Does Your Site Have Link Building Potential?

My advice to clients is generally pretty simple: build links, and build more links! I rarely however touch on an important concept--building links to some sites is exceptionally easy while for other sites it can be like pulling teeth.

Original, Quality Content Builds Links (#&$%@ d'oh!)

Don't get me wrong, I'm not going all white-hat on you. But the point I'm trying to make is that there is a different potential each site has for getting links regardless of how hard you work on link building. To illustrate my point, I am going to walk through two link building case studies. I wrote them generically without using specific keywords, but they mirror actual sites I have managed.

Case Study A: "Like Pulling Teeth"

Let's take my Not-so-unique Widget E-commerce or Review (w/aff links) Site ("Site A"). Assume it has 25 pages of decent, relevant content. No, it isn't particularly unique, but it has a healthy profit margin on each product sold, so if I can get good rankings, it will make me good money. So following basic on-site stuff, I give it the standard link building treatment:

  • I submit to 27 Web directories (that's a good list, btw)
  • I submit to 3 niche industry directories which I find on Google
  • I write a short press release and submit to PRWeb and PRLeap
  • I write a cheesy article, "4 Tips to Help You Buy the Widget That's Right for You" and submit to EzineArticles and the like
  • I pay my pet monkey to grab two dozen recips or triangulars from related sites
  • I rent a couple of related links from a text link ad broker
  • I scratch my head, wondering how I will get more links to this site since it doesn't really add any value to the Web, give up, and go to the pub with Jimbo

6 months later, Site A is out of the sandbox and ranking #7 on a search for "widget". I have exhausted all of my 'tried and true' easy link building methods, and I haven't gotten any 'passively obtained backlinks', since the site isn't really something anyone would want to link to. I realize the only easy way to increase my rankings would be to rent links, which is an expense, not a permanent investment.

Case Study B: "Exceptionally Easy"

Let's take Site B, which is a blog about a unique topic--the type of blog I made because I thought, 'I bet there's a blog about Widget-man, seeing as how he's a world leader', then I searched and there wasn't--thus there was an implied demand for it (assuming that some people out there think like me). I spent two months adding good content, and then, again, I give it the normal link building work-over:

  • I submit to 27 Web directories
  • I submit to 3 niche industry directories which I find on Google
  • I write a short press release and submit to PRWeb and PRLeap
  • I write a cheesy article, "4 Things You Don't Know About Widget-man" and submit to EzineArticles and the like
  • I pay my pet monkey to grab two dozen recips or triangulars from related sites
  • I skip the rented links this time--the site's non-profit!
  • I pray the site gets meme'd, and head to the pub for a celebratory drink with Jimbo

Not too different from site A, eh? But next comes the zinger:

  • 2 days later: Someone blogs about the site based on me sending the link trade offer. That blog post gets picked up by a dozen other blogs, including some that send a heavy dose of traffic.
  • 8 months later: Widget-man dies, prompting the electing of a new Widget-man. This is a huge event and the site gets picked up by The Guardian Online, MSNBC.com, numerous .edu's, and thousands of blogs.

100 ibl's vs. 50,000 ibl's

In fact, out of all my sites, the one about Widget-man has the strongest natural link popularity. This is because it was a unique, linkable idea. Commercial sites I have built links for do have some decent rankings, but nothing like the widget-man site; This is because after the initial link building work-over there is no reason for anyone to naturally link to these sites (without being asked).

I have other sites which I would give my left arm to have the same link pop as the Widget-man site, but it will never happen; they just aren't incredibly unique, original, or linkable. AWall seems to hammer this point again and again, and I think it's worth remembering: Before you put in a bunch of effort going after the rankings, make sure you have something valuable and linkworthy, or you're just working against yourself.

Andy Hagans works for Text Link Ads.

Comments

make your ecommerce site

make your ecommerce site original or useful or incredible in some way

You have to have products that people either love or hate. I've had more success with hate, as that's what seems to get the bloggers going full tilt.

>I don't disagree with your

>I don't disagree with your comments, but I wrote that article to a do-it-yourself-webmaster, own-my-own-site audience, I didn't intend it to apply to someone with clients--it doesn't. <

My bad Andy. I just checked out the site in your profile before I posted and didn't separate the post from the website. I was impressed by the quality of the site and had that on my mind as I posted.

Also, I dind't mean any offense with the whoring for links thing. I don't hold that against anyone. As a fatter of mact, I'm doing it now.

make it easy for journalists

I've always found that if you have a nice little resource centre for journalists (stock pics, general info and some pre-prepared topical facts perhaps) you tend to get asked for comments when they need to fill a little space or can't be bothered to find their own widget picture. And generally speaking at the end of an article is a list of links.

Or, even simpler, just swear a lot like Nick does, colourful characters are always good for a quote or two ;)

Links into ecommerce sites

One thing that has worked for me is to give something away.

point taken

i wasn't trying to stress directories, was just trying to present a 'normal' link building mix.

>>>by the way can we PLEASE

>>>by the way can we PLEASE not turn this thread into discussing the merits of listing a site in directories

Actually my question/point was more to do with the prominence that you gave that route with both examples, but, hey, it's your blog and good on you for taking the time to write it...

by the way can we PLEASE not

by the way can we PLEASE not turn this thread into discussing the merits of listing a site in directories :-)

roi = results

I call them a good ROI, because if I have a site with a decent profit margin and conversion rate, I know I will make my money back, and more besides, by listing in some directories.

Frankly talking about directories bores me since it's been done to death... I just know that if I spend 5-700$ on listings in what I think are the 'best' ones, I make my money back, and more besides.

and while I'm not one to deny money to anyone who is trying to convert PR into link sales, I would far rather spend my $30 or $40 or $50 on a link ad from a mini genuine authority in the area.

