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Australian Search Marketing Academy (ASMA)- Practical & Powerful Linkbuilding Tactics

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Transcript

Introduction

Peter: It's Peter Mead, and welcome to the Australian Search Marketing Academy, where today where we have got a very interesting topic. Today it's powerful and practical link building tactics with Dan Petrovic who is going to share all of his amazing knowledge with us, and Julie Situ is going to be co-hosting with me.

Link building being one of the bread and butter topics of SEO. Welcome, Dan; it’s great to have you with us. Thank you so much for your time.

Dan: Thank you very much. Pleasure to be with you.

Peter: Well, thank you so much for joining, and in a moment we'll start with your slides, but first I'll introduce Julie. Julie is currently the enterprise SEO person working for Country Road Group. 

Why don't we get started with the meat of the topic. Dan, are you ready to start giving your presentation for us?

Dan: 100%. Let's get started.

Peter: Terrific.

Dan: All right. The link building topic is a huge area, and we had many choices in terms of topic selection. But today I chose one of my favorites, and this is something that a lot of people have tried and failed. Because every time you try to scale your link building efforts, you necessarily reduce the quality of output. 

For example, if you engage in an SEO company, and you say “I need 50 links a month”. these guys are killing themselves to deliver the links, and the only way to deliver the numbers is to reduce the quality. And typically what you get is just a bunch of guest posts on private blog networks. Peter, do you like links on private blog networks?

Peter: Can I rephrase your question?

Dan: Yes.

Peter: Do links on PBNs, do they work? I think they have their uses. Do I prefer to get them for my uses? No. I prefer links that are well-placed, and have relevance, and links that send traffic. I don't usually see traffic coming from PBN links.

Safe and Scalable Link Outreach

Dan: Yeah, that's right. You want your links to have a purpose and to fit well within the pages where they are. But the problem is, if you just publish great content and you don't give it a push, links may, or may not happen. I think it's your duty as a marketer to give them a bit of a nudge to push them into existence. 

Because that's what we're here for; SEO people - we're getting the best advantage out of every situation. What's this paid, organic, hybrid link building? I call it safe and scalable automated outreach. 

You get a bunch of money, you throw it on various channels. PPC, display, your content, social, viral, a bit of PR, and you create this cloud of activity we call multi-channel buzz, and links happen.

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In essence, you're buying impressions and clicks, and as a result, you're getting links. That's the basic idea of what we're talking about today. 

This is just a little screenshot from the campaign that I ran a couple of years ago. So, campaign starts, and then you get a bit of traffic coming through, and during that time you actually have some first-time referrers. Basically, the links that never brought any clicks until that point.

And that to me is a measure of a detection. This is a way of detecting a brand new link. During that time we had some new referrers. Now here's an interesting thing: when you’re link building, you generally try to get your dofollow links, and nice anchor text, and things like that. 

But what I got was, three nofollow links, one was from an image, and four were text links. And I had absolutely no control over what those four text links are, or where they're coming from. And I had absolutely no choice whether those three nofollow links are going to be nofollow or dofollow.

They just happened, and I literally didn't ask anyone to give me a link. These eight links happened over a period of 30 days. You've seen the date range there, you've seen the links happened over a scattered timeline.

Effectively I paid roughly $40 for an organic link. Now I call this lucky, because I've done these campaigns after that, and they weren't as successful. A lot of that will depend on the quality and the timeliness of your content. But that's a discussion item, not the core topic of the presentation, but definitely something we can talk about afterwards.

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Peter: I think it's important though, isn't it, Dan? 

Dan: It's absolutely right. Like if you create a bad piece of content or uninteresting piece of content that doesn't deliver anything new, that doesn't deliver any value, that doesn't bring any news to the table, then you can beg for the links all you like, they're just not going to happen. 

This method scales up because I just spent $350 and I got eight links in 30 days. Let's scale that 10 times. What if I put $3,500 on that, and what if I give it a quarter? How many links will I get then? Maybe not more than eight links because once it fizzles out, it fizzles out.

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You have to be careful about your spend. Maybe that's all the links you'll ever get because all the people that were ever going to link to it were linking to it. But I think a good time period is test it out for a month, and see if it works. And if it works, run it for about three months. 

