March 15th. A few years back, Brutus picked this date to murder Julius Caesar. And in 2013, Distilled chose this date to end their LinkLove conferences in a similarly abrupt fashion. Resident SEOgadget skydiver Tom Bennet and in-house superhero Jeanna Heeraman were in attendance, and today they bring you their review.
This was my first conference since I started in the industry, and the bar has been set high indeed. LinkLove 2013 had something to offer everyone, from technical data geeks like me to creative wizards like Jeanna. Held at an awesome venue (The Brewery near Old Street), we both left feeling that we had gained a lot in terms of our knowledge and skills. After discussing the awesome presentations with our fellow gadgeteers, we decided to summarize our favourite new tools, tips and strategies from the conference.
Wil Reynolds (@wilreynolds)
Wil’s key message was that we should not regard winning a link as ‘crossing the finish line’. Given that we ought to be focusing on building worthwhile relationships (and making people want to link to us), a first link should be regarded as a sign of trust, an opportunity. Key highlights included:
- Find good link targets by checking who authority sites are linking to. For example, in Bing use “linkfromdomain:whitehouse.gov intitle:software” to create a list of companies getting noticed.
- For content creation, use Google Instant for ideas: “how to convince your wife”, “when did <company>”, see what comes up.
- Remember to encourage social engagement! Wil gave the awesome example of climbingframesuk.com – users are requested to include photos of their completed climbing frames in their reviews, building trust and momentum.
- Nudges! Look out for the small opportunities to nudge user behaviour. For instance, create a page to display following a newsletter signup, suggesting people follow you on Twitter. Create a video to play after a user submits a contact form, just to say thanks.
- Jeanna, #seofitness extraordinaire, likened it to a work-out on the stepper – you need to keep pushing up a level, each incremental step-up representing another nudge.
- Got a booth at a conference? Think of them as an opportunity to engage (nudge!) potential clients, set the groundwork for a future link. Give a demonstration, let people test your products, offer to help people (a la Gary Vaynerchuk), host a competition – anything but handing out branded pens…
Lyndon Antcliff (@lyndoman)
Lyndon offered his link-baiting expertise, explaining the strategy and psychology behind it. As he put it, “websites do not link to websites. People do the linking.” Therefore, in creating compelling content we should be focused on creating content for people, not for Google. His key points:
- When creating linkbait, the article’s headline and content should appeal to different parts of the brain; we should write sensationalist headlines worthy of the Sun (“Boy eats own head”) to satisfy the primal brain, while still thinking like The Economist.
- When coming up with content ideas, think about what is topical; linkbait the news. If the content is good enough, it will get links – Lyndon gave the example of a Pay Day loan link from Wired through a good story about Mars.
- Read poetry for ideas about how to create short, snappy, powerful sentences, and pay attention to tabloid publishing for title ideas.
Hannah Smith (@hannah_bo_banna)
Hannah’s 23,787 link opportunities were all found on Fiverr – as Obi Wan would say, these are not the links you are looking for. When it comes to link-building, nothing has changed. We always knew what Google considered manipulative, it’s just that now they are getting far better at enforcing it. We felt the key take-home tips were:
- If your landing page is super-commercial, create a people page or similar – these are far easier to build links to.
- Check out the Boomerang plugin for Gmail – as well as lots of scheduling options, it automatically pings your email back to you if you don’t get a reply, reminding you to follow-up.
- In a great example of outreach strategy, data from The Guardian was used to create an infographic on Michelin Star restaurant pricing; when contacted about the piece, the newspaper obliged with a link.
- Stop talking and behaving like an SEO. When doing PR clean-up, do not ask for an attribution link – try ‘image credit’.
- ImageRaider is an awesome tool for finding unlinked uses of your images – hugely useful for infographic links!
Ian Lurie (@portentint)
Ian’s talk was hugely appealing to me, and gave me plenty of ideas for how I could improve my backlink analysis projects in the future (expect a blog post about that in the future!). Jeanna too was eager to undertake some technical digging after listening to Ian’s talk. The presentation offered some very insightful observations on machine learning, the categorization of spammy links, and Google’s sensitivity to context.
- Ian’s machine learning algorithm was demonstrated in his IsItSpam tool – sadly this has since collapsed under the weight of several thousand hungry SEO’s, some of whom had apparently tried to use the tool for live testing!
- He emphasised that Google is extremely context sensitive, and is getting better at detecting unnatural links even from ‘good’ domains.
- Check out a live demonstration of Google’s spam detection here (scroll down to Part 3).
- Google is working its way down, dealing with the worst offenders first. Therefore, clean-up your backlink profile now, rather than risking severe penalization in future! Try to think about what could harm you further down the line.
