A year ago, I wrote a post about 50+ things that every link builder should know. Over the past year, link building has definitely gotten a lot tougher — it’s been renamed several times, become more vilified than ever, and generally taken a beating.
However, it still holds up as a viable way to market a website online. So this year, I’m adding 50+ more things that, as a link builder, you need to know.
1. How To Get A Bad Link Removed Without Being A Jerk About It
If you want to get publicly shamed, then go get rude with someone who owns a site that gave you a link, regardless of how it got there. If you want a link removed that you inserted in your comment, be a thousand times nicer than you would have anyway. Just as it takes time to put up a link, it takes time to remove one, so be respectful.
Additionally, don’t forget to point the webmaster to exactly where your link is — he or she may have more than one site, and s/he doesn’t have the time to comb through each page to find a link you vaguely reference.
2. How To Check For Bad Links That Are Getting Passed Through Via 301s That Redirect To Your Site
To see which URLs 301 to the one you’re interested in, run a backlink report and check for them. Then, if you do find any, run backlink reports on those domains. You can also read about a few ways to keep an eye on this here.
3. How To Comply With The FTC’s Disclosure Guidelines
I’d recommend reading all of them and staying informed about anything that’s changed or added.
4. How To Outwit Scrapers
If you haven’t seen a site outranked by a scraper, you haven’t lived. Seriously, it’s a real problem. And if you run a large site that gets scraped often, you can run yourself ragged sending DMCA takedown requests.
Copyscape lets you search for scraped content on the Web, and they have a Copysentry program which regularly monitors the Web to see if anyone has stolen your content. I also like to use alerts (both Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts, both of which are free) to monitor the titles of articles that I create, but that obviously isn’t a good strategy if you’re talking about content for 10,000 products.
If someone does scrape or steal your content, you’ll have to take action. From my experience, once a few scraped sites stop stealing your content, more will emerge — so prepare to keep fighting it. Some people get very creative in order to protect their content, so if you’re having trouble, ask around in a forum. I’m sure you’ll get some answers that aren’t publicly available.
5. How To Curate Content Well
Lots of people already successfully do this, so if you’re going to join them, figure out what they’re already doing and do something different. (After all, no one wants to read curated posts from 10 people that all reference the same articles.) Whether you publish your curated lists publicly, send them out to clients in an email newsletter, or post them for your employees so that they can keep up on industry trends, do something to make them interesting and not just extra work for the recipients.
What I like best in a curated list is finding great articles on lesser-known sites that didn’t come to my attention beforehand, so seek out pieces of content written by people who know their stuff but aren’t necessarily vocal on major platforms.
6. How To Write What People Want To Read
In a presentation I did last year, I talked about using parody sites/shows to gauge popularity, as people don’t usually parody something that no one will understand. See what everyone else is saying and find out what’s missing, then create it. Go against the grain and promote alternative ideas. Look at some of the Q&A sites (like Quora), find out what questions people have, and answer them in your content. Lastly, take notes about what works and doesn’t work.
7. How To Promote Content
No one is sitting around checking your site constantly to see if you have something new (unless you’re really, really lucky).
If you write something, you need to promote it via the channels where your target audience spends the most time. Know how to get eyes on your content, whether it’s through social media promotion, a newsletter, word of mouth, etc.
8. How To Use The Disavow Tool
Hopefully, you’ll never have to use it, but all link builders should know how to properly disavow links that they don’t want to count in their backlink profiles.
Disavowing links is a last-resort tactic that should be used only after all other methods of link removal have failed — so don’t get disavow-happy without doing the hard work first. Barry Schwartz wrote a nice piece on the most common disavow mistakes, so check that out.
9. How To Get A List Of All Your Links
An obvious one, right? Not really, considering all the people who think that they can just get this information from Google Webmaster Tools. Many link tools use their own databases — so chances are, if you run your site through three of them, you’ll get three slightly different lists. Also note that in the tool you use, sometimes you’ll be given a list of the “X number of top links” only, so pay attention to that.
10. How To Check To See If Your Site/Page Was Penalized
Clients (and even some SEOs!) often fail to understand the difference between a penalty and a rankings drop. If your rankings fall from top 5 to top 10, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve been penalized — it could signify that there was an algorithm update, or perhaps a competitor has been doing insanely well and has surpassed you.
If you’re unable to find your site in Google for more than a couple days, that’s a good sign that you’ve been penalized. If your site does not rank for its brand name or URL, that’s another good sign that something is wrong — but whether it’s an actual penalty or something temporary is not always easy to determine. If your site continues to rank well with the exception of a few specific pages, those may indeed be penalized. If you can find brand/URL rankings still but nothing else, that may mean your links have been devalued due to the latest algorithm update, but your site has not technically been penalized.