Here's the funny thing; we've got paid and organic in the same sentence. I'm paying for links, but they're organic links. What's going on? I think that's why this is one of my favorite link earning methods. 

If we have a look at the layout of such a campaign, you've got your content, and you typically promote that content through manual outreach, you go back and forth correspondence with perhaps influencers, who could be journalists or bloggers.

Or you could be advertising through your own media, you can be running through social ads or even a bit of remarketing. In a simplified layout, this is what my automated campaign looks like. 

This one involves zero correspondence, you just don't do any outreach by email. We're relying on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to run ads. We're split testing them and taking them to our content. We could be using more obscure platforms like Reddit where ads are pretty cheap.

We could be using content syndication platforms like Taboola and Outbrain. There's a hybrid method of this campaign; a bit of a configuration difference. We can combine email campaign as well. You're running your ads, but you're also pushing a bit through the manual emailing, some campaigns, or even through customer match.

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This is the question that I get a lot: “Okay, so I put 350 bucks on it, or whatever, and then nobody linked to it. What do I do then?” Well, like I said, you still have a bit of an option to follow those who've clicked on it but didn't link to it with some remarketing. Just follow them around a bit until it's the right time for them to write about that story.

And if after this remarketing period they don't bite, and write about it… maybe you should consider whether your content is worthy enough. We can even send messages via social platforms directly to influencers to link to our content. 

This one is a bit of an oldie, but it was quite a successful piece of content that I did specifically to make a point that this particular method works when I was traveling to Manila to deliver a talk there. 

I collected a bit of data about what Aussies think of the Philippines in a piece of structured news, and I structured in such a way that it doesn't look like a fully digested article, but it looks more like a source of news.

Notice here I've got a bit of mingling with the locals. A bit of social influencers there, and I've got the link to the raw survey data. That always helps to prove that your content piece is legitimate, and not made up.

I created this piece of content, and I was very happy with it, how it was structured, and this is a big deal. The title, the image, the first sentence, breakdown in information, how you put things together; that will decide where you get links, whether you get links or not.

We're creating a campaign towards website clicks, and conversions, naming the campaign, choosing our target demographics. I think the most interesting feature is that we want to play around with the audience manager a bit, particularly from within our own list. When creating a new custom audience you should work with your own lists, whether you use the paid databases like Meltwater, which is fairly up to date.

You can purchase every journalist's email address, and phone number, basically, and you can easily add them to the custom audiences. You can basically add that to your custom audiences on Twitter. 

Another thing that I looked at in this case was, what are the newspapers in the country that I'm targeting for this particular content piece? I got a list, and then I researched all the journalists who write for those magazines and newspapers.

Once you have that custom audience, you browse selected and untick the expand, you don't want to expand this campaign, you want this campaign to have as few users as possible targeted.

Set your budget. It's completely up to you to test and play around with, and again you want it to be on the lowest end of the scale. You don't want to spend much money, and you want to target only those who you've precisely targeted in your ads. 

Get Social Proof Before Engaging Your Target Audience 

It's nice to see that the audience I targeted actually retweeted it, and liked. A bit of a cheat here, when I ran this one, obviously I didn't get this social interaction by targeting only 800 journalists. What I did, and this is a bit of a hack. It's a two-stage process.

What I did first; I published this to millions of Filipinos. I got the social reactions, and then I targeted the journalists. Because now journalists can see engagement and interaction. And that was a huge amount of comments. Not all the comments were nice. Some of them were, bugger off Aussies, what's your business in the Philippines, and such things. I try not to engage in too much controversy there, but I definitely got a healthy amount of engagement there.

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I use that same ad to pitch to journalists, but now when I pitch the ad to journalists, they saw, it's a hot topic. I've purchased the social interactions, I paid money for them, but I wouldn't have been able to do this, you realize, if the content was bad. I mean bad in the sense that it was uninteresting.

Peter: First you want some social proof, some social evidence on that, and then you can target it to your intended audience.

