Non-Intuitive Search Queries & Resources for Link Building

Posted by randfish

If you've been in the SEO world a while, you're undoubtedly employing search queries to help discover and earn links (e.g. this blog post, this search query cheatsheet PDF, our LAA tool in Labs, etc). Query lists are handy to help in the manual link building process, but most of what's out there is designed for very direct, obvious link acquisition methodologies. This post is to help with some more obscure, less direct link building tactics.

#1 – Awards

Nearly every city, every industry and many communities on the web have annual awards they give to individuals, websites or companies. If you're creative in your searches, you can find these, apply for them, sponsor them or volunteer and almost always earn a link (as well as broader recognition to help all your inbound channels). Here's some searches to help:

#2 – Job Postings

If your company's hiring, the web's giving away links like they're going out of style! In addition to helping to promote your open positions and hopefully find that perfect match, you can often get links to your site's homepage and/or job listings page. Try these queries to help discover sources for placement:

#3 – Guest Authoring Opportunities

The challenge with guest posts isn't that they're hard to find, but that the truly worthwhile ones are the least likely to accept your work and help you reach their audience. Guest blogging has also been associated with the definitely-not-high-quality tactics of "article marketing" and "article spinning," which I'd recommend avoiding. Instead, seek out high quality publishers of unique content that has significant reach. After all, if there's no one reading, there's no synergistic benefits from branding, exposure, earning trust, etc. You might as well go buy some spam. Below are searches that can help target the high-quality content sites (though you'll need to keep your quality-radar running at all times):

#4 – Social Networks, Forums & Discussion Sites

The Internet is filled with communication and interaction platforms, but discovering the ones relevant to your niche can be a sizable challenge. I certainly wouldn't recommend participating in these just to "get a link." In fact, many of those that provide a followed, profile link may not be high quality, reputable sources. Instead, your goal should be to participate in order to earn the attention, awareness and following of those participating in these commmunities, which is then likely to yield social shares and links through naturally discovered, editorial means. Try these queries to find sources for participation:

#5 – Mentions Without Links

If your brand or site is gaining traction in the press or blogosphere, you've undoubtedly been the victim of discussion without attribution. When this heinous journalistic crime occurs, you can often salvage a link opportunity by reaching out to the offending party and noting the mishap. In many cases, a comment can do the trick, but if not, reaching out via email or publicly over social media (most bloggers, journalists and writers have a Twitter account) can work, too. Below are some query samples:  

With any luck, this excercise has done more than just expose a few quick link acquisition tactics. There's a remarkable world of possibilities when it comes to inbound marketing and the beauty of any tactic like this is the synergy it builds by bolstering multiple channels at once. Invest in any of these and you'll see returns across the board.

p.s. Looking for some thumbs up? Please do suggest other queries in the comments. I'm sure your fellow marketers will appreciate and reward :-)

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Hot Off The Press: More Universal Results Included with Your Campaign Rankings

Posted by adamf

When last I wrote, we had added the ability to see local universal search results along with your campaign rankings. I'm happy to let you know that we just launched an update that adds sitelinks, video, and photo results as well. Now you can get even better visibility into exactly how good that organic link position is, and see how well your universal and enhanced search results are helping you improve your presence and visibility in a SERP (search engine results page). Here's a quick walkthrough of this update.

Universal Overview Module

The first change you might notice on your ranking overview pages is a new module in the report header. Within this module, each universal result type is represented by an icon. This icon is followed by the number of times you appeared in a universal result block of that type and the total number of times that type of universal result was included for the keywords you track.

Below, in your rankings overview, you will now see these icons show up along with rankings in SERPs that include these types of universal results:

Image Results

Depending on your business, image results can be a great opportunity to surface your content or products in a way that grabs the searcher's attention. Image results are most commonly displayed as a horizontal block of 4 or 5 images in Google:

kiwi image block

If one of the keywords you happen to be tracking includes an image result, you will see a little camera icon below the ranking. Hovering over the icon will show the detail for the local results:

Universal image result overlay

If you drill down into the ranking detail, you will see the image results both in the history graph, and below, in the SERP detail:

kiwi image block in ranking details

As with local results, if you are in the results, we will show the icon with a little starburst above it. For images, this looks like this: camera with starburst
Image Optimization Tips
If you are interested in optimizing for images, check out this great YOUmoz post with an excellent discussion in the comments: Is Optimizing Photos More Important Than You Think?

Video Results

Video universal results often show up in a horizontal or vertical block embedded on a SERP. A horizontal block is embedded as its own content block and doesn't count toward organic ranking position:

Kiwis video universal result

Blocks of individual video results are another format that we've seen become much more common in Google results. If there is more than one result in this style, we consider this a universal block and do not count them in the natural results. In some cases, we do see just one video result included with the other rankings. In this case, we count the video result as a natural enhanced result, rather than a universal block.

Baby bears universal video block

Here's a great example of a SERP that has both a universal image block followed by a block of video results:

Example of universal image and video result

In the ranking history, this will appear like this:

universal image and video result in ranking details

Video Optimization Tips

If you are focused on making your video content more easily available to and visible on search engines, here is some good reading:


Sitelinks are blocks of related links that show up as part of the first natural search result. These are most commonly displayed when the search keyword is associated with a branded company or organization name. For example, Google includes sitelinks with Seattle Children's Hospital's #1 result for the keywords "Seattle Children's" and "Seattle Children's Hospital". 

