This isn’t another one of those posts that rounds up every link building tactic that’s ever crossed an SEO’s mind. Instead it’s a jumping off point towards understanding where the link building landscape currently stands, and what core strategies you should be thinking about as you proceed on campaigns.
Don’t confuse tactics with strategy.
The ingredients are not the same thing as your slice of the pie.
At the end of the day there are only three core strategies that actually get businesses links. They are what I’ll call SEO link building, content marketing focused link building, and PR based link building. These should inform our strategic focus as we evaluate how to prioritize internal resources. Under those banners, I’ll highlight the 50 core tactics almost everyone uses. I’ve tried to eliminate bloat in this list as much as possible, since there are hundreds of tutorials that go into more detail, but kept as many tactics as possible so you can just go down the list.
Whether we’re dealing with Google, Bing, or Facebook, we’re all playing in someone else’s casino and vying for limited audience attention. Understanding how the “house” actually works will help you make better tactical decisions since links are still so important.
Link building no longer exists in a vacuum. It used to be a singular discipline within SEO, but there are only a few boxes & sneaky tactics that get the job done nowadays.
The 3 Realities of Link Building in 2016:
- Either we’re naturally “earning” or being given links, or generating the links ourselves.
- We’re either generating links through PR strategies, content marketing strategies, and/or SEO focused strategies.
- A good link building strategy ultimately contributes to a business becoming notable or simulates the sense of mattering through those SEO, PR, and/or content marketing strategies.
At the end of the day link-building is the process of simulating & expediting what are supposed to be naturally earned links in Google.
- Link building strategies for 2016
- The virtuous cycle of link building
- PR Link Building: Being Notable
- It’s Not About Search Engines It’s About People
- The Basics of SEO still matter
- SEO Link Building Strategies – or “Getting Links”
- Content Marketing for Link Building
- PR for Link Building – The Art of Influence
- The Basics of Link Building
- What Makes A Good Link
The Virtuous Cycle of Link Building
(Or how you can build links while you sleep.)
Like the marketing fly-wheel, link building should ultimately feed into itself. A business should reach a place where its content is naturally earning links, and has the reputation to get mentioned freely for being awesome.
Source: Moz’s Flywheel
Google has made a discernible move away from technical ranking factors. We live in a two algorithm world wherein “the algorithm” is now building algorithms. While rankings are the smallest part of how google’s algorithm works links are still the single largest component.
Link Building Should Create a Virtuous Circle:
At a basic level the image below describes what we want. Outside of buying links and Spam links (which I wouldn’t recommend) this is generally what the link building link playing field looks like.
It’s Not About Search Engines, It’s About People
Content marketing gets the best results by folding together techniques that are traditionally part of PR and SEO.
Any good content marketing technique is going to lead to PR and thought leadership as well as SEO signals that we would get either way. Most companies you’ve heard of have link building strategies like this including Amazon, REI, and Hubspot.
The Basics of SEO Still Matter
Even though link building is more of an art associated with content marketing than traditional SEO, SEO still matters. Unless you’re planning on being so incredible that you truly captivate your audience you’re going to need traffic from search engines and media outlets.
However, if you want to go full Apple and dedicate almost everything to product dev and the occasional traditional marketing campaign that’s awesome. (The world needs more people jumping shark and winning!)
As someone who cut their teeth doing link-building and still makes a ton of money for clients doing so, SEO basics matter. They can hold back even the most effective link building techniques!
Imagine an iceberg. What looks like a small piece of ice from above the water actually has a large underside holding it up. Good SEO is the part of iceberg under the water that you don’t see, but that holds up the rest of your link building strategy.
Remember that an irrelevant site in Google’s eyes it still worthless, and we build relevancy through the practice of link-building.
Link Building in 2016 Part 1: SEO link building Tactics – Or “Getting Links”
For a large part of the history of search engines, it was possible to largely influence rankings from within the box of SEO. Tactics like keyword stuffing, private link networks, low quality guest posting, or even on-page optimization were enough to get the job done.