Dan: That's right. Now when you pitch this they can see that there has been a hot debate on that ad. LinkedIn, you can run campaigns as well although because of the price difference between LinkedIn, and Facebook, and Twitter, I caution only for certain industries. I don't think it would work everywhere, but LinkedIn really does have very nice targeting. 

Facebook's been a bit difficult with some of their publisher targeting and workplace targeting. But LinkedIn definitely has a very precise list. 

On Facebook, I can do the same thing, but obviously, you don't want to be targeting 35 million people. You would deplete your budget fairly quickly if you did that. We are then drilling, browsing into our demographics work, job titles, typing journalist. 

We're down to 800,000, but it's still pretty big. Well, you can actually use exclusion on narrowing of the audience, which is my favorite tactic to get to those 1700 people I'm going to be targeting. And that's exactly what I wanted. So it's in the red, but that's very good for me. 

Structuring Content to Make it Linkworthy

Let's talk about a bit of manual stuff that you can do. What's the best place to eat in Sydney? This is what I asked the audience for one of my customers, and I ran the survey in Australia, and I got a lot of results there. But the winner was McDonald's.

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I thought that's pretty funny, so I created the source of news page, and this is a big deal. You have to have a page that looks like a source of news; something that journalists and bloggers can quote.

And this is a principle as old as anything: key information first, then deeper details, and then very deep information. Because what you want to do, when you pitch your content, when an influencer lands on your content, you can't have any pop-ups, and interruptions happening. You have to provide a very quick answer.

You have to support very easy scanning of that page, they can pick, and choose what they want to get out of it. And you have to add some trust and credibility to the piece like providing the source of your information. 

And then of course, if they want to you have to enable them to go in-depth with their information. That's a whole new topic, but the link is at the bottom on my website where you can see detailed study, and examples of how Web content should be structured.

Peter: Why do you prefer to give away the answer in the title rather than get them to read on? 

Dan: Because it's like sales. Content is like selling. Even when you look at the 10 results of Google's results, and those 10 spots in Google are all screaming at you, click me, the one that screams loudest will be clicked on, and people very often go to look for answers, to look for knowledge, to look for information, to be informed. 

And if the title gives the answer, that's promising. If a journalist says, Sydney locals prefer to eat at a McDonald's. Is the journalist going to say, “that's cool. I know that so I don't need to go any deeper”? No, because it gave them the answer, they're interested now, rather than saying the click bait stuff.

Peter: In my experience what I have found is from the searches, the search engine results pages is that Google likes sending people to results that are trusted, that it knows what's there. Google doesn't like misleading its own user base.

Dan: That's right, Google's trying to be helpful even with videos then don't get to the point within the first 30 seconds, google within results actually sends users to the good part of the video. That's why I do the essence in the title. Very quick facts in the beginning.

Links are a byproduct of your personal interests, of your business engagements, and everything else. One of the key aspects of link building is to understand and map the businesses and peoples’ relationships. 

Mind map everything: brand suppliers, office space providers, web designers, cleaning company. Your brand could be related to other businesses, international, and non-competing, and they might want to link to you.

People, go and speak at events at alumni events, different fans. Obviously, this is just a tiny little sample, and you could do the same thing with topics. You don't have to link build around your core topic. 

You could go from a core topic like let's say you're doing accounting, that's your core topic, and then the next thing you go, one area is software, the other area is bookkeeping, the third area is money management, money management is related to finances, earnings, jobs. You can explore, and explode all your descriptions, and topics just like your mind mapping your link opportunities.

Let's assume you've done all your mind mapping, you've set up your campaigns, your content is great, you're doing a bit of manual link building, you're doing a bit of automated link building. 

How to Detect Links as They Happen

The key thing for me when I was doing this, is how do I detect all these links as they happen? I used to do this manually in Google Analytics by snapping up new referrals, and then eventually I got tired of that process so I built a separate little sub tool on you.algoroo.com. 

You sign in with Google, and you connect your domain with Analytics, you give algoroo access to Analytics, and then it's actually able to track real-time links as they happen.

Link section there can tell you top referrals, anchor text distribution. You'll get a graph like this, that can on top of your Google Analytics traffic, and search console traffic if you connect search control console, and referral traffic you can just enable links, and you can see when new links happened. 

