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Thursday, 28 February 2013

New General Link Building Queries

Advanced link building queries, for the link builders who use them extensively, remain a closely guarded secret. It’s easy to understand why. For one, they want to protect a valued link source from getting flooded with link requests from the general link-seeking public. Secondly, there are some choice opportunities out there that would lose their value if the entire SEO community happened to learn about them.

Another complication with discussing and sharing link building queries is that they’re often tailored towards the linkable and shareable assets of a particular organization. Further, two businesses within the same vertical may have widely different linkable assets, and therefore will need to seek different link targets, which requires different queries.

 Despite their link-protecting reticence and the complexity of communication, the 21 link builders I surveyed delivered a highly-valuable array of advanced link building queries. Thank you to all who participated!

Framing the process

In my questions, I asked link builders to respond within this framework:

Linkable Asset. Definition: what’s “linkable” varies from vertical to vertical. Cash is almost always a linkable asset, as are available jobs, events, expertise for interviews and many other forms of great content.
Link Target. Definition: what types of sites, pages, and people seek this linkable asset?
Link Prospecting Query. Definition: what queries uncover great targets for your linkable assets?
This framework couldn’t possibly suit every link builders’ style and expertise. I mention it because you’ll see it in some cases below.

Last notes before digging in – I missed getting queries from some great link builders due to time constraints imposed by my late start (apologies to those I missed!). If you want more sample queries from link builders please say so in the comments (and/or add your own) so I can build the case for a follow-up article. And in closing, I’d like to extend a thank you to the SEO Dojo for their warm welcome and link query suggestions.

Link building queries from 21 link builders

Query #1

Ken McGaffin, Keywords and SEO Blogger for Wordtracker Academy:
Here is a mini case-study on our Firefox plug-in ‘SEO Blogger’ which shows how we create linkable assets, queries and approach people for link building.

The link building project

‘SEO Blogger’ Firefox plug in from Wordtracker

At Wordtracker, we wanted to target anyone who published a blog and we were especially interested in business bloggers. We did a reasonable amount of research on the project and it kicked off with doing queries on Google.

We were interesting in identifying sites that had published articles on ‘business blogging’ or advised people how to blog. We identified our prospects using “intitle” queries on Google.

At the last count, this piece of work netted us over 1,000 links in just a few months.

The queries we used were quite simple but they produced an excellent list of target sites.

Here are the queries I used:

intitle:”business blogging”
intitle:”business blogs”
intitle:”blogging tips”
For each query, I’ll look at the first 100 results and then look to compile a list of what I think are the top 50 or so. I concentrate on the top 50 because it’s cost effective. If I get editorial coverage and links from among the top 50, then I know hundreds will follow their example.

You’ve got to have superb content and publicize it through multiple channels. That’s where we put in the bulk of our efforts. For ‘SEO Blogger’ we had a 7-step process:

Created a top notch, free plug-in.
We created a section on our Academy specifically to offer free blogging articles as well as a blogging download.
We also commissioned an e-book from Chris Garrett, “Blogging for Business” that would generate revenue.
About 4 days before launch, we contacted our top 50 researched targets, gave them some copy and invited them to be the first to try our new plugin – we asked them to write about it or tweet it if they found it useful. We gave people a strict embargo.
We wrote a series of customized press releases that went to the press list we’ve built up over the years. Note that we suggested how to link to us in all our communications.
This is the most important step – we responded to questions and queries almost immediately. That meant assigning people to take on that task. I’m convinced our quick responses helped build trust and relationships.
Finally, on release, we tweeted about the launch. Many of the bloggers journalists who we had contacted also tweeted at the same time. The results were fantastic – the synergy we got from these multiple channels is always what I’m after.
In summary,  I think you need to have a commitment to create great, free stuff in order to tap into these link targets.

Query #2

Shaun Anderson, of Hobo SEO Company in Scotland.

One of the simplest ways I use to build links for any business is finding colleges and universities who link degree students and alumni to to job opportunities, and promote their student discount partners online. I consider links from very real sites like these as authority building links.

Obviously the first thing to do is get used to publishing your job vacancies and any offers on your site, and then telling potential linking partners about them. TIP: never take these jobs offline either – just mention “Role Filled” and strike out the text.

Target Asset = Job Vacancy / Internships For (with your important keywords of course)
Key Link prospects = Universities and colleges, alumni sites
Link prospecting queries (in Google) = jobs degree, careers opportunities, careers advice, jobs degree, careers degree, careers advice + variations
View this example page typical of what you might find.
Another variation of this query occurs with colleges and universities who publish links to sites that offer their alumni special student discounts (so effectively, all you need is a student discount for products or services). This is useful even for small businesses in a very tight catchment area.

