Happy New Year and welcome to the first Link Week of 2011!  Just like last year, Julie Joyce, Eric Ward and I have compiled our link building predictions, recommendations, tips and trends for 2011. As you’ll see, our thoughts are as different as we are and cover a wide range of topics and sites.

When I talked to Julie about contributing to this article she laughed and said “I can look back and say I 100% agree with what I wrote in 2010, it all still works”.  She was right of course, it does all still work, but Julie also had a number of points to add for 2011:

Julie Joyce’s Link Building Predictions for 2011


  1. Google Toolbar PageRank will continue to matter less when we’re looking for a good link building opportunity. Currently, it’s more of a client issue (clients love that toolbar PageRank!) but link builders will need to step up and better educate clients about other ways to indicate a quality opportunity.
  2. Bing and Blekko will become more explored areas when we’re trying to find great places to build links. Link builders will begin looking to alternatives to Google search listings, while still heavily relying on Google. No, Google is never going away.
  3. We’ll see more of a focus on how to actually secure links, rather than just ways to generate lists of sites. Without the right approach, a list is worth just about nothing.
  4. More of an emphasis will be placed on creating a well-balanced link portfolio with links coming from social media platforms, directories, blogs, old sites, new sites, etc. Just as we’ve advised building up links that were once thought of as undesirable (no-followed links and banners, to name a few) we will be advising on ways of expanding the sources from which you garner links and the types of links that you can expect to get.
  5. Big brands have most of the power when it comes to online marketing. However, expect to see smaller brands ranking better based on customer reviews and social media engagement.

A tip regarding Julie’s point about “small brands ranking better”, Trendhunters listed “anti-corporation sentiment” as their number one consumer trend of 2011. If you’re a small or new business you might want to read the article for ideas how to incorporate this trend into your marketing strategy.

Eric Ward’s Link Building Predictions for 2011


Two of Eric’s comments are focused on the link building profession, they’re sensitive points and hard to discuss so I’m glad he brought them up. Here’s Eric:

  1. First prediction is easy, and taken straight from the panicked emails I receive from soon to be clients. It goes something like this. “Help! We’ve been using (vendor name) for our link building and whatever they did stopped working and we don’t know why. We used to be at #1 for (insert keyword), now we are 13th. Can you help and when can you start? (First answer:  maybe. Second: March). My prediction? Half-assed link builders with no strategic vision will join the unemployment line.
  2. Real time linking signals will be analyzed, scrutinized, and studied to death, in hopes of identifying the precious few truly useful signals that indicate merit. While some social-only brands will emerge and gain influence, the majority of quality signals for any given social account will come from the non-social link profiles associated with those social profiles. In other words, my Twitter account gains influence because of my website’s link profile. This isn’t a perfect metric, but it will help keep social algo-gamers from ruining things.
  3. Those of us who have continued to learn the most about link building strategies and tactics will find that we are forced to close the curtain on public descriptions and disclosures of those tactics. Private newsletters from real experts with actionable advice make a comeback.

7 Link Building Recommendations For 2011 From Debra Mastaler


My personal recommendations for this year touch on a wide variety of topics, beginning with the App-fication Of the Web” down to casting “leery eyes” on people making questionable statements on link building. I’ll start with how the explosion of apps may impact your linking efforts.

  1. There’s been a lot of discussion on the increased use of apps (apps = software applications) and how they have the ability to keep us away from websites. If you couple that with the news blogging is in decline as well as source sharing (see below), we’ll have less opportunity to showcase our content and attract links in the future.

    To combat this, develop a loyal  following to tap into for link building and product announcements. Capture email addresses when you can and think about splitting your link marketing campaigns so one focuses on building link popularity and the other generates traffic, emails and social media followers. If apps do keep people away from sites and there’s less blogs to host our content, you’ll be ready with a built-in base of devoted fans to ask for links. And if all of this is bunk, you’ll still have a great resource.

