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Search Engine Optimisation is not the same game it was two years ago and evolves at rapid pace. Without the knowledge, skills and drive to keep informed and up-to-date, SEO’s can quickly become behind with the times.
Arguably one of the biggest changes we’ve seen in SEO is the way we build links. In fact, the very idea of “building links” is becoming out of date as Google crashes down on unnatural link profiles. Think about it; if you’ve built a link, it is unlikely to be a “natural” backlink. However, there are ways we can actively improve link profiles with quality backlinks and still fall within Google guidelines by using creative link building techniques.
In this post I will discuss creative ways to build high quality, natural backlinks as part of a sustainable link building strategy.
With Google Trends and other similar tools, you can easily monitor each time you brand name is mentioned across the web. You can also set up email or browser notifications to find out whenever your chosen keyword (in this instance, your brand) is mentioned and when you find a new mention, go and check it out.
If the site is discussing your brand and has a good PageRank, check whether they link to you somewhere on the page. More often than not you will find that they already are which is great and you can try and build a strong relationship with them in the future for further links. You can also review the anchor text and see if it could be improved. If they’re not linking to you, contact the site owners and politely request that they make your brand name an anchor to your site or suggest they link to a piece of your content that further builds on their article.
Fixing broken links on your site is an essential part of site maintenance but can also be a great technique for regaining lost backlinks.
Start by analysing your backlink profile using a link analysis tool such as Majestic SEO, Screaming Frog or Open Site Explorer. Using tools like these and with a bit of manual exporting, filtering and analysis you can find links to broken pages on your site. You’re looking for pages with a 404 or similar error. Be sure to check any broken links manually though: no tool is 100% accurate 100% of the time.
When you have a definitive list of backlinks which point to old broken pages, you have a number of options to resolve. You may just need to fix the broken page if it isn’t meant to be broken, or 301 the broken page to a relevant live page, however ensure that the link will still be relevant if doing so. Alternatively if the links come from other website, you can contact the sites linking back to you and request that they change their link to the relevant live page. Whichever way you resolve the issue, you will end up with an old link revitalised and current once more.
This technique can take time and doesn’t usually provide a wealth of new link juice, but is a great way of keeping your link profile current and clean, as well as identifying issues with your pages that you may not have otherwise been aware of.
This variation on “broken link building” involves looking for broken links to your competitors’ sites or other sites in your industry. In the same way as internal broken link building, you can look for these opportunities by running your chosen relevant sites through link analysis tools and looking for broken links. You can also use the Broken Link Checker plugin for Chrome and carry out some basic checks on-page.
Once you have identified a potential opportunity, contact the site owner to let them know they have a broken link. Sites generally want to know if they have broken links as it is in their interest to resolve them, which means you can get their attention and are offering them something beneficial to them. This is also a good chance to suggest a page on your website that might be relevant to their website and worth a link.
You won’t always get a link through this technique, sometimes the site owners will just fix the link and be done with you, but if you can get a link out of it you will likely also build a relationship with the site owner, meaning more potential opportunities in the future.
One great way to get a natural backlink is to find someone to interview you or provide a quote for a blog post or news article on a relevant industry site. This might sound difficult to achieve, but in reality you are an expert in what you do (or should be) and your opinion is valuable to the right person.
To begin this process, look for high quality sites which discuss topics relevant to your business. See what sort of content they have written before, looking at style, quality and target audience.
When you identify a potential interview opportunity, send the site a polite email or message and pitch the idea. If you get a positive response, find out what sort of questions they want to ask and you can begin compiling some responses.
When you provide your answers or quote for the interviewer, make sure you remain neutral and unbiased. Avoid talking about your company or brand (unless it’s directly relevant to the post) and concentrate on providing genuinely interesting or useful insight. No-one wants to read your opinion on how wonderful your company is, but they may be interested in what you have to say on a relevant topic.
Competitions are a proven technique for increasing social engagement and followers, but they can also be good for generating quality links. With the right promotion and a great incentive to enter, competitions are often linked from other sites across the web. Gaz Copeland (@stokedseo) put together a great post on the topic here.
Sometimes, great content on the web that is still read and ranks well is actually several years old and may even be mildly out of date in terms of content. Equally, sometimes great content becomes so out of date that it is no longer read or listed in rankings and no-one rewrites it.
If you can find content like this that is relevant to your industry it provides you with a fantastic opportunity to recreate the content, pitch your idea to the original site and supply them with a link to your site.
The best way to find this sort of content is to search Google for terms related to your business and add words like “definitive guide”, “complete guide” or “whitepaper”. Browse through the results and look for old or out-of-date content. Then think about how you could improve it.
When you’ve got a target site and idea, contact the site owner with your proposition. If the original page has a lot of backlinks and/or good search engine ranking, you could really win big with a high-quality link.
Spending the time and/or money into creating a quality, shareable resource can be a worthwhile investment. However, by adding embed code at the bottom you can transform a quality resource from interesting and potentially shareable to solid gold* link bait.
The perfect example of a site doing this well is YouTube. With embed codes on every single video and people all over the world embedding videos on their own sites daily, their link profile will never stop growing.
There are many different types of resource which can be embedded, including:
Remember to include a call-to-action with your embed code as well as social share buttons to encourage engagement. For more information, see this great guide to creating viral linkbait and infographics from Distilled.
* Please note: adding embed code does not generate solid gold. You need some kind of mine for that I hear.
This technique in particular is nothing new, but the benefits of guest blogging are often significantly underestimated. In addition, there is a hidden benefit to guest blogging; relationships. The process of placing guest blog posts naturally allows you to build personal relationships with site owners and if your first blog post is successful there will likely be opportunity for you to do so again in the future.
The process of guest blogging is really quite a simple one, only it takes a little time and manual effort to be successful. However the rewards are well worth it, as a well-placed blog post not only gives your site a quality backlink but also potential referral traffic and brand awareness. With a bit of reach, strong outreach and quality content, a guest blog post can pour in traffic.
Got any more creative or innovative link building techniques that work in a post-penguin world? Share them in the comments below! Later this year I intend to write another post on new sustainable link building techniques and would happily cite you and your comments below if you have useful and unique ideas.
UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2013: My subsequent post “More Creative Link Building Techniques for a Natural Backlink Profile” is now live. Enjoy!