Target Asset = Student Discount For (with your important keywords of course)
Key Link prospects = Universities and colleges, alumni sites
Link prospecting queries (in Google) = student discount partners, student discount partners + variations
View this example page typical of what you might find.
Of course, in every case you need to dig around the site in question but offering a student discount to all colleges and universities and building a list of marketing communications offers at unis and colleges and contacting them asking for a link in their newsletter (which many have) in return for a student discount is going to be more rewarding than sending out 1000 unsolicited spam link request emails. TIP – don’t be cheap. The better your offer for students, the better chance you’ll get a link.

Ultimately these kinds of educational links are a win win – they are not hurting either site, and students get a good deal too. If you have good content on your site, you can just go right on and ask them to link to it if they already have a habit of linking out to similar sites to yours, or even send them articles about “How to get a job in {keyword} services” for their careers newsletter or resource section.

Query #3

Eric Ward, content link builder since 1994

Understanding how to use what Google will give you via advanced syntax queries is one of those private strategies where I don’t tell my exact approach, I only sort of hint at it. The specific queries I use are typically client/subject specific.

That said, I could share some vertical/marginally useful ones, say, if the content I am building links for is PBS’ content on volcanoes.

Then, an example target site would be this one.

And, I would have found that target site via a Google query string like this: [volcano learn diagram useful demonstration other links].

Now, this is a beautiful example, and it’s a real example, and it resulted in a topical link obtained, but…most folks who are building links are not doing so on behalf of PBS content about a vertical like “volcanoes”. So, while my example may look nice, and it worked for me because my clients are content creators like PBS, most folks will see my example and crucify me/it as being “unrealistic” for their purposes, since their content is not as “linkworthy” as PBS’s.

Query #4

Wiep Knol, newly of

Here’s a list of a few queries that I often use or have used in the past to find interesting websites. I left the most obvious ones out, because I assume that most people already know and use these.

Content targeted:

{keyword} “guest blogger” OR “guest post” OR “guest article” OR “guest column”
{keyword} “become a contributor” OR “contribute to this site”
{keyword} “write for us” OR “write for me”
{keyword} inurl:category/guest
You can refine these queries by using {keyword location} in stead of {keyword}, or by switching to just {location}.

Resource/ research targeted:

{keyword} “top * [tools/ articles/ websites/ etc.]” -> refine search to ~1 year ago. Contact anybody who shows up and ask if you can help with the 2009/ 20** edition of the article
{keyword} research -> see explanation above
{keyword} {location} resources OR “useful sites” OR links
{keyword} {USP} intitle:resources -> Use ‘green’, ‘cheapest’ etc as USP
.edu targeted: {keyword} “planned research” OR “upcoming project” -> might return upcoming research/ project/ whatever that can be useful (both for info and for links)
To find specific types of websites:

{keyword} “Powered by phpBB” OR “powered by vBulletin”
{keyword} “Blog powered by TypePad” OR “powered by WordPress”
Additionally, one thing that always works very well for me is asking the client what the most important industry related websites and blogs are, and which ones his or her favorite are. Then I do some searching in the LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers of the client and some of his colleagues, and look for connections with these websites. If I find a match, explain to my client how he can use that connection and turn it into a link. This not only results in links to the client website on highly relevant websites that he likes (=a happy client), but it also makes sure that he is building connections that will be useful in the future as well (= life time value).

Query #5

Ann Smarty, SEO Consultant,

target asset = new low-calorie chocolate product
key link prospects = mommy bloggers
link prospecting queries = [pr welcome], [submit * review], [pr friendly], [pr contact], [pr info], [get * reviewed], [allintitle:get * reviewed], [reviews inurl:submit]
target asset = a contest by fitness equipment store
key link prospects = bloggers who cover web contests with a link back to the host
link prospecting queries = [intitle:submit intitle:contest], [allintitle:submit * contest], [blog contests], [submit * giveaway]
Also from Ann: Link Building Search Queries Collection How to Use Google Wildcard Operator for Link Building and Baiting

Query #6

Debra Mastaler of Alliance-Link, link building services and training

We begin all custom campaigns by sending surveys to the client’s customer base, which cuts our prospecting time in half and pinpoints the sites and/or types of businesses we need to look for. From there, it’s a simple matter of doing basic research to match sites with our client’s demographic. I depend less on queries for this and more on tools like Quantcast and Compete. If I do need to query, I use all four engines (Google, Ask, Yahoo and Bing) plus DMOZ, Hoovers, Lexis Nexis and local directories. My goal is to find businesses with street and algorithmic credibility to pitch my promotions and content to.

Query #7

Melanie Nathan, consultant for Canadian SEO

Footprints: A footprint is simply common text than can be searched for thereby revealing all the places that use the same text.

For example, a Google search for [Allowed HTML tags:] will bring back all the sites and blogs that allow you to use custom anchor text when commenting.

If you happen to come across an authoritative site that allows you to automatically post content with dofollow links (for example, a classified ad), take note of the form they’re using as footprints left by the form software are easily trackable and can allow you to find other sites that are using the same form


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