Live From #SMX East 2014: Earning Authority – Successful Link Acquisition & Auditing Advice

By Matt Weltz | Oct 1, 2014
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SMX Link BuildingThe experts at SMX East designed this particular session to provide insights into the best strategies to earn high quality links and meaningful citations. The need to be proactive in link auditing by disavowing bad links is necessary to mitigate risks for your clients. By having good best practices, it is possible to limit the chance of receiving harsh (or any) penalties from Google.

Erin Everhart, SEO Manager at The Home Depot (@erinever)

Erin explains how many of our link building strategies of the past may be dead, but as long as people use search engines, link building cannot die. Links provide the necessary signals to search engines that allows them to make informed ranking decisions.

Erin emphasized providing users with content that they are actually interested in. She says the best way to find out what they care about is by asking them in surveys and in person, if possible. The questions you ask them should focus on what they are looking for in your content. You want to survey current and potential customers so you aren’t just tailoring content to your current audience.  She also recommends that you pay attention to the literal words people use in their answers as simple keyword research.

SMX Search Engine Numbers

In terms of getting content, Erin says that we often already have good content that just needs to be optimized. She feels it is likely easier to first optimize the content you already have based on the client feedback as opposed to making all new content from scratch. She also recommends elaborating on current information, repurposing it in a different format, or cutting and pasting content to make a something new.

Here are her three steps for auditing your current content:

  1. Scrape your site
  2. Analyze content
  3. Update it, promote it, or delete it

She closed by saying if you tailor your content specifically to your users, they are more likely to convert – the end game in the content tailoring battle.

Jason White, Director of SEO at DragonSearch (@sonray)

Jason gave a variety of tips and tricks to garnering quality links. The most important recommendation he made was to keep an open line with your contacts so they become lifetime partners as opposed to one-time opportunities. By doing this, you will end up building your own network of contacts that also see you as a valuable contact as well.

In addition, here are some best practices/ words of wisdom he mentioned in his presentation:

  • Earning links is the best way to make incremental advancements
  • Find the areas where your competition isn’t doing outreach for unique opportunities
  • Keep a spreadsheet of contacts and assign them values to understand how best to prioritize your outreach
  • See what your contacts are interested in on social media to better understand and relate to them
  • Optimize your tweets by # back to the author to increase the chance of improving your relationship with that author

Sha Menz, Lead Software Architect at (@shahmenz)

Sha provided us with the steps to take to avoid getting bad links or managing penalized links on your site. She preaches being proactive, saying essentially that it is important to do an audit of your current links, even if you haven’t had any penalties, to avoid potential problems down the road. People have been penalized for bad links that they didn’t even put up, so even if you have done everything right there potentially could still be issues.

Sharp traffic drops can be an indicator that your website has been penalized. Here are Sha’s recommendations on how best to deal with a penalty:

  • Figure out where the penalty is coming from
    • Start with the Manual Actions Viewer in Webmaster tools
    • Use the Panguin Tool to see if an algorithm update has caused the penalty
      • What is Penguin? According to ex-Googlers Penguin evaluates a page as good vs bad and assigns a value based on links around the web pointing to that page. If the page is negative overall there will likely be a penalty.
    • If not, check the Google Algorithm Change History
  • At this point should I disavow?
    • Yes, but you need to be careful

Here are Sha’s 5 most common mistakes people make when disavowing links:

  1. Combine your files (need to include old disavowed links)
  2. Format Errors (must be .txt)
  3. Comment Bloat (File size limit is 2mb; otherwise it gets trimmed)
  4. URL structure
  5. Disavow Entire Domains (Is best practice, but there are exceptions)

She also provided the following tools that can help you determine the quality of a link:


By taking these steps, you should be able to clean up bad links you have whether they have been penalized yet or not.

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