11 Link Building Tactics for 2014

seo

Reports of the demise of SEO have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, SEO is alive and well in 2014 and will pretty much remain alive and well for the foreseeable future. That having been said, many of the old link building tactics that we all used to use have gone by the wayside as Google has improved and tweaked their algorithms.

Gone are the days for example when article directory links were hot stuff (though as I pointed out in my last blog post, article directories can still be a very valuable source of quality traffic). Ditto for link pages and many of the other strategies we all relied on in years past. However, a surprising number of good strategies from previous years still bear fruit even today. Here’s what you need to know:

EDU and GOV Links

I know it may seem pretty impossible to land these kinds of links and that’s why they’re in such high demand from SEO companies. They do in fact still carry a lot more link juice than ordinary links from other websites do. However, in spite of what you may think, it’s really not that difficult to land such links.

Consider for example government blogs, many of which allow you to comment and leave behind a link back to your website. Of course, you do need to write intelligent comments rather than the usual spam junk so the completely automated solutions probably won’t work. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get quality .GOV links.

.EDU links can often be had by visiting wiki pages on education sites, including those of elementary, junior high and high schools. You will again need to post something intelligent and useful if you want your link to stick but it’s not difficult or impossible to build these links. It just takes a real commitment to do the work instead of hitting a button and expecting junk links to get you everything you want.

Contests

Contests are still good sources of natural links. Not only do you have a legitimate reason to post links everywhere to your contest but you also have the added benefit of being able to use your contest to attract plenty of natural links. Contests are after all a classic form of link bait.

contest

The key is to get the initial advertising right and to ensure that you give your customers a real reason to share a link (i.e. they get an extra entry into the contest every time a friend signs up for the contest. Some places even offer freebies to those who sign up a certain number of friends to the contest in addition to the additional entry).

Create a Scholarship

This doesn’t have to be a terribly expensive proposition. Your scholarship could be just a few hundred dollars. However, even a scholarship of a few hundred dollars can potentially attract hundreds or even thousands of quality links off of education websites where people go to search for money to pay for college.

Of course, the bigger your scholarship, the more natural links you’ll get f or it but also remember that you need to administer the scholarship so either make it into a random contest or be prepared to read lots of long essays about some kid’s aspirations for the future and why they are so deserving of the scholarship that you have on offer.

Student Information and Moving Sites

Speaking of college students, another great source of quality links (if it fits somehow within your niche) is to include a useful article on a site devoted to helping college students and those moving to a new home with their moves. In a great many cases, your business can fit this niche by the way (I mean after all, your local college student may well need a dentist, an insurance agent, a plumber, etc).

Be creative about this and again, offer some quality content which will remain sticky year after year and you’ll find plenty of great natural links coming in. You should also consider looking for sections of university websites which cater specifically to various minorities.

For example, if you offer handicapped access to your bricks and mortar business, make sure to target sites which provide that information. If you want to be gay friendly, that’s another great source of quality links. The boundaries are really just the limits of your imagination as there are such a wide variety of different kinds of minorities that your business could potentially cater to.

Job Boards

Even if all you need is someone on a very part time basis, job boards can be a great source of potential links because people are always searching them and you often need not pay anything to post a link there (job seekers often pay for  access). Look especially for university job boards as these provide the added benefit of providing you with an EDU link as well as a job board link.

job ads

Non Profit Organizations

Do you give money to the local church or maybe to the Girl Scouts? If you don’t, you should consider doing so. Not only can you get a tax write off for whatever it is that you contribute to these organizations but they will often put you down on their websites as someone who sponsors their activities.

These kinds of links represent not only an excellent opportunity to get some good link juice out of the kind folks at Google but also a great PR option, to make your company look like the kind of place where people care about the community. Over all, these kinds of links can be a win-win for your company and should definitely be considered.

Sponsor Something

Yeah I know – Google doesn’t like when you outright buy links on websites and those who get caught doing it risk being delisted or at best being sent to the bottom of the rankings, never to be heard from ever again. However, what I’m talking about here is not sponsoring links in the sense of outright paying for them. Instead, you sponsor various events.

