traffic, but if the web shifts to Facebook/Twitter or if email marketing becomes the biggest tactic in your niche, or if a competitor wins purely on branding and branded search, you’re up a creek. You’ve built nothing of real value – nothing to make people come back and share and like, +1, tweet, link, email, stumble, vote for, shout to the heavens about. Spam builds a shell of a marketing strategy; one crack and it’s all over.

The graphics below were in a slide presentation I made, but they’re worth repeating here:


Invest in good quality SEO Link Building and On page activities




























Who ranks #1 for “online dating?” It’s not a black hat, but a site that found a genius way to become a content and media hub, OKCupid. How about  ”buy shoes online,” one of the top converting terms in the apparel industry. It’s Zappos, a brand that’s put customer service, great product and a unique business model part of their SEO (big props to Adam Audette, who’s made them a shining star in the SEO e-commerce world). Or “real estate values,” an incredibly competitive term that’s only risen in popularity with the market crisis? It’s Zillow. Or “travel blog site,” where some brilliant viral marketing earned Travelpod the top position. Or “art prints,” where Benchmark-backed outranks even the exact match domain.




Building back links from the right areas


























I could go on and on and on. The sites that people WANT to click on in the results. The ones that make searchers, technologists, marketers and search quality engineers happy are sites that deserve to rank. When you build a brand that does that and optimize in a way that no webspam engineer would ever want to discount, you’ve built a true competitive advantage in SEO. Black hat is, much of the time, a sad excuse for a lack of creativity, discipline and willingness to invest in the long term.


Here’s to hoping the SEO industry continues to grow, flourish and attract brilliant, creative minds. Over the past 9 years of my career in the field, I’ve seen great progress, but not enough. I can promise that I, Ice Clear Media and our partners are going to do everything in our power to bring greater legitimacy, value and econmic opportunity to the field of search + inbound marketing. It’s a fight I look forward to every day.


I’d love to hear from you in the comments about why you’re a white hat, and if you do it, what success you’ve had (and feel free to link to your site).


How Clever Is Twitter as a Search Engine?

Posted by | Facebook, Google, Latest News, Link Building (SEO), Link Building News, Marketing Tips, News & Insight, Olivia Naire, Search Marketing (SEO, PPC), Social Media Marketing, Twitter | One Comment

Twitter the new Search Engine?


Earlier this week, Twitter announced that they have made even more changes to their search and ‘who to follow’ function, following on from a major overhaul late in 2010. After reading a great blog on the subject by Danny Sullivan this week, I decided to do some testing of my own to see if I can pin down the pros and cons of the update for the average Twitter user and how it all relates to the online marketing industry.


To sum the updated feature up – when searching for a term in Twitter, the ‘who to follow’ suggestions previously only included accounts with your search term in the name or username as a result. Twitter’s latest update means that as well as, or even instead of, these search results, you will also be given ‘who to follow’ suggestions that are relevant, but which don’t necessarily contain a direct keyword reference. For example, searching this morning for ‘footballers’ brought up the ‘people’ suggestions below – all of which are Twitter accounts that you may well want to follow if you are interested in football, but none of which contain the term itself. Of course Twitter isn’t clever enough a search engine (yet) to automatically know whether I want to follow prolific people in the world of American Football or from the world of Soccer, so it suggests accounts related to both.


Twitter search suggestions for Football


From a marketing point of view, people will now be wondering how they can get their Twitter account on to the ‘recommended’ list for search terms related to their industry. Do Twitter employ a search algorithm which uses the content of people’s tweets to make their judgements? Their bio? Do you get onto the list because you are particularly active or have a certain amount of followers? It certainly isn’t only verified accounts that make it onto the top suggestions, as seen below when I searched for Everton players.


Twitter search suggestions for Everton players


Although the account of Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand has very little to do with Everton Football Club – unless Twitter knows something about the summer transfer window that the rest of us don’t!  Perhaps the results Twitter provide are simply tied in to the secret reputation score that Twitter admitted they had for every account during a summit in 2010?


Twitter told Danny Sullivan that the new search function returns suggestions “based on an algorithm. That algorithm looks at a variety of factors, including your profile information, engagement on Twitter, who you follow, and who follows you.”


So leaving marketing aside for a moment, are there any benefits for the average user here? Unequivocally so, in my opinion. Searching for any subject that you’re interested in will now bring relevant suggestions of accounts to follow based on whatever Twitter’s search criteria is, opening up a wealth of authoritative Twitter users which simply may not have been discovered otherwise, unless you already followed relevant accounts to that search term that is. However, it is a bit early to tell just how useful the suggestions may prove to be, especially the more specific/long tail your search terms.


