I just finished watching a video posted by SEOmoz CEO Rand Fishkin titled, “The Death of Link Building and the Rebirth of Link Earning“. The title alone is enough to make any SEO person do a double take. He discusses how “old” link building practices may be ineffective, better yet, Google might actually be penalizing you through an algorithm filter like Penguin.
Google is constantly evolving their algorithm in order to fight against webspam and award great/relevant content. Some of these updates include Penguin, Panda, Google+ personalization and authorship which have largely impacted SERPs. Another way their algorithm is evolving is through rewarding those who “earn” their links. By this, I mean, people who actually take the time to create good content that others want to link to and share. They don’t want you acquiring links through buying them, forcing them, pushing them, dropping them etc. Sure, the latter is easy and convenient to do, but it doesn’t really benefit the people who stumble upon the content.
Can you imagine if every time we searched for something in Google, a bunch of spam filled, irrelevant content popped up? As annoying as it may be for use SEO people that Google keeps changing their algorithm, their doing it so everyone who is searching the web can have a better user experience. At the end of the day, Google’s purpose is to provide relevant, quality results to users. We are in the information seeking generation, and Google knows that.
With that being said, there is always a flip-side to every coin. The downside of this revamped algorithm is that it’s forcing companies to build very content heavy websites, and for some, may be artificial or unnatural for their business function. Take for example eCommerce owners that are reselling branded items — coming up with great unique content may be a difficult.
I’m afraid link earning is going to be a hard sell to clients as it’s more of a long term investment. Most clients want fast and easy results and don’t want to hear about content creation and improved design. The reality is, in today’s SEO age, getting a backlink from a popular/relevant blog will be a lot more advantageous than 100 low quality backlinks — even if this takes more time to accomplish.
Below, you can watch Rand’s video discussing this concept of Link Earning in more detail.
I’ve gone ahead and outlined his presentation with the key takeaways of link earning and added some of my own recommendations.
Cross Promotions + Partnerships
Links happening back and forth in a very natural, non-manipulative way. No one’s dropping anchor text.
Social sharing that leads to links
Share links socially across your networks to magnify your message so people will see them and hopefully link back to you.
Earn links directly with content
Create the kind of content that you know someone wants to share, wants to link to, would embed, would write about or blog about or include in their press or their research or in something that says something nice about them.
Request inclusion on curated lists
Request to be included in lists such as the Inc. 500 fastest growing companies or Yelps list of the best restaurants in Boston.
Get a guest post on picky sites/blogs
Picky means people who care about what is being posted on their site and don’t just post anything. One link from a great blog can be worth 1,000 article directories.
Participating in active communities so members will notice you and link to you organically
Participate in communities like these that are active and authentic and have real participation and real membership, in such a way that members of those networks, of those communities will notice you and then link to you organically.
Mining competitive content and doing it better
Going to Open Site Explorer or Topsy and looking at, “What is the content that’s gotten the most links from my competitors or from people who are competitive in my field?” Looking at Topsy and seeing what’s the most socially shared content, what’s getting hot from this site, this blog, this research, this market leader, whoever it is, and then doing it better.
Building a social network of influencers
Building a social network that is actually made up of influencers, of people who can link to you, the linkerati, the people who own websites and who have a presence in Twitter, Google+, Facebook that can influence other people, that will get people paying attention to you. If you build this up, you’ll accomplish far more than what this would do for you today. A great way to locate influential people in your industry is to use the Hootsuite dashboard and filter your target audience by Klout score.
Write about controversy and/or Trends
Covering a topic that is trending online is a great way to piggy-back off what’s already top of mind and can attract inbound links and social sharing. Additionally, covering a controversial topic can attract inbound links. Some of your audience will disagree with you, but that fine. As long as the topic can be reasonably defended on both sides, you’re golden. A way to execute this is to monitor forums and browse through websites such as Digg and Reddit for the most popular articles.
Given the change in the SEO playing field with more weight given to earning links, I’d suggest revisiting your current link building strategy. I would outline what you are doing currently and think about how you can transition some of it towards link earning. Don’t take this as all of your old link building tactics are dead. If certain tactics are working, by all means continue with it. At the end of the day, all that really matters is you are seeing results.