Here, Thord interviews Tom Rusling at Text Link Ads.
Let’s start with you. Who are you and what do you do at Text Link Ads?
I am the Senior SEO Strategist. In that role, I offer resources to Text Link Ads clients that are looking to add a layer of strategy and/or on-page site optimization to their link building campaigns. TLA is by design a self serve network: clients can enter our system and find a huge array of links to choose from. However, often clients are looking for guidance around things like:
- Which keywords should I be targeting?
- How many links should I be buying?
- How fast should I be purchasing links, and how much should I vary my anchor text?
And of course, many clients feel like the links they have acquired with us are not working effectively for them. Often my most important role is to help clients identify technical problems on their site which are impeding the benefit of their link building. Such examples could be incorrect use of redirects, duplicate content issues in all its many vast and wonderful forms, lack of page targeting and keyword dilution, etc. They always come into the conversation blaming the links, but invariably the client and I are able to analyze the problem and identify the source of the problem is something on-page.
So how are things in the link selling business these days?
I was at a small seminar on natural link building at SMX East last month. I sat there in room full of marketers asking the two panelists about solving their challenges to acquire sufficient quality, thematically relevant links. The audience members seemed to earnestly be conveying that they were trying to build links while absolutely avoiding purchased links. One of the audience members asking the most questions in the seminar was trying to compete in one of the most competitive financial segments possible. He seemed a bit exasperated in trying to compete with all these other sites that were buying links, while he was choosing to not partake in link buying.
I approached him later that day to see if he might consider looking at our network. “Oh yeah, I know you guys, I’ve been one of your biggest clients for the last five years”. He then managed to rattle off the names of about seven different TLA team members.
I’ll go out on a bit of limb here: maybe buying links is a lot like pornography viewing: there’s a lot more people doing it and a lot less people acknowledging such behavior. These conference sessions can sometimes turn into church: wear your Sunday best and definitely do not admit to what you were doing in the late hours of Saturday night.
A lot of sites running Text Link Ads have been hit with lowered PageRank from Google. What’s your take on that?
Hah! That’s a loaded question….and a common one. First, let’s make sure to make a key distinction between Toolbar PR and Google internal PR. A lot of sites have had their Toolbar PR lowered on Google for a lot of reasons. Yes certainly publishers in our network have had their PR lowered. We have also seen publishers have their PR go up. Simply put, there’s a lot of variables in play that affect PR.
But this actually addresses a couple issues:
One, that TOOLBAR page rank is somewhat arbitrary, and often acts as a red herring put out there by Google. I’ve seen enough examples of a toolbar PR drop where all the rankings held up just fine.
This phenomena actually is a huge opportunity for people who are smart about their link buying: there are links from a lot of good sites which have low toolbar PR, but rank for competitive terms. Since the link buying/selling market is systematically flawed on its dependency of toolbar PR, the lower toolbar PR sites are often available at exceptional value.
Is there a business model for selling links when Google retires PageRank?
Yes, absolutely. The training wheels will come off, and serious SEO programs will need experts to conduct their link buying efforts. It’s really just like any other more time tested media: anyone can buy advertising, but the value of a true media buying expert can create tremendous value. In this case, it’s a such a niche and valuable skill, I think the loss of toolbar PR would be a serious benefit to SEO practitioners.
Who is the ideal link buyer today?
First and foremost, someone who understands the timeline of the process, and the rules of engagement to be effective. From there, having a specific set of target keywords, targeting pages that are crafted around each of these target keywords, and hosted on an SEO compliant site, round out the package for an ‘ideal’ buyer.
So many times we speak to people who want to rush into SEO and want results as fast and aggressively as possible. You have to trust the process, and be in it for the long haul. If you want the quick fix, go ahead and keep yourself hooked on PPC.
And who should be selling links really?
It’s a great way for sites with unique content and some domain age and trust to monetize the below the fold, non-monetizable part of the page. What’s great for the publishers is that the revenue is consistent and predictable, it is not predicated on click through rate, traffic to the page, nor outbounding visitors as a necessary tradeoff to make money.
Smaller more niche sites and blogs will find that they can earn a lot more money potentially as a TLA publisher than with adsense or similar programs, and they can publish both types of ads on their pages. Larger more established sites may qualify for our Premium Publisher program: we work to accommodate the needs of larger organizations looking to enter our publishing network.
What’s next for Text Link Ads?
We work with over 120 Search Marketing agencies to power their link building programs, as well as 3,000 independent advertisers. We recognize the need for many of our clients to have a better understanding of targeting choices, appropriate budget and allocation choices, and identifying and solving on-page site issues which mitigate the effectiveness of link building programs. With that said, we are moving towards a more consultative process with our clients, and encourage them to call in and speak with us.
Beyond more strategic servicing, we are putting forward many new initiatives, including premium publisher offerings available to clients who work with our sales consultants hands on. Additionally, we are starting to offer full service link building for clients. This includes both paid link acquisition as well as natural link building tactics such as social profile creation, direct webmaster outreach, sponsored blogging and blog postings, and targeted directory link building.
You can sign up for Text Link Ads here.