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Link Building Normalization

Link Normalization: Continuous Link Building

Links.  A few simple words in hyper-text. Something so simple should be easy to come by, should have superfluous resources and opportunities. The problem is they do.

The problem is many novice SEOs, and the ones who are just posturing as professionals, build backlinks in a sporadic, dump-truck kind of way.

Pile on a 500 links today, sit back for three months, and then pile on 500 more. Seems like that might be the right tactic; would anyone really believe a site can grab 500 “natural” links a month, consistently? Off of static, crusty content nonetheless? Not a chance.

That’d raise an army of red flags from the engines, signaling there is “link manipulation” at hand.

You Got Flagged by the Search Engines

You’ve Been Flagged

The problem with that tactic? You just got flagged. That kind of “hit-and-run” link building technique is viewed more suspiciously and manufactured than if the website really was getting 500 links a month.

Search engines, rather the people behind the algorithms, are much smarter than people give them credit. Three or four years ago, the hit-and-run technique might have provided a decent organic boost. The crawling wasn’t nearly as frequent and as dense as it today. So the layoff might have been in order, depending on the number of links one was acquiring.

Faster, Deeper Crawl Rates. Oh My.

Today, search spiders are crawling faster, deeper, and more often. Even to low Toolbar PageRank sites. Consider the MayDay update (possibly part of the Caffeine overhaul) , in conjunction with what Andrew Shotland found concerning accelerated crawl rates. Fresher, more relevant results for every query.

The solution is to build your links in a consistent manner. It’s why I tell my clients one simple mantra when the link building begins: “Once we start, we don’t stop.”  And that’s the bottom-line. No matter what we’re doing, no matter the content we need to build, we continually build links.

Your Link Graph Rise-Over-Run

Once you can accept and understand that concept, it’s all downhill from there. It doesn’t matter how quickly you build your links. It doesn’t matter how slowly you build your links. As long as it stays consistent, and you create a link graph rise-over-run that ends up looking like this:

Creating the Right Link Rise-Over-Run

Time for Some Link Research Data:

It’s not enough to just to tell you link building normalization matters. Google’s going to show you. I’ve taken some SERP slices from a highly competitive market: “Miami Real Estate”.

Searches were done with “personalization” off (i.e. not signed-in to my Google account, web history off, and &pws=0 tacked on to the end of the query.)

SERP Stats

For this test we are looking at the 2nd and 3rd position sites, what separates them (what distinguishes them) and then a result from the 4th SERP page, position 42.

Miami Real Estate SERP Stats

click to enlarge


  1. Site’s domain ages are around same level of oldness
  2. Site’s with the highest link domain are below the 2nd SERP result
  3. Link Balance for the 42nd result is quite disproportionate (567 links of the 51,765 to the homepage)
  4. “Miami Real Estate” in domain may be the reason it’s on top of the others. Also the oldest of all the domains.

One might draw from this that 2nd result must have more powerful, relevant links, and with the domain name incorporating a the keywords and it’s age, it’s understandable why this ranks better than the others. Yet, better to be thorough and make sure this is the case. Then you look under the hood.

What the Link Normalization Graph Looks Like

I wanted to see if the pace of link building for these sites has been steady throughout their histories. It’s not unusual to see link totals that high, but for real estate sites that old, it drew my attention.

SERP Results link building normalization chart

There you have it. Look at the link surge of the 42nd result. It’s that link-spike from July of 2009 to October of 2009 that doomed the site. Moreover, you can practically pinpoint the time when this site starting getting some “SEO help” (if that’s what you want to call it) by way of link building: July 2008.  The 2nd result has had a very stable rate link discovery for years, save the small surge  in early 2008. The 3rd result was as erratic as the 42nd result, but with the majority of the real shoddy link building occurring in 2007 into early 2008.

Doesn’t Matter Where Your Links Come From

Everyone of these sites has “junk” links. Stuff that’s non-topic and irrelevant. It may be time to bust a link building myth. Here’s a look at sample swatch from the second result.

click to enlarge

And there are more swatches of links like this throughout this site’s link catalog.  The same is true of both the 3rd and 42nd result. So we can effectively toss away this as a determining factor in the positioning. If all the link profiles are nearly the same: massive amounts of junk links with a few relevant, on-topic links, then we can zero this out.

