5 Reasons Why Copying Links is Bad for You

When you start out in link building, almost everyone recommends to check out your competitors. And I agree: it is very important to know who you're dealing with in the SERPs.
Many people additionally recommend to "get" all those links your competitors have built so far. However, this can be a potentially dangerous and rather inefficient approach to link building. Let me tell you why.
1. You will never truly lead the rankings
It sure does sound promising and logical. Just copy all the links that can be copied of, say, the top 20 ranking websites for your target keywords. Depending on your niche, this may or may not be a ridiculous amount of work, but it can be done if necessary.
However, this has one implication: even if this works out great and you reach the top (e.g. rank #1), you will never become an actual leader. Your ranking will probably stick for a while, but if just one of those 20 competitors is actively building links on a daily basis, he passes you in no time.
Now if you approach the issue more thoroughly, you can try to copy all new links as soon as they appear in your favorite link research tool as well. This still has a serious problem to it, though: it's not natural.
2. It's unnatural and may get you penalized
Google watches link growth and link building velocities very closely. If all of a sudden, you start "obtaining" a healthy chunk of your competitors' links (which they probably acquired over a couple of years), your site is likely to be checked by one of Google's quality raters.
This can trigger severe penalties, rendering all of your work useless. If you're really unlucky, Google may even trust all of your links less, effectively devaluing even the links you've had before.
3. You risk being reported
SEOs really don't like to see their hard work copied. But it happens all the time nonetheless.
However, some competitors might take this very seriously and report you to Google - and you may be in for a penalty and link devaluation once again.
4. You depend on link research tools
I bet if there was no Yahoo! Site Explorer (and similar services), 90% of all link-building SEOs would be out of work. Way too many SEOs actually depend on other peoples' link building strategies.
5. You're not seeing all the links there are
All available tools can only return a limited set of link data. Some do a better job than others, but no tool can show you all the links that Google has actually taken into consideration to build their rankings.
Savvy competitors hide their own link networks anyway.
But I need those links!
I know you do. But if you're really dependent on copying other peoples' links (which you shouldn't be!), at least do it the smart way.
This means absolutely not getting a link on the very same page on a target domain unless it's highly relevant.
Also, slow and steady wins the race. Don't pull one allnighter after another acquiring all those precious links at once. Set limits! Depending on your niche this may be one link a week or ten links a day. This also greatly depends on your existing link profile.
If you're just starting out, get your first links elsewhere anyway!
But most importantly, and this is my advice to you, instead of being a copycat, try to learn, understand, adapt and apply. Find new link sources, discover new link opportunities, broaden your horizon. If you do, the sky is the limit.