These tactics may still work for seasoned experts with the cash flow for quality-ish content at scale, but for the rest of us there needs to be a “cheap” way to get backlinks without going full in on content or the time it would require to become a thought leader.
Remember that all of the below SEO link tactics pretty much work across the board (with some exceptions) but are all things worth jumping down the list and looking into.
The fact is that spying on the competition by seeing where they are getting their links, performing, and how, is always going to be the best initial source of link opportunities. (check out link prospecting tools here for options) Unfortunately in a lot of instances you’ll find that the competition is doing content, are thought leaders, or have solidified some kind of advantage in either cash or resources that you can’t copy. For example I’ve seen niches dominated by one company that has a few big mentions in the likes of the New York Times and Kitchn and otherwise has a few paid placements on extremely expensive directories. The niche is small and lucrative, but there’s no easy way for a company with limited resources to make up that lead.
I mean look at what you’re up against. Read more on how the cards are stacked against us here but the point is you need to be savvy and creative to get ahead.
The outgunned site owner has to fight back, and these link building tactics are a great way to do so without breaking the bank or at a reasonable price. First dissect the competition to better understand what they’re doing, then go down the list and execute these tactics
1: Local Citation and Link Building.
Any business that has a storefront or does business in a locality should have a strong presence in Google Places, Bing Places, and other local directories. This is the first base you need to cover if you have a physical location (though keep in mind PO Boxes and shared spaces won’t work for the above.)
Whitespark and MOZ Local are probably the most cost effective way to reclaim these links, along with a few other options. You should maintain these entries as a way to build legitimacy in Google’s eyes, create entries with the right information on the web, and get links. Here are some great articles that cover all the options that are out there
- The Ultimate List of 200+ Powerful Local SEO Citation Sources (USA)
- Top 25 Local Business Directories | Practical Ecommerce
- The Ultimate List: 50 Online Local Business Directories
- Top Local Citation Sources by Country for USA, CAN, UK & AU – Whitespark
- 60 Business Directories You Need To Be Listed On – Yext
2: Interlink & Site Structure
Even though it should be obvious, many site owners underestimate the value of quality internal linking on a site. Obviously it does not count as traditional link building, but it is worth thinking about.
Be sure to check out a tool like Screaming Frog or Deep Crawl to perform a site audit, this should indicate any large issues in site organization while also helping you determine whether there is a good site structure.
Finally, make sure that your own internal anchor text is actually communicating to Google the importance and substance of pages. This means that category pages should have the most inner links pointing at them, and that anchor text for products or categories should be unique and communicate what the page is about. I.e. Widgets > Blue Widgets > 3 mm Blue Widgets not Widgets > Widgets > Widgets if you have breadcrumbs on your site. There should be a clear hierarchy that your anchor text communicates.
3: Relevant Directories
Many niches on the web have directories that people still use to buy products. If there is a relevant niche for my client I will create links for them there. Many of these directories are paid and overpriced, but may still be worth pursuing.
The best way to find these is either through a google search corresponding to your [niche] i.e. “[niche] + directory” or checking out what the competition have going on. If your competition is massive, URL Profiler makes quick work of crunching competitor backlinks and determining whether a sites type is a directory and how many blog links they’re getting etc. Check out these two articles to get you started:
- 1000+ Niche Citation Sites for 41 Local Business Categories
- Lists of Niche Directories – Find Directories for many Niches – Directory
Remember we’re looking for items like directories, paid directories, non-English directories, chambers of commerce etc. Just make sure that you’re getting at high domain authority sites, check domains in Open Site Explorer.
4: Getting on Your Distributor Directories
This applies best to companies in the industrial segment, but often for sites that do only sell to distributors you can score an exceptionally high-quality link from a supplier who should want to link to you. But again, this is one of those things you can’t fake for just any site, you really have to sell the listed product to appear on one of these directories, just make sure you’re on all of the ones you can be!
The way to go about this is search your vendor’s site or in google: “[product name] distributors” or [product name] “inurl:distributors.”
5: Social Accounts: Basic Authority links
I often sign up for a variety of social and web 2.0 accounts for my clients. It secures a sites reputation across the web and mimics similar symbols from bigger brands. This gives a wider platform to promote your content, allows you to build out your brand, and indicates a basic level of legitimacy to Google.
