Linking Campaigns

Linking Campaigns by Search Sciences

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Linking Campaigns by Search Sciences

Linking Campaigns

"We have tried to run linking campaigns ourselves in the past - several times - and failed on each occasion. It proved to be a mammoth task and our web team couldn't keep up. Search Sciences has proven to be a safe pair of hands in making our linking strategy deliver decent rankings."
Marketing Director, Domestic Appliances Retailer

Linking campaigns
Almost every business with a website is after organic (natural / unpaid) search engine rankings. From a marketing perspective these deliver long term return on investment (ROI) unmatched by any other form of advertising other than of course word of mouth. There are essentially three "pillars" in the natural (unpaid) search world, each of which needs to be properly addressed in ensuring decent long term search engine rankings:-
  • On-page code optimisation - we have some of the best specialist on-page firms in the world as partners
  • On-site content
  • Link equity
Search Sciences works extremely hard to achieve long term sustainable rankings for our clients using a stable, proven, search engine friendly approach and our own unique technology. We are happy to demonstrate our success with existing clients and have an industry leading client retention rate approaching 100%. The remainder of this section focuses upon our approach to link building.

Quick Links
This section is fairly lengthy so we have provided some quick links below which will take you straight to the relevant section.

The importance of linking
Linking works!
Linking challenges
Our approach and offerings
Targeting the right search terms
Link topicality / relevance
Link quality
Link location
Three way and reciprocal linking
Communication - as the client
Visibility and management reporting

The importance of linking
The search engines, particularly Google are extremely sensitive to a site’s "link equity". This includes BOTH the links on our clients’ sites to other sites and of course the links back from other sites to our clients’ sites. Links matter to the search engines for a number of reasons:-
  • They are one of the main ways in which the search engines find new sites and thus fresh content
  • They help to define the subject focus and content of a site. If a lot of other sites that the search engines regard as being of good quality and related to a particular theme link to a site, the search engines will reasonably assume that the site must be a useful and perhaps even an important site in that subject area.
  • The opposite is also true – our clients’ links to other sites help the search engines define the main subject and focus of those sites
  • Many of the search engines have their roots as university library catalogue systems. To an extent, they therefore "think like librarians" with each site representing a book. The links on a site are rather like the bibliography of a book – a cross-reference that helps the librarian understand where the book fits theme and subject-wise.
  • Google in earlier guises was known for a while as "BackRub", reflecting the importance of cross-linking. To this day, Google appears to dedicate a substantial percentage of its overall ranking / scoring algorithm to link analysis.
  • What surprises many is that relevant OUTBOUND links to closely themed and relevant sites are also rewarded -- not just return links. Outbound links are thus included in most linking campaigns. [Back to top]
Linking works!
Although there are no guarantees because the search engine algorithms are not in the public domain, there is endless empirical evidence that linking WHEN MANAGED CORRECTLY is extremely effective. As with many natural search activities, results are generally measured over months rather than weeks. That said, there are occasional "quick wins" - we recently saw a client go from virtually unranked for a target search term to number one out of 500,000,000 results! We must emphasise that such results are the exception, not the rule. However, we have yet to work for a client for whom we have not achieved strong ranking improvements. We have endless practical examples of clients’ sites that are now #1 for a whole host of search terms because they have been optimised and linked that way. [Back to top]

Linking challenges
If you tell the webmaster community that something will help you become highly ranked in the search engines, they will come at it from every possible angle and will use every scam imaginable to exploit this. Linking is no exception. For some time, webmasters have been frantically trading links with ‘anything with a pulse’ to try to gain rankings. Naturally some of them have taken a professional approach and have been rewarded with strong rankings. Some of the ‘scammers’ have also managed to achieve good rankings (the search engines are not perfect!) but these are unlikely to be sustainable. This results in a number of challenges for anyone wishing to embark upon a linking campaign:-
  • Owners of highly ranked sites have link request fatigue – they get inundated
  • There are quite a few tricks and pitfalls to avoid (more on this later)
  • There are equally a number of ‘must-do-s’
  • The majority of sites are quite difficult to contact – publishing email addresses is an invitation to email spam
  • Conversion rates (the number of links you get versus the number you ask for) are generally fairly low [Back to top]
Our approach and offerings
By now, you have probably gathered that linking is worth doing (actually essential) but is hard work. The good news is that we have developed a link management system (called imaginatively enough – LMS) which we like to think is possibly the most advanced in the world. It automates pretty much all of the elements of the linking process that can reasonably be automated and allows us to focus quickly and effectively on the parts of the process that require human intervention. This system is used to drive linking campaigns for clients. [Back to top]

