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A Guide to Link Buying in Toronto
Why, because link buying Toronto is really the operating keywords I am going for.
When it comes to getting Local SEO - and more importantly, attracting local clients for your company - it is super important to have your company website optimized for the city, province, state or country you are living in.
So for example, as I specialize in selling SEO packages to Torontonians from websites based in Toronto, it is therefore a necessity for me to attract local clients. If not from Toronto, then at least from the GTA.
Link Buying Advice 101
In a nutshell the concept of buying links (for those who are not familiar with such methodology) is focused on getting high quality, keyword links to your company website.
You can buy such links via intermediary companies such as LinkVehicle, Teliad, LinkWorth, Text Link Ads, and similar websites. Such websites are more expensive, but if you are savvy you can sometimes get deals on higher quality websites (only trick is often you don't know what the website is that is giving you the link, as everything is kept partially anonymous).
Or you can purchase links by contacting websites directly and asking them (politely) if they would be interesting in advertising your website in exchange for a small fee. The industry standard for such an offer is $30 annually per link. More if the website has a higher pagerank, more if you want a banner ad, more if you want it in a prominent place on the website. So you could potentially pay $100+ for a single high quality link.
What you want is one-way-links from websites featuring pages with a high PR - and you want the website linking to you to be LOCAL, so in this case it would be best if the website was in Toronto. Buying links from a website Singapore or India isn't going to help you much.
Further more you want the website to be ON TOPIC with yours. Which could be tricky if they are a competitor website. But not so difficult if you are selling premium dogfood in Toronto and are approaching dog breeders in Toronto and asking them to link to your website. You might even send them a free sample of your product - which is even better, because then you could potentially get a glowing review and a new regular customer.
You won't be able to do that if you use various “link broker” websites. Thus the DIY approach to purchasing advertising is definitely the best way to go, but only if you have the time and knowledge on how to do so. Finding people willing to accept links pointing to your site can be tricky if you don't know how - or worse, don't have time, which is why you should hire a SEO expert.
The purpose of such advertising is not to generate organic traffic from those links, but rather to “simulate artificially” a strong link popularity factor by having links pointing to your site from web pages featuring a high PR. Google and similar search engines track link popularity and then boost your websites search engine results rankings based on the keywords used on your website, in the links going to your site, and the content of the sites linking to you.
The higher the PageRank, the more expensive the advertising space. Link brokering services also allow you to target the industry of the website from where such links will be posted. Thus you can find publishing websites who are willing to advertise you for $$$.
However many brokering companies don't mention WHERE the website is. It could be in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or some place you've never heard of (Bhutan!)... which is really counter productive when your goal is local traffic from people in Canada, Ontario, Toronto or the GTA.
If you have the money its better to hire a SEO expert to do all of this for you, Toronto SEO companies like designSEO.ca for example which specialize in Pinpoint SEO / Targeted SEO. If you get a good quality SEO expert you can get 10 high quality links for $300.
Lets pretend for a moment you wanted to follow the DIY approach.
If you were offering tour services in Toronto, you could buy links from websites related to tourism, Toronto tourism, Toronto attractions, etc. Which would be good, because Google has been programmed to reward websites for quality links and not for the amount of links. The quality of the sites linking to you is crucial in terms of ranking benefits. The link quality is enhanced by linking to websites that are “keyword family” related.
Thus if your goal is tour services in Toronto, you want anything that is related to those keywords. Tours, tourism, tourists, Toronto, GTA, Hogtown, Downtown Toronto, the CN Tower, the SkyDome and various other Toronto related topics. Even the names of local celebrities or politicians (eg. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford) can help you. It is one time it pays to be a name dropper.
Back to my aforementioned example: If your website promotes tours in Toronto, your site would not capitalize from being linked to from a popular forum discussing video games or computer games.
Some people also argue against buying SEO advertising altogether, claiming that people should follow traditional marketing routes such as newspapers, magazines, television, etc. Although it should be pointed out that its typically people who WORK for magazines, newspapers, etc that are spouting that piece of advice... And they're ignoring the fact that television advertising is too expensive for most people, and that magazines and newspapers offer a very low Return-On-Investment. You could easily spend $500 on a single ad in a magazine and not get a single customer from that ad. This happens a lot, so much so that people are now disenfranchised with traditional marketing because they are not getting any return on their advertising investment.