Making sure your site has the bases covered with things like Pinterest or Vimeo may provide minimal value, but it’s important to secure all these properties, at least for the backlink diversification, and making sure others don’t hijack on account for your domain.
6: Affiliate Program
This is one of the most under appreciated tactics on the web and in my opinion, Amazon’s #1 SEO secret. Look around the Web, all the companies like Amazon, Target, Home Depot, and REI have affiliate programs. If you can afford to share profit margin with referral partners in order to push top line revenue I would immediately do so.
Now this can have it’s downsides, especially if spammers or crappy marketers get involved. However, ideally you’ll gain a ton of link equity from a variety of bloggers and site builders who are serious about generating income.
7: Resource or Newsletter roundups
If a client is relevant to a specific industry, or has a relevant resource, you can ask to be included on a resource page or newsletter roundup from an influencer in an industry. Generally speaking this is more on the content marketing side of the spectrum, but if there is already a resource on the client’s site this could be a great way to gain more links without producing more content and technically staying in the “SEO” side of the field. Check out the below articles on resources and use the same logic for roundups and newsletter in your industry.
8: Blog Commenting
Ahh blog commenting, one of the best tactics marketers ever ruined. Blog commenting works best when commenting on a site that offers do-follow links in an author bio or something like the CommentLuv plugin.
General speaking these kinds of opportunities are going to be rare. Currently, blog commenting is more about leveraging those no-follow backlinks and user interactions on blogs within your niche to stay relevant among an audience, and I would argue, get your site associated within a certain niche. Of course we’re not passing link equity or any authority with this tactic, but we are at least getting Google to interact with our site more frequently.
Answering Q&As is pretty close on the SEO spectrum to blog commenting, but typically presents a better opportunity to build authority with your audience by displaying your knowledge and implanting links where relevant. Be sure to join communities like Inbound, Reddit, Facebook & LinkedIn Groups, Yahoo Answers, and Quora. Below are two great tutorials for leveraging Q&A sites as well as setting up BuzzBundle to scale that.
10: Discounts / coupons
This is far from free for your business and is still going to take some elbow grease, but discounts and coupons can be an exceptional way to get links. There are a number of sites that aggregate discounts and coupons so that creates a good link flow. Ideally you’re doing the work offering discounts to specific sites and bloggers that have audiences that might buy. This gets you some authority links and traffic that can be engaged.
11: Forum/Reddit Posting
Of all the tactics that involve joining communities and helping out this one will probably involve the most work. For a marketer this is a bit of stretch since forums and sub-reddits usually involve the most committed and anti-marketing audiences. If you can sacrifice the time and get (or already have the expertise), some of the most important conversations within niches happen on forums. This of course also means plenty of opportunities to sway the conversation and implant links.
12: Gray hat link building
There are still a few areas on the Web where you can “sign-up” for links and by the virtues of those site pad the backlink profile of our clients or gain some link equity through do follow profile links. I’ll get a list together of some of my favorite, but the best place to find these opportunities is by checking out other successful sites.
This is definitely on the gray hat side of things, and will cost you some pretty significant cash, but offering scholarships on behalf of your are an excellent carrot to attract high quality links and well regarded sites to link to your domain. Check out the tutorials below for getting into this strategy.
- How to Create and Run an Effective Scholarship Outreach Campaign
- .edu and .gov Link Building
- Getting Down to the Nitty-Gritty of Scholarship Link Building
14: Join Associations/Organization
This is one of those areas where you can’t fake the funk. I wouldn’t recommend joining any organizations just for links, if you’re already in one I’d recommend checking out their site and seeing if they highlight members’ businesses or profiles anywhere.
15: Unlinked Brand Mention Recovery
There’s an opportunity to recover a back link anytime your brand, product, or an employee gets mentioned on the web without a link. The idea here is to find these unlinked mentions, and then nicely ask webmasters and bloggers to link. It’s a matter of being charming and lucky more than anything else, but ideally for any brand that’s been around for awhile there will be some sizeable untapped opportunity. Check out this guide from AHREFS for more or this guide on converting brand mentions.
