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A couple of months back, when questioned on whether link building was “any good” during a Google+ live chat, Google’s John Mueller appeared to suggest that he would in fact, avoid it completely. Naturally, this lead to an influx of ‘John Mueller says…’ posts suggesting that link building was falling victim to that very irritating ‘[enter SEO term] is dead’ cliché – and not for the first time.
However, if we actually take a step back and put what John said into context, it’s clear to see that this wasn’t what he was suggesting at all and after admitting that “in general” he’d try to avoid it (‘it’ being link building), he continued to say that:
“We do use links as part of our algorithm but we use lots and lots of other factors as well. So only focusing on links is probably going to cause more problems for your website that actually helps.”
‘Only’ being the key term here. Of course, if we were to focus all our SEO efforts merely on link building, the impact on our site would be detrimental – that’s a given. But to completely discount links as a valuable contributing ranking factor in SEO and search engine rankings could be equally as damaging.
Since the introduction of the Penguin update back in 2012, any attempts to construct links through low quality or spammy tactics have been scuppered, with further updates and data refreshes happening periodically, so Google can ensure it doesn’t rank sites which are using black-hat SEO techniques. Days of overnight ranking successes are long since gone and developing a solid backlink profile has become more of a gradual effort; where patience, consistency and relevance are essential. The concept of ‘building’ links is something that sounds almost forceful and it should in fact, be a much more organic and natural process – the result of quality content and relevant engagement across social platforms, sites, blogs and more.
So in this post I will be sharing some of the methods that can be applied that can lead to the natural accumulation of links, whilst minifying the risk of a manual or algorithmic ranking penalty.
Strong case studies are a great way to showcase success and emphasise how you have overcome challenges whilst naturally earning exposure and brand strength. It’s becoming a common trend for potential consumers to thoroughly research prior to committing to a purchase. So using case studies will provide website content that can also showcase the capabilities of your business.
Note: this can be another opportunity to naturally include keywords and potentially enhance the pages’ relevance.
Linkbait refers to content that is designed to attract the attention of certain individuals or organisations, to encourage them to share content or link to your site. You could also do this by writing about someone influential and tweeting/sharing with them directly to encourage further sharing. If done effectively, this can contribute to significant amounts of organic traffic – since it is a completely natural and ethical way of developing a solid backlink profile.
Surveys and questionnaires are an extremely effective marketing tool when used well. They can be created and shared across numerous formats, which results in increased exposure. They can also be tailored so that the data you’re collecting can help you to make informed business decisions moving forward.
Similar to surveys and questionnaires, quizzes are hugely shareable and relatively easy to create. Depending on your need, they can be fun or informative and again, can reveal important information regarding your company/brand/website. For more, check out last month’s post on quizzes by @RuthlessOnFilm.
Newsjacking allows you to reach a wider audience by creating and sharing content relevant to current news, tying it back to your brand, products or services.
By keeping track of what is current and prominent within the news, both in your industry and on a broader scale, you can capitalise on popular stories and use them to amplify marketing and link building success, as the public’s interest in a specific topic grows. This involves producing content that is directly related to what’s hot in the press but with a unique angle or spin that will also make it relevant to the product, service or brand that you’re attempting to sell.
Natural engagement on strong forums for referral traffic and brand awareness is still effective, as long as any links appear natural through branded anchor text and are nofollowed. Becoming part of the community on reputable and relevant forums can be a great way of generating leads and enhancing your brands reputation/status within your industry.
Similarly, engaging in conversation in relevant Google+ communities, whilst using a branded profile can be an effective way to raise awareness of your product/services amongst the sort of demographic you are aiming to target.
As with many social networks, content that you share is likely to be nofollowed and thus will not have a direct impact on your link profile. However, the more you interact within relevant communities, the more exposure you are gaining, which can ultimately result in more traffic.
Using tools such as Buzzsumo, Followerwonk and Uprise.io you are able to analyse content and influencers within your sector that have been particularly successful (or unsuccessful) and then reach out to the social profiles of those found. By putting together a list, you can gradually begin outreaching to these profiles and lay the foundations for new links, citations and engagement.
This is more of an ongoing process to consider moving forward and can be an effective way of developing potential working relationships, as well as increasing your social following.
Publishing and sharing content on LinkedIn can be a great way of gaining more exposure, by reaching out to members of an extremely large, professional, social sphere. Not only this, but it allows you to approach the most relevant audience with your content, resulting in much higher engagement levels and sharing on every post.
This is another way of utilising Social Media. Through a thorough backlink analysis of your site, you can identify the external links that are connected with your site and, if appropriate, share them across your main social channels.
By sharing, or re-sharing pieces of content that have links or citations your site/business (providing they are still relevant), you can easily attract link opportunities that wouldn’t have necessarily been available otherwise, as well as strengthen the value of the signals for search engines and refresh their awareness of the piece.
Building up a strong portfolio on trusted image platforms such as, Pinterest and Instagram is an extremely easy and effective way of generating brand exposure. They say a picture speaks a thousand words and it’s true.
In today’s society and with the huge growth in mobile accessibility, consumers are often surfing the web and interacting in social media on the move. This means they often don’t have the time to be reading posts that are thousands of words long and so this is where the relevant use of imagery comes into play. As well as this, again they are easily sharable and can be integrated with various other formats.
Strong, interesting videos can gain a lot of traction, be shared across social platforms and are easily embedded into your site too. Similarly to the point made above, the proliferation of mobile devices in recent years emphasises people’s need to get their information quickly and whilst on the move. As the second largest search engine in the world, there is a high likelihood that the first time consumers come across your brand, will be via a YouTube video, should you have an active and regularly updated channel, which in turn, makes it an excellent method of increasing brand exposure and driving more traffic to your site.
I hope some of these ideas have convinced you that we are certainly not seeing the back of link building as an SEO strategy and it is merely a case of not panicking and attacking it head on. By focussing your attention on some of the tactics above, being consistent and maintaining relevancy to your brand with everything you do, the links will come a lot more naturally.
If you have any ideas that you think I may have missed or have found any of the examples above working particularly well, please feel free to comment below.
Samantha Noble is well known within in the search industry, she even won the UK Search Personality 2016 at the UK Search Awards in November. This year, she continues to make an impact on the industry by judging not only one, but three, prestigious industry awards.