Brighton SEO 2017: Link Strategy Talks Round Up

This month the Bright Design SEO team took to the Brighton SEO conference and, in case you missed it, we’ve pulled together some of the key link strategy takeaways so you can have all the best backlink bits all in one place – handy!

From link building tips to some key info from, who we lovingly refer to as ‘Google’s Gary’, Gary Illes, you really do not want to miss a drop of this!

So first…

The Link Disavow Controversy: To Disavow or Not to Disavow

As always, when we talk links there’ll be a few mentions of disavows, but at Brighton SEO this year, this was a hot topic that sparked some controversy. The speakers from the last Brighton SEO highlighted disavowing as being part of a regular SEO strategy and this was further hammered home by a number of speakers this year – only to be challenged right at the very end by Google’s own Gary Illes.

In the final keynote speech, Gary was asked directly about the importance of regular disavows to which he seemed quite indifferent, and suggested that if they were to be part of your SEO strategy, they need not be super regular. Now some may take ‘regular backlink checking’ to mean every week, every month, every quarter, or something in between – so It depends on your definition of this as to how you may take his comment. But either way, it’s important to note that if you’re overdoing backlink audits, it might not be moving the needle as much as you would like – if at all!

Meanwhile, form the other talks about backlinks (check out Linkody’s SEO FAQ’s for a thorough explanation on what these are) and link profile audits, it seemed clear that we need to be digging a little deeper than just the backlinks to our money sites. If you already check your backlinks’ backlinks’ backlinks, then good on you, but for most of us that’s a pretty daunting task. But, from the talks we attended at Brighton SEO, it seems this needs to be a priority when we do our (now potentially less frequent) backlink audits.

It makes sense really.

We wouldn’t choose to get links from a website that is supported by a load of spammy backlinks – so why would we leave a link that could be hurting our site in the same way? Even if it’s three backlink layers deep, it’s still pointing to our site.

This harkens back to an article I wrote back in March when the ‘Fred’ update hit, where I mentioned my theory that the penalty was hitting sites buried in the backlink chain – interesting that.

Whilst most of us will naturally check our backlinks’ backlinks, bad authority and penalties can filter down through many backlink layers, and most of us won’t have time to dig that deep. But we need to start making time.

Fortunately, there are a lot of tools that can help. As you can imagine, many of the tools exhibited at Brighton SEO proved to be incredibly powerful and good at this type of backlink auditing. One that really stood out to our team was the infamous Link Research Tool. In his talk, Chris Cemper took us through the incredible power of backlink audit feature, exhibiting its capacity to dig down through multiple layers and collate backlink data, as well as providing comprehensive data on the links to help judge them.

It’s definitely worth checking out, and for the bigger agencies, it’s a must. For smaller firms such as ourselves however, who may not have the budget for this amazing yet pricey tool, there is still the manual option.

There are some free tools that the Link Research Tool offer however such as the Link trace redirect, so you can track some level of dodgy backlinks, and appropriately disavow.

Local Link Strategy

Another topic touched on was local link acquisition, the importance of relevancy, authority and dofollow or nofollow, as well as some actionable ideas for getting these links. Greg Gifford hosted an incredible talk blasting us with link ideas (along with humourous wit and amusing photos from classic feature films) and I’d like to run through these with you now so you get all the juicy bits!


Get ready for some nice, scrumptious link opportunities, all served up on a sexy little platter.

First things first though, Greg outlined some important factors that need to be considered as part of a local link building strategy:

– Firstly, less links are needed (a smaller search volume means less competition and therefore less links powering the market)

– Local = relevant (in effect, any link from a local website is relevant because they come from the same place as your business/client)

– Website authority of the linking site doesn’t matter as much (eg. Trust Flow and DA, since the link has more power from relevancy)

– Dofollow or nofollow doesn’t matter as much (the aim is to get traffic from the link to drive up engagement and rankings, so to try to get placed somewhere where customers will find the link useful)

So, with this in mind, especially the fact that local links become immediately relevant from being close in proximity, we have a wide range of link acquisition options we can go for. Some of Greg’s ideas will be familiar, but others really show how creative you can get with sourcing these links. Plus, with a number of local links being built from relationships, the added bonus is that you competitor is going to find it hard to steal them from you, making them even more valuable!

Local Link Building Ideas, Courtesy of The Awesome Greg Gifford

– pay for sponsorships (local sports teams, charities, non-profit organisations)

– donate time to volunteer

– join a local club

– share useful information such as information from the expert

– get creative, think outside the box – eg. talk about things your clients are already doing, causes they are involved in, as well as what their customers are already doing – and engage with them if possible!

– If you have space – host a meetup at the client’s premises. is a meeting organiser site for monthly meetings, but you can find out about any local meetings that might need a venue and give them a hand.

– If you don’t have space – offer to buy pizza for their meeting! Offer value = offer pizza.

– Local directories

– Local review sites about bars/restaurants

– Local radio sites

– Event sponsorship – your local 5K run or golf days

– Local blogs

– Newspapers – they always need stories and ideas

– Local charities – you can donate time or money, and this looks good for the brand too

– Clubs and associations – find out what organisations the client’s employees are involved in, or if any members are boards of a club

– Interviews – interview local influencers or interview local people to gain interest and engagement, could take local polls on a topic related to your business. Aaron Crascall, an Youtube celebrity engaged local town members with funny poll questions asked by his followers:

– Business associations for the niche

– Food banks/homeless centres

– Local shelters

– Local schools – are clients involved with any of these? If they have kids it’s likely they are

– Ethnic business directories, such as websites that support business owners originally from a town, city or country, or those with a particular religion (Greg made a note that you need to be sensitive when broaching this topic)

– Food festivals (offer sponsorship, or get involved in a creative way)

– Local guides – top 5 places to stay, top 5 blogs on niche related topic – get included in other guides or put one together

– Homeowners association

– Neighbourhood watch sites – these are hyperlocal and have loads of traffic that you can drive to your money site

Then simply dig up the contact info, get some interest and then present the options to your client – that way they can choose the option that has the most value for them. Alternatively, you can make a choice based on their budget, but for clients with small budgets, it’s good to give them the option as they may want to pay a one-off fee for a good link opportunity.

Then rinse and repeat the process! Greg suggested this as a three-month cycle which is pretty realistic, but for some, this may not offer the link velocity they need to get ahead, so perhaps supplement this long-term strategy with some other link strategies.

If you’re still looking for links to build, Greg finished with a few final tips:

– Do competitor backlink research and pull the links from multiple sources (both Greg and I use Majestic, Moz and Ahrefs) so you don’t miss any

– Look at the backlinks similar companies have in other towns for inspiration

– Look for places you can provide value

And some bonus bits from me:

– Shoulder niches – look for businesses in your area that are in a related industry to your business but are not directly competing with you for an ultra-relevant and ultra-local link opportunity that works for local or national clients: think partnerships and what you can offer them, or work together on.

– Create something local people can use: from content, pdf worksheets or handouts, to widgets and tools and request a link back or promote the page with the tool on it (perhaps even with a promotional prize for sharing the page) and reap the rewards of the traffic to your site.

To round up our round up

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed some of the actionable tips from Greg’s talk, that I find can be translated to nearly any niche to get effective results, and as always it’s important to keep your eyes peeled for link opportunities. Think outside the box. Look for inspiration. And get creative!

Plus, one final thing that was mentioned a lot throughout September’s Brighton SEO was the importance of links that drive traffic. As SEO’s we always have to be looking forward, past what Google is doing and changing now, but to where they are going to be. Eventually, traffic will drive the web, not just links, so those who seek sites with traffic and get links there that are going to drive that useful traffic to a helpful website are going to win big. This is why some speakers argued that nofollow need not be a no-no anymore – focus on bringing engaged traffic and your rankings will improve from on-page engagement and popularity. Concentrate on the click!

With that in mind, go forth and build links mindfully, build relationships that last and make time to have a deep clean of your links every now and again, rather than doing a superficial dusting. Do all that and you’ll be set!

Found this article useful? Share it on social and look super in-the-know! To chat about any of the above more, or let me know what you thought, tweet myself at @EmilyFedorowycz or the team at @BrightDesignUK – I/we’d love to hear from you!

Link building