Round-Up: Distilled Link Development Seminar

Virante had the honor of being invited to speak at the Distilled Link Building Seminar in London and New Orleans over the past few weeks. Every presentation was fantastic and provided great insight into the state of SEO; trends that are emerging, tactics being used, relationship building, actionable steps to improve your site/rankings, and performing competitive research were just a few of the topics covered. This SEO conference was unlike many others in several ways, but the standout was every presenter’s willingness to share what is really happening in the space and things you can do that will work now.

Most search marketing conferences discuss the same topics that are covered year after year, such as using title tags and meta descriptions or why blogging is important.. Not that these things aren’t important, they are just boring topics for experienced SEOs. Typically you go to the conference all day, hear things you’ve mostly heard before, and then you go out to the bars and then start having the real discussions about experiments that have been performed and lessons learned. Conversations range from simple experiments testing the value of an H1 tags and the influence of link order on a page to complex discussions on how to handle Google places results pushing out clients that service nationwide or how you recently blew up a test site where you were experimenting to determine the threshold of anchor text diversity needed before a penalty occurs. The conference in London and New Orleans placed some of the brightest minds into what seemed to be a full day of keynote quality presentations.

For those that were present, the feedback seems to be an unanimously impressed audience.  Each presenter tackled a different aspect of off-site SEO and the ways your organization can leverage relationships, partnerships, promotions, site content, and site features to attract quality links to your site and better your websites rankings and traffic.  Distilled may be offering a video of the event, so we won’t spoil it by giving out all the details, but here are a few sample takeaways by each presenter:

  • Wil Reynolds – We all get beat from time to time and a crucial part of SEO is understanding the reasons why.  Wil recommended the use of diverse strategies and discussed how the strategies people say are dead, such as reciprocal linking and widget links, can still be effective strategies.  He also went over some of the mistakes SEO’s make in link development and briefly discussed using competitive intelligence from sources such as Open Site Explorer to identify opportunities to increase the diversity of your linking sources and anchors.  Diversity was the trend in this presentation focused on impressing the need to be able to adjust with the growing algorithm changes that are occurring in the search space.
  • Jane Copland – The most effective SEO campaigns are built around matching your competitors metrics.  Take the time to research the links of your competitors, including: quantity of links, anchor texts used, authority of links, and many more.  By comparing their information to yours, you can develop a healthy plan for your own property that uses ethical strategies to acquire the same positive metrics.  She discussed several tools for collecting competitive intelligence, such as Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO. She also discussed ways you can identify link networks and ethical strategies you can use to beat out a competitor that may be using them.  She cautioned the audience against trying to copy a competitors strategy, as you risk making their mistakes and holding yourself to their, frequently less than ethical, standards.
  • Russ Jones – Digg isn’t a great source for SEO links, but there are still great sites, such as Reddit, where you can contribute compelling content and benefit if you can engage the community.  Use Clicky or other real-time analytics software to discover new communities that are discussing your content and participate. He provided some info on authority subreddits and digg clones where you can become actively involved.  He also explained some of the methods used by unethical seo’s for automated voting, submissions, and gaming communities, but stated that the best successes come from being human and delivering on the community’s interests.
  • Tom Critchlow – Seomoz takes a whiter than white hat approach to SEO which is focused on providing value to site visitors and outreach programs.  Tom discussed many of the creative solutions that have been developed for SEOmoz, including methods for determining new site content and features that will engage the community and attract positive attention.  He provided an “SEO Joel Test” that asks the type of questions that inspire a well rounded SEO program, and stressed the importance of creating valuable content first, and worrying about linking to it later.  The overarching theme of Tom’s talk was, “Remember the users!”
  • Paddy Moogan – Paddy discussed many of the problems in outreach programs for link development and offered the solution; a trifecta of planning, outsourcing and automation.  He demonstrated systems and plans that utilize these 3 methods to keep you focused on the task at hand.  He warned against caveats of becoming spammy, recommended you always have a backup plan, and provided several API’s that can be used to help automate the mundane aspects of prospecting.
  • Chris Bennett – Outreach programs are vital for the success of a viral campaign.  Chris provided case studies depicting successful viral campaigns and the benefits of an effective outreach program.  He discussed tips in presenting your content for guest posts and the types of content that can be successful.   Chris focused on encouraging healthy outreach programs and creating quality content to promote.  He also emphasized the benefits of sharing the success of a viral campaign with the writers.
  • Rand Fishkin – Rand covered a large swathe of SEO in his presentation covering the emerging trends in the future of link development and other offsite SEO strategies.  He expressed a disdain for unethical SEO practices and pointed out that those types of tactics are short-lived and detrimental to your brand.  Rand followed his reprimanding of black hat strategies with 34 tips (including strategies for: engaging your customers, building your brand, improving your sales funnel, designing an attractive site, being the expert, and creating quality content), that help develop your company as an honorable web citizen that naturally attracts links.  Each tip came with an explanation of why it is important and how you can implement similar strategies.  The presentation supported an overarching theme that developing a better company through a better site and better user engagement gets you better rankings.. because you deserve them!
  • Martin MacDonald & Kris Roadruck – Martin and Kris discussed many strategies “from the dark side” being used in SEO today, and explained the importance of identifying and understanding how these strategies work.  While these strategies are not recommended for client use, they can provide valuable insight into a competitors strategy, and in some cases, you may even discover/develop ethical white-hat methods to accomplish the same thing.  Most every example given was strictly advised against, so we’ll help keep you out of trouble by not even mentioning those here…
  • Will Critchlow – Scaling white hat SEO requires a natural optimization of content and relationships.  He discussed the profiles of the top domains and pages on the internet, demonstrating correlations between the quality and types of content and the quantity and types of links they acquire.  He kept a steady focus on the why and how for generating quality content and then dove into ways of building and scaling relationships with those that would benefit from the content you are creating, and will naturally have a desire to share it with others. Will’s presentation was themed around creating content and services that people need, not just want they want, as that is the path to properly scaling SEO.

Overall, Distilled delivered on its mission to provide a well-rounded high-level seminar on link development.   We look forward to participating in the next one!


  1. Jotham
    Mar 28, 2011

    The level of sharing from the presenters was indeed extraordinary. The vibe of people DOING things pulsed through the air in a manner that still has me buzzing. I left with a list of 23 action items and 45 specific notes to apply to my business. Agree with your underlining of “now”, Jake, there was a definite freshness and vibrancy to the ideas being shared, and a sense of There’s no time like the present, so get started on creating and spreading great content.

    Not trying to spam, this link is a way I put a unique idea from Chris Bennett (or might have been Wil Reynolds) into play right away. Took less than 10 minutes to set up a voice recording page that could turn site visitors into content creators:

  2. PromoGeorge
    Mar 30, 2011

    What an excellent seminar! Thank you Russ for your candor – I also learned a lot. As someone new to this industry, I was able to take away quite a bit of new tactics.

  3. Ken
    Sep 23, 2011

    I just Watched your Video from Link Love 2011 and it was really good!

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