Why Your Linkbait Fails and How to Fix It

Howdy Mozzers,
I've been spending a couple of weeks this summer in the Distilled office looking at the way they do linkbait in order to write up a guide on it.
Whilst researching and reading around what people had posted before, it became clear there were a handful of problems which kept cropping up why people were failing at linkbait. In this post, I hope to address some of the biggest headaches SEOs had.
We've Had Very Limited Success
1. No Outreach Plan
Don't wait until you've hit publish to start thinking about outreach. Like a marketing campaign in itself, you wouldn't build prototypes, injection-moulding systems and have a container load of widgets shipped across from China before you've spoken to and got reassurance from your customers well in advance that they'd love to buy it; ideally with pre-orders.
The same applies to linkbait.
You want to reach out to at least some of the linkerati beforehand and get your "guaranteed five links" before you even start your piece of linkbait. The good news is if lots of people are interested from the beginning and think it's a good concept, other people will probably like it and link to it later on too.
I interviewed some of the London Distilled SEO and PR team on their tips for effective outreach. Here's a sneak peak:
If you've already launched, Wiep Knol has some excellent tips for breathing life back into your linkbait here.
2. Your Concept Sucks
Tough love, but if your concept doesn't keep your linkerati wide awake at night buzzing about what you've just created (or have told them you're going to create) then your concept needs some improvement. Even in the most boring industries this is possible - harder perhaps, but possible.
Find out the motives for the linkerati being online; is it their job? Their hobby? Something they're expert in? Perhaps offer to interview them to build up a relationship to post on your website in advance to figure out what they're really passionate about - this will help with refining a pitch to them, even better when it's a warm lead.
3. You're Not Working Hard Enough
It's simple enough. You haven't worked hard enough. Now there may be some genuinely good reasons for that - family bereavement, hospitalization or some other horror - but most of the time it's down the lack of effective work.
You probably need a to hire a link building trainer...
Paddy Moogan
… or get on a diet of productivity tips from the99percent pronto!
It's probably rooted in the fact that you're not excited enough. You haven't got a team around you grinning as you show them the latest update or the graphics back from the designer. You haven't got a clear purpose why you're creating a piece of linkbait. It'll help to identify why your creating this linkbait and what it means to people involved - that can be motivating.
My Linkbait Gets Copied by Competitors
1. You've Got Nothing or Little Unique
You don't have or you're not using something that's unique and can't be copied. Use proprietry data, your own contacts or something else which competitors don't have and can't acquire easily. It's only a really big problem if it's cannibalizing your links and preventing you from reaching future link targets. If it isn't though, don't fret too much - use it as a link prospecting tool though for future.
2. You're Not Thinking Creatively
Don't forget, you can still play the "first mover advantage" game if your kind of linkbait can be replicated fairly easily. That includes mashing up different linkbait tactics and hooks; perhaps an infographic linking back to an interactive tool. Try to maintain at least two different assets which are unique to you - that way you've got enough of a one-up over your competitors.
We Haven't Got the Resources
This one sounds plausible, but I still don't buy it for a second. Bootstrapped linkbait is harder yes, but still possible. You've just got to be more choosy in picking tactics and hooks to get links; there are some easy wins on a budget:
1. Design
If you've got a designer, or a designer friend or someone who's good but not ridiculously expensive.
Designers expect money in exchange for work. That's the way it works, even if you are on a wafer-thin budget. Look at crowdsourcing designs perhaps via 99designs or looking at the people using Fiverr for cheaper designers, at least to get in touch with them.
2. How-to Tutorials
You can't always outspend your competition, but you can out-teach them. Think of all the countless books on learning to program, and then Y Combinator startup Codecademy comes along - I can't wait to see what else they've got in store, but it's a fantastic, interactive how-to tutorial.
3. Interviews
Provided you can put together some riveting questions and pitch an interview in a way that doesn't tie up all their time. Wil Reynold's Pro Tip: Call them up with Google Voice [US only. Grrr...] during their commute or other "dead time", record your call and get it transcribed.
A good time to grab top end interviewees is when they're just about to launch a book. Hat tip to Andrew Warner of Mixergy.com for that one - when you're in a self-promotional mood, an interview opportunity is hard to turn down.
4. User-generated linkbait
Perhaps you've got a small email list, blog or twitter following you could work with to brainstorm and create effective linkbait?
One of my favourite tactics is to sound out a forum, put together a skeleton outline of what the article or guide might look like in Writeboard, then let the community edit it. If you establish yourself in the community first - be human and sincere like you would be face-to-face, not a self-promotional a-hole! - then it can be a incredibly effective way to crowdsource expert content. I've even had my spelling mistakes corrected for me :) Make sure to cite your contributors however; always be sincere.
It's All Overwhelming and Chaotic. I can't cope with it.
You've got no effective process. Try and map out the big picture of what needs to happen where before you start. With that all mapped out (maybe even as a printed chart on the wall), you can work on the very next step. By forcing yourself to jump over little hoops and checkpoints regularly your far more likely to produce effective linkbait.

There's plenty more tips and ideas like this in the linkbait guide, as well as a chance to get your questions answered in our Q&A Linkbait Webinar where two Distilled SEO Consultants will be answering your questions.
What's been your experience creating linkbait? An exhausting path of misery or a thrilling success story?

4 Tips for Creating Link Bait

While link bait is frequently seen as more "fun", and it's definitely more creative, than doing things like guest blogging or emailing people asking for links, it has its challenges. I wanted to share a few things I've learned about creating link bait from my experiences. If you have other insights, I'd love to hear them in the comments.