16: Wikipedia links
In some niches we can attract highly relevant content to a site by create content that is a relevant resource to the Wikipedia site. While the links can be no-follow wikipedia can be a quality source of traffic based off of reference links in some niches. WikiGrabber is the best tool for the job.
17: Paid Product Review
Like Affiliate links paid reviews can be an exceptional way to get your products name out there. If you’re launching a new business this is probably the link building and reputation growth area to start with. Great sites in the niche include: reviewme.com, payperpost.com, and sponsoredreviews.com
Occasionally crowdfunding and donation pages will includes links to sponsors on their pages. While this will take some serious time and research it can be an exceptional way to gain links from high domain authority sites.
19: Donate to Charities & Non-Profit
This will take some digging in Google and is typically best accomplished by a solid VA, but charities and nonprofits with donation pages that link out provide an excellent opportunity to build links at a reasonable price.
20: Club and organization sponsorships
Like finding crowdfunding campaigns and charities you can donate to, finding clubs and organizations you can sponsor is all about the legwork of finding people who will accept reasonable donations.
21: Existing Domains
DomCop and Flippa both provide excellent opportunities to find sites that have existing backlink profiles and start there, or redirect link equity where applicable to your current site.
22: Alumni Organizations
Schools are always looking to highlight former students use this tactic to milk a little more than student debt out of your alma mater.
23: Intern/Job Postings
Please, please, please don’t invent positions, but keep in mind whenever you do post a new job that it’s worth it to place it in as many places as possible for the typically do followed link equity.
24: Things Not to Do
- Don’t submit to article submission sites or buy anything that looks like 20,000 backlinks in 2 days for 5 bucks. Generally anything that mentions PageRank (officially and thankfully retired in March of 2016) or uses the phrase #1 SEO should be avoided.
- Google says widgets don’t work, will work less, I call BS but it may be worth being careful. That said time will tell.
There you have it, all the most commonly used SEO link building tactics. There are probably thousands more, but this is the main core of them. That said good luck and have fun, link building is the closest you can get to panning for gold ; )
Content Marketing for Link-building
Content marketing is where the biggest wins will be had, but standing out and producing quality content is no easy task. Further if you build it, they won’t come. Proper promotion, or creating content with a clear distribution path is the only way to succeed. This section on building links through content is about two things, and you’ll have to decide which goal makes more sense for you. But keep in mind all of your content marketing activities will ultimately get bucketed into two fields you’ll either be:
- Producing content that generates links on your own site.
- Or creating content for other people’s sites that links back to yours.
The only items that will bridge the gap here are the rare moments when you can get an article syndicated or something like an infographics or interactive content piece that people will share while it’s on your site.
Content marketing in its best form is about delighting customers, building relationships, helping people, and building trust. While we all hope that this trust will lead to sales, it all hinges on well executed good ideas multiplied by proper promotion.
The best case scenario with our content is that as many people see it as possible, we gain a following and we become thought leaders eventually. This then gains us a compounding amount of press and backlinks that give us more audience and ranking signals.
Here are some questions to ask yourself with any piece of content:
- Can I effectively promote this to get backlinks? (i.e. can I “get links” like in #1 for this piece)
- Will my customers love it, and will people, especially journalists and bloggers want to share it?
- Do I have the site authority to perform in this content area (i.e. will my content rank and naturally get me links without em doing much because of my authority in this area.)
That said, content has been warped to include all of the below, so that we may consider anything from a blog post to a game as “content” and I’ll continue that for the sake of simplicity.
This matrix is an excellent heuristic to have and this video is worth a watch if you’re just getting into content production.So with that disclaimer, before I get jumped for bad semantics ; ) the rule of the game is that we need to create content that stands out. Otherwise we pretty much can’t win and can’t stand out in the crowd.
We need to build content that’s 10 times better than the next alternative, 10X content, 10X content, & more 10X content. Standing out from the crowd is a prerequisite for building links. Or as this satirical video stewing in our own buzzwords puts it, create ‘dope-ass ‘tent.”
