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October 05

Google Loves Seniors

It seems Google has intensified the ranking factor of one key data point that is very tough to manipulate: the age of your domain name.  I have been keeping an eye on trends with Google’s search results and it seems that there is an increasing trend towards "trusted sites" owning page one.  A "trusted site" is loosely defined by me as: an older domain, a nice mix of anchor text, links built over time, links coming in from all kinds of c class blocks, maybe a .edu snuck in there, etc.

The factor I want to focus in on and get your thoughts on though is the age of the domain.  This seems to me to be a very important factor in top search rankings for Google in today’s climate.  I chatted with Ben Pheiffer who thinks that you have a distinct advantage if you have a pre 2002 domain name to work with.  The exact year is of course debatable and there are countless exceptions to this rule but I do agree with the general thesis: when it comes to domain names, the older the better.

In my very unscientific test I looked at two commercial searches that I track regularly.  I looked at the top 10 results from each of these searches and took each of the 10 domains in the results over to Whois Source to check to see when the domains were registered.  The average domain in Set A was created in 1998 and the average domain in Set B was created in 1999!  The most recently created domains out of the top 10 of either search was 2003.

OK now I am not naive enough to overlook the fact that old domains usually have the most incoming links because they have had time on their side.  This is true but the trend of old domains ranking to the top goes deeper than that.  One trend in particular is if you start with a "trusted site" then build a sub page topic on about anything and it will magically jump into top ranking contention. 

As Andy Hagans has said when looking at today’s SERPS at Google, "Old domains can get away with murder".  What he was referring to is this growing trend where people with old domains are adding new sub pages, building links at will to these pages without mixing anchor text or doing any "natural link building" and these pages seem to be on a rocket collision course to the top of the Google SERPS.

Simply put it seems you have almost an unfair advantage with an older domain in today’s Google, particularly if it passes some kind of "trusted site" test.  I would like to keep writing on this but I am off to make some offers on some domains from the 1990′s ;)

October 05

And Don’t Forget Best of the Web!

When I posted my directory recommendations before, I left out Best of the Web (based on its price, not its quality). Thanks to Brian Prince for sending me a heads-up on some things that make submitting there a lot more attractive:

I appreciate the suggestion of offering a directory submission option without a recurring fee, which we launched on BOTW in August.  You commented that you felt the price point is a bit high at $99.95 â but please understand that this is the âretailâ or standard price.  We offer a reseller program with recurring commissions of 25%, so anyone who signs up for the reseller plan can immediately get the one-time listing price discounted 25% to $74.95.  In addition, one of the BOTW traditions is to offer substantial monthly promotions (up to 50% off or two for one listings, etc) to all existing customers â so once you are a BOTW client, there are many ways to save on the directory costs of a submission.

Last but not least, I would like to reiterate that Best of the Web has a FREE Non-Commercial submission program (in constrast to most âotherâ directories) for webmasterâs marketing non-profit and non-commercial sites.  We feel that this is a big differentiator between us and other tier-two directories within the industry, and hopefully respected SEO gurus such as yourself also value this community effort.

I think their willingness to review non-profit sites for free is a good quality indicator, since it shows they are making an honest attempt to categorize the world’s Web sites, not just make an easy buck.

Bottom line: consider BotW along with the others.

p.s. Another great thing about Best of the Web is its age — it’s been around forever and Google seems to heavily favor age and trust these days. Speaking of their non-commercial free submission policy, I’m going to go submit my pet project (s) there!

October 05

Quality directories allowing keyword titles

Last week I posted on my paid directory recommendations. I chose those directories based on quality. For the sake of completeness, I ‘d like to update that short list with two more directories: MassiveLinks and Tygo.

These two are very helpful in that they allow keyword titles. Is this a questionable practice? You bet. But good anchor text is crucial, and if you’re using white hat link building methods it can be hard to get. Note that neither of the above sell run-of-site links (I had to throw out several candidates that did).

So to review, my entire recommended directory submission list:

And that’s all she wrote. I promise not to post on directories for a while :-)

Update, 1/19/06: I removed Web Beacon from the list as they now appear to be selling run of site links.

Update, 5/10/06: Oops! How did I miss

October 05

Eric Ward on the Hyperlink Hot Seat

Eric Ward is one of the most well-known names in linking. To learn more about his services, visit Net Post or URLwire.

1. I know you’ve done link building for a lot of high profile sites (such as That aside, which of your past link building campaigns was the most fun for you?

A cable TV network had a web site with companion web content, and they ran an online contest, the "Three Stooges Year Supply of Pies" contest from American Movie Classics.  As a kid I loved the Stooges, but hadn’t really researched them online. I dug into it was amazed to find fan pages, discussion lists, forum boards, etc. that Stoggtes fans had created.  And when I contacted them they were quite excited.  What’s funny is that the links to the contest page I was able to obtain were 100% about people, not bots.  I never pursue links based on some hoped-for algorithmic ranking boost.

2. Do you think that there are aspects of link building that the average webmaster just doesn’t "get"?

Most webmasters understand links, especially since they likely receive 1,000 spam link request a day. :)  But what I see them missing is an understanding of the power of editorial based links to drive topically interested people.  They are consumed with SEO and links.

3. Link building can sometimes get to be a tedious task. Do you ever feel like you need a break from it?

Only when I’m working.  Serisously, there are some projects that do make my eyes bleed. But then I get a fun one and the response is such that I smile again.

4. Tell us a bit about your upcoming link building seminar.

Plan is to do an intensive day-long linking workshop in Charlotte. I’m teaming up with Debra Mastaler for this. She is one of the most cerebral link builders I’ve even known, and also a really fine person, and between the two of us hopefully we can put a few people in the seats and help them learn to link, without too much pain and suffering.

5. Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at the word itself: "Mankind". Basically, it’s made up of two separate words – "mank" and "ind". What do you these words really mean?

That you’d better make sure to double check your anchor text.

October 05

Vary Your Links’ Descriptions, Or Else

I think most good SEOs have been varying link descriptions for some time now. It’s just another thing we can do to make our links look "natural". Admittedly I’ve never been one to use 100 descriptions when I get 100 links — but I would try to use 5 or 10 variations, for instance.

This is one of those SEO methods that we say is forward-looking. I.e., in 2001 when a lot of people did this, you better believe it didn’t matter. It really didn’t. But as long as you’re building links, why not build links that will probably still help in 5 years?

5 years later, it matters. I just came across this WMW thread [supporters only -- riffraff, keep out], where Robert Charlton says:

At SES, in the search engines’ linking session, Matt Cutts was very explicit that Google looks at the uniqueness of descriptions when evaluating links. For a bunch of reasons outside the scope of this thread, I’m very much inclined to believe him.

In other words: showing links with many duplicate descriptions is almost certainly evidence of aggressive link building, and it appears Google is filtering / devaluing those links. Note: MSN probably isn’t. But they may in 2007 ;-)

Bottom line: if you aren’t already, start varying your links’ descriptions!