LinkLove London 2012 - Round Up

LinkLove London 2012. We're here. We're caffeinated. We're excited.

If you made it along hopefully this round up will refresh your memory - if not, well I'm sorry you couldn't make it. You'll be here next year though right? I hope so.

Here's a snapshot of what happened and the key takeaways from each speaker.


Content Strategy vs Link Building - Rand Fishkin

Rand from SEOmoz believes that you can create great content in any niche and sets out a process to help us do just that.

Rand highlighted that link building is changing - back in the bad old days you'd send out endless begging emails - "You linked to 'x' will you link to me?" - this can still work but it's slow and painful; plus of course if you're only getting the same links as your competitors you're unlikely to be able to dominate.

As such, some gave in and just went to a link network. But this approach can be dangerous and you could end up burning your site :(

As such, Rand infinitely prefers going down the content route. He highlighted that what really matters to businesses online is lowering the cost per customer acquisition. Why? Because if your cost per customer acquisition is lower, then you can afford to acquire more customers. In real terms buying links is unlikely to lower your cost per new acquisition.

5 Reasons to Invest in Content

  • Content helps with all channels – search, social, fan base etc
  • I want to be proud of my work – actually give someone a real benefit
  • I want strategies that will last no matter what (not just  pass the web spam test)
  • Content builds links while I sleep (thanks to the community and social etc)
  • Content builds brand loyalty and trust
Content is by far the least expensive way of generating all of this trust.

How do you create great content?

  • Don’t limit yourself to what you’re about
  • Find out what your audience likes – write about that instead
  • Fiskars – sell scissors – fiskateers blog have crowded sourced the interest graph of their audience, then power it via their fans
  • Or brand your product to align with your content – e.g  SEOmoz, Coudal Partners
  • Remember content can mean blog posts, community, products e.g. GetSh*tter, or platform/data e.g.  Built With
Great Examples
  • Dollar Shave Club – used the same video for investors as well as consumers - and it's amazing, sadly  – most of the links went to YouTube & they had a lack of no on-page optimisation  / relevant pages to rank... But - they do have ¼ million sign ups already. Sweet.
  • Every Time Zone - a really simple idea implemented really well; plus they're not shy about suggesting people link to their page
  • FeeFighters – brilliant blog – plus they make great use of their tag line to get great anchor text – 'save 40% on your credit card processing in 3 minutes'
  • The Economist’s graphics blog - infographics done right.
  • Zemanta - really great tools
  • Twitter stories
  • Slate’s partnership with Quora – emerging content platforms need visibility and monetisation
  • Koozai’s viral blog post via Google News – are eBooks the new content farms – 106 LRDs (set up rich snippets, news video, rel author, schema etc)
  • See Jane Work – demographically targeted office supplies – a demographic group – they create content targeted at their audience
  • Pridebait (or egobait) 2012 Time 100 Poll
  • Romanians are smart - (SEOs banded together to change auto suggest)
Key Takeaways
  • Content helps with all channels – search, social, fan base etc
  • Good content strategies will last no matter what (not just pass the web spam test)
  • Content builds brand loyalty and trust
  • Don’t limit your content to cover just your products and services. Find out what your audience likes and write about that instead.

Making Outreach Effective - Mike King

Mike currently works for iAcquire and writes on iPullRank - he's here to tell us all about how to make outreach more effective and share with us the results of the analysis he's done on 300,000 outreach emails - want ALL the data - run along over here and download it :)



Mike's Outreach Process

  1. Crawl circa 13m pages
  2. Filter for bluelist (e.g. places like Wikipedia)
  3. Filter for blacklist (i.e. bad neighbourhoods)
  4. Filter for SEO metrics
  5. Then manually review the queue. This typically gives about 100k prospects to manually outreach to.
You can also do this by:
  1. Using Screaming Frog to crawl
  2. Pull metrics from OSE
  3. Use excel
Also look at scrape rate and share rate – look out for sites that have a high rate of sharing and scraping because you’ll get more out of the links you get on those sites.


Key Findings of the 300,000 Outreach Email Analysis

  • Gender is not that much of a factor – women get a higher response rate, but men get a slightly higher close rate
  • Personalised emails have higher close rates (i.e. including the site owner's name). Find out that prospect's name via Rapportive or Rapleaf
  • Emails sent on Saturdays have higher close rates – try Boomerang for scheduling
  • Time of day? Buzzstream showed 2am as being the best response rate - essentially send stuff early so your prospect sees it first thing in the morning
  • What number of emails is best? 2-3, however there’s another bell curve after 5 emails - end game? Be persistent without abusing someone’s inbox
  • Longer emails do better (over 1000 characters) than short
  • How do trust signals perform? E.G. phone number, links to profiles etc. No phone number in your email improves response rate (prospects may correlate to famous scams). Logos seems to do well – do link building as a brand (whether that’s on behalf of a brand or as an agency).

