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As an SEO professional, there might not be a better feeling than seeing a backlink to your site published on a high authority website, particularly when that link is the result of your manual outreach efforts.
The reason securing backlinks is so satisfying is because so much goes into successful link building.
In fact, most of the work that drives link building results happens long before any outreach messages are sent.
Too often, clients and prospects try to jump the gun with link building. These people understand the value of links, but don’t understand what’s involved in sustainably earning links.
Consistently securing worthwhile links and achieving organic search growth requires an upfront investment in:
Today, I want to discuss each of these SEO pillars individually to help you be better prepared to effectively earn links and drive search results.1. Everything Starts with Keyword Research
Link building is most powerful when it’s strategic, and strategic link building is built on sound keyword research.
Link building is time-consuming and difficult. You need to find the opportunities where links can have the most impact.
Proper keyword research will uncover these high-return opportunities and guide link building strategy.
Follow this simplified process to find your best SEO keywords:
Build out a seed list of keywords.
Analyze seed keywords.
Prioritize best opportunities.
Each step of this process is integral to identifying which keywords can drive the best results for search.Build out a Seed List of Keywords
Keyword research should start by putting together a list of seed keywords.
Seed keywords are the baseline search terms most important to your business. To build this list, examine these potential sources:
Product or service terms.
Related searches within search engines.
Audience language and terms.
Using these sources you can compile a list of seed keywords that will provide a foundation as you refine your keyword research.Analyze Seed Keywords
After you’ve built a seed list, you need to analyze the key terms you’ve identified.
This analysis will help you better understand the potential search opportunity associated with each term. Areas for analysis include:
Brands ranking currently.
Corresponding SERP features.
Each of these factors contributes to the overall opportunity associated with your seed keywords.Prioritize Best Opportunities
Once you’ve analyzed the key areas that determine search opportunity, you can prioritize keyword targets to maximize SEO results.
Link building is a long-term strategy and it takes time to see results.
In order to prove efficacy quickly and gain buy-in for the entirety of your project, you want to target the opportunities that yield the most return with the least investment first.
Prioritize your keyword opportunities based on the following criteria:
Alignment with overarching business goals.
Balance of low competition and high search volume.
Required internal investment (resources, time, etc.)
Evaluating keywords based on these criteria will leave you with a handful of prime opportunities that should inform your link building strategy.2. Realizing Search Opportunities Requires Content Development
To rank in search, you must deserve to rank in search. You need to have a page that answers searcher intent at least as well as the current ranking pages, and this requires content development.
Content development can either mean improving existing pages or crafting entirely new pages.Improving Existing Pages
New content is not always required. If you already have a page that serves your target keywords, slight improvements to the page and backlinks could be enough to make the difference in terms of organic visibility.
The best places to draw inspiration for potential changes are the SERPs you are targeting, as these are the pages you want to compete with.
Potential changes that increase linkability include:
Increasing depth and length of content.
Adding multiple formats (video, interactivity, etc.).
Improving design and visuals.
Updating time-sensitive content.
Improving existing pages can provide a low-investment option for targeting important keywords.Crafting Strategic Pages
If you don’t have a page that sufficiently answers the intent behind your target terms, you’ll need to create a page.
Similar to updating existing pages, when you create a new page the first thing you should do is look at ranking pages. As you begin to develop your new page, referencing ranking pages will make styling and formatting decisions easier — you’ll want to create a page similar to the pages that currently rank.
The goal is to craft the best possible page for the keywords you are targeting.
Your two primary considerations when creating these pages should be:
Answering searcher intent.
Optimizing the structure of your page to include all keyword possibilities.
If you build a quality page it will be set up for success from the onset. Furthermore, these strategic assets are well-positioned to earn quality links that boost their search performance even more.3. On-page Optimization Comes Before Off-page
External optimization — link acquisition — is far more powerful when it is supported by on-page optimization.
If you secure worthwhile links but they point to a suboptimal site, you’re leaving equity on the table.
Conversely, when your pages are well-designed and optimized, backlinks can be the tipping point for visibility and traffic.