Targeting the right search terms
Many site owners have wasted countless hours and lots of money in targeting phrases or search terms that are relevant to their business but that no-one actually searches for! Some of our clients have already researched terms and are aware of searched-for phrases that are worth targeting. If you have this information, we will use that to direct our efforts. If not, we will include some basic research as part of the setup process to ensure that we are focusing correctly. This results in a set of target search terms that are relevant, likely to actually monetise and achievable, including so-called "long tail" terms where appropriate. Search term analysis is a discipline in its own right, the details of which are beyond the scope of this page. [Back to top]

Link Topicality / Relevance
This is arguably the hottest conversation in linking. You may recall from above that the "librarian" search engines make use of a site’s links to assist them in determining the site’s content and subject area. The choice of link partners therefore matters a great deal when trying to get good rankings for particular subjects for our clients. Accordingly, we adhere to the following guiding principles when identifying potential link partners for a client:-
  • On-theme - link partners MUST have a close logical association with the theme of the client's site. Inevitably there is a degree of interpretation involved here but the association should be intuitive
  • Focus on the user experience - links should add value to our clients’ visitors
  • Complimentary not competitive - there is little or no point in soliciting links from direct competitors to the client. Firstly they are unlikely to return the link and secondly the search engines are likely to see these links as "artificial" – after all, why else would two competitors trade links with each other? Rather, we focus on partners that have complimentary sites. [Back to top]
Link quality
Since we drive our activities by the presence of sites in the search engine results for relevant terms, there is an implication that sites must meet the search engines' quality criteria to appear there in the first place. That said, there are numerous further checks performed in "future-proofing" our clients' link equity. The search engine algorithms don't stand still and, whilst some of them don't always practice what they preach, the day will come when they will so we adhere to a number of best practice guidelines when assessing the quality of potential link partners which must:--
  • Be on-topic based upon the complimentary theme approach described above
  • Have relevant content – sites comprised entirely of links or with very "thin" content are of little value
  • Avoid link trickery - including "nofollow" tags, internal redirects and a host of other tricks which will result in little or no value to any links obtained
  • Avoid excessive or off-topic linking - many sites have either been poorly advised or have adopted old fashioned approaches to linking with "anything with a pulse" resulting in endless, often off-topic links. Some deliberately employ these techniques in an effort to spam the search engine results. The more links there are on a page, the less the value of each link.
  • Avoid spamming techniques - many sites still employ keyword stuffing, hidden text, cloaking, redirects and a range of other techniques designed to fool the search engines. Some have been around long enough for these techniques to be overlooked (we can explain why if requested) but are unlikely to remain so indefinitely and represent a risk as a potential link partner.
  • Avoid participating in visible linking schemes - this may sound a little strange coming from a provider of linking campaigns but many low rent campaigns use so-called link farms or exchange sites from which to return a link and tend to add code to the site which is visible to the search engines and screams "I'm desperate to link" -- which isn't a positive. Our linking technology was specifically designed at the outset to avoid creating this effect.
Sites which are found to breach any of these requirements are added to our LMS exclusions system to prevent further accidental targeting, the system thus becoming ever more efficient and effective as the number and length of campaigns increases. [Back to top]

Link location
We negotiate and agree the best location for a return link with each partner. Many sites are restricted in that they can only publish links on links pages. Whilst this is less than ideal and it is widely held that the value of such links is gradually diminishing in the context of the search engines, they still add value and, assuming all other quality and relevance criteria are met, are thus worthwhile. Where possible, we will try to obtain a link on a content rather than a links page. Indeed this is our approach when publishing links on client sites (more detail on this here). In some cases this may merit a content-for-link trade wherein we will produce the content with an embedded link for the link partner to publish on a new or existing content page. [Back to top]