Keep a Tight Scope

In most cases you will want to keep your content extremely focused around your target, or the person that you are going to get to link to you (Justin wrote more about this process here). While it’s tempting to try and cast as wide of a net possible, typically you will be more successful focusing on targeting one or two targets (and shaping the content around these demographics) rather than trying to create content that targets everyone.
While this is really important for a lot of link bait content, there will obviously be exceptions to this rule. A couple examples come to mind (if you can think of others, feel free to leave a note in the comments):
  • If your content or subject really is universally applicable – While this is very rare, there is some content topics that apply to almost everyone on the web. A good example of this would be Facebook; just about everyone on the internet has a Facebook account and has an interest in changes (especially when it involves privacy settings).
  • Creating exhaustive guides – Super in-depth and extensive guides and documents can receive a lot of links if they are done really well. Think about how many links SEOmoz’s Beginners Guidehas received.
Keep the scope tight especially with revisions and additions. When you want to add in more content to make it better, or the client wants additions, you need to ask: “Will adding X improve the linkability of the link bait”?

Offer Something New

There are two aspects of this: perspective and information.
The internet is huge; sometimes it feels like everything has already been written about. Fortunately people tend to write the same thing. If you want to write about a topic that has already been written about a lot, come at it from a different angle. If everyone is writing about why something sucks, write about why it’s awesome. And don’t just say it’s awesome, back it up and make a case for why it’s awesome.
Though it seems like just about everything has been written about think about what you can contribute that other people don’t know.  Here are a few types of information you can use:
  • Sales data – you can analyze your sales data and segment it by population, gender, or other information you collect in the sales process to contribute something new. Yes this data might not be completely accurate as it is your sales data and may not be representative of the market. That said, it is still new and typically unavailable to people.
  • User data – When users register, ask them for information. If they have profiles on their site, ask them for information. Then anonymously aggregate this information and present it with pretty charts and graphics (More on this from Dr. Pete). OK Cupid does a great job of this with most of their blog posts. Check out this one on stuff white people like (original stuff white people like).
  • Do your own research – Offering brand new data is great because no one else has it so you get to be the definite (linked) source for forthcoming references. This can be really helpful with infographics – if you are having a hard time finding research that someone has published, do the research yourself. Tools like Ask Your Target Market are great for this as they provide you with a large panel so you can get quick responses and you can focus your time on creating your link bait, not doing research.
Publish your data from the research you did and provide excel/csv downloads for people to be able to use the data to do their own research as a way of earning links. You can even go as far as requiring attribution to use the data.

Feedback is Key

 You need to make sure that your infographic is correct and there aren’t mistakes or typos. These will get your link bait torn apart on sites like Reddit. You should minimally have people looking at:
  • Spelling/Proofreading – do you have typos or misspellings. It happens. A lot. Get someone who is really nitpicky and uptight to go over it.
  • Technical details – Make sure that the content is technically correct and that you aren’t wrong. Find a subject matter expert and have them verify your work.
  • Readability – While the linkbait might make complete sense to you and your cohorts, you this is your baby (and nobody thinks their baby is ugly) so some things that might seem obvious to you really aren’t obvious to everyone else. Have your mom look at this, kind of like when you were in grade school and your mom checked your homework. Get someone object who isn’t invested in the project verify that it makes sense (and that it’s cool).
Get subject matter experts (especially those who you would like a link from) involved in the project – reach out to them before the project launches, tell them they are awesome and ask them to review it because they know so much more than you. When it goes live tell them and thank them for their help. Then encourage them to share it. They have invested time in the project and are more likely to share.

Have a Killer Hook

You can have great data but if you don’t have a hook, then it is significantly less likely to succeed. Todd Malicoat has a great overview of link baiting hooks here that you should take a read through. I will list them here quickly for you though - to get the full explanation you'll have to read the post ;):
  • News hook
  • Contrary hook
  • Attack hook
  • Resource hook
  • Humor hook
  • Ego hook
  • Incentive hook
While each of these hooks are effective, you should choose the hook based on who you are ultimately targeting and who you want to link to you. While a humor hook may work well for broad appeal, if you want to increase topically relevant links you might want to go with something like a resource hook or contrary hook.
If you have a strong community you can often use the ego hook to scale your link building and get your community to build links for you.
Likewise Copy Blogger has a crash course on magnetic headlines that you should read through. Having really strong headlines will not only help improve the number of people reading your content but can have a big impact on how well-shared your link bait is. As such make sure your title contains a hook.

Do You Want Social Friends or Business Leads?

