Recap of the LinkLove Conference London 2012

Last Friday the 30th of March, the yearly event ‘Link Love – The Advanced Link building Conference’ took place in London. As predicted it was completely sold out, being the most renowned link building conference in Europe. With eight international top speakers it was a full and inspiring program. There was a good balance between the latest developments in search engines and a glimpse of how international link building is being done. Some slide decks are missing, these will be added as soon as possible.

Content Strategy vs. Linkbuilding – Rand Fishkin
Rand Fishkin from SEO software developer and community SEOmoz started the day with an intense statement: “F#$&! Link Building. Content marketing FTW!” People need a wakeup call: the traditional way of link building is very time consuming and not effective in the long term. Because of the labor intensive nature, link- and blog networks have emerged into places where you can buy hundreds of links for little money. But usually the effects of this way of building links don’t last very long and the consequences are what we have seen in recent weeks: Google manually removed some networks from the index.

The focus should be on marketing your product through your website by making use of content in the broadest sense of the word. So you should generate shareable content, because 66% of internet users uses a social medium. Build a community and brand loyalty, look beyond links and operate as an online brand. Of course SEOmoz was used as an example, who receives an average of 400 linking domains per blog post. This shows that a long term strategy using good content can be very successful.

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Quantifying Outreach – Michael King
Based on nearly 300.000 outreach link building e-mails, Michael did some statistical analysis in order to find out what the best combination of features is. A disadvantage here is that these analysis were made in vacuum, which means the conclusions are not tied to external parameters. In real life, they differ for each niche. Nevertheless an interesting presentation which included a small glimpse of the link building process.

Over the course of a year, 14 million pages were crawled, which subsequently were filtered by an algorithm. First of all the 5000 major websites of this list were removed, because it simply would be impossible to receive a link from these type of sites. After this, the list was compared with an internally created black list. Sites who were featured on the black list (badneighourhoods etc) were also removed. Also some other SEO metrics were taken into account: sites which didn’t meet these specific metrics were removed from the list. In the end, this resulted in a final list of 600.000 websites. An internal assessment team brought back the list to a 112.000 potential link partners who were contacted one by one.

The conclusion from the analysis of link outreach:

Gender: Women get a higher response rate, the close rate is in favor of men
Opening salutation: personalization is the key to success. If not possible, “Hi” and “Hey” works best.
Day of the week: Emails sent on Tuesdays yielded the highest rate of links, and weekends have the highest opening rate because it’s when people receive less e-mails
Time of the day: 9AM has the highest response rate, but it is better to send these emails in the night because prospects will come across these e-mails first things in the morning.
Number of e-mails: Be persistent without getting abusive: outreaches of 6 e-mails and beyond proved to be the most effective.
E-mail length: E-mails with more than 1000 characters performed better
First touch via twitter: figures were not statistically significant, but 37,5% response rate is worthy of further investigation
Phone vs no phone: emails without phone numbers got more responses and more link closes.
Logo versus no logo: Including logos leads to a drastic increase in link closes.
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Social sharing in combination with SEO – Branko Rihtman
Everyone constantly speaks about the effect of Social Media on the SERPs, but Branko emphasized that in this moment there is no evidence a website can rank having just social “votes” (likes, tweets) and no links. However, Google is capable of making an estimation based on partial social data. In the years to come this will definitely turn around so it is important to focus on ‘social link building’.

It is recommendable to invest in research to discover what your audience is sharing in all sorts of media and to not rely solely on logic and intuition. Make a distinction between social metrics and look for the most influential people. These are the people who can help with a campaign. Based on the use of various APIs (Topsy, Facebook, Twitter, G + and Majestic) and Excel, Branko showed us how an easy analysis within a niche can be made. With these analysis it is possible to visualize the relationship between the number of social shares and the final inbound links in a graphic. His presentation ended with the conclusion that at the moment only the inbound links can cause a top position in the search engines. As stated before we should consider all developments and follow Google’s advice: “Try to be there where the search engines want you to be”.