Because what we really want is…
Or, as I like to call it, cash money.
Thinking outside of the box is key. These are 27 Types of “Content” you might consider leveraging to build out more links. This has been covered better elsewhere for a few examples, but the point is that content is the carrot that drives engagement and hopefully backlinks. There are then a set of tactics we can broadly apply to these content types that we produce in order to generate backlinks with.
Don’t feel like you’re out of options, there are formats for everyone and these are some content options that get links in ascending order of production cost: Blog posts, Monthly Column, Interviews, Surveys, Product Comparisons,Lists or Roundups, How To’s & Tutorials, White Papers, Newsletters, National Holidays, Events Resources, Curate Data, Independent/new unique research, Contests, Glossary of Industry Terms, Printable Resources, Newsjacking, Timely/Seasonal Content, Complete Guide/Resources, Presentations, Quizzes/Tests, Infographics, Case Studies, Ebooks, Webinars, Videos, Games, Plugins or Extensions, and Web Apps or Online Utilities.
Alright, so we’re in the mindset of creating incredible content and understand that promotion and quality are the table stakes let’s build some links, and grow our reputation.
Tactics for Generating Backlinks with Content in 2016
1: Guest Blogging
Google may be viciously trying to turn us away from this tactic but there is no more cost effective way to generate high quality backlinks than guest posts. Even better, they’re largely undecipherable from legitimate behavior because it is legitimate behavior. We’re getting out there and helping site owners get relevant high quality content that their audiences appreciate. It’s a win-win. Any type of content is fair game, and generally the more complex a content type and pitch the higher your chance of success.
Keep a few things in mind:
Bloggers get thousands of pitches, most of them are garbage. You need to stand out and do your best to be personable. We all know when we’re being sold, but everyone loves a good salesman!
The bigger the value or audience of a site the more difficult it will be to get on, and in some instances you’ll need to prove out your expertise before it’s even possible. If you’re just starting out, don’t shoot for the stars, just yet.
Generally a higher ticket item, like a quality infographic or video can open opportunities your reputation may not afford you.
Building relationships, being a genuine fan and online apostle of a site that slowly becomes a real friend is the best way to actually get guest posts.
Guest Posting will give you referrals but even 85% of the time <100 visits will be the norm. The bigger value is in the links, relationships, and reputation you’re building.
You’re putting out quite a bit of work to get these opportunities and create content, even though it feels like you’re giving a lot you need to be a good guest.
Some Important Tips:
- Read the articles below on good strategy
- The Definitive Guide to Guest Blogging
- Step by Step Guide to Scale Your Link Building
- An In-Depth Look at Guest Blogging in 2016 (Case Studies, Data & Tips)
- How to Measure Guest Posting ROI
- Guest Post ROI: The Data Behind 273 Guest Posts Says It’s No Good
- Copy of Ryan Robinson (ryrob.com) Referral Traffic from Guest Posts – Ahrefs (Tim)
- You need to create incredible content, usually 800+ words though most sites have editorial guidelines.
- Scout out and create relevant pieces of content you can link to so you can boost how many links you’re getting. But you have to be good, otherwise you could turn sites off. (Don’t abuse this with exact anchors to products that aren’t relevant to the article. )
- If possible create high quality images for your host site, and video resources where possible.
- Treat it as a high quality paper. Link out to other important work in the “field” and preferably to content from your host.
- Keep editing they have to do to a minimum (be a good guest)
2: Skyscraper Technique
The Skyscraper Technique should be your blueprint for any content you produce. The idea here, is that we survey the existing work in a topical; area and outdo the quality of the content. That then allows us to stand out enough to get links naturally, reach out to previous sites that linked to a similar piece of content, and reach out to influencers who would genuinely enjoy our content. At the end of the day the goal is to execute on an idea that we know works and reach out to all the potential people who have expressed interest or shared something similar in the past.