As you create new pages and audit old sections of your site, be mindful of the following technical issues:
Getting the technical elements right ensures you get the most value out of the links you earn.
Along with these technical elements, internal linking should be a primary consideration. Internal links are vital to link building because they:
Guide search crawlers.
Direct valuable link equity.
Internal links make it possible to siphon link equity to product and category pages that otherwise struggle to earn links. An example diagram of this linking structure would look like:
Other site owners are typically hesitant to link to conversion-driven pages. But if you create linkable assets with internal links, you can leverage the value of the links those assets attract for your converting pages.Conclusion
The biggest part of link building is the manual work of convincing others to link. However, all that hard work is diminished if you don’t account for the other factors that impact link building success.
To ensure you get the most out of your link acquisition:
Start with keyword research to inform link building strategy.
Create new pages or improve existing content to target search opportunities.
Audit on-page optimization and internal links to maximize ROI from link building.
More Link Building Resources:
Featured & In-Post Images: Created by author, June 2023
You're reading Successful Link Building Requires More Than Links
The major search engines, in an effort to refine the quality of search results, are looking more closely at how a target page is organized. The indexer will parse the page’s layout and identify what it thinks are the most important blocks, and give those blocks preference in the index.
This smart idea by Yahoo, Google and Microsoft may have profound implications for webmasters — and the outcomes may not be so stellar for webmasters caught unprepared.The Chaos of Link Building
Traditional link building remains a chaotic affair. Webmasters develop what they believe is compelling content and hope that people will create links to their work product, just as they make links to useful material on other sites. These links help influence search-engine rankings; the more that well-trafficked sites link to a specific page, the higher the page’s rankings generally become.
Keyword density plays a part, too. The more keyword-rich a page is, generally speaking, the more likely it will rise in the search results, and then become a page that others choose to link to. Of course, there are various, ever-changing permutations of the search algorithms to prevent people from gaming the system, but in general, links are built from content that people find, determine to be useful, and share with others from their own sites.The Importance of Page Segmentation
Not all links are created equal, however. Links provide varying degrees of benefit to the destination site. In the past, the major concern was cross-linking pages on the same site, but the search engines are deploying new strategies for ranking the significance of a link based on where it falls on a given page.A Look at Current Search Engine Trends
Search providers are exploring ways to scan the visual content of how a page is organized to find Web content structure. Microsoft, for example, has patented VIPS – a vision-based page segmentation algorithm, which its chief researchers claim “presents an automatic top-down, tag-free independent approach to detect Web structure. It simulates how a user understands Web layout structure based on his visual perception.”
Yahoo filed a patent application in 2008 for a search algorithm that also looks to visual cues instead of the HTML structure of a page to discern the semantic content of a page. Google received a patent for a method of identifying visual gaps on a page, with the original filing dating to 2006.
The upshot: The relative importance of terms within a page becomes a function of its perceived significance given its position within the visual presentation, irrespective of the HTML structure of the document. Search engines are likely weighting links based on their prominence and location within the page’s semantic presentation.Page Design Strategies
If the object of the game is link maximization to influence page rankings, then the smart money says webmasters ought to structure content based on search engines’ relative rankings of different segments of the page.
Patent applications from Microsoft, Yahoo and Google suggest that search engines are providing relatively higher scores to links in sections that the indexer interprets as having the most semantic value given the page’s visual structure. Therefore, including links in-line within articles and blog posts may be more useful than simply including them as a “references” section, or as a list of links in a side column or widget.
Links from footers and navigational headers are likewise probably of lower value. In addition, links in areas like filler text may have their value significantly degraded when search engines evaluate whether they’re housed in places that contain duplicated content on a site or on the Web.
Place links in higher-profile segments of the page, and structure a site to avoid putting relevant information in a place that could be interpreted, given its physical placement on a page, as less important. For example, a law firm’s site should not include its primary areas of practice in an “about us” sidebar, three-quarters of the way down a side column on the home page, with no significant mention of it elsewhere on the site.HTML5 to the Rescue
One great thing about HTML5 is you don’t have to rely on a search engine’s discretion of what is part of a template and what is part of the content area if you declare it in your code. The following HTML5 tags are ideal for template specifications:
Improving search rankings isn’t as easy as it used to be. Designing sites with an eye toward how the algorithms work, even if the benefit is mathematically marginal, is better than relying on a search engine’s best judgment.
