Ask the Linkbuilders


One Q&A session down, one more to go. And this one is all about links. Which is basically like saying it’s all about sex.  How to get it, who to have it with, and what to do when you wake up in the morning with a problem. [I’m delirious. Ignore me.] Danny Sullivan is moderating Rae Hoffman, Debra Mastaler, and Eric Ward.  Let’s do this.

Roger Monti is supposed to be here but he’s missing. He may be coming later but we’re not sure.  We’ll see what happens.  [Update: He never showed.]

I have old directory links I paid a one-time free for.  Will that hurt me?

Rae: No.

Eric: Not unless they’re the only links you have.

Our competitors have text links on various blog that have relevant content. I emailed the content asking for a link and I never got a response. How did competitors get links on these blogs?

Rae: They probably bought them and people aren’t responding because they don’t want to get banned for selling links.

Debra: Just because your competitor has a link on there doesn’t mean you have to go down to their mediocrity.  Find something better.

Eric: If you’re just curious, get an email address that can’t be traced and say you’re a rep for a Fortune 500 looking to make a serious investment in paid links.  If they’re selling links, you’ll pique their interest. [nice]

Can you talk about “the link juice”. If I have a Web site and I give a link to a new site, do I lose juice? Or does it just stay the same?

Debra: Your authority passes each time you pass a clean link to another page.  You’re not “losing” anything. Linking in and linking out helps the balance and helps your site. If you’re linking out to a bad site, you can be seen negatively by the search engines. One single link out? Probably not.

Rae: If you have 10 links on a page and they’re all going to interior pages, then each one of those links gets 10 percent. If one of those is external, you’ll “lose” 10 percent that’s not getting passed back inside.  The thing is natural Web sites don’t do that. It’s abnormal NOT to link to any other site on the Web.  If Google sees you’re linking to good sites, then it gives them a hint that you’re a good site too. You should not hoard your Page Rank.

Is there such a thing as too much cross linking?

Rae: If you’re a big brand you can do it without a problem. If you’re not, then yes, you can see a problem. Three or four is okay.

Debra: The issue is intent. If you’re cross linking TRYING to manipulate, it may not be a good idea. If you’re cross-linking your own businesses, it’s okay. The issue is, how would look if someone was to go look at it? If it would look odd to someone, there’s probably a red flag there. Would you show it to a Google rep and feel okay about it?

Danny says that newspapers are incapable of linking out to Web sites. #bitter

What’s the best/worst thing you can do to help your Web site in terms of linking?

Eric: Make sure the people you get to your site can easily push your content around the Web. Take advantage of the users you already have on your site and turn them into link builders for you.

Debra: The worst thing? Following the status quot. just because someone says to do something, doesn’t mean its right.

Rae: Create a point of difference. Backtrack your competitors links and give the people linking to them a reason to link to you. The worst thing you can do is buy links because there’s such a witch hunt.  You have control over your internal links, use them. Don’t stuff them with keywords but use your internal anchor text and make sure you’re linking to your most important pages, etc. Those are the only links you can 100 percent control.

Debra: Make your business THE business for whatever it is you’re selling.

Is email outreach effective for link building or should we be doing other things?

Rae: I haven’t set an email out in years.  They’ll create linkbait pieces and then they’ll email the top bloggers in the industry and everyone they linked to in the article and let them know they had put together this cool thing and they hoped they liked it.

Debra:  I haven’t sent an email in a long time.

Eric: He still does it but he  qualifies the emails by doing a lot of research first. He doesn’t email generic email addresses.   He’ll call people via Skype to get a more personal connection/email.

Can you talk about nofollow on external and internal links?

Rae:  Nofollowing internal links doesn’t work and you shouldn’t be nofollowing external links. If you’re going to link, give them the credit. If there’s a reason to link to them, then link to them. Nofollow on internal links is a shortcut.

Eric: He goes after links whether they’re followed or not. Awesome drinking game: Do a search and DON’T get a wikipedia page.

Rae: Wikipedia sends traffic. Go through your topic on Wikipedia and look for holes in their content. Write a piece to fill that hole and then update the page to include a link to your content and one or two other sites.  Don’t spam it but find decent ways to get in there legitimately. Don’t get greedy.

Debra: Rae found a noncommercial angle. That’s what you have to do.

What tips or hints can you give me for getting a link from DMOZ?

Eric: From a rankings standpoint, I don’t believe you need it.  It’d be crazy for Google to use that as an important signal.   He’d love to see DMOZ come back to what it once was. He’d turn it over to people who are already out there on subject expertise.

Rae: Submit it and forget it. Update your SEO knowledge to know that that’s NOT a valuable link.

Eric: If you find a DMOZ category where there’s no editor listed, work your way up the food chain in your subject to find an editor higher up.  Take their name, enter it into Google, and track down an email address. Then send them an email.

What’s the best linking tool?

Debra: She’s partial to all the SEO Book Tools and Yahoo Site Explorer. Don’t settle on just one tool.

Rae: She doesn’t use tools.

Eric: He has his own tools. They’re based on the best features of what’s out there. Play with Google’s Advance Search functionality.

Everyone basically agrees that Google is the best link tool available. They’re already telling you what the best pages for your topic are. Sometimes a tool that gives you THOUSANDS of pages isn’t the best option. That doesn’t help you.

I was approached by a reputable link building company [Danny says there isn’t a reputable link building company in terms of buying links. Because Google doesn’t like it]. They buy links on many US sites on the Web like Forbes and put them in the Resource section. How can Google detect those?