Key Takeaways

  • Look at scrape rate and share rate – target sites that have a high rate of sharing and scraping because you’ll get more out of the links you get on those sites
  • Throw away your form letters - personalisation is definitely key
  • If you're not a girl, you probably don't need to pretend to be one to build links
  • Use Boomerang for scheduling to hit people's inboxes at the right time
  • Don't just use email, also use Twitter / other channels to make contact

Social Media & Links... a Love Story - Branko Rihtman

Branko is a proper scientist. Like for real - M.Sc student of Molecular Ecology. He also writes on SEO Scientist and works at RankAbove. He's talking about the scientific techniques he uses to determine which types of social sharing result in links.



How to focus your Social Media Efforts to Build Links... Use social for eyeballs... You can do this more intelligently than you are now:

  • Have a list of your content
  • Have a list of people who are sharing it
    • Those people also share other content
      • Look there for focused link building opportunities
      • Look to see who is using more than one platform
      • Also look to see which content is getting shared by the most people
How do we get the information?


Aaargh – but coding is hard! However you can do this via scraping without knowing how to code - you'll need APIs for:

  • Topsy
  • FB graph
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Majestic
Plus Excel & SEO tools for excel

How? Like this:

  • First extract everyone who tweeted Distilled article via topsy
  • Then look at what else that user has tweeted
  • So for each piece of content you can see how it has done socially & in terms of link building
  • Plot one versus the other – via a linear graph

What can we do with this data now?

  • Prune out the selfish users (what percentage of the links they tweet are in their own profile?)
  • Identify the power users
  • Calculate the efficiency of the user in terms of linking (grade users according to that, and create more content that they will like)
  • Identify relevant users
    • NB you want to hit the sweet spot in the centre – there’s more benefit from the middle users rather than the high or low end.

What can these charts do for you?

  • Hint towards trends in social media
  • Content generation ideas
  • Point out potential social media targets
What these charts cannot do...
  • Provide specific numbers and goals for link building campaigns
  • Decide for you whether you prefer one social engagement over another
  • Can’t actually build links for you

Key Takeaways

  • Don't just look at who is sharing your content, look at what else those people are sharing - can you increase share rate by making your content look more like that?
  • Find specific targets for your content based on user's previous sharing habits
  • Target the sweet-spot in the centre - you'll likely get a better response from mid-tier users than power users

Link Building Like Michael Winner, or Getting Golden Links - Jane Copland

Jane works at Ayima and prior to that worked for SEOmoz. Hearing Jane speak is always a joy - she lives and breathes this stuff and is always generous in terms of sharing her experiences and giving actionable advice. No link is impossible to get and Jane's here to tell us how.

Jane rightly points out that if you think about link building like everyone else, you get the same results as everyone else. This is dumb. Instead you should think a little more like Michael Winner.

There's a £60 fine for driving in a bus lane in the UK, however Michael Winner doesn't see it as a fine - he sees it as an investment in getting where he wants to go quickly...

Olympics 2012

  • It costs £700m to be a sponsor - ouch!
  • To protect their sponsors there is a £20k fine for any 'branded streaker' - you could see this as an investment rather than a fine, huh?
    • NB Jane says don't actually do this :)
In more practical terms - when thinking about golden links, identify targets then figure out what’s achievable. For example karn8 have a link from BBC Berkshire - sure, it's not the homepage of the BBC site, but it's still a great link from a strong page on a kick-ass domain.

The Golden Rule for Golden Links: Be aware that when it comes to golden links you are investing not buying – as with all investments – this might not pay off; but it probably will.


Good examples from

Zombie Experience got a tweet from Simon Pegg... This resulted in 70k facebook likes, 5k tweets, 3 or 4 golden links & sales! No. 10 Experience got a tweet from Stephen Fry... NB nice but obviously not an actual product so no sales.



  • There’s nothing dirty about outreach – don’t be shy
  • Make sure your emails aren’t too long
  • Don’t lie
  • Use your previous success as a hook
  • If the link is already yours and is broken either ask nicely for it to be changed, or create content at the broken link location then 301 it

Key Takeaways

  • Opportunities are everywhere if you view obstacles differently (but still don't do that Olympics thing mmmkay?)
  • Start with what you want, then figure out what you can achieve
  • Think investment not purchase
  • 'Golden links' should be part of a wider link building strategy - you're site is unlikely to rank by just doing this

Building Targets, Relationships and Links - Wil Reynolds

Wil owns and runs Seer Interactive and is one of the most energetic, engaging speakers on the circuit. There'll be no post-lunch slump today - he's here to talk us through his process for stalking Dharmesh Shah building targets, relationships and links... Mmmm links.