Here’s a good example: Visit your local university and get a list of all the clubs that exist on campus. Find clubs which have even a peripheral relationship to your company and then look into sponsoring an event for them. They’ll put a link onto their website acknowledging your company as the one who sponsored them and you can even take a tax deduction for your trouble.

Of course, it doesn’t stop there. Your local city hall likely has hundreds of events happening throughout the year and they’re always going to be looking for corporate sponsors willing to help foot the bill for whatever it is that they’re doing for the citizens of the city. Added bonus – you get your name onto the advertising for the event and potentially increase your exposure in the community.

RW13 logo

Conferences are another excellent opportunity to grab some sponsorship links because they can be related directly to whatever it is that your company does. You don’t even need to be a major sponsor in order to rank on the website of the conference. Often, simply having an exhibit booth at the conference is all that’s needed.

Podcasts and Videos

Finally, podcasts and videos remain a very popular method for drawing plenty of good quality links, even in 2014. These kinds of content are always going to be popular and have the added benefit of allowing you to showcase your knowledge of your specific industry. You don’t even need to create your own though – often, it’s simply a matter of finding someone else creating such content and offering to pay them in exchange for calling you their sponsor.

10 Psychological Tricks to Master Selling Online

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychology

One thing I’ve said over and over again here is that you are not in the business of selling things when you sell online. You are in fact in the business of selling solutions to problems. Regardless of what you have for sale, in essence, you are providing a solution to a problem. Even if you sell Oriental rugs, you provide a solution to the problem that someone may have of what to put on the floor of their homes so that their homes look nice.

Okay, that having been said, there are a number of psychological tricks that you can use in order to improve the number of sales that you make when you work online (or offline for that matter). These tricks are all based on one essential premise – we’re emotional creatures.

While most of us like to believe that we can think logically and dispassionately about a decision, the reality is that we are not Vulcans and we never had Surak to teach us to repress emotional outbursts.

That’s why I recently bought two beautiful Oriental rugs at a store that was going out of business – I admit it, I didn’t need the rugs, didn’t even know where to put them. However, like anyone else, I was swayed by emotion. First, I happen to love art and these two rugs are basically works of art.

Second, since the store is going out of business, I was swayed by one of the classic psychological ‘tricks’ I’m about to teach you. No, I don’t regret the decision even though I couldn’t really afford the rugs and didn’t logically have a need for them. I had an emotional need and for me, there is a value in satisfying my desire for something of extreme beauty to decorate my home.

Okay, but enough about my recent purchases. Let’s talk about how to sell more online.

Scarcity

There is an old axiom that the market will determine what price a given item will sell for. If there is greater demand and not enough supply to go around, the price goes up. Lesser demand and too great a supply, the price goes down. One psychological trick that you can and should be using to sell online is the idea of scarcity.

Scarcity deal

In the case of my rugs, it was legitimate – the store was selling out its inventory and will be closed completely in another couple of weeks. However, it’s possible to create this kind of feeling even without going out of business (which would kind of defeat the whole purpose of running an online business – presumably, you are not trying to liquidate but to grow).

The key here is to simply set a time limit on how long a given product will be sold for. This is done constantly and it works extremely well. You state that a product is going to be available for the next 7 days only and then it will be “gone forever.” This can and does drive sales. The catch however is that you have to mean it. If you extend it endlessly the psychological trick loses effectiveness and you will have trouble convincing customers to make purchases in the future.

Another less drastic way of doing this is to use the dime sale, where the price regularly increases by a dime (or really any set amount) every time someone makes a purchase or after every several purchases. This allows you to continue selling for the long term while also creating the psychological effect of a scarcity rush. Of course, you don’t have quite the same drama of “never being able to buy it” as you do with the sale for a limited time but it creates much the same effect.

Create Empathy

Everyone wants to make more money when selling online, right? If you are like about 99% of the population of the world, I just used a second psychological trick on you. I got you to agree with me by making a statement which almost everyone agrees is true. This can be a very powerful method for selling because you have already put people into a frame of mind that gets them more ready to make a purchase.

bankruptcy ad

The headline is something everyone can agree with and creates instant empathy.

