Link Building and SEO Capacity

It’s Christmas and as this blog has zero adverts and pretty much no money making schemes, I hope it’s OK to plug the services of my own consultancy. We grew a fair bit in 2011 and now have about 20 people at the SEO Consultancy that I founded back in 1999. Amongst them we have a dedicated link building team as well as expertise in Enterprise SEO. When major websites need someone to check another agency’s work, they often come to us – but right now we would love to take on another major site. If you like working with small, boutique but extremely well informed SEOs, then track us down and let’s see if we can’t help you in 2012.

There we go. That’s my annual plug. I didn’t even send it out by email to everyone this year.

Merry Christmas. See you on the other side.


How to get your page recrawled

This on e is for googlebot, Please go and recrawl the Receptional Daily so your index doen’t look in your SERPS as if it was last updated on the 6th of August.

Our CTO will be most grateful.

Fpr eveyone who is not a bot… one way to get your page recrawled when you don’t have access to Webmastertools or sitemaps is to simply link from a page of some stature. Doing this in the main text is helpful, as Google is more likely to recrawl these links.

Yahoo Site Explorer Alternatives

Yahoo Site Explorer is going offline. Here is a list of the main Yahoo site explorer alternatives. There are a few to choose from with different strengths and weaknesses.

So Yahoo Site Explorer finally died. It took most of the year – but many SEOs had found stronger alternatives a while back. However – if you only just woke up to the fact that your search world just collapsed, there really are only a few realistic alternatives to choose from.

Majestic Site Explorer

I do want everyone to know that I am prejudiced here, but Majestic’s Site Explorer has the Biggest data source (way more than Yahoo with 3.5 trillion urls). The freshest data (updated more than once a day) and the fastest site (because the data is not scraped on the fly and is optimized on the web’s front end.

Unlike Yahoo – which only gave 1,000 backlinks even though they reported that they knew of more, Majestic gives you many thousands depending on your subscription level – or ALL of the backlinks in their advanced reports. Getting data on your own sites is free. You can also get headline link counts for all sites for free as well, but the real magic – all the links, with all the anchor text, in any order you really want, does require a subscription. There has been a huge investment into the Majestic SEO project and they do (in my biased opinion) have the world’s best site explorer.


Great at the moment to get some of the links. Blekko has a much smaller database – but they would argue they concentrate on quality over quality. I am not sure the truth isn’t a bit more about how to crawl and store the whole web, but with a huge investment recently from Yandex, they might overcome these issues in time. That said – with Yandex being a full search engine, there may be pressure on Blekko to stop releasing all the backlink data at some point.


The SEOMoz offering. A great tool for sure with extra bells and whistles with their Domain Authority and other added value metrics. They are using the Amazon Cloud which is not cheap and has had some outages recently – but they probably have the highest user base of all the alternatives in this list and many people swear by their data.


I think they are pretty good – but you best speak German for best results.

Most other alternatives use the data from these sites – or derivatives thereof.

Soho vs Enterprise SEO

It used to be absolute chalk and cheese! But now many of the factors affecting small businesses need the skillset of an Enterprise SEO company. That’s because even the smallest of companies are now using a CMS to build and manage their site. I don’t know the last time I saw one designed and built in Dreamweaver.

If you are a small business, your best logic is to build a site in WordPress. My audience knows that. ’nuff said. But actually, there are many reasons why WordPress MIGHT not the right choice for a business (Yes – every WP hack will defend this list):

  • No satisfactory shopping cart plugin for WordPress.
  • WordPress force you to be on a Unix based server using PHP/MySQL
  • Security issues as WP gets targeted so heavily
  • Inability to patch holes easily if Plugins don’t upgrade

But for me there is one over-arching reason why a company might choose not to use WordPress and go for an alternative option like Drupal:

Multi-level user control

WordPress is designed to be first and foremost a blog. It scales just fine when you switch from 1,000 readers a month to 1,000 users an hour… well… mostly fine… but it doesn’t scale well when you go from one webmaster who knows what WordPress is and how plugins work to a company where every employee has their own blogging area or responsibility for their own department content.

