When an SEO says they’re link building. You should beware!
Links play a major role in Google’s algorithm. To explain how links impact your ranking, I regularly use a car as an analogy. The onsite optimization represents the aerodynamics, suspension tuning of the car. Links represent the engine. In a competitive search result, you’ll need the horsepower and the tuning to compete. Maybe you have a 4 cylinder and your competitors have 6 or 8 cylinders. You’ll need more horsepower to be competitive. The search for more horsepower is what drives companies to build links. Unfortunately, if you go about gaining those links by manipulation instead of by earning those links you open yourself up to problems.
So, what’s a business owner to do? The first question you should ask yourself is, “does my website deliver added value.” Ask yourself, honestly, if having your page appear in the search results for your target keyword improves that result or reduces it. If your site/pages provide unique value, and in truth the answer isn’t always yes, then you should consider it worthwhile to pursue ranking for that term.
Onsite optimization is a subject in itself, but it’s not to be ignored. Improperly tuning a website will ensure that regardless of your backlink profile, you won’t see the results you expect. If the site is optimized and it’s really time to start building more links then you’ll need to plan out a strategy and begin to execute on it.
Links Building Concept #1 – Blogging
Operating a blog is more than just writing a 300-400 word post once a week. Most companies start a blog because they heard it was a good idea. They haven’t developed a content strategy nor have they invested the time to evaluate how to see a ROI on the effort they are investing. We strongly encourage companies to evaluate any activity by its impacts to their bottom line, far too often blogs are an area of wasted effort.
One way to effectively invest time into blogging is to leverage it as a means for earning links. Links can be built to your blog by any/all of the below sources:
Your posts are re-published on external sites. This is something companies do to deliver more targeted traffic to their articles but it can also deliver some backlinks to your website. Caution: I wouldn’t recommend syndicating your website to everyone you can find who will take it. Select relevent sites who will provide value on their own merit. A syndicated like especially en masse is not a good idea. You should also use a rel=canonical tag to identify the original source/publisher
Weekly News Recaps
In some industries it’s common to find weekly recaps where interesting or popular topics are condensed into a blog post or article for easier digestion. Earning visibility in these should occur naturally over time but if your blog is new or your in an industry where it’s less common you might need to give your best articles a little nudge to gain visibility of people operating these types of sites. Develop a list of industry related news recaps or blog recaps and reach out to them via social media and/or email with a tip to encourage them to read your article. Perhaps they’ll like it enough to include it in their recap. This is obviously best done for only the best articles and with a degree of tact. If you abuse this, as with just about anything, people may become opt to ignore you, as with any self promotional activity.
Another interesting and fun way to earn links to your blog is to use it to start a dialog. Comments are often sought after and can even be a gauge or performance metric for the quality of blog posts. When you start with the end in mind, blog posts designed to build discussion are a good idea. Any heavily read article that inspires content from your visitors is likely to pick up the interest of another blogger or perhaps journalist who might carry that or expand on that content for their own site.
This can often result in a link but in some industries this is much less common than others. Sometimes, you need to sprinkle a little link building dust on a topic by making more social or by sharing it. If you’ve discussed a topic where others have previously shared their opinions or interest, reach out to them and let them know about your article. For example: a topic around a pain point or frustration you’ve experienced with a tool or standard in your industry is likely also experienced by your peers. Reach out to people who have shared that experience or to companies or individuals who might be responsible for that issue.
Links Building Concept #2 – Infographics
Guestographics is a term that’s been around since about 2013. Although I’ve yet to identify who originally coined the term it’s a proven successful method for earning links from sites in your industry. An infographic at it’s core, you start by identifying a topic that appeals to your industry. Perhaps it’s a question that people are asking on Quora or Yahoo answers. Picking a topic and doing research/collecting your own data is an important step to a successful infographic. Take the time to identify interesting data points or you may find all of your following efforts are hindered by a sub-par and uninteresting infographic.
People tend to be discouraged about dealing with infographics because of the design requirements associated with them. Luckily this is a common objection and Visual.ly has a simple quote form that can make finding a qualified and experienced designer for your project easy. Our you could look at sourcing the content creation yourself via a site like upwork.com or even Fiver. Beware, when you’re tasking yourself with recruiting your own designer you will find more complications with this strategy than if you perhaps pay a bit more to have someone handle this effort for you.