Wil thinks we should all stop begging for links and get to know people instead... But, but I work on the internet! I'm frightened of actual people!

Don't panic guys - apparently most of this we can do online. Let's go.

First up - you need a platform - Wil recommends iGoogle - we'll be using this to stalk people get to know people better.

Step one

  • Go big - you want to target someone who is influential, but not following you - Wil chose Dharmesh Shah
Step Two
  • Set goals - what do you want to achieve? Social shares? Links? A follow?
Step Three
  • Make your to do list - how are you going to achieve these goals?
Step Four
  • Get your target's twitter feed into iGoogle
Step Five
  • News stalking - bring in Google news mentions
Step Six
  • Blog stalking - bring in their blog RSS
Step Seven
  • Then their Google+ RSS
Step Eight
  • Quora stalking (you can help then answer their questions, right?)

So we now have an iGoogle page with your target's online world on it right? So what next...

  • Find out what they need to know
  • Find who they’ve recently followed
This system allows you to create a strategy to reach out - how? By being more like the people that they already follow.

Take their followers, drop the bios into tag crowd – does this look like your twitter bio? Nuh uh? Well you might want to change that then. Also, now is not the time to tweet pictures of unicorns - when stalking STFU apart from the stuff your target wants to hear about.

Other things you can do...

When is your mark new bff coming to you?

  • Search twitter for when Dharmesh is in Philly?
  • Let’s you know when people you are stalking are coming to your city
  • You can also put this into iGoogle via RRS on Topsy
  • Plus use IFTTT to send a text if this happens (or any other thing that I might have some expertise in)
Stalker tip
  • If you can’t answer the question – RT it
  • Check out InboxQ
Use Mozenda
  • Enter URL
  • Click on author name
  • Then create a similar list of items
  • Then click on anything else you want
  • Repeat on list
  • To see which friends you have in common.
Figure out which Influencers already love you...
  • Pull in all GA referrers into a GDoc
  • Then pull in moz metrics
  • This shows you who is influential in terms of sending you traffic
Does this all really work?

Dharmesh now follows Wil on Google+ - at least until he sees this slide deck, right? :)


Key Takeaways

  •  Stalking jokes aside, creating a neat system to help you get know and engage with influencers is undoubtedly worthwhile in terms of potential value
  • In Wil's own words - JFDI

Putting the Love Back into Links - Tom Anthony

Tom works for Distilled and is the self-styled sexiest SEO ever  ...Erm yeah, I know, I'm not sure about that either. So sexiest might be up for debate, but there's no denying the guy is super smart - he's working on his PhD in Artificial Intelligence and has promised to be build me a robot when he's done. Today he's talking about the ways in which Google may be trying to ascertain the real value of a link.

Clearly Google have been changing the way that they view links recently. Back in 1997 – Google ‘discovered’ links, but then us SEOs came along and f*cked it up for them by messing with the link graph.

Today – does Google still trust links? Previously all links were equal, but now they are filtered... Well a bit...

So what are Google waiting for? Surely by now it's pretty easy for them to detect a spammy link profile? So why aren't they? Because of the false positives. In niches where everyone is being a little spammy - the whitehat site might look anomalous and therefore the one that gets hit.

As spam is advancing faster than good quality content, Google are struggling to keep up; however, we’ve already seen that with Panda, Google are willing to sacrifice some ‘whitehat’ businesses in order to get rid of poor quality sites.

So, when is the Link-Panda update coming?

  • It’s already here – duh.
  • Feb 2012 – G announce 40 changes to the algorithm
  • Plus the ‘over-optimised’ sites announcement from Matt Cutts
  • Big link networks deindexed (and some small private networks)
This is a big update 20k-30k domains = could be 100m links, plus moving forward this could be as big and as regular as Panda.

But, Google don't want to move away from links entirely; so how can they trust them more? The answer is Rel=author.

What’s in it for Google?

  • G+ - it's as much an identity service as a social network
  • With this, Google can see who’s responsible for the link and indeed how trustworthy it is
  • We know it’s important to G, as we’re seeing author stats in webmaster tools
This is a new web graph
  • Author rank x page rank = authored page rank
  • It's not just where the link is placed, but who placed it there
  • Become a trusted author
  • Target other trusted authors for links
  • Need to shift from ‘where’ to ‘who’
  • Traditional link analysis – e.g. OSE / Majestic (but they are still talking about where not who)
  • Then we can scrape this stuff via the authorship mark up
Tom's built a tool called author crawler (sorry guys - right now this is just for attendees).