As corporation move their businesses truly into the modern era, they will need to make the switch from the website being the responsibility of the few, to the website being the amalgamation of the many employees and functions within a company. A chain of pubs needs to let every pub individually promote their offers and Meet ups. A solicitor practice needs to let lawyers keep their own area of expertise up to date but without affecting other areas.

There are plugins that TRY to work around this, but ultimately, WordPress is designed to be managed by a single person. It does not really have flexibility to allow one group of people the ability to ONLY change content and another group to ONLY change metadata or add video content. If you only have a hierarchical user permissions system, them ultimately, the guy that uploads Video might also put up a story which gets the site owners into deep water.

I think this is the over-riding reason why we encourage compinies that really are far sighted to consider Drupal over WordPress. Don’t get me wrong – they both ROCK – but sometimes WordPress tries to fit a square peg in a round hole.

Search Technology Tools

On Friday I was in Hannover, where SEMSEO asked me to talk about Search Technology Tools – and in particular of course, my favourite tool, Majestic Site Explorer. I didn’t talk much about my own SEO tools page, but did look at the problems involved when Searh technology has to work at real scale. Here are my slides. They might take a few seconds to load.

Since putting up my own page of tools, we have started opening up quite a few of the SEO technology tools the we use at Receptional which have we never quite found anyone else building better.

How many links will I need to rank for…

One of the most frequently asked questions from prosepctive clients is pretty much impossible to answer. “How many links do I need”? It’s true… I can’t tell you. But I do at least have a methodology for staring to give an answer to this question – with the help of our newest recruit, James Hare.

It’s a question I hear a lot from prospective clients.

  • Some SEOs say “one or two big links”
  • Some say it depends on the 300 other factors that affect Google Rankings
  • Some say it all depends on content
  • Others say content is irrelevant it is JUST about the links.

The problem is that none of these answers is especially helpful to the in-house SEO asking the question. If they are inexperienced they feel they are being fed a pat answer. If they are experience they already know that the answer is impossible to give.

They need numbers or graphics that they can put in-front of non-digital marketers and say “here’s my business case”. If – as SEOs – we are going to say links are an important element (And they are. For sure.), then we need to help them see what the scale of the challenge.

At Receptional, they have set their newest recruit, James Hare, onto generating relatively quick numbers to help a client see the scale of the challenge. They plan to use this analysis as part of a free link audit to help clients understand their position. Below is a table of the top sites on Google for the phrase “free bets”, showing the anchor text numbers directed towards the domain, and then anchor text relevant links to the deep url.

Website Goo Pos PR Dom. Links Ext. Links cont. “free” Ext. Links cont. “bets” 1 6 1,091 465 438 2 4 489 1,363 1,076 3 5 3,432 836 378 4 4 54 73 45 5 5 807 494 341 6 3 633 362 353 7 5 565 192 68 8 3 212 989 970 9 5 2,199 811 742 10 3 304 222 216

(Data from the Link Intelligence at Majestic SEO)

Now whilst everything is as clear as mud, with this data in isolation, it does signify the scale of the challenge ahead fro anyone wanting to enter this space. They are probably going to need citations from maybe 300-1000 sites to start competing with these guys. Can they get there with 2 instead of 300? unlikely in this case. Are many of those link in the table discounted by Google? Almost certainly. But in the natural scheme of things, These are the sites that Google has chosen to show you on that phrase from the UK today – and the table shows the relative spread of links to these deep URLS. Sure – there are 200-300 other factors. But the client asked about links.

Please don’t shout at me and tell me the table is without foundation! I know that in itself it is not enough. This is only the start of Receptional’s link audit process, and the tools coming online now are helping to push strategies toward quality over quantity (although JCPenny clearly shows that there is more than one way to skin a cat). Given that I don’t want to recommend the “let’s get links from non-related sites, just to trigger the algo” approach, what other metrics might you use to help the client quantify the risks and rewards ahead? Semrush and Majestic together looks like an impressive combination from where I site right now.

Thanks again to James Hare for putting together the table.


60% of SEO’s don’t pay for the tools? Fools!