Check your traffic in any case as that helps clue you in. Just don’t assume that because you’ve fallen a bit in rankings/traffic that you’ve been penalized. Google has recently added Manual Spam Actions to their Webmaster Tools, so make sure you look there, too.
11. How To Determine If You Were The Victim Of An Algorithm Update
Sometimes, looking at traffic for specific dates is the main way you can tell if an algorithm update (such as Penguin or Panda) is to blame. It just gets tricky when there are major changes happening around the same time.
Remember all the articles that tried to help people determine whether they were affected by Panda or Penguin last year? Keep an eye on updates and what they seek to accomplish; if you’ve lost rankings or traffic, see if you might have been bumped due to something those updates “fixed.”
12. How To Make Sure Your Content Matches The Anchor
This is dead simple but so often overlooked. If you have an anchor going to a target, make sure that anchor is present in the content of the target. Not every single anchor will be present in the target, of course, but if you have more than a few, the pages will generally do better if the content and the anchors match up.
13. What Alternative Metrics Are (To PageRank); Where Can They Be Found?
Different tools have different metrics that might make more sense for you than older ones like Google’s Toolbar PageRank.
14. Which Advanced Operators Still Work & Which Ones Don’t?
The incredibly useful + was removed from Google’s list of advanced operators a while back, but there are still some around that can save you a lot of time.
15. Why Load Time & Site Speed Matter
If your site takes a long time to load, Google may be unable to crawl it and update your content. If that happens a few times in a row, you may see your site start to fall in the rankings or even get deindexed. Site speed has been a confirmed ranking factor since 2010, and now there’s a mobile site speed penalty to contend with as well.
If a site takes forever to load, users won’t want to bother — so it’s definitely something to pay attention to and fix if you have a very slow site.
16. How To Make Sure Your Links Work On Mobile Devices
That goes for both your own site (make sure internal links are working) and sites linking to you. Would you want someone to be on a website, see your link, click it, and go nowhere? Nope. Mobile is only increasing in popularity, so you’ll lose a lot of potential traffic/conversions if your site and links don’t work well on mobile devices.
17. How To Choose Your Guest Posting Opportunities Wisely
If the site is full of nothing but spammy guest posts, just avoid it. If it’s a fantastic site that only has relevant, high-quality guest posts, then it might be the right fit. If it looks like they take anyone’s posts, no matter the quality, it’s best avoided. Alternatively, for your own site, don’t just say yes to anyone who contacts you and offers a guest post.
18. How To Conduct Seasonal Campaigns For The Entire World
You know that really cool country called New Zealand? Well they have winter while those of us in the US have summer. Crazy, right?
Kalena Jordan made me really think about how seasonal marketers mess up when she said this on Facebook: “I am SO sick of receiving promotions lately from big brands that start with ‘How’s your Summer, Kalena?’ or ‘Massive Summer Sale!’ when they should know it’s Winter in NZ.”
19. Why Class Cs Are Important
A Class C is the 3rd set of numbers in an IP address. If you have a lot of links from the same Class C, it looks like a network. No one wants their link profile to look like it’s been built from a network.
20. How To Find Out If Your Site Has Been Hacked
Regularly do a site: search for your website in Google and go through the results. Set up some alerts for commonly used words in hacks (Cialis, Viagra, etc.) with your URL/brand in them, and you’ll hopefully see it right after it happens. There’s a Malware section in both Bing’s and Google’s Webmaster Tools, so check this regularly, too.
21. How To Find An Alternative For Any Tool That You Rely On
Some have regular downtime or may otherwise be temporarily inaccessible. Some might be free ones where the creator decides not to continue them. Some might get bought by a company that you don’t like, or move from a free version to a paid version. No matter what, always have a backup tool for everything you use.
22. How To Tell If A Site Is A Member Of A Network
From obvious clues like language found on the site (member of, network, proud member of network, etc.) and badges to less obvious ones like the same template as 100 other sites or the same Google Analytics/AdSense ID found on 100 sites, it’s sometimes easy and sometimes really, really difficult to identify whether a site is indeed a member of a network. It’s sometimes even harder to determine whether it’s a member of a problematic network, but dig around and you’ll usually be able to tell.
23. What A Redirect Chain Is & Why It’s Bad
A redirect chain happens when one site redirects to a second one and then that second site redirects to a third one, and so on. These can happen with various combinations of server-side redirect types and coded redirects, but they put undue stress on servers. My biggest problem with them is that I can’t usually find a single explanation for why one was put into place, as they rarely make sense.
24. How To Use A Tool To Crawl A Site & Identify Problems
Screaming Frog is indispensable. (And no, I haven’t found a good alternative… I might need to get on that!)