I have a client in the Toronto real estate industry who loves talking about how online videos are the future of advertising. He will drone on about how YellowPages used to be the place to advertise, except nobody uses the YellowPages any more. Instead everyone is using Google... and if you want to really grab the attention of buyers, at least when it comes to real estate, he is really pushing videos.
And he is probably right. Video will play a huge role in the future of advertising. But text and photography will continue to play important roles too.
The whole SEO industry started because of Google’s link popularity ranking algorithm. The basic essence behind such algorithm was brilliant. However, not every site has the profile for one-way-link enhancement. Due to the nature of some sites, building genuine organic advertising is almost impossible without being “innovative” - and that requires creativity on the part of the publisher / blogger / content wrtier.
And creativity costs more money.
You can't get creativity for free. And trying to get it for cheap will result in two things = crappy content and crappy links.
Google’s determination for rewarding a quality link popularity profile has led to brokering agencies to become what they are - if the leopard changes his spots, the rabbits all do the same thing in order to adapt and survive. In order to please Google’s ranking algorithms, a whole industry was born and flourished.
Website publishers and bloggers saw an easy opportunity to generate income from their sites, while brokering agencies packaged the service based on the popularity of pages accepting advertisements.
Thus “link-buying” became an industry standard and an integral part of almost every SEO strategy. You could try to use Social Media instead (which works well for fashion, but not if you are selling insurance) or you could try using videos (great for promoting documentaries, films and real estate, but crap if you are selling anything that is difficult to visualize).
Hiring a SMO expert or a videographer is certainly a possibility, but you have to think logically from their perspective - those things require CREATIVITY - which again comes back to the issue of creativity costs more money.
So you're still stuck with the same problem. Unless you want to try creating your own SMO / video marketing campaign, then you probably won't succeed much. And even if you do, are you so certain your products / services are that interesting that people will want to Twitter / mention it on Facebook? Chances are they won't.
Some people also have problems over the ethical character of link buying and building a SEO marketing strategy and how such activities is questionable from normal organic links from Mavens (people who link to your site without being asked or paid). First, let me point out that Mavens are RARE. Like trying to find Waldo in a Harry Potter book. He might be in there, somewhere, but good luck finding him. So don't expect Mavens to magically appear and promote your website for free. They don't do that unless they really like your product/service.
Back to the topic of ethics I would like to point out that Google has no problem with advertising things on its websites. Newspaper and magazine websites do it too. Pretty much anyone who is an online publisher accepts advertising, in some way, shape or form.
Google rewards a website for the quality of the links, so buying erroneous links with websites that would never refer to you unless they sold space is basically a way to say, “If Google wants links, I’ll give them links!!”... and the end result is shoddy SEO. You want to avoid that if you can so avoid buying advertising from sites that are really off-topic. You want to focus on:
Local sites that are on topic or closely related to the topic.
Now admittedly buying such advertising defeats the original premise behind the link popularity concept. Because if numerous online users are speaking about your site on specialized blogs & forums, if keyword-enriched genuine articles are being published about your site, if regular press releases are being published professionally in regards to your site, if a lot of social networks refer to your site...then Google considers your site to be active and alive - and being seen as such boosts your popularity a lot and your search rankings. Whether this is done artificially or organically (or both) it doesn't really matter.
If anything your goal should always be to have your site start off artificially and then switch to organic over time. A gradual shift from one to the other.
But if you're selling insurance, or real estate, or even used cars then you're probably going to need to continue to invest in SEO for many years to come. Because if you don't, then your competition will.
The link popularity factor was a healthy concept to gauge the live and ongoing presence of a website. Brokering links via intermediary companies just to improve PR is a way to dilute the effectiveness and the ranking fairness within a particular industry because it messes with the architecture of the link popularity ranking algorithm. But if you don't do it, then your competition, especially in a field like real estate, is doing it anyway.
You might say, hey, I don't want to buy advertising from websites, because I don't want to cheat and try to beat the Google algorithm... and meanwhile the other real estate agents are all doing it and you're the only one who isn't. Their websites all have 100+ links going to their company webpages, and meanwhile your company has less than 10. And less than 10 is just plain pitiful.
Yesterday I had a meeting with a client who was thinking about purchasing a website. He wanted to know if the website was worth purchasing based on the quality of its content, its design, its framework and its SEO. On the SEO side the website in question had only 10 links going into it.
