Does anybody else hear R.E.M. (video autoplay) playing in their heads every time they open a post about link building? Link building as we knew it is changing drastically; and seriously folks, it’s getting hard to write about.
What’s the latest breaking news? Spammy guest posting for links is dead now! No surprise there — that’s been a long time coming. (My magic eight ball says infographic links have been on the chopping block for a while now, too… along with nearly everything else we used to call “link building.”)
I think we are watching SEO practices dissolve into the broader framework of content marketing and inbound marketing — and this is a good thing for everybody.
It’s good for Google because converting SEOs to content marketers means less spam to fight. It’s good for users since content marketing focuses on giving consumers what they want, not stuffing keywords to deliver annoying ads. And it’s good for marketers because content marketing done well delivers value in a lot more areas than just organic search; so, we can do more with less.
Here are a few strategies I’ve found that can bridge the link building/content marketing gap.
Consumers are spending more and more time online, and 93% of B2B marketers now say they use content marketing. That means that ebooks and other types of resources are becoming the norm. So, it’s even easier to earn links with ebooks then, right? Ha, right. Matt Cutt’s years-old if-you-build-it-they-will-link advice still isn’t de facto true, sadly.
Call it a deep resource, white paper, ebook, case study — whichever makes the most sense in your industry. If you have decided to write a deep resource and you’d like to earn some links from it, let’s get to work:
Offer examples, quotes, screenshots, etc. from others in your industry. Let them know now (as the resource is being written) that you’re including them and even ask if they’d like to comment or provide a new quote.
Promote the ebook launch like an event.
Spend time promoting the resource before and after its release.
Run a “Be Everywhere Day” (see below).
Got the budget for it? Then go for it. Hire a writer and designer to interview your founders and boil down their insights into a pristine, beautiful piece of ebook mastery.
No budget? Well, there are still some options. Consider partnering with 3-10 others for a collaborative resource where each person writes a chapter or two. Or, simply start small. Resources need not be long and expensive to grab attention.
To PDF or not PDF? Downloadable resources can be especially valuable when you want to gate content and collect email addresses, but you might be missing out on link building or other SEO benefits. But, gated PDFs can still earn links if the content deserves it.
Matt Cutts said guest blogging is dead, right? Well, not exactly. He said spammy, junk guest blogging that annoys the pants off webmasters, readers, GoogleBot, everybody — that’s dead. I think Roger hates that stuff, too.
What about hands-on, small scale, uniquely written, thought-leadership guest posts on relevant blogs intended to increase brand awareness? Game on. Authentic guest posts are here to stay because real people like them when done well.
The “be everywhere day” concept is simply good guest posting on steroids, concentrated. Instead of guest posting occasionally, consider working with your partners to publish a number of guest posts on leading sites on the same day. Everywhere your prospects may look that day, they’ll see your name.
A “be everywhere day” takes lots of planning and preparation — two months at minimum, I’d say. And each post still needs to be unique, of course. Ready for bonus points? Coordinate the “be everywhere day” with the release of your latest deep resource for even more buzz potential.
(I’d love to take credit for this original idea, but I can’t. I read about it in a link building roundup a while back, but for the life of me I can’t find the article now — sorry! If you know the source, post in the comments!)
Ego bait is such a useful link building tactic because it works, time and time again. Make somebody look real good and you get their attention. Better yet, flatter them like crazy and they have no choice but to give you a link.
Well, don’t overdo it.
Referencing and quoting others adds authenticity to any piece of content, but be sure to let these folks know that you are including them, even if you’re a small company quoting the Seth Godins of the world. They may not link to you the first time around (or ever), but they will be grateful — even if just a little bit — and it’s a meaningful way to get on their radar.
A friend in the PR world likes to remind me, again and again, that marketers do not know how to do PR. I’d agree — my “marketing” frame of reference wants to see influencers (bloggers, journalists, speakers, etc.) as one more group to “market” to. That’s dangerous ground because most influencers smell a marketing message 100 miles away and quickly ignore it.
So, how does a marketer build his or her network of influencers without marketing them to annoyance?
Never send a template. It’s okay to start with a template as your framework, but always customize it.
Know the influencer’s editorial calendar. Help them with what they need help with, not with what you want to cram down their throats.
After your first meaningful connection, ask if they’d like to keep in touch occasionally. Then keep your promise to only keep in touch occasionally.
Communicate with each person depending how they love to communicate — Twitter, email, perhaps the occasional phone call or Starbucks visit. Everybody’s different.
Categorize these efforts as long-term. It takes time to build your personal network, and even more time to grow their trust in you to the point where they are eager to hear and write about what you’re doing.
As link building becomes less and less about old school “link building” (quantity, scale, spam), I think SEOs have a chance to deliver even more value. We can make the case now more than ever that an SEO campaign must be about much more than smash-and-grab building links. That opens the door for us to, honestly, have more fun and deliver more value.