An Update on Link Networks

Back in December I did an in-depth review of some of the best link building services around. When I say link building services I mean systems that allow you to generate content for a link, so article marketing systems, blog network systems and content spinning systems.

I have used and promoted many of the networks I reviewed, one in particular was Linkvana. I promoted this service due to the fact the content on the network was 100% unique, the links were minimised and relevant and the blogs were on average 3 years old and had good PageRank.

However I have recently cancelled my Linkvana subscription and would advise anyone else to do the same.

There are a few reasons for this;

1) I have recently noticed more and more of the blogs within the network are being deindexed

2) A lot of the blogs that were indexed are becoming less relevant

3) I really think it is time to focus on quality

As well as an SEO consultant I also do a fair share of niche blogging, therefore link networks such as the one above have always been helpful when attempting to rank a niche website. However, more and more I am noticing these niche blogs are losing rankings, traffic and authority.

My belief is that Google is clamping down on niche sites with low quality inbound links regardless of the anchor text those links supply. For example, only 12 months ago you could pick a niche keyword, fire 500 anchor text links at it and get it to rank first page pretty easily, this is becoming harder and harder.

What Do I Do if I Have Niche Blogs or Sites?

Don’t get me wrong, you can probably still get a niche blog to rank using ‘cheap links’, I simply believe it will continue to get harder and harder.

My first bit of advice would be to stick to article directories for building your anchor text links, ones I particularly like are;

buzzle.com

ezinearticles.com

work.com

articleblast.com

goarticles.com

articlecity.com

articlebase.com

Just to name a few…..

Secondly, I would also suggest making use of the Unique Article Wizard, this allows pretty good coverage and the links tend to be from more relevant websites as well as article directories.

Quality Over Quantity

Niche sites are one thing but building a solid online business is completely different. You want your online business to be safe in the Google index for years and years not just for the next 12 months, therefore link building for a business has to be based on quality.

What Is Quality

I think when we are considering what makes a quality link we need to be thinking about the following;

Relevance – This for me has always been a big factor. The sites you are getting links from need to be relevant. Put yourself in the user’s position, if you were surfing a website about SEO, you would find it strange to see a ‘dog clippers’ website link stuck in the corner. I can’t imagine for 1 minute that this goes undetected by Google and have no doubt it will pass very little weight.

PageRank – Even though toolbar PR is not an effective measure of success, you can still use it to determine the quality of the page you are getting the link from.

Outgoing links – Yes if a page is flooded with tons of outgoing links you are very unlikely to get any real value from it.

Anchor Text – This is still a major factor, however as I have warned before, make it look natural. Use variations; use your domain name as well as using the target keyword.

The Problem

The problem is very simple, how do we get these kinds of links? Links like this usually come at a price and paid links are bad, right?

This is a whole other topic and for a different post.

My parting advice would be this;

Every website needs some form of optimised anchor text, stick with article marketing for this type of link, but don’t forget it all needs topping up with some quality PageRank passing links.

So You Want To Be An Authority Blogger?

I am an SEO at heart, I love the internet and Google and the way in which anyone, even those of us with limited means, can promote our products, services and even ourselves.

One of the key concepts of being successful online is understanding how to become authoritative in your given industry, how are you going to gain trust and convey your expertise.

The Main Problem

One of the main issues with today’s blogging world is duplicate information, blogs that simply publish the exact same news over and over and over again. No new angles, no new points of view, no unique news, research or scandal, simply rewrapped, duplicate content that you can read on hundreds of other sites.

Many people read authority blogs such as Copyblogger and Problogger and basically re-report the content from various posts.

If you want to stand out, if you want to be a better blogger and become an authority resource you cannot simply copy your way to the top.

Just to make myself totally clear on this point, many top bloggers have taken certain actions which have lead to their success, however I am specifically talking about their content, their articles and their news. Copying a success strategy is different to being one of the many online echoes.

You Don’t Need To Be Einstein To Build Trust and Authority

So you have an area of expertise, you offer services or a product, maybe you simply want to display your knowledge in a given area?

It is important to remember that you’re not going to do yourself any favours by making yourself sound smart, bare with me here.

I learnt a really important lesson at University through 2 separate experiences;

1) When I initially put an essay together I would try my best to make it as complex and professional as possible, using big words, complex theories and long winded paragraphs. My results were average to say the least and I was shocked considering the effort that had gone in. I later had a meeting with my tutor who explained that I was trying so hard to make my piece of work authoritative that I was missing out on some plain and simple principles, I changed my approach and attempted to make my work as straightforward and logical as possible, this did the trick and my grades started to increase.