25. There Is A Bing Webmaster Tools… Just Sayin’
Bing Webmaster Tools not only exists, but is actually pretty cool — in fact, it even has some functionality that Google doesn’t. I love the SEO suggestions especially because you can see some obvious things you’ve missed, and it’s simple enough for a novice to understand.
26. How To Do Much Of Your Job Without A Tool
I know you can’t exactly go check out 500 redirects by hand or accurately gauge site speed without a tool. But you should be able to look at a site and determine whether it’s a good place for a link. You should be able to find link opportunities without using a tool to do it for you. You should be able to actually tweet something without it being scheduled. I could go on. Remember, too, that tools often go down just when you need them most!
27. What Footprints Are & Why They Can Be Dangerous
As I’ve said before, algorithms change in response to patterns that emerge when people try to game the system. If you’re using the same tactic that everyone else is using and it gets abused, you might find that it’s cracked down on in the next update.
28. What Words Trigger Email Spam Filters
This is obviously quite handy to know for link building outreach. You can find good lists online for this, though some contain words that might be difficult to avoid for certain niches. Ultimately, you may just have to test it out; if you aren’t getting a good response rate for emails, look through them to see if any words stand out as being potential problems. For example, we stopped including full URLs in our outreach emails because we worried that might be triggering spam filters. When we made this change, our response rate shot up.
29. What Evergreen Content Is & Why It Matters
Evergreen content is content that is useful both when it’s published and afterward. It can be added to, bookmarked and referenced — and it generally won’t be totally incorrect in a year. Such content attracts links simply by being authoritative , and it can continue to generate rankings and visibility because it’s based on something that people need to know about and continue to refer to. (Here’s a great piece that further explores that concept.)
30. What Crowdsourcing Means, Why It’s Awesome & Why Some People Hate It
Crowdsourcing is using other people to help you do something. It’s awesome because the people included tend to promote the content and add to your pool of promoters, but some people hate it because they think it’s a lazy way to build content (or they’re just annoyed by the buzzword).
31. How To Track ROI Of Links That Happen Well After An Event
There are many different ways to do this depending upon whether this event was online (new content, for example), an actual in-person event (like a dinner conference that your business puts on), or even something like handing out your business cards to 10 people at a party. Regardless of what you’re doing to generate links, know how to measure ROI.
32. How PageRank Flows With Nofollows
If you have 10 links off a page with PR5 and 5 of those links are nofollowed, the remaining 5 followed links still only get 1/10 of the PageRank. The nofollowed 5 get nothing, really, but are still used to split it up.
33. What Google Authorship Is & Why It Matters
As Matt McGee reported last year:
Google has confirmed that there’s a hidden benefit to having authorship status: If a user returns to the search results after reading an author-tagged search result for a certain period of time, Google will add three additional links to similar articles from the same author below the originally clicked link.
That’s one of many reasons why you should use it.
34. How To Tell What’s Normal For Your Industry
It’s important to know what techniques are normal within your industry. Even if you don’t think you need to, look at what your competitors are doing and how they build links. Look at things like whether they tend to have more deep links than homepage links, or whether they use social media much.
It’s a good way to be at the forefront of something that no one else is doing or to catch up on what they’re all doing but you aren’t yet. (However, as a caveat, don’t think that just because your niche tends to do something that goes against common sense or violates Google’s guidelines, you should do it too.)
35. <meta name=”robots” content=”noydir,noodp”>
The human-edited directories Yahoo Directory and Dmoz have both been around for so long that some of the information displayed for your site is very outdated. This command tells search engines not to display that old meta information.
36. How To Tell If A Site Is Indexed In The Engines & What It Means If It’s Not
When link prospecting, it’s always good to check whether or not a site you’re looking to get a link from is indexed in search engines. Use a [site:url.com] search, and if you see nothing, it’s not there. If it’s not in Google and is more than a few weeks old, that’s a really bad sign and could mean that the site has been penalized and deindexed.
The problem could be temporary, of course, but if you find a site that isn’t indexed in Google, it’s a sign that you probably don’t want your link there. Some of the link risk analysis tools use this as a way to gauge how risky a link is, so it’s definitely a good way to initially identify problems.
37. Why Rankings Don’t Tell The Full Story
You can see different rankings depending upon different factors, so getting a true idea of where a site ranks for a keyword is very tricky. If you’re logged into Google, you’ll see different results than if you aren’t logged in. Rankings also fluctuate, and some people get way too upset if they slip in the rankings temporarily, even if the site goes right back to where it was in 24 hours.
Of course, if your rankings tank completely, it’s potentially a sign that you have a serious problem, so check things out. Just don’t think that rankings are the only thing that matters.