Seattle Childrens site links block

As you can see, this sort of result is the most prominent presence in the search results, and not only contains links to key areas of the site, but in this case also includes a review and embedded local result. On your ranking history page, this result will look like this:

Site Links in Ranking Detail

As you can see, we catch the local enhanced result but don't pick up ratings yet.

Sitelinks Optimization Tips

If you don't have sitelinks for your company name, or the elements in your sitelinks aren't targeting the most important areas of your site, here is some good reading: 

  • Google's own description of sitelinks gives a great overview and tips about how to help them discover the right content and name it correctly.  Their key recommendation, "…for your site's internal links, make sure you use anchor text and alt text that's informative, compact, and avoids repetition." They also give instructions about how to demote inappropriate sitelinks via webmaster tools.
  • This Q&A discussion has some good speculation about what Google algo likely considers when deciding whether to include sitelinks.

One More Important Note

Showing top organic ranking placement vs. top overall ranking placement

We have heard some confusion and occasional frustration of late about an update we made to ensure that we show top natural results in our rankings summary. We have always intended that the rankings we display represent the top natural results (which excludes universal results). The reason for this is that optimization for natural rankings is a different focus and process than for universal results.  For a period of time, we had been including local results in this calculation, which pushed the natural results down. We made an update that corrected this a little over a week ago. While we heard relief from some people about getting the rankings they expected, we heard concern from others who saw their rankings appear to fall, since the position they were tracking was actually part of a local universal block. For this unannounced change, we apologize. You can still see that local ranking position in the ranking detail reports for these keywords, but not at the summary level. 

This led us to the idea of another feature for the rankings section, so I thought I'd run it by you all. Rather than showing only natural ranking positions (excluding universal results) on the ranking overview page, we would offer three options:

  1. Show best natural ranking position (excludes universal results – as we do today)
  2. Show best universal ranking position (only shows universal placements, given the universal verticals that we track)
  3. Show best absolute organic ranking position (shows the best position, whether it is a natural rank, or in a universal block)

This would allow everyone to better focus in on the types of rankings they are most interested in optimizing for.

It may take a little time for us to get this in place, but let us know if you think you would use this feature; it would help us with prioritization. I've created a new feature idea in our feature request forum so that everyone can leave their comments and we can track them all there:

In Conclusion

Well, that's about it for this update. As always, please share your thoughts and let our help team know if you run into any problems. We are probably going to take a break from adding more universal result types in the near term to focus on some other improvements, but we will be listening. If there is another type of result you really want to see with your rankings, let us know. We will take your requests into account when we look at this again a little later this year. Please add your requests to the feature request forum, so others can see them and vote them up.

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CISPA security bill threatens net freedom

We’re all likely familiar with SOPA, the anti-piracy legislation pushed by the US film, music and software industries, which eventually died in the face of massive protests (featuring various high-profile measures such as Wikipedia’s one day blackout). Now there’s a … Continue reading

Excel and Google Docs: Tools for the Ultimate SEO Dashboard

Posted by Mitch Monsen

I love SEO tools. I’m sort of a pack-rat when it comes to Google Docs tools and Excel add-ins. I went absolutely nuts when Tom Critchlow posted his Google Docs SEO tutorial on distilled. Since then, I’ve rolled a few tools of my own and collected pretty much anything to do with SEO and spreadsheets since then.

I’m a firm believer in bootstrapping. As an SEO consultant, the less I have to spend on tools, the more I can reinvest in my company and grow the business. With an eye toward the virtues of bootstrapping, I’ve assembled a list of the best SEO tools for Excel and Google docs I’ve ever seen. I hope you find it as endlessly intriguing and useful as I do.

Before we get started, be sure you have an SEOmoz/Linkscape API key. That will be important.

Google Docs Tools

First off, I want to show you a tool I concocted after reading Tom’s tutorial. It borrows heavily from the example in Lesson two, but I want to give you a quick idea of the potential here; I’m by no means a programmer, but if I can make my own tools with these things, so can you.

Long Tail Keyword Prospecting

Long Tail Keyword Prospecting – Make a Copy
Long Tail Keyword Prospecting – Instructions (right here!)

The basic idea behind this tool is to quickly explode your keyword list with long-tail goodness. It’s not an exceptionally robust tool, but it’s great for brainstorming article topics and the like.

You’ve got four columns here. The formulas behind the sheet will slap the various permutations together and run each of them through Google Suggest, spitting out a list of 2-10 keyword suggestions.

The really fun thing about this tool is how easy it is to drill down to the uber long-tail phrases; I got a suggestion for “car speakers reviews” from the root “car speakers”, so let’s drill a bit deeper and run the suggest for “car speakers reviews” by adding “reviews” to our 3rd word column.

Ta-da! Instant prospecting. Follow the link above and make a copy of the spreadsheet. Then, have your way with it.

