SEO: Tools for Link Building

April 1st, 2006


Originally published in Practical Ecommerce

Last month I discussed links and their importance in search engine optimization. Now let’s get acquainted with some powerful tools to aide us in our link building efforts. Yahoo! Site Explorer ( offers a quick way to review competitors’ and your own inbound links. PageRank Search is…

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SEO: Weaving a Web of Links

March 1st, 2006


Originally published in Practical Ecommerce

Links are the currency of the web. Not only do their drive traffic in their own right, but they also are essential to high search engine rankings. Without good inbound links to your web site, your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts won’t get off the ground.

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Link exchange requests that work… or not!

February 18th, 2006


There’s an art to making an effective link request. For starters, you should not propose a reciprocal link, for 2 reasons: 1) the reciprocal nature of the link will basically nullify the SEO benefit you would have gotten, and 2) all the link request spams flooding webmasters’ inboxes are of a reciprocal nature and you need to differentiate yourself as much as possible from that rubbish. Say these sorts of things and rest assured that your link request will go straight into the recipient’s Trash:

  • “Hi, Let’s swap links!”
  • “I’ve already linked to you.”
  • “Great site!”
  • “You already link to our competitor and we offer a better/complementary product.”
  • “Please use the following text in your link…”

When requesting links, think and act like a PR professional or a biz dev director, not an SEO. Or even think and act like an end-user of their site. “Hi, I found a broken link on _____. Have you thought about adding features like _____ to your ______ on your site? BTW, you might want to add and as links.” Just don’t be disingenuous; provide real value with your suggestions. Even suggest links to competitors or sites that you have no vested interest in.

We all get link request spams, even Google engineers! (such as this one posted by Matt Cutts). Here’s one I got recently:

Subject: Quality link request


I found your website on Google.

We have a quality website at that will be well ranked on Google.

We are happy to upload a link onto this website in any way you request in exchange for a return link. I’m sure you appreciate that this would be of great benefit to us both.

To go ahead with this exchange please upload our link information below to your links page.

Please reply to to say where you have uploaded it.

If you would like your return link presenting in a particular way please include this information in your email.

I will then arrange for your link to be uploaded and email you again to let you know.

Thank you.


Please note, the link needs to be set out as below in order for it to be returned.
[rest of email ommitted]

All I’ve got to say to that is, “Yeah, right!”

Eric Ward shared some secrets on how he crafts link requests that work in Thursday’s link building webinar for MarketingProfs which Eric and I co-presented. MarketingProfs will post the archive of the webinar in their Premium Library soon. And for those of you who aren’t MarketingProfs premium subscribers (you should join, btw, it’s well worth it!), I’ll see if I can get permission from MarketingProfs to post an archive of the webinar here on my blog.

Inside Secrets To Building Links for Online Publicity, Buzz and SEO

MarketingProfs virtual seminar series — online (webcast)

February 16th, 2006

Webcast by

Everyone seems to be in a frenzy to get links to their sites. Usually for the wrong reasons and from the wrong sites. Terms like Link Popularity, PageRank, Hubs, Authorities, Hilltop, Sandbox, Anchor Text, etc. are being bandied about and discussed ad nauseam. Marketers obsess over concepts like link leakage, bleeding PageRank, nofollow tags, triangular links, link architecture, link equity. There are many companies selling linking services that are absolutely 100% worthless.

Get past all the misinformation and disinformation and join two of the top-most experts on link building, as they share their favorite tips, lessons learned, tools, and success stories.

This seminar will be rich with case study examples.

This seminar is for you if you:

  1. Know that you’re missing out on key linking opportunities, but you just don’t know which ones and how to find them
  2. Don’t have all the answers on what it takes to get coverage and links in the right places from the right people
  3. Don’t have a current linking strategy or have one with holes

Successful link builders take an active role in the process. They don’t just sit back and hope that links happen. They make them happen! Take the first step by registering for this virtual seminar today.

You will learn:

  • To build a comprehensive linking strategy (including: portals, blogs, feeds, niche venues, vertical search, authority sites, e-newsletters, zines, awards, mailing lists)
  • How to get the best anchor text that you can
  • Holistic linking
  • How to receive online publicity
  • How to purchase links
  • How maximize on-site and off-site link architecture
  • How to mine and analyze competitor site links and industry-specific links
  • The biggest link building mistakes and myths
  • To generate buzz
  • How to write and release effective press releases
  • Link building in blogs and RSS feeds
  • How to the right people with the right message
  • How to optimize your link architecture to get the most out of your inbound links

The 90-minute seminar will include an extended Q&A.