2) As you will probably know you attend endless seminars at University and you always had your favourite teachers. Surprisingly the most popular teachers were not always the teachers with the most authority in a particular area; the best teachers were those who could convey complex principles in a simple way. Seminars that involved a tutor who had this skill were packed with students where as the others were made up of 4-5 students.

My point? Just because you have expertise in a given area your aim is not to baffle your readers with your extreme abilities and knowledge, visitors come to learn and most are not going to have such focused knowledge in your area of expertise, if you want to be an authority in a given area you have to learn to speak to the masses and not just the few people who are on the same level as you.

When was the last time you read blogs like Problogger and thought to yourself “wow that was deep, I’m confused”? Not very often I am imagining and that is because the articles generally speak to the masses. Do you think Problogger would have 100,000 subscribers if all the info was so complex only the top bloggers could really understand it?

Some More Points On Being An Authority

Never dismiss an idea for a post without thinking it through– Many times we have things on our mind that we dismiss, thinking “everybody knows this”, well sometimes they don’t, sometimes the things that seem simple to you are not so simple to others, so be open minded about your topics.

Stand up for yourself– Many follow the crowd either because it is easier or because they are afraid to say what they really believe. If you don’t agree with a specific point then say so, you are never going to stand out if you are travelling in the same direction as everyone else, plus you never know, once you voice your opinion other’s may gain the courage to follow.

Research your industry– No this does not mean re report from other authority blogs, but do research the points these blogs make, add your own personal twist to concepts and practices.

It’s not easy standing out in a world full of experts but whether you’re a blogger, marketer or other online business owner you need to put yourself out there and you are not going to do it by being the same as everyone else.

5 Reasons Social Media Is Overrated

I don’t know if any of my long standing readers have noticed lately but I have been posting a lot less and my interaction on sites such as stumble, twitter and other social networks has been almost none existent.

Now besides being extremely busy there are other reasons for this, the truth is social networking and spending time on these sites building profiles has never been my strong point, the time it takes to become involved and interact, in my opinion, cannot be justified. I have found so much more reward in developing other areas of my blog and general online portfolio.

Before I go deep into this post I want to assure anyone who I meet or who have met via social media, or those who found my site via social links, that I am not disregarding them as ‘not worth the effort’, if you found me via social media that is great, I love interacting with others who are interested in SEO and other internet marketing strategies, however the ROI of time spent on social sites is simply overrated in my opinion. WOW that was a long (probably badly written) sentence!

You see originally I am from an internet marketing background, ranking sites and making money via affiliate products and ad clicks, I soon found myself in the Google Adwords game but quickly abandoned ship when it became too expensive to use for affiliate marketing. I only really decided to test social networks when I started marketing SEO wizz back in March this year, it was a test, it was time consuming and unfortunately the stats show I have wasted my time somewhat.

Any without any further waiting, here are my 5 reasons I have found social media to be an unprofitable strategy.

The Time

If you really want to build a network via sites like digg, stumble and twitter then you are going to need to put the hours in, I found at one point I was spending more time on these sites than I was spending on my own site! That can’t be right can it? Tweeting, stumbling, answering questions etc….

I met people yes, I got to help a lot of nice people and I also got help from a lot of nice people, but that rarely turned into leads, sales or links and on that note I’ll continue.

Low Conversion Rates

When I talk about conversion rates I am referring to SEO enquiries, ad clicks, affiliate clicks and subscribers. Social media simply does not convert compared to search traffic, that’s why I spend my time building my own site and its link portfolio.

Adsense: I have messed around with adsense on the site and trust me it converts nowhere near in the same league as it does on my other niche blogs but I haven’t really optimised the site for adsense. Still I found that search traffic has around a 2.45% click through rate and social traffic has about 0.13%. That is a huge, huge, huge difference. If I wanted to advertise on a site why would I ever pay to have my banner or link on a site that receives 90% social traffic?? That’s a bad investment.

Just to clarify at this point, for the exercise of establishing click through rates I have classed all referral and Direct traffic as “social traffic”

Affiliate Links: I did a 3 month test of having affiliate links in the right column of SEO wizz and yes I got quite a few commissions from it; however the same was true as was with the adsense. I made around 56 sales and only 1 came from social traffic, yes that’s right 1!! The rest came from Google with a few coming from Bing!!! So if you are in this game to make money social traffic is probably not the best route.

