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Linkbuilding Tactics, Tools and Traps: Wise Words from Dixon Jones of Majestic SEO

12 May 2011 BY

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Editorial: With wide open arms we welcome Claire Carlile to our blogging team! We have seen some of her blogging in the past and know she can write. We have seen her work and know she knows what she is talking about and we have met her so we know she is a great person. All ingredients to be part of the State of Search blogging team. Welcome a board Claire, good luck! Below you find her first post entitled “Linkbuilding Tactics, Tools and Traps: Wise Words from Dixon Jones of Majestic SEO”.

OK, so here goes, my inaugural post on State of Search, please be gentle with me.

I’m a big fan of live blogging and follow up posts on conferences and presentations for a number of reasons:

• Firstly you get to attend a conference (triple win: professional development, networking and party combined!)
• Secondly if your blog is any good you’ll earn links and social shares, which is always nice.

Now, live blogging can mean different things to different people. Some folks manage to tap out the entire content of the session and press publish before the speaker has even left the room (like Kieron Hughes blogging ThinkVis), others endeavour to get the post live within the hour. Some bloggers take slightly longer to post their content, preferring to assimilate the information presented, support the points made by the presenter with careful linking and their own thoughts, or present ‘round up’ versions of events focusing on key takeaways (fancy 301 takeaways and tops tips from SES London, anyone?).

Like Kieron, on March the 4th I had the not so dubious pleasure of attending ThinkVisibility, a 1 day SEO conference set in the rather illustrious premises of a casino in Leeds (round up post from State of Searches own SEOPanda here). Happy days. I scribbled copious notes, live blogged Annabel’s and Paddy Moogan’s sessions but FAILED miserably to make the most of the nuggets of wisdom offered on the subject of ‘gathering link intelligence’ by Dixon Jones of Majestic SEO. Last week I dug them out, and decided that they deserved to be shared. Here they are, and for those of you committed enough to read until the very end (don’t just scroll down, cheaters) there’s a chance to win a month’s FREE access to the Majestic SEO link intelligence toolset.

TACTIC 1: Using the press

Nope, he’s not suggesting mangling your arch competitors, Dixon means making the most of the potential to squeeze links out of authoritative and trusted online media sites. He gives the example of beautifulpeople.com – strapline ‘where beautiful relationships begin’ (yick).


Beautiful people: where you can date a dancer, a snake charmer, or….a lion. But if you like your potential love match to be on the rotund side, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

As a dating agency they sit in the competitive arena of the online dating niche, their brand at the time wasn’t particularly newsworthy, and they had a new site that they needed to promote and raise awareness of.

Solution: Make an outrageous statement about how overweight members are no longer welcome on the site and then write it all up in a spangly press release:

“Letting fatties roam the site is a direct threat to our business model and the very concept for which BeautifulPeople.com was founded.” - Robert Hintze, site founder

No porkers allowed.

Result? Links from The Telegraph, The BBC, CNN, SKY and many others.

TOOL

Dixon used Majestic’s own referring domains discovery tool (as well as supporting evidence from Alexa and Compete, he’s a multi tool kind of guy like that.) It shows that the site traffic reflects the link acquisition chart; good link bait led to good links which led to good traffic.

TRAP

The ‘noise’ and traffic was transitory, which Dixon sees as a typical result of a PR linkbuilding strategy. This needs to be supported by a more long term strategy which will focus on partnerships and relationships.

TACTIC 2: Blogger links the easy way

Getting blogger links the easy way might include spending money and hiring a blogger through networks to write articles for you.

Getting blogger links the ‘right’ way might include:

  • Getting to know them on a personal level – relationships as key
  • Showing them that you have something that their readers cannot live without
  • Just like newspapers, bloggers LOVE exclusives. Exclusivity FTW.

TOOLS

Find the right bloggers using blog search engines, and then measure their levels of social klout using social monitoring tools to check levels of twitter engagement. Do they get retweeted often? What’s their follower / following ratio? How many times have they been listed? Check to see if they appear in your custom search engine (see Tactic 3) and check to see if the inner pages of their blog have (real) links and authority.

Tactic 3: Using Google

TOOLS

  • Use advanced search operators to find easy links
  • Use http://directory.google.com/ (DMOZ) to find authoritative sites within your vertical or niche
  • Build a custom Google search engine containing the sites relevant to your project. Add your site, your direct competitors, those linking to your competitors, and sites ranking for your keyphrases.

Use Clique Hunter on Majestic SEO (and also link intersect on SEOMoz) as a co citation tool, enter your own site and a number of your competitors to find the links they have, that you don’t.

TACTIC 4: Link reclamation

According to Dixon – “one of the coolest tricks in the book”.

