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Link building case study

 8:16 pm on Feb 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've just launched a new website and am going to back it up with a link building campaign. I'm going to document my link building here, and welcome any comments.

- link building pros will find this boring. Perhaps small indie business owners will find this useful (which is what I am).
- I'm starting out with great content. I'm in a competitive niche and a regular old website won't cut it.
- I'm looking for 'people' to give me links, not 'sites'.
- I expect folks will find I don't have a lot of surprises.
- current stats, Google has <30 pages indexed (I just launched 4000-5000 pages). Yahoo shows <3500 backlinks.

[edited by: wheel at 8:20 pm (utc) on Feb 8, 2010]



 7:56 am on Mar 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

I am just delving into the wild world of link building for my site and found this discussion extremely valuable.



 7:27 am on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Nice study Wheel. Will be neat to see the evolution of rankings as you pursue this forward.

I, too build everything by hand, both for my businesses and for clients. However, I did learn many things during the course of doing this, one of which is to think and strategize before starting the work, have measurable goals, and work as 'smart as possible'.

One angle that always interested me was finding ways to reduce the amount of time it takes to research authority links. Some parts of finding the right websites to contact are simply number crunching. Given the right numbers, and the right metrics and using those numbers correctly, cuts total time significantly and leaves with you with a strong list from which to work your magic :


 10:17 am on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Enough backlinks are the most important. i think!


 3:20 pm on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Today I'm hoping to go after blogs, looking for blogroll links. I just did a search on '{niche} blogs'. Now, all the industry blogs in my niche are low end crap run by small timers who got on the blog bandwagon. No grassroots stuff. However, my industry has technicians - and those folks do have blogs - and personal blogs at that. So I'm going after those.

I'm also thinking about a bit more greyhat. There's some abandoned blogs on places like blogspot from tech's in my niche. Some of them were good blogs and have good backlinks. For the abandoned ones, they're going to get an email from me, offering $'s for their login. If they bite, I'll take over the blog and do a quality post pointing to my site.

That's a bit more hardcore. Maybe I better do those blog posts from home instead of my work computer :).


 3:29 pm on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hey Wheel

The buying blogs is an area I know something about and would also like to keep in contact with someone else who uses this strategy.

Ill send you a pm with my email (I think thats possible), be great to chat more about this.


 3:37 pm on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Note that this isn't something I do on a big scale. I'm talking 1, maybe two abandoned blogs. Not a half dozen by any stretch.


 10:12 pm on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Two good excerpts below:

I found a fantastic expiring blog using this method... I would be naive to think I am the only one has has an eagle eye on it. It has a tonne of link juice pouring in from .gov's.

Identify Authority Hubs – Ok, so we believe that Googles trust algo was built around an initial hand picking of ‘tier 1&#8242; authoritative trusted sites initially. The more links you receive from sites like these and the ‘closer’ you are to these sites, the more authority and trust you will have in the search engines eyes. It can be extremely difficult to get links from these sites, so identify who they link out to and get links there.

For example, the BBC. Then you can narrow your query down, for example if you wanted to find out who the BBC links out to with content around ‘flowers‘.

linkfromdomain:bbc.co.uk flowers

How about as a way to find old domains with established pagerank / links? Using the BBC as an example again, how about expired domains or domains for sale which you can look to pick up. But obviously you can identify the authority sites in your niche or sector and analyse those sites.

linkfromdomain:bbc.co.uk domain expired
linkfromdomain:bbc.co.uk domain for sale


 10:13 pm on Mar 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

I reviewed roughly 20-30 blogs today. About 6 got personalized emails. I also came across a web ring that I investigated that didn't pan out and a news site. Oh yeah, I know the guy that runs the industry news site. I'm going to fire up a news release just for his site that talks about my new content. that'll be an easy link.


 1:27 pm on Mar 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

I found this forum by reading a book written by John Battelle and reading this type of thread are making me really happy of the discover.


 5:20 pm on Mar 19, 2010 (gmt 0)

Great stuff thank you.

Couple of quick questions.

1) Can you post a template or layout of what you sent to the professors, to ask for the link?
2) Can you give us an idea of the type of content that you created that got the interest of the professors?

This may be paydirt for me if I can pull together the information necessary for my niche as there are literally no pages regarding the history of my niche and it is quite big, but I am going for local only.

Thanks In Advance
The Ocala PC Guy


 5:25 pm on Mar 19, 2010 (gmt 0)

Identify Authority Hubs – Ok, so we believe that Googles trust algo was built around an initial hand picking of ‘tier 1&#8242; authoritative trusted sites initially. The more links you receive from sites like these and the ‘closer’ you are to these sites, the more authority and trust you will have in the search engines eyes. It can be extremely difficult to get links from these sites, so identify who they link out to and get links there.

This sounds to me like going after the sites on DMOZ, as from what I understand this was Goog's starting point.


 7:11 pm on Mar 19, 2010 (gmt 0)

1) Can you post a template or layout of what you sent to the professors, to ask for the link?
2) Can you give us an idea of the type of content that you created that got the interest of the professors?