Three way and reciprocal linking
Reciprocal linking is perhaps the most familiar form of link exchange. Here, site A links to site B and vice versa. Whilst, as with so many topics, there is a healthy degree of debate in the search community surrounding the future value of reciprocal links, they continue to represent a useful component in any linking strategy. Remember that any linking campaign should be generating a "natural link structure" - in other words the kind of linking structure that would occur for any good quality site over time. Where relevant and appropriate, we may also offer a "three way" or "triangular" link. These strategies, despite the efforts of a number of low quality firms, remain perfectly valid if correctly implemented. There are two forms of three way link:-

Three Way Linking - Multiple Partner Sites
Fig. 1 - Three Way Linking - Multiple Partner Sites

In this first option, a link is made from client site A to partner site A and a return link is provided from partner site B to client site A. Many link partners can offer -- and indeed some prefer -- this approach.

Three Way Linking - Multiple Client Sites
Fig. 2 - Three Way Linking - Multiple Client Sites

In this second option, a link is made from client site A to partner site A and a return link is provided from partner site A to client site B. Many link partners can offer -- and indeed some prefer -- this approach. Clearly this option is possible only for clients with two or more sites with strongly related themes.

Both of the above are perfectly legitimate techniques as far as the search engines are concerned PROVIDED THAT all sites involved meet the quality criteria outlined earlier. [Back to top]

The search engines are increasingly sensitive to geography, If our client’s site is targeting a UK audience, they will naturally want to be ranked in the UK country versions of the search engines. We will therefore focus on trading links primarily with UK-based link partners. International sites can trade with multiple countries and country-independent domains such as .com, .net, .org etc. Partner location can have quite a powerful effect on rankings. Some search engines have even been known to use the location of the sites that link to a site as the primary factor in determining its main location, regardless of the domain name and where the site is hosted. [Back to top]

Communication - as the client
Few of us can have escaped the myriad of emails from offshore companies offering and asking for totally off-topic links from sites that fall foul of most quality criteria. Whilst email targeting is the only economically viable form of approach, there is much that can be done to maximise conversion rates. Our LMS linking system employs legitimate, best practice techniques in attempting to maximise email delivery and conversion rates. These include:-
  • All email communication "as the client" - which goes a long way towards improving conversion rates.
  • Use of client email addresses - where possible, we will use your own mail servers and an email address from your domain rather than ours, all of which again help to deliver industry-leading conversion rates.
  • Deeply configurable emails - ensure that key messages about your business and the benefits of linking with you are conveyed without compromising some of the proven, best practice email elements proven and refined over many campaigns.
  • Opt-out / unsubscribe - included in all emails and backed by a sophisticated exclusions system, ensuring that unsubscribe requests are promptly and permanently respected. CAN-SPAM compliance is also included for US and international clients.
  • Constant reaction monitoring - our linking teams hand check ALL responses to ensure that any negative responses are correctly and professionally handled and to feed back into the targeting systems to fine tune as needed. [Back to top]
Visibility and management reporting
One criticism frequently directed at firms in the search industry is poor visibility. Whilst some of our clients only want a management summary, others prefer to have in-depth access -- in some cases at an individual transactional level -- to our activities. The LMS client portal provides access 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year to a reporting suite and to detailed information and action options for each link. The client portal is exactly the same interface used by our account management and linking teams in managing your campaign. We also provide monthly reports at various levels of detail depending upon client preferences. To give some sense as to the information available, we have a live database of every single linking transaction since the inception of Search Sciences in 2003. For a significant percentage of the active portion of the internet, we can therefore tell you how long a given site is likely to take to return a link, where it is likely to be located, together with various associated page rank and traffic rank (Alexa) metrics .. and we can contact them! [Back to top]

Please contact us if you would like further information on any of the solutions described above. [Back to top]

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