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Which links do make the difference? – Jane Copland
Because of the fact that everyone is checking each other’s links, everyone is collecting the same links. In order to be successful you should be unique in your working method. A website needs golden links in order to score and it is only possible to receive these type of links by looking at where the competition is missing out. Jane showed this with the example of Michael Winner, who is willing to pay the 60GBP fine for driving on the bus lane. A fine is no reason for not doing it, this price gives you the possibility to do it. No 700 million budget for advertising at the Olympics this year? Just pay the 20.000 GBP fine for streaking and everyone will remember you , with news papers linking to you from their authority websites.

Based on several successful campaigns for specific sites or product pages, which received both great amounts of links and social shares, Jane showed that thinking out of the box pays off. Even influential tweeps brought free publicity. For example, The Zombie Boot Camp page got linked from the BBC website. So be unique in your content strategy and the links will come automatically!

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Pick a victim, start working on a relationship and fix a link! – Wil Reynolds
In a playful way, Wil accompanied the audience with his quest for a digital friendship with Dharmesh Shah, founder of Hubspot and owner of a Twitter account with more than 120 thousand followers. People have got to stop begging for links, it’s useless and will get you hardly any results with serious link value. If you want attention, you have to stalk your target. In this case stalking equals helping.

With help of an iGoogle dashboard Wil showed how you can add RSS feeds from several websites to monitor your victim continuously. By constantly being the first who reacts to questions, tweets or comments you will build a natural relationship. Who are the people who follow your target? Try to be like them. This increases the chance this person will start following your account as well. Once there is a connection, you can go a step further with your ultimate goal: getting that link.

In a practical way it is a great case but hard to use for link building. But the underlying idea is one that should be kept in mind: link building is easier if there is a relationship.
» Download the slidedeck

Does Google still trust links? – Tom Anthony
In 1997 Google proudly presented their new way of organizing websites: based on the amount of links referring to a website. Soon SEO’s started abusing this. Logically this leads to the question whether Google still believes in this way of admitting value to a website. Unfortunately spamming links with keywords in the anchor text still works. Based on a few examples Tom was showing that it is easy for a human being to discover an unnatural link profile, but that it is almost impossible for a computer until the moment artificial intelligence will be used.

That is why Google will start focusing more on the human factors for now. In the meanwhile Google for example added author statistics to their Webmaster Tools. AuthorRank is one of the priorities of the biggest search engine, where it will become more important who (the author) links instead of what links (the website). Links from a website with a trusted and well known author will have more value than a link from a blog network with automatic generated content.

Do what others don’t do! – Martin MacDonald
According to Martin, who has more than 10 years of experience in both black hat and white hat SEO, linkbuilders have a two major problems:

We work alone, the average link building team consists of 5 people
We do exactly the same as the rest
There are a few simple solutions:

Do everything different, because it is very easy to do exactly the opposite of others
Make use of other’s communities, then you won’t have to do it alone but with thousands at the same time. Spam or not, it works!
Make use of simple incentives scuh as coupons
Scale your link building activities by for instance developing a widget focused on a specific niche.
Utilize affiliate links. Is there an affiliate network in between which gets link value? Start your own network!
Another thing Martin showed is how he used a discussion in which he participated, then wrote a blog post about it and subsequently got re-tweeted by a few influential tweeps. This resulted in several top positions on generic keywords without too much effort. An interesting detail was that it hardly resulted in any incoming links but a huge amount of social shares. His conclusion was clear: “If you follow the rest you will make friends, but it won’t get you any links”

From average to great link building – Will Critchlow
A different presentation compared to the others was the presentation by Will Critchlow, one of the founders of the organizing company Distilled. He discussed the process and the strategy behind link building. Why doesn’t our link building campaign work? Ask yourself a why question for four or five times and then hold on to the following four steps:

Discover: Look for your weaknesses and the aspects on which you can still gain progress
Pitch: Pitch your ideas for link building, also to customers
Experiment: look for improvements and convince your customers
Investing and up scaling : with a combination of evidence and experience

By using a systematic approach you can discover the weaknesses of your website, your strategy or your way of working. Linkbuilding doesn’t differ from other business processes.

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