  2. If you haven’t been using social media sites like  Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and MySpace in your link marketing efforts, this is the year to do it! Using strategies such as partnership marketing and targeted email campaigns, you can tap the deep resources these platforms hold and use them to find links. I don’t plan to stop using content promotions as our primary way of attracting links, but with 50 million people using LinkedIn, Facebook is the number one most visited site on the Web and Twitter booming, it’s hard not to focus your attention here.

    Let’s look at a couple ways you can use social media to build links:

    • MySpace. Yes I know, Myspace is having a rough time at the moment but that doesn’t change the fact they’re a hip, popular network powerhouse for bands and entertainers. The appeal here from a linking standpoint is the ability you have to leverage that “hip” factor. One way is to find a band on Myspace using your keywords in the group name and developing a partnership marketing program.

      For example, if you owned a pet supply store and searched Myspace for the word “dog”, you would find several bands using the word “dog” in their band name. Research the group, see if there’s any demographic fit, take into account the number of followers the band has on MySpace (higher is better) and then approach band management with ideas for a joint partnership. The opportunities here are endless for both on and offline marketing,  you’ll start building links with the big media push you make announcing the partnership. MySpace might have a dumb logo but the site is link cool.
    • LinkedIn. With over 50 million users, LinkedIn is the place to network with business professionals, establish credibility and attract links and sales leads. We focus our attentions on LinkedIn Answers (which is similiar to Answers.com.) and participate in  Q&A using our keywords. RSS feeds make it easy to answer quickly and we always include a link back to our site as reference. In time, your credibility will be established and people come directly to you  as well as refer you to others. When you’re done answering, ask for the link.
    • Facebook.With no direct link love coming from Facebook, it’s easy to ignore as a link source and use only as a branding tool.  Which is fine of course, but if you’re looking for links, one way to get them is to focus on NetworkedBlogs for guest blogging opportunities. People who add their blogs to this Facebook application tend to be more marketing savvy (or they wouldn’t be listed there!) and receptive to a guest blogging pitch. Also, backlink blogs ranking well  in NetworkedBlog for additional link sources.
  3. Take a look at all the groups on Facebook associated with your keywords or location. Look at the members and make note of who’s blogging. When you find them, contact for link and content hosting opportunities. You can also buy targeted ads by region, gender, keywords. etc.  

    We’ve had luck running ads offering discount coupons since they’re easy to track via the promotion code. Once the coupon has been redeemed, we email the user and offer additional discounts as well as incentives to link. Use the Facebook coupon or the fact you belong to the same Facebook group as an ice-breaker and/or point of commonality, email response and open rates are always higher when we do.

    All the old linking tactics still work and I recommend you keep doing them but, don’t overlook using social media sites just because they pass minimal link juice. There are ways to get quality dofollow links by using them!

  4. Using the general directories is fine (they still work) but given the competitive nature of most industries, you’ll want to look for fresh sources and sites to add your content to. Ask your friends and social media followers for content and video sources. I recently sent a message through a LinkedIn group asking if anyone wanted to host an unique article I had written; three people responded quickly and offered  their blogs. Sometimes it really is that easy!
  5. Contract exclusively with your copywriters. Building a unique voice in a busy niche is important, don’t use a writer/service your competitors are also using.
  6. Find a private forum and/or discussion center and join it. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I share less detailed information on my blog because link building has become less about “how” you link and all about “where”. It’s the “where” or quality sites people are reluctant to publicly share. If you find good quality sources to host your links, you build a wall around your rankings and insulate yourself from algorithm changes. But if you depend solely on publicly shared sources and information, you’ll keep chasing the algorithm because the law of averages will always work against you.

  7. There are a number of private forums out there, here are three for your consideration: SEOBook Forum, The SEO Training Dojo and the community center in Webmaster World. Membership costs vary, find one and make it your home, you’ll learn a tremendous amount, be exposed to quality sources, cutting edge tactics and make a lot of new friends. (Disclaimer: I am a moderator on the SEOBook Forum.)