Rae: Humans can and they will report you.  If you get caught doing it, you’re going to lose your site. As long as that site isn’t paying for your kids school or your mortgage, have at it. Years ago, black hats knew what we they were doing was wrong. They were prepared to have their sites burn up. Buying links is the same thing.

Debra:  Paid links are typically sold in packages so there is a large number of links. If you come out of the gate with a large number of questionable links, you’re going to get whacked. Keep yourself out of the networks.

Rae: If you’re going to buy links, buy them smartly and not from networks.

If you buy or sell links and get caught, how fast can you come back. Does it only affect pages?

Debra: No, if you’re whacked your gone. It can be 6 weeks or 6 days. It depends on how pathetic your Reinclusion Request is.

Eric: Don’t confuse a devalue for a penalty.

What’s your view on scultping links? Is it worth the time? If so, how do you do it?

Eric: Depends on the size of your site. He doesn’t use it. His site is 14 years old and ranks where he wants it to rank.

Debra:  She’s not a fan. If you have decent site architecture, that’s all that you need. If you have really big sites there are “tricks” you can use using nofollow.  If you have a site that’s doing well, leave it alone.

Rae: Nofollow doesn’t work on internal links. If you don’t use nofollow, what’s left? JavaScript? No. An iframe? To her, that’s a pretty spammy tactic. The Google reps aren’t going to be thrilled with that. There is no longer a legit way to sculpt PageRank. If they liked you doing it, they would have left it.

Your fav link building campaign or tip.

Debra: Any kind of content that uses graphs, charts, etc. That’s working really well and being picked up by the media.  #infoporn

Rae: Compilations. Any time they can take 40 Top X lists and put them together, they work really well.  #listporn

Eric: TV Guide reached out to colleges to help them update their New To The Area page for college freshman.  #tvporn?

Your Comments

  • Robert Enriquez

    Eric makes a great point. Do not confuse a penalty with a devalue.

    If you have 99 junk links (paid/unpaid), Google will devalue the links which will bring your website down the rankings. That is NOT a Penalty. When links are rendered useless then their effect of helping you rank is lost, and you’ll go down down down.

  • Robert Enriquez

    btw on the DMOZ point from Eric

    That is a very bad idea. As a DMOZ editor, we HATE when an outside person emails us about getting on DMOZ or having us update a DMOZ listing.

    In the internal DMOZ forum they frown upon contacting anyone outside of DMOZ. Editors are given a space to add notes to a website link, and all editors can read the notes left from the other editor. If you’re spamming the directory, they can leave a note in which others will see it and you’ll never get in with that link.

  • Alex Newman

    [Quote: Rae: Humans can and they will report you. If you get caught doing it, you’re going to lose your site. As long as that site isn’t paying for your kids school or your mortgage, have at it. Years ago, black hats knew what we they were doing was wrong. They were prepared to have their sites burn up. Buying links is the same thing.]

    “You’re going to lose your site” – do you mean, you are going to lose your Google Search ranking? I don’t see how you could lose your site. Who, exactly, will take it away – unless you are doing something actually illegal? Are there any legal restrictions preventing a site from linking to whomever they wish, from their resources box? Buying a link is not *wrong*; it is something that may be penalized by Google Search. Buying a link is like any other form of paid advertising, isn’t it? What about PPC – is that really anything more than buying a link in the search rankings??? (Am I the only one who sees a double standard here?) Banner advertising – buying a link at the top of someone’s page? None of this is (as far as I am aware, please correct me if I am wrong) ethically wrong or illegal per se, but link buying may be penalized by Google Search. Big difference, let’s not get things mixed up.

    It is not necessarily required of you to build your sites in the way that Google prefers. You might lose ranking in Google Search and therefore money, but Google is not the FTC, nor are they the only reason to build links, or the ultimate arbiters of ethics, morals, web standards or taste, or the only way to get traffic or make money online. They are a corporation. They have some amazing utilities and may have targeted traffic available, but they should not be making you dance.

    My link building tips? Be FTC and CAN SPAM etc compliant; Invest your energy to build quality content, your way on your own “real estate” – instead of wasting your energy trying to jump Google hoops; Seek links-for-traffic and forget links-for-ranking. This will encourage linking with quality resources and you’ll probably do better in Google if you don’t bother trying to game them. But really, forget it. While you are dancing the dance, others will be making strides in developing quality businesses that IMHO will win at the end of the day.

    And I wouldn’t advise anyone to rely on Google Search rankings to pay their rent or mortgage… been there done that got clobbered woke up smelled the coffee.

  • SEO Doctor

    I disagree with what Debra says here – your whole site getting whacked by Google for paid links. I have found Google giving more page level penalties than banning sites completly. They will completly stop the page in question ranking for your keywords – so watch your home page very carefully ;)

  • Rae Hoffman


    “You’re going to lose your site” – do you mean, you are going to lose your Google Search ranking?

    Um, yes, I figured that would be obvious. And for most people, losing their Google ranks is the equivalent to losing their site – or at least the revenue from it.

    Seek links-for-traffic and forget links-for-ranking. This will encourage linking with quality resources and you’ll probably do better in Google if you don’t bother trying to game them.

    And when did anyone on that panel give advice that wasn’t in line with that? I’ve been preaching traffic development for a long time. Your response above seems based on assumptions you’ve made from out of left field. I don’t recommend gaming Google… but people in the audience want to know what works in Google, so we try to find the balance between “get links for traffic… but here is how it can affect you in Google.”