Link Loopy, Part 4: Get Those Links
Ian Lurie Apr 10 2009
This is part 4 of my 5-part series on link-building. Yesterday I talked about finding the opportunity gap – the links you need to get if you’re going to catch up with your competition.
Today I’ll talk about actually going out and getting those links.
If you’re expecting a miraculous piece of software that automatically acquires Thousands of Links For You Overnight, you’re going to be sorely disappointed, though. In today’s post I’ll show you how to get links, the good old-fashioned way:
- Find the choice links.
- Make your requests.
- Keep track of progress.
- Don’t waste your time.
- Don’t trust anyone.
Find the choice links
If you used yesterday’s procedure, then you’ve got a nice list of links in a spreadsheet. You also have the original list you generated using Linkscape.
Prep your link list spreadsheet by adding a few columns: Pagerank, MozRank, date requested, date obtained and note.
For me, ‘choice’ links are high value, easily-obtained links from sites that are relevant to your business. So go find those and you’re set.
OK, the chances of you finding links with all three attributes are practically nil. So try to balance them as best you can. Here’s what I do:
- Grab the first link on the list.
- Visit the site. What’s its pagerank? Yah, toolbar pagerank is a crappy metric. But it’s the only one we’ve got right now.
- If the site has no pagerank or a pagerank of 0, skip it. Make a note if you want to.
- If the site has pagerank, enter it in the sheet.
Do this for the first 10-20 sites on the list. You’ll get something that looks like this:
You’ll notice I’m not being terribly picky. If there’s pagerank, I select the link. That’s because no one really knows, 100%, how Google, Yahoo! and Live select a ‘choice’ link. We have a general idea, but not a great one. Best to get ‘em all. In my opinion.
Make Your Requests
Now comes the least-fun, most intestinally fortitudinous part: Go to each site and request the link.
That doesn’t mean spamming the site owner with an e-mail telling them what a wonderful site they have and could they please for the love of God give you a link. Here’s what you do:
- If the site is a directory, look for the ‘add site’ button. If it costs money, you have to decide whether it’s worth it. Many directory links are worth it purely as advertisements (never mind the link value). I’ve gotten leads from sites that I thought were purely a link play for me and my company. Don’t rule ‘em out.
- If the site is a blog, make a note in the notes column. We’ll work with that in Out Execute Your Competition, in the next post in this series.
- If the site is a private business, you should probably skip it. It’s unlikely they’re going to link to you out of the blue. If you think you have an angle, like a complementary business or a contact at the business, go for it. But contact them directly, and for God’s sake don’t use a subject like ‘link exchange request’. Open a conversation with them that focuses on the angle. Grub for the link later on.
- If the site’s a news site or social bookmarking site that for some reason still provides ‘dofollowed’ links, wow. Write a great blog post and ask someone to bookmark it for you.
- If the site’s a certification or organization directory, such as the Better Business Bureau, sign up! Don’t be cheap. These organizations build trust in your company and, since they showed up in your link search, you know they’ll give you a link, too.
- Add the date you requested the link in the ‘date requested’ column.
What, you thought this would be easy? Sorry. Making pancakes is easy. Link building is closer to making a perfect chocolate souffle. With no oven and a herd of elephants running by outside.
Keep track of your progress
You can check each site manually, if you want to, for your link.
I use Google Alerts to help out: Go to Google.com/alerts and do a search for your domain name. Set the search to display in your Google Reader Account:
Click ‘create alert’.
Click ‘add to Google Reader’.
What, you don’t have Google Reader? Are you insane? Follow these directions and set it up!
I don’t use the link: operator because I want the widest possible set of results each day for my domain name.
Add other alerts mixing the link: operator and any keywords you’re using as link text. So, if you’re going to use “internet marketing” as your link text (when given the opportunity), add an alert for link:www.portentinteractive.com “internet marketing”.
As new links show up, add the date in the ‘date obtained’ column. If these links have an expiration date, I suggest adding a note that reads ‘expires [date]‘ so that you can renew them before they go bye-bye.
Bingo. You’re now tracking link progress. There are, by the way, tools that purport to do all this automatically. I haven’t found any that work to my liking. I’m a picky bugger, though, so feel free to try ‘em if you find ‘em.
Don’t waste your time
If a link looks hopeless, don’t waste your time! Examples of time-wasters include:
- A site that’s not been updated for 1+ years. Submit your request if you want, but don’t spend much time following up.
- A site for a small, individual practitioner who used to work at the company to which she links. Forget it, OK?
- Sites that charge $3000 for a link from a Pagerank 2 page. Just laugh and move on.
You can likely build links faster by writing cool stuff on your site, networking via Twitter or other tools, and generally keeping your online house in order. Keep your priorities straight.
Don’t trust anyone
I’m slightly paranoid, so you may want to ignore this. But I never, ever, ever outsource link building. It’s tempting to hire some guy overseas to get you 999 links for $99. But you just don’t know who they are, what they’re really doing with your money, or who else they’re working with.
I do have the luxury of a great team here at Portent, so I can afford to be paranoid. But regardless, watch yourself.
Slow and steady…
Got those first 10-20 done? Time to repeat the whole process for the next 10-20 links. Remember, slow and steady will win this race.
Right now the link geeks out there are warming up their flame cannons, getting ready to ask questions like:
- What about second-degree links?
- What about associations?
- What about all those sources of free links?
- Ian, what is your problem?!
I’ll be answering these questions, except that last one, in Part 5, out-execute your competition.
Ta-ta for now.
The Link Building Series
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint.He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More