Richard Baxter (@richardbaxter)
Our almighty leader Richard gave a live demonstration of some of the awesome tools currently being developed deep inside the bowels of the gadgetplex. Rather than trying to do justice to the power of the Links API for Excel, I recommend you try it out for yourself! Just remember, with great power comes great responsibility.
Jeanna remarked that she is truly inspired by what Richard always says to her: “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”. So give the tools a go, if it doesn’t kill you it will only make you stronger!
Rand Fishkin (@randfish)
Rand gave a particularly thought-provoking talk on the role of the modern CEO. He explored the ways in which they can become an enormously powerful asset to their brand’s marketing.
- A CEO should set the mission, vision, and strategy of an organisation, living and breathing the brand’s core values.
- Understand your funnel, leverage the press wisely (e.g. paid paid vacations), and optimise your online bio (vary links and anchor text to take advantage of regular scrapes).
- As a CEO, have at least one form of personal content – whether a blog, a podcast, or a webinar, it will definitely spread your influence.
- CEO’s have enormous reach and power, and amass favours from their hundreds of contacts – don’t forget to cash them in, asking for links and shares as appropriate.
- Awesome advice: embrace authenticity and storytelling of the brand. For an example, check out the Louis CK HBO promo.
Ade Lewis (Teapot_Ade)
Ade outlined a practical strategy for small business SEO for £350 per month. His talk included some really valuable insights and advice for working with smaller companies of 10 people or less, such as plumbers, mechanics, builders, hairdressers, coaches, and so forth.
- Valuable tip: when was the last time you met your client to discuss their business rather than SEO? Schedule an informal meeting, and catch up over a cup of tea.
- It is crucial that you understand your client’s business, their goals, their market, their budget. Also make sure that they understand you, how you can be an asset to their business and what you can realistically achieve with their budget.
- A blog offers great ROI for a limited budget – create content relevant to their target market and utilise social media to spread the material. Ade recommended TextBroker service for creating content, pitching to bloggers with 25-30 emails a day and placing 5 links a month. They use their prospector tool to scope out new opportunities.
- On-site SEO is vital for small companies – combine thin content pages to concentrate linking opportunities. Also identify and fix 404’s and orphaned pages.
- Consider local search optimisation, rather than trying to rank for nationally competitive terms – this can offer a huge return for small businesses.
- Lastly, don’t forget the quick wins – ask for the client’s contact list, call everyone with a website, and ask them to link to your client in exchange for a free site audit. This could even win you another client!
Claire Stokoe (@killer_bunnie)
Claire pointed out that infographics are not merely a passing fad – they have been around for years (Florence Nightingale, for instance, had epic infographic skills). Here are some great tips from her interesting talk:
- A great infographic offers a cool visualisation of data, not just pretty graphics. So collect reliable data, and present your story well. Think of infographic creation as a process: sort topics, arrange data, present information, share infographic.
- Think arty but simple – consider typography, colour palette, presentation. Check out Colour Lovers for a great way to explore potential visual styles.
- Always have 3 target groups for outreach – for example, the 007 Dress Like Bond infographic targeted film fans, 007 fans, and fashion bloggers.
- Target highly sharable, high PR sites first, then move on to smaller bloggers, in order to maximise coverage. Use Creative Commons licensing to protect your work.
Will Critchlow (@willcritchlow)
In the final talk of the day, Will discussed the future of link-building. As he pointed out, “link building” really is a terrible name for what modern SEOs do. Not only that, but link builders are wildly unpopular – they broke directories, spammed forums, wrote crappy spun guest posts, and are now making ugly infographics. Instead, Will argued, we need to focus on becoming technically-minded creative marketers.
- Stop trying to game the system. Focus on creating genuine relevant content to attract links, rather than manipulating opportunities for quick wins. Doing this adds value and avoids breaking things.
- Stop worrying about link juice, anchor text, and nofollow. Instead, focus on traffic-driving links, site speed and usability, and how many journalists you know.
- He encouraged everyone to step out of their comfort zone, gave us challenges that encourage us to grow new skills. Become more technical / creative / social depending on the weaknesses in your current skillset.
- See the slide deck for all the challenges. Examples: if you are not technical, create a web server, break it, and then fix it. Alternatively make something, sell it online and create a payment section. If you are not creative, make a graphic end-to-end, build a wireframe, film & edit a video, or remove someone from a photo. If you’re not an extrovert, call a journalist and pitch them a story.
- Growing new skills will feel uncomfortable at first, but it will help you on your journey towards becoming a full stock marketer, and these people make the next CMOs.
Following a brief Q & A session with the experts, the final LinkLove then came to an end. Appropriately, most of the attendees then headed to the Nineteen Twenty bar to commiserate its passing and to celebrate an awesome conference.
Thanks to Distilled for putting on such a great event. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading our write-up!LinkLove 2013 - Tips, Tactics & Tools,