Podcast 11 – Understanding Link Building for SEO

Show Notes:

Danny Dover lead the SEO team at SEOmoz, the world’s leading SEO software company. He was heavily involved in growing their blog readership to 100,000 readers PER DAY!

He was a big part of the success of Open Site Explorer (the best link analysis tool on the web). He has also spoken at SEO conferences all over the world.

His SEO Secrets book on Amazon is getting awesome reviews.

If you thought he would know a thing or 2 about SEO, you’d be right…

Listen to this great interview where we discuss how to do one of the most fundamental SEO activities – link building.

You can learn more about his SEO Secrets book, get inspired reading his Life Listed blog, or follow him on Twitter 

His email is: Danny [AT] intruigingideas.com

 

If you prefer to read:

Philip:            So Danny you’ve consulted with some of the biggest brands on search engine optimization like Facebook and Microsoft.  You’ve led a search optimization team for probably the most respected SEO tool set company in the world, SEO Moz.

You wrote for the blog – were involved with the SEO blog which had about 80,000 readers per day which is pretty phenomenal.

You were involved with the Open Site Explorer which was essentially down loading the internet of ten trillion links or something like that.  You’ve written a book on search engine optimization which is being translated into numerous languages.  It’s had fantastic reviews on Amazon.

You’ve spoken all over the world.  So is there anything you haven’t achieved yet in search engine optimization?

Danny:            Oh well, I’m still working on my personal side, I’ve done all this work for other people and I’m just now working on my own stuff.

Philip:              So I think you ticked all the boxes, there seems to be the words ‘expert’ and ‘ninja’ and ‘guru’ seem to be thrown around pretty recklessly these days but I think you ticked all those boxes.

Danny:            I appreciate that, thank you.

Philip:              What are you upto these days?

Danny:            So I’m working for AT&T doing SEO strategy for the company, primarily focused on Yellow Pages.com, YP.com so it’s been a lot of fun.  It’s very different from what I’d done in the past.  The changes I make now will effect generally about 30 million different pages per any given change or any different like template updates.  So that’s a lot of fun.

Then I’ve been traveling a lot.  I traveled I spent the last nine months in South America going to various places, doing various things, and I am back now in the States and will be here for the next nine months or so.

Philip:              Nice, pretty, that sounds pretty awesome lifestyle.  I wonder if you give the listeners a bit of a background to your role at SEO Moz and maybe talk very briefly what SEO Moz is?

Danny:            Absolutely.  So I started that SEO Moz I think about four years ago at this point, might even be a little longer.   SEO Moz was originally a SEO consulting company, I was employee number 3 or 4 and we started just like all consulting companies do just doing local brands and kind of moving up and up and we had a blog that was quite popular.

SEO Moz blog gained a lot of readers, I think today it has about 100,000 daily readers.  We started working with bigger companies as you mentioned Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Disney, all these big names.

From that we learned a ton and gave away all our information for free as the CEO of the company Rand Fishkin is really the person who taught me the most that I’ve learned from a single person about SEO.

I was just kind of experimenting and learning from him who was experimenting as well.  So about two years ago SEO Moz changed from doing consulting to doing entirely SEO software.  So we’re working on a pro web out there and about a year ago I left SEO Moz and joined the ranks of AT&T doing SEO strategy for yp.com.

Philip:              Cool so I use the SEO Moz tool set and there’s some great stuff in there so if listeners haven’t checked it out, I encourage you to do so.

Danny:            Yeah, it’s a great tool.

Philip:              Today we’re going to talk a little bit about link building.  Let’s just start at the beginning, give a bit of an overview for people as how does link building fit in and  why is it important?  How does it fit into search engine optimization?

Danny:            Sure, so link building is from a very basic level, is the art and science of driving links from other websites.  This turns out to be an extremely important factor.  From the research that we had done at SEO Moz and the research I’ve seen from other companies about two thirds more or less of all the components  go into the Google Algorithms going to web pages have to do with links one way or another.

They started a long time ago with Google, when they found that using links to create web pages rather than other social sites people had been using before turned out to be a abnormally good way of finding relevant useful pages.

And so SEO’s spend a lot of time building links and trying to get links from other websites to their websites with relevant anchor text trying to help them rank in search engines.

Philip:              So for businesses listening, what’s the starting point?  I guess understanding the links that you have right now would be a good place to start.

Danny:            Yeah I think that’s the first part.  Or what you’re going to find if you’re like most people on the internet is that the vast majority of websites are going to be going to your home page and they will be doing that with the anchor text of your brand or your domain name.

So let’s say you own example.com.  Most of your links for an average website are going to say example.com and they are going to go directly to your homepage.

From that, it helps you rank for your brand name on the first page of Google.  So if you’re example.com and if someone searches example, it’s very likely just based off of your organic links, you’re going to rank towards the top for whatever is your brand is.  You see this all the time with that, is like what your PDR or yes, Wikipedia and these big ones are going to rank no. 1 for the name simply by virtue of people linking to their homepage with the anchor text of their brand.

Philip:              Okay, so that’s – so most businesses will be having that already.  So how can you work out – what’s the best way to see what links you have today for any website?

