SMX Advanced London 2011: Link Alchemy – Creative Ways of Conjuring SEO Gold

SMX Advanced London 2011: Link Alchemy – Creative Ways of Conjuring SEO Gold

16th May 2011

Next up today is a panel on everyone’s favourite topic – link building. But looking at it from a little more of a creative perspective.

First to speak is Patrick Altoft from Branded3 on  his  methods to build ‘Golden Links’. First up,  he focuses on social links:, things like Twitter and Facebook. A point worth noting:

Standard links to a page benefit the entire domain. (e.g. a link back from the BBC)

Benefits from social links are URL-specific. (e.g. a link back from Twitter)

Key Takeaway: So what to do? Make sure you don’t waste links from social media on competition pages – point them to the product/category page. 

Twitter Syndication Links

Consider all the links in the sidebar of your blog that show ‘latest tweets’ – these are all generating visibility for those links.

Twitter Traffic

Don’t underestimate how much traffic twitter can generate – it’s not just a social platform. This traffic can be sustained, and be used to a much greater degree that  popular sites like Digg.

Defensible Links

  • Google is getting better at removing value from links that appear paid
  • We need to get better at making our links appear 100% natural.

How can we do this?

Images – bloggers always need images. They are difficult to find and valuable. Linking back from images used as a credit link is easily scalable and the most natural thing one can do.

Widgets – develop a PHP widget to showcase a client’s products or deals. Turn it into a wordpress plugin. This allows you to dynamically update thousands of links across dozens of websites remotely as new products are added.  Allow people to choose to embed this widget themselves.This is scalable and a natural link building tool.

This is the same for all linkbuilding ideas. Every type of linkbait has been done before. You need to incentivise and give people a reason for giving your infographic coverage.

Key Takeaway: Don’t just do a press release, offer to write that story for your client and speak to sites you already have a relationship with and get guaranteed coverage. It’s more than just PR coverage.

  • Awards for top bloggers in your sector
  • Product giveaways
  • Press releases and coverage
  • Offering content to affiliate sites and blogs
  • Infographics

Now up is Rob Millard from Distilled looking at how to do link building outreach without the use of  that old favourite – the email.. It’s a very difficult form to get feedback from so what else can we do?

Using  Twitter


There’s only 140 characters

It allows you to be a little more open about who you are. They can see your profile and who you are, it builds a little more trust.

It’s easy to find people and get in touch with the people you want. Very much unlike email! (try: or even twitter’s own internal search)


  • Build simple tools using APIs, Google Docs etc to pull out the data from places like to grade potential targets – e.g. name, location, pagerank.
  • Flatter your targets – make people feel popular and good about themselves. E.g. add them to a flatteringly entitled public list. E.g. SEO Ninjas.
  • Stalk your prey – make sure you know who is interested in what, where and why
  • Use hashtags & search to find people talking about things that relate to your sites. E.g. “guest post” + keyword

Using LinkedIn

E.g. tesco online marketing manager.

You can then easily find their twitter address, and approach them this way. Probably a lot more effective than approaching them directly.

Linkedin can also tell you if somebody you know happens to be connected to them, even if this is only a business contact. It still has the potential

Other tactics

Pick up the phone… go direct!

Go Offline – try meetups, eventbrite, lanyrd etc. The best way to meet people and make direct connections. Don’t be intimidated!

Blog commenting – it still has huge opportunity to help you build relationships. Leave useful tips! Let them get in touch with you, use a link to your twitter profile to make it less spammy.


  • Know who you’re targeting
  • Find people using tools
  • Be creative with searching
  • Build relationships

Next up, our very own Kelvin Newman from SiteVisibility on ‘Breaking Out of the Link Building Echo Chamber’.

To learn more about link building, we need to be looking beyond the obvious – not just within the world of search or SEO. Look outside to find inspiration.

If you could pick your perfect team, who would you pick to get the perfect links? (NB. Kelvin also wrote a rather good post on this over at SOS which you can find here)

1. Psychologist: three things tend to influence our link building efforts.

Firstly our gut feeling, then habit, and finally what Rand Fishkin tells us to do.

We’ve ignored psychology for the most part. People do pick up on subtle cues. Consider the language you use. The words you choose will influence people.

2. Behavioural Economist: think of books such as  Freakonomics, Super Freakonomics, Nudge and Predictably Irrational.

Look beyond the obvious and try to understand why people act the way they do or make the decisions they do – use this when you are approaching people for link building.

Predictably Irrational conducted a test on a number of men, asking them questions when they were not in a state of sexual arousal vs a state of mid-arousal. So for example: “Are women’s shoes erotic?” 42% said yes when they weren’t aroused and 65% said yes when during mid-arousal.

The lesson? People’s emotions play a big part in their decision making!

3. PR Gurus

Conduct surveys on any topic and publish them. People like interesting (or crazy) stats, they are likely to share it.

How to do this? Understand what has worked in the past. Look at if people have conducted surveys on the same topic before.  Consider what results you want to come out of it. You can’t necessarily influence the outcome of this but you can have a good idea of what the outcome is likely to be.

Key Takeaway: Try Toluna – a website with a self-service option to have a survey of people answer a question you ask for a small fee.  It’s very quick and can be used to survey topical questions.

Pro-tip: You can also use Daryl Wilcox’s journalists database.

To become a better link builder, think outside of the box and consider how people think and behave.

And finally… Pete Wailes from Strategy Internet Marketing. Pete is attempting a live demo of the link building methods that the rest of the panel have just talked about.

Rob has chosen Everest the double glazing site as his first target. Pete now focuses on his 4Cs and C-Bel. This is Creative & Compelling Content Creation alongside Community-Based Engagement Links.

Back to Everest. Now we need a Client Field Brainstorm – think everything from house architecture to environmental awareness.

Think Broad – everything from politics to environment, society to technology. From there you can data mine, look at what people talk about on Yahoo! Answers, Reddit, LinkedIn, Google Instant etc.

Then it’s Conceptualisation. Out of all of this, come up with slightly more fleshed out concepts of what you could potentially implement as a link building campaign. Find what has been done previously and has worked, also find what hasn’t work.

Then it is all about Execution. This is where things can sink or swim.

It’s not about scaling content to get links. Think about Passionate Users. If they are passionate and you feed into this, they will build those links for you. It’s outsourcing your link building, scale your audience not the amount of content you have. Be remarkable! (And there is a difference between successful and remarkable. Look for debates and passionate interests, spark conversation.

If you’re producing great content, people will also link to it and talk about it on twitter and like it on Facebook. Don’t stress about one particular platform – if it’s good, it will get the visibility on all of them.

A final thought from the Q&A and Pete and Patrick. When you’re doing viral things or buildng widgets etc – taking it too far will just cause you to lose. You can take inspiration from other people’s ideas but don’t just steal them! Don’t go overboard and do things that are totally unrelated to what you are working on.

Use common sense and your own creativity!




Written By
Originally from the UK via France and Malaysia, Annabel Hodges is a digital marketer with long experience in the industry now residing in Sydney. She heads up the Digital Marketing at Next Commerce, working across an array of products, channels and brands.
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