The core issue here is that good design is worth the effort/cost. Find a designer who you like and you think has a style that fits with what your industry is likely to be receptive to. What will your industry be receptive to? Great question, go check out the top performing infographics in your niche. Stop by http://visual.ly/view and search for your topic, sorting by views, to see the top performing infographics. Here’s an example of such a query for SEO
Publish the infographic on your domain first, it’s a good idea to do this in a blog but simply uploading it to your server where it can be linked to can be sufficient.
Once you’ve completed your design and published it on your site, you’ll want to share the infographic on sharing sites like:
But don’t count on this effort being your only source for links. In fact, these sharing sites will deliver limited value for you. The real value of an infographic is getting coverage from other sites and social sharing of your infographic across the industry.
Start by identifying, collecting and organizing outreach targets for your industry. Collect contact information including email and social profiles for all of your targets. You can find targets by:
- Reviewing backlinks to similar industry infographics
- Search google for blogs and news sites in your industry
- Use followerwonk to find twitter profiles with the most influence in your industry & even better, find their websites
- Search for sites publishing infographics that are currently trending on visual.ly
Use Buzzstream to help with organization and outreach efforts.
Use a link scraper to help simplify the collection of targets in Google search results like this one
Use scraper chrome plugin to make collecting links from sites like followerwonk easier.
Prioritize the best targets & begin your outreach. Don’t be a nuisance. Take the time to comment on few of their recent posts or engage with them on social media to start a relationship. Take the time to write them an email but don’t just start blasting a link to your infographic. In fact, don’t include the link in any of your first contact attempts. Only after you’ve engaged with them should you consider introducing them to your infographic.
Find those few responsive and engaging new friends to send your infographic out to. Make an effort to establish a relationship with these people. If you can build advocates for your business over time you’ll reap the rewards with greater visibility on your future efforts simply by reaching out to these individuals. It’s important to maintain a giving spirit with your advocates. Try to help them whenever you can, be a giver!
Links Building Concept #3 – Become contributing author
Guest blogging is dead. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. There are literally thousands of terrific publications on the web that could benefit from expertise you have. Finding a site that could use a regular contributor with expertise in your area is probably a lot easier than you think.
Find a good fit
The best place to start looking for sites needing contributions is to review the types of content you read yourself. Where do you stay up to date on industry news? What blogs do you read? What authors or websites do you recognize as industry leading? Stop by these sites and start looking around. Here’s some tips for things to look for to see if the site might be interested from hearing from you:
- Visit all types of contact pages. Press pages, about pages, editor information pages may all contain hints or even outright requests for interest in contributors.
- Look for community pages & site search
- Use google site:domain.com for content that mentions “contribute”, “guest authors”, “write for us” etc.
- Review the ‘Authors’ page or the individual author profile pages. There is often a link to a author profile from individual articles on the site. See if any authors are not regularly employed by the site
Site’s already accepting content from external sources are much more likely to be receptive to a pitch on contributing a piece. Once you’ve identified if a place you would like to contribute to, you’ll need to reach them. This is often easier said than done. The more difficult this is though, the more likely you’ll be to succeed if/when you do reach the right people.
Your goal here is to ultimately pitch one or several ideas and even in many cases you should be prepared to tout your qualifications and writing samples. Start a relationship. Offer a correction or praise on recent content. Provide an in-depth review or perspective of a recent topic to display your expertise. Show your value and make it clear that you can be a positive influence for the publication.
Start by using publicly available contact information on the site. Contact forms, emails, even direct mail to request assistance in locating the person who would be responsible for speaking to content contributors. Persistence and creative language can be the key here. Depending on how often these types of inquiries come in and the policies of the company you might find your initial efforts fail to result in any progress toward having a meaningful conversation. Persist, even over years, if you value the publication and feel the value is there should you succeed.
When feeling discouraged, note that the bigger the challenge and effort required, the more valuable the opportunity will be for you should you succeed. Also look for lesser known or up and coming prospects and add them to your efforts.