:: Christy Belden, LEAP ::
Poor link building. Once the bastion of search engine optimization, it continues to come under attack by Google - and for good reason. Over the years, many SEO practitioners have used misleading, black hat techniques to acquire links and move up in rank. It wasn't uncommon that white hat SEO practitioners would have to compete at much higher levels to combat bad link building practices. Not so any more with the updates over the past two years.
How can companies adjust with the "new" set of link building rules? Here are 10 ways you can begin to link build differently.
Link building used to be quantity over quality. With quantity, websites achieved a lot of links from very niche sites. These sites can only send traffic on occasion and very little traffic at that. The better method now is to go after broader websites, which have more traffic. Casting a wider net will help you land more traffic and drive search ranking.
The creation of quality, relevant content is the cornerstone of any link building program. Content can be created both on your website or as a separate piece that lives off your website. The more people like the content, the more they will read it and share it - musts to drive links and traffic. Content does not have to be text, although in some cases text is preferred. Content can be photographs, video, infographics, ebooks - the list goes on.
With the information that passes on the Internet, it is hard to decipher what is the best information. Companies need to lead in the 'expert' arena. By providing a consistent voice on topics appropriate to your company - via content, social media, PR - it will help distinguish the content you produce and help the chances of your content being shared.
If a company is producing the quality, relevant content mentioned above, it is highly valuable. Thus, companies need to make sure, on their website, it is easily sharable. Placing social media, social news, RSS and email sign-ups for your content makes it very easy for those reading the content to share it. It is extremely easy to implement and should not be overlooked for your website.
"If you build it, they will come" does not apply to link building or a website. A brand or company must tell as many people as they can about their website. One of the ways to do that is through distribution of content. It is not enough to create it and allow others to share it; companies must evangelize their content to their advocates and new customers. Content can be shared via email, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine), social news sites (Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon), industry sites, blogs, aggregation sites and many more. Types of content, where it is distributed and frequency should be tested to determine which means of content distribution work best.
Why do the hard work when others will do it for you? Promoting a product or service to distributors, such as bloggers, will help increase the visibility of a company's offerings. And, while promoting the product or service, companies an request bloggers link to their website for link building.
Google+ can provide a very necessary means to build links. Using Google+ to establish authority on a website or content via the "rel=author" tag helps content to appear higher in search results. Distributing content via Google+ is a great way to indicate a company is associated with a particular topic and help drive traffic back to the site. Using all of the tools Google and Google+ have to offer - Google Places, ratings and reviews, and so forth - can help improve the ability for users to link out to a company's website. It is not a coincidence Google search results favor Google+ pages and attributes.
PR can go a long way in driving back links to a company website, in particular high page rank websites. The ability of PR specialist in generating news and connecting with journalist makes them extremely valuable asset to a company's link building campaign. Traditional journalist writing articles on the Web have a large established audience. A link within an article written by a journalist is truly the holy grail of link building.
Online press releases are still a way to drive back links. However, the press release must be newsworthy. This does not mean only a company's biggest announcements will work online. However, general information is not press worthy. Topical information surrounding a company can best be used in articles, ebooks, whitepapers and the like. Thriving companies have news occurring all the time. They should harness the power of news to build links and traffic.
Media placements are a great way to drive links to a website. Media, via banner ads, have been used to drive traffic and links to a website. Now, paid search and social media advertising could be used to create links to a website. Also, media does not have to promote a website. It can promote other pieces of content and help drive links in that manner. For example, paid search can be used to promote a company video on YouTube or an ebook for download. This method may be short lived.
However, the goal to build awareness and help jumpstart some of the above activities is not.
If a company has video assets, they should make use of YouTube for link building. An optimized YouTube channel and video description should contain links back the company's website. YouTube is the second largest search engine behind Google. Therefore, placing links on videos within the space absolutely help in driving links. There are other video placement sites that should be considered as well. Since YouTube has a large potential to drive links, it is imperative to effectively optimize the assets within the channel.
Link building is not dead. We just need to switch the focus from building links to our websites to driving traffic to our websites. This switch in an activity will change a companies thinking and actions but ultimately result in the same thing - more links, more traffic and the movement of strategic keywords up in the SERPs.
Christy Belden has worked in marketing for over 12 years, specifically in digital marketing for the last 7 years. Christy's current position as Vice-President of Media + Marketing at LEAP allows her to work with clients on all of their digital marketing needs: SEO, PPC, Social Media, Digital Media, Ecommerce/e-Business Marketing, Email Marketing and Mobile Marketing. She has also run campaigns in traditional media channels: Radio, Print, Television, Out-of-Home and Movie Theater advertising. Christy is an adjunct professor at Spalding University where she teaches courses on digital marketing.
Christy Belden speaks on digital marketing. She has also been published in several trade publications on the subject. She is a contributor to the LEAP Agency blog and Logic & Magic publication.