3: Updating Old Content
There are two ways to approach this tactic, you can either update content that has fallen behind the times (since freshness matters) or find content that was once popular but is no longer relevant. Either way this tactic relies on refreshing a proven concept then capitalizing on past promotional success. It should produce an amazing piece of content that everyone in the community will appreciate and (hopefully) be willing to link to. If you want to scale this tactic, either prospect popular pieces that are 3+ years old or find a set of resource pages for a certain niche you want links from, and crawl it for 404s. These 404s are all opportunities to create refreshed version of whatever was being linked to. Though double check that it hasn’t just moved on the original site.
- This ‘Inverted Broken Link Building’ Strategy Will Make You Facepalm
- How to Build Backlinks Using Your Competitors’ Broken Pages
- The Complete Guide to Updating and Republishing Outdated Blog Content
4: Reaching out to interested experts
Anytime you publish a piece of content on your site you should reach out to any experts or bloggers that might be interested. While your total success rate may be low, truly incredible content will get you some traction. You can significantly increase your chances of success if you’re interacting with influencers, liking, sharing, and commenting on content long before you ask them for anything.
5: Content Multiplying: Multimedia/Document Submission
Don’t forget that you can always upconvert any content you create and adapt it for a specific roll. This means that a potentially exhausted blog post can be converted into a slideshow presentation, video, or even gifs for better virality, and more easy backlinks.
6: Quoting experts and influencers
If you have the bandwidth I would recommend always trying to include a quote from an expert, professional in the industry, or influencer as much of possible. This will take some footwork and you’re likely to have much better success if your site actually has a following. But if you can pull this off, you should have strong results with a steady source of experts who may owe you a favor or two.
7: Owned Promotion With Web 2.0 Submission
For the most part owned web 2.0 properties are underutilized by brands. Most people never go beyond posting on Facebook, and the vast majority of sites have 0 other sites linking to them, why not create a mini network of your owned content? These links will have vastly discounted value, but over a long enough time period, and with proper curation across all these properties should move the needle.
8: Directory Submissions for our “Content” assets
Don’t forget that any higher value piece of content you create will have its own associated directores, think Web App Directories, Widget Directories, Theme/Template Directories, CSS galleries, Podcast Directories, Blog Directories, Mobile App Directories,Logo Design Directories, or eBook Directories. You’ll still need to proof out these sites for quality, but this gives you a good multiplier for your content without doing costlier or more difficult tactics. Also be sure to ask your developer about specific technologies used in say a web app or mobile app since those may have “built with” galleries associated with them.
Sometimes we can identify sites that will republish the content we create and give us a byline. Below are some great articles on the topic.
10: Russian Newspaper placements
This is probably one of the most brilliant evil genius strategies I’ve ever heard of. Straight from the brilliant mind of Matt Woodward this tactic basically involves creating content in Russian and then placing it on cheaper news sites over there. (you know where the news can be bought) Is it immoral? Definitely. Can it be scaled across a few countries and languages? Absolutely…Good Hunting.
11: PR placements Press Release Submission
This is far from the glory days, but there are still a solid set of press release sites, that are of moderate SEO value and have some potential of creating backlinks for you.
12: Infographic Submission
Infographics still offer some incredible opportunities for promotion out of the box since there are many sites that still curate them. That said since 2011 this tactic has faded and the novelty is kind of gone. You’re unlikely to get on a site unless you’re creating excellent infographics. There are tons of sites worth submitting to, but not everything is going to actually be a win, start with this list and see where you get.
13: Widget Backlinks
Google has promised to crack down on widget backlinks, but I doubt they will, or will do so effectively. Look for a few examples to get made, but if you actually breakdown how the web works, the said truth is that this tactic is still alive and well.
Remember as far as our goals for content marketing goes, the important long term KPIS for content is not how many links it generates, but whether it build our reputation and generates the quality rankings signals we need.
The TLDR is that we’re never going to capture short keywords, we want to use keywords to capture valuable bottom and middle of funnel traffic, build trust, or get at the long tail!
Strategy 3: Digital PR for Link Building
PR is the final frontier of link building. And the hardest thing to simulate, luckily this means few competitors will go through the challenges and cost of actually becoming a thought leader.
