SEO Link Building with Debra Mastaler – – Online Marketing Best Practices Podcast from OMCP

What is the value of an SEO link?  When can a link cause more damage than good?  What are some common and alternative ways to get links for SEO? Author expert Debra Mastaler shares best practices with OMCP in this podcast.

The OMCP Online Marketing Best Practices Podcast is where top authors and industry leaders share authoritative best practices in online marketing which are covered by the OMCP standard, competencies, and exams.  This is an OMCP pilot program that may continue based on member interest and support.  Stay subscribed to the OMCP newsletter to get new episodes.

Episode #3 covers SEO Link Building with Debra Mastaler in 47 minutes. Recorded November 15, 2016.

Download your MP3 of “SEO Link Building with Debra Mastaler – – Online Marketing Best Practices Podcast from OMCP” here.

Session Transcript

Debra Mastaler Author, Expert Link Builder, OMCP Certified Trainer, CEO of Alliance Link. Photo credit: Alliance-Link

Michael: All right. Welcome back to the OMCP studio, and with us today is Debra Mastaler, President of Alliance-Link, author, noted columnist, and one of the most recognized authorities on online link building now and over the last decade. Debra is a master of SEO link building, teaching practices to some of the largest brands in the world. I’m your host, Michael Stebbins, and today, we’ll be discussing “Best Practices in SEO Link Building.” Debra, welcome to the OMCP Best Practices Podcast. Thank you so much for being here.

Debra: Well, thanks for having me, Michael. I appreciate it very much and looking forward to our talk today.

Michael: Debra, I know that you’ve been at the podium as the authority at industry conferences for years. I’ve seen you myself, attended your talks, and they’re usually crowded. I am personally excited to discuss the details of link building practices with you. Now, before we get started, for those who haven’t read your columns or heard you speak, tell our audience who are you and what is it that you do?

Debra: Well, I am what’s known as a link building specialist. My specialty, if you will, is promotional and media building. I’ve been doing it since, probably to the public, 2001. I got started in this industry as a directory owner. When my directory started ranking really well, people would come to me and say, “Hey, can you help me rank my site? Can you help me SEO my site?” I had no clue what that was. It was 1999. So I went out and I got a little information. I made some key contacts, most notably Jill Whalen formerly from, and she helped launch my career, if you will. I went public in 2001 with my firm, Alliance-Link, which offers link building training and some promotional outreach services that we do for content. And in 2002, I started at my first SES conference and it’s just gone crazy from there. So I was in the right place at the right time. I’ve watched this industry grow from almost nothing to just blossom, so it’s been quite a ride.

Michael: Well, it’s been great, and again, I’m a big fan and I also know that most of the top SEOs out there really revere your advice and follow you, which you can also, for our listeners, can follow Debra @DebraMastaler on Twitter all together.  

Now, Debra, you’ve helped countless businesses set up link building practices and are considered the authority on the process. You and I agreed to break the processes up into three groups, or the practices up into three groups.

  1. The first was how to establish the value of potential inbound links or even existing inbound links.
  2. And then, the second was steps to find where to get inbound links.
  3. And then the last was some of the absolute best practices for link building in general.

So starting with the value of potential inbound links, where does a practitioner start?

Establishing Value of Links

Debra: The number one question that I get at conferences and shows, it’s, “How do you know where to go? How do you determine what makes a good link or makes a good link partner?” It’s a million-dollar question. So before we can really talk about what’s good, we sort of kind of have to know what we need to avoid or what is considered maybe not best practices.

In this industry, in the SEO industry, we tend to talk a lot about Google. We are very, very Google-centric and there’s a reason for that. Google dominates the search engine results. Probably two-thirds of the world uses them as a search engine so we tend to look at and gravitate toward their terms of service and what their Google representatives tell us is a good thing and a bad thing when it comes to link building or SEO in general.

Michael: Yeah, sometimes getting punished is far worse than *existing*, right? We don’t want to get pushed down so I think it’s a great thing to emphasize and start with what we want to avoid.