Key Takeaways

  • Google likely aren't giving up on links entirely, but they will likely be weighted more in favour of trusted authors in the future
  • Use Wil's techniques to engage with trusted authors and target people not sites for links

Tips, Tricks & Secrets from the Trenches - Martin MacDonald

Martin works in-house at Expedia and enjoys teaching trolls lessons on his personal blog

As Martin sees it SEOs have two major problems: Fighting alone – getting stuff done is tough... And whether to do what others do or go against the flow.


He's not a fan of going it alone - instead he'd rather you build yourself an army (well erm, community - but army sounds more exciting, right?) Here are some great examples -

  • DropBox – incentivised students to link back to them in return for giving them more space on their dropbox
  • Also think LinkedIn / SEOmoz member profiles
But I can’t do that on my site :(

You still have Facebook and Twitter - or you can mobilise someone else's community... Some linkbuilding opportunities come out of nowhere

  • Now ranking 2nd for camper shoes men (NB no one searches for that); camper shoes 2nd, camper 2nd (now 10th)
  • What happened next? 2k visitors – NB don’t think that there are links to the page (seems to be a QDF thing)
But what if I want great links?

Martin suddenly found he was getting BBC referral traffic - why? BBC started linking to him - because he cut and pasted a PDF and made it live on his site...

You can do this too...

  • Establish the footprint of clusters of links on big sites
  • Search for more things like this using screaming frog
  • Export all of the external html links
  • De dupe and remove social stuff
  • This identifies the BBC pages where you can get external links
But how do we scale this?
  • Only by building good sh*t – e.g. wordpress plugins... But I don’t code! Read a book or outsource.
  • Get your competitors to build links for you - build an affiliate network and get affiliates / partners to build links for you
  • Ignore conventions -look for sites that do not link out - a link from them will be worth way more
  • Give sh*t away

Key Takeaways

  • Build an army (community) to help you - or if you don't have one find a way to use someone else's community
  • Use's Martin's methodology to find pages on big sites which do link out - then figure out how you can create something for them to link to
  • Build really great stuff - e.g. plugins / tools etc
  • Give stuff away

The Critchlow Hierarchy of Needs - Will Critchlow

Co-founder of Distilled, Will's here to present his 'methodology for fame'. I'm really hoping that he's going to be channeling Debbie Allen -

"You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying ... in sweat."

Will kicks off by talking about the challenges of going from mediocre to great. You need to figure out where the problems lie – what’s preventing your link building campaigns from being great?

Normally this is down to one or more of the following problems:

  • Not doing anything
  • Not doing the right things
  • Not acknowledging weaknesses

Step One - Discover

  • We live in a world where exceptional takes all
  • Apple at one stage had 9% of the handset market but 75% of the gross profit
As such you need to start scoring your company based on exponential scales (1-5 doesn't work - instead, score yourself for multiple disciplines as follows): Here's his survey
  • 0 = Very low / none: Not a priority / not something you invest in / not something you are successful at -
  • 2 = Basic competitiveness: You invest time and money in this area
  • 4 = Core competitiveness: You keep pace with and occasionally outstrip competitors in this area. In most areas, for most companies, this will be as good as it gets.
  • 8 = Industry leader: Known for being at or very near the top of all sites in your industry in this area. This is a deliberately high bar.
  • 16 = Internet leader: An impartial observer has selected you as a case study / example of excellence in this area across all niches online. Many companies achieve nothing rated this highly and it will be exceptionally unusual to score this highly in multiple areas
Do this and line yourself up against your competitors...

NB - Sometimes you need other people to tell you this. So you might not be able to do this yourself.


Step Two - Data

What can Analytics tell you?

  • Plot direct visitors vs linking root domains
  • 0.5% of visitors link to content on Distilled - how do you compare?
Other stuff to look at:
  • Average number of referring domains per piece of content
  • New referring domains per piece of content
  • Review month on month to see if you’re seeing improvements

Step Three - Pitch Ideas

Start with an experiment to decide whether or not your idea could work – LaunchRock is great for this



Step Four - Experiment

Think about Minimum Viable Product

  • The smallest thing you can launch that will test the biggest risk factor
  • Experiments = de-risking

Step Five - Invest and Scale

Checklists help us win

  • Use shorter checklists
  • Communication checklists
  • Ask what you should do if ‘x’ goes wrong
Making Plans
  • Create an activity plan
  • Test assumptions
  • Understand the process and de-bug

Key Takeaways

  • Discover where your strengths and weaknesses really are by scoring your company exponentially and then comparing to your competitors
  • Get some data
  • Then pitch – ideas not campaigns – too often we assume we’re right and dive straight into the big thing
  • Experiment with the smallest thing you can launch that will test the biggest risk factor
  • Then invest and scale

That's all folks!

You can read more round ups / live blogging coverage of Link Love 2012 via the lovely links below :)

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