When InLinks.net; my Internal Linking Tool, was launched, it had a mountain to climb. It still has a way to go, but it’s making an impact in a competitive arena. These are the slides and the presentation about how I went about link building.
Presentations usually start with the title slide for the presentation – but this quote by a black advisor to FDR before the first world war seems a great place to start this talk.
Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”Booker T Washington
For those that do not know me, I founded a search agency back in 1999 but was better known as the original Marketing Director of Majestic. When I announced I was leaving Majestic full-time in 2017, I thought I was going to semi-retire. Unfortunately, my wife had other plans… so here I am, five years later, still in the game. Let me tell you what happened with my retirement. Firstly I gave Majestic a year’s notice. Actually – more than a year. That’s how much I loved my role there. They gave me a low-stress year as an ambassador and it culminated in a Lifetime achievement award at the UK Search Awards in 2018. I had visions of sitting on the boards of 10 small businesses, picking up £10K a year from each, for not doing any work.
So I redid my website and along came the first serious enquiry. I ended up investing in a brand new business and becoming the CEO as my business partner is French and doesn’t know UK law. I found myself setting up InLinks, a software as a service, from scratch.
This talk is a very personal link building case study, published in full over at Majestic.
Most Link building Case studies omit the site in the case study altogether. That’s a real shame for Link Building as a discipline or as a marketing channel.
let’s get back to my story. And this case study is all about stories, by the way. I started building out content for inlinks.net in 2019 and started to generate links. Not large numbers. But you can see the correlation between Majestic’s referring domain tracking and SEMRush’s organic keywords report. So something is working…
But the number of referring domains here is in the hundreds.
I have always maintained that Link Quality is exponentially more important than quantity, and the evidence bears this out.
A New business starts from scratch. Nil links. Nada. Maybe you bought a second-hand domain, but if the business is different, you have quantity but not context.
A link is nothing if it does not add value.
This starts you out at a big disadvantage compared to your incumbent competitors.
This case study, then. Is a deep dive into exactly how I “got” the ten strongest links for inlinks as of the case study date.
It is not a story of “outreach” or Buying links, or content first or guest blogging or user-generated content or directories or… or anything. But it is a very long-standing and determined strategy. It has taken 20 years to perfect – even though the company is only in its infancy.
I am calling it Alliance linking (because every good link building method needs a catchy name. right?)
This talk is a deep dive into how I got my “best” links. Or more accurately, the best PAGES that have got links on… I cannot say they are the best links, because if you have seen my PageRank presentation from a previous Brighton, you’ll know that the value of a link depends in part on how many other links are on the page. Even with more modern maths, context is everything as we will see.
In order to avoid a personal cognitive bias in this case study, I needed something other than myself to create a list of my top 10 links, Otherwise, I would simply have chosen convenient links to talk about. For this talk, I’ll chat about the ones that make good stories, but I chose the 10 as listed in the default ordering of Majestic’s tool in the case study. In practice, Majestic has lots of really cool ordering options here by the way. You can filter out link some URL pattern, or limit lists to one or three links per referring domain or order by link type, or language or by words in the page title… but for discipline, I took the 10 links on a given day in the default order.
That’s a little unfortunate because it turns out my BEST link using this criterion is a simple list of Online marketing tools and technologies.
This is the Link Context chart in Majestic and if you take the time to understand this chart there is a lot of information in it.
This is a powerful page, but has 934 Outbound Links – The green bars show how they are spread more or less evenly all the way down the page. My link is pretty low on that page as well, as seen by this line near the bottom of the graphic.
Even so, the list gives a nice bit of context. It links through to our market trends tracking tools, specifically tracking entities by market. I like the surrounding context and the company it keeps on the page.
Indeed, this is the only link I asked for in this presentation. I’ll be honest, I used Majestic’s Clique hunter too, to find this page. This chart shows that of the 9 competitors I pegged myself against, 7 were listed on Saijogeorge.com:
The one missing was in French. So why wouldn’t I ask for that link? But what’s more important is that I can see a human coming just under once a day from this site to Inlinks. That’s maybe 300 people a year and at no cost to me whatsoever. So even though it wasn’t my first choice for this case study, I am happy with the story it tells.
Most of my link building, though, goes far, far deeper…
I have met Barry in Las Vegas, London, New York, Jerusalem (twice), San Diego and Seattle that I can recall.
I went to Jerusalem twice to support Barry’s SMX events there – once as a speaker and once as a sponsor/speaker. I’d have carried on going if it hadn’t been for a rash of bombings that scared my daughter and wife so much that they made me stop.
