Link building is a staple of most SEO campaigns. Some methods are scalable and automated, while others are similar to old-school public relations. One thing most can agree on is that methods always need to adapt to keep up with opportunity and algorithm changes.
Google has made it harder to build links without content. Many links without surrounding context have gotten devalued, leaving many SEOs to adopt the “content is king” mantra into their link building world.
Guest posts are flying into the hands of prospects, link bait is being created by the ton, and broken link building (where you create content to replace an expired link on a domain) is now popular. There’s even a certain population of SEOs still hanging on to article marketing as a tactic.
The mass amounts of poorly created and pushed content isn’t helping matters much; some of the industry is expecting Google to find and target thin guest post opportunities. When you come right down to it, all of these tactics can be based on traditional marketing when done right. When done poorly, it becomes a detriment.
Link building outreach, or prospecting, is also being damaged by weak, spammy attempts of reaching webmasters. It’s great to offer something of value to a webmaster, and it can even be scalable across many sites if you’re lucky. But sometimes, the only way to secure the link is one-on-one communication.
This communication can often be personal, where you need to build trust. Not unlike a salesman trying to “upsell” business supplies to your office, the communication often needs to be somewhat personal in order to build trust. While it’s common to be ignored or declined, successful outreach does happen when you remember you’re writing to add value to another website or company, and not (just) your own. Sometimes personal outreach is the way to go. Human to human, peer to peer.
1. Pitch. But don’t pitch hard. Being prepared is essential, but don’t go in full-force; be gentle. Spend time reading posts or tweets from the person you’re reaching out to, and use that information in your outreach. It’s a good talking point.
2. Find some common ground. Choose your link partners wisely. Is there a connection between you (or your client) and their business? If so, you should have little problem coming up with some sort of mutual connection to share online. We’re marketers – we can be creative. Expect that the webmaster has heard the boring pitches before.
3. Have something of value. What do you have that the other site really needs? They probably don’t need another mundane, repetitive post. They could use an alternative take or opinion, something that fires up their readers. In the end, if you’re just trying to secure a link for the sake of the link, and not offering the website something that will be fun or useful, you probably won’t get very far.
A tactic that became popular back in 2012 was broken link building. This method can provide some serious link opportunities. Think about a website that was, unknowingly in many cases, linking to content on the Web that was deleted or re-directed altogether.
There may be many sites out there that are trying to link to relevant content, and had been doing so successfully, but were completely unaware that the content may have been taken off of the Web. A prospect probably has no idea that the link was even there, let alone how to fix it. This is where you get the wrench out of your SEO toolbox and start repairing!
The steps are simple as can be: reach out to the webmaster and let them know that their link is broken, and provide them with a link to some content on your site that they could replace the broken link with.
This might seem pushy, but it’s really not. Put yourself in the shoes of a webmaster: managing big blogs and websites doesn’t allow for much time to focus on minor details like which outbound links are in working order. Sending a friendly, informative email regarding their link issue will probably be extremely welcome, and they’ll be happy for the help.
Nobody in their right mind likes to be wrong, especially when the credibility of their content is at stake. But the truth is, it’s really hard to keep all your content fresh, especially on large sites. That’s where an SEO can help.
“I liked to dig deep into sites with tools like Screaming Frog and some other Chrome and Firefox plugins,” says Bill Sebald, owner of Greenlane Search Marketing. ”When I’d find the broken links in the body of articles, I’d often find they were broken for a reason. These were sometimes outdated posts contextually linking to outdated external webpages. Instead of trying to fix the link for the webmaster, maybe I’d just be better off fixing their whole post, where I could suggest something on my site, or provide them with a guest post.”
Bill released the Outdated Content Finder last month, a tool which can help find outdated/stale information. More than a tool though, it’s a good tactic. “I think it’s another way to offer value, fix misinformation and network. In a lot of niches, things change and the Web can’t keep up.”
For example, let’s say you work in the app development field, and you’ve just created a great time management app for your iPhone. Because Google is not as quick to serve the freshest pages as maybe they should be, a search for “productivity apps” might yield a 2009 post detailing “the top 5 productivity apps in the app store” as your first result.
In terms of application development, 2009 is a thousand years away. If you’re a company with an expertise in application development, you’re probably well aware there’s a lot of old information out there. With a few properly-phrased keywords entered into Google (or, with less effort, the Outdated Content Finder), you’ll be well on your way to finding the opportunity for a great link on an already aged and trusted domain.
Another thing that you can always throw into the mix to help with your link building is competitive analysis. By viewing the backlinks of a competitor (using a tool such as SEMRush or Moz’s Open Site Explorer), you can determine their relevance and decide if you want to pursue them yourself. For instance, if you are a competitor of Nordstrom.com, you may want to take a look into their backlinks reports:
These will give you an idea as to who you might want to look into contacting, and provides an overall idea as to how to approach your link building strategy.
Link building is a prime concern for most SEOs (even though many might loathe it), and there are many ways to do it, and do it well. These methods aren’t as difficult or time-consuming as you might assume, and all it takes is giving it a try to see the results.
So, are you going to build links with content, perform outreach, or use competitive analysis to build your links? If you have in the past, how has it worked out for you?