Think about it – I’d have a much tougher sell if I were trying to convince you of something that you are ambivalent about. If I’m trying to push something that you are downright opposed to (i.e. let’s say you are a devout Christian and I’m trying to push the idea that the theory of evolution is correct and no creator was responsible for mankind existing here on earth), I’ll have an almost impossible task in getting you to agree.

However, if I were to start my argument with something you are likely to agree with (going back to our theoretical devout Christian, if I were to start out by saying, “we can all agree that the world is an incredibly complex and wondrous place”), I’ve removed a roadblock to selling you on something else because I’ve put you into a frame of mind where you feel comfortable, as if we have something in common.

This is called creating empathy and it’s one of the best ways to start off a selling point by trying to disarm someone who may be reluctant to agree with you otherwise.

Be Negative Too

I recently read a fascinating article in The Atlantic about failures. The article suggests that, especially today, people tend to be more forgiving of failure than they once were. They mentioned there as an example the disgraced former governor of New York, Elliot Spitzer, who was caught in a sex scandal but is now trying to make a comeback.

Spitzer scandal

They go on to mention that it’s become almost de rigueur to admit to some kind of a failure when you are applying for a job today. We all like to hear stories about someone who came back from a terrible tragedy and found themselves the stronger for it. A similar concept exists when you are trying to sell things online.

While you can admit to initial failure when trying to sell a product, you can even admit to current failures and make it into a selling point. In essence, what you do is to admit that your product is not all things to all people.

You run a small advertising firm which is intended to work with small to medium size businesses and offer them personal service. You’re not running a company which handles accounts the size of Microsoft. Hey, that’s admitting to a failure – you are not equipped to handle a $500 million account.

However, by admitting that, you make it into a selling point for your primary customer base by showing them that they’re not going to be a tiny fish in a massive pond and that they won’t end up feeling as if they’re going to be brushed aside because you have other customers that are much bigger and more important to them.

You can also use this to make clear to your potential customers what the upsides and downsides of working with your company are. You’re not going to be recruiting the top talent for their TV ads because that’s not what you do. By offering a balanced view, you actually increase the likelihood they’ll work with you.

People Don’t Really Want Choices

I know this sounds a little counterintuitive. It seems every ad we ever see today is talking about how you have lots of choices, blah, blah, blah. What people really want however is the illusion of having choices rather than actually having choices.

What I mean by this is expressed best by the old car salesman’s trick – they insist that you must pick the color of the car that you want to buy. The idea is to give people the option to choose something so they have the illusion of choice even though everything else, including the decision to make a purchase to begin with, has been taken away from them.

Of course, people tend to be more sophisticated than that, especially today but the basic axiom stays the same. Most people for example who want to buy a computer are not interested in being offered 20 different choices of processors and 10 different speeds of RAM along with all the other dizzying array of choices that can be made when buying a modern computer.

crocs

You choose the color because the choice of Crocs has been made for you already.

 

Most people know the basics though – they know more RAM is better and they know that the processor with more cores is better. Thus offering a limited number of choices, where you suggest three options of configurations works much better than suggesting a dizzying array of choices. Again, people want the illusion of choices. They don’t actually want unlimited choices though.

Create Value

I’ve written about this in the past but it’s worth mentioning it here again because this is also an important psychological trick. In essence, the way this works is that you make the product you want to sell seem like a good value by comparing it to something more expensive.

So you might for example create a product which is more expensive and then label your middle ground product as being the “best value.” By making this comparison available, you are in essence making people believe that they are getting a relative bargain by making the purchase of the middle ground product even though it’s being sold for the same price as it would have been sold at without the comparisons available.

Rinse, Repeat

There is an old saying promulgated by the infamous Nazi, Joseph Goebbels: “Repeat a lie often enough and people will begin to believe that it’s true.” Now while I’m certainly not suggesting the idea of following his sick ideas about Jews and other minority groups, nor am I suggesting that you tell grand lies as he did, he does have a point to make.

People often need to see an ad at least 7 time before they begin to remember it and act upon it. This means that it behooves you to repeat important selling points in different ways and to keep up a certain frequency of advertising in order to keep your customers interested in whatever it is that you have for sale.

Buy More and Save!