There is no sure and fast way to become an influencer, tastemaker, expert, thought leader or whatever else you want to call it. People gain notoriety thousands of ways. But for the purposes of business, building out a reputation through content is the most reliable strategy to profitability. Providing a strong foundation from which you can fully harness the natural items that come with doing PR. Content can make you an influencer, but once you cross that threshold, your content (or whatever material it is that you use to communicate with your audience) becomes your calling card. You then become the magnet for links.
Industries change and/or you can be toppled from your pedestal but you’ll consistently earn links from just doing what you do. From bios to interviews, speaking at events, getting featured on podcasts or getting quoted by people you’ve influenced, links will pour in. That said there are some tactics that should be applied to the overall strategy of leveraging your influencer status to increase your connections. And as the world increasingly mirrors the web connections do amount to links.
1: Build Relationships
This is the most important part of successful PR and even content marketing. If you’re this far into this article you know this is true, but building relationships, offering value, and maintaining them is key. While journalists will naturally be weary of anyone that looks like a marketer and most people may treat you like a used car salesman (my apologies to those in the profession ) the fact is that if you’re genuine and helpful, most people will actually respond in a positive light. After all who doesn’t want to help a friend out. People buy and link to people they like, so start out by trying to work only build relationships with people you could legitimately see yourself getting along with.
- Genuine Acts of Kindness – You’re probably friendlier than I am, but if you’re trying to become an influencer, and not be known as a jerk, caring and showing that care is key. People get bombarded in thousands Whether it’s a journalist or a famous cyclist you share honey glazed spaghetti squash recipes it’s all about using friendliness to get your foot in the door. At a basic level this is just good sense for being a great and helpful human, if you’re struggling to make connections in business read up on the literature that’s pretty universal as far as American business goes: How to Win Friends & Influence People, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, & Better Than Good: Creating a Life You Can’t Wait to Live
- Help & Participate – Get involved and lend a helping hand to your community. Don’t get out there and just go after who you believe your “target” to be. The better of a community member you are to whatever niche you’re operating in the larger your growth potential. Be sure to comment! The vast majority of blog posts that get written, even by the experts get no love. Better yet the best always answer back! Even the busiest of people will start to see and recognize your name. But aside from that it’s nice to feel like someone is answering back especially when you’re always shouting into the void.
- Go to Events – This can’t be understated, going to events whether it’s a “boring” tradeshow or a local meetup is a sure fire way to meet people who love what you do as much as you do.
- Answer questions – This harkens back to one of the SEO focused link building tactics, but the fact is that answering questions and being helpful across Q&A sites is a great way to be an asset in your community. Obviously you won’t always win or be top comment, but supporting people and lending your area of expertise is a surefire way to grow your footprint.
- Offer value – Be ready to selflessly give. There isn’t going to be a measurable ROI on this, but over time this will also build your reputation as a genuine source of information or help
- Maintain these relationships! – A lot of people aren’t in it for the long haul. If you thought the above tips sounded tedious (and obvious) good because they are. Being a member of the community means putting in the work, and again it’s a hard tactic to follow since most aren’t willing to be genuinely helpful.
2: Write a Column
Writing for the leading publications in your industry is a surefire way to consistently generate links. Additionally this gives you access to some of the highest quality relevant links in your niche. You may need to step down your expectations if you’re still relatively unknown in the niche, but high quality writing with well reasoned opinions is always in demand. It should go without saying, but you need to approach this work with the intent of helping. If you haven’t read Glenn’s piece on “Private Influencer Networks” I think it’s worth a read, This is already happening, and largely speaking the more backs you can scratch now, the bigger chance you’ll have at staying relevant as things get harder or the market shifts.
3: Reach Out
You need to monitor the community for new developments. As new businesses or organizations work their way into or near your niche it’s important to reach out to them and introduce yourself. Nothing may come of it, but building out relationships early (before others get involved) is an important part of staying relevant and hopefully creating some connection arbitrage before other savvy marketers get involved. Obviously there is some strong overlap here with SEO and content marketing tactics like guest posting or resource page suggestions so be sure to magnify your efforts with those strategies.
