It is very hard not to have noticed that Google has been actively working on stamping out all of the low hanging link building fruit. In fact, if you had been using some of those tactics, chances are you might have been penalized once or twice, when they changed their search algorithms and weighting factors.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that link building was a lost cause. However, as this hour long video of Google’s Matt Cutts’ (@MattCutts) appearance at SMX Advanced in Seattle last year proves, judicious and genuine link building strategies can still work.
The trick is to weed out the tactics that still work and leverage them to the hilt, and to leave everything else to the amateurs. Here’s our take on five of the most important tactics to focus on.
- Build Content Worth Linking To
When everything changed with Google’s algorithms, there was one goal in their collective minds: to force site owners to make the internet a better place to be. They did that by rewarding sites that offered great content, and penalizing those that offered mediocre content and used link spamming and other strategies to artificially inflate their rankings. Which is why you won’t find any of the article directories that used to fuel that link spam in any Google search today.
The key to building links today is to create fantastic content on your site that people actually want to link to. There are several ways to do that, as you will see below, but as Neil Patel says on Quicksprout (@NeilPatel), there are a few sure-fire tactics for getting links from influencers.
In this case, however, it really is like that old baseball movie. If you build it (and it is great) they will come. Eventually. Everything you read from now on will be about how to make that happen faster. That means well written, well crafted, insightful and useful articles, detailed and unique infographics, user focused videos, and useful tools and templates. It does not mean $5 “fluff” articles.
- Use Google to identify your closest (and best) competitors, by typing in ‘best your niche blogs’.
- Visit Ahrefs to sign up for a free account (if you don’t already have one.)
- Search your competition’s backlinks, and identify where they are getting links from. Do this by entering their website URL into the tool.
- Follow the provided links to the sites that are linking to your competitor’s site or blog, and figure out which posts are getting the most link love.
- Create your own version of their content, adding more value, more information, and better tips and tools.
- Guest Posting
Matt Cutts was less than enthusiastic about guest blogging in a 2014 post, but while he is absolutely correct that this tactic has been overused and abused for a long time, he did also offer some insight into when and how guest blogging would be appropriate. Hubspot (@Hubspot) was a little more supportive of the idea and are major proponents of guest blogging best practices, but the short answers to all the questions are:
- Select your platform carefully. You should only ever guest post on sites and blogs where your customers spend time. Guest posting on random platforms purely for links is exactly what search engines are against.
- Craft your guest posts carefully. Guest posts should be as high quality as any you would place on your own site. The days of mass posting poor quality articles and calling it reputation building are long gone.
- Approach site owners directly, and personally. The sites worth guest posting on are not the ones that you can get onto by sending out spammy mass emails. Identify great sites, find out who owns them, and contact them personally.
- Leverage Video
Video has consistently outperformed articles as an online marketing tool, and it has for a long time, as proven in these separate posts from Marketing Sherpa (@MarketingSherpa) in 2011 and 2015. Things have changed a lot over the years, but the fact that video delivers more traffic and results in more conversions has not.
Youtube’s Upload Function offers many Free Tools to help get you started. Check out the Photo Slideshow and Video Editor modes if you’re working with raw content.
If you aren’t already using video to build links, then you should be. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute (@CMIContent) recently noted that up to 75% of business executives watched work-related videos, which certainly makes them a valuable marketing tool.
Here are a few more facts about video:
- Video reaches more people, more effectively: 65% of executives who viewed a marketing video went on to visit the producer’s website.
- Video accounts for more than half of mobile traffic.
- 80% of companies that engage in B2B content marketing use video in some way.
- Video offers higher barrier to entry. Anyone can make a video, but only a few can make a good video.
- Visual content is more likely to be shared, and to go viral. HubSpot ranks video third in line after in person events and online webinars in terms of reach and efficacy.
Create great videos. Post them online. Embed them on your site. Then link to your video on your site from all of your social media profiles. If your video is valuable and worth sharing, you should get more backlinks to your website.
- Blog Syndication
Content syndication is another link building tactic that is worth a second look. Even though this type of link building won’t increase your search engine rankings, it can—and will—drive traffic to your website, which is really what every online marketing tactic is about.
Search Engine Watch (@sewatch) posted an effectively debunked, commonly-held-but-incorrect belief about content syndication. Quicksprout also has featured information about content syndication best practices. The concept is fairly straightforward though, and the steps are simple:
- Research and choose a reputable blog syndication network. This is critical to ensure that your content is correctly attributed and you aren’t penalized for participating in the network. Outbrain (@Outbrain) and Taboola (@Taboola) are two of the biggest syndication networks.
- Create great content. You should only ever syndicate your best content. Make sure it’s useful, educational, non salesy and infinitely linkable.
- Set up your syndication preferences. WebDam (@WebDAM) offer detailed information about how this works, but the basic idea is to choose your budget and keywords or niches, and decide which pieces of content to syndicate.
- Recycle your old content by syndicating it out through social media regularly along with new content you are developing.
- Link Roundups
The last tactic on this list is one that isn’t being used extensively yet, which means there is less competition and more opportunity.
Bundle Your Highest Value Industry Experts & Industry Resources into a Comprehensive List
Link roundups are basically lists of the best new content in a particular niche, which are usually posted by prominent blogs and news sites on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis. They’re already linking out to sites in your niche, and they’re usually authority sites, so this is the perfect way to build relevant, contextual links to your site. In fact, even online marketing specialists like Quicksprout share how they have used link roundups, but here is the process that we’d recommend you follow if you plan to use this link building tactic:
- Search Google for link roundups using the following syntax: “intitle:roundup”+ your niche. You may need to sift through the results to find the sites and blogs that are relevant to your market, depending on how specific or generalized your search term is.
- Discover who the author or authors of the roundup are, and establish content by following on social media, commenting on blogs and adding them on LinkedIn.
- Create content that matches the tone and content of the roundup.
- Reach out to the author of the roundup once you have established a relationship, and direct them to your relevant content.
- Comment on the roundup if and when your link appears, and be sure to thank the author personally in another email.
If your online relationship building skills could use a little work, be sure to brush up on the basics before you attempt to contact influencers. Particularly if you are hoping to ask for inclusion on a list or roundup! Buzzsumo (@BuzzSumo) recommend identifying influencers, following them on Twitter, and then approaching them. The last thing you want to do is to approach a big name in your niche incorrectly, and get yourself permanently put on their spam list!
Link Building Is Not Dead, It Has Just Evolved
If there is one thing that you take away from this, hopefully it’s that link building is not dead, and that there is still both opportunity and value in link building exercises. The methods to build links effectively and well have changed a lot, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
If link building now requires high quality content as its basis, if there is more work involved in getting quality links, and if it requires you to build and nurture relationships with leaders in your industry, then that can only be a good thing. Nothing worthwhile should be easy, and by creating more barriers to entry in terms of link building, search engines have actually done online marketers a big favor.