Backlinking: High PR vs Relevancy

In my most recent research, I’ve come to discover that the high PR versus relevancy debate is less important than most think.

The typical procedure for creating backlinks (from high PR sites) usually goes as follows: pick a keyword or a couple of keywords, start linking from high PR sites, and then wait for the traffic to come in on those keywords via boosted SERP rankings.

The relevant linking is much more drawn out. Join some sort of community, build a relationship, and people will naturally link to you, but most likely from low-PR sites that are usually, in the end, NOT relevant.

For the most powerful linking strategy, we need to combine the best parts of both procedures, and create one supercharged backlinking plan.

High-PR advantages:
1. High PR (obviously)
2. Bigger PR voting to Google

Relevancy advantages:
1. Narrowed scope of potential visitors (however, for normal backlinking, this isn’t really something we should worry about yet)
2. Diverse spread of anchor text

Take a look at the italicized items: High PR and diverse anchor text. I’ll skip the high PR one, since we all know that high PR is preferable, and focus on the second one; diverse anchor text.

Unless you stumble upon something that becomes an Internet meme overnight, building a lot of links in a relevant, organic manner will take months. The only benefit from this method is the diversity of anchor text that links back to your site. While you might have a site dedicated to “green widgets”, you could easily have anchor text linked from someone’s blog that reads “cool widget”, and yet another that used “cheapest widget I’ve found online”. Extrapolate a decent organic linking pace over a year, and you’ll have a respectable amount of backlinks with hugely varying anchor text.

Now, with the amount of refereeing that Google (and the other search engines) have been doing recently, it’s starting to become less easy to quickly build a library of links without unwillingly participating in the Google Dance.

So, how can we avoid this? Internet memes seem relatively unaffected by the Google Dance, yet it’s possible for thousands of links to a site to happen overnight.

By creating backlinks with a very diverse (15-20 at least) set of widely varying anchor texts (albeit linking back to one or two key pages), it’s possible (but not guaranteed) to sidestep Google’s penchant to temporarily penalize a page that suddenly gains a large number of incoming links. We know that this likely to work in most scenarios because of the way that Google already handles hot trends: by not penalizing seemingly organic waves of backlinks. It also gives the impression that the links are much less likely to be automatically generated, and the endpoint site is more likely relevant within a larger cross-section of varied, but related contexts for your subject/keyword..

Essentially, you’re creating your own “hot trend”, and because of the varying anchor texts, you’ll have a stronger position over a greater number of what should be longer-tail keywords (if you follow the formula for creating your anchor texts that I’ll show later).

Here’s the formula that I typically use, and seems to work fairly well:

50-60% of your anchor texts should be keywords containing the root keyword that vary slightly. For example, “red widgets”, “blue widgets”, and “green widgets” would all be good if you want to target “widgets”. You could even do something like “widgets repair”. They should all be (assuming you have a single-word keyword) 2 or 3 words, but preferably 2 words.

Some people will tell you that it doesn’t matter what the rest are, as long as they are somewhat relevant, but I disagree. I’ll take about half of what’s left (20-25%) and make up a short sentence with your keyword in it, and create a phrase anchor text. “I found a shop that repairs the special edition orange widgets for half of what the dealership does.” I would then use the full sentence for linking, and actually link only the italicized text as the anchor text. I will also make about 10 variations of sentences, repeating them only a few times (if at all).

As far as the rest of the links (20-25%), I will usually pick 3-5 high-converting, long-tail keywords (use AdWords to test for click-through rates from Google), and backlink those without ANY modification to the word itself.

So, to recap:
50-60% – Variation of primary keyword
20-25% – Phrase within a sentence, loosely-related to main keyword but highly relevant
20-25% – Only long-tail keywords, higher traffic ones with good conversion preferred

Try out this method in your next round of linking, and see if you can skip the Google Dance altogether!

SEO Experts

There are countless “SEO experts” available. Online, locally,…just about everywhere. They’re like fire ants. You get rid of some, and twice as many pop up later.

You have to give these guys some credit. These “SEO experts” can undoubtedly make a page appear high in search results. However, it’s for a keyphrase that is not realistically profitable (or even useful) for your business’s website. Long-tail keywords have value, but you just can’t build a business from that.

Search Engine Optimization is really becoming an archaic term. We’re no longer needing to appease the crawlers; it’s the user that is really important here. There are some things that should be done for the sake of the search engine, but ultimately, it trickles down to making it an easier surfing experience for the user.

Optimizing for the user won’t get you front page results in hours, days, or maybe even weeks. It does take time and effort to appear in natural results for your profitable keywords. And, while it’s true there are ways to game the system, these almost always result in a much more costly and time-consuming negative impact for your site. It’s simply not worth it in the short or long term.

Keep in mind that you’re selling to the user, not the search engine.

PPC and Demographic Bidding

Asteroids and comets are really interesting to learn about. Here is some information on the most famous comet of all, Halley’s Comet: http://www.scientificamerican.com/gallery/is-seeing-a-comet-like-halley-s-a-once-in-a-lifetime-event/

You may or may not be using pay-per-click marketing (PPC) by way of Google AdWords, Microsoft AdCenter, or Yahoo Search Marketing. Did you know that what works excellent on one engine can (and will) lose money on another? Each PPC provider has a very specific audience (generally), and when it comes to an industry, or even a specific keyword, that specific audience can change completely.

AdWords provides a demographic bidding model for Google Content Network ad placements. While this particular strategy is not profitable for everyone, it can hold extremely high click-through rates and conversion rates for the right advertiser.

You can refine your reach based on users’ gender and age on certain sites in the Google content network such as MySpace and Friendster, whose users provide that information about themselves.

Think about that for just a second. Instead of throwing out valuable impressions and potential clicks to just anyone, you can show to only those users who meet your target audience. How much better would your conversion rate be if you excluded those who were very unlikely to purchase from you?

Sometimes, it’s not about reaching more people. It’s about reaching the better ones.