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How are SEO Companies Generating Incoming Links Today?

Discussion in 'SEO & PPC Marketing' started by Kevin Muldoon, Jul 12, 2014.

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  1. This is primarily a question for SEO guys such as @Brian Jackson and @Rhys Wynne. :)

    I took a peek around Fiverr tonight as I saw it mentioned on an article I was reading. I noticed that there are loads of people selling links on their websites through Fiverr. This wasn't surprising, however it did get me thinking about whether any SEO companies would purchase links in places such as Fiverr.

    Incoming links remain the bread and butter of a good SEO campaign. Therefore I am curious as to what search engine optimisation companies are doing after the Panda updates from Google. Is guest posting the main strategy now, or are many SEO companies still purchasing links cheaply through marketplaces?

    I still get approached by SEO companies to ask if I will sell text links, but I get a lot less requests than I used to years ago. Are SEO companies still buying links but just using link wheels to disguise their tracks?

    Some of the listings on Fiverr don't actually look that bad. For example, this blogger sells a mention on her blog for $5. She will make it nofollow for $5 and another $5 will get a photo displayed.

    As you all know, I am not an SEO guy. I have always just focused on content and let everything happen naturally, but I am curious as to whether purchasing links periodically could boost the ranking of a website. I don't want to risk my blog or Rise Forums, though I'd love to do a test for a less important website and see if it makes a difference. I think it would make a great case study for us all.

    Before I start splurging my cash and getting an old website of mine de-indexed, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the issue. :)

    What are SEO companies doing to build links? Perhaps a more important question is - what is working?

  2. It's a mixed bag in my experience.

    There are a large number of SEO companies operating a 'churn and burn' model. They pitch themselves as though their clients don't get hit by Penguin then use link wheels, directory submissions, article marketing and then use over optimized anchor text.

    Most of their clients will get hit, they'll drop the client and move on because the value of each client is so low.

    Then there are the ones that offer low quality guest posting services that are around $30/link - most of these companies were hammering sites like Blogger Link Up and My Blog Guest for links.

    Then there's the higher tier ones that are focusing on higher quality guest posts on relevant sites. These are more for traffic and authority. A lot of these SEO companies have re-positioned themselves as content marketing agencies because the focus is more on the content now.

    Although, I know some large agencies in the UK have used some questionable stuff despite having a reputation for not doing that kind of stuff.

    The downside is that the higher quality stuff is much more expensive, difficult to scale and takes longer to kick in.

    But, on a more positive note when things are done right, you are effectively future proofing your website.

    I have seen a bunch of people who are popular in the SEO space say that if you aren't using these black hat tactics, you're not really an SEO but I seriously doubt they would stick around when a clients site gets torched. And I doubt they've had to clean up a domain with 50,000 referring domains that has a manual penalty.

    If they do, they'll change their tune pretty quick.

    And because of this I'm very careful of the advice that I follow because a lot of 'experts' promote tactics they don't use on their own sites.

    My personal focus is on:
    • High quality guest posting on relevant sites that have the potential to drive traffic and increase my authority.
    • Using HARO (helpareporterout.com) to source expert interviews and get myself featured on notable sites (Hello HuffPost and CIO.com etc).
    • Competitor backlinks - using tools like Ahrefs to find out who is linking out to my competitors and plan a strategy to get a link.
    There are other tactics that I could use, e.g. broken backlink building but they can be very time consuming and outsourcing is challenging because it's expensive and also difficult to find someone who really knows what they are talking about.

    It's all that "yeah I'm a link building expert" and I catch them trying to build links on link farms and sites like submityoursocialbookmarklinkhere.com.
    Kevin Muldoon likes this.
  3. I have actually been wondering whether guys like myself and @Joe F should be marketing content marketing (SEO) services rather than selling writing. I honestly think we could charge companies more by just putting an SEO spin on it.

    One of the reasons why I have not paid any attention to link building over the last two years because I have been writing so much for others. Therefore, there are links back to my blog from many different locations. However I feel that I could benefit from having links on more unique domains.

    So do you do all the link building yourself, or do you try and find someone to help you (someone who isn't lying about being an expert :fibber:).