Do you know what link building is? A lot of businesses know that this is something they should be working on. But, they are not always sure of all the details. Essentially, link building is the process of getting other websites to link to your own website. While it is a simple concept, it is something that requires a lot of hard work.
Business owners have a lot of their minds. Often, link building for their website gets missed. This is why link-building packages have emerged online. This can be a way of reaping the benefits of link building, such as a better ranking and higher traffic, but without having to do everything in-house. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits link-building packages can offer your business.Leave to the Experts
Link building is something that should be included in every digital marketing strategy. But, there is one reason why this is not happening. Business owners do not know how to work on link building. If this sounds like something that is happening at your company, it is time to take this seriously. If you want to boost your website traffic, as well as enjoy more sales, you need to be committed to link building.It will Save You Time
Not only is link building complicated and hard work, but it is also time-consuming. It is not a one-off task and it is a project you are going to have to work on every month and consistently in order to see results. A lot of business owners and small teams simply do not have the time to dedicate to link building. This means that they are missing out on all the great rewards it offers them.
Again, this is where link-building packages come to the rescue. When you hand over this task to a team, they are going to deal with all of it for you. For example, this can include researching and writing quality guest posts, as well as finding the best websites to publish them on. You can make sure experts handle your link building and are going to achieve results. At the same time, you can work on other tasks and be efficient with your time.Enjoy more Conversions
You can Save Money
It is possible to buy individual links for your website. But, this is something that can often work out expensive, as well as time-consuming. The good thing about link-building packages is that you can often save money. This is going to be good if you have a budget or just want to get value for money. You can purchase several links at once and this makes it a lot easier.
There are going to be several link-building packages available. Make sure to check out what each one is going to offer you. For instance, prices can be dictated by the domain rating of websites and this is something you want to pay attention to if you want your link building to be successful.
I recently caught up with an ex-member of Google’s webspam team, Andre Weyher. Andre worked directly on Matt Cutts’ team and agreed to offer some valuable insight into how Cutts’ team operates, what they look for with regard to inbound link profiles (and manipulation of them), and how SEOs and webmasters can conform to Google’s webmaster guidelines now and going forward.
What follows is my interview with Mr. Weyher.
1. What was your role on Matt Cutts’ team, and how long were you a part of it?
The spam team is a pretty large organisation within Google. It consists of many people working towards one goal; keeping the organic search results free of poor quality sites and penalising the ones that got their ranking due to techniques that are against the Google guidelines. It’s often confused with the engineering team that’s responsible for the creation of the actual algorithm. These are two separate units within the organisation. It’s also not the external reviewers team that you often hear about. Within the spam team people usually get their own speciality. I was responsible for content quality and backlink profile. I’ve been with Google for 4.5 years, two of those in Matt Cutts’ team.
2. What’s Google’s process for determining when to apply a manual penalty to a website based on its inbound link profile?
Very good question, of course there are elements to it that are very secret internally but the process is in principle very straightforward. I often see people taking a very strict and mathematical approach to assessing a backlink profile. It’s good to do it in this way if you are doubting but it’s also important to use your intuition here. When reviewing a profile, the spam fighter would look at the quality of the pages where the links are hosted and the anchors used in the links. If the profile and anchors are not coherent with what a “natural” profile would look like, action would be taken. Lets take an example of a travel website – if there are 100,000 links coming in and 90,000 of them use an anchor like “cheap flights” or “book flight”, it would straight away arouse suspicion because this would never be the case if the links were natural. The quality of the pages linking in is of critical importance. Is it authentic? Or does it purely exist to host the link?
3. How does Google’s Penguin algorithm determine what domains to penalize?
4. How does Google spot blog networks and/or bad neighborhoods?
5. What’s the best way to recover a website that has been sent a notification via Google Webmaster Tools of manual spam action?