Algoroo looks at all your referrers and memorizes them all in the database. Every time somebody new links to you, it'll know that it's a new link because it's never sent any traffic before. 

The downside of this system is that if the link comes into existence, or you create a link, and doesn't bring a single click, we won't see it in here. The upside of that is, if a link is created, and nobody ever clicks on it, it's a pretty terrible link, and you probably shouldn't have it anyway. 

This is a nice little alert system that tells you when links happened, and if you look at your search console traffic in the same timeline you will be able to see if link acquisition has correlated with any increases in traffic as well. 

What to do When You Don’t Get Enough Links

Peter: Thank you so much, Dan, for sharing all that information. Maybe I can start with the first question to you, which is, what feedback signals do you use to refine that over time?

Dan: I think the biggest problem that I've had over time was that my content just wasn't interesting enough at that time. It wasn't bad content; it just didn't click at that moment in time.

Bloggers and journalists weren't ready. What I do instead is I try to reinvigorate that campaign with some repetition. Once you published that piece of content, it didn't get any links, you don't just dump it. You try again three months down the track, and again, and again before you completely give up.

The most important exercise is to get the number of links from the places that you want. And sometimes I do give up. That's the truth. I spent 500 bucks on a campaign, didn't get a link. I thought it was good content, I thought it was the right time. And then I forget it, and then two years later I look at the search console, and there's a link to that page.

Don't worry about it. If you don't get a link, and you still have a great piece of content on your site, and it's a gift that's going to keep giving, even when you're not pushing it, somebody might read it, appreciate it, and then link to it if they want to. 

The worst case scenario for you in this situation is, you spend a bit of money on content development and marketing, and you ended up with a great piece of content that people might read, and enjoy and find in search. You're increasing your search queries range, you're adding to the authoritativeness of your site, and as a bonus, you might earn some links. Let's call it that way.

Peter: Okay, Julie what's what's your take on that with the quality of content, I guess is so important to be able to link to a good piece of content?

Julie: Yeah, absolutely. Obviously, your links do need to bring you traffic, and you will be proud as well of the content you created. Whether, or not you're a small business or big business, you want to be creating content that is great. 

And whether you have a team of copywriters, or PR people working with you, it's really important to have quality content, I definitely agree with that. It's not an easy thing to do as well. 

We also have a question from our good friend, Wolf, how is your favorite platform for cold email outreach? Another digital marketing channel, do you use Buzzsumo, or what do you like to use?

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Dan: We've used Buzzsumo, that's probably the team's preferred platform. When I do it, I do it manually.

Julie: Is there a reason for that?

Dan: Yes. Because I just did a bit of proofreading of emails, outreach emails for a new client. We're designing an outreach campaign for them, and the emails that were sent through to me for review, that were going to be templated, plugged in, and sent out. And I've reviewed the template, and it was just not going to work. Because in every email we need something that connects with the human on the human level. 

Link Building Tips for Small Businesses

Peter: I'll go to the next one. Rebecca McNeil asked a question, and I guess this is another big topic, but just very quickly, what are some top tips for link building for small businesses? Is there any reference material we can give for Rebecca, or maybe a very quick takeaway?

Julie: I'd love to add to that actually, I wanted to ask Dan, what are your favorite news sources? Where do you get your news, what do you find the easiest way to digest it? I know our current podcast, if I feel like I'm getting a really long drive ahead of me, that's what I'll do. What do you do?

Dan: That's an easy answer. My news source is Google Discover of course, and nothing else. I've clicked Reddit, I've been on Reddit for five years, and I found it to be an incredible time sinkhole. And I think I'm one year clean, and I'm never going to go back to that place. Dangerous for somebody with an inquisitive mind, lots of rabbit holes in there. 

Google Discover is very well trained at the moment on my phone, on my account, and it provides super fine tuned results that are very tuned to my interests. 

Going to Peter's question about local link building, it's one of the easiest, and one of my favorite link building styles.

Because it's all to do with the local community. If I just took my daughter to school, I can sponsor a local school, or a soccer club, or a local event, do a bit of charity work. And I prefer when I went to do local link building that it's not just for links, that it's a bit for exposure, for branding, for traffic, and I can actually help somebody do something. 