You’ve likely seen some kind of ad in your local supermarket where you were offered the option to purchase 5 of something and save money. What many supermarkets won’t tell you is that they’ll actually give you the discount even if you just buy one. The reason they advertise it that way is that psychologically, when you see “5 for $5” you are more inclined to buy five of the item even if the regular price is $1.

Family Dollar

You can use a similar technique when selling online by in essence suggesting people buy whatever it is that you have for sale in bulk. This works best when you can offer a comparison and actually show that buying more saves them money however, even simply advertising your product the way supermarkets do it can and does work to get more sales.

Tell a Story

Look at a good newspaper sometime and read an article about pretty much anything, especially economic news. If it’s a long form article, they will inevitably tell you about some random everyday person that they interviewed. For example, rather than simply telling you that food prices are going up, they’ll show you an American mother struggling to put food on the table with rising prices.

The reason is simple – data is dry and boring but stories sell. Thus if you really want to make more sales, consider telling a story. Tell a story about how this one customer of yours was able to triple his income by purchasing your magic product. Even if you don’t necessarily have a story to tell, you can use the same principle by creating a fictional character.

Be Authoritative

People like feeling secure and knowing that they got a great deal from someone knowledgeable. Thus your best bet for selling a product online is to make yourself into an authority on whatever it is that you have for sale. Let people know that you have the expertise to offer them the best of whatever it is that you happen to have for sale.

For example, if you are selling a service which helps people to protect their credit, you can create authority by explaining that you have on your staff two dozen people with a combined 200 years of experience working with various credit reporting agencies. This makes people feel that much more confident in their purchase of whatever it is that you have for sale.

There are Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

That’s a very old saying but it’s true – statistics are often made up. In fact, 87% of all statistics are based on nothing but supposition, that statistic included. However, even though the statistic I just quoted is based on utter nonsense, it sounds authoritative and gets people to feel more secure. Thus my final psychological point is to include statistics.

statistics

However, the best way to do this is to include an actual source for the statistic rather than simple make something up out of thin air. While  the above joke might be funny, it’s much more likely to be valuable as a selling point if I actually had a real basis for saying it.

5 Things you are Doing Wrong with Article Marketing

newspaperFirst, let’s dispel a common myth. Article marketing is not dead and probably will never be dead. I know that people claim its dead but what they actually refer to is article directory marketing which died years ago. The old thing, also called bum marketing involved creating links on various article directories for SEO purposes. That has not worked in at least six or seven years (an eternity in Internet terms).

Article marketing by comparison works by taking advantage of a decades old concept. It’s the thing that made the World Wide Web what it is today and the best part is that it is 100% completely and utterly Google proof. It doesn’t matter what Google does to their algorithms. You could even be delisted from Google and article marketing would still work wonders for your traffic numbers.

In essence, article marketing means getting articles placed on high profile websites with links back to your site. The idea is not to take advantage of the link juice from Google (though that can help) but instead to take advantage of good old fashioned clicking on a link from one site to another, bypassing Google completely. As I said, this technology has existed since the earliest days of the Web and it’s still a great way to get traffic.

The reason it works is simple: every website needs decent content and while it is best to have original content, it’s also very useful to get yourself a handful of extremely well written articles even if they are syndicated. Your local newspaper (if you still read one – if not, check a nationally known paper such as USA Today or the New York Times) uses a similar concept.

The majority of articles in a decent newspaper are by the staff of the paper. However, there will also be articles published in those newspapers by people who are affiliated with various news services such as Reuters or AP. These articles appear in more than one newspaper because they are provided by a service which sends out reporters and gives newspapers the right to republish their stories.

When you do article marketing, you provide an extremely high quality article to blogs and online newsletters which you agree to allow them to publish for free in exchange for including link back to your site. That’s the original purpose of article directories by the way and they have largely returned to that purpose in the wake of things like Hummingbird and Penguin/Panda.

So, with that introduction, here are the five things you are likely doing wrong with article marketing:

Sending Out Junk

I know and you know that it’s possible to buy an article on Fiverr. 500 words of somewhat passable ‘content’ which may even sound like something written  by a native English speaker as opposed to a guy working in a third world country. There’s just one problem with this. Even if you do find someone willing to work for so little, you won’t get the quality you need in order to attract real, high quality sites with that kind of junk.