In the second case it’s a bit tougher. If you have been relying on poor quality link building, you have to get rid of as many bad links as you can. This used to be a very time consuming and difficult process but luckily the new disavow tool in WMT has made this much easier. You do have to be very careful with what you choose to disavow! Again, use your intuition here. Don’t just cut all the links below a certain PR, a low PR website is not necessarily bad, the relevance of the topic of the website and above all, its authenticity are much more important than just the PR.
6. What’s the best way to recover a website affected by Google Penguin?
7. What are some of the biggest misconceptions or myths you’ve seen about “bad links” and link profile penalties in the SEO community?
I think I could write a book about this topic! SEO is an unprotected title and anyone can call him or herself one. The result of this is that there are almost as many opinions as there are SEOs. Some of the biggest misconceptions that I have seen out there include; “directories are altogether bad” or “anything that is below a certain PR is considered spammy by Google”, I see a lot of people panicking and cutting off the head to cure the headache due to lack of knowledge. The most dangerous one of all I would consider to be the opinion that if an automated link building scheme is expensive, it must be good. Google has made it very clear that it wants links to be a sign of a real reason to link, an AUTHENTIC vote of confidence if you will. Anything that is paid for, is not considered quality by Google and participating in it puts your site at risk!
8. What do SEOs need to know right now to prepare for future link profile-related algorithm updates?
It’s hard to predict what the future will hold but you can be sure that Google will become more and more effective at fighting everything they are fighting currently. So if there are still people out there that are getting away with spammy techniques, it’s only matter of time before Google will find a new way of identifying it and penalizing the ones that do it. I think the best way of preparing yourself against future updates is to build an SEO strategy that depends on smart on-page techniques and internal linking on one side and relationship based linkbuilding on the other side. This means that the obtained links should come from a source that has a genuine reason to link to your site. The relevance of your linking partner to the topic of your site is the key!
9. You left your job in Google not long ago, what are your plans?
I have fulfilled a long dream and moved to Australia! Sydney is an amazing city with a great startup community. I have started my own company here and am very excited about it. It’s called chúng tôi The first intelligent website fingerprinting service on the net. After typing in a URL, we will show you, based on over 3000 factors, what other websites are owned or developed by the same owner. We’re in beta, though we’ve just finished crawling over 200 million websites and used elements like hosting, account IDs and even coding style to determine who owns what on the web… exciting times! This new version will be up in a few weeks.
Link building is generally a term used around the SEO industry to describe building relevant links to a website in an effort to rank that site for specific terms while also building trust, value and equity to that website. All too often however, link building is associated with questionable SEO practices such as link buying or link spamming.
As an old school online marketer and PR guy, I tend to take a different approach to my link building philosophy, and see link building as more of a branding and web presence approach. The beauty of the Internet, especially the Internet of 2009 – 2010, is that so many different opportunities are out there to build an online brand, from video distribution to social networking to blogging. I think far too often, especially in the world of linking, too much emphasis is placed on buying static sitewide links in an effort to build “link popularity” and once a specific number of links is established, sites or businesses will “set it and forget it”, becoming complacient with their link numbers and or ranking … only later finding out that they ultimately lose such ranking to more diverse and creative online brands which take a more interesting approach.The Fall of Sitewide Linking
Over the past year or so, I’ve noticed more and more devaluation of sitewide linking, that is links which are placed on all pages of a website. At one time, sitewide links may have led to higher rankings under the school of thought that the higher number of incoming links with targeted anchor text, but over the past 6 months or so, that value has diminished for obvious reasons.
One issue, especially in the field of paid linking, is that it is usually unnatural for a site to have the majority of its inbound links to come from sitewide linking, and sites which do partake in such link acquisition and development, tend to focus primarily on building those large batches of links, disregarding the more purposeful relevance of precisely targeting link acquisition.
In a nutshell; you usually have to earn the right to obtain a sitewide link, they don’t come out of thin air. Likewise, how natural is it for a newspaper website to link to a payday loan lender from all of its pages? Not natural at all.Foundational Link Building
In order to earn sitewide links, which would come from links in a template, sidebar or other “sitewide” area under a “friends”, “links” or “resources” section, ideally a website would have to earn and establish its web presence. And how does a site initially establish web presence? Well, before jumping out of the gate by acquiring sitewide links via buys or other methods, I whole heartedly recommend waiting until the incubation period of linking, or a site’s link foundation is built.