TOOLS

Run a backlink report on your site, then use a bulk header checker to view http status codes. Check all links to make sure they have a 200 or 301 response, and fix all of the 302’s and 404’s. Recommendations for bulk header checkers? Receptional Labs has a free tool (requires registration), and also live HTTP headers for Firefox (NB unfortunately still not updated to work with latest version of FF). There are others, but most do not record whether or not there is one, or multiple, redirections in place.

TACTIC 5: Levelling the competition

  • Develop an awareness and understanding of your competitions best links and strategies
  • You need to neutralise them, emulate them, and do better

TOOLS
Grab all of the anchor text for your competitor links, put it all in www.tagcrowd.com (personally I like www.wordle.net) and see what the tag cloud of their anchor text links are:

This offers an at a glance representation of the anchor text of their external links, and you can make a rough and ready approximation of brand name links vs other words and phrases, perhaps event highlighting issues of over-optimisation of anchor text in your own or competitors backlink profile.

Dixon also illustrates an analysis of link quality via normalised distribution (try saying that after one too many g&t’s):

TACTIC 6: Low hanging fruit

TOOLS
Use in depth backlink reports like those provided by Majestic SEO and and SEOMoz’s Open Site Explorer to identify these easy link building strategies which can include:

  • Low quality directories
  • Buying network links
  • Very unrelated sites
  • Spam syndication

Dixon recommends: avoid, avoid, avoid! These are predominantly the tactics employed in the JC Penney linkbuying debacle and are the road to ruin.

Tactic 7: Using social – the case of technobait

TOOLS
Dixon takes the example of paper.li – which he sees as one of the ultimate tools for leveraging the power of vanity bait. If you’re not familiar with it, paper.li offers on online and personalised newspaper built from all the articles, blog posts, videos and photos shared by an individual on Twitter or Facebook.

Interestingly enough:

  • The links are transitory – mostly URL shorteners in social media form
  • The content changes every 24 hours so they lose their contextual relevance, making even static links relatively poor for search engines
  • The campaign is entirely automated yet entirely social in nature

So how has this affected the link graph for paper.li?

The graphs (via Majestic SEO, who’d have guessed? ;) show a very sustained link campaign with almost exponential link growth and illustrates an example of a long term strategy that can potentially dominate a market sector.

Tactic 8 using WordPress tricks

TOOLS

  • Use pingback to pick up mentions
  • Competitions – top 10 [keyword] bloggers
  • Use the redirection plug in for link reclamation
  • Use Pingomatic and social media plug ins (like ping.fm)

TACTIC 9 Becoming the authority that others refer to

This is an interesting little case study of an old tool that we’ve all probably used at some point or other (particularly the jetset amongst us), the XE UCC currency conversion widget (perhaps the earliest example of widget bait?) that failed to grow up and move with the times.

Despite still ranking number 1 for ‘currency conversion’ and other high volume related phrases their site traffic is falling, and although they are still gaining links, they are losing them faster than they are generating them.

TOOLS


Compete.com shows decreasing traffic, and Majestic illustrates the decrease in backlinks discovery over the months

TRAP
Whilst XE still rank highly for their money terms, they are no longer the ‘go to resource’ for their previous link partners as other technologies have replaced them. They failed to innovate, didn’t create a barrier to entry and perhaps assumed that links from their previously strong relationships with their link partners would be forever.

That’s it! Dixon rounds up:

  • Links should equal traffic
  • Press can be influential but it needs to be a sustained approach
  • Technology can be powerful
  • Create authority, interaction, sustainability, and barriers to entry

And also, because he’s a true gent, Dixon makes it clear that there are a number of link research tools available, and gives a plug for each of them: Wordtracker link builder, Linkdex, SEOMoz, Market Samurai, SEOBook, and Compete.

And now for the ‘win free stuff’ part. Fancy winning yourself a month of free access to the Majestic Silver plan, giving you access to a range of link intelligence tools and reports? Of course you do. Just answer this rather esoteric and random question, and leave your answer in the comments below.

This’ll suit any car fetishists…Dixon drives a very unusual vehicle – what’s it called?

That’s it! Thanks for reading, and happy link intelligence gathering :)

AUTHORED BY:
h

Claire Carlile is a Chartered Marketer with an MSc in Marketing, living and working in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. As a self confessed ‘non technical’ SEO, Claire takes a holistic and marketing led approach to SEO. She is self-employed.
  • http://paulgailey.com Paul Gailey

    great article, I’m curious though if tactic 1 works *because* it’s supplied int eh press release as “example.com” rather than Example and the default CMS of the national media turns it into a link OR because there was explicit intention by thejourno to create an outbound link.

