Starting each link building campaign relies on several standard practices, like checking competitor links, broken links, pursuing obvious link opportunities and also doing link consolidation. Now before we get any further, I am not talking about so called page rank sculpting, I am talking about getting the most out of your existing links in order to boost your rankings. A few mails, a redirect or two, changes to existing anchors and you can see some great results at the very beginning of your link building campaign.
I will describe link and page rank sculpting in general just so you know what it is, but if you want to find out more you can read Rand’s article on SEOmoz. There is a dual opinion on this subject, personally I am for shallow website architecture with a lower number of pages, that is a link building dream. But for blogs, news sites and ecommerce websites that is impossible, so what you can do is consolidate the link juice to your most important pages.
Rand’s example revolves around a large “about” page, but you can do so with any other similar pages by consolidating two or more pages into one. Basically what you are doing is preserving your link juice by linking to one large page instead of 2, 3 or 10 smaller ones. But that raises a question in some cases, is it better to have one page about everything or 10 pages about a certain aspect of the topic in question. Well there isn’t a simple answer, depends on the topic. Some things can benefit by being consolidated into one page, while other may suffer, so play with that on your own risk.
As for the link sculpting, you can also redirect certain pages to avoid duplicate content issues or you can use canonical tag to let the search engines know which page is the most important page related to a certain keyword or also to avoid duplicate content issues. This way of thinking is great for one simple reason, it simplifies the link building process by lowering the number of pages you need to link to. As a result it is easier in most cases to get the needed rank for a certain keyword.
External Link Consolidation
This is what I wanted originally to talk to you about, consolidating your links in order to power up your link profile and get some fast wins in your link building efforts. There are certain things we always do when managing link consolidation for a client:
1. Look for No Anchor Text or Wrong Anchor Text
The basic idea is to find backlinks to your website that have no anchor text or have the wrong ones. Now, we don’t want to change all of them to be backlinks with a desired anchor text, we have two choices, we can leave them the way they are, which is not a bad idea consider link diversity or we can try to change them all but keep in mind the link diversity effect at all times. That means that we will not pursue all of them with one single anchor, but a combination of anchors. Personally, if you find a good link pointing to your website with your URL linked I would just leave it like that; even a few “click here” links are not that bad. But when you find high quality backlinks that have been wronged by having no anchor I would advice to pursue them by contacting webmasters and asking them to change the anchor text.
2. Nofollow Links
Following the same principle outlined above you can turn some of your nofollow backlinks into dofollow ones. Like everything else they add to your link diversity and make your link profile seem more natural, but for high quality websites to link to you with a nofollow, well, you just have to think what effect it would have for your rankings if you managed to score a followed link.
3. 404 Pages and Dead Links
The first article in our link building tips section was dedicated to finding broken links and 404 pages, so you can visit that article to learn more about it. To sum it up here, look for 404 pages on your website using Webmaster Tools and correct them. Contact webmaster linking to those pages and ask them to change the links to other related pages, or go after your competitor 404 pages, that is what I always do. I make a list of all the competitor 404 pages, find their backlinks, use a Wayback machine or Google cache to see what the page was about, find similar content on my sites or create one like that and then contact webmasters linking to those pages and tell them the sad truth that they are wasting a link, but I have a great page they can link to instead.
4. Domain Issues (WWW or no WWW)
Even though most webhosts sort this issue automatically, I know Dreamhost does, and help you stick with a single domain there are those that simply won’t help you and you have to think of a 301 redirect to your main domain. So either stick to original domain like examplesite.com or use the www version and redirect your original domain to www.examplesite.com.
This is where people will get confused, if they land on examplesite.com/cool-page.html they will link to that page, and since you didn’t manage the redirect issue you will have links to both www and non www version of that page, so basically your link juice is being broken up and you also have a chance of getting a slap on the wrist because of duplicate content issues (although Google is good at recognizing this type of problems).
The simple solution to the problem is to implement the 301 redirect, but just in case you can also contact webmasters and ask them kindly to link to the right pages because you made a mistake at first. Although a mistake like this is common, you should sort this out before you put any content on your website.
5. Consolidate Links you Created Personally
Most people forget about the links they created over the years they had the website, so go after links from article directories, Hubpages, Squidoo or other community websites and profile you created over the years and change the anchor to be more favorable, but keep the diversity in mind.
6. Brand Monitoring
At the beginning of the SEO campaign you need to create alerts for your brand name. This can help you deal with your reputation management, but at the same time it is great practice for link building. Create alerts using Google alerts or similar services and watch if there are news, media or other type of mentions of your brand without a link or a link but with an unwanted anchor or similar issues. People that are already talking about you will most likely be kind enough to extend a link if contacted, so whenever you see someone talking about you think of it as a great link opportunity that you can use to get a link.
7. Image Search and Consolidation
This can be a bit hard so most people never bother with it or some haven’t even thought about it. But if you have a logo, brand images or any other copyrighted material you can search for it and get good backlinks while doing so.
You can use TinEye plugin to search for images or you can use image search and look for your specific keywords and brand name. The next step is to contact all of the websites and blogs that use your images without attribution and ask them to change that as you have a copyright to those images. In some cases people will rather remove the image before they give out a link, but this is a gamble, and in this case you have no links, so you can only gain by contacting those webmaster and asking for what is rightfully yours. This should give you a good idea of how important it is to create branded products, images, books or anything you can think of, all of those things can be used for link building with great efficiency.
8. How to Find All These Links
There are various ways to find each type of links mentioned here, in most cases that requires using a link building or SEO tool. My recommendation is using Open Site Explorer, but if you want it to have any effect you will need to get a pro membership (this is an affiliate link) in order to get all of the results. This is from my personal experience and habits, you can also use other tools like Majestic SEO, the choice is yours.
Link consolidation is a great way to make the best out of your existing links and improve your rankings and traffic fast and rather easy. Failing to do link consolidation every now and then you will lose out on the opportunity to gain some amazing links that can help you get the rankings you want. But before you start changing all your links devise a strategy with link diversity in mind and act accordingly, no good will come out from changing all of your links either.