Establishing web presence does not just equal linking, it equals site branding. This is done by writing and distributing press releases about your site launch and business news, contributing guest posts on blogs that you have taken the time to build relationships with, developing your branded social profiles across multiple social networking sites, building out your Facebook fanpage, your email newsletter, Twitter account and YouTube profile AND actually using these tools to build your brand. The more connections you make, the more natural links will come.
The incubation period also is the perfect time to build directory links in Best of the Web, Yahoo and other web directories.Long Term Link Strategy
All too many times link builders, or link development strategists, get impatient … always wanting to jump the gun with hundreds or thousands of links in the first month. But before a site is really going to start ranking or really should naturally be pulling in thousands of links per month, its brand should be built. When I’m working on a client’s overall linking profile, I like to give the client a six month to one year timeline to achieve their long term linking and SEO goals. Sure, using shortcuts sometimes ranking can be secured sooner, especially for an established site, but by building out a long term strategy, the end result is not only going to be more effective, but more natural …. which means a long term result and not a flash in the pan or blip in the Google results.
I would say that generally 10% of the incoming links to the sites I work with come from sitewide links, I like to keep that as a rule of thumb. The real power in linking comes from utilizing the tools given to you by your employer, site or client. Obtain the following marketing material from your client in order to build the more diverse and structured link portfolio in your vertical :
Video : Video can be uploaded to YouTube and dozens of other online video sharing platforms which not only include links to the site behind the video, but also will show up in targeted search queries for the company name and relevant terms in Google, Yahoo and other search engines.
Product & Press : Contests, giveaways, donations and joint ventures are a surefire way to build strong links. Holding contests for free product will get your site covered on contest sites and also give you fodder for a press release that can be distributed to news outlets and blogs in your vertical. To get the most out of a giveaway, partner with various non-competitors who attract a similar target market to do a massive giveaway. Also, instead of just donating money to a charity, giveaway a product and or get a giant check printed, call local journalists and make a press conference out of it.
For more info on building out diverse links, see the Link Building Evaluation Guide.Blogging and Linking
Besides the obvious benefit of bringing in longtail search traffic because of the variety of content and natural language on a blog, hosting an informative company blog or third party blog around your vertical can also bring in a lot of links, and also redirect that sitewide link equity you may be looking for. Sitewide links don’t make search sense a lot of the time, unless they point to a blog. One of the basics of blogging is blogrolling; linking to other industry blogs in your blogroll, and vice versa. By doing so, you can attract a lot of links from other relevant blogs and their link equity.
Blogs, especially those hosted on third party domains, can assist your overall site and brand in other ways too. First, a targeted news oriented blog around a specific vertical is more likely to be picked up by Google News than a corporate blog. Or if a business plan is generally that of a resource, I would suggest building the site off of a blog.
Case in point : launch blog, get links, get listed in news site, go social on Digg & Stumble Upon, then build out the bulk of the MONEY part of the site off of the already established authority domain.Now Go After Your Sitewides
The reason I started writing this post was to talk about how sitewides may not be as valuable as they once were as they could be an instant red flag for spam, especially if they make up the bulk of your linking profile. After you have first established your online presence, I then would recommend going after some sitewides. This does not always mean you have to buy them, and you should attract some nice natural links by building your online brand, but if you do acquire them in a questionable manner, be smart about it and also keep in mind that if you build smartly, your established linking presence will justify the sitewides you acquire.
Just like traditional marketing and branding, link building should never have a set it and forget it mentality, the industry and serps are always changing, and this is going to influence the way you build links. By keeping your linking on an even keel and setting a natural strategy however, those changes at Google or Bing should not have a massive effect on your ranking, at least your ranking which is attributed to linking and branding, as this core method of smart linking has worked for 10 years, through changes and updates, because it is natural and web presence does not go away.