1) I don't use a template. I address them all personally, and they get 'Dr' where appropriate. I reference the specific page I want a link from, and the site I want a link to. Then I tell them why it's to the benefit of their visitors to have a link to my site. I write them all by hand, and vary it based on what is on the site I'm contacting.
2) No.


 1:14 pm on Mar 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

'Wheel' - you are accumulating a lot of praise for a wonderful thread... But why do you do it? If no one has a clue about who you are or what on earth you are doing? That is a lot of credit straight down the drain.

I think you know a huge amount more than most people on here!


 5:48 pm on Mar 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've got some niche content that's kind of funny in an ironic way. I hope to take it viral at some point. For now though, I kind of got thinking...so I did a search on the subject using a three word search term.

Guess what, it turns out that there's about 3 pages on Google directly related to the subject. Bizarre - it's a topic that's not at the forefront of consumers' minds but it's certainly a topic they'd have heard of in the news at least once or twice in their life.

In any event I now have the fourth page on the subject ;). I contacted two of the other three sites with a custom email, asking for them to link to my 'ironic' content. (though their sites are very serious in nature). Both sites were what I would consider authorities, agencies with old PR6 sites on topic. Yet sites that probably are passed over by the mainstream SEO.

The third site clearly had SEO done to it, well backlinked and a good job, but too much onpage optimization for my tastes. I rarely if ever approach anyone that has a site that looks like they have even heard of SEO.

Update: I went back to the page of one of the sites and clicked on the home page link. Got an error, their index.html link doesn't work :). So out goes another friendly email to them!

Update 2: one of the sites had a half dozen links on a similiar topic. I'm following those links now.

Further note. Haven't had time to do so, but some of these antique sites (looks like they were made with crayons) are a good place to go searching on backlinks. Seems like these old sites don't rank much anymore, but I still love those kinds of backlinks.


 6:22 pm on Mar 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

Following that directory, out of about another half dozen links on the subject, I found emailed two more that were relevant. Both roughly 10 years old or older, pr4-5. One was a page that's been around over a decade on someone's ISP, one of those www-myisp-dot-com/~user , guy had 800 pages full of links. And the site was clearly made in frontpage 97, you know the grey background with pages of text that are 8 feet long, and he talks about his spamfilter that as of 2003 he had to implement (which I used). Also, while reading his spam filter info he talked about something else we have in common, I mentioned that as well.

While following those links, I came across another links page which led me to a pr6 agency page in another country, actually in another continent. They got a form submission from me.


 6:30 pm on Mar 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

OK, little help on this one!What the heck?

I just found a site I wanted to go ask for a link. My toolbar comes up and says pagerank - private? Not even a greybar outlined in black - no black outline. nothing.


[edited by: wheel at 6:32 pm (utc) on Mar 21, 2010]


 6:32 pm on Mar 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

Anyway, I did an online PR check tool for the site and it came up as a pr7 (it's an agency). I sent an email to their marketing person, with a plea that researchers would use their site, and that there's valuable research info on my site that a link would help them find. And yes, my content can back that up :).

In any event, I addressed the marketing director by name of course.


 10:13 pm on Mar 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

Turns out that the 'private' pagerank is what you get if the page is https: (secure).

I did not know that :). I can't believe I've never looked at that on an https page.


 10:24 pm on Mar 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

More good info Wheel, keep it coming.


 10:39 pm on Mar 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm away for the most of next week. However, a note on the article I mentioned above. It's a combination of {niche} + other term. And +other term would be a natural word, but likely rarely if ever searched for by other seo folks. I think there may be some sites to be found in this thought...

to return to my mortages example, what are some +other terms that could be searched on to find authority sites?

mortgage rates, mortgage shopping, obvious and overworked. but what about:
+ statistics
+ history
+ investing
+ rates of return
+ qualifying
+ development
+ rights

I don't think that list is quite what I was thinking 100%. And I won't post the specific ones I used. but all I did was take my niche and add one common word, and I got a whole area of authority sites and agencies that I suspect are relatively untouched from the link request emails common in my industry.

Anyone else have any words they'd like to share?


 10:49 pm on Mar 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

I just checked my backlinks in Yahoo (if others have some pointers on how to better check backlinks, I'm all ears).

My backlinks were just under 4000 showing IIRC. Now they're at roughly 5000. Of course that's not all real links. However, browsing the first three pages brought up two very pleasant surprises.

First, one of the .edu's I'd contacted (a professor) gave me a link from his .edu page. Never said a word.

Secondly, an industry expert/consumer advocate/talking head kind of person gave me an unsolicited link. I take back everything I ever said :), that's now the second time in 5 years someone with a decent site has linked to me without my asking, and the first time to this site.

