Link Building Experts Interview Series: Dixon Jones
Tell us a little bit about your roles, both at Receptional and at Majestic SEO.
I publicly took over the marketing role at director level at Majestic SEO in the summer, after a long discussion with Alex, who is a brilliant programmer and who – I believe – has built something absolutely world-class. I’m not used to working for someone else, as also I founded Receptional, an Internet marketing company, over 10 years ago, which is also still operating very successfully to this day.
What are the main benefits of using Majestic SEO rather than Yahoo! Site Explorer?
There are quite a few. The first is the size of the dataset. Generally, we return many more backlinks. We also provide more information off the bat – although if you want the full data, you do need to register to get this. Mind you – Site Explorer requires registering as well. Both sides let you get more data for your own site, but only Majestic gives you the full data on competitor websites.
The history of Majestic SEO is pretty interesting: Majestic-12, the parent company, was trying to build a search engine. Is financial support for the search project still the core goal of Majestic SEO? What does the future look like for the Majestic SEO project, one, two or five years out?
I don’t want to say too much about our long-term plans, but I think it is still fair to say that we have one of the most important components for building a modern search engine. Mapping our data – even onto an open source search engine like Nutch – could be a valid way of enhancing our data. Our challenge on that goal, though, was primarily data storage. We have stored what we believe is the most valuable and hard to replicate data and that challenge has not been straightforward. There are, however, plenty of people who have crawled and indexed the content itself. If you are old enough, imagine what Alta Vista could have done, mapping our data into their algorithm?
So the dream of driving a search engine is not dead, but might be better exploited through a partnership with a larger player.
Can you tell us about Receptional's new link reclamation methodology? Why is it important for site owners and/or SEOs to track down rogue links to their websites?
Oh – I like your questions! Why aren’t all interviewers so on the ball? We realized – when using Majestic ourselves – that this is the first time that we can see ALL the data about links. We found on a few websites that the strongest URLs (linkwise) actually linked to pages which no longer existed. Over time, web developers had changed sites and, in the process, URLs. Until Majestic came along, though, there was nothing to tell them when a page had started to gain link popularity, so they did not know they were losing both search engine traffic and clients. They could have checked the raw logs for 404 messages, but the techies have access to the logs, not the marketers. So we now take all the top URLs on our client’s domain from Majestic’s data and download this into a CSV (removing quite a bit of the data, like deleted links, first). We then had to build our own tool to be able to carry out a bulk http header check on all these URLs, to see whether they resolve properly to real content in a way that users and search engines can follow. So far, we have found errors on every established site we have analyzed (including our own, so we fixed that promptly!). Fixing these errors is an easy way to improve the site. It’s clean and honest – as long as you redirect bad URLs to relevant alternative content. There is a temptation to simply redirect all the bad URLs to the home page – which is not always as wise as it seems, as the context of the link may not be appropriate.
You recently gave a talk at the International Search Summit titled “Advanced Link Building Analysis Using Majestic-SEO.” Can you share some of the advanced link building techniques and how you leverage Majestic’s link data for link analysis?
Well – actually I haven’t given this talk yet – you really ARE on the ball! :) If anyone still wants to go, it is at the British library on the 19th of November. One of the things that we do as an agency, when comparing competitor backlinks, is to normalize the spread of links by ACRank (ACRank is an indication of the strength of the inbound link). Naturally, a company has a lot more low-quality backlinks than high-quality ones. Normalizing the ACRank spread can show who has the spammy (or better quality) link pattern. You end up with a graph like this:
I have removed the key showing which websites are which domains, but we can see that the pink and blue domains have relatively stronger links at the top end. If this graph had shown a spike at the lower end, this would signal a red flag, suggesting that the company with the spike at the lower end was buying or acquiring low-quality links.
Do you believe that "content is king"? Does great content market itself?
Good content is king. Bad content and duplicate content is the not so pretty underbelly of the Internet. It’s like the film Metropolis … above ground, everything seems rosy … but it only works because of the quagmire of the hidden underground.
Critics of SEO surface on a recurring basis and claim that we're all snake oil salesmen and scam artists. How would you or do you respond to these detractors?
As long as users navigate through search engines, then there is a need for a valid understanding of how those search engines select results. The snake oil claim is valid, but represents a client buying through greed, rather than taking the time and the incredible resources needed to realign a business to better work in harmony with the Internet. Buying SEO and expecting the spend to go straight onto bottom line profits is naïve, and any SEO consultant not making their client extremely aware of the scale of the challenge is indeed selling snake oil. Using Majestic’s backlink history comparison checker, though, can be an easy way for both parties to graphically see the challenge ahead of them.
What's on your list of can't-live-without, use-them-everyday link-building and SEO tools?
Apart from Majestic, and Excel, I’m extremely lucky to have the resources to have been able to build some of our own internal SEO tools. However – we are using LotusJump daily now for several customers, who love that we can work collaboratively in developing links. In addition PRWeb is increasingly important for us. I have been hearing great things about some other sites too but have not given them all the test drive they deserve.