Think Link Building is Dead? Not So Fast!

Link building has been a part of digital marketing and SEO since the dawn of the search engine. It’s such a basic component of online marketing that it’s easy to take it for granted. But no more!

Link building is still important for SEO.

Just make sure you’re using modern link-building strategies, as tactics from the past don’t work as well as they used to (and some might do more harm than good).

Link Build Isn’t Dead, But It’s Changing

Google’s algorithm is constantly changing. These changes haven’t killed the value of links, but they help prevent spammers of black hat SEOs from gaming the system.

The days of using link farms and buying up links from every site under the sun won’t get the job done anymore. In some instances, you can actually get penalized by Google for this.

For example, reciprocal link building used to work pretty well (even after Google started penalizing link farms). But this isn’t something you should be focusing on too much anymore.

Sometimes reciprocal links can happen naturally.

Google knows that people often link to each other for practical purposes, like experts in a particular field who value each other’s content and contributions. Top experts don’t always cite another expert without a linkback, so there is something to be said for some reciprocal links having real value in this scenario.

Even if you’re getting these naturally, you still need a variety of links. So it could be a red flag if all your links are one-way and have the same anchor text.

Today, you need to build natural-looking link profile that evolves over time, uses dozens of different anchor text links, and points to all of the pages on your site (not just your home page).

There is No Single “Magic” Trick or SEO Hack That Will Improve Your Link Building Strategy

One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that you can’t take shortcuts with link building. Putting all of your eggs in one basket might deliver you some short term results. But it’s a really a futile effort if you’re planning to ride that same strategy out over time.

I found a really interesting study from Adam Connell that helps highlight the significance of using different methods to build links in the modern era. Adam found that no single method dominated the most effective way to build links, based on a survey of SEO experts. Take a look at the graph to see for yourself:

The most popular response was “other” and no single tactic eclipsed 13% of the responses.

Adam also found that link building as a whole was cited the third most important ranking factor by SEO experts, trailing only behind content and keywords.

It’s also worth noting that 38.4% of businesses are spending between $1,000 and $5,000 on their link building strategies each month. An additional 20.3% of companies say they’re spending $5,000 to $10,000 monthly on link building.

If link building were truly dead, businesses wouldn’t still be spending thousands of dollars to improve their backlink profile.

Content-Based Link Building Will Always Be Worth It

If I had to pick just one link-building strategy to use forever and always, it would be high-quality content generation.

Worst case scenario is that the content doesn’t actually lead to backlinks. But you’ll still have amazing content on your website that generates organic traffic. Best case scenario, you end up with a link-building machine that continues to grow exponentially.

Modern link building focuses on building cool content that journalists, bloggers and many people will find just too informative or cool to ignore.

Quality content can attract people who will then share your content of their own free will. You should be building up a cache of content that informs, inspires them, or makes them laugh. Basically, it’s anything really cool, informative, or sometimes just free – like a free trial software download that generates a ton of people clicking on your site. Widgets, calculators and infographics are also examples of content that can generate links.

My cousin Lucas Brunelle has a site about crazy bike videos. Over six people have viewed his videos on YouTube and roughly 15,000 people link to his site. He never did SEM until he met me and yet these numbers blew me away. He had great ranks in the search engines simply because people linked to him based on how unusual he was. A search marketer’s job is to replicate that natural or organic process in a healthy way that actually adds value.

We’ve built video games, infographics, cool articles and more in order to get links for our clients, and it has paid off much better than emailing a million people to request links or taking huge risks buying links.

While not all campaigns get the links you want, if you build good content, even if you fail, your users still benefit.

How to Create Great Linkable Content and Promote Your Linkable Assets

Modern-day link building requires a one-two punch of content creation and promotion. You can’t have one without the other, and here’s an easy way to approach this no matter what type of website you’re running:

Step 1 – Prioritize Links From Authority Websites

Links from authority sites require high-quality content assets. Sites that contain a lot of great content, such as .edus and .govs, are ideal. The more backlinks you earn, the more direct traffic you’ll get and the greater your chances your site will rank highly.

Just make sure you’re focusing on authority websites in your niche. 

Getting featured in Golf Digest doesn’t hold as much weight if your business sells tanning beds online.

Step 2 – Brainstorm Linkable Content Ideas

If the goal is to get links from authority sites (which it should be), how do you gain backlinks from them? Simple. Create content that people really want.

That means you should start with a solid plan and research your keywords.

Don’t get boxed into a certain type of content. In my experience, producing as much as possible delivers the best results. Here are some examples of great linkable content that you can use while you’re brainstorming:

  • Lists, e.g., Top 10, Top 20, Top 100
  • How-to Guides
  • Humor
  • Controversy
  • Reviews and Comparisons
  • Interviews (e.g., celebrities, experts, bigwigs, etc.)
  • Free Tools and Software
  • Awards
  • Blogs with Attractive Content
  • Niche News
  • Breaking News
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Webcasts
  • Podcasts
  • Polls and Surveys
  • Video Games
  • Widgets
  • Info-Graphics
  • Webcams

All of these can be great for building links.

Step 3 – Create the Content

Sit down and create a creative brief for the piece of content. Find a writer who has experience in the topic area.

Select pictures that support the content, and create a page that’s just for that piece of link content.

When you’re creating content, try not to solely think of it as link bait. In other words, don’t create content solely as an attempt to attract eyeballs and links.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind:

  • Create a title that really stands out, as it will be much more likely to get linked to that way.
  • Add bulleted lists, images, video, and lots of variety. Posts that are not just plain text tend to do better and posts that have a wide variety of cool content with multimedia get more links.
  • Don’t try and hit a home run every time or you will get nothing done. Go hit a bunch of singles, do it regularly and promote all of your great content because you never know what will go viral.
  • Build relationships. Small business link building is really hard, because small websites often don’t have a ton of great content or newsworthy activity. But if you can build an amazing blog and a repository of regularly updated content, you can start to engage in relationship building (that ultimately leads to more links).

At the end of the day, just make sure your content helps people, is truly funny, educational, or will be deemed useful by a large number of people. Ultimately you should aim to provide value that is answering questions or needs that your customers lose sleep over.

Step 4 – Make Your Content Easy to Share

Make sure to provide social media widgets so it’s easy for people to share with a single click.

You should also be sharing all of your linkable content on your own social platforms, and encourage your team to do the same.

If it’s an infographic or video, create an embed code so other people can share and use your content within their own sites when they see that great piece of content. You can also add a link to the content on your company’s resources page, or within a topic area to make it easy to find.

You can also rely on cold outreach to get your content in front of as many people as possible. Blast it out to your email subscribers and share it with other people in your community.

It’s also possible to extend great content by making it work within other media.

For example, you could a series of quotes and create a slideshare presentation, or distill an article down to a picture and add notes to the image for Facebook. Target and share the content with specific influencers, building personal, relevant messages to each influencer, making sure the content is relevant to their audience and interests.

Step 5 – Track Your Results

This is one of the most overlooked parts of link building that cause people to bash their heads into a wall. Tracking helps validate what’s working and what’s not.

Use Google Analytics to track the results of the content piece. Determine if you received additional traffic from the piece or, more importantly, conversions as a result of the interaction with the content. Track your rankings over time for relevant terms and determine if your search traffic is increasing or declining.

Final Thoughts

Internet marketing is not for isolationists. We need other people in order to succeed, and link building is the perfect example of this.

Link building requires us to reach out to our colleagues for substantial links and to be willing to provide links for good content.

Most importantly, link building is not dead. So don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise.

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