And my rankings are starting to rebound. Not sure it's related to the link dev. or not, but I was #1 for my industry term (i.e 'mortgages') for a couple of years, then I dropped way down. Now I'm back to #2 again and hope to be back to #1 before long. that doesn't mean too much, I just use it as a yardstick. it's like I outrank ibm and dell for 'laptops' - probably doesn't bring in much traffic - but it does mean if I publish a page on 'compare netbooks' that I'll probably also rank on those terms.

so that's what I do - just type in my industry and see how I rank. How do the experts judge their ranking? Or do the smart ones just go by traffic?


 11:10 pm on Mar 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

Ranking well for trophy terms is always pleasant, but measure your progress by growth in conversions (whatever that would mean for your site). Conversions are what will put money in your pocket.

If you do things right, posting quality content and cultivating quality links, you'll rise in the ranks for all sorts of searches you never thought of, as well as the more obvious terms you were aiming at.

There's not as much ego satisfaction in ranking above the fold for hundreds or even thousands of terms that only get a few searches a month, but cumulatively all those "little" terms can be worth a lot.

It's all good!


 2:01 pm on Mar 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

Per this thread: [webmasterworld.com...]
I went and had a look at the backlinks of one of my competitors. Most of my competitor's backlinks I wouldn't touch. But one of them has been around longer than me and has quality backlinks from the days when it was easier to build. Now his current list of backlinks has dropped in quality considerably, but as noted in that thread above, I found one good one. An educational type resource, with lots of authority backlinks (not in my niche though). I just sent that site an email asking for a link. Not the exact email, but here's the type of email I send:

Hi {their real name},

I would like to ask if you would consider listing my website on {their website} {the specific page}? I'm a {avocation} and my site is {my url}.

I believe your visitors looking for {stuff that their visitors are looking for} will find my site useful and unique. While I'm {avocation}, I'm also a {talk about stuff that I noticed on their site that we have in common}. I've {talk specifically about my content, describing stuff that's of interest to their visitors}.

Thanks for your consideration.

{company name/address/phone}

There may be better ways to create the email, I'm no expert. But this way has worked reasonably well in the past. I keep it very personal, relevant, and attempt to explain why it's beneficial for them to link to me (typically because their visitors will find my site interesting or helpful).


 3:33 pm on Apr 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Wheel, this is some excellent linkbuilding information, some of the highest caliber I have ever seen.

Just wanted to ask you a small detail, you mentioned that this is a new site you're working on, but then you also said that you used to be #1 with this website a few years ago.

I just wanted to know the details because if you launched a website on a brand new domain name and ranked #2 so quickly, haven't you essentially bypassed any Google "Sandbox" with the very high-trust backlinks you earned?

Also, I'd love to see another update when you get the chance. Thanks.


 2:20 am on Apr 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's my old domain. I ranked number 1 on the main industry term for years, then end of last year dropped off the front spot, though I stayed on the front page. Really floated up and down on the front page for a few months.

I relaunched with a new design and went from 20 pages to 5000 pages of content. So no sandbox content.


 1:51 am on Apr 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

Link building is a great fun if you have some skill and interest in it otherwise it seems boring and not beneficial.I've also started campaign about my website but I use blogs,RSS,Comments,social sites,classified sites and forums for link building.


 12:47 am on Apr 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

A bit of a tangent, but related. My site has regained some of it's rankings over the last few months, but not #1 on every term (which is where I was until late 2009).

I suspect, but not sure, that by going from a dozen pages to 5K pages that I've diluted pagerank or linkjuice or whatever, internally in the site. And that's caused my site to suffer in the rankings.

Which is too bad - I've added all that content, it shouldn't lose ranking on the money pages.

This happened a number of years ago when I did something similiar, but the site eventually mostly rebounded (difficult to say exactly).

I admit that I could be completely wrong on this, I'm no PR calculation expert. It just seems that there's some cause and effect there.


 3:50 am on Apr 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Great thread Wheel. I happen to be a mortgage broker and have been learning SEO this year. For the past 60 days I have been consumed with reading so many different aspects of SEO.

Linkbuilding is where I am focused on right now and this has been one of the more comprehensive threads I have read on the subject.

I may be sending you a pm sometime this month if thats ok.


 4:09 am on Apr 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've added all that content, it shouldn't lose ranking on the money pages.

Much would depend on how intensively the new content was being linked to by the original part of the site.

Be restrained about adding new links to your internal navigation until you're confident that the flow of Page Rank is strong enough to be spread among that many new pages.

Adding many new pages to a site is kind of like changing the ventilation within a mine shaft. If you open new vents you'll get fresh air flowing into new corners, but you need to plan carefully so you don't make the air flow too weak within existing channels. PR is like that ...


 10:48 am on Apr 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Well, I basically just barfed 5000 new pages onto the site :). So it is being spread a lot thinner.

Hopefully the new links I get will make up for that.


 4:18 pm on Apr 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Good thread. Haven't seen any comments about the placement of your links on other websites. Going after top of page, higher level, within a detailed write-up, etc.

When exchanging links, I have also found it useful to have a PR4, PR3, PR2, PR1 to trade links with like minded folks. Usually gives you some bargaining power.

Leaving testimonials with a link back to your website is a great thing to do as well.

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