Keywords, content and links. This is the currency of the Search Engine Optimization world and the rules for spending that currency seem to be in a constant state of flux.
At TopRank Marketing, we take a conservative approach to attracting links through purely organic means. Our focus is on creating content that’s actually worth being linked to with an emphasis on customer engagement and share optimization over pure SEO value.
The irony of this approach is that while we don’t “build links” directly for SEO, the attraction based approach we take typically results in links that are very high value and sustainable that many overt link building tactics.
In this session at Pubcon Florida, Ann Smarty @seosmarty from Internet Marketing Ninjas broke her multi-year silence on link building to share her current insights on the topic of link building through relationships.
To understand link building for SEO, you must first understand what NOT to do.
One important lesson is not to scale link building. Scale risks not being useful to consumers and Google responds to that with penalties.
Early on, Ann recognized the value of guest blogging and started a community. In 2012 Matt Cutts from Google shared that guest posts were ok as long as bloggers simply didn’t duplicate the same post over and over.
However, once SEOs recognized the value of link building, they exploited it. In 2014 Google penalized Ann’’s community and guest blogging has been deemed a risky tactic ever since.
Controlled link building of the past:
* Paid links
* Directory links
* Press releases
* Site networks
The effect of Google’s penalties on link building tactics like those listed above has been significant. 89% of sites that ranked 7 years ago are not ranking today. Marcus Tober, SearchMetrics
The rub: You cannot scale link building, but you can’t really get anywhere in SEO without it.
The adjusted approach suggested by Ann is “link earning” vs. “link building” with a focus on building relationships
1. Relationship powered link building. The most important rule is that you do not “ask” for links. Be authentic. Genuinely and openly do your best for each opportunity you come across.
- SEMRush does a great job at this – they have multiple active community managers, they create free and useful content that attracts links organically.
- “The best way to ensure that lucky things happen is to make sure a lot of things happen.”
- Spend at least 20% of your time genuinely helping people without asking for anything back.
- Make sure your brand identity is consistent across all your web networking channels.
- Create relationships of mutual value and the relationships will grow. This is true with people who are not yet influencers – they may be more willing to collaborate. But when they do become influencers, the relationship will be far more valuable.
2. Resource Building + Outreach (Trust bait)
- Brainstorm educational resources and types. What can you contribute to the community in terms of educational content?
- Research niche quotes (answerthepublic.com). Research niche questions. (serpstat.com and buzzsumo.com/research/questions
- Research broken links in your industry and related industries: Take a trusted resource in your industry and use Majestic Site Explorer to identify broken links. Find all pages linking to that deleted resource. Then reach out to with a fix using your resource.
- Research broken links in your industry and build a powerful connection. Work with industry experts (scientists, teachers, writes) to create a better resource than the original. Enhance your outreach by mentioning a notable industry expert who has been working with you on the new resource (that had been involved with the deleted resource).
Why use research-powered trust bait linking:
1. You create a better guide, it improves content quality
2. You can refer to a well known expert in your outreach
3. You’ll receive links from your experts / contributors
3. Viral Marketing and relationships.
Create a variety of formats of content, aka digital assets. Use viral content + social media promotion + smart email outreach. Get exposure on popular destination or community sites. For example, find moderators or sub-reddit influencers to seed your content on Reddit.
Content that gets featured on Reddit’s front page can attract many links. If you seed your content the right way, it can get noticed by many media properties which can mean a quantity of high value and organically sourced links.
Tools for seeding content assets:
- LaterForReddit allows you to discover relevant subreddits and analyze what time slots and days of week are best for discovering content. Also helps identify active Reddit users and moderators.
- Twiangulate can be used to discover influential media contacts (journalists or bloggers) in your niche / location. Search using the specific publication name to find employees.
- BuzzSumo to discover more influential media contacts in your niche. Search content to find interviews that have already been done and who did the interviews. Also who was the interviewee so you can interview them as well.
- Twitter Lists & TweetDeck to manage influential media and engage with them.
To EARN links:
- Engage in relationship building 24/7 with influencers, bloggers, and journalists.
- Create a LOT of good content, both educational and viral / entertaining + identify people who can help you get the word out.
- Invest in community management and brand ambassadors.