Debra: You know, there’s that age-old saying, “It’s better to say you’re sorry than ask permission.” Well, in this particular case, maybe a little bit to the reverse because once you get into trouble with the search engine, it’s very difficult to get out. And it’s easier to start off on the right foot than it is the wrong. In both Google and Bing and Yahoo to some extent, some of the things that they frown on tremendously are the following. They definitely don’t like paid links. Paid links are a big no-no. Reciprocal linking that’s done in mass, any kind of links that you get from low quality directories. Templated links, links that you find in the bottom of WordPress templates. Widgets are another templated link. They don’t care for that. Press releases and press release sites. You know, they frown on using that. Anything that has negative intent, anything that you’re doing or using for the sole purpose of trying to inflate your rank by building links or things that they do not like. They do not like those techniques and they downplay those linking techniques.

Michael: It’s anything that falsifies relevance, really. If I’m inflating my relevance somehow or falsifying it, it’s their job to catch that.

Debra: It is. It really comes down to a matter of intent. If you’re intending to use those things and to use those facilities like directories and widgets in order to gain the system, they’re gonna shoot you down as quick as they can.

Michael: Now, I’m going to  reread that list just because this is on the exam.

Links That Hurt:

“Paid or sponsored links, reciprocal linking done in large quantities, or links from low quality directories, links embedded in widgets,”

…and your example was like across the bottom of a website, correct? Okay.

“Template links and non-news press release links, are all things that the search engines frown on, and that is in the exam”

Debra: Very much so. And I really stress, they can catch…some people think they can’t catch them. They can definitely catch them. They’re very, very good at that. And now that we have disavow, it’s even easier, you know. They have lists, if you will, or sites that are in jail. It’s just not worth your time and effort to spend money on those types of techniques when they’re not going to add to your bottom line.

Michael: Right on. It makes sense. So, okay, now, we’ve looked at what puts us in jail. What’s on the other side?

What Makes a Good Link

Debra: Well, let’s take a look at what makes a good link because there are some factors here that are very, very important. If you’re going to succeed in SEO and especially in building rank, you need to understand this. So link popularity measures the quantity and the quality of links and it has four components: quantity, quality, relevance, and anchor text. You can pretty much figure out what quantity is. That’s the number of links that point to your page. You want to try to get as, or acquire, as many links as you can from as many different types of websites provided those links come from quality pages. And that’s the second factor of link popularity, is quality.

Quality is determined by the authority, the trust, or maybe the influence of host pages and pages that link to them. You probably know this factor by its street name of Google, I beg your pardon, the PageRank which comes from Google. If 10 pages link to me, and 20 pages link to those 10, I’m the recipient of PageRank as it flows through those links. Quality pages show expertise, they answer questions, they are linked to by trusted sources, and so on. That’s what makes a quality page and that’s where we’re striving to put our links.

The third factor is relevance. Relevance answers the question, “What is this page talking about?” Your goal when you’re building links is to get links from topically or geographically relevant websites and use them as your partners.  

That last factor is only important because it’s the one factor Google has been explicit about through the years, and that’s anchor text. Anchor text is the clickable part of the link you see. It’s a query ranking factor. It tells me, the human and the Searchbot, what’s about to come next. Google has been very clear through the years about the importance of anchor text. They’ve said, and I quote, “Anchor text influences the queries your website ranks for,” so it’s really important to be wise about the way you use anchor text and not abuse it. Good links use conversational anchors. I know there’s a thought process out there that says you should use a percentage of keywords or brand names or just the dub-dub-dub. But in reality, you want to anchor text, you want to hyperlink what people are going to click. And you want to motivate people to click. So using conversational anchors is best.

The four components of link popularity are very, very important to understand, again, quality, quantity, relevance, and anchor text. If you can kind of nail and keep those things down and keep those things in your mind as you’re going forward in building links, it makes your link building process easier and it makes your SEO a little stronger.

Michael: What else can make a good link?

Debra: Well, in good links, there’s a couple of things. We’re looking for links that are set in the top fold of the page. That’s a great place to have links because that’s where the majority of a person’s attention first sits. So we say good links are typically found in the top half of the page or the first fold, that’s another way to say it. We want links and to place links that have high click-through rates. So typically, again, back to that high fold area, that’s where you’re gonna find high click-through links. But links that get a lot of action, they’re good links.

Links that are shared frequently through social media, especially those on Google+, have an advantage because Google can tell, and Bing can tell…the search engines can tell that those are popular links if they’re being spread around.