4: Offer Services to Larger Organizations
Giving away free work is an underutilized tactic. People say give till it hurts, and it will. But being genuinely helpful and donating services or help to organizations that could use it but may not be able to afford it is a sure route to success. Obviously don’t let yourself be exploited, but having your name or service attached to an organization that wouldn’t otherwise be able to hire you can create infinite benefits down the line.
5: Offer Products to Bloggers
We’ve all been on the long slog of building out our businesses. Bloggers and people selling services online all get this, reaching out and reviewing services and products from other sites is an excellent way to provide some genuine help and exposure to someone else.
6: AirBnB Guides
I just came up with this one recently and haven’t started implementing it for our local SEO clients. But explore AirBnB and find every house within less than a mile or two of your business. Listinghave the ability to create guides for the local area. Reach out and offer to write them a guide, it should increase their bookings and also gives them the opportunity to be featured in the cities overall guidebook.
7: Create Local Meetings and Events
Not all PR tactics need to be about national placements or becoming the most famous widget salesman in America. Often people focus to broadly on the rest of the web at the expense of the fact that there are often large and established organizations within a local area. Creating a meet up is pretty easy and obviously creates a tremendous amount of value for the local area. If you can do that or even shoot for something in partnership with a few local organizations that should create some good local buzz and help create a lot of connections in the local business community. Furthermore, it opens up the door to mentions on a local level. Obviously this all would take a great deal of work and organization but it would be worth it.
8: Be Featured in Local Publications.
Do your best to reach out and help out local journalists. The value of building on a hometown advantage cannot be underestimated.
9: Speak at Universities + Volunteer to Speak with Groups
It’s important to give back as much as you can, especially if you have any level of notoriety. Look at all the organizations in your area and see if you couldn’t provide some value by volunteering or providing some expertise that would be of value to the audience. If the answer is yes than think about reaching out. Usually speaking events, or writing opportunities they may create, open up an opportunity to get some mentions on the web.
10: Troll bait or Grabbing Headlines with Controversy
This is kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel. But if you’re ever in need of some attention, assuming a contrary or marginally offensive opinion may create some press. Obviously you’ll want to do this with taste and make sure you can spin/defend your words, but it can help you stand out. Generally speaking it’s best to assume a contrarian view in something like a blog post headline that grabs people’s attention (like calling SEO cosmetic) than create an outright assault on the world. Another option here is to “poke the bear.” If you see an expert in your field whose a waning star or more importantly you think is full of $h%t, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t leverage the press of them responding to you for gains. Additionally, if you end up being historically right it’s a great way to put yourself on the same tier as an established expert and eventually leapfrog them. But played well generating some controversy can renew a brand.
11: Alumni Spotlight
This is straightforward, but if you’re school rounds up or does profiles on successful alumni try to get featured.
These are just some rudimentary tactics and PR based link building will evolve more over time. The bottom line is that experts need to stay engaged and constantly prove their status. In the process of doing so you’ll consistently gain links.
Making Link Building Consistently Work For You
At the end of the day there are obviously a million other reasons to create content, but we marketers no longer have the luxury of living in a world where the cream will rise to the top, we must be proactive about getting as many backlinks as we possible can and growing our web presence day by day. Ready to get your hands dirty? Well, check out the best tools for link building in 2016.
Some Great Link Building Tutorials:
The Basics of Link Building:
Below are the basics of the wonderful world of link building for the uninitiated, for a more serious explanation of link building strategies in 2016, click here.
What is Link Building
From the beginning the secret sauce in Google’s algorithm was that it used hyperlinks between sites to determine the popularity of various sites. If a site was more linked to by other sites, it was then more popular and authoritative on the subject, like a book that is frequently sited or a musician that is claimed by multiple musicians as a muse. Search engines treat links as a popularity vote, and it is the job of search engines to monitor the situation among users and sites, to determine, what people are looking for and mean when they ask questions. While there are a multitude of other important factors that work into an algorithm, not least of which is the basis of whether an item on a SERP ultimately fulfilled a user’s questions the fact is that Links remain to this day one of the single biggest determiners of a sites popularity. Even though they have diminished in recent times, they’re still just one of the biggest factors.
Why Link Building