Eric Ward founded the Web’s first service for publicizing Web content back in 1994, and he still offers these services today. His client list is a who’s who of online brands. Eric is best known as the person behind the original linking campaigns for Books, The Link Exchange,, Rodney Dangerfield, WarnerBros, The Discovery Channel, the AMA, and The Weather Channel. His services won the 1995 Tenagra Award for Internet Marketing Excellence, and he was selected as one of the Web’s 100 most influential people by Websight magazine in 1997. Eric also wrote the Link Building column for ClickZ, the NetSense column for Ad Age magazine, and is a 4-star speaker at major industry conferences.

Stephan Spencer is founder and President at Netconcepts, a 9-year-old, multi-national interactive agency specializing in search engine optimization, web redesign, usability, e-commerce, website auditing and email marketing. Clients include Verizon, REI, Gorton’s, Cabela’s, InfoSpace, The Sharper Image, Wella, Northern Tool, Sara Lee Direct, Midwest Airlines,, and He has contributed to magazines such as Catalog Age, Unlimited, Building Online Business, and NZ Marketing. Stephan is a frequent speaker on Internet marketing topics for organizations such as the DMA, the AMA, Internet World, and IIR.

Build Linkworthy Content and They Will Come

February 6th, 2006


If your blog isn’t linkworthy, it’s not going to get very far in the blogosphere. Indeed, links are the currency of the Web, at least as far as search engines are concerned. No links = no rankings, and lousy links = lousy rankings.

One might even go so far as to valuate a business blog on its links (at least in part). For fun you might try out the free tool at the Business Opportunities Weblog and see how much your blog is worth. The computation is based on the link-to-dollar ratio of the AOL-Weblogs Inc deal. According to the tool, this blog is worth $200,000. Anyone want to buy it from Rick? 😉

So how do you make linkworthy posts? In The Art of Linkbaiting, Nick Wilson and commenters offer some great suggestions:

  • Offer a niche-specific blogroll, tool, How-To, or compilation of news stories.
  • Post a scoop.
  • Expose a story as flawed or a fraud
  • Be a contrarian about a story, product, or prominent blogger’s opinion.
  • Be humorous. Good topics include a bizzare pic of your subject, “10 things I hate about…”, and “You know you’re a when…”
  • Publish or commission some original research
  • Creative-Commons-license photos you made of an event you’re blogging about
  • Make available for free a theme, plugin or piece of software
  • Start a meme that others can replicate and that links back to you (e.g. buttons/stickers/tools for bloggers/webmasters to post on their sites, contests, quizzes, surveys, etc.)

Building links is both art and science. It requires a great toolkit as well as loads of creative ideas.

MarketingProfs is holding a webinar on Feb. 16 on the topic: “Inside Secrets to Building Links for Online Publicity, Buzz and Search Engine Optimization”. The undisputed link guru Eric Ward and I (Stephan Spencer) are both presenting. Sign up here.

Screencast on using the SEO-Links tool

December 22nd, 2005


This screencast, presented by Netconcepts’ president Stephan Spencer, explains how to install and use the free Firefox extension SEO-Links to gauge the succesfulness of text link advertisers.

First Stephan installs the extension. Then he jumps to the home page, which is selling links over in the right column half-way down the page. By simply hovering the cursor over each of the text link ads, he obtains backlink counts for each advertiser and their rankings across Google, Yahoo, and MSN Search for the phrase in the anchor text. This provides an indication as to how effective that advertiser is at SEO. The assumption is that an SEO-savvy and successful text link advertiser will make better advertising decisions than an unsuccessful one. If a bunch of successful ones flock to a particular site selling text link ads, then that’s an indication that the site is a good one to advertise on (assuming other things check out like the advertisers aren’t using spam tactics).

Turns out the site is not a good site for link advertisers. Find out why by downloading the 4 minute video as either a 2 megabyte WMV file or a 5 megabyte MPEG-4 file (iPod video compatible)

Case Study: Carter Center

Carter Center logo

  • 2500 new pages in the index
  • Blog strategy gains inbound links
  • Blogging a huge success
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Google in the Real World: How Links Boost Your Ranking

MarketingProfs virtual seminar series — online (webcast)

November 10th, 2005

Webcast by

Links are the currency of the search engines. Without good inbound links to your web site, your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts will be in vain.