Danny:            It’s the tool I use called Open Site Explorer.  It’s a free tool and just to be clear, it’s an SEO Moz tool and I’m biased in that I helped develop it, I helped to build it, at least work on the designs for it.

So what that does is it uses the index that SEO Moz has on the internet so an index a lot like what Google has or Yahoo has downloading all the web pages on the internet and looking at the links that are in between them.  That tool is free.

Yahoo is the biggest contender, they also offer a tool called Yahoo Site Explorer.  They do something similar but unfortunately that tool’s on its way out as Yahoo search technology is going over to Microsoft with the Bing search engine that tool because of that.

Philip:              Yeah it’s a bit of a pity but I mean I think Open Site Explorer, I may be a bit biased too because I use Open Site Explorer but I use it for a very good reason.  I think it’s the best tool out there and they also give you some other insightful data and kpi’s around the quality of links.

Danny:            Yeah I agree, the reason we originally built that tool was because we weren’t happy with some of the aspects of Yahoo Site Explorer.  We were happy that Yahoo was nice enough to give us the information but we wanted more so we decided to build our own.

Philip:              You’d think that Bing would…

Danny:            You would, yeah…

Philip:              Take over that tool and rebrand it and improve it.  I mean it’s a really, it’s a really pretty valuable tool.

Danny:            Yeah, well see what Bing does in that area so the team over there is a very, very smart group, very innovative and they really understand marketing brand names specifically so I would not be surprised if they come up with something in the future but from every channel I’ve heard, it’s not been in the pipeline at this moment.

Philip:              Okay, so step one for business owners listening to the podcast is to visit Open Site Explorer, type in your business URL and have a look at the all the links that you’ve got at the moment and sort of get an understanding of what the anchor text is.  So maybe just get clear what’s your good definition of anchor text?

Danny:            Sure, so the way to explain that is just by example.  The most common link that you see online generally speaking is ‘click here’ link.  So this is the word that people actually use when they’re placing their link.

The interesting part about this is it tells the search engines what a given link is relevant for so if it says ‘click here for information about shoes’, you know the link is about shoes for example or if it’s – a lot of times they mention the brand name so if it’s ESPN it’s very likely that link will be going to something about ESPN.

So it’s this actual human written language generally that is used for humans to click on.

Philip:              Right, so sometimes an anchor text may be the same as the actual web address that it’s going to like ‘www.facebook.com’ or something but sometimes it will be the English that you’re reading.

I think of it a bit like a signpost.  It’s giving that sort of information to the search engines that wherever it’s pointing that’s what that place is about.

Danny:            Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Philip:              Okay, so there in Open Site Explorer, they’ve looked at the links, they’ve typed in their own domain name, they can now see the links and the anchor text of those links that are pointing to their website today.

Let’s say they’ve got a 100 links in there.  Then what?

Danny:            Well now that you are working for your main term.  Let’s assume you’ve got to that point where you’re ranking for your brand, you have your basic off site optimization covered.  Then you start expanding, figure out what terms that people are searching that’s relevant to your content or to your product or service and then you need to start making your web page relevant, popular for those terms.

So my favourite example of this is we deal with yp.com a lot is that we use the legacy taxonomy of the yellow pages, the physical book translated over to the internet a long time ago.  And so all of our internal things we use the word attorney.

It turns out from doing research we found that people are not generally searching for attorney, they are searching for the phrase lawyer.  And so we’re going through an optimization on all our information and all of our pages to be relevant for the term lawyer which is what people are actually searching for as opposed to attorney.

Philip:              Cool.  And in terms of the keyword tools that you use to work out the search volumes for that, what type of tools do you recommend?

Danny:            There’s two that we use.  By far the one that I think is most popular and to tell you frankly the most useful is the Google External Keywords Adwords tool.  So Google has this part it’s called Adwords, they use it as an advertising platform and they have a free tool that helps you analyse the data working around those ads.

So they give you a general idea of how competitive a term is and how many people are searching for it any given month.  So that’s the primary tool I use.

The secondary tool I use are various analytics programs so I can see what people are searching for when they come to my website.  My scope on that tool is a bit more limited and it’s only to track traffic that’s on my site but if it’s a big enough website, you can stop traffic.

It can give you a good idea the language people are using to try to find your site for various web pages on your site.

Philip:              Cool, yeah I mean that Google Adwords Keywords Tool really is an awesome tool.  I’m really – I think we need to do a special podcast episode  just on keyword research.  I think it’s one of the trickiest areas and a pretty time consuming area specially for a business owner who is doing it for the first time.

There seems to be a lack of direction or so many questions on which way to head and there’s so much time you can spend doing it so I think we need to have a separate episode on that, maybe we’ll have to get you back.

But let’s assume we’ve used that tool and you’ve got your list of 20 or 30 keywords, you’re optimizing your website for it, now you’re looking at taking the link building – well you want to start your link building process.

Danny:            Sure, at this point you’ll have a list of different terms you want to rank for, say we’re talking about widgets.  You’re going to have widgets and you’ll have variations on that.  It’s a longer term thing so blue widgets or floating widgets or sinkable widgets, longer ways of expressing this but it will be less searches but they’ll add up to greater than your head terms.

