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Q&A With an Expert Link Builder

Posted on 4.21.2014

There's tremendous value in asking for advice. Not only can the guidance prove useful, but asking for advice can also build relationships with like-minded people. Recently, regular Website Magazine contributor Travis Bliffen of Stellar SEO, had the opportunity to catch up with expert link builder Brian Dean of Backlinko and ask him a few questions about SEO and link building strategies in 2014.

As expected, Brian made some excellent points and mentioned some innovative strategies, which can prove useful for Internet professionals, regardless of specialty.


Brian (pictured), If I gave you a newly registered domain full of great content but without any links or social following, what is the first step you would take to rank it for a pre-defined keyword?

I’d start by choosing one of the pieces of “great content” and turn it into a mind-blowing page. The fact is, when you have no links and no following, great content doesn’t cut it.

Let me put it another way: there are 2 MILLION blog posts published every single day. A lot of those 2 million posts are also great. So you have to ask yourself, “Why should someone read my content instead of the other 2 million?”

When you have that frame of mind, you realize the level your content needs to be at to compete.  

How can you take your content to the next level so that it REALLY stands out?

Make it more thorough so that it encompasses the entire topic (for example, an ultimate or definitive guide)

Pay a designer to add unique diagrams and graphics to your page 

Hire an editor to go through the content so that its super easy to read

This may sound like a lot of work (and it is). But the good news is you only need ONE piece of content like this to stand out. Of course you need to publish more amazing content as time goes on, but you only need one to get the ball rolling. 

If I had to use one method of link building to rank my main site, what method is the safest while being effective?

Definitely email outreach. 

Email outreach comes in a lot of shapes and sizes, but it boils down to:

1. Creating an awesome resource on your site

2. Finding people that would want to link out to that resource

3. Emailing them in a way that encourages them to link

I realize that’s kind of vague, so let me give you an example…

A few months ago I published a guide called “The Definitive Guide to Keyword Research”. I put a ton of work into that post, so I had step #1 under control.

Next, I went on Twitter and found people that were talking about keyword research. I found their site and emailed them about my new guide.

It didn’t convert at 100 percent (not even close), but I landed some nice contextual links that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. 

Guest posting is said to be dead by Matt Cutts, I say it is not, what do you think?

I’m with you Travis.

Mass guest posting is definitely dead. But as part of a greater link building strategy, it can definitely give you some SEO juice.

Like anything in SEO (and in life), it’s not what you do…it’s how you do it.

The keys to using guest posting as part of your SEO campaign are:

Focus on relevant sites. Google’s head of webspam Matt Cutts recently shed some light on a site that received a penalty for publishing “spam” guest posts: they weren’t relevant. Here’s the tweet:

I’m inclined to believe any algorithmic penalty they use will also focus on the relevancy of the sites you’re guest posting on.

Don’t rely on guest posting. It should be a side dish to your SEO main course

Use branded anchor text. Guest post links like “This is a post by Joe Smith, who works for the Boston Landscaping company, Joe’s Green Grass” is going to get you burned. Use something like this instead: “This is a post by Joe Smith, who works for the Boston Landscaping company, Joe’s Green Grass

Say I am on a tight budget (under $250/mo) and know just a little about SEO, how can I get more search traffic for my site?

I’d spend that money investing in the amazing piece of content that I talked about in the first question.

Consider adding an infographic to the post. Hire an editor to make the copy crystal clear. Or pay a freelance writer to bulk it up with even more killer content.

I’m serious when I say that a single piece of well-executed content can VERY quickly give your search engine traffic a shot in the arm.

What is one costly mistake that you see  SEOs and DIY marketers make regularly?

Not spending enough time on keyword research. 

In fact, I just got an email today from someone asking me about an advanced link building strategy.

When I looked at his site, his homepage title tag was “home”. 

#facepalm

So my advice is: don’t rush through keyword research. 

Keywords will largely determine your marketing, your competition and even your customers. It’s worth investing time to find keywords that are a perfect fit for your business. 

What is one killer link building tactic that you use and rarely share with others?

I’d hate to give this one away because I’m still working out the kinks and might write a post on it. But let’s just say there are a lot of broken images on the Web.

Like with broken link building (more info on that here: http://moz.com/blog/broken-link-building-guide-from-noob-to-novice), you’re finding broken links and pitching yours as a replacement. But the new wrinkle is that you’re looking for broken images, like this:

Building a private blog network works very well to rank most keywords in 2014, do you see this method getting targeted and penalized when done correctly?

I don’t think a private blog network that’s “done correctly” will ever stop working.

The issue with most PBNs is that they rely WAY too much on expired domains. In theory, buying expired domains seems great: why build a PR4 site from scratch when you can buy one at a domain auction for $200?

The problem with that approach is that it assumes Google is stupid and will let people game the rankings with PBNs and expired domains forever. They won’t.

Bottom line: PBNs can work. But don’t expect the links pointing to expired domains to last forever. If you’re going to build a PBN, build some of your own links to your PBN properties to hedge your bets against a future “expired domain update”. 

Tiered Link building is another controversial method, do you use this method or have any thoughts on how well it works this year and in the near future?

I’m not a fan of tiered link building. The concept is based on a misinterpretation of how Google works.

Trying to make a Web 2.0 link powerful by blasting it with blog comments and profile links makes NO sense. You can’t manufacture PR. 

In other words: 0x0x0=0.

That being said, you can do white hat tiered link building that actually works. If you get a link from an authority site, promote that page like you would a page on your own site. Because it’s an authority site, people are more likely to link to it. And every link that page gets makes your link that much more powerful.

In response to this, I asked Brian

I have one more question for you in response to your thoughts on tiered link building. Let's say that you create a thematic blog about home improvement. You then take the time to write a few guest posts pointing to your blog, get some links with the moving man method and acquire a few other do follow links. Do you think this type of tiered link building is effective since your initial link building to the blog will allow you to build thematic links at will in the future?

To which Brian responded

Yes, that type of tiered link building can definitely work. I was just referring to tiered link building like this:

Lastly, who are some of the people you follow or network with to come up with and test new strategies? Any link building blogs you follow?

I mostly come up with and test new strategies in house. That being said, I’m consistently inspired by the following link builders:

Julie Joyce (http://www.linkfishmedia.com/)

Jason Acidre (http://kaiserthesage.com/)

Jon Cooper (http://pointblankseo.com/blog)

Chris Dyson (http://tripleseo.com/)

Ross Hudgens (http://www.siegemedia.com)

Paddy Moogan (www.paddymoogan.com/blog/)

James Norquay (http://backlinks.com.au/)


Author Bio: Travis Bliffen is the founder of Stellar SEO, a search marketing and design agency located near St. Louis Mo. Travis loves researching and writing about SEO strategies and implementing innovative strategies for his clients. Connect on Twitter @theseoproz.

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