Engagement with the local community is one of my favorites. One of my personal, not necessarily for small business, one of my personal favorites was engagement with the scientific communities around the world. Supporting initiatives like biodiversity, recycling, human rights, nature preservation, marine biology, astronomy, physics. One area that's really burnt right, and SEO industry ruined it, that's the scholarships.

If you go to any scholarship page now, it's absolutely ruined. Because you'll see like Bob's locksmiths, South Brisbane scholarship for cryogenics.

Link Inversion

Peter: I've got another question here, actually it's a tough one. Brody Clarke, who's asked here. He has a question about link inversion. I scrape a site that has a higher authority than your site, has solely your content, then republish it, and is now getting a better link juice, a better result. They're using self-referencing canonicals, I know this is getting probably quite a bit more advanced here, but do you have any quick answers to this?

Dan: If a scraper site that has higher authority than yours, that's a bit of a ... it's contradictory. If it's a scraper site it probably doesn't have the high authority, but let's assume it's like a newspaper. They just took your content, and they outrank you by republishing it. But you had self-referencing canonicals in the place. For the listeners who don't understand what that means, basically the content then they stole, they stole verbatim with all the source code, and everything, and the page is canonicalizing back to your domain.

Technically it's Google's job at that moment to give you the credit, and you appear in the results regardless of that page, stealing your content. I've shown experiments with mixed results on this because canonical is a suggestion, not a directive. 

Sometimes they obey it, sometimes they don't. I just don't know. But the question is, what impact do you think that would have with respect to the theory in any way? It's a tricky question. But it's a nice one because there are some suggestions that, okay, what is Link inversion?

Link inversion is a mechanism within Google that deals with duplicate pieces of content on the web. Let's say you've got two pieces of content. I'm going to use sticky notes. This is the one where you published, and this is the one that just copied your content, and published it side by side. 

This one suddenly gets high authority in Google's eyes, and Google says, this is canonical, and you are a copy. And all the links from you now belong to them. Because they need to consolidate all their link signals into a single URL, which they call the canonical URL, so their page then can function.

This brings us to the interesting question that Brody asked about what happens when ... I think the question is what happens when the publisher copies, but copies it with canonical, and they have higher authority. According to the theory, the authority of the page that stole your content should pass or should be treated as your page. 

Many links pointing to that website could benefit your page. The only way to prove this is to run a test. So Brody, roll up your sleeves, and run a test, and then publish the results, and then we'll share it for you.

Link Building for Large Online Retailers

Julie: I've got another question from Sarah Paul, this is a very good one. What is your opinion on the best way to build on a large scale especially for online retailers that are really big like, Harvey Norman or Myer? I know on my perspective I work really closely with the PR teams in terms of each campaign, what's going on, what can I do, how can we leverage that, and what's your opinion?

Dan: I've had really good success with large scale building for big brands. The main problem is not in the ability to secure links, because you have a well-known brand, and links tend to be fairly easy to create if the content is great.

The problem is that most of the links in most of these campaigns are going to completely wrong pages. I don't want Harvey Norman's blog post to be linked, I don't want the Myers website to be a blog post to be linked. I want the product page in the category to be linked.

That is the tricky part that I'm currently solving with my team, we're running some interesting tests on scaling link building towards product, and category pages. I'll give you a hint, take a bit of goodness that you would normally put on the blog, and I make sure it sits on the product page.

A bit of statistics, a bit of news, something about that latest phone, blah, blah, blah. I put it on the product landing page, and I make it easy when I refer to it, to get to it. Another pro tip is anchor points within a page.

You can have harveynorman.com.au/productURL#insights. When you link to that, he jumps directly to the linkable content. Now I'm not linking to the blog, I'm linking directly to the product page, directly to the section that needs the link. And whether somebody links #this, #that, it's not going to matter, the main page gets the authority.

Peter: Thank you very much. We are running out of time. This has been the Australian Search Marketing Academy webinar. With that, I'll say bye, we'll see you next time.

Julie: Bye, thanks, everyone.

Dan: Bye.

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