SEO, Link Building and Search Rankings Questions Answered

When it comes to link building and search engine rankings, we all have a lot of questions. The truth is, as much as we would like to be geniuses of affiliate marketing, masters of our own domains (and web sites), and well trained veterans in all fields of marketing… we simply can’t be the jack of all trades. So it often helps to get advice from others in our industry who are simply good at what they do.

I’ve always found search engine rankings and link building interesting, so I thought it would be useful for everyone out there for me to interview Alex Pyatetsky, one of the co-founders at, which is a service that specializes in link building through the use of article marketing and web 2.0 properties.

The interview below covers a wide range of questions that every day marketers may ask, while also getting into some of the advanced and most effective ways to build backlinks and seo campaigns around web sites. Should you have any more questions, feel free to leave them in the comments area and we will do a follow up post with all the answers. Enjoy!

What is the best way to start building backlinks for a new web site?

In general, I advise people to follow my Link Building Pyramid strategy. Its proven and it works.

Start off by asking all of your relevant contacts, industry and otherwise, for links on their respective sites/blogs. This seems obvious, but amazingly few people do it. These are people who will help you because they have a vested interest in your success. This includes employees because they want to keep their jobs, investors because your success is their success, vendors because they want to sell you more stuff, industry groups because they want you to keep paying dues and family/friends because they want you to remain happy and not kill yourself. Likewise, keep in mind industry contacts who want to help you out because they believe in “business karma” or may want to ask you for a link/favor at a later time. As you network with more people in the industry, you’ll find more opportunities to get these type of irreplaceable, authoritative links.

Doing this will build up foundational authority for your site. Think of it as showing the search engines “I’m new, but people like/support me.” This type of foundational authority allows you to be much more aggressive going forward with your link building and not have to worry if each additional link you build will sandbox you.

Another tip I’ve been hearing a lot recently is to start off building links with branded anchor texts instead of commercial ones. I haven’t tested this, but, intuitively, it makes sense.

For example, if you just started, in your early link building you’d focus more heavily on anchor texts like “Petsmart” and “” and ones like “pet supplies,” “pet food,” “pet toys,” etc., less so. The idea is that as time goes on and Google recognizes you as a legitimate, respected brand, your site will be able to handle many more commercial anchor texts. Personally, I’ve never gone out of my way to do this and still ranked my sites, but that may be because many of the links built for a real company will be branded anyway.  Regardless if this is true or not, diversify your anchor texts in the beginning a don’t get married to a single pet keyword.

That’s how I’d start.

That said, I think most people are too conservative when starting a site. If you build foundational authority, you should be able to start building links normally without many additional constraints. I’ve discussed this with SEOs that have ranked top 3 for terms you’d trade limbs to rank for and it seems to be a consensus.

Is there a certain amount of content a web site should have before a backlinking plan is put in place?

I have no hard rules for this.

If you have a real company, your site will likely grow and evolve no matter what. If its an affiliate site, I’d say have 10ish decent articles on there before you start building links aggressively and hopefully at least 5 more you can add later (ideally, you have some kind of ongoing content schedule). This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t build any links to the first 10, but take it a bit easier (i.e. just social bookmarks). That said, if your foundational authority is strong, you can probably go hard from the beginning.

Keep in mind, there’s been a very strong correlation documented between the amount of content on a page and how well it ranks. Its hard to say if this relationship is causal or if longer content just ranks higher because its more valuable and attracts more links. Regardless, make sure that the pages you want to rank are developed with a generous amount of quality content.

For more info on this last point, watch the EXTREMELY worthwhile Panda Update webinar from Guerilla @ Dripfeed Blasts. Its one of the top 3 presentation on SEO that came out in 2011, if you ask me. (I can’t tell you what the other 2 are, I just assume they exist…)

How important is internal linking when it comes to search rankings?

Internal links count. Period.

If SEO is an election and building links is pounding the pavement and shaking hands, then internal linking is interparty endorsements. Its a way to throw around accumulated clout (e.g. site authority) and focus it on the pages that you want to win the SERP election.

Here is a true story to help illustrate.

I was recently consulting for a client who previously owned several of the top blogs in his niche. He’s in a space where keywords have very brief lifespans, roughly 2-4 weeks before everyone forgets and moves on to the next thing. Once upon a time, every post on these authoritative blogs would rank in the top 5 within days/hours. But one day, it all changed and his fat, healthy cash cows went on the Olson Twins’ diet.