And the last point is, you want to have links and get links from mobile-friendly sites. There’s a big emphasis on that nowadays. Much easier, much better to have links on mobile-friendly sites than not.

Michael: Okay. And I know that you’ve said to me before, and it’s part of your teaching, that,

“The overall goal with building links is to try and find a large number of quality pages in topically-relevant niches to host your keyword savvy anchor text links and content.”

I’m reading your words. Can you expound on that?

Debra: That particular statement, a lot of links on quality pages in topically-relevant niches with smart keyword anchor texts supports that notion of link popularity. Keep in mind that Google uses links and content plus many, many other factors to rank a webpage. So your links and your link popularity are going to really enhance your linking status and how you show up in the search results for a particular set of keyword phrases. The stronger your links are, if they’re on better pages on relevant pages, pages that are within your topical or geographic niche that use smart anchors, and you have a lot of links, you are going to succeed in your SEO efforts. And so that’s what we’re always striving for when we’re building links.

  1. We want to get a lot of them. [volume]
  2. We want to get them from good sites. [quality]
  3. We want to get them from sites that are in the same topical niche as us. [relevant]
  4. And we want to have them use the best anchor text. [signal the search engines what is related]

Michael: Folks, that’s on the exam so catch that phrase. Debra, you’ve established what the search engines like Google look for in a link and what they don’t like. Knowing that, what are some practices for where to find safe and useful link partners?

Practices for Finding Link Partners

Debra: You know, Google has done a lot of the work for you in this particular situation. They return, and as does Bing, all search results based on hundreds and hundreds of criteria. We don’t know most of them. We think we do, but we don’t know most of them. But recently, Google has admitted to us that the top three factors that influence the way a page ranks are links, content, and RankBrain. Now, I don’t know the order. I just know those three so I could be wrong in my order. But in this conversation, we don’t really need to delve too much into what RankBrain is so I’m gonna kind of skip over that. And that leaves us links and content as the two main factors Google uses to rank a page, a webpage.

If a webpage ranks well, that means Google likes the content and the links that are pointing at that page. If you see sites repeated for terms in the search engine results, those companies are the companies you were trying and should try to target to be your link partner. Now, in that vein, don’t just use Google search in your quest to find quality link partners. Go to Google News and Google Images, Google Scholar, as well as the major social media networks, and you’re looking for repetition and who is being mentioned. If you throw search terms into your search box and you see constantly the same companies coming up, that means Google likes the content and likes the links pointing at those pages enough to rank those pages well and consistently.

A little tip here as you’re going on, if you watch Google News and you see a site that’s repeatedly reporting on your keyword terms, that’s a site that I would fax a press release to. I had mentioned earlier that I wasn’t real hot on press release sites. I’ve faxed all of my press releases directly to the news site. You can pitch a story. You can volunteer to be an expert writer. You can do whatever you need to do to get yourself written…your written content on that particular news site and get part of it so that your content can be on there, and your exposure can be on there, and your links can be on that site. So just keep an eye on, especially on the news sites.

It is equally important to understand what your demographic is looking for. We can’t always just depend on what we see on Google or Bing. You need to understand what the demographic wants, what they’re reading, what they’re sharing, who they’re sharing it with, where they’re sharing it. All of that helps you develop the right content and tap into the right influencers to help you promote your content. When you have that, then you have a much higher probability of attracting really solid links.

Michael: Then in many ways, that’s just good marketing practice with the bonus of better engagement and better link building. Now, knowing search engines like Bing and Google and Baidu are using links and content as two of their main ranking criteria, what are some of the ways a webmaster can use that to build links?

Ways to Build Links

Debra: Before I jump into the specifics there, let me just mention this. I don’t think we talk enough about understanding the demographics behind a website, or behind a niche. I mean, do you really know who’s reading and socializing your content? Do you know what they’re reading, when, and where? Those things are really, really important if you want to connect and resonate with people in a faceless medium. So what works in one industry or for one set of keywords might not work for another. And I think that it’s unfortunate that when we talk about SEO and link building, we always talk in generalities. It’s good to remember that not everything is the same. The link craft is not the same in some keyword areas as it is in others. The more competitive in an area, the harder it’s gonna be to get the links and to get the attention and to get the exposure that you need in order to get your pages to rank well. 