You have a list like this, your next step is you’re going to want to start building content around these ideas that you are relevant for it and then putting practices to build links.  We’ll go into this a little bit more going forward as you make your page popular.

When I look at SEO I kind of broadly break it into two areas – relevancy and popularity.  Relevancy is the content on the page and the links pointing at the page that have to explain to search engines in the terms they can understand.  These are computers, they’re not human, they can’t understand and image like humans can but they can understand certain signals.

Relevancy is about if you’re writing about dogs you use words like Fido and say, leashes and slobbering that is likely that you’re talking about a dog.  Computers and specifically search engines, they are smart enough to be able to figure this out whereas popularity is almost entirely social signals that are coming from other websites linking to it.

If there is a website that is on the internet about dogs, say it’s a Wikipedia article, it tends to happen in a way and this is again very broadly speaking but it tends to happen that the most popular and most useful pages from a social element, from a human perspective are also the ones that tend to get the most links.  There is various strategies involved with that but the search engines can use these popularity metrics that is separate from relevancy matrix to rank pages and get you on the front page.

Philip:              Cool, so what is the difference between – may we touch on quantity versus quality of links.  You are talking about popular number of links coming from multiple sites because its popular content that sort of thing.  Quantity versus quality is obviously is really in important concept with link building.

Danny:            Yes it is.  When Google first came out with this very broad metric called page rank.  Page rank is just at its name implies is a way for ranking pages on the internet.  What they found was that a link coming from someone like the New York Times is a more valuable link, has a lot more authority behind it than a link coming from say Joe Shmo’s blog.

This algorithm that was developed about ten years ago took this into account, the popularity of the page given that, right?  So when you’re talking about links, it’s not about quantity necessarily, you don’t want to get a million links from a bunch of spammy blogs, you want to get as many high quality links.  Links from pages that have many, many high links to themselves, say the New York Times or Washington Post to your websites that Google sees as popularity measures.

Philip:              And can you still rely on the page rank as a metric because there’s a lot of…

Danny:            Yeah, that’s important.  I want to talk about that.  This was the algorithm that was in place about ten years ago at this point.  And it’s actually available online when Larry and Sergey did it as a thesis.  You can actually read it.

That algorithm is now just a very, very small signal in the 300 or 400 signals that Google uses.  So I think a lot of people put a lot of time and effort into trying to figure out how to game that algorithm.  I think that’s the wrong direction to go into it.

I believe that the same kind of general ideas that popularity and relevancy still certainly exists.  I mean this is what I see when I’m doing work with different clients.  I work with this general concept still apply but the algorithm itself has changed.  It’s go lots more different facets to it.

Philip:              We got a bit of background noise there, that’s okay.  So what do you mean by that?

Danny:            Google will release – you can still get this data from Google on what page rank is for a given page.  It will be a scale of 1 out of 10 on an exponential scale which means that to rank between 1 and 2 will be ten times as hard as it will between 3 and 4.  Then they round it to single digits sort of 10 I guess.

This used to be kind of the holy grail of SEO, this used to be the one metric that you look at.  That’s not true anymore, now there are hundreds of different signals.  So things like where are links coming from, what was the content of the page the link was coming from?  Is it about dogs that’s also relevant to you and then more social signals that we’ve seen more recently, the amount of tweets for example or the amount of Facebook likes.

Again what we’re looking at now when do search engine optimization is a whole big tossed salad with lots of different ranks that are each effective but only in small ways.

Philip:              So that sounds pretty complex from a business owner’s perspective.  How can we – how can they think of it in a simpler form or how do they take action in terms of building links or evaluating quality?

Danny:            Well it is very complex so you kind of have to look at it in a very broad context.  The way that I like to think about and I think is the best way to look at it from a long term perspective is look at it from a human perspective and not from a search engine.

So pretend you’re talking to people not computers and if you see a link from a trusted source by human beings, there’s a good chance that that is also going to be a trusted source from search engine perspective.

So again, talked about the newspapers, use that example several times.  There are also government sites, things like educational resources, you have leaders in any given niche, you have big brands that exist in the real world, all of these are going to be trusted by general human being walking on the street and they’ll likely also be trusted by search engines.

Philip:              And SEO Moz has some quality criteria doesn’t it where it starts ranking the quality of individual links?

Danny:            Yeah so SEO Moz has a couple of metrics.  Moz Rank and Moz Trust are the two sort of easiest to understand I think.  What this is is SEO Moz’s attempt to put a numerical score to these kind of trust and powerful like power metrics I described earlier.

A website like from a government sources or from an educational source will tend to have a higher Moz trust than say Joe Shmo’s blog for example.

Philip:              And is it trying to replicate a little bit of the page rank algorithm in terms of just putting a number to quality essentially?

Danny:            Yeah that was some of the reasons the original was created – it’s now being used I think like how page ranking is being used today and it’s one metric that’s used in addition to many, many other competitive metrics.

