Hello everyone! Welcome to the recap of our Linkarati Live webinar, where we spent an entire hour responding to audience questions exclusively.
We loved tackling your questions on the spot, sharing the internal conversations we often have, and avoiding our typical work in general. It was a fun break to huddle in a room and talk about link building, online marketing, and yell at one another.
In all seriousness we had a wonderful time and hope you did as well. If you weren't able to attend, we hope to catch your question at the next one.
Let's jump into the breakdown.
We were honored to have:
- Moderator: Jesse Stoler - Staff Writer, Linkarati
- Questions moderator: Meghan Cahill - Staff Writer, Linkarati
- Speaker #1: Cory Collins - Managing Editor, Linkarati
- Speaker #2: Andrew Dennis - Staff Writer, Linkarati
- Speaker #3: Nicholas Chimonas - Head of Product Development, Page One Power
- Speaker #4: Cody Cahill - Project Manager, Page One Power
The webinar lasted 56 minutes, in which we answered 8 questions. The first three were the best of the previously submitted questions, with the following 5 submitted as the webinar was happening.
- Question One (3:27): Why isn't my new, spammy competitor being punished?
- Question Two (14:00): What are a few tips for obtaining "low-hanging fruit" links using Majestic SEO (or a similar tool)?
- Question Three (22:17): If my goal is increased online conversions, would I be better served to hire and SEO agency with some PR experience or a PR firm with some SEO experience.
- Question Four (30:10): What are examples of bad links? Can a website be punished for submitting their site to directories?
- Question Five (34:21): What is the best approach for building links on .edu and .gov sites?
- Question Six (39:19): For smaller clients with little to no niche influence, how do you get your content in front of influencers who drive a lot of traffic?
- Question Seven (45:42): In SEO terms, is it detrimental to have identical posts on multiple social media accounts, even if they contain no links?
- Question Eight (51:17): What's your favorite part of link building?
Let's take a look at each question.
Question One: Why isn't my new, spammy competitor being punished?
The full question: Google's ranking algorithms have become so sophisticated and smart over the years, yet "black hat" SEO tactics still seem to be rewarded in the short term. How is this possible? Shouldn't spammy tactics be D.O.A.?
We stay on this question until around 13:50.
Nick's response: Google's not quite as smart as everyone gives them credit for. Black hat SEO can still be effective, it's just a question of how long.
If you're working on an old domain, there's an increased likelihood that you've run into issues with your site, and Google's caught that. Meanwhile this new site hasn't been caught and punished yet.
There's just so much complexity when comparing two domains, especially if one's an old domain and the other is a new domain using blackhat tactics to rank.
Hopefully Google's anti-spam algorithm catches up with these tactics and punishes them appropriately, but you need to first take a look at your own domain and maximize your performance.
Cody's response: It's definitely important to look at your competitor's backlink profile, but also look more holistically at their site:
- What user experience are they providing?
- Is their content good?
- Are they adding value to their demographic/audience?
We deal with clients all the time who are sure that they're doing everything great and competitors are just getting lucky in search, but really there's a lot more nuance there. Search isn't always black and white.
Cory's response: Recently John Mueller was asked in a Google webmaster hangout whether 301'ing a spammy domain to a competitor would tank his competitor, Mueller was very direct in saying systems are in place to prevent that.
Google's search algorithm is so, so complex. If they were to immediately punish anyone with a hint of spam there's just be too much collateral damage around the web.
Follow up question: Rand Fishkin said the amount of people that made retire-on-the-beach money from blackhat SEO is extremely overstated. Do you agree?
Nick: absolutely. I'm sure there are people that have made plenty of money off of blackhat SEO, but retire on the beach money? Doubtful. The reality is blackhat SEO doesn't ever stop. The churn and burn nature means you constantly have to be working for the next crash.
Blackhat SEO never ends. Jacob King is a great example of this.
Cody: the difference between blackhat and whitehat SEO is that blackhat serves no marketing value outside of ranking. Its only objective is search rankings, and it's risky behavior.
Whitehat SEO is really for the long term. It serves marketing purposes, and greater good for the company beyond organic search rankings. True organic white hat natural link building serves many objectives.
Cory: Look at how much black hat SEO has fallen off in the last few years since the release of the Penguin algorithm. It's clear where Google is going and that they're getting better all the time. Any real business can't risk using blackhat tactics - it's too shortsighted, and won't pay off in the end.
Question Two: What are a few tips for obtaining "low-hanging fruit" links using Majestic SEO (or a similar tool)?
We stay on this question until about 21:40
Cody: Well I think "low-hanging fruit" sets the wrong expectation, but a great place to find relevant links is competitor analysis.
We use Majestic and Moz all day everyday, constantly running competitive analyses for our clients as well as in link prospecting.
Sites that are already linking to your competitor represent a great opportunity. Competitive analysis will also reveal what content is performing best for your competitors, which will help you strategically plan any future content for your own client.