Michael: Each one could be a micro audience, in a sense, and we need to make sure that we cater to them in order to be a good partner to the site owner.

Debra: Exactly. It’s really, really important to understand how to adapt a tactic to a market, how to talk to the influencers in your niche, and what appeals to customers from a content standpoint.

Michael: Good advice. What else can we do?

Debra: So let’s look at some specifics here if that’s okay with y’all. I want to start this out by saying that I typically break link building tactics into two sessions. One of them is foundational, and one of them involves using content. So we have foundational link building and content-driven link building. And content-driven link building is really kind of the rage today. So it’s what everybody understands and what they’re using. So let’s start with that one first.  

Here are some things that I do from a content standpoint that I always hit it down at the ballpark with and I think are solid and useful tactics. First one is interviews. Now, most people think, “Oh, interview. You know, that’s great. Well…” And they are. But the key here for getting a lot of eyeballs and links to an interview is finding the best person to interview. Right now, there’s so much content floating around. There are so, so much competition for eyeballs and for links that you have to really create something that’s pretty outstanding in order for either a news outlet or for someone else to link to it.

So number one, when we’re doing interviews, is find a highly influential person that can help you promote the interview once it’s done. Obviously, you want to find someone interesting. But in addition to interesting, you need to have them help you kick it out. And one of the ways that I do that is I look for someone who is very vocal and visible on social media, that someone that’s already featured on Wikipedia as well. Wikipedia is like my little secret weapon. I use it for so many things. And in this particular instance for tactics, it works like a dream. If Wikipedia thinks enough of a person to put them in their encyclopedia, they’re a pretty hot person.

So interviews work well because people like to hear about success stories, so write the piece from a rags to riches standpoint, include a lot of old and new photographs of the person that you’re interviewing, take a tip from Wikipedia about the formatting. You know, Wikipedia has a way that it sets itself up and how it prompts you to go through the information. Flush out as much as you can so that the article becomes attractive to Wiki editors, which, you know, eventually if it’s good and it follows their formatting, they’re going to include a non-Wikipedia as a resource. It’s really, really hard to get on Wikipedia otherwise. So using someone that’s already there and embellishing in an interview or an article is a good way to get their attention.

So Wikipedia uses a lot of no-follow links on all…not a lot. They use only no-follow links on their outbound links. You’re not gonna receive a lot of link popularity from the link, but you’re going to gain a lot of clicks and traffic and you’re also gonna be associated with a very highly trusted site that we know the search engines pull from and into their knowledge vaults and into their answer graphs on the search results. So use Wikipedia in your interviews. Find somebody on Wikipedia, find somebody influential, interview them, and then promote the heck out of it.

The second way, or another tactic, a second tactic, is using roundups. Again, a lot of people hear the word roundup and it’s like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know about that.” But roundups are really, really a super way to do this because they’re consistent. They happen every week, and in most cases and some cases every month, but mostly, they happen every week. People collect a number of articles on a particular topic and they host them on their blogs or on their news sites so that people can get an idea of what’s happening in the industry overall. People are very, very open and very welcoming when it comes to roundups and including links because that gets readership into their sites. So you need to find these people that are already doing the roundups and offer your content, your webs…excuse me, your articles on your blog and on your website so they can include them in the roundup.

Michael: So Debra, here, are you suggesting that we do roundups to create links, or that we also submit our content?

Debra: You know, I…from this standpoint, I think doing both is really great and that’s a great point to bring up. You can host a roundup and be the authoritative source on a particular subject, which is that’s what it makes you. Or you can look for roundups and offer your information, and offer your content to be on their roundups on someone else’s website. There is also, I don’t know if you’ve heard of these, they’re called RebelMouse,, Flipboard, they’re curator sites. They’re actual sites that people use to curate all of these roundups. Some people do them on a daily basis, most people do them weekly just because of the time involved.

But going through and RebelMouse and Flipboard and looking for people who are already kind of broadcasting news on your topics is also another way to get your content in front of a large number of people and to get those back links. in roundup and RebelMouse have a tremendous subscription rate so lots of people belong to them. You have a really good chance of being seen by many, many more than if you would just on somebody else’s website. So look for news sites, curator sites, plus blogs that are hosting roundups using your topic and using your keywords, and ask to be included. You can do simple search strings like “link roundup” plus your keywords and just reach out to those owners and ask them if you can be included.