    Also tactic 8, how damaging or not is enabling pingbacks of your content by scraper sites. The noise of scraper pingbacks has recently led me to disabling them out the gate.

    lastly, I’ll take a punt on the car and I’m no buff: it’s a cross between a Morgan and a Caterham (Morgham?) but it’s defintely an “image_00022.jpg” elsewhere.

    • http://www.clairecarlilemarketing.com Claire Carlile

      Well hello Paul! Re the car, I’m afraid computer says no – this is not the name I have on my card! Although perhaps you should get special points for making up a random name based on some weird hybrid. Very creative :)

      As for your other questions – the joy of writing up someone elses musings is that questions can be referred to them – hoorah. I’ll ping Dixon and see what he says….

    • http://majesticseo.com Dixon Jones

      Thanks for the write up Claire! :) Glad you didn’t slate me.

      Paul – Thanks for the feedback. In regards to Tactic 1, it really depends on the Press Release channels they used, which I was not privvy to. However, my colleague Barrie Smith recently did some quite in depth research on the different online press release systems ( http://www.receptional.com/blogs/advertising/what-do-we-get-out-online-press-releases ) which compares costs vs effects. In the Beautiful People example, though, they clearly engaged a serious PR company. Online systems don’t get that kind of coverage!

      With the pingback feature, you do not need to authorize the pingback comments if the link is to a spam site and I certainly advocate manually authorizing comments if you want to stop the spammers.

      I won’t say yes or no on the car – to give a few others a chance to play. Except to say that you’ll have to choose one of those makes or the other, otherwise you get two entries for the price of one! :)

      Dixon.

  • http://www.sorbetdigital.com Carla

    Excellent debut :-)

    • http://www.clairecarlilemarketing.com Claire Carlile

      Thanks Carla x

  • http://www.drawingalineintime.blogspot.com jackie

    Yep, she’s good, she works hard, she can write, she knows what she is talking about AND she is filthy, fit and makes good raspberry cup cakes. The woman is a goddess. Oh, and her proof reading skills are awesome too.

    • http://www.clairecarlilemarketing.com Claire Carlile

      Jackie – thanks! Filthy, fit and a maker of cupcakes – something for everyone there. Anyway – this is an SEO blog, get outta here and back to your painting! http://drawingalineintime.blogspot.com/

      • http://www.drawingalineintime.blogspot.com jackie

        I just love reading other people’s professional language. Sometimes I think I understand what you and the SEO people are saying and then WHAM were’re off to the land of OZ and I am lost agin.

  • http://www.searchenginechocolate.com Joanna Butler

    Great debut post Claire! Particularly interesting to see your analysis of XE in tactic 9. They were a competitor of a client of mine – loved their widget idea, and whilst they HAVE innovated enough to make an iPhone app [was a godsend when I was travelling last year!], it’s clear you can’t be a one trick pony. Got to keep innovating or you’ll be overtaken. Currency converters aren’t new anymore! Another competitor, fx-rate.net, has a handy free WordPress widget complete with embedded link back to their site… (grr for one of my sites, but great for them!)

    I’m going to have a guess at Dixon’s car – is it a Triumph Gloria? (Southern Cross?) My confidence in this guess isn’t high since I couldn’t find the exact model :( BUT I can comment that is is a one-of-a-kind and gorgeous! (Do I win for the compliments Dixon?!)

    • http://www.clairecarlilemarketing.com Claire Carlile

      Thanks Joanna, and interesting to hear your thoughts on XE, you’re one of the globetrotting jetsetters I mention in the post ;) Dixon – does Joanna win a special prize for being charming about your car? ;)

  • Richard Shove

    Nice work Claire!

    By the way, there’s a good alternative to live HTTP headers that does work with the latest version of Firefox :)

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/httpfox/

    • http://www.clairecarlilemarketing.com Claire Carlile

      Thanks Richard – now, how about you write a post about new firefox plugins that replace older / defunct / non compatible ones? You know you want to! :)

  • Dixon Jones

    I don’t know if I can give a prize for most charming car compliment. How about if nobody gets the right answer, I default to most charming compliment?

    Then again MAYBE someone has already said the right answer… but I wouldn’t hold your breath!

    Dixon.

  • http://paulgailey.com Paul Gailey

    Dixon – It’s a Pilgrim Bulldog.

    woof

    • http://www.clairecarlilemarketing.com Claire Carlile

      Well done Mr Gailey :) Dixon has replied below, well done and thanks for playing!

  • Pingback: And in recent news… | Claire Carlile Marketing

  • Dixon Jones

    Well at least we kept people guessing for a day or two :)

    Well done Paul. I’ll get you prize sorted next week.

    • http://www.clairecarlilemarketing.com Claire Carlile

      Awesome! Thanks for the prize Dixon :)

      • http://paulgailey.com Paul Gailey

        yay -thanks!

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