The truth of the matter: it doesn’t matter where you get your links from (to a degree). If your domain age is old enough, and you’ve built enough goodwill, you can pretty much link anywhere you please and it shouldn’t negatively impact your position. But I caution you on this. The evidence is here to make that statement, but I certainly wouldn’t take my fresh site and pollute it with bullshit links. This sample has fairly old sites (4-5 years respectively), and that may be the leverage you need to link with impunity.


In my estimation, it is the rate of normalize link building, outside of the second result’s very targeted domain and age, that really made the difference in how these sites stack up in the SERPs against one another. This is not to say that the onsite efforts of each are necessarily better than one another, and were not taken into account (therefore nullified here), as this was a offsite analysis.

The data shows that normalized link building trends can influence the position of your site.


One Thing You Need to Know About Social Media

Rule One: Use It

Be a crash test dummy of social media If nothing else, there is really only one thing a business needs to know about social media. Use it.

There are thousands of quotes about “no time like the present” and “carpe diem”, but there’s simply no time to have you glaze over on me now. The truth of the matter is you have jump with both feet, arms spread wide, and get to the bottom of the social media deep end.

That’s the biggest barrier I’ve seen the last seven months. Everyone has heard about it, everyone is talking about it, and no one is using it. Apparently, there is a “no escape” clause built-in to social platforms. Or least you would think so. And, if your business is already using social (I use this term loosely), step back, take a deep breath, and start using it all over again.

Wanting a Ten-Speed Before You Have Training Wheels

You might find yourself reading something like this. All in preparation for that time when you might, eventually, create a profile for your company. Why bother learning the finer points of social communication w/ niche communities if you’re afraid putting your fingers down on the keypad? Or worse yet, not even using social media.
Do It Yourself Social Media

Tip and Guideline Posts are for People Using Social Media

All the “tips” and “guidelines” posts are for people who’ve discovered there might be a better way to get in touch with their communities. Tips and guidelines are primarily for social media marketers that have some level of familiarity, and some unsuccessful social marketing attempts, and are trying to figure out how the “social rock stars” do it.

What Tips and Guide Posts are Really Teaching

These posts really teach you how to play it safe. Both personally and as business on these platforms. Tips like, “*be firm, but not too firm. *Be yourself, unless yourself sucks. *Speak your mind, but don’t be too honest.” How do you expect to differentiate yourself if you’re all acting the same way? Would any real communication be achieved?

Clearly it’s a business tool, and clearly there are “rules” to engagement, but it’s not something you’ll pick up from a post.  Take the SEOs and SEMs using social. It’s a unique niche where pretty much anything goes (unless you trash SEO. Then you’re just in a world of trouble). There is no post, tip sheet, or guide that would prepare you to swim fluidly in those streams. It’s a jungle; it’s bizarro world.

And, that thin-slice can be transfered to any vertical, marketplace, or community you want to be a part of: each one has its own way of doing things. Its own unique way everyone communicates. All these tips and guides are really for social media marketers; the people who use it for a living and are looking to gain an advantage over their “community”, not interact with it.
Learning to Listen

The Human Element

Now that we’ve cleared some of that up, it’s time to talk about how you are / how would be using social. Again, the majority of the people I run across, use social like they would use television: push marketing.  You don’t talk, you don’t get involved, you just drop links to product pages, event pages, without so much as peaking any interest in your “community”.  Social isn’t push marketing no matter how much you think it is or could be.

Social media is about getting people to care about what you have to say. In any way, shape, or form.  Whether you pander to their greed, their charitable side, emotional side, or even the little kid in all of us. Give someone a reason to invest in you, and they will.

If you don’t listen, how do you expect to communicate? How can you provide something meaningful to the conversation if you never heard what was asked for?  If you’re continually pushing a message, a link, an anything, without listening, don’t expect people to listen to you.

Use these platforms to better understand what your customer needs. It’s the ultimate CRM tool. If you’re listening, you find out what it is your customer likes about a certain product, doesn’t like about a certain product, whether they got bad customer service, or great customer service. You can react quickly and resolve or champion a situation.

The Bottom Line

You need to use social media in order to understand it and use it for business. Social is not a “magic portal” where people simply follow your direction, convert, and bring you profit.  No amount reading “tips” posts or “the ultimate guide to using Twitter” posts will make you understand it any better.

There’s a theoretical side and applied-practice side to everything in life. Once you have enough practice you can start applying theory and making the platform your own.


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