Philip:              Okay.  That’s a little bit about – so quality is pretty complex and there may not be some listeners may be thinking so what now?  And it is quite complex but we are trying to keep it simple and there is a lot of positive stuff or a lot of proactive activity you can do with your link building so let’s maybe go back to where we were in our example around you’ve understood your current links in Open Site Explorer and you see that you have quite a lot of those links for your branded terms so your ranking for your branded term at the moment.  You know what your keywords are you want to target, you’ve got them on list next to you, you now want to start increasing the number of links that you actually have to your website, what do we do?

Danny:            Well so now is when you have to create – this is actually I think a lot of us feel is most the fun part and all of us SEO’s think it’s the hardest part. I agree with both those sentiments.

At this point you need to entice other people online to link to you and you need to be clever about this.  Some of the most – my kind of one size fits all solutions that I found works is to create a blog.  So you actually write as a human being to other human beings and if you write interesting content, you provide useful information, it is very likely that people will link back to your blog post.  We see this all the time working out all the while.  So this is kind of my first one size fits all solutions is to create great content and entice people to link back to it.

Philip:              Cool.  It’s a good way.

Danny:            So this the main one I do.  But there’s actually lots and lots of different tactics and I think this is the more interesting part of SEO in that you have to figure out ways of how to get the people who are able to link.  In the industry we call these people the Linkeratti, these are the people who have blogs themselves that are able to produce hyperlinks or people who have websites of any kind that can produce these links.

So you need to figure out who these people are and what it is that entices them to link out to other pages.  I guess a blog is the first one but also I like going more for my just a natural networking perspective so actually physically meeting people and not asking them directly for a link but providing them with resources that are helpful to them that they find useful to share with their readers or share with the people that they are writing content for.

Let’s see – a couple of examples that – let’s see I’ve been working with smaller businesses a long time just working with other content, other business partners that already exist so if you are in a supply chain working for another supply chain company is to say now, here is some resource that we have and we’ve already done this process and you kind of explain your process out on your blog or however it is you are producing content.  And provide a lot of the tricks and tactics that you found work for you and then give those out freely in the world so you can both help people and hopefully get links back in return.

Philip:              So the simplest way really is and it’s – I guess there’s not a lot of shortcuts but to the quality content and spreading the work and getting people to link to quality content?

Danny:            This is the first idea, right?  Create something of value that people link to but in any SEO conference you go to you going to hear this phrase over and over again: build links, build links, write quality content, write quality content.  And they are absolutely true.  This is in all the campaigns that are ever done.  This is what we do.

The problem and the thing that makes this difficult is doing it in new ways and finding things that will work for any given whichever specific niche you’re in.  So these two things are true and this is what you should be trying to do, this is the direction you should go.

You need to find the tactics to actually make this happen.  Tactics that come to mind are explaining business tactics you already have, you can ask your customers for links right in your receipts or to say, ‘hey if you like this, here’s our useful resource.’

You can bind the links your competitors already have to tools like Open Site Explorer, Yahoo Site Explorer and see where they’ve gotten links from and then go reach out to those people.  Or you can do interviews like this, you can have some kind of bio line like saying, there’s the link there where you can buy articles about given topic and then just give them for free to other people who are able to produce links.

You kind of have to get into the trenches, you have to be creative.  I think this is what separates SEO from the other marketing channel is in that it’s a lot harder to find and it’s a lot harder to put into a stringent process.  You need to be creative and you need to be working with people.

Philip:              I think I was actually chatting about this with a client yesterday.  Link building has to become a part of your normal business processes and ideally you don’t outsource it or you can outsource it but it needs to be part of your daily process.

When you are interacting with a customer or a supplier or some other third party or maybe speaking at an event, you constantly need to be thinking about how can you get a link from that relationship.

Danny:            That’s absolutely right and this goes back to what we were talking about originally.  A link from a search engine perspective is about popularity or about validity or authenticity.  So you want people to leave a record of that publicly online so that the search engines can then call it out, read it and give you credit for it.

Philip:              I spoke at an event the other day and the bio was going to go up on their website and without requesting anything about link anchor text, I would have just linked to my domain, with my website name to my home page.  But because it’s part of my thinking I was able to craft that in a way that and it was no skin off their nose, they were totally happy to do it and I just got some really good anchor text in that link.

It got on a valuable website, it didn’t cost me anything and I could actually see when Google indexed that page, the ranking for that particular keyword jumped by 15 places.

Danny:            Wow.

Philip:              And I think should be thinking about – that was just one example of just a normal conversation that I had or email backwards and forwards between a third party on a day to day basis.

If link building is part of your mindset you can get those really good quality links which would have been quite hard to get just sitting with a blank sheet of paper and trying to think where can I get links from.  It needs to be part of everyday’s process.

Danny:            I completely agree.  Where’s your marketing – your people work on different ads – you all seem to have people working on aspects for chain links providing something of value that entices the correct people to link back to you with the correct anchor text.

Philip:              So what do you say to the client and I’m sure you’ve heard it many times that we don’t have time to create this content but we want to rank highly on search engines and say we want to get lots of links?

Danny:            Well it’s usually a…

Philip:              Go get Google Adwords…

Danny:            Yeah right, you PPC and you can pay for it.  If you want it the cheap way it’s going to take a lot more work.