Think about it logically – if someone wants to earn even the minimum wage for writing your content, that means they need to pump out around 750 words per hour. Now I could do that and have done it in the past. However, what I can pump out that quickly is going to be whatever I can think of off the top of my head. It’s not going to be the kind of well researched, thought provoking article which is likely to get you links from well-known websites.

If you are determined to succeed with article marketing, bit the bullet and realize that you are not buying link fodder for some unknown blog but a high quality, well researched piece of writing. That means that you need to be willing to spend the money to hire a professional writer (and yes, that may mean spending $100-$500 or more for a single article) or learn to do it yourself.

A good article, the kind likely to get you a link from a major website is the kind which is thought provoking and which has some real, in depth journalism behind it. It should include at least one and likely several quotes from actual experts in the field that it’s written on and it should be the kind of thing that grabs your attention and keeps you interested throughout.

Expecting Instant Results

This is a common theme that I see from a wide number of people who spend a lot of money on a good article. They get the article –just one mind you—onto an article directory and expect instant traffic to pour into their sites. I’m sorry to tell you that article marketing works very much the way that SEO does. It’s a cumulative thing and it cannot be rushed.

instant jackpot

This isn’t an instant jackpot kind of thing. Article marketing takes time but it does work.

 

In point of fact, article marketing can take as much as 4-6 months to show real results and it will only work if you consistently put high quality articles out there into the web. Remember that as with anything else, there is a great deal of competition and the major blogs and Ezines have plenty of choices of which article to actually publish. Thus you need to build yourself a reputation first.

Expect to invest in at least 2-4 articles per month and expect to spend some time or money as well getting it sent out to as many article directories as possible in order to ensure that it propagates properly. If you do this consistently, you should begin to see some serious results from your efforts but it will take time and is not instant.

Failing to Track Where Your Articles Ended Up

Article marketing is all about getting yourself mentioned in major blogs and e-zines. Unfortunately, they often will not let you know that they published your work or where they found your work initially. However, there is a simple trick to ensure that you know when you were published and another simple trick to know which directory they found you on.

First, pick a handful of key phrases from your articles and set up Google alerts for those phrases. It’s a good idea to pick at least 3-4 such phrases rather than just one because the websites which publish you may change the wording slightly in places. With the Google alerts, you will know when someone has picked up your work even if they don’t let you know.

The other advantage by the way is that you can go in and make sure that your links are actually appearing and have not been stripped before the articles are published on someone else’s website.

Now, another useful thing to do is to have some kind of subtle punctuation changes somewhere in the article for each time you upload to a directory. The nice thing about this is that it will let you know for certain which directory they found you on. This means that you can begin to focus on the directories which consistently get you results.

Plus, you should also contact the owners of the sites or e-zines that you get links from in order to offer them first dibs on any new articles that you publish. This will get you to the head of the line when it comes time to pick which articles make the cut and which ones do not. In fact, the people who do the best with article marketing often do this exclusively, ignoring the directories completely because they get to control which sites use their content, making sure that only the best get their stuff.

By the way, you can also use Google Analytics to track where your incoming visitors are coming from, further enhancing your ability to keep track of these things (important when you consider that your articles may appear on E-zines which don’t get indexed by Google and therefore wouldn’t show in a Google Alert).

Failure to Check Your Spelling and Grammar

Want to sink your brand spanking new article marketing campaign super fast? Just make sure that the spelling and grammar in your work is atrocious. Even if you hired a professional writer and paid them a great deal of money to write an article for you, it’s worth your while (all the more so considering you spent a lot of money on it) to check the content produced yourself. Even a pro can make mistakes and there is nothing like a second pair of eyes to catch them.

spelling mistake

One great technique I’ve used on many occasions is to read the article out loud. For whatever reason, doing so forces you to notice mistakes that your brain would otherwise miss.

Failing to Track Your Numbers

Finally, whenever you start to work on any new kind of traffic strategy, it’s important to ensure that you have a way to track whether it’s working or not. Spend some time looking through your Google Analytics information and find out what your numbers are right now. Then, keep tracking this over a course of around six months or so and see whether or not the article marketing has actually made a real difference or not.