Queen Of Links – Debra Mastaler Interview

[ 0 ] December 10, 2013 |

Thanks for talking with us, Debra. For those readers who don’t know you, can you introduce yourself, and tell us about your background?

My pleasure Peter. In late 1998 I became a stay-at-home mom with a toddler and one on the way after having worked over 20 years in the marketing department of a Fortune 500 company and the Civil Service. I had little computer experience outside of email but was fascinated by the Internet and decided I wanted to create a directory for organic food and clothing. I had absolutely no money for advertising and even less knowledge about online business so I used my offline marketing skills and promoted the heck out of the directory. Everything I did revolved around bartering space for links on high profile websites.

Pretty soon my little directory was out ranking some well known businesses and people starting asking me if I could “SEO” their site as well. I had no idea what that meant so I researched and found what I needed on the now defunct Rank Write newsletter which was then owned by Heather Lloyd-Martin and Jill Whalen. Between the two of them I got a quick education in SEO and some practical experience when I worked for Jill. With that experience and additional research into the medium, Alliance-Link was launched.

As link building is now an integral part of internet marketing strategy, do you find it harder now to source links than it once was? Is there a perception that links are a valuable commodity; therefore webmasters are now more resistant to “giving” them away?

Securing quality links has always been a challenge but given the current link climate it’s become more so, especially in regards to Google. I’ve never engaged in large scale reciprocal linking or bought site-wide links, my methods are varied and revolve around content generation so I’m not as affected by the recent devaluation of certain links. But…

I am concerned about Google’s deputizing the general public and encouraging them to play spam cop in an effort to out paid links. One man’s paid link is another man’s promotion and with Google not providing a clear definition
of what’s considered paid – it’s all fair game.

So do I think it’s harder to source links? Yes. But it’s not harder just because people understand the value behind the link… it’s harder because people are afraid of the consequences of giving them away.

What could a webmaster do to mitigate this problem? Do you think it’s a case of building more effective relationships that perhaps was necessary in the past?

Yes of course, building relationships is a must but even more importantly, webmasters should focus on ways to capitalize on trust and develop alternative linking strategies.

Yeah I know the trust comment sounds kumbaya-like but it’s true. Building relationships is the first step but in order to get quality links, you need to earn the of the trust of your community.

You also need to think outside the box and look at alternative sources for links. Using directories, article writing, forums and such is fine but it’s a big world and given the emphasis on universal search and personalization, you can’t just link within the lines anymore and expect to continually get the links you need to rank well and build brand. Look for new venues, techniques and create new promotions both on and offline to support your linking strategies.

So in order to get links, webmasters should think more in terms of traditional marketing and advertising? What tactics would you recommend webmasters use?

Yes I think webmasters should look to traditional marketing as a source of ideas, it broadens their playing field and provides more opportunity for links. The Web’s gotten crowded and search engines more aggressive, it’s become necessary to look beyond basic link building and branch out to on and offline advertising sources as a way to generate links.

One of the things I’ve been advocating lately is the use of offline publications as a way to support online linking campaigns especially for popular terms/competitive industries. This strategy works on two levels:

First, people trust and remember what they read in magazines, newspapers, trade journals and the like. Studies have shown people are more apt to buy from an online retailer if they have seen the business featured in an offline publication. Makes sense especially for small businesses lacking brand recognition but playing in competitive markets.

Second, most offline publications have online counterparts which means your ads/content have another venue to be seen in, get links from and benefit from the all important keyword association patterns the search engines use.

Ultimately keyword association is critical in link building given the dependence the engines have on anchor text. Do what you can to associate your company with keyword filled content both online and off.

On the other hand, there are still many less competitive niches that can totally dominate a search result by doing traditional link-to-me-I’ll-link-to-you-directory-article submission type link building. The bond of commonality between all link building concepts is finding solid authority sites to host your keyword filled content. Doesn’t matter if you’re doing link bait, directory submissions, presell pages – whatever. You need clean, quality sites to host your keyword rich anchors and content in order to succeed whether you’re working with phrases like “payday loans” or “purple afghans”.

You’ve been focused exclusively on link building for as long as I can remember. Still a great area to be involved in?

LOL… there are days I’d like to scream and there are days I dance around for joy. It’s never boring and just when I think I have seen or heard everything, something new comes along.

What I enjoy most is finding a way to use traditional marketing as a link magnet or stumbling upon an everyday situation that turns out to be a kick-ass tactic. My friends laugh at me because I look for the link opportunity in everything, it’s almost sick.

I read about something the other day I plan on investigating, it was a suggestion to check out the local public access channels most County/City offices have. They look for relevant programming and may be open to accepting a general “how to” video as filler when they have open airtime. It’s a great idea, has potential for a much coveted dot gov link not to mention publicity and media links. Little opportunities like that present themselves all the time and are what makes me dance!

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Category: Link Building Tips

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