So I mean that point – we look for ways to create content so there’s people on the team who can do it or it’s something we have to outsource.  The goal here is to find again like I said multiple times interviews.  You need to find some way of enticing the people who are able to link to the given page.

Philip:              Let’s maybe take – bring it to life a little bit.  Let’s say you are a law firm inMelbourne.

Danny:            Sure

Philip:              Let’s say you are divorce lawyers inMelbourne.  Maybe not a particularly happy topic or you don’t think you’ve got a huge amount of interesting content to give away.  I think a lot of business owners think that initially until they maybe break through their barrier.  What would you recommend in terms of content or link building strategy for something like that?

Danny:            For link building for a divorce law attorney, you’re right, you need to focus on things that are more interesting or in the limelight rather than on terms that are sadder, more highly technical parts of it.

So I like to always think about this kind of content like from what we see in pop magazines right?  And so you see those top ten lists and those work really well like ezines, they work pretty well.  You see these awesome celebrity things, celebrity gossip magazines.  Things work pretty well – offline they work pretty well, online.

From that I would focus on big divorce stories and put a new perspective on it.  You’re talking about say divorce lawyers inMelbourne, you need to talk about big celebrity divorces, something that’s enticing to a lot of people.  And you provide a new legal perspective on it you wouldn’t be able to read in a pop magazine.

You put this out on your blog and you’re able to entice the people who care a lot about these celebrities and care a lot about divorce mention on a completely new perspective on the same story.

Philip:              And there are ways of outsourcing the content production.  I just encourage people to try their own or direct their processes  as much as possible so the content is created with the right feel, the right brand, the right style that fits in well with your business.

Danny:            Yeah that’s absolutely right.  Outsourcing content actually turns out to be very hard because you lose a lot of the voice from it.  That’s what good writing is all about, is about including voice in it and having a real person talk to a real person.

When you outsource I found a lot of that gets diluted unless you’re able to highly control the situation.  The most effective way I found of doing this is hiring interns so people are actually in your business, they kind of get an idea of the day to day things and have a feeling of the hierarchy in the company and just kind of get a voice, kind of feel for what the company is and who the people are that make it up, and then have them right the content.

This is helpful for them because it gives them a resume booster and it helps them get real life experience in understanding how a company works.  It also helps you by getting someone in the organization writing the content inexpensively.

Philip:              Yeah, another tip that I like that I think works really well and we sort of do it for this podcast is doing audio interviews, you could as the business owner or the sales manager or the marketing manager interview key people within the business, record it with your iPhone, with an app or whatever it is, a microphone or on your desktop or laptop and then get those interviews transcribed and then that’s sent to a copy writer.

So essentially you’ve created the content yourself but you’re getting somebody to transcribe it for you and it’s a pretty cost effective way to produce good content on it.

Danny:            Yeah I think that’s an excellent tip.  It’s a lot easier to have a conversation with someone than it is to create original content like textually and so I found that doing exactly what you’re doing what you said doing these verbal interviews is a quick and cheap way to do that.

Philip:              Yeah I mean everyone can speak but not everybody can write or if they can write, some people find it a very time consuming process.

Danny:            Absolutely.

Philip:              So where are we at?  What other ideas around getting links?

Danny:            So I talked about these bigger, broader strategies, now I’ll give you a lot more specific tactics.  Again you can vary by whatever industry you’re in but this will give you starting points.

We talked about interviews and we talked about few of the top ten lists but what I like to do is either guest blogs and so offering a new perspective on something someone else is writing about.  You find this especially with bloggers who are in the linkeratti, people who are able to produce links.  They are always looking for more content.  So if you can provide that for free and you happen to put a link back on it, that’s really, really helpful.

When I first started out, I didn’t have anything on my resume yet, I did a lot of SEO work for charities.  I did it for a local preschool, I did it for a couple of organizations that I thought were interesting in their field of work and so I did free SEO work for them in return for links.

I met a lot of people who’ve done quite well, some kind of easy solution on the website itself, blood pressure calculator. A friend did a very successful  calculator – he calculated how much your body’s worth, after you die, right?  Various ideas and it’s a lot of fun, people go through it and you can get a lot of links from it.  So these simple calculators – use it for fun or actual business reasons.

You can write ‘how to’s’ specially business owners and people who are working are going to know how to do a lot of things that can be valuable so if it’s a lawyer or if it’s a doctor, right, it not be a ‘how to’ on how to do brain surgery but it could be a how to what process to use in the morning to prepare yourself to get to that level where you are able to do brain surgery.  This is applicable to much more people, kind of get them into that mindset rather than the very few people who can actually do brain surgery.

It’s hard to – everyone is an expert in something.  It’s just a matter of figuring out how to explain that and put it into a very simple list that’s easy to digest so that other people can benefit from that.  So a ‘how to’ or more broadly speaking a tutorial.

This is how I started also is doing  a lot of tutorials.  You can do this either from a web version like you had mentioned and have it transcribed or just go through a process.  You’re learning SEO, you’re learning link building, hey these are all the things I’ve tried, this is what works, this is what hasn’t worked and you’re providing real value to people and it’s information that you just learned because you’re out there experimenting.