More power to you. If it's me, I would do both :-)

hmmm, my turn!

I was going to weigh in before and decided against it as it was only the second post in the blog.

However since I'm not the first ;)

Andy, you mentioned above that your comments were aimed at an own-my-own-site audience.

I would really like your opinion, as someone who concentrates on link building, on why you think the 27 directories that you mentioned above provide a good ROI.

Fair enough, DMOZ, Yahoo and MSN, are arguable. But looking through the rest - and I'm talking potential categories for your example sites here, not the homepage design and PR - you are mostly talking about dross.

Whether it is a single listing on a low PR (yes, I know, I know) buried inside category which is surrounded by RoS SEO links (Skaffe) to a directory riddled with empty cats (Topicbeach), the potential links appear almost uniformly low quality.

And while I'm not one to deny money to anyone who is trying to convert PR into link sales, I would far rather spend my $30 or $40 or $50 on a link ad from a mini genuine authority in the area.

So what am I seeing wrong, from your point of view?

Yeah, it's something i

Yeah, it's something i struggled with when talking about shopping carts a while back.

Marrying user-generated content, web2.0 if you will, and ecom still appeals to me, and it's not exactly a breakthrough idea, but it's still rare enough to not really have much information to build a decision on.

Combining a blog / forum into a site is one way of course, but then you just end up with loads of links going into one area of the site, and are stuck with enticing surfers to click the "see our shop" kind of thing, or cloaking against SE traffic. But the overwhelming argument in the above thread was to KISS as far as carts go - which i can't really argue with.

I just have this urge to explore...

hmmm....

make your ecommerce site original or useful or incredible in some way? easier said than done...

Of course if you have the ONLY ecomm site in your niche, I think you're pretty linkable.

It was a great post Andy -

It was a great post Andy - demonstrates an all too familiar conundrum for most webmasters i think.

What i'd like to explore, is how to get both!

How can we create truly compelling, linkable websites that have all the best of the non-profit content link magnet, and all the best of ecom simplicity?

clients? bah humbug!

Massa,

If someone only does work for clients with 'exceptional & original content', they are either a premier agency, or have a *very* small client list.

Sales presentation? I'd rather eat &%$# ;-)

I don't disagree with your comments, but I wrote that article to a do-it-yourself-webmaster, own-my-own-site audience, I didn't intend it to apply to someone with clients--it doesn't. Because by the time a client gets to an SEO, the quality of their content probably isn't going to move much in one way or the other.

I agree with you Andy. But

I agree with you Andy. But it is a hard sell to a client.

Client: I want to sell widgets and I'm willing to pay someone like you to help me.

Webmasters: Ok but first we need to locate a famous widget man that even though he is famous, no one else is talking about. Then you pay me to post to this blog daily. When this famous widget man nobody else writes about dies or gets caught smoking crack with Saddam Hussein's lawyer, BINGO, you will have links out your wazoo. Sound good?

client: Yeah, that sounds pretty good. I just need to go home and measure to make sure it's going to fit and I'll call you back.

Years and years ago, when blogs were little more than a glint in a proud fathers eyes, there was a far-away place called the Warriors forum. It was cutting edge back then. I wanted to help the members there as they had done much to help me, so I told them about how to get traffic without search engines. One of the best ways, ( I can't believe so many webmasters are still missing this one), is to give awards. Another way was to provide content, whether it be text or scripts or little cartoons, that other people didn't know how to do themselves or couldn't afford to do it themselves or it was just much easier to link to yours than to go get it themselves.

My example back then was a simple little script on my magic city site that allowed you to check the top 10 listings on Alta Vista, Infoseek, Excite, Hot Bot, WebCrawler, (you know all the power houses then), from one page. You couldn't even check them all at once. You had to put your term in the box for AV search, come back and repeat in the excite box and so forth. We haven't done anything with that site since about 2001 and Alta Vista still shows over 1100 backlinks. That is 1100 links that are at least 4 years old.(Of course it shows a PR 0 now. Google can sure hold a grudge!)

Now, the problem is that getting links ain't what it used to be. Before the web was Googleized, people used to link to you because they liked you or because they were lazy or because you pissed them off. You know, stuff real humans do. Now, a link has a perceived value and the perception varies from one person to another by an incredible margin. One man's link is another man's fortune. Never in my life have I ever seen any other intangible product or service with absolutely no way to effectively determine value. A link, at least one that can actually get you out of the sandbox and put you on top, is worth what you are willing to pay. That is a basic axiom that I have long lived by when it comes to pretty much anything of value when that value is to be exchanged. Now there is a new wrinkle on that horn. A link is worth what the guy owning the site is willing to sell it for. This little premise screws up just about everything I've based my life on. It's a twist all right. It makes me think about it so much my head hurts.

So, what this means is that,even a year or two ago, you could hire one full time monkey, oops, I mean employee, to do nothing but acquire links. This person with a basic understanding of the concept, could usually acquire in the 200 quality links a week range. That same person today is lucky to get 20. That means the cost, (I'm not even talking about just paying for the link. I'm talking about the triangulars and circulars and reciprocals and prwebs and industry directories and all the other really good, never could be considered black hat or spam stuff that we all convince ourselves is quality content. Yeah right!), I'm talking just about the expense for the real human being that is accountable for their time.

Don't get me wrong Andy, your post illustrates a real willingness to share, (unless of course your just whoring for links), and I think it is as good a strategy as just about anything else at the time. I just think it is important to mention in a marketing framework, that it can not be a good solution for a sales presentation or for estimating time or cost or projecting results.

Thats a great post Andy

Thats a great post Andy, I have had many clients where link building was a hard task and others where it was joy either because the site had great content or the brand was a well known one with a good offline rep!