I just saw an SEOMoz survey question asking what tools respondents had paid to use in 2010. Whilst I was happy to see that over 300 of the respondents said that they had paid to use Majestic SEO’s link intelligence tools, I was REALLY surprised to see that 59.7% of respondents said that they had not paid for any tools at all to help them with their SEO. (That was 5297 respondents.)

Now that really surprised me. My team at Receptional certainly has an SEOMoz Pro membership and of course we use Majestic SEO heavily and  lots more third party tools. we are also lucky enough to be able to build a few seo tools of our own. So I wonder how many respondents can end up paying nothing for their tools?

If you want to be able to make a living at this… a full time living… then you really need to decide on some paid services to help to keep you ahead of (or at least up to speed with) others in your vertical. Collecting the best data and writing the best tools is not a “free” activity. If the devloper is any good, he or she needs to earn a living. Sure, a few try to survive on google Adsense but that really isn’t a viable mainstream income in the SEOTool market. I am fairly confident that most of the 5297 respondents that were not paying for tools are predominantly weekend internet marketers. As a friend said in the pub last night – they are looking for their “5 to 9” income stream.

Compared to other professions – like the law or accountancy – the oerheads for SEOs and Internet marketers are extremely low. But no overheads at all? That won’t work.


It’s not the First Date – it’s about the RELATIONSHIP

I have been using the Eightfold Linker Marketplace since its first beta, so I was delighted when Pelin asked me to add what little wisdom I may to the pot. My world is quite narrow. I don’t want to hitch up with eCommerce sites or even sites particularly in Canada or America. It’s not that I am averse to those sorts of sites – it’s just that I don’t want a hundred contacts that mean nothing. Nor do you. That’s not what I am trying to get out of the system.

Link building – most experts agree – is about relationships, not blue text on a web page. I use Linker to help me foster quality relationships. The last three tie ups I had through Linker produced far more depth than you might initially imagine. Here are some facts about them: Because my industry is quite a closed shop, I actually KNEW two out my last three tie ups personally already. This did not mean the tie-in was a waste. To the contrary, it told me that I was on the right path using the system to build relationships – because the people I already trusted were also using the system. What’s more, it helped me see where our agendas overlapped – that we were all looking to cross pollinate ideas and share.

Since then I have written articles for one and also had other members of my team write articles as well. The result is a richer experience. We have also started a banner advertising campaign on one site. Small industries have niche marketing needs and these relationships and link ups help to define the audience almost down to a tee – making every marketing dollar go so much further. A banner campaign to a select audience for a few hundred dollars trumps a display campaign to a huge more general audience, costing a few thousand dollars.

But the relationships go deeper than that. The “new boy” in my inbox was not someone I had heard of before – but whilst we have now reviewed each other’s services (and talked about them online) we have also linked up on Twitter and LinkedIN and we are now looking out for each other at conferences. I liked his take on my market and he was at least not derogatory about our product. With another match, we are geared up for a radio show. On another we have collaborated on some joint research.

Building your audience online is not about LINKS. It’s about RELATIONSHIPS. And that is exactly what you should be getting out of the Eightfold Linker Marketplace right now. To get into the system, people have to do just a little work to show that they understand the way in which the system sets up introductions. But you need a plan of action on how to build a relationship out of that introduction. Here’s a little “workflow” for you to mess around with in your head: When you get an introduction, be relaxed on accepting it, but then quickly find out what you have in common, by looking at the website and emailing the match with some questions about who they are and what aspirations they may have from the introduction.

  • If there is plenty in common, continue. If not… go and relook at your profile on Linker – you got something wrong to get the match in the first place.

If you have things in common, have a look at what strengths they have that you don’t. For example:

  • Do they have lots more twitter followers than you> If so, is the quality of those followers something to work on?
  • Do they have a blog with a wider audience than yours that you can buy into?
  • Do they run events that you might want to attend / sponsor / talk at?
  • Are they cash rich, time poor or cash poor, time rich? Either is useful… just offer to trade ideas on their terms.

Once you have assessed their strengths, also look at their weaknesses and see where you are strong on that list. That’s where you can make headway – to find a relationship which is win-win. This workflow/thought process should only take a couple of minutes – not hours. One email to the introduction with some basic questions, a review of their site and you should have a plan of action.

It’s not rocket science… it’s chemistry.