Nick: Moz has a wonderful new feature in the Moz analytics suite called "The Link Intersect Tool."
This tool basically tells you all the sites that link to your competitors but not to you. Those are all great opportunities to find sites you should be getting links from.
Majestic has a similar feature called the Click Hunter. Slightly different, it will tell you sites that are linking to two or more competitors.
BuzzSumo is amazing for finding content in your industry that's been successful.
Andrew: SEMrush helps you find important keywords in your industry and then you can run that through BuzzSumo which will help you identify both influencers and successful content. It's also a great way to look for outdated content and content gaps.
Cody: Another method is unlinked brand mentions - of course you'll need people talking about you, your products, or your brand. This requires a certain amount of publicity.
There's also other mentions worth pursuing, including specific content pieces and even content topics.
The reality is links require some sort of added value. You need to have demonstrable value in order to drive links to your site. So if you're already adding value to your community/industry there are a variety of ways to build valuable links.
Without that value in place, the links you can get and your overall opportunity will be much lower.
Andrew: Another great opportunity for links is through image links.
If you have proprietary images on your site, especially really good images, odds are people will use them elsewhere on the web. If you reach out and ask for an attribution/credit link, people will often oblige.
Don't threaten or cajole - be polite and friendly.
Cory: another opportunity worth considering, especially for older sites, is link reclamation.
Often older sites will have a slew of 404 pages across the site, or even pages that are sub optimal.
Find the pages and check to see if there are any good links pointing at them. If you have great links pointing at sub-optimal pages, or worse 404s, you can easily reclaim this link equity through a 301 redirect or even rebuilding the page.
Question Three: If my goal is increased online conversions, would I be better served to hire an SEO agency with some PR experience or a PR firm with some SEO experience?
This question lasts until about 30:00
Cody: You should vet both the SEO agency and the PR agency and see where their specialty really lies. Anytime an agency tries to do all things you need to research and see where they're focus really lies.
I don't think one is better than the other but you need to identify what your chief objectives are and go after people that specialize in achieving those objectives.
Nick: I completely agree. Really good PR is going to have positive SEO ramifications. But very few, to zero, PR firms are focused on SEO. So there's going to be plenty of missed opportunity.
Some of the best clients we get are companies engaged in PR and creating opportunities and we can go out and harvest missed opportunities.
It makes it so much easier to build links when your brand has a positive association.
Arguing only do the PR and the SEO will come is like every other "build it and they will come" argument - if it's important to you, you need to have someone focused on it.
The real synergy comes when PR and SEO are integrated together and are aware of one another efforts and can collaborate.
If you're focusing granularly on increased online conversions, SEO is likely going to be best for you.
Cory: You need to understand your own business and where you're at.
To pit any two channels against one another is really a bit of a misnomer - which will perform better is always dependent on a variety of factors inherent to the company.
Examine your site, performance, assets, where your sales and conversions are coming from, and decide which channel has the most opportunity for you.
Andrew: Yeah, with the goal online conversions, more traffic means more conversions, and probably your biggest channel of traffic will be search, and SEO will be best suited for that.
Cody: Link build is pretty closely tied to PR in some senses because of the outreach, relationship building, and content focus much of link building uses.
I wouldn't recommend any business invest all of their marketing efforts in one channel. You need to have multiple strategies and tactics. But you should specialize based upon your goals.
Nick: Absolutely, the direct outreach we do is likely where this overlap and integration discussion between PR and SEO was first started. Typically outreach and informing people what's going on with your product, service, or company is a very PR activity.
The two really do have quite a bit of overlap and can fuel one another.
Cody: SEO and particularly link building has been undergoing an evolution. It used to be marketing and SEO were separate entities, but as more time passes and Google's algorithm improves there has been a merging of SEO and other marketing activities.
Question Four (30:10) What are examples of bad links? Can a website be punished for submitting their site to directories?
We answer this question until about 34:22.
Cody: One of the core definitions of blackhat links is the blackhat link will be done through some type of automation, and can be scaled into the thousands.
Directory link building doesn't have a tremendous amount of value, but if you're going out and building them by hand--it might not be the wisest use of your time--but that likely won't be enough to get you penalized.
Sites that get in trouble with Google are really scaling up their link building a lot. It's having hundreds and thousands, really a significant portion of your backlink portfolio, be a bad links.
Andrew: the most basic way to decide if a directory link is worth getting is will your target audience be on it? Would they find value in the directory, click through, and be happy they found your site?
Follow up question: What are some questions you might want to ask yourself when you're building a link to determine whether they're natural or not?
Nick: Will this appeal to the actual humans that my site ought to be in front of?
Cody: Any link that your target demographic will see and be compelled to click on will be a great link. Any link only there for search engines is a questionable link.
Cory: Question your own motives. What's the point of having the link? Do you want real humans to see it? If your only reason is SEO value, it's probably a link Google isn't going to want to count.
Question Five: What is the best approach for building links on .edu and .gov sites?