    I signed up to My Blog Guest last year to see what it was all about. I was not impressed. It was mainly used by low quality writers and people who wanted links cheap. Perhaps I didn't spent enough time there to get a good impression, but my first impressions were not good. And I would never consider returning after Google penalised them.
  4. That's definitely possible and I think that now a lot of people are starting to really value quality content over the cheap stuff (at least more so than in the past).

    You could break it up into key parts and create landing pages tailored to people looking specifically for each service:
    • Content marketing campaigns - this could be as basic as guest posting on high traffic blogs or it could be a full on campaign, this post is a good reference: http://unbounce.com/landing-pages/landing-pages-for-content-marketing/
    • Content writing - exactly what you do now because it's what some people are looking for
    • Link building - similar to content marketing campaigns but aimed at the people who are looking for link building
    What I've noticed is that a lot of people think they want link building, but what they really need is more of a content marketing style approach (quality > quantity etc).

    You'll definitely benefit from links from more unique domains, providing they're the right ones. And there are so many you can write for that tie in with blogging, marketing and WordPress.

    Guest posting is great, you get a link and I get a well written piece of content that has a high likely hood that it will generate traffic. Relevance is important though.

    I do the link building myself, I need to seriously ramp up my income until I can outsource this. I tried plenty of services, even sites like PeoplePerHour and these guys were getting links off blogs that have no editorial control. And sites selling text links from their sidebar.

    Yeah, I'm with you on My Blog Guest, I'm a fan of Ann Smarty but that service was just getting abused! Like you say, low quality writers and people wanting cheap links.

    If you spent more time, it would just be more of the same.

    It's a shame so many bloggers got manual penalties, I remember there was one guy (Doc Sheldon) who managed to get coverage on some of the big SEO news blogs and got his penalty over turned. He had a site wide penalty because of one blog post. Matt Cutts tried to argue that it wasn't relevant LOL.
  5. I do believe website owners value content a bit more now. For years website owners thought that good writing was something that could be bought cheaply and bought freely.

    I disagree with you on guest posting though. It is not something I am particular fond of as it has cheapened good writing. I have had over a dozen website owners email me expecting a long article free of charge and they asked how I could charge money when others would do it free. They also tried to sell it by saying that I would get a PR 3 or PR 4 link. And that was a lie anyways - as the article itself would likely have a PR 1 or PR 2. Put simply, guest posting does not put food on the table. I get a credit link when I write articles anyway, so why would I do it free of charge?

    I do realise that a large guest posting campaign can be successful if you need to establish yourself and promote a new website. It only works well if you are also working non-stop on delivering great content on the website you are promoting. And you need to ensure that the website you guest post on can deliver a huge amount of traffic. However, the incentive to spend so much time writing for others free of charge diminishes once you have established yourself. There is a big difference between someone who has been blogging for years and aspiring blogger with no reputation and no portfolio.

    That unbounce article you linked to is superb. Thanks for that. I have always wondered whether I should change my blog from a traditional blog layout to something more professional that is focused more on products and services.

    The story of Matt Cutts giving a site wide penalty concerns me. On my personal blog I post about a wide range of topics. Who is he to say what is relevant and what is not? If its relevant to me, or relevant to my audience, then its relevant. And if they need to apply a penalty, why not apply it to that specific page? It seems excessive to apply a penalty to a whole website because of one silly link.

    As a rule, I never add nofollow links to anything. In my opinion, that's the job of the search engine. I shouldn't be the one deciding who gets juice and who doesn't (granted, linking to someone is in many ways, a vouch for them). Why should I have to start using such a pointless tag to avoid a penalty? And what if Google suddenly changes their strategy: Would I be expected to remove all those nofollow tags?

    (sorry, I'm going off on a tangent here, but I hate that kind of thing).
  6. Definitely. I had a client that thought paying $3/post was acceptable. Nothing would convince him otherwise. Proof reading was essentially writing from scratch and thankfully didn't work with them long.

    I can definitely see where you're coming from with guest posting.

    What I was meaning was that you could offer it as a service for clients, people pay crazy money for links on high traffic/authoritative sites.

    But yeah, if you're getting paid to write and get a link back to your blog from clients with decent sites/traffic then there's not much value to use it as a tactic for yourself.