So interviews, roundups, and the third one which is image reclamation. Reclamation is a nice way of saying you go out and you find something and you reclaim it. And that’s kind of what we’re doing here with image reclamation. If you have a lot of images on your site, or perhaps you have a library in some place like Flicker, take those images and run them through an image search like TinEye or Google Images and see who’s using your image. If that website and webmaster is not giving credit to you for using your image, just send him a quick…or her a quick note and say, “Hey, I love the fact that you love my images. I’m really flattered, but how about linking to me? That would be nice if you want to use my image.”  

Once you get a response and they do that, try to strike up some sort of relationship there where you can offer more images. Go through that person’s site, website, and say, “Hey, I noticed you have these three articles. They don’t have images. I have images that fit your content. Would you like to host them as well?” “Yeah.” And you get them hosting your images, you get more exposure, and you get additional links back to your site. The point here is that if they’re going to use your content, they need to at least link to you as a thank you. So go and ask. Just most of the time, people will say, “Yes.” This is the one link building tactic that we have the greatest success rate. Someone’s using what you own, they need to at least link back.

Michael: Oh, I think they’d feel like they owe a debt of gratitude and it’s so easy to grab an image, you know, especially. I know there are tons of images of you and others at the conferences and the like, and if it’s posted, then it’s nice to give attribution. I think most people would be thrilled to do that.

Debra: You know, they do and you can turn it around and I always want to turn it around so I don’t make anybody feel bad. You know, I don’t want anybody to think, “Oh gosh, I’ve been something wrong.” And that’s when I’ll say, “Hey, you know, I know this too. Would you like to use more of this?” And so you kind of soften the blow there but you also then become a source of images and going forward, as they create content and they need links…excuse me, they need images, they’ll link to the images on your site. So I think that it’s just polite but it’s good marketing that keeps going, you know. You want to always try to do something where you can continually generate links.

Michael: I like it. So let’s take a look at some of the foundational.

Foundational Tactics

Debra: So foundational tactics are those that help position you as a brand expert and a credible source. They tend to be inexpensive to acquire. Foundational links tend not to change. They’re kind of put in place and they stay there. What I like best about this, using foundational link building, though, is that they put you on authoritative incredible sites. And that’s really the key behind foundational links. We need to have them help us establish our webpages as credible sources and credible sites.

So here’s three tactics that help reinforce foundational links. One, the credibility links. We’re gonna look at resource pages for links and gifting with memes. So let’s start with credibility links.

Credibility links are the best at going a long way to establishing trust signals with both the search engines and the general public. They help set expertise and they get you involved in the community. The two most common credibility links that most people buy are links to their chamber of commerce and industry associations. I have to tell you, I could spend half a day talking about ways to use membership lists from both chambers and associations as a way to grow your links. But the best single takeaway that I can give here is to remind you that membership can be used as an icebreaker when it comes to outreach. And what that means is if you belong to an association and you’re trying to get a link from someone within the association, you can use that point of commonality in an email and get their attention.

Opening an email is three-quarters of the battle. Once somebody opens an email, you have a 50/50 chance after that that they’re gonna say “Yes” or they’re gonna say “No” to your request about placing a link on their site. Just getting the email opened is greatly enhanced if you have a point of commonality to share. “Hey, I belong to XYZ Association and so do you,” or “Hey, we met at the chamber icebreaker last week,” or “We belong to the same chamber.” That really goes a long way. So buying those links, just getting links from associations that are in your niche, that helps with your link popularity. It reinforces relevance. It’s a link. It’s from a quality site. And typically, it will use your brand name as the anchor text. So it really does reinforce the link popularity standpoint, but it also goes a long way to helping establish your credibility.

Michael: So Debra, just some clarity. Are you saying that if I’m a member of an organization already, that I should look for other members from the list and reach out to them, and that commonality of the fact that we’re both members gets me the…gets conversation started, is that right?

Debra: It really does. When you are…I used association as an example.

Michael: Does it apply to LinkedIn groups?