I then showed him a website which had over 600+ links going into it. And showed him the differences using Alexa statistics, how often the site was updated, and more. I won't go into much more detail, but basically it was an eye opener for him that the website he was thinking of purchasing wasn't very popular - and probably not that profitable.
That is really the big issue isn't? Is your business profitable? If you are so busy you can't keep up with the demand then you probably don't need SEO. If anything you need to raise your prices slightly.
If you have excess time available and not enough customers, then you can spend that time doing DIY SEO.
But if you lack time because you are so busy, but always need more customers - that is when you need to hire a SEO expert. Especially if you are in a seriously competitive industry like real estate.
Now you might say "Who is to blame for this link buying status quo?"
You might say it is Google who is at fault. Or the people who just follow whatever Google does. It’s easy for internet pundits/critics to criticize Google technology, but criticizing it won't get you anywhere. Google.com is still the father of all decent search algorithms and has over the years successfully circumvented the challenge of its overwhelming database growth. The fact that it accidentally gave birth to a whole “link brokering” industry is only normal.
eg. You can't blame the big grocery store for selling melons and then the small green grocer stores follow suit and start selling melons too. That is normal in any industry.
Anyway, as you might know, SEO services through “link-buying campaigns” may be a controversial issue for some people - but I can tell you with all honesty that the magazine and newspaper industries have no problems with selling links. Its their bread and butter.
You might also think that SEO is a gamble. In truth, all advertising is a gamble, but anyone who has studied the history of marketing will tell you that a quality marketing campaign uses tried, tested and true techniques that are much more likely to be successful - when it comes to online SEO then what you need is local advertising on local topic-oriented websites.
Google started cracking down on link-brokering agencies by dropping either the PR of the syndicated websites offering link space for sale or simply by dropping their rankings. A company like Text Link Ads, which has been and still is the leader in the industry for years, recently lost their PR, and after recovering the PR, they lost all rankings ... Just Google “text link ads” and you will see that, even with the 3 words that make up their URL (text-link-ads.com), they are probably nowhere to be found.
Not to fingers, but basically Google was punishing the company for using Black Hat SEO. So be forewarned about buying links from India and similar companies which specialize in bulk crappy links.
Not only are link brokering agencies being kicked by Google, but new algorithms are being released to penalize websites selling link space. If the website is popular enough, they can take the hit fortunately, but the link popularity algorithms are the core of Google technology - and it seriously undermines the question of what is fair and what really matters when it comes to SEO.
From Google's perspective what they also did was increase the ranking of websites being linked to from blogs and social media websites. With blogs this is okay from Google's perspective, since they own blogspot, but it becomes tricky because it means giving rival Facebook more credit.
But whatever. The SEO industry is an ever changing marketplace.
Making one little change gives birth to a new advertising-brokering industry.
In most cases, buying link advertising is simply trying to outsmart Google for better rankings - but in competitive fields like real estate where everyone is doing it, if Google changes an algorithm it effects the whole industry.
Which is why it becomes ever more important to have quality SEO from the get-go. Shoddily done / Black Hat or poorly executed DIY SEO will result in the next time Google changes an algorithm that your site could and probably be hurt/punished during the change.
The best links are those that you will earn through business dealings, partnerships, etc. That is true. But you first need to attract those clients in the first place, which means you need to use marketing savvy to get them because they just aren't going to fall out of the sky and land in your lap.
Important DIY Buying Tips
#1. Only buy links from local companies that are on topic or closely related to your topic.
#2. Aim for higher PageRanks, at least a PageRank of 1 if its on topic, or at least a PageRank of 2 if its closely related.
#3. Don't buy too many links at once. That raises red flags.
#4. Alternate what link text you use for the keywords.
#5. Don't just buy links for your main index page. Advertise specific subpage topics for your products or services and use keywords specific for those pages.
#6. If you can't find local sites to buy links from, build your own! Start a blog, a video blog, or create historical / information websites on topic with your site.
#7. Add more content that is on topic for your products / services to your own website. The more quality content the better.
#8. Always go for unique content. Never copy paste the work of others (Google ignores duplicate content).
#9. Think entertainment when writing content yourself. Even if the topic is real estate or insurance, people still want to be entertained.
#10. If you don't have time to do this yourself, hire a SEO expert from designSEO.ca.
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Consultations are $30 per hour.