Social media marketing is a great way to humanize your brand and connect with your target audience in an unobtrusive and personal way. A strong and loyal social network can help spread your messaging strategy and defend your brand from online trolls, not to mention drive sales. But a lot of companies are approaching social media marketing from the wrong angle. It’s not just about how many Fans or Followers you have, or how many people Like your content on a daily basis. In the end, social media marketing should help drive traffic to your site and increase your conversion rate.
Why Likes don’t matter
When social media marketing first burst onto the scene, the only real tangible way to measure your campaign success was to see how many connections your company could create. The Facebook Like was the end-all-be-all benchmark of success. However, as social media has matured, the Like isn’t worth nearly as much as once believed. For instance, many companies will offer a promotional deal via Facebook, where users can get a sample of a new product or discount code if they Like the company. But how many of those users are actually interested in building a rapport with your brand and how many are just doing it to get free stuff? Many companies see a quick decline in the number of Likes they have once the promotion is over. The simple truth is that a Like doesn’t mean a consumer is actually interested in what you have to say.
Facebook Shares are much more valuable to a company. When someone Shares your content by posting it to their Facebook wall, they are broadcasting to their network that this content is valuable in some way. Peer recommendation is a powerful marketing tool that can help push your content in front of a wider audience. The more frequently a piece of content is Shared, Tweeted, posted and so forth, the more trust that content has with the search engines as well.
Social is the path, not the destination
Social networking sites are a great place to interact with current and potential customers. It’s an even playing field where large brands are expected to play by the same rules as the consumer. Getting a user to click through to your social profile means you have something that they want, but don’t just let them stay there. Social profiles should be looked at as yet one more gateway to your main site. If you are going to post blog posts to your Facebook page, don’t publish the whole post. Leave a teaser snippet that captures your audiences’ attention and them pulls them through to the actual blog. Invite visitors to check out you latest products on their respective product pages, allow them to sign up for your company newsletter and more.
Don’t push traffic away
If one of the goals of a social networking site is to drive traffic through to the main site, than why to do many website ask visitors to head back to those same social sites? While you want to be able to connect with your audience on a social media site, do you really need to have a huge “Like Us on Facebook” button taking up valuable webpage real-estate? Once someone has arrived to your site, you should be focused on getting them to convert, not following you on Twitter. Getting social connections is a secondary goal of your website.

Google Killed Surfing

People are always talking about how the growth of Google and its automated search index has killed off all the other search engines and directories. It is mostly considered a problem of reduced choice and less competition. However, Google has actually changed the way we used the Internet.
In the days before search engines people used to surf the web. Also the phrase is still used today its meaning has changed. To surf the web used to mean finding an interesting new website, usually by first visiting your favorite web directory, and then following the links on those pages to other interesting websites on a similar subject.
This method of navigating the web may seem extremely inefficient today but 15 years ago it was the only way to get around the web.

The Invention of Google PageRank

Because in the good old days of the Internet webmasters used to link freely to other websites that they liked and trusts, Larry Page decided to use this rule as a fundamental part of his PageRank mechanism which allowed him to start building a automatically indexed search engine.
The idea being that each link would be followed by Googlebot much in the same way that a human surfs the web. If some sites or pages get linked to more, i.e. if Googlebot lands on the same page more than once, then it is assumed that this must be a good page, so it gets ranked higher.
Even after Google search started to become popular people would still surf the web as the search results really only provided a clue as to which pages were best to look at. More often than not you would have to crawl through the first few pages of results in Google before finding anything really useful, so when you found a good site you stayed there and let that webmaster then guide you further.

The Rise of Spamming and Selling Links

A major spin off of the rapid development of the PageRank mechanism for ranking pages was that people soon realised that to get their sites to rank well they needed to get links on related websites that are already popular. So this gave rise to more and more requests to webmasters for a link on a “blogroll” (although blogs came a little afterwards), or in the footer or on the home page of the site.
To start with this did not affect the results too much but as more webmasters realised that they could game the system link asquisition turned into an arms race. Suddenly every webmaster and then SEO (who was the first SEO I wonder?) was trying to get links faster than their competitors. This lead to all manner of spamming for links, although in the pre-Web 2.0 days spamming was less common as many of the good sites were still static html pages.
However, as some webmasters realised that their pages were in high demand they started charging people to place links. Google made an effort to stop this practice by introducing the nofollow tag, but no all webmasters wish to adopt this practice. Some feel that it is just a method introduced by Google to workaround the flaws in its algo, and so prefer not to pander to Google’s suggestions.

