Strategy Uses All Necessary ResourcesI define link building as the practice of placing links yourself that point to whatever Website you are promoting. Hence, writing “link bait” articles is not link building because all the links that the articles attract are placed by other people. If you’re going to talk about link building strategies for SEO then you need to leave out all passive linking acquisition ideas, because that is not “link building”.
Furthermore, you need to present strategic advice, not bland space-wasting generalizations. A common flaw among SEO bloggers’ “link strategy” articles is that they usually leave out the strategy. A strategic plan outlines a set of steps you take to accomplish a specific goal. In the example I provide above, the goal is to bring in 1,000,000+ monthly visitors without using links that pass anchor text or PageRank-like value in search indexes like Bing and Google’s.
You’re not likely to get those 1,000,000+ visitors by using Scrapebox or some similar tool to drop links in forum profiles and blog comments. Hence, link spamming software is not necessary or even helping for productive link building.
The first step in developing a productive link building strategy is to identify the kinds of links that you yourself can create in sufficient volume to have a reasonable chance to hit your target. Success is determined by only one metric: the number of visitors you drive toward a Website with your links.
High Visibility Link Building StrategiesYou know, there are Websites out there which already receive millions of visitors per month. One option in your strategic arsenal is to buy links from those Websites. Since these links are not allowed to play in the search indexes you are only buying links that use “rel=’nofollow’”. The factors you need to consider for this plan are:
- Location on the page
- Format/style of the link (image? text? widget?)
- Call to action (brand name? consumer-oriented? non-descript URL?)
- Inventory (sitewide link? homepage link? deep content link? multiple pages?)
- Cost (what are you willing/able to pay?)
- Disclosure (not required by US law but other jurisdictions may apply)
Of course, Google’s crackdown on paid links has all but ensured that many people have gone looking for different jobs. You may find it difficult to obtain good paid links. A few services now exist that sell/broker links on blogs and news sites through widgets the search engines either do not see or do not follow. There is room for growth in this market.
Low Visibility Link Building StrategiesGuest posting is fast becoming another Web spam practice. The best guest posts create value for the blogs that publish them. This is the secret ingredient for creating a successful guest posting strategy (that relies on non-search link traffic). The factors you need to consider for this plan are:
- The frequency/regularity of contribution to each partner site
- The depth and detail of information you share compared to that of the blog owner(s)
- How much your content will help the blog increase its natural traffic
- Being featured in any prominent sitewide or external promotions
If you cannot build up a reflective channel that sends you 10,000 visitors a month you have a problem. You’re not creating sufficient value.
Guest posting that eschews links-for-search is a powerful reflective marketing practice. But you have to create an audience expectation that you will fulfill on a regular, frequent basis: that they will find a new article from you they want to read.
Social Media Link Building StrategiesWe can’t all be Justin Bieber or Ashton Kutcher. We’re not all going to build up hundreds of thousands or millions of friends/followers/fans. You can surely inflate your social media audience by friending/following/circling random strangers or buying fans/followers but inflated social media audiences don’t click on links. You’re not trying to impress anyone, you’re working for clicks from real people.
Factors to consider for this plan are:
- How much you differentiate your social media outreach from everyone else’s (by providing distinctive, positive value)
- How much you support others involved in social media communities (versus simply publishing links for people to click on)
- How active you will be in a positive, supporting function
Social media link building that has no impact on search is the ultimate reflective marketing channel on the Internet. I say “ultimate” because it’s really hard to build large volumes of regular visitors this way.
Mobile App Link BuildingIf you can create an app that will so intrigue people they click through to your Website from their mobile devices (without you tricking or coercing them into doing so) you should be able do well with this reflective marketing tactic.
Think of the app as a micro Website. It is a publishing channel on a special branch of the Internet.
If you cannot create the app then create a mobile-friendly Website that is so useful and helpful in the mobile environment that people won’t mind navigating to it through their mobile browsers/RSS readers/etc.
Factors to consider for this plan are:
- Multiple platform appeal/usability (smart phones vs tablets)
- How much you can promote the app/mobile site to the right audience
- Amount of work required to publish/update the app/mobile site (static content probably won’t work in most cases)
- Designing a call to action (the “link”) that fits with the mobile presentation
SEO Link Building DeadNo, you can still engage in all sorts of search-influencing link building. The risks involved in this kind of linking have increased, as have the severity of the consequences of being identified as a manipulative linker. The consequences have been severe enough that many marketing agencies no longer want anything to do with “SEO link building”.
Some of the fakery that has recently become popular in this market includes:
- Varying the anchor text on your links
- Distributing infographics
- Harassing journalists who use Help A Reporter Out
- Giving away swag
Every SEO who helps clients attract links through a “white hat” strategy is essentially selling links because those links would not come into existence without the SEO’s intervention. However, if the links are only placed due to editorial decision-making that doesn’t take search indexes into consideration, then the search engines are more likely to tolerate the linking services.
Marketing agencies don’t have to run away in fear when SEOs come knocking with their link acquisition services. The marketers just need to lay down the law and say, “We’ll accept THESE kinds of links and not THOSE kinds.”
Substituting guest posts and infographics for paid links is just asking for trouble because, frankly, these are manipulative linking practices that have already drawn scrutiny and will continue to draw critical review. If you’re trying to be a “content marketer” with the intention of influencing search results you’re just link spamming by a different name.
Some people are comfortable with link spam. I see their attempts to register profiles in my forums and leave links on my blogs all the time. But if the only difference between search spam and productive linking is the use of “rel=’nofollow’” then a lot of people are ignoring a potentially great source of revenue: good, old-fashioned HTML links placed on Websites.
Link building isn’t dead. It’s just waking up and shaking off the bad dream that was imposed upon it by lazy search engine optimization snake oil salespeople who didn’t have the foresight to see that they had created a huge problem for their customers.
The next generation of link builders will include plenty of spammers — I have no doubt about that. Some people are just dedicated to leading miserable marketing lives. But there is a lot of newly opened-up opportunity for innovative, creative people to step into the void and produce some high-value link placement services.
Just keep the search engines out of the mix and don’t try to fool anyone about what you are doing.