Bombshell is more “bomb” than anything else, with anemic shooting and lackluster exploration—when bugs aren’t tossing you back to the desktop.
I am probably not going to complete Bombshell.
And it’s a policy I’ve stuck to, with the exception of one or two games. For instance, I loved Dark Souls II but didn’t complete it because it was kicking my ass.
This is different. I am not finishing Bombshell because it is busted.The good
There are two ways you could describe Bombshell, and on paper they sound equally appealing. 1) It’s a twin-stick shooter version of a 90’s FPS—wailing guitars, big guns with dumb names, ludicrous gibs, and a smack-talking protagonist who’s a borderline sociopath. 2) It’s sort of like Diablo-with-guns.
Not too bad, right?
So despite starting life as an ill-planned trailer—or, in truth, starting like as an unofficial Duke Nukem game before some legal squabbling shut that down—I was willing to conceptually give Bombshell the benefit of the doubt. Aliens come to Earth. Aliens kidnap the president. Murder-loving lady goes after them and shoots a lot of enemies. It seemed like silly, mindless fun.The mediocre
Despite the creative concepts behind the guns, none I’ve used so far is particularly interesting or effective. Enemies, and especially bosses, are armored to hell and back, so you just shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot a dozen times until they finally keel over.
Regardless, it means the most dangerous enemies are these floating bug things that hang out off-screen until you run around a corner, then detonate and cover you in acid. Any ol’ grunt with a gun is easy by comparison.The bad
What you actually end up doing is staring at the mini-map in the corner. It shows you enemies off camera and shows where you’re currently aiming, so I played half the game lining up shots that way.The worse
Have you replayed Super Mario 64 recently? If you have, you probably noticed that many of the platforming sections would be way easier if the camera would just behave—meaning aligned properly, instead of awkwardly angled.
Bombshell, for some reason, includes awful platforming bits where the camera is just always a little off-axis from where it should be. And you can’t rotate it. 3D Realms strongly recommended playing this game with a keyboard/mouse instead of a gamepad, but the angles for those platforming bits are awful and I have died exponentially more times from a misjudged jump than all the enemies I’ve encountered in the game.The ugly
But all of that is contained in this knockoff Fallout Pip-Boy interface, and while I can appreciate the homage the execution is pretty underwhelming. Especially because Fallout’s UI is already not that great.The breaking point
And now, we finally return to why I will not be finishing Bombshell a.k.a. because it’s busted. Everything else pales in comparison.
I don’t just mean “Falling through the world and dying” busted or “The game keeps erasing my map” busted. Those are certainly things that keep happening, and they’re certainly Problems with a capital-P, but they would not be reason enough for me to give up on a game.
1) In the third or fourth level (unsure, because they all sort of bleed together into one long corridor of baddies) I reached a place called the Vertigo Arena. My objective: Survive some waves of enemies. Suffice it to say I did not heed that objective, and for once the enemy’s braindead goons managed to shoot me dead. “No big deal,” I thought, reloading my checkpoint.
Turns out it was a big deal. After reloading, no enemies showed up. “That’s weird,” I thought, and I reloaded again. Three enemies this time, and then nothing. Reloaded. This time I managed to get the game to spawn the first wave or so of enemies by running to each entrance in a circuit, and enemies would dribble out in groups of two or three—but then that broke too. After about fifteen enemies, they stopped coming and the game did…nothing. Just sat there.
Luckily 3D Realms got back to me and told me I could edit an .ini file and restart just that one level—a.k.a. still lose about an hour’s progress. But I did it, and with a sigh and a few obscenities I started back through.
I encountered some more bugs and a crash to desktop, but it was going okay. I made it out of the Fire Planet and on to the Ice Planet, picked up some new weapons, mowed down a bunch of generic baddies, and listened to Shelly yell the same five lines over and over. But I was doing it.
2) And then my computer hard locked. Like, full-on “Ctrl-Shift-Esc doesn’t work, Ctrl-Alt-Del doesn’t work, nothing is responding, hold the power button to shut my computer down” hard-locked.Bottom line
I do not recommend you play this game.
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