38. …But How To Properly Check Them Anyway
Sign out of Google, for one thing, then do a manual search for your keyword(s). It’s that simple. You can see your rankings in Webmaster Tools, but if you’ll notice, it is an average position. Take a baseline however you want to and use it for trending purposes.
39. Why Link Placement On The Page Matters
Some areas (like the footer and sidebar) have been spammed up places for links for a long time now, and a link there isn’t as valuable as a link that’s placed in context. Also read up on the Reasonable Surfer model, and you can see that where a link is placed can affect its likelihood of being clicked.
40. Whether Link Building Is Illegal Or Not
I have no idea why anyone would think that Google’s guidelines for inclusion in their index are actually built on legal authority, but some people do think that building links is illegal. It’s not. Paid links and some other forms of link building do go against some of the Google guidelines, but that doesn’t mean they’re illegal. It means that if you violate their guidelines, you’re subjected to being penalized or removed from their index.
41. What A Citation Is
It’s a mention, basically, of a brand name or a URL. Theoretically, it could be really important if a brand is mentioned in a popular post but there’s no link, as it causes people to search for the brand and increase their search volume. It’s also important because if someone mentions you without linking to you, it’s a link opportunity waiting to happen.
42. What A Co-Citation Is
A co-citation can refer to one of two things:
- The other links included near mentions of your brand or links to your website in a piece of content, or
- The keywords surrounding mentions of your brand or links to your website in a piece of content.
We would consider it a good co-citation if we were quoted in an article alongside industry authorities, for example. Similarly, if you have links on 100 sites, and words like “branding agent” or “logo creator” are mentioned near the links, your site will become more associated with those terms.
43. Why Nonscaleable Methods Are Still Valuable
If something works well once or twice but isn’t scaleable, it’s still good to have done it, right? Maybe you learned how to do it differently so that you can scale it in the future, or maybe the ROI was simply worth the time put in.
44. How To Scale Outreach
Buzzstream is one of the most frequently mentioned outreach tools and can be invaluable if you have a list of sites you want to contact. I prefer to do outreach requests by hand as they’re much more personalized that way, but I confess to loving Buzzstream.
45. How To Remove A Page From The Index If You Need To
Google and Bing both allow you to do this within their respective Webmaster Tools, but you can also add noindex meta tags or remove the page from your sitemaps (if you use those) and wait for the pages to get dropped.
46. When To Recommend That A Deindexed Site Start Over
There are sites that have been penalized and have spent over a year doing link cleanup, disavows, and reconsideration requests — and have still gotten nowhere. I have a friend with a site that went through all that, was indexed and up and running again, then got hit by another update. While he was not deindexed again, his rankings tanked to the extent that he is starting over with a fresh site.
47. What To Expect After You Submit A Reconsideration Request
There’s a lot of waiting, generally — and many times, you’ll be told that your profile still has questionable links. If you’re expecting to magically have your site restored to its former glory, you will be very, very disappointed.
48. What Steps Should Be Taken If You Inherit A Link Campaign
Number one is to analyze the site’s backlinks in the most intense way possible. While I try to stay optimistic that people will give me the full picture, many times the person handing it over either doesn’t know what was done, doesn’t think something was important enough to mention, doesn’t care, or intentionally tries to hide something. Regardless of what you’re told, you need to do your own research and see what was actually done.
49. What An EMD Is
It’s an exact match domain. There was a Google filter launched around a year ago that knocked a lot of EMDs out of top positions. EMDs used to be one of the most successful ways to rank a site, as having a keywordized URL was a sign that your site was really and truly about something specific. However, like almost everything else that worked, it became overused to the point that Google finally did something about it. You can still find many of them ranking well, though.
50. How To Use The Wayback Machine
I use this every day and it really is helpful to see what a site used to be if you think it might be a dropped domain, for example. Enter your URL here and hit “Take Me Back,” then click on a date and see the site as it used to be on that date. You can even view the code from those dates, which can be very useful.
51. What Sitelinks Are
They’re those indented entries for other pages on your site that appear in the SERPs. In addition to making your site’s entry look more authoritative, they obviously up the odds for some good internal pages to get visited.
52. How To Use The Google Structured Data Tool & What A Rich Snippet Is
Used for specific content types like reviews, recipes, products, etc., a rich snippet is the bit of text that appears in the Google SERPs once they are able to get more information about your content and display it in a more informative manner. The Google Structured Data Tool can give you detailed information about your structured data markup (including whether or not Google Authorship has been implemented correctly) — so seriously, use it and test your pages.
53. How To Tell Your Client The Truth About Risk
If you don’t know whether the tactics you use are risky, you need to find out, and come clean with the client. If they sign off on those tactics, that’s fine, but if they have no idea what you’re doing and how badly it can hurt them if they get caught, you don’t deserve to call yourself an SEO.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.