    And anyone who tries to sell this to you on PageRank just needs to go away. The real metrics they need to be talking about is average number of real blog comments and how much traffic they can refer.

    I get this too sometimes, I think of it as 'reverse guest posting', it's a way of offloading content creation costs to influencers, although I don't mind doing it because I don't do freelance work, but I am trying to increase my readership and the more sites the merrier.

    What gets me is the sites that expect that you're able to just dedicate a few days to planning long form content - some sites I don't mind because there's a clear benefit.

    A good example is BoostBlogTraffic.com - it's so exclusive that I jumped at the chance and they refer loads of byline traffic. That post got me over 130+ engaged email subscribers. If I optimized my landing page better I could have moved the needle to over 250 subscribers.

    No worries - Unbounce really know what they're doing with this content marketing thing.

    It concerns me too, it makes more sense to penalize the page. But, they set out to send a message and they did the same thing with PostJoint. Google's approach is nothing short of a FUD campaign. The arguing relevance thing really got me too. Crazy stuff.

    Google is the king maker and the power they have can impact the economy of entire countries. It's a wonder that governments don't start looking to take some sort of action.

    No worries!
    Kevin Muldoon likes this.
  7. Ahhh, sorry. I misinterpreted you. Yeah I could always market my writing services as a guest promotion service. However, if I am unable to charge a higher amount, the end result is the same.

    That is crazy that someone thought that $3 per post was acceptable. To whom? To someone living in a war torn third world country that can barely survive on $10 per day. I think people forget about the real world cost of things. If I worked for $3 per post, I'd have to do three months of worth every week just to stay afloat. It's madness. The annoying thing is that frequently, the people who are stingy about paying money for articles are the ones who sell products and services worth thousands.

    I am a bit of a hypocrite with Google as I rely on Gmail, Google Docs, YouTube, and more. In general, I fully support the actions they do to clean up search engine results and ensure that results are more relevant. The problem is that they frequently bend the rules in order to accommodate partners, big companies, and more. While the little guy can lose their whole business and not even get an explanation via email, Twitter, Google+, or whatever.

    The big problem just now is negative SEO. It's frightening that it negative SEO can be so effective and lose a company millions of dollars.
    Adam Connell likes this.
  8. True. I've known links on larger sites to go for over £200 but most were in other niches, there's also the back and forth with editors etc so it might not work out all that beneficial.

    The real difference price wise would come from offering campaigns on a retainer basis but they do take a lot more work.

    Yeah, you're along the right lines there - the client was just that sorta guy, has to be the worst person I've worked for. He had a knack for offending people and wanted everything for nothing, like some Dickensian character, always trying to squeeze a little more out. His SEO expectations were just as crazy. He wanted to compete with brands that have £million/year marketing budgets on a few hundred quid.

    I get what you mean - the idea behind cleaning up search results is a noble one and I'm all for it, like you say - the issue is with big brands. Definitely.

    Yeah, negative SEO is insane. My agency was hit a few months ago, we were lucky because we had a strong backlink profile - everything was naturally earned or secured using expert interviews or guest posts on industry sites like SEJ.

    But, a lot of others haven't been so lucky and the cost of cleaning up the mess is insane. The problem for some companies is that they have the dilema of choosing to pay a crazy amount of money or ditch the domain and lose editorially earned links from sites like the BBC.

    Google need to sort that one out.
  9. What URL do you sell services from? Do you generate business through BloggingWizard?
  10. It always used to be through my old agency (UK Linkology), and right now I don't sell any services via Blogging Wizard.

    I'm definitely considering it in the future, I know I could grow my income VERY quick if I did but I'm focusing my efforts on passive stuff.
  11. I am trying to do both, but it can be a difficult juggling act. In theory, if I manage my blog effectively and bring in good writers, I can increase income considerably over the next six months. Have you ever thought about picking up some clients and then using the income to outsource some of the work you are doing to build your passive income?
  12. To be honest the link building part comes last now for everyone of my clients. Used to be the other way around. Not to say that backlinks aren't important, they are still the building blocks of SEO and link juice is still very important. But for me I focus on PPC, on-page SEO, Social Media, Guest Blogs (high quality only) and Content, Content, Content. Then after all that is up and running I start building links. If you have great content the links will follow. I haven't built any links for OKay Marketing and my backlink profile is pretty decent. I would stay away from any fiverr gigs, not matter how good the quality might be. I'm sure some are fine, but I just don't think it is worth the risk. This is probably one of the best articles out there right now on backlinks: http://backlinko.com/17-untapped-backlink-sources. SEO guys have to work smarter now for backlinks and quality over quantity.