Subscribers: This is a figure I was quite surprised about, as I expected social traffic to do a lot better than it did. Search traffic has around a 0.6% subscriber rate whilst social traffic is a little better at 0.8%, now yes social traffic is ever so slightly better when it comes to developing a readership but only just and those readers aren’t going to buy from you, they’re simply going to read, which is fine but don’t be under the illusion that readers = profits.

SEO Enquiries: I won’t even go into this, just believe when I say the percentages are that low for social media that it’s not worth bothering with.

Social Visitors Are Not Looking For Solutions

I think this is the main factor to consider for any new online business and that is “social visitors generally aren’t looking to a solution to a problem”, they want interesting content and funny articles (the majority do anyway). Visitors that come to your site via search are inputting keyword after keyword into Google to try and find help to a problem or a need they are looking to satisfy. I get loads of long tail search traffic on terms like “how to rank higher in search engines”, “Where have all my links gone”, “Why is my site not ranking” and “how do I get more traffic”. These people are looking for answers, for products and for services.

Social traffic fulfils a purpose but does not provide profit.

Link Acquisition

When I was spending hours on twitter and stumble I kept telling myself, hey it’s a great way to build links. The truth is 90% of my links have come from my own link building efforts like, article marketing, directory submissions, blog carnivals and press releases. Yes I have links from some viral posts not from social media sites but from other websites that have found my content. Saying all this one of my biggest link building strategies has been through keyword targeting. I published a post on Bing SEO back in the summer, I did and still do get search traffic to that post, over 500 a month and it is still continuing to pull in links for me, around 350 as it stands. The long tail targeted posts on my site get search traffic and convert into sales, clicks, readers and links better than any other form of traffic.

High Bounce Rates

Now this is only a minor factor but still social media traffic involves huge bounce rates, I think stumble averages around 85% with Twitter not far behind. Now I know there is no concrete evidence to show this effects search engine rankings, however no matter how you look at it high bounce rates on a content rich site never looks particularly good. In comparison bounce rates on search traffic is around 50%, again which would you prefer???

Right I have battered social media enough, let me offer a little consolation and make a few points about what social media can actually do;

– Help you brand your site
– Help you rank for your company/site name (first page domination)
– Build friendships
– Help you find advice on topics
– It can be fun :)

Despite these facts, in my opinion, social media should be kept in its rightful place and that is to assist in connecting with people and not as a business building tool, because the truth is that it is a highly unprofitable way to spend your time online.

Just so I don’t get scorned, Yes I do use twitter a little and every now and then I login to my stumble account, however I am sick to death of the spam!!! Stumble my “diamond shop” home page and review it??? Come on guys, even if I stumble it it’s not going to make your site profitable!!! Spend your time doing something more worthwhile, like ranking for “buy diamond rings” (hmm I wonder how much search traffic it gets?).

Also just to clear something up, I mentioned at the beginning of the post I have not been posting as often as I once did and there are a number of reasons for this;

a) I decided to post once a week, this allows me to put together a better quality post.

b) I have been so busy with client work

c) Link building does more for my traffic than posting 3 times a week for the sake of it ever could

Has my traffic levels dropped? Nope they have increased.

Have I lost subscribers? Nope they have increased.

Have I lost anything? Yes!! The pain in my hands from typing 3 or 4 times a week :)

Seriously everyone the advice you read on most social blogs, in my opinion is false;

– You don’t need to post every day

– You don’t need to create endless pointless lists

– You don’t have to spend all your time on digg, stumble and twitter

Don’t let huge subscriber lists fool you, it does not equal success or profit (unless your goal is to get as many subscribers as possible, then it equals success).

Remember it’s easy for the high profile bloggers to say “just create great content and submit it to social sites” the fact is they have a load of loyal readers who hang on everything they say and go out and push their content all over the web, meanwhile 98% of start up bloggers do the same thing and realise it doesn’t quite work the same.

Don’t bother submitting your posts to these sites, if someone really likes your content they will submit it and pass it around their network. This is where social media comes into play, not by spamming social sites but by allowing networks of friends to share content easily.

I hope I haven’t offended anyone with this post; I value all the friendships I have built up via multiple means. I enjoy writing and interacting with those who read and interact with my content, all I am saying is that none of this = money, profits or anything like that.

If you want to read another excellent post with a great take on social media head over to Jason’s business blog (sorry Jason I pinched your image).

Also if you want to read some more posts on the value of social traffic head over to Allyn’s Blogger Illustrated post on Social Traffic (very funny guy) and Griz’s take on social media traffic. Both are a no holds barred assault on social traffic, so if you think you might get offended; best not click the links :)

Until next time!