Philip:              Those are some great tips.  I think it’s really handy as well when you get into – the hardest part around this thinking about quality content is actually just getting started but once you get on a role about all your customers, what are their frequently asked questions and what are these ‘how to’ tips, you actually – it becomes quite easy to brainstorm it and I think during this brainstorming session with whoever is the best couple of people within your business to do it is a good place to start and gather all these ideas and then creating that content is so much easier and you’ve broken the back of it all, got past the hardest part.

Danny:            I agree and I also do want to stress that I thought it’s very difficult to continually produce a lot of content.  The trick I found with this is to put yourself to a schedule.  I work on a lot of lists, this is kind of how I organize my day to day, going through and check, check, check.  But specifically for content creation because there is so much creativity involved and there’s so much wiggle room, what I found is I force myself to do two a week regardless of circumstance, just if I can get those out the door.

Sometimes they are not as good as others, so far as there are more flat pieces than what I want but the process of getting them out the door then puts me into a habit.  I’m pretty well established as to how they work.  I can just start to pump out pieces of content that are pretty good and I can do it on a continual basis.

I mention this because I think this is actually the hardest part of content creation, it’s not so much the brainstorming but the continuing to do it day after day.

Philip:              Right so let’s assume we’ve created some quality content pieces for the divorce lawyer inMelbourne.  How do we go about getting those links?  Is just sending emails, making phone calls – it’s a very laborious process and it can take a huge amount of time.  Any thoughts how to deal with that as a business owner or a marketing manager?

Danny:            So the first thing you need to do is make sure that this content is actually accessible for people.  It can’t be behind any passwords, it can’t be hidden or encrypted in any way.  So it needs to be accessible to humans and to search engines.

So once you’ve made sure that is done, you can test that easily by having people outside the office trying to access the information or if you search for the actual URL in Google, many times you’ll see it gets in there pretty quickly.

The way to really, really help yourself with this is use a popular blogging platform.  I recommend WordPress, that’s what we use for most of my clients and for my personal site.

Philip:              Agreed.

Danny:            Yeah and WordPress is great because it’s already optimized to get the information out there and distribute it via RSS and you can do it through your email and you can do it through all these different things.

You need to make sure your content is accessible and that it is able to be distributed very easily.  Once you have that step down the next step is then to actually start distributing the information.

This is kind of those funny catch 22 situations in that if you don’t have an audience how do you spread it to more people and I think this is where social media has become really, really interesting.  You’ll find that you already have a small audience but just probably be outside your professional world or be in your personal world, it’ll be friends and family to start with.

You can start pushing things through your social networks and have your various employees start to do this also to their [0:34:54].  You can start to get kind of a following there, you can start to get information readily out so people will find it more attractive or more likely to share it with their friends who are more likely to be also interested in the same topic.

So you just have to keep producing, keep producing, keep producing.  I think that many people make mistakes with blogs thinking it can be an overnight success.  Really the most successful blogs that I have seen and that I’ve worked with, it takes a good year to really get it going and chugging along on itself to build its own audience.  So you got to expect that from the beginning.

Philip:              Okay so, that process, those links can happen essentially and naturally, right?  You’re just producing this quality content and it needs to be consistent and relentless.

Approaching specific parties, other websites, business owners, suppliers, all that sort of stuff, I think it’s important to have a process around how you are communicating with those things.

I know there’s another toolset – Raven Tools who sort of have a link building manager where you have a really good understanding of the process, the contact points, what links are outstanding, all that sort of stuff.  What are your thoughts there?  Does SEO Moz have something similar and any other strategies around managing the actual process of contact points?

Danny:            Well couple of thoughts about that.  I like Raven Tools a lot.  Their tools differs in that it uses links as assets you have and then monitors those, so if you move the link.  Let’s say a page disappears off the internet, it will send you an email so that you can then contact people who are responsible for that page being online.  I find that really useful, it’s really a more business like way of managing your assets even if these are virtual assets. So I like that tool a lot, I recommend people check it out.

Your second point there was how to build more links, what was that?

Philip:              Well the process – it can be a very laborious process so you’re making contacts, you’ve got your list of potential targets using Open Site Explorer, you’ve looked at your competitors link profile and you now want to make contact with these people but it can take multiple contact points.  They may be in various stages of responding back to you or ignoring you, whatever and I think there needs to be some control over their communication process and how successful you are.  It’s almost like a link management process, if that makes sense.

Danny:            Interesting.  Yeah, so – that interesting.  I don’t view it from that perspective.  I view it from a different kind of organic experience.

Philip:              Right.

Danny:            So trying to get into a new market what I’ll do first before I start doing the link building is kind of get an idea of what the space looks like as it exists online.  So let’s say we’re divorce attorneys, I’d go in and see where divorce attorneys are already online, are there forums or reading the blogs that already exist and try to get an idea of what this looks like and the language they’re using, what are their needs and who are the big names there.