Upon reviewing the site, I noticed that he had no “Recent Posts” section, which would create a site-wide link to each of his new posts. This would allow him to throw around his site’s built-up authority to the new pages that need it most, when they need it most so they can rank faster.

As we dug deeper, I learned that one of the talking heads in the SEO industry previously told my client that having a site-wide element like a “Recents Posts” widget could hurt his blog because it would count as duplicate content.

This, of course, is the epitome of B.S. Global elements like “Recent Posts,” “Most Popular Posts,”etc., create great navigational experiences for users and very strong internal link structures for crawlers to index featured pages. Its ridiculous to think that they could hurt a site.

So guess what! My client got scared and took off the “Recent Posts” widget on all of his blogs as part of a sweeping round of changes. Magically, all future posts failed to rank.

Sure enough, he implemented my advice, returned the “Recently Posts” widget, and with a few weeks he started killing it again in the SERPs.

The moral of the story is:

1) Don’t listen to the talking heads. [I’m referring to worshipped industry idols who preach unhelpful dogma, not the band. The band is awesome.]

2) Internal links count. Period.

What are the potential drawbacks to running an aggressive backlink campaign for a few months, then abruptly stopping?

Its not natural for sites to go from raging popularity (e.g. tons of links coming in) to total obscurity (e.g. no links coming in).

If this happens, your rankings may slip. Operative word: may.

Are you guaranteed to get penalized if you stop building links?

Do you have to keep building links at the same rate forever?

No, not necessarily.

If you build links to a page on a generally authoritative site over a few months instead of a few days, you’ll probably be in pretty good shape for the long term.

I’ve experimented with building links very quickly as well. A ton of links in a day or two makes your new page look like a news article with immediate, but not long term value. It can often rank very high very quickly, and then suddenly fall several pages to a more appropriate long-term ranking.

Likewise, if some of the links you get during your highly aggressive period are really solid authoritative ones, they will back up the others and your rankings may endure for a long time. I have a site that dominates for an entire product line worth of popular search terms that hasn’t had any links built to it almost for 18 months.

Here is one of the inalienable truths of SEO – If you’re competing for desirable terms and you stop building links for them, your rankings will fall sooner or later. Sometimes they’ll endure impressively long, but don’t be surprised if and when it happens. On the flip side, if you’re busy building authority to your site, putting up useful content, getting links back to it, etc., your rankings for individual pages will endure much longer.

Regardless, if you stop competing for a term, expect to be outcompeted by someone who wants it more eventually.

I see a lot of link build package on Fiverr, where you can have original articles spun into thousands of links back to your web site. What are your thoughts on these services, the quality of the links, and how they can impact a web site that is using these methods?

As someone who employs a sizable team of writers and link builders (shameless plug: The HOTH builds links for hundreds of agencies & publishers worldwide, every month), I’m intimately familiar with the costs of content creation and link building. Once you do the math, its blatantly obvious that you get what you pay for with these services on Fiverr.

First, lets look at the content. If you go an average internet marketing forum, oDesk, Elance, etc., and find an Indian/Filipino writer to write content for you, you’ll find that the baseline going rate is $1/100 words. You can find some for cheaper, but despite what you heard in 4 Hour Work Week about hidden Einsteins working for pennies on the dollar, writers working for less than $1/100 words probably produce complete garbage and have the reliability of fruit flies.

So let’s say you ask your writer to create a 400-500 word article (standard 20 sentence length), spun at the sentence level 3 times. This means you’re asking for 1200-1500 words of content total. That’ll cost you $12-15 at 3rd world rates.

So what are the guys on Fiverr doing? Although I haven’t done a detailed investigation, I can almost bet you that they’re mostly plagiarizing content and running it through automatic spinners, which turn it into gibberish. If you’re remotely paranoid/risk-averse in your seo, this is the diametric opposite of what you want your link builders to be doing.

Next, they are probably building links in an extremely primitive, obviously footprinted manner. The reason is because there is readily available software that can do this for them. In order to feed themselves off of your $5 order, they can’t afford to spend an extra minute on your work and will need to automate it however possible. This poses a rather serious risk for you. In the best case, you’ll be flushing a perfectly good fiver down the toilet and in the worst cases you’ll be putting your site and its rankings at risk.

A popular footprint that you’ll see all over Fiverr is the link wheel. Its one of the most primitive and easily detectable link structures out there. I’m betting that anyone that’s made it through 2 semesters worth of scripting language classes can write a script that detects link wheels. Trust that the folks at Google can do far better.

To build any links of quality takes time and skill. The vendors on Fiverr either have no skill and are therefore willing to work for pennies just to produce something, no matter how crappy. Or, if they do have skill, they are knowingly passing off a crapy, fully-automated deliverable to you. If they had skill and were spending time creating quality links for you, they’d be charging substantially more than a fiver.

The only value proposition these guys have is that they’re cheap.

Would you drive a car that had a 33% chance of spontaneously combusting each time you reached 20MPH? How about it it only cost you a Fiverr?

Lastly, can you tell us about Hoth and how it works as a backlinking service?

I’m thrilled you asked! I’ll give the short version here and invite your readers to watch the video on our homepage for the whole thing.

The HOTH is an outsourced SEO link building offering. It was created by accident when we had some extra capacity at our private agency, HOTH Tactical, and decided to offer it to other agencies. We presented our highly-evolved, viral link structure, which is virtually footprint free and allows us to build quality, contextually-relevant links quickly and aggressively without putting clients’ sites at risk. Upon debuting it, we got an unbelievable response along with some industry rockstar endorsements. We’ve been refining the product ever since and have worked on 1000s of campaigns for 100s of agencies, publishers and site owners to date. [For full viral link structure explanation, check out the video.]

Here are some quick reasons why people love The HOTH

  • All of the links we build are from unique, contextually relevant articles written by our ever-expanding, ever-improving writing team. All articles are Copyscape checked for plagiarism so you have nothing to worry about.
  • Our clients love us because all we ask for is Keywords & URLs. Absolutely nothing else. This allows them to spend more time creating real value, courting more clients and enjoying their lives instead of building tedious links.
  • Agencies love us is because all of our work is 200% white-labeled and made to be resold. We also have Bulk Buyer discounts for those spending $1000+ per month with us.
  • We also have a 100% on-time guarantee. If we’re ever late on an order, you get 100% of your money back. Fortunately, we’re never late. Ever. You’ll get your reports on time, every time, like clockwork.
  • We believe in mind-blowing customer experiences, which means mind blowing enterprise grade, US-based customer support. Contact us 5 days a week at our Chicago, IL headquarters and speak to a real person impressively fast.
Again… you have any more questions, feel free to leave them in the comments area and we will do a follow up post with all the answers.

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  1. The Hoth is sounds good and also Fiverr looks like a new Twitter.By the way,Zurker is going to be the new Facebook soon.Check it out!

    Thanks For Sharing Zac,
    Bradley Nordstrom http://Www.BradleyIsCool.Com
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  2. I am starting a small business website and I need basic SEO.I am planning to invest in further SEO efforts once the revenue justifies it but now I am only in need of the basic SEO. Thanks.

  3. I just love you Zac. This very long and informative post is so helpful to me. I'm off to watch that SEO video now. I wanted to mention I was an unknowing idiot, with a few blogs and some doing better than others–I decided to solicit some FIVERR help which I think may have only hurt me or been a total scam. I have a "detailed report" i'd love to send you so you can see what these folks are doing. Basically it's a list of hudreds of sites, when you look them up they all look the exact same as if they are some sort of forum console. On each one the user has created a fake profile and put a contextual link in. Problem is I found it very hard to believe that "mary's chocolate company" had a forum and sure enough when I go tot he actual domain name to look I can't see a forum was every set up. Either there is some fraudulent software out there or people are scamming people left and right. I don't know what it is but would be interested in sending it to you. In the meantime thank you so much for all the help you have given me from your blog and taking the time to do such long winded posts because they do explain a lot. " Down with Fiverr up with Zac.
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  4. Back link is a great way in generating traffic to your website. I like the pyramid scheme you have stated above and I must say that keyword and unique content are essential in SEO link. Hoth sounds good to me Zach, they say that it is better than twitter, I will try it. Thanks for sharing another great content in your blog.
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  5. SEO is about improving your site in search engine. Link building is the process from where you can get some handy links for your site. These are some useful questions and answers to keep in mind while it comes to SEO.

  6. How do you explain that there are people in Fiverr who have 1401 positive reviews compared to 4 negative? Thanks
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  7. The Hoth sounds interesting. I can never read enough about backlinking and peoples thoughts on it. Great info Zac.

  8. This was a great post. The hoth sounds great, and I will be trying it soon. I understand where you come from with the Fiverr comments, it just makes sense. What about if you know how they are building the links though? Such as here is a well written article, spun manually three times by me, now drip feed into UAW or another similiar service? That way us small guys don't need to buy an account to only use a couple times a year. I would be interested in your thoughts, its something that I kind of planned on doing until reading this……I still plan on trying out your new service though:)
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