Apart from receiving the most inaccurate seeding of 19 out of 20 in the MentorMate Ping-Pong tournament, life as an intern continues to be thrilling. After cutting my teeth on some link building efforts and receiving my first set of SEO Ninja business cards, I was asked to write a blog post. Well, they say to write what you know. Although I may be a link building amateur I am already an expert at coping with the despair that it brings.
Link building is the process of building credible connections between websites to improve your website’s authority and trust which help increase search engine rankings, among other things. To outsiders, it may seem like a glamorous position - designing infographics, inventing widgets, optimizing websites. Those of us in the practice, however, know the truth.
Navigating the internet's filthy underbelly looking for "trustworthy" sites leaves you feeling in need of a shower. Analyzing pages and pages of spreadsheets for so long that the grid seems to stretch on forever like the bars of some sort of nightmarish prison can drain you. It takes a unique resolve to link build - like a poker player who can play a 56-hour session, a task that would break the spirit of a "normal" man.
Your sanity is at risk when navigating the random, driftless, unexplored locations of the net that have not been seen in years. The confusion of having 399 open browser tabs alone is enough to bring a person to the edge of delirium. Of course, we arm ourselves with the greatest adblock and antivirus software to protect our computers from the perils of link building, but what of your our fragile minds? We need coping mechanisms!
This guide will demonstrate the best practices for any link builder to maintain perception of reality while burrowing through the darkest depths of the internet.
Music is easily the most important coping mechanism. Music keeps your brain activity flowing and makes you feel good doing just about anything. My favorite artists currently are Kanye West, Aesop Rock, Freddie Gibbs, Wiz Khalifa in 2010, and just about any kind of gangster rap out there. Movie soundtracks are a popular choice in the office. Soundtracks make you feel like the hero of a movie - powerful, fearless, in control. Or maybe the soundtracks simply take you to a happy place away from all the horrible website attacks on your eyeballs. Hans Zimmer, the film composer who wrote the scores for Gladiator, Inception, and Batman, is by far my favorite. Instead of feeling like I am floating in a sea of sites on a sinking inflatable raft, I feel like I am in an epic chase scene fighting crime in Gotham City. If you are having an exceptionally hard time focusing, try techno. These high-tempo tracks are like shots of adrenaline that provide instant energy. My personal recommendations would be Avici, Benni Bennasi, or the classic Eric Prydz. Whether you have Spotify, iTunes, Google Music or YouTube, never go through a day of link building without music blasting in your ears. Caution: you might not be the same afterwards.
Arguably # 1, caffeine is crucial. Begin your day with a few cups of coffee to breeze through the first 50 web pages before lunch. Go out to catch a healthy burger or pizza. After the food coma, make sure to revitalize with a Red Bull or at least some Coca-Cola. Never let that buzz go away or you may suddenly become aware that you have not successfully built any links in over five hours. Other popular drinks in the office are tall energy beverages such as Rockstars and Monsters. 5-Hour Energy's are also a popular choice as they are easy to drink and do not require inhaling massive amounts of liquid.
3. Open Site Explorer
There are a number of services that give you access to any website's backlink data, the most popular of which are Majestic SEO and SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer (also deserving mention: ahrefs.com). These tools provide a look into all the links pointing to your competitors’ websites.
You can analyze every URL pointing to a domain and see which links are providing the most juice to the competition, as well as discovering strengths and weaknesses in the types of links they have. This not only helps with building links, but also allows you to see other crucial information about your competition such as their sponsors, partners, and blogs. Without this information, any link builder would have a much more difficult time.
These tools all come with a monthly fee attached, but they provide invaluable insight and are well worth the cost from what I can tell. It should also be noted that Open Site Explorer is just one of the awesome tools that you get when you sign up for a SEOmoz Pro account.
4. Raven Tools
Some form of link management is a necessity to any link building campaign. You need to be able to manage the links you have, the links you’re trying to get, and what stage they’re all in. This is especially true when multiple link builders are working on the same site. Without being able to see who’s already reached out to which websites, chaos would ensue.
At MentorMate, we use Raven Tools to manage our links (Raven also includes more features), but there are a number of other tools you could use for this task such as Buzzstream, SoloSEO, or Ontolo.
It is necessary to keep your brain fresh with breaks throughout your day. Working on some non-link building tasks once in a while is helpful and refreshing. But let's get serious, this section should be called Facebook. Plugging into the social network can help you stay in contact with friends and family (and keep you updated on your crush from Saturday night). Careful not to spend too much time on it though, clicking on the Facebook tab is almost as dangerous as diving into the internet's deep end without an air tank. Don't let the bosses see you.
6. Blog Commenting
One of the fun parts of link building for clients is you never know what industry they will come from. It's rarely a bad practice to leave a thought-out comment on a relevant industry blog post in hope of starting a conversation or making a connection. Couldn't hurt to plug your client's website while you are at it. Sometimes when you are in need of some mental stimulation, Google a few keywords and read some blogs. You might learn a thing or two about real-estate management, water conservation practices, or even catheter maintenance procedures. Knowledge is power!
7. Browser Extensions
Streamlining workflow is a must. SEOmoz Toolbar, as one example, allows you to see critical information instantly about a website. It analyzes important metrics such as the page authority and root domain. Instead of inserting the link URL into a different system, the Mozbar instantly provides you with the same information. Apart from the SEOmoz toolbar, here is a list of useful extensions easily available to anyone.
Although not particularly relevant to link building, an often overlooked task can be the amount of time you spend mindlessly copy and pasting the same information to a webform. Use a form filler to save countless hours of filling in information "by hand”, and instead delegate the task to an online program. Here are a few to check out. These can be particularly useful when you want to put businesses in online directories. Very underrated on this list, I could not imagine link building without browser extensions.
The learning curve to SEO and link building is rather steep, but like almost anything, the more you practice, the better you will become. After three weeks, I already have a much easier time recognizing credible websites from spammy, unhelpful ones. Keep trying and do not get discouraged, eventually you will be a champion!
Until the next one,