Then once I start to understand that a little bit, then I start to interact in my community.  So I don’t go straight to the top and say, “Hey, can I have a link?” from whoever’s the biggest name in that industry.  Instead I start reading the blogs, commenting on them in a very – and I do this effectively in a natural way because you’re trying to learn about this industry.

You introduce yourself just like how you make friends in real life, you just do it online, trying to slowly make more and more connections.  Then from that I then distribute the content via social networks generally.  So, Twitter and then my Facebook page are two ways that I do business articles that I distribute like business posts.

Philip:              Okay, I understand.  So your emphasis is more around organically, having the quality content and then nurturing relationships and the links will happen naturally.

Danny:            Yes and it’s kind of intuitive, I found that’s the most successful way to do it and it takes a long time and I think that’s where most people don’t do it this way but I found that once you get the ball rolling, once you build momentum, it’ll just work automatically once you have these relationships, these texts, people will start spreading your content for you.

Philip:              Agreed, and that way you get much better quality links because it’s the people that you want as opposed to – if you’re looking to get short term links, you are looking to make contact with somebody out of the blue.  It’s like walking upto somebody in the bar, there’s no relationship building process and you’re not going to get the quality links

Danny:            Absolutely, to be quite frank, the emails that I get from people who I never talked to before and say, hey can I have a link back, I just delete those emails.  I don’t know if they exist.  They’ve wasted their time, they’ve wasted my time, that tactic just simply doesn’t work.

Philip:              Yeah I mean I think people were doing that maybe – it may have worked I don’t know five or eight years ago or something like that, that reciprocal link trading was very popular.

Danny:            Right.

Philip:              But I don’t think – I mean I get one of those, probably one or two of those emails every single day for the last five or six years.  I don’t think I’ve ever responded to one of them.

Danny:            Likewise.

Philip:              So maybe it’s a good question to get into – can you outsource this process?  I’m sure a lot of the listeners would have been spammed by all sorts of businesses offering to build 500 links for $5 bucks, all that sort of stuff, can you outsource this process without creating additional content.  Let’s say you do have some content on your site but you want to get somebody to get links essentially I guess fairly quickly 20 or 30 a month, reasonable quality links?

Danny:            Well, I think the answer is yes but it turns out that it’s very, very difficult to do.  I think it’s very similar to the great artists that we’ve seen – so Da Vinci is supposedly – he did create a lot of his artwork but he also hired a lot of amateur artists to fill in a lot of blanks, right?  So he painted this rough idea of the piece he wanted to create and then he’d bring in others to kind of fill in all the little pieces of it.

I think that’s kind of how link building has to do if you choose to outsource yourself.  Let me clear that, I don’t recommend that you choose to outsource it but if you find yourself that you need you have to, there’s some reason to do it.  You need to still be in control of the situation, you need to actually see the links that are getting built because it’s very easy to build a lot of scammy links that will actually – they won’t help you at all but they’ll cost you a lot of money.  Go ahead, sorry.

Philip:              No, no, no, carry on, carry on.

Danny:            Sure, so the most successful tactic I’ve seen for outsourcing links is finding people who will actually write articles based around the link.  So let’s say the topic’sMelbournedivorce attorneys.  There’s people who actually go out and write articles about this subject and they include in links that are relevant to it and then submit this to people who need the content so not to directories, not to article forums but bloggers who are trying to find content about this subject.  You then are able to outsource the service of producing content to these people.

Philip:              Right and you just touched on another link building strategy that was probably very popular couple of years ago and maybe less so now specially with Panda update around the article distribution and sending them to ezine articles.  What do you think about that strategy now?

Danny:            I’ve never liked that strategy, it used to work before the Panda update to a degree but I didn’t think it was very scalable, it gets you for low competitive keywords but it doesn’t help you with the super competitive keywords and so my recommendation is the same as it been for years on that one, is to not to participate in that.

Philip:              Agreed.  How do you think link building is going to evolve moving forward?  I mean essentially at the core of link building, your strategy that you defined around creating this quality content, it’s a pretty simple strategy isn’t it and it hasn’t really – that strategy hasn’t changed much and I don’t see that strategy changing too much going forward, maybe the tools to spread the news with new social media tools may change but any thoughts of the future of link building?

Danny:            Well it certainly looks like it is moving in the direction of being more socially based.  You seen things like Twitter and Facebook andLinkedin and Four Squareand all this but I think that too many people are over reacting right now  seeing that as the way to do link building today.  I think that’s just the direction it looks like we’re moving in.

So my advice there is to participate in social media as you see fit and use it as a distribution channel for your information but not to make that your core like marketing tactic.  You shouldn’t be trying to get as high like the – focusing on KPI’s like your amount of Twitter followers or your amount of Facebook fans.  Instead you should be focusing on continuing to create value on your website that other people recommend should link back to you or tweet back to you or Facebook right back to you.

Philip:              Right.  Any thoughts on – carry on.

Danny:            My point there being stay the course, it’s too early to jump ship into the social media, certainly explore the space but keep going the direction we’ve been going in for a long time and that we’ve seen proven results with.

Philip:              Yeah, I agree.  I mean I see social media as just a great way to spread your quality content.

