There are very few brands who can rely on natural links alone in order to gain the kind of SEO traction they need. Most need to buy links in some way or another.
Recent Google changes mean that making these links look as natural as possible has never been more important.
In the first of ‘Ask an SEO’ of 2013, I caught up with Matthew Platt, a link building expert. Matt previously worked for one of the UK’s biggest SEO agencies and is now in charge of his own outfit, ineedlinks. I was lucky enough to catch up with him, and gained some fascinating insight into how to build quality, under the radar links at scale.
Q) Hi Matt, could you maybe start by telling us a little bit about your background, how did you get into the weird and wonderful world of SEO?
A) Hey Martin, where do I start! It’s been a funny 6 years really, I started at a small agency selling paid search. Whilst there, I realised SEO was the future for me, so I researched and tested SEO methods and theories with a WordPress site on the latest football transfer rumours.
After some success with this, I decided to take it to the next level by developing a small team within the company to offer SEO to clients. SEO was a lot easier back then, but I wanted to learn more and further my career so I moved to a large agency and worked there for 8 months before being poached by a Startup with a great vision. My role there as head of SEO helped me to really up my game and developed my link building techniques.
Q) Can you tell us a little bit about the formation of ineedlinks? What was your ‘Eureka’ moment?
A) I’ve been working within SEO agencies for a few years now and I noticed a problem when I needed to outsource my link building,
I was only able to purchase links in certain volumes which was really inflexible, not to mention having a really long lead time for clients. I had to create an internal team, but I realised that not every agency or business doing SEO could have the budget or the capacity for this.
That’s when it hit me! What if I offered tailored link building to SEO companies at a fraction of the cost of an in house team – link building made easy! We build the links people need and want, not just an off the shelf submission service.
We’re really focused on the quality of our work, for example, my outreach team is 20 strong and our acceptance rate of a guest blog is around 55% and we are constantly tailoring this to be as personal to the client’s criteria as possible.
Q) Many SEOs have declared that traditional article marketing is dead. Do you agree?
A) Submitting the same article to a number of generic article sites just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore, so yes, traditional article marketing is dead. New article marketing, using quality, carefully syndicated articles is very much alive and kicking!
You need to be smarter with your articles now. Write informative content, share your knowledge and then people will want to share your articles. We work on the principle that less is more, I’ll run you through our process:
Step 1 – Research industry and subject carefully.
Step 2 – Find a copywriter to write an article that can be useful to people in that industry. We usually go for around 500 words with a couple of images. We never just pitch our client’s products or services, we make sure it’s balanced and objective Another thing we pay close attention to is anchor text, across all of our link building we break our anchor text down by keywords and percentage to be used. This usually involves a lot of branded keywords (more on this later).
Step 3 – Find the article sites that are relevant to the client and their sector.
Step 4 – Pick the top 20 sites and submit our article (we usually get around a 50-70% acceptance rate depending on the industry.
Step 5. Review accepted articles and document these URLs.
Step 6. We socially bookmark all of our articles, we try to get genuine promotion of the article whether it be through Digg or StumbleUpon or sites of a similar nature. We also use Twitter and Facebook of the clients’ accounts to share their articles to friends and follower.
Q) What about directory submissions? Are there any value in these at all now?
A) This depends on the type of directory, if I were to offer you a link on www.myseodirectorylistings.com with a domain authority of 15 and 4000000 outbound links what would you say? (No thanks!)
Now, what if I were to offer you a listing on a local directory that would actually be of genuine use to someone trying to find your products or services?
Some directories do work, but make sure they are on genuinely useful domains, and always use brand anchor text.
When building directory links, ask the following questions:
- Does the directory match the business type?
- Do we need to pay for a more enhanced featuring on this directory? (if we do pay what are those benefits)
- Is this site being indexed regularly?
- Will this site possibly send us traffic?
A) Anchor text is very important to everything we do. We try and get relevancy from the sites we link, not necessarily forcing this relevance through the choice of anchor text. I tend to break down my campaigns by percentage:
Main Keyword – e.g. Link Building
Sub keywords – link building services, manual link building company, link building services, manual submission link building,
Sites relative to just link building:
Link building 30%
All others 30%
Sites Relating to SEO:
Link building – 20%
All others 20%
Sites with no relevance to keywords:
Link building 10%
All others 10%
Q) If you could build only one link to a site, where would it be from?