Is Twitter’s search algorithm something which people will try to manipulate to get their account up there amongst the regularly recommended? Undoubtedly people will try. Presumably this will take the form of keywords in the bio and the content of tweets, plus a determined effort to follow the ‘right’ people and, probably most importantly, get them to follow you. Is this a bad thing? Possibly not… if it results in more active participation in relevant discussion by more users. I hope that this is more likely than an increase in worthless, spammy tweets, because if a major factor on Twitter reputation and authority is that you have others of authority following your account, this just won’t be the case if you resort to worthless tweets. Similar to any kind of effective web optimisation techniques, you will need to be contributing value in order to be followed (and stay followed) which should hopefully perpetuate a better Twitter community for all.

twitter marketing

Are you a Twitter Tsar?

Posted by | Facebook, Google, Latest News, Link Building (SEO), Link Building News, News & Insight, Olivia Naire, Search Marketing (SEO, PPC), Social Media Marketing, Twitter | No Comments

Well, ‘Twitter Tsar’ is what the media has dubbed the new position the Government is recruiting for. Earning the same wage as the Prime Minister, the new ‘Digital Director’ was recommended for the cabinet by Martha Lane Fox, an internet entrepreneur, and has been designed to help co-ordinate the country’s digital strategy.


The Government is looking for a 'Twitter Tsar'...


David Cameron’s made no secret of his desire to create a UK digital utopia to rival Silicon Valley, and it looks like a vision he wants to realise sooner than later if he’s recruiting digital experts for the cabinet. “Sitting at the heart of the government’s radical public service reform agenda, this will be a rewarding role with a great deal of public visibility,” reads the job description – the Government has recently voiced something close to annoyance at it being labelled as a ‘Twitter Tsar’, saying there’s “so much more to it than that.”


And, as a search engine marketing company, we’re inclined to agree! There are so many tools and techniques available as well as social media to master and make use of online. The role of Digital Director will replace three other existing roles and will help to make spending on online services more efficient.


We hope that the Government finds the right candidate for the job, and wish the successful applicant all the best for the future. But, realistically, it’s going to take a very long time before any kind of proper infrastructure is in place for the UK to realistically compete with Silicon Valley – but steps like this, no matter how small, are still steps in the right direction.


Winklevoss Twins / Facebook Battle Over?

Posted by | Facebook, Google, Latest News, Link Building (SEO), Link Building News, Marketing Tips, News & Insight, Olivia Naire, Search Marketing (SEO, PPC), Social Media Marketing, Twitter | No Comments



Facebooks Winklevoss Twins battle for more cash…



Earlier this year, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss as well as Divya Narendra decided that the settlement they had reached with Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook was no longer satisfactory.  They elected to turn down the agreement in order to seek more from the world’s largest social networking company.


As most of you have been following this story since the beginning and/or have seen the Academy Award nominated faux-documentary The Social Network, we shall keep the background to a minimum.


While all of the players in this suit attended Harvard University, the twins (from now on known as Winklevii) created ConnectU, a social networking startup.  They claimed that Zuckerberg ripped off their idea when he created Facebook, and feel as though they are entitled to a large percentage of its worth.  Zuckerberg denies the claim.  The original settlement was for Facebook to pay the Winklevii $20 million in cash and $45 in stock.  In January, the Winklevii argued that Facebook did not disclose certain internal valuations, and therefore their payout should have been much larger.


Well, today the battle may be over as the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the original settlement will be enforced.  As quoted in Reuters:


“At some point, litigation must come to an end,” Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote. “That point has now been reached.”


So, the Winklevii were ripped off by the callous Zuckerberg or they scored a whole bunch of dough for doing absolutely nothing – either way it seems as though the drawn out litigation might be over.  Sadly, there now may not be enough material for Social Network 2 :  The Legend of Zucky’s Gold.

Link building Traffic Sources

Diversify for Link Building Health

Posted by | Facebook, Google, Latest News, Link Building (SEO), Link Building News, News & Insight, Olivia Naire, Search Marketing (SEO, PPC), Social Media Marketing, Twitter | No Comments

The first step in SEO link building should be to analyse the existing link profile and plan which kinds of links are needed. Planning is vital to a healthy link profile. So is branching out. Although it would be wonderful if you could obtain only high-quality authority links for your site, this could raise some suspicions with the search engines as it wouldn’t look natural.

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