Danny:            Right.

Philip:              Just sort of fanning the flames of what you are producing and make it more spreadable.  Anything – how important is competitive analysis around search optimization in general but mainly the link building process.  So going to Open Site Explorer, putting your competitors URL in there and having a look through all their links and trying to duplicate maybe some of what they’ve got.  Any points in doing that stuff?

Danny:            Yeah I think it’s tremendously helpful and the reason for that is these are people who have already succeeded in the niche that you’re trying to compete in and so you might as well use the same like figure out what tactics work for them and use that to your benefit rather than having to do more experimentation on your own.  So you might as well go out and get those links and content pieces that have already worked for your competitors and use those for your own.

Philip:              How did you find the book writing process Danny?  So you’re book Search Engine Optimization Secrets, people can find it in Amazon.  It’s doing fantastically well, it’s been translated into multiple languages.  It’s got 4½ stars out of 5 which is pretty awesome.  Congratulations!  Did you enjoy the process?

Danny:            Yeah, it was a very long process.  It took me almost two years to go through the whole thing.  It’s very, very different than blog writing so most of the writing I’m doing is been for blogs or various online articles and so obviously writing a book is very different.  It turns out it’s very difficult to update a book.  And so I had to put a lot of time to figuring out what content can I produce that is going to be evergreen, that’s going to stay valuable for years to come rather with blogs I tend to write more of this is what I’m seeing today and it might change some more but I can just update the post.  It was nice, it gave me more discipline and it forced me to take my writing more seriously in that I knew it was going to be tangible and it was going to spread.  It was going to spread all over the place, that I wouldn’t be able to take it back.  I mean it helped me mature in my writing and I think it really helped open my ideas to a bigger audience.

Philip:              Awesome.  And you’ve been involved in educational search optimization for a long time and you’ve interacted with so many people through your conferences, you’ve written a whole book on search optimization.  What are your thoughts on the biggest myths that a lot of business owners or marketing managers would have around the search engine optimization process?

Danny:            The biggest myths, well I think that anyone who thinks that SEO is easy, they’re certainly subscribing to a myth there.  I think it’s a very difficult thing, you have to deal with a lot of very, very smart people but I also think that’s what gets me up every morning.  I think that’s what makes it interesting.

I think that the other myth being the these things change very quickly.  This is generally true for technology, you have more [0:46:59] and you have all this various things that continue to evolve very, very fast specially relative to other technologies but SEO doesn’t seem like this guiding this big best practices or changing very much at all.  It’s still about creating something of value and enticing the correct people to have a link back to that but it’s still pretty much like they are interesting to everyday people that are both going to be able to drive sales via links.

So these ideas have been the same for as long as I’ve been doing this.

Philip:              Exactly that was my answer, I got a bit of a frustrated business owner stood at a conference I spoke at a couple of months ago and said Google made 500 changes to algorithm last year.  How do they expect small businesses to keep up with all these changes.  My response was exactly that.  Fundamentally search engine optimization hasn’t actually changed too much in the last five to seven years.  There’s quality content, yes there can be complex technical issues with your site but you can resolve those with the right consultant but it’s your won quality content and just understanding the basics.

Danny:            Yeah I absolutely agree.  I think – this article that I helped write, it’s called The Beginner’s Guide to SEO and I think if you go through and read that, that you’ll know 75% of what you need to know about SEO right there and for the small technical issues that you might rap against I think that’s a great reason to hire a consultant.  Or the other reason to hire a consultant is you just don’t have the resources that are important or the time to start implementing these things.

Philip:              That’s great, where can people find that resource?

Danny:            If you Google Beginner’s Guide to SEO, you’ll find it as the first result there.

Philip:              Of course, of course.

Danny:            That’s kind of the idea or I believe the URL is seomoz.org/the-beginners-guide-to-seo with hyphens where spaces would be in that title.

Philip:              Cool, nice.  That will be a great resource.  Where can people find you online Danny?

Danny:            You find me a couple of places.  You can find me at dannydover.com which will give you all my professional information and content information to be kind of generally updated.  And then you can find my personal blog at life listed.com which will chronicle this life list that I’ve been working on the last couple of years exploring the world and figuring out as much about life as I can.

Philip:              Beautiful, I’ve been reading through that list and there’s some good stuff on there that I’ve added to my list.

Danny:            Right, that’s great, that’s exactly why I’m doing it.  So I’m glad to hear that’s the case.

Philip:              And I see that visiting the Sydney Opera House was on there and that’s been ticked off, that’s where I met you I think two years ago.

Danny:            It was, yes.  That was the first time I was inSydneyand I absolutely loved it, hope to be able to explore more aboutAustraliaand really that part of the world coming up next year.

Philip:              Awesome, well be sure to look us up.

Danny:            Will do

Philip:              Great, thanks so much Danny

Danny:            Well I appreciate your time and I thank you very much and everyone, fee free to contact me.  If you have any questions, my email address, you can feel free to post this, it’s danny [AT] intriguingideas.com or you can find my current on dannydover.com.  Thank you everybody, appreciate it and best of luck with your SEO efforts.

By Philip Shaw