We have been on webinars together and I remember him blogging live while I was presenting in Pubcon Vegas. I don’t know whether he was blogging about MY presentation, but I assume so. But possibly my most drastic strategy to get on the right side of Barry Schwartz was in 2019. Barry had offered to do a live interview, face-to-face with me. But he seemed to stop going to as many conferences. Or the ones he did go to were not the ones I was attending. Vegas was not his thing! So if you can’t get Mohammed to the Mountain, take the mountain to Mohammed – which I guess is an odd metaphor to use on Barry.
I decided the thing to do was this: When returning from the State of Search conference in Dallas, Texas, I could divert my journey to stopover in New York. One day layover.
So with that kind of history, over many years, is it surprising that when I send Barry a piece of content that he at least CONSIDERS it for his daily roundup? My point here is that this link was born out of a long-standing relationship. It isn’t just one hypertext link, there are webinars, Vlog interviews, and a group of friends.
1,169 in fact.
This is the KIND of relationship… the kind of LINK that a search engine SHOULD be trying to understand.
It is the connection between two entries – in this case, two people – and the connection with Inlinks. You can imagine how links make all the difference when they are this deep?
I also think affiliate links have had a bad wrap, by the way as well. Let’s take the story behind this example. How many people know who Stephan Spencer is? He co-wrote the Art of SEO with Rand Fishkin and Eric Enge. I have met Stephan in conferences in Chicago, Las Vegas and New York to name just a few. I worked with him on the second edition of the book to make sure he had screenshots of Majestic and a good understanding of how the Flow metrics worked.
This is him being interviewed actually by one of our customers, Stepforth. It is great to see my customers talking about me, so why should I worry if the link has an affiliate tracking parameter on it? I am sure the link would have been there regardless, but of course, it makes good business sense to create an environment with your customers such that they feel good talking about your product and you feel good about them amplifying your message. If you can do this, then halo effects happen.
For example, when I saw a link on “Marketing Speak”, I already knew that Stephan had just recorded a whole interview with me for his own podcast, which has since been published.
This interview was heavily discussing the theories behind the inLinks tool and this link has context, authority and no affiliate parameter. But it did not come without work. Relationships take time to nurture. They need to be based on mutual respect and informed context.
Stephan and I share 376 mutual connections on Linkedin.
Even links that are mechanical may well be the result of deep relationships.
Hopin.com is in fact a webinar platform and I do quite a few webinars! This one was when I was talking on Wellbeing of all things at the Search Engine Journal Summit. So in a way, I wasn’t even talking in context – but again it is all about the company you keep.
– I see my friends, Duane Forrester, previously of Bing and now of Yext there. Tim Mayer – renowned in my book for creating Yahoo Site Explorer and Keith Goode from IBM – talked about Inlinks in his presentation at that ever! -Clearly, that is a good place for Inlinks to be seen, but it made me think about the wider context. A link from Search Engine Journal would have been even better. -So I dug around. I actually did have a link to inlinks already on SEJ from an SEO called Ryan Jones whom I have met in Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale and New Orleans to the best of my memory. He’s an old PubCon friend who is forever pitching Brett Tabke, the owner of Pubcon, to do a talk called “keeping up with the Joneses”. Involving me and Russ Jones of Moz fame.
-In fact, as I was putting these slides together, the best link of all changed into another one from Search Engine Journal, This time written by Loren Baker, SEJ’s CEO and owner. Loren and I have talked on the same stage in New York, we’ve had countless meals together all over the USA and I even recall sponsoring or speaking at an agency event that was once organized by him in Florida. It was an agency that spectacularly imploded in the 1990s, so it goes to show that even when things don’t go your way, you are unwise to burn your bridges.
-.Ryan and I share 162 mutual connections
-Loren and I share 792 mutual connections on Linkedin
So what have we learnt and what can you take away?
- Links are about relationships and those relationships cannot be skin deep if they are to have meaning
- Hire old people to do your link building and outreach! Seriously… do not underestimate the amount of Tacit Knowledge that people that have been in an industry for decades have. Type tacit Knowledge into Google and I get Google Scholar articles at the top. This is perhaps why old farts make good chairmen and Chairwomen for businesses. It is why I started again as CEO of a start-up in my mid-fifties.
- Invest in knowledge sharing. Don’t just go to conferences, talk at conferences, Network at conferences. Engage. When lockdown finally comes to an end, there’s a golden opportunity out there to be the new inspiration in your industry.
- Learn how Majestic’s Link Context chart and Link Graph tool works. The amount of information in these charts is incredible.
Finally – it is rarely directly asking for a link that counts and it is not at all about JUST being link-worthy. You need that as well… otherwise Groucho Marx’s quote would ring all too true when he said “I’d never be a member of a club that let me in”. You need to be in a club you feel honoured to be part of. It is the company you keep.
I am truly honoured to once again be allowed to talk with you today at BrightonSEO. I never take these opportunities for granted. I’m going to leave on the same slide that I started with. I think it may ring more true than when we started. Goodbye and thank you.
You can review more SEO Presentations here.