Link building is arguably the most difficult, most misunderstood, and most poorly executed aspect to SEO. Join SEO and link-building expert Stephan Spencer as he guides us through the quagmire and shows us the way to great search engine rankings.

You will learn:

  • Google’s PageRank scores: red herring or useful metric?
  • What makes a link valuable or not
  • Creative strategies for building link-worthy content
  • What works when approaching webmasters with link requests
  • Pitfalls to avoid if buying or bartering links
  • The phenomenon of Google bombing and making it work in your favor
  • The role of authorities, hubs, and topical relevance
  • How to leverage blogs and the blogosphere for link building
  • To get your content successfully syndicated onto other web sites with RSS
  • How to capture the link gain (PageRank) of your affiliates and your advertising

The 90-minute seminar will include an extended Q&A.

The Secrets of Building Links and Increasing PageRank

November 1st, 2005


Originally published in MarketingProfs

Links are the currency of the Web, so it is important to have a plan in place to improve the number and quality of the links to your site from the outside.

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To Buy or Not To Buy Text Link Ads

August 31st, 2005


A few weeks back I blogged some advice here for business bloggers who might want to consider text link advertising as part of their blog marketing mix.

Well, there’s been a lot of controversy as of late about buying text links. Blogger Phil Ringnalder published a scathing post accusing publishing house O’Reilly of being a search engine spammer. O’Reilly’s founder, Tim O’Reilly, responded to the accusations on his own blog. Google engineer Matt Cutts posted a comment to Tim’s post admitting that Google has decreased the voting power of sites like and and downgraded the reputation of some of their outbound links. Ouch!

Matt’s (and presumably Google’s) position was loud and clear:

If you don’t want your own site to suffer the same fate as O’Reilly, you better tag your link ads with a rel=nofollow attribute so that you don’t pass any PageRank score to your advertisers.

In my mind, that doesn’t seem quite fair. Website owners and bloggers work hard to build a content-rich site with good PageRank score. Google’s black-or-white stance on this equates to a diminished earning ability for these websites by insisting webmasters cut off the flow of PageRank to their advertisers. This of course decreases the value of the link ads to those advertisers, and consequently the revenue likely to be realized from them. Granted, no savvy advertiser is going to buy a text link ad solely based on PageRank score, but PageRank does factor into the equation.

This makes me wonder what Google’s position is on is, which is part banner ad, part text link ad. A good blog ad contains useful content. Why shouldn’t the blogger be allowed to “vouch for” (by not tagging the link with nofollow) the links contained within that ad if they so choose?

Most “white hat” SEOs such as Christine Churchill believe text link advertising is a legitimate practice. I agree with her.

I wonder what Google would do if all the websites across the Internet decided to take all their banner ad inventory they have and bypass the click-tracker redirect that counts all the clickthroughs. Suddenly all these new votes would start counting all over the Internet for commercial advertisers and sponsors. Wouldn’t that throw Google for a loop!

So what is the bottom line here for bloggers who are looking to advertise? It’s basically this: be discriminating in your link buying. Text link advertisements are not inherently evil. Just don’t buy ads on sites where any of the other advertisers on the site are misleading, deceptive or misrepresentative. By that, I mean things like the following:

  1. Setting the ad’s link text to some keyword-rich phrase that doesn’t accurately reflect the page that is linked to.
    e.g. An ad on proclaims “The North Face” but that isn’t The North Face!
  2. Linking the ad text to a landing page that is built for search engines and not for people.
    e.g. the “Discount Vacations” ad on points to one of Orbitz’s many “doorway pages”.
  3. Hiding or obscuring the link so human visitors can’t see it, only search engines.
    e.g. Doing a “View Source” on the home page of reveals these hidden links:

    <a href="">Search Engine Marketing</a>
    <a href="">Search Engine News Release Optimization</a>

And it goes without saying that you should refrain from such practices yourself when you advertise.

This post is based on material taken from on my own blog across three separate posts: Link buying – ethical or unethical?, Buying links – Google’s perspective, and Buying link ads – the ethical debate rages.