    I’m going to close by sharing a list of things I recommend you avoid:

  8. Don’t use one or two types of link building tactics exclusively, even if they’re content related. Now more than ever, it’s important to have a wide range of campaigns running simultaneously, doing so helps take advantage of all the outlets being tapped and fed into the search results. If you’re not sure what outlets I’m talking about, here’s an article Danny Sullivan wrote recently on the subject.
  9. Be leery of people making strong, blanket statements about links and link building without backing up their claims with verifiable proof. When broad statements similar to this one are made:
  10. Reagrding .gov and .edu links …consider them the “holy grail of links”, they will have a massive impact on ranking a targeted keyword

    or

    One of the most reliable, long-term strategies you can use to develop a competitive domain is link baiting.

    and the person making the comment is not a Google/Bing/Blekko employee, is not the campaign creator and doesn’t have research results to share, look for more opinions. Not only are the statements incorrect, they are potentially harmful if someone took them at face value.

    For the record, here is what Google Engineer Matt Cutts says about .edu/.gov links, not all link bait hits a home run.

On behalf of Eric, Julie and myself, we also would like to welcome the newest Link Week columnist, Ross Hudgens, and we would like to thank everyone for reading Link Week, for your comments and your tweets.

We wish you good health, good fortune and great links in 2011!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Week Column

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About The Author: of LinkSpiel.com and Alliance-Link is based in Fairfax Station Virginia and offers link marketing consultations and content partner services.

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  • http://docsheldon.com Doc Sheldon

    Great piece, Debra! Out of all of them, the only one I disagree with is Eric’s third, and TBH, that may be wishful thinking on my part. However, I do see newsletters making a comeback already, so he may be right on that one, as well.

  • http://www.searchworxx.com Marcus C

    Eric is dreaming with his first prediction. Those linkbuilders will still be alive and well for years to come unfortunately, they just won’t survive in the most competitive industries.

    My prediction for 2011 is that an “Influence” algorithm will gain momentum, wherein Google will begin to associate the most influential (most liked, most shared, most tweeted) social media content with its creators, and assign influence “scoring” to them. The non-social sites those creators operate gain more ranking love from Google even without direct links. This is somewhat of the opposite direction Eric sees in his second prediction, but I believe they achieve similar ends. I think this purifies the social media content pool, where people begin to add real value to generate Influence, whether its on social media sites, forums, or blogs and are rewarded with ranking credibility with their websites.

    I don’t think we will see a decline in blogging, rather I see a change in WHERE we blog.

  • http://www.alliance-link.com Debra Mastaler

    Thanks Sheldon, appreciate your comment. :)

  • http://RandyRay RandyRay

    I’m really impressed with Debra Mastaler’s contribution here. She clearly put a lot of thought and effort into what she contributed. Helpful stuff, thanks.

  • http://www.alliance-link.com Debra Mastaler

    @Marcus – Google and Bing are already incorporating the weight and influence of social signals in their algos, how much is the question. Danny asked both engines directly about this and they responded, here’s the link for review: http://searchengineland.com/what-social-signals-do-google-bing-really-count-55389

    You also said this: “I don’t think we will see a decline in blogging, rather I see a change in WHERE we blog”

    My first reaction was to disagree with you on this point but on second thought, if you’re suggesting “guest blogging” will make up for the shortage in blogging because of the emphasis we now place on this as a tactic, you might be right.

    Like I said, I don’t blog as much mainly because link building/marketing is about where you stick links and I can’t share sources and keep clients happy. But a lot of people I know don’t blog much anymore because of time issues.

    @RandyRay – Thank you! It helps when you actually do what you write about, which all three of us – do!

  • http://www.torontoseogroup.com Mike Childs

    Debra I guess I’m in the fan club too. Great post overall but your contribution resonates the most with me.
    Cheers guys – shared.

  • http://www.searchworxx.com Marcus C

    @Debra – Thanks for the reply. I agree with on some level with blogging having some decline, but I find that where there is a decline in blogging things like microblogging and Facebook posts make up the difference. Guest blogging is another tactic, as you deduced, that allows content that would languish on a less-traveled blog become much more important. I still recommend blogging to my clients, including defining the content strategy, and defining the placement strategy.

    Danny’s column is pretty close to my thinking, I just think it becomes a much bigger factor than they are letting on by the end of 2011.

 

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