    Here are a few backlinks in your niche Kevin you could create that are great PR and dofollow:
    • profiles.wordpress.org (PR 9)
    • inbound.org (PR 5)
    • managewp.org (PR 3)
    I wish I had more for you but I do most of my backlink work in the medical niche.
    Kevin Muldoon likes this.
  13. Definitely sounds like the next 6 months could be pretty big for you @Kevin Muldoon.

    I've considered picking up clients and investing the money back in my business, right now I'm focusing on rebuilding Blogging Wizard and optimizing it as much as possible to boost my income, followed by writing 2 books. I'm definitely looking at taking a good portion of what WP Superstars is earning (when it starts earning) and investing it back in more content.

    @Brian Jackson, I really like the approach you're taking for your clients - have you tried any content suggestion sites like Outbrain? Not sure if it would be a good fit, but there's a good presentation on how to use similar sites to promote content: http://www.kaizensearch.co.uk/blog/conferences/brighton-seo-presentation/.

    Actually, Kevin have you considered using Outbrain to get some cheap traffic to your posts? I've got traffic as cheap as $0.07 before and as far as most traffic goes, it's pretty engaged.
  14. Thanks @Brian Jackson. I already have profiles on WordPress.org and ManageWP.org. Inbound.org looks good. Just checking it out.

    @Adam Connell I'm keen to publish more books too. It is something that I will need to put on the back burner if I continue to freelance for others. How does Outbrain promote pages? Do you enter your website URL or can you specify specific articles to promote? I would be interested trying it out to promote Rise Forums too.
  15. You can add URL's manually or you can import an RSS feed, they then get manually approved by Outbrain staff.

    Another way to work things would be create a special category (this would work best for blog posts) and import the category RSS feed into Outbrain - that's if you wanted to exclude certain topics.

    I tried Outbrain for the gaming blog I used to run, it did pretty well - ended up getting out posts featured on Gamespot.com under neath blog posts.
  16. Cool. I'll give them a try. I have been looking at different networks for promoting Rise Forums. Think it could be more cost effective that advertising on blogs. Though it could be worth getting some blog reviews too.
  17. I have done some reading on Outbrain and almost signed up the other day. There aren't very many reviews from people I trust about Outbrain and so I have been hesitant. Definitely going to give them a try now @Adam Connell. Thanks!
  18. I'm now pretty much 100% WordPress dev, rather than SEO.

    We use a method of content marketing. This comes from two places:-

    - Guest Blogging in RELEVANT places.
    - Growing company blogs and then promoting those posts.

    Both seem to be working pretty well. There was a hit recently with guest blogging, with My Blog Guest getting spanked. It affected me, but didn't really affect the company operation beyond spending a little more time doing research.

    Had also a few good links from Help a Reporter Out, but again I try and make sure I go for decent sources, rather than just replying to everything.

    It's the same as it's always been though. I still submit to directories, but high quality only. Same with guest posts and any other tactic.

    But I'm pretty much out of that game now :D
  19. I imagine there is a lot of people like yourself Rhys who are moving from SEO into something else.

    The interesting thing is that once a blog reaches a certain level, it can reduce its costs significantly if it just accepts guest posts. That is what ProBlogger done. At one point, more than 75% of their content was written free of charge by bloggers who wanted a link back. Though the downside is that the blog can lose its voice because of it.
  20. No worries @Brian Jackson, also I've heard Taboola are good, not tried them myself. There is also Nrelate but I've avoided them after a run in with one of their sales guys who didn't take no for an answer. or 3, or 4 actually haha!

    @Rhys Wynne, good call about only responding to relevant HARO opportunities. I used it to source some responses for a group interview a while back and some people were clearly responding to anything, despite having no expertise.
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