Debra: For LinkedIn? It could. Absolutely, it could apply it to LinkedIn groups. That’s another…that’s a great third example along with associations and chambers. If I belong to an industry association and I have written a blog post, I would write to membership and just say, “Hey, I’ve written a blog post. You know, it’s…I’ve incorporated some information about the industry. If you could share it with your email list or with your employees, send me yours and I’ll do the same down the road.” Again, getting that email opened and just getting them to respond or to read it is half the battle. You accomplish that by having a point of commonality that you both belong to this particular association.

Michael: Excellent. And then one other point of clarity. I just want to make sure that it doesn’t end up in the transcript wrong. I heard the phrase…I think I heard you say, “Buy a link.” And I just know that that phrase might have been casual. Can you clarify? What did you mean? Or did I hear you wrong?

Debra: I don’t remember saying, “Buy a link.”

Michael: Good. Okay. Then we heard you wrong.

Debra: You buy a membership.

Michael: All right. Because I don’t think I’ve ever heard that phrase come out of you. [laughs] All right.

Debra: Yeah. You buy a membership.

Michael: There we go. Okay. Okay.

Debra: You know, but I don’t know. There are times and places to buy links, but this one is definitely not it. And typically, those types of links don’t pass link popularity so it really don’t factor into the SEO equation.

Michael: Okay. So buying a membership might be a way to go and that gives us a commonality in a way that we can associate with other people. But…

Debra: Yes.

Michael: …I just want to make sure that Debra is not condoning buying links.

Debra: No, not at all.

Michael: In fact, as she said out at the start of this, we don’t do that. And I’ll go back and make sure in the transcript, that’s not what we said.

Debra: Sure.

Michael: Right on. Okay, good. Okay. So that’s credibility links. What else can we do?

Resource Pages

Debra: Let’s go on to resource pages. This is our very oldie, but it’s a solid goodie. It tends to work and work very well. Resource pages are pages that sites have put up to help people find resources, kind of self-explanatory there. But they’re found in great quantity on educational and government sites which is helpful because they tend to be very credible and have high authority. So having links on those pages works well to support our link popularity and also boost our authority.

I use the advanced search box on both Bing and Google. I set the box to search for .edu and .gov sites using terms “resources” or “helpful links” plus your keywords, and I kinda let the machine go. And what comes back to me are educational and government pages that have resource pages, that have these helpful lists of sites and sources. If I find that I am a good fit, I will contact the person that manages those pages. They typically are on there somehow, “Page managed by,” or it will say on the bottom, “If you have a good site that you want to submit, let us know.” And I will send a letter, and I just don’t submit a link. I always send a letter and tell people why it would be a good idea to have my link and my website on their resource page. Again, it’s one of those tactics that has a pretty good turnover rate, you know, acquisition rate, so we’re always on the lookout for resource pages. So that’s my second foundational tactic.


The third one is gifting with memes. Now, it’s pronounced “meems” not “meh-mehs.” But memes are images with very funny sayings on them. You’ve probably seen the “Grumpy Cat” or the “Old Dos Equis Guy” who is also known as the “Most Interesting Man in the World.” There’s usually an image of a cat or this guy or someone else and with it is some sort of funny saying. Memes are very, very popular right now and people seem to like them in lieu of just plain images. What I like about memes is that you can add a hashtag into the verbiage. So if you have some funny saying on top of the grumpy cat, underneath it, you can use a hashtag which supports the keyword niche that you’re in. So for me, for example, I would say something funny and then in the bottom I’d say, “#linkbuildingtraining” or something. It’s just another way to kind of reinforce your niche and your terminology.

So look for articles using your keywords, but again, that maybe don’t have images or that have plain images or stayed images, and just see if comic relief, or, you know, maybe funny or sweet or a little satire, and offer it in return for having them link to the site. Okay. So they’re using your image, they’ll just give you credit through the meme. It’s very trendy, but it’s also very popular right now and people seem to really say, “Okay,” when we ask them, you know, if they want to host memes. Use them, but just remember, don’t reuse the same images like…I say this with much love. I love the grumpy cat, but it’s been done to death. So try to come up with trendy pictures. I know right now a lot of the presidential candidates are on memes. That might not be the best, you know, you might alienate some people. But you can look for maybe something in ancillary niches and use them in your memes.