The End of Web Surfing

Google continues to improve its search engine algorithm which means that more often than ever people are finding good pages direct from Google search. Although many bloggers still share lists of similar sites on their blogrolls and many people in the web community link to their websites when discussing articles on blogs, the bulk of new referrals for most sites is still coming from Google.
So, you may remember the day you used to surf the web, just as I do. For kids growing up with the Internet the concept of surfing is alien to them. Now it is all about sharing and tweeting. Maybe one day search will be driven by social media interaction and not html links. If this happens then maybe the idea of surfing will survive.

Back to Basics: Seven Simple Sources for One-Way SEO Backlinks!

SEO can be mainly split into two key areas, which both must be looked into if you want to get anywhere with the search engines. Firstly there is the onsite SEO, where the website is looked at from a technical perspective in terms of how ell built it is and how good the content is on it. A lot of technical people can get on these easily but struggle on the second SEO technique, which is offsite link building.
Other websites need to mention and cite yours in order for them to send you some authority. Think of it as reputation. If Google visits a site and sees they are referencing yours, they will send you some power for the keywords and themes around that link. This is the basic principle why you should link build. Posting links on Twitter and Facebook with a URL shortener might not work though, because these websites are ‘no follow’ meaning power is not passed onto the link destination. But where do good one-way links come from?
Directory submissions – There are few good articles directories nowadays, but some of them are still worth the effort. Make sure the directory you are submitting to is unique-content-rich!
Article marketing (don’t confuse with guest blogging!) – This is a broad way to get links, and includes writing of articles that you can  publish on other people’s sites with your website as a link.
Blog commenting – Commenting on other people’s blog posts can be a good way to get links.Comment naturally though, by reading the post and having a good comment to say. You can drop a link in the post here or through your name when you submit the comment to be moderated.
Forum links – Similar to blog commenting, you can post your website on forums to get a little bit of power. Users on profiles will sometimes have your website as a link in their profile signature meaning your link can be seeded over a large number of pages on a website. Of course, a link should not be your priority: get involved and network! Add value to the community to avoid being called a spammer!
Homepage links – These are getting links directly on homepages of other websites on their blog roll, footer, or sponsored link section. Don’t overdo with these: homepage links make Google think you are a spammer
Social bookmarks – Join some social bookmarking websites and submit your articles, website and blog posts (don’t spam!). Submit other people’s articles as well to add value to the social network, don’t just link-drop.
Web 2.0 properties – These are like platforms you can create to put links wherever you want. Websites such as WordPress, Blogger and Squidoo are great places to make websites and pages where you can link to your site. Don’t forget a presence on Twitter and Facebook too as every little helps.
Remember a mix of anchor text when getting your links because it needs to look natural to Google. Don’ spam out your site with thousands of bad links with the same anchor text. I hope you have found some of these link sources useful, and good luck getting to page 1!

How do I rank my website on Google?

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is one of the most popular and competitive web based services available. As business becomes more competitive, so does web based marketing (i.e. making sure your website shows up in search engines and outranks your competiton).

What exactly is search engine optimization? Don’t websites automatically get ranked on google? these are some of the questions i get asked on a daily basis. Search engine optimization is a service- it is not generally included in normal web development as it requires time, attention to detail, extensive research and an excellent understanding of search engines and how they work. Websites usually do find their way into Google’s index, but if the site is not properly optimized, it will probably show up on page 99,999… which is pointless.

The point of search engine optimization is to get your website ranked for specific keywords. These keywords should be the products or services you offer, or a topic of discussion on your website. Don’t get fooled by people who will get your website ranked for your company name or website address- this happens anyways, so you are essentially paying someone for no work at all.

What do you need to know in order not to get ripped off? you need to first understand how a website gets ranked on a search engine:

Search engines send out a ‘bot’ (robot, spider, whatever you want to call it) which is an automated program that crawls the internet and bounces off HTML links. Most bots will first target major directories, like DMOZ (the largest human edited directory on the internet) and the big search engines, as all search engines feed off each other. When they find their way into a directory or different search engine, they will bounce off the link to the websites and ‘visit’ them. When the bot arrives, it is looking for specific instructions, or ‘meta tags’ to help direct it around the website, and understand what the page is about. There are a variety of robot commands that can be used, which need to be hard coded into your websites pages. After reading the meta tags, the bot will then proceed into the text content of your page, and should then (hopefully) find it’s way to your other pages.
Read more at http://www.articlealley.com/article_2014894_62.html?ktrack=kcplink