Content Strategy Generator

Content Idea Generator – Make a Copy
Content Idea Generator – Instructions

The folks at SEOgadget deserve a huge thanks for this; almost half of the tools I’ve collected have come from them. Their Content Strategy Generator Tool is an amazing piece of work that gives you more trending headlines and topics on a keyword search than you could possibly handle in one sitting. Couple this with the link prospecting tool, and you’ll never be able to use the “writer’s block” excuse again.

This tool doesn’t take much explanation: the results speak for themselves. Drop a topical keyword in the query box (currently holds “hotel”) and watch the magic happen. The sheet will automagically pull top news headlines, tweets, YouTube videos, Digg and Reddit results, Topsy results, Yahoo! Answers, Blog Catalog results, Fark articles and more. I know, I cried too.

This sheet will keep your finger firmly on the pulse of the news in your niche. Just thinking about the possibilities makes me salivate.

SERP Competitive Analysis

SERP Competitive Analysis – Make a Copy
SERP Competitive Analysis – Instructions

Distilled practically sweats innovation and tools, and this one from Tom Anthony is a salty, gorgeous example of that.

When you want to analyze keyword competition quickly, you can crack open this spreadsheet and see the MozRank, domain authority and number of linking root domains.

It’s also a great way to give a client an at-a-glance look at what they’re up against. Maybe it will help them manage their expectations when they’re telling you to get them to rank #1 for “credit cards.” ๐Ÿ˜‰

Oh, and remember when I said you’d need a Linkscape API token? That time is now.

SEOmoz API for Google Docs

SEOmoz API for Google Docs – Make a Copy
SEOmoz API for Google Docs – Instructions

This one is pretty self-explanatory; it pulls Linkscape/OpenSiteExplorer data into a Google spreadsheet. This is a great baseline template for rolling your own competitive analysis tools and the like. I don’t really feel like this needs more explanation, so go in and mess around with it. If you break it, just make a new copy from the link above.

OSE Link Profile Tool

OSE Link Profile Tool – Make a Copy
OSE Link Profile Tool – Instructions

Oh, holy crap. It’s Tom Anthony again! I’d forgotten where I’d found this tool until I started writing this post. Let us all bow our heads and offer our oblations to the great Tom Anthony. Amen.

This is similar to the Link Detective tool shared in this post not too long ago. It builds out a visual representation of your link profile, helping you identify anomalies that you can smooth out or correct.

In the instructions Tom provides in the link above, you can see his analysis of a client’s link profile, highlighting the fact that they have an abnormally large percentage of links from sites with a domain authority of 25-34. The high concentration of similar domain authorities can be a signal of a link wheel, blog network or paid link. Instant actionable data! Delicious.

Excel Tools

Oh, you thought we were done? No way, Jose. Now we’re to the Excel section. Excel has a few advantages over Google Docs spreadsheets, and Gdocs does better with some things than Excel. The takeaway is that it’s better to use both than to rely on just one. So here are the three best Excel SEO tools I’ve seen.

AdWords API Extension for Excel

AdWords API Extension for Excel – Download
AdWords API Extension for Excel – Instructions

Oh look, SEOgadget again, who could’ve figured? ๐Ÿ˜‰

This tools makes analyzing potential traffic crazy easy; toss in a list of the keywords you’re targeting, mess with the numbers and roll a formula to determine CTR and you’ve got some solid projections. While it does require an AdWords API key (which can be difficult to obtain if you’re not a PPC guy), it’s well worth the effort.

The possibilities with this add-in are immense; you can roll this tool together with OpenSiteExplorer reports and domain-centric keyword suggestions to quickly estimate competitor’s search traffic, or, you can judge the fidelity of Google’s predictions against your own traffic data by pulling Google Analytics reports into Excel.

Inbound Link Categorization

Inbound Link Categorization – Download
Inbound Link Categorization – Instructions

Let’s hear it one more time for SEOgadget! Those guys are awesome.

This tool is a lot like the OSE Link Profile Google Docs tool shared above, but in Excel. It also builds in a categorization element that makes segmenting link profiles easy. Oh, and the reports look super sexy too.

You pull in your link profile CSV from OpenSiteExplorer and this spreadsheet will analyze and categorize your link profile, showing you anchor text distribution, and buckets of links based on known directories, article distributors, blog networks and so on. Sexy, sexy data.

Niels Bosma's SeoTools for Excel

Niels Bosma’s SeoTools for Excel – Download (32-bit OS)
Niels Bosma’s SeoTools for Excel – Download (64-bit OS)
Niels Bosma’s SeoTools for Excel – Instructions

This is the holy grail of Excel SEO extensions. It has one of the most robust feature sets I’ve seen in an extension, and Niels is updating it constantly. It has mind-boggling scraping capabilities (get a proxy if you plan on using them a lot) and a ton of on-page analysis tools.

I don’t think I can say enough about this extension; it’s one of the best free SEO tools out there, and you can use its functions to roll your own tools. I don’t need to waste your time talking about it. Go download it and have fun!

Excel and Google Docs can be some of the best agile tools around, and these are some of the best I’ve found.

What are your favorite Excel/Google Docs SEO tools? Did I miss one?

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