Andrew: The best approach is to create something so awesome that an .edu or .gov would want to link to it, and then promote that to them.
Cody: Look at what type of content they're already linking to will help guide your content strategy. If a certain type of content is successful in getting a lot of links from the .edu and .gov sites then it's worth considering.
Cory: It doesn't even have to be content. Scholarship links are pretty huge right now, but even beyond that just find a way to create value. Things like:
- Offering employee or student discounts
- Create a page listing open positions applicable to graduates.
Look at why the .edu is linking out and let that guide your strategy.
Nick: I take some issue with this question because I think it's misguided in its intent. .Edu's and .gov's are typically older domains, with more trust, but you need to keep in mind relevance.
Look for pages on these sites that are relevant in some way to your business - don't just blindly chase .edu and .gov links.
Jesse: Just to clarify what you're saying, there's no conclusive proof that Google's algorithm gives different weight or authority to .edu or .gov just because of their TLD?
Andew: No - they're not more valuable just because they're an .edu or .gov - they just have a tendency to be more trusted. It has nothing to do with the TLD.
Cory: Well the other portion of that is they're better gatekeepers than most webmasters/sites - they don't link out as often, and keep the bad links to a minimum.
Question Six: For smaller clients with little to no niche influence, how do you get your content in front of influencers who drive a lot of traffic?
Nick: Well, you don't need to start at the top. There's a really good post by Portent, called Allies, not rockstars: Influencer research for us mortals.
It's about finding people with some influencer, someone who's a bit above you, but not dwarfs you.
It's more about trying to offer value than getting value. Don't keep asking for favors right out of the gate.
Cody: It's a slow process - you're not going to go from unknown to well known overnight. Build relationships and invest time. Content distribution and content strategy need to be well-planned. Engage as much as possible - not just on your own site, on everyone else's sites as well.
Paid traffic can help as well - paid social ads are great for driving traffic to content.
Nick: Also, if you're just in a small or obscure niche, one thing businesses can do really well is finding what questions your target audience is asking and directly answering those.
Find your audience pain points and just engage across the web as much as possible. Good community engagement goes a long way.
Andrew: Consistently providing value to your community. Be out there, engage, and solve people's problems.
Cory: The reality is you just have to go out and engage. People are just people. It's really easy to think "well I'm unknown, so this influencer isn't going to want to give me the time of day."
But if you go out and engage meaningfully, they're just human too. They'll be nice and you can start to build relationships.
Then as you create content think about how you can make content valuable to them. If you want someone to engage or share your content, you need to make content they'll care about. You need to ask yourself the question "why should this person care?".
Once you've identified why they care, that build your promotion strategy. All you have to do is reach out to them, tell them your content exists, and why they should care--which you've already answered. It's that simple.
Question Seven: In SEO terms, is it detrimental to have identical posts on multiple social media accounts, even if they contain no links?
Cody: Automating your Twitter and Facebook to post identical things, I don't believe that will have any kind of effect on SEO. I'm not sure that's the best social media strategy.
Nick: Facebook isn't being crawled, Twitter only just started being crawled, there's really no way for it to cause SEO issues.
Andrew: It's not great social media practices - across platforms there should be different formats taken into account, even if you're doing duplicate posts.
Cody: You need to keep in mind the 80/20 rule - 80% of your shares/posts should offer value to other people. Social media is all about engaging with other people.
Follow up question: How can social media complement your link building strategy?
Nick: Engaging with people can be great channel for helping your content be found.
Cody: Twitter is a really effective medium for outreach. Email is still the primary method we use, but Twitter can definitely be useful.
Content that you want to build links to - it's a great sign if social shares are happening on your content.
Social media also is extremely helpful for link prospecting.
We use social media a lot here to indirectly benefit our link building campaigns. There's not a whole lot we do to directly build links, but it's an important relationship building tool.
Nick: Tweeting a URL can lead to faster indexation as well.
Question Eight: What's your favorite part of link building?
Cory: The challenge. I'm competitive by nature. I enjoy the hard work.
There's no mathmatical formula to build links. There's no "this is what I do, then I get these links." You have to be strategic, analytical, social - it just engages so many different parts of your brain.
The challenge, the diversity, and the way it makes me think day over day.
Andrew: I agree with everything Cory said, but I'll defer to my blog post "Why I Love Link Building."
Nick: I love link building because it's always evolving. Google's always evolving and link building along with it. It's actually part of my main role - I'm constantly studying and figuring out what is effective, and constantly researching tools and integrating those into our business model.
My job is to continually push the envelope and help us evolve as a company.
Cody: My favorite thing about link building is the collaboration that goes into it. Amongst our teams, with our clients.
We're always building foundations and strategies and deploying those - no two days are the same.
And that's a wrap!
Hope you enjoyed this recap of Linkarati Live. We'll be doing yet another roughly a month from now, so keep on the look out! And as always, if you have questions, comments, or just want to chat drop us a line.
You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading.