Every year we hear nonsensical stories that link building is dieing, however time and time again links prove to be the decisive factor in the SERP’s.
Its effect on the rankings might not be as strong as it was back in 2005, however all experiments on a search engine environment without relying on links has failed to work, therefore we predict link building will still be critical for the next five to ten years.
With 2016 just around the corner, understanding how to link build and building strategies for success is much more difficult than it used to be, with many previous methods looked down upon in modern days, however this shouldn’t put you off. If you’re strategy was simply to build directory links, then you can hardly be surprised if you were hit by the Penguin Google algorithmic update, however we will outline some true and tested methods to keep the links coming in.
The gap between SEO and PR has diminished rapidly over the past couple of years, as link builders have switched their targeting from the quick and easy, to the more difficult to acquire ‘earned links’ from big publications. Often the expectation that the pitch will fall on death ears is what holds people back, but you will be surprised by the result if you build proper strategy around PR.
Work out an angle, make sure someone hasn’t just done it and create something of actual substance. Whether it be statistics (journalists love survey results, but you need to have a minimum of 1,000 respondents for it to be worthwhile), an interactive infographic or a real-life story, build the storyline out before you work on the email.
If you work for a business that was started by an entrepreneur who is available for interview, try to set one up with business magazines and publications, as these can be an easy target.
Whether it be in the blog section or through the graduate jobs page, many universities allow local businesses to be listed on their site, especially if you can bring opportunities to their graduates. Build a relationship with the Universities and colleges in your area and see if there is a way you can work together.
These sites are almost always an incredibly powerful domain, as a .ac.uk, with an average pagerank of 7, so a few of these will definitely offer a boost.
I recently attended a local event, setup by a local Brighton hair dresser, where he offered a free haircut, some free cocktails and a buffet on his premises, to woo local bloggers and journalists. I can assure you I was more than happy to write about my experience and provided a link, while so did many others who attended the event. It came at a cost, but the local based links will have helped him to rank in Brighton for a number of searches (he did in fact increase in rankings) while the national publication that mentioned him offered some much greater reach for his site and for brand awareness.
Have a think of who you want to be targeting and how you can tempt people to attend. You then need to build a list of targets and start to send out those emails.
The costs aren’t giant, but you do need to get the angle right. What would your viewers be interested in watching. You want to become a trusted figure in the industry, a voice which people can trust and listen to for advice on the subject area. A strong video channel can gain a huge amount of links, however the real value comes in direct traffic and potential sales.
Moz’s Whiteboard Friday is a perfect example of a successful video campaign, as their viewership consistently continues to grow, as they are now seen as a respectable voice in the digital marketing industry. You ask anyone in the industry who Rand Fishkin is and they will be able to tell you and will probably have watched a couple of videos of him.
The things you absolutely need to tick off if you go down this path is a decent camera, a tripod, a microphone, lighting, green screen (optional, but can be fun) and some form of video editing software. The software you pick will depend on your budget, as Adobe Premier Pro is definitely recommendable, however there are many cheaper options.
If you work with a number of businesses, many are eager to highlight testimonials from happy customers, to prove the success of their product. Offer yourself as a brand advocate, with a glowing reference and you should get a link alongside.
This won’t work for all businesses, however I have spoken to a number of businesses on building links and have been surprised to find they weren’t requesting a link from brands of which they were selling their products. Many of these businesses will have a section on their site, highlighting suppliers and places where customers can buy their products.
If they don’t and they aren’t keen on ‘showing favouritism’, then work out alternative ways to be featured on their site, such as writing an article on their site or creating a video review, with a transcribed article for their blog.
This is one of the oldest tricks in the box, but it really does work. You can use multiple tools to find old links you used to have. If they have been removed over time, send a quick email and ask if they could be put back up on the site. These links are often removed by mistake or when a page is removed, however webmasters are often happy to place them live again.
You will also want to look at pages you used to have live on your site. I had a client that had 404’d a large number of pages, which all had a decent amount of quality links. They then 301 redirected these pages to the homepage, which helped the site jump up in rankings.
We are all a little bit vain. Make an article featuring a number of influencers in your industry and at the very least you should get a social share from them.
You have multiple angles you can attempt, whether to write the article and then inform them that they have been mentioned, or whether to let them know up-front that you want to feature them and then interview them on a number of questions or for a quote. Either way, it feels great to be highlighted as an influencer and they are much more likely to share the article if they are included.
I think the true value here comes from UGC (user generated content). I’m going to start by giving an example. Before I go to the gym, I take a look at the bodybuilding.com exercise guide. I will click on the part of the body I aim to work on during that session (the back for example) and then it will list hundreds of different exercises. Each one has a video guiding you how to perform the exercise, as well as a written guide on how to perform with perfect technique.
But the real value has come from the thousands of reviews and ratings by users, allowing me to sort by user ratings, giving me the 10/10 results first, helping me to sort through the bizarre to the hard proven exercises.
We don’t all have time to produce a guide this big, but it doesn’t have to be done overnight. It can be a long term strategy, or you can work out a slightly smaller target, but becoming the central resource for a specific topic will allow you to gain ridiculous amounts of links and user generated content.
I wrote this one as so many people are ridiculously writing off a great link building method. When Matt Cutts informed the world of his aim to crush guest posts, he was highlighting those spammy sites that accept articles on anything, without any real relevancy or value to the reader. If you were writing guest posts on these sites then you have a completely negative attitude and outlook towards link building strategies.
You should be trying to get a post on those hard to reach sites, the ones that only accept brilliant pieces. Whether that be magazines, government sites, local tourism boards or which ever site you want to target, it might be much more achievable than you think. Just don’t waste anyone’s time by sending a basic 500 word listy style article and expect them to be wowed. You need to bring something to the table they haven’t seen before, something that would make them proud to host on their site and to provide a link for free (remembering that many of these sites have advertorials that they can charge quite a lot of money, so it has to be a really good article to be featured for free).