Michael: The key is to keep it fresh. So Debra, we’ve established how to assess the value of a link, where to get them. What are some of the best practices for the action, the practice, of link building itself that applies to most marketers today?

Best Practices for Building Links

Debra: Oh, well, there are some basic ones that should be a little bit in the common sense pile, but we’ll just say kinda reinforce it again.

Avoid Low-Quality Pages

If you put links on [poor quality]  pages, you’re going to get [poor quality] results. So look to put your links on pages that rank well, that are being shared well, that have some high click-through rates. Just go on better pages, you know. If you think it looks kinda cruddy, maybe the About Us page on that site doesn’t have any human interaction, or no phone numbers. The only way you can get in touch with somebody on that page is to fill out a form. That might not be the best site. It might just be up there to be a content host and not really a site that’s being used and updated constantly. Just use your common sense a little bit about that. 

Invest in Quality Content

But let’s go through some pretty interesting but maybe ones that you don’t hear about all the time, points to about link building. With all of the emphasis today on content and content-driven sites, don’t scrimp on your copywriter, and don’t scrimp on your photographer. They are worth the investment. Find good people to write for you and take your pictures. There are so many people out there that moonlight on the side from the news industry that it’s almost kind of sad. But you can find lots of people who have had a lot of media experience that are looking for part-time gigs, side-riding gigs, that can help you write this content. And what a better place to have, or better person to have, than a media consultant, you know, someone that’s been a reporter or a journalist for a major news publication doing some writing for you. They can help you with placement. They can help you with terminology. They can help you just get ideas about what’s trending. They know. That’s what they do for a living. So don’t scrimp on them. Pay them well. Find the good ones. Look for people who have some sort of journalistic or media background to be your copywriters and your photographers. Trust me. It’s definitely worth the investment.

Evergreen content is preferable over any other kind of content. Why? Well, evergreen content can be re-socialized and reused throughout the ages. Stuff that is trendy or happening now is good but it typically tends to just be good for the moment. So work to research and create evergreen content that’s been personalized for your target audience and that’s important. You know, you’re trying to sell a service or sell an item. You need to appeal to people who are looking for those things. So write content that’s going to help satisfy questions, usage, anything that has to do with a way a person can use your content…excuse me, your item, put that in that evergreen content so that you can constantly and continually promote it.

No-Follow Links are Still Useful

Don’t turn your nose up at sites that use no-follow. If I could get a link from Wikipedia, I would definitely do it. But it might not help me with my link popularity, so what I will do is I will point those no-follow links at my social profiles for traffic. I’m always trying to beef up my social profiles because my social profiles help me promote my content and help me promote links. So yeah, when somebody says, “Well, I only use no-follow,” say, “Okay,” and just point them to your social profiles instead of pointing those no-follow links at your webpages.

Links get you ranked but clicks show that you deserve to be there, okay? Now, that’s not Debra saying that, that’s the search engines pretty much living that motto right now. Click-through rates and clickability as we call it is definitely a factor in the way that they rank search engine pages. So you want to try to go for high traffic and heavily socialized pages and content to get your links on because the links need to be clicked and they need to be shared. So ranking is good, clicks help support that. So you want to always look too for high traffic and heavily socialized pages.

Short-Term Events Lacks Long-Term Link Value

Keep in mind that building links with contests, sponsorships, scholarships, those kinds of things, they are super, super ideas, but they are time sensitive and only happen once. So go for the evergreen content like I said earlier. That stuff can be re-socialized and reused. Most of the time, a contest is over, the interest and the link to it is also over. So unless you want to do it annually and keep it up all through the year, keep the interest and the traffic coming to a sponsorship or a scholarship all through the year, maybe instead focus on creating content that you can use throughout the year instead of something that just happens on a one-off time.

Anchor Text Tactics

Keep your anchor text conversational. Use keyword phrases, but incorporate verbs for action. You know, if you have keywords say, “Come here and buy your such and such,” anything that promotes action, that promotes something to be done plus your keywords. Don’t overdo it when it comes to your anchor text. Less is more, but make it conversational. Your anchor text should definitely be conversational.