A) It would be this link right here to I need links. Look at the content surrounding this link! It’s perfect for me and my company. We’re talking about industry relevant information, its informative and is coming from a great website full of great content 😉
Q) Blogger outreach seems to be most SEOs preferred method of link building at the moment. The problem, of course, is that a very time-consuming process. How on earth do you go about scaling it?! Could you talk me through the process that you use?
A) This is our most popular type of link building request following Google’s recent algorithm changes. People want genuine outreach more now than ever now. Our take on outreach is actually quite unique, due to the sheer numbers of links we build.
Let me explain how we do it at volume and keep the quality. It’s all about the process and the team behind it using initiative to get the desired results.
Let’s use Copify as an example – say you came to me wanting a guest blog from a copywriting related site with a domain authority of 30+ with no more than 20 outbound links, (sounds like a tough achievement to find quickly). We have built ourselves a search engine that we use to source all sites relating to certain criteria, here’s the overview of the process. Please excuse me not giving away all of the exact details!
Step 1 – Client instructs us with their criteria.
Step 2 – My team find all sites that match the criteria set by agent (using our in-house software).
Step 3 – We contact each site with a unique offering, we offer incentives of social bookmarking and promotion via Twitter and Facebook as standard, but the thing we do differently is we actually ask them what they want us to write about from a number of topics relating to their site.
Step 4 – We receive a response from a site that matches the criteria.
Step 5 – We create the content with pictures based around the subject chosen by the site owner/webmaster.
Step 6 – Once live we then promote the blog socially.
The reason that our process works so well is we are not just contacting people saying:
“Please can I put this badly written blog on your site with a link back to us.”
We are actually involving the site owners and giving them control of what is posted on their site.
Now one more interesting thing about the way we do outreach is all about the writer, we have 22 in our team at the moment and this is constantly growing, my team create bios and social accounts and actively publish all of their own work on their own blogs, this means the site owner or webmaster can see previous work and see this was not just a spam email – we contacted them for a reason.
Creating good relationships is the key to the outreach being genuine.
Q) What tips can you give to SMEs with no budget, looking to do some basic link building?
A) Set up a blog, share your company’s happenings and thought leadership, and share your posts socially with people in your industry. Take your time, don’t just try and get links from as many sites as possible.
Q) Have you been impacted by the Panda and Penguin updates? Have they caused you to change your strategy in terms of link building?
A) We run a lot of tests through our R&D team, we push sites to the penalisation stage and work backwards, which means that we avoid doing anything that would negatively impact a client’s site. I have stopped selling certain types of links since the penguin update and continue to develop my offerings based on our R&D findings.
On a side note after a few recent tests we did, I expect some changes announced from Google any day now! We did a test 3 months ago and an identical one 2 weeks ago, let’s just say things are slowly changing.
Q) What would be your dream company to do SEO for?
A) It would be a big agency like MediaCom or McCann as I always used to read their blogs and take their advice. If I was to supply these types of companies it would say to me we are doing things in the correct way and we share the same vision as others who have been around for a long time.
Q) What SEO tools do you use?
A) I am a massive fan of SEO tools, I could write for hours about the tools I use and why but I will just give you my top 3 as i am sure I have bored enough people now 😉
Analytics SEO this tool really does give me everything I need to report back to my end user clients as well as monitor the changes in their campaigns day by day. As I focus mainly on link building I am able to show the client the links and what they are doing to their campaign in plain sight.
Rankwatch – This tool is amazing, day to day rankings with trigger alerts and local places rankings. I’m able to give my clients a login to check their rankings every day, I am also able to set up full white label versions for agencies.
SEOmoz – I use a lot of the tools on moz for my research they are simple and give me quick info.
Q) And finally, who is your favourite SEO rockstar??
A) Can I have 2? My first one would be Vaibhav Kakkar from SEONext, the things I learned from him still stick with everything I do today, and his view on research is amazing – a big thank you must go to him. My second would be Neil Walker, he taught me a lot in my days as a young SEO and his help changed the way I analyse my campaigns.
Also he’s not a bad rapper…