BrightonSEO: Lessons Learnt from Link Building

BrightonSEO: Lessons Learnt from Link Building

30th April 2014

In our series of SEO lessons from BrightonSEO, we also covered some key lessons on link building.  Malcolm Coles, Stacey Cavanagh and Dixon Jones shared their tips on the best way to generate referrals, traffic and links.

Lesson 1: Put Innovation at the Heart of Content Creation

Malcolm Coles kicked off the day with his keynote presentation and shared with the audience how Trinity Mirror’s new project UsVsTh3m earned lot of links by putting innovation at the heart of the company and ignoring SEO completely.

So How Do You Get Links By Ignoring SEO?

  • Create content based on current events.  UsVsTh3m are good at news jacking which has resulted in the content they produce going viral.  For example the Wayne Rooney salary calculator  counted how much money Wayne Rooney had earned in the same time looking at the website and then the PM and also the nurse .  More than 500,000 people visited the site.
  • Make sure any infographics built is made for mobile.  Mobile traffic is the majority of the Trinity Mirror’s traffic. Only between 9 – 4 pm is there the same traffic on desktop and mobile.
  • Think about the headlines for the content.  Interesting and mysterious headlines work.  For example “This woman smelt her teddy bear and wept – you won’t know why”…. Encouraging users to click through (the answer is the woman’s boyfriend found her child hood teddy bear and it still smelled of her childhood)
  • Do not use swear words in the content or titles as people do not like sharing content their parents may see.
  • It is important to do A/B testing on headlines.  Companies such as buzzfeed spend a lot of time in this area to make sure they have their users clicking through and reading their content.
  • Can you create content for a niche content, seed it amongst themselves for it to go viral?
  • Can Facebook advertising help you achieve this?
  • Find the audience you want to target and see if that leads to link building

The reasons UsVsTh3m were able to get on with being creative was that  they were on a different floor, using different IT systems and even kept away from the admin of Trinity Mirror.  They could focus on being creative and getting on with it (instead of being distracted).

How to Create Innovation At Your Company

  • Are your teams set up in a way that allows you to create amazing content?
  • How do they sit together?
  • How are ideas acted on?
  • How do they work together?
  • Screen sizes – all good content should be readable on different screen sizes

The Results:

The Project UsVsTh3m  resulted in 74% traffic from social media and 6% from search.  This was achieved by just 3 or 4 people working on the project, no branding or marketing support from Trinity Mirror and they even used different IT systems (with no access to the Trinity Mirror network).


Stacey Cavanagh – The Habits That Land You Links

Stacey mentioned that links will be and are still important.  There is no more cheating though and the window for success is getting smaller and smaller. Now it is about doing stuff that land links.  Links is a by product from being awesome, so start by forming good habits.

There are three ways to do this:

1. Idea Generation

At Techmark they needed to make the IDEATION process slicker.  They did this by:

  • Gathering a team of 6 people in the organisation (who understand what the orgnation is trying to achieve)
  • 30 minutes of time  per person (3 hours of chargeable time)
  • Start with a problem statement (a brief) (This appears at top of an excel worksheet)
  • Then each person has 5 minutes and has to generate 3 ideas
  • Pass worksheets to the left for the next person to add their ideas.  They can take inspiration from hat is already there.
  • Repeat this 6 times – which means there are 108 ideas in 30 minutes

Other ways of generating ideas for content:

  • Verbal brainstorming (he who shouts loudest dominates)
  • Crowdsourcing ideas (go to Twitter, FB, ask for ideas).
  • Solo ideation sessions (never under value ideas come up on your own)
  • Using Ideation Tools such as RealTimeBoard, MindNode and
  • Once you are happy with your ideas, upload them to  which is a simulation Twitter tool. It is a great way of seeking feedback.
  • Remember – differentiate between ideas generation and concept development, lots of ideas may result in only a couple of concepts.
  • NUF Testing is a great way to seek feedback

2. Asset Generation

  • Instead of carrying out audits for the clients and sending it through, do this in person. Forms are boring.
  • Also get into the habit of asking clients for images.  Image attribution is not new. Share images on Flick under Creative Commons for every client.  Tell people how to attribute.
  • Get into the habit of regular reclamation sessions.  Use image raider and hook up with Flickr account and so can see who has used it and not linked back.
  •  Freshwebexplorer from Moz to see mentions of your brand (but no links).
  • Carry out surveys using tools such as Quick Surveys and Google surveys.
  • From surveys, create great stories which then attract links
  • Content creation eg Moz’s algorithm update post.  The site have added a layer of value.

Work closely with clients’ other departments to think bigger and bolder with more benefits than SEO.   Get into their heads, what benefits them. Work closely with other organisations to cut costs and share benefits. Do something real  – it results in coverage and a by product is links.

3. Outreach

Build your little black book from day 1 with the content audit. It is important to have an evolving list of journalists and bloggers which can be separated into Tier 1, 2, 3 etc.

  • Make sure you use excellent monitoring tools such as Freshwebexplorer , Pickanews and Google Alerts
  • Use a tool to manage outreach such as BuzzStream and Inkybee
  • Find more journalists through and MuckRack
  • Pay attention to the reciprocity rule
  • Old fashioned communications works well. Stacey mentioned that they receieved 15 positive reporinses from 20 outreach hand written letters her team wrote.

All the above  gives you coverage and then gives you links. You can find more about Stacey’s presentation here.

Lesson 3 – Do Links Still Matter in 2014?

Dixon Jones answered this question at the start of his presentation and said “YES” Links are still important due to the following:.

  • At SMX Advanced in 2013, Danny Sullivan asked Matt Cutts the question: “Do Links Still Matter?” to which Matt replied, “The web is huge, links are going to be around for many years to come.”
  • Then April 2nd 2014 Matt  Cutts was asked why isn’t Google building a search engine that does not use links.  Matt Cutts said they had tried it but it doesn’t work very well.  Links are important in the context to where they are found.
  • Moz also found that links are still important. They spoke to 120 people in the industry asking them what was most influential in search engines. 8 out of 10 factors were link related.
  • Searchmetrics carried out a survey as well. The founder, Marcus Tober said the social factors are taking over, these are link factors.

Anchor text, links and partial anchor text as well as internal linking are important


  • Information and trust flows through links. Now Matt Cutts is talking about topical page rank.  They are not saying it is about the link but about the context.
  • Royal family website ranks number 1 for their term royal family even though have 13 backlinks
  • Trust comes with content
  • Links lead to authority objects, a company are less likely to link to a bad place (if they are a reputable company).
  • Links are about relationships
  • Links can breed better if  there is topicality
  • Links are feeding other signals
  • Do things in  context and do it right, then they breathe better

Takeaways MajesticSEO

Dixon’s presentation can be found on slideshare.

Speaker bios:

Malcolm Coles @malcolmcoles

Malcolm is the product director at Trinity Mirror, responsible for sites like etc. He also assembled the brains behind new sites like usvsth3m and ampp3d.

Stacey Cavanagh @staceycav

Stacey is Head of Search at Tecmark, working on multi-screen search campaigns for businesses in retail, travel, finance and B2B services. When she is not working she loves watching reality TV and blogs at

Dixon Jones @Dixon_Jones

Dixon brought Majestic SEO, the world largest Link Intelligence database to market. In the process, this Birmingham company learned more than a few things about how important Big Data is in marketing.


Written By
Jo Juliana Turnbull is the organiser of Search London and the founder of SEO Jo Blogs, which provides practical advice and tips for those in SEO.
Technical Audits – 10 Points to Cover
Latest Post from Jo Juliana
Events Technical Audits – 10 Points to Cover
18th July 2019
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.