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Linking the Google Way in 2014

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Matt Cutts What Would Google DoMy previous column showed you the right way to build links in 2014. Now it's time to show you a specific linking tactic that may blow your mind. You're about to learn how to link "Google style."

Internal Linking

It makes sense to initiate any linking campaign at your ownwebsite.

Begin by running a link check. Fix any broken links discovered.

The next step is leveraging the power and trust that is already flowing to your website. This is where competitor analysis comes in.

Now I'm going to let you in on a little secret of mine – the first place I look to for competitors is Google Ventures. And you should, too.

For the uninitiated, Google Ventures is the venture capital arm of Google. They provide seed venture and growth-stage funding to companies – including Uber, Nest, and RetailMeNot. They are financially motivated to build a company, and then sell it at crazy multiples. One means to do that is to drive gobs of organic traffic to their ecommerce holdings.

Websites owned by Google Ventures have direct access to Google. Quoting from their own site "We provide unparalleled (and real) access to Google's massive network of employees and alumni." I assume this includes people that know how the algorithm works and how to optimize for it. I can't imagine a better resource for competitive or comparative analysis.

Start your research by navigating to the portfolio page. You will find over 200 companies that Google has invested in. These companies are categorized as: Consumer, Commerce, Enterprise & Data, Life Science & Health and Seed. Look for a related site.

One of my favorite Google Ventures websites is CustomMade. This website is a marketplace for custom-made products crafted by woodworkers, jewelers, metalworkers, and others. The architecture and navigation, however, is perfectly suited for any ecommerce site.

Like most websites, the majority of linking domains point to the CustomMade home page, making it the most powerful page on the website.

CustomMade Linking Domains

What sets CustomMade apart is how they harness that strength. Check out this footer:

Custommade Footer

Loads of keyword rich links point to category pages. With the Maker & Gallery indexes, they have essentially placed a sitemap on the main page. I think it's brilliant. Others have called it spam.

Some might argue that GV sites, by virtue of their special relationship with Google would get a pass. I don't believe that's the case here – at least not algorithmically. CustomMade has been affected by various Google algorithm updates, but the current version is generating record traffic:

Google Ventures Traffic

Because this website has had its ups and downs and is currently on track, it deserves attention. Especially if one doesn't have Google as a partner, but wants to see how Google Developers like Michael Margolis navigate thru SERP turbulence. Margolis' first stab at optimizing the site resulted in a 100 percent increase in organic traffic.

External Linking

CustomMade also employs one of my favorite link building tactics – attracting links form colleges and universities (a.k.a., .edu link building). As with any form of link building, the success rate is directly proportionate to the value of the content.

Before sending any link request, you should ask yourself "what compelling reason does this site have to link to me?" If you can't answer that question, there's no point in hitting the send button.

In the case of CustomMade, the compelling reason is a scholarship. In fact, they offer two different scholarships valued at $1,000 each:

2013 academic scholarships:

  • "Why buy custom furniture?" scholarship
  • "Why buy custom jewelry?" scholarship

2012 academic scholarships:

  • "Consumer advantages of buying custom furniture" scholarship
  • "Consumer advantages of buying custom jewelry" scholarship

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that if you follow their lead, you may want to skip the "keyword rich" scholarship names. That said, they have attracted 102 .edu backlinks, which is pretty awesome.

Conclusion

For those who have wondered "what would Google do?", now you have an answer. If you're considering a link building campaign in 2014, following their lead is a good place to start.


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