Local media outlets love, love, love, love, love, love interviews and factual content. As a matter of fact, most media outlets, not just local, want factual content. They need people to do some of the work for them and they are more apt to run a story, look at a press release if there is verifiable information and statistics that are in that content. So do the work for them. If you’re preparing content that you’re pitching to the media, just make sure that you have references and that you cite credible sources in that so that you’re helping them. In the future, they’ll remember that and they’ll come back to you for more information. This is something that I do pretty much on an ongoing basis every day, is working with the media. And the one thing that I have learned is they don’t like to do your work. So make sure that you have all of your facts and figures spelled out.

Getting News Links

Just as a little tip on the side, the news, like the world, runs from Monday to Friday. Come Saturday and Sunday, typically, news outlets are looking for content. They’re looking for things to put on their pages and in their newspapers. So if you’re doing pieces, you can suggest that they be run on the weekend, that could be…we used to, in the old days, call it “B-roll.” Now, we call it “filler.” We call it “weekend filler.” Use those terms to at least get your foot in the door initially with the media so that they run your content. Be a weekend filler. They need that content.

Focus on Sites That Rank

If the sites and pages don’t rank in the top 60 search results for a keyword term, I would think really hard about making that a link partner. Google, like I said before, Google does the work for you. If they’re ranking pages in the top, you know, I don’t know, 25 to 75, it really depends on how competitive your terms are. The more competitive your terms, the further you can go. You can say that’s top 75 or even the 100 search results returned for a keyword term. If you don’t find pages in there or sites in there and someone wants to swap links with you or partner with you in a link building or a content development program, I would think twice about that. You really want to find websites and webpages to put your links on that are found in the index and that are found in the index in at least the top 50 or 60 spots because that shows Google’s returning the best content. It’s returning content that it likes the links and it likes the content on the page. So those are the pages that you want to be on. Don’t forget that. That should be your number one criteria when you’re looking at any site to build a link. Where does it rank? For what particular keyword term?

Monitor Those Ranking Behind You

And so, here I have one last best practice, if you will. And I think it’s very, very important. I think it’s really important that you keep an eye on the people that are ranking behind you. Okay. Everybody says, “Oh, you can…the sites that are ranking in front of you, you can back-link them, you can figure out where they’re getting their information from, where they’re getting their links from, what content they’re writing,” and that’s absolutely true. You want to jump forward. That’s a terrific tactic to use, is to find out where the pages in front of you are getting their links from.

But keep in mind that people behind you are doing the same thing to you. So you want to keep an eye on the sites that are ranking behind you several spaces as well as those that are ranking in front of you. Those are the webmasters that are looking to unseat you. You need to watch what they’re doing, where they’re linking, what they’re producing content-wise because those guys want to hop ahead of you, and so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on what they’re doing. Throw their names, their domains, their brands, into a service like Talkwalker or Google Alerts, if you will, and just watch them. Watch them like a hawk and see where they’re placing their links and their content. If you do better than they, you keep your position and you can keep frogging over the people in front of you, but keeping an eye on the guys behind you is wise so you can keep an idea on the pulse of what’s going on around you as well. And sometimes, frankly, I find better ideas and new things out by watching the guys and gals behind me because they’re very interested in getting over me. So that would be my last and really, I think, one of my strongest best practices for link building in general.

Michael: OK that’s all the time we have today, a BIG thank you to Debra Mastaler —If you have a group that needs training or you have an event that needs an authoritative speaker visit to see if you can book Debra  for your event.  TO keep learning from Debra and catch her at her upcoming conferences follow her at @debramastaler on twitter.

I’m your host, Michael Stebbins and You’ve been listening to the OMCP Online Marketing Best Practices Podcast.  OMCP maintains the certification standards for the online marketing industry in cooperation with industry leaders, just like Debra. Join us inside of OMCP to maintain your certification, get special offers, and other certified professionals, or universities and training programs that value the OMCP standards. Network with other certified professionals or trainers while helping OMCP maintain an excellent standard. Membership is only $40 each year, so we’ll see you inside of OMCP as a certified professional where we’ll be learning and improving our professional careers and teams, together.

2 thoughts on “SEO Link Building with Debra Mastaler – – Online Marketing Best Practices Podcast from OMCP”

  1. Debra Mastaler

    Thanks again for hosting me Michael, I hope your readers get a link building nugget or three out of our discussion! If anyone has a question leave it here and I’m happy to answer. 🙂

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