The ‘Ask the Link Builders’ session was a Q+A style panel at SMX West this year and consisted of Rae Hoffman, Debra Mastaler and Roger Monti.
Q: How do you keep link building white hat?
The general consensus was to stay away from things that go against Google’s terms of service. Debra Mastaler recommended going easy on reciprocal links, site wide paid links and not to be too obvious in what you are doing. Rae Hoffman advised the audience to avoid buying links especially from major networks and to keep anchor text in the inbound links natural. So varying the words used was a good idea.
If in any doubt about the link building activities Rae advised its always worth asking yourself “Is this something I’d be comfortable explaining to Google?” Roger Monti agreed with the others suggestions about staying away from obvious paid link networks—though he recommended that link builders should approach websites direct and do ‘behind the door’ deals.
Q: How do you price link building campaigns?
Debra Mastaler told attendees ‘know who you want to target’. So this involves understanding the demographic and geographic factors of what niche your in. Some industries are more aggressive, though the content route is preferable. You need to write content and find out which people in those areas would be receptive to that content. She added that ‘link building is relationship building’.
Link builders need to establish themselves as players in the community and this takes time. Paid links typically aren’t the goal as link builders want uniqueness and quality. Roger Monti argued that good quality links take time to develop so doing it in-house can be a good idea.
He reminded the audience that it can take a few months to build up 50-100 good links, and webmasters need to expect this processes to be slow and steady. A major benefit from quality links is that a website will tend not to bounce around as much in the rankings like it may with low quality ones.
Rae Hoffman stated that in-house link building is an option but staff will usually need some training. Some of the content may need specialist input such as creating video and then promoting that content. Rae added if you want paid links then pricing that is easy as the client can say “I have $1000.00” and the supplier can say how many paid links you can have, but for organic link building it’s a different approach as its a gradual process.
Q: How valuable are web directories in 2009?
Roger Monti reminded everyone that Google used to recommend them—but it was the obvious quality ones like Yahoo and DMOZ. These days a directory is only as good as its backlinks. Roger advised the audience not to judge a directory purely on PageRank or format and that it should be judged the same as any other website. BOTW for example has a lot of back links from quality sources thus making it a viable directory to submit to these days (in addition to Yahoo and DMOZ).
Debra Mastaler suggested checking out some ‘directories of directories’. She recommended looking for ones that have niche lists of directories such as Strongestlinks.com, Directorycritic.com and Isedb.com