Link building is an important element to “SEO”, yet it is still one of the most time consuming and challenging skills to master and one where ranking results are hard to directly attribute to the backlinks you have created. There was a brief time where link building was a technical skill that heavily relied on spun article software, spammy links and automated directory listings.
What is Link Building?
Today link building is a culmination of different tasks and skills which work together rather than as separate efforts. Link building is a process which has slowed right down and focused more on bettering the user experience rather than creating a large collection of spammy links. It is a time consuming, money and labour intensive skill as search engines now value quality for the user over quantity for the purpose of ranking influence.
Creating content, understanding user psychology, driving sales and traditional marketing are all skills which are now needed to fully develop a holistic and personalised link building strategy around your industry and target market.
#1 Turning Customers into Link Resources
Any business owner knows that developing a long prosperous business relationship with your customers is key for repeat business and growth. As a matter of fact, maintaining existing customer relations has lower marketing cost per acquisition by as much as 75% compared to the cost of obtaining new customers. The benefit of developing a relationship with your customers can be reflected online and through social media. Any content you create then has a better chance of being shared by existing customers or linked to from their own website, especially if it resonates with them or provides someone they know some form of value. Likewise, you should also be sharing your customers’ linked posts as a means of developing that social relationship, especially if you want to use them as part of your influencer link building strategy because they have a much larger following you want to tap into.
Customers like to see themselves being mentioned in some form of positive content and so are even more inclined to share your content it if is free PR for their business. As an example, some web design agencies in Perth will create a case study on the customer’s website they have just built and link to it from their Facebook or Twitter account and make a point of @mentioning them for their customers to see the post. Those customers that want that free PR may then potentially share it or retweet it to show their follower base.
Websites such as Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and Pinterest are all viewed by Google just as any other domain which you can link from. If users are finding value after landing on your website from the backlink then they are more inclined to stay on your site longer and view other pages. Subsequently the user signals associated to user interaction, pages viewed and time on site goes up which in turn has an impact on your content’s relevance against your targeted keywords. Remember though, user signals are just one ranking factor to consider but probably one of the most important.
#2 Company Blogging & Vlogging
No longer is it a computer based software programme sharing your content across multiple pop up domains. Instead you are relying upon your reader base to share your reputable content as well as actively promote your links. One backlink from a website referencing your content as a source of where they got their information is a lot nicer and cleaner than bombarding a link to your blog across multiple blog directories.
Nowadays a decent blog strategy is probably one of the nicest ways in which to link build as the content you are creating and the links that are being generated from it are first and foremost aimed at your target users. Blogging is one of the few content and link building strategies that is actually acknowledged by Google. Blog articles provide the ability to create and promote content around your particular topics on a regular basis. This content then has the ability to be amplified through paid advertising, social media or through relationship/influencer marketing. Some users that read and like the blog may then share it on their own website or social media as they know others will benefit from it. Those that create a backlink to your content know that the content’s potentially high user signals or viral effect may also have a positive impact for their own websites, especially if any (relevant) referral traffic they send through that link then converts on your website. Therefore, if your content is really good you may find more webmasters linking to it than you anticipated, and that your backlinking effort has been done for you.
Point to note: keep an eye out on who is sharing links to your content. If they look or feel spammy or you are getting a lot of bad referral traffic then consider disavowing those links in Webmaster Tools. Certainly in the web design world, it’s not unheard of for moral-less agencies to outsource cheap and black hat SEO tasks to India with the purpose of negative link building their competitor’s domain.
Aside from the technical SEO benefits as described, blogging can also serve a traditional marketing purpose where you are able to build your brand and your reputation by offering up words, images or video that engage with your potential customer base. You are essentially building up engagement through trust. Through a blog you should look to develop a relationship with new and existing customers where they look to you as an authority in your industry and subsequently trust in the content you are publishing.
#3 Showing Off Some Linkbait Content
Creating content in any form that stimulates viral sharing and natural back linking by the viewer/reader from their own external sources is known in the digital marketing world (not the “SEO world”, unless you have tunnel vision) as link baiting. The idea being that the content is in some way useful, informative or humorous to users, who will then will want to share it to show others or tag along with creating that viral effect. Link baiting is not creating content and asking someone to share it. However, success from creating a link worthy piece of content does require a certain level of marketing effort that follows after you have created it.
Branded viral videos are a great example of linkbait content. Would these types of videos be as popular if they had been placed on a blog? The answer is no. Therefore, the author needs to consider marketing the content as a pivotal part in getting it discovered initially. Popular third party platforms are the best answer for doing this and can help you get the message out and help boost your content’s exposure initially. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc are just a handful of examples. As you build up an audience, marketing future linkbait content gets much easier.
Some examples of link bait content:
#4 Guest Posting
Some still interpret the term guest posting in 2019 as an old activity associated with repetitive spammy links to incoherent content. If this is still your interpretation of guest posting, then you need to rethink your digital marketing glossary and start thinking of the bigger marketing picture guest posting can have and not just as part of your SEO benefit. We know Google really hates that old form of black hat SEO. However, calling that particular activity “guest posting” in 2020 is a wrongful interpretation of what guest posting actually is in the modern day digital marketing industry.
Numerous business, academic societies and even online shopping sites rely on guest posting as a way of providing users with independent, useful and authoritative information relevant to their brand’s cause or product they are trying to market. Guest blogs or vlog posts have allowed brands to tap into niche audiences of a particular website and thereby influence that audience of their product or service through recommendations, citations or reviews. The success of the brand’s content that is posted can sometimes be amplified on certain blogs by the natural affiliation/dedication some subscribers have to the blog that guest content is featured on. In some cases, a guest blog post can be interpreted as that blog personally endorsing the brand that is guest posting. Overall this activity can be very powerful and successful for the brand as this type of outreach to a particular audience can’t usually be achieved through the brand’s normal marketing channels.
The SEO ranking factor side to this type of strategy is of course where the brand posts a link within the content they are a guest on to their own website. The purpose being to make use of that blog’s high domain authority and trust factor as well as the high probability of click throughs which in turn translates to on page user signals Google is able to track at both ends of that link. However, be warned, there is a fine line between doing this for sales and doing this for SEO. If Google sees any link within a post as an unnatural link in order to influence ranking results, or it discovers money or goods have exchanged hands to allow that blog post and/or link to happen, then the punishments can be severe for both the blogger and the sponsoring brand.
In conclusion, whichever of the above 4 positive link building strategies you decide on, there is the potential long term for your link building to grow exponentially and take care of itself if you provide valuable content to your own audience, and to related audiences via your own channels (i.e. your blog and social media) and through guest posting. More often than not though your link building and combined content strategy will need a push to start off with. Marketing your content for your audience and subsequent backlinks that come from exponential exposure is pivotal in getting it noticed in the first place. Your content might not get the mass viral attention you see on your own Facebook feed or on YouTube, but as a business the shares and links you hope to achieve ought to be aimed at achieving tangible outcomes, be it subscribers, enquiries or sales. Only the really large brands can afford the budget on counting views as a goal for the purpose of brand marketing.
Lastly, always remember to value your audience’s appetite for quality content and the potential their ‘shares’ to friends can have. Put in extra effort to promote ‘linkbait’ content like videos, competitions and infographics and take full advantage of the third party platforms that can help give it a push.