Link Building Footprints
What are link building footprints? It’s anything that identifies you to a link going back to your website. This could be routine / duplicate text (think bylines), very optimized anchor text or even commonly used usernames on message boards. Everything you do on the internet leaves a footprint. It may be damn near impossible to remove your prints completely but you certainly can make it more difficult for your competition to reproduce your hard earned links.
Guest blog posting has become insanely popular within the last couple years. It is also one of the easiest types of links to reproduce. It’s very likely that if the webmaster accepts a post from you then they’ll accept one from your competitor as well. So how do you get around this? Make the post look like it’s not a guest post at all.
- Find blogs that don’t necessarily require an “about the author” byline. In fact, see if you can get them to post it under the webmasters name instead of any version of “guest author”.
- Limit your guest posting on websites that have “write for us” pages or openly advertise guest posting.
- Vary casually add your link within the content of the post. In fact, don’t optimize the anchor text at all. Use “here” or “as an example” type anchor text. most of the time you simply want to leak authority to your site, these shouldn’t be your “money links” that need to be optimized.
The whole point to the points above is to help avoid leaving a footprint that proves that this post was actually a guest post (IE reproducible). If you were able to secure a guest post on a site that doesn’t advertise guest posts, publishes under the webmasters name and casually adds a link to the post then it looks extremely editorial. Editorial links are EXTREMELY difficult to reproduce. If your unable to get them ‘naturally’ then making your links look editorially given is the next best thing.
Sure directory listings no longer offer the value that they once did but in some niches directories exist that are still worth submitting too. In my experience there isn’t a whole lot you can do to cover these footprints. However, I’ve seen people do some of the following:
- link to the non www version of your site assuming your site resides on www. This way tools like OSE and MajesticSEO don’t always show links from these URLs unless your competition specifically searches for it.
- Attempt to get a URL that is already redirecting to your site listed in the directory. The logic is very similar to the one above.
Overall, I wouldn’t put much effort into tracking your prints for directory submissions. Most SEOs will immediately scour the internet for “niche + directory” which will likely display anything that is worth being listed in.
Paid linking was a big topic in the post written by Ross Hudgens. Unfortunately (or fortunately if your the competition) people aren’t very good at buying links these days. They tend to reach out to websites and buy links in their footers or sidebars. These are by far the most dangerous in the sense of getting “caught” by Google but also leaves the largest footprint. If I go to a site where you have an extremely optimized anchor text link on the site I can likely get one too by simply e-mailing the webmaster and paying the same fee.
Similar to guest posts you would be best off attempting to purchase links on individual pages of a website. Consider a one time link within a blog post (goal of making it look editorial) or even as a resource mention on a “how to” page. Once again the aim is to make these links look natural and dissuade your competition from thinking they can reproduce them easily.
Message Boards / Forums
Should you be posting in message boards and forums for the link building value? Not a chance. Should you be participating to build up a reputation and possibly build relationships with others within the industry? Absolutely! Most niches have several forums that you can become an active member in. The key to making sure that you cover your footprints is to use a unique username for each forum/message board!
Now you may think that this is crazy given that your likely trying to build your brand by posting in these message boards. However, if you use the same username you give your competitors an opportunity to find every relevant message board or forum with an easy google search. For instance, a popular forum username I use for all sorts of car / sports / news related sites is “Nickfb76″. By simply putting “Nickfb76″ + profile into Google you get a list of all sorts of forums and websites I participate in. Don’t make it easy for your competition. Use variations of the same username or use completely random usernames for each sites.
Always Build Unreproducible Links. But When You Can’t – Hide Your Footprints!
It’s no secret that the best way to keep a competitive advantage is to simply be the best. Produce the best content, do the best outreach, and get links from sources that don’t openly offer them up. These links are not only the most valuable but are by far the most difficult to reproduce. When you can’t obtain these kinds of quality links then the next step is to build one off links and hiding your footprints. There are so many footprints out there that lead to great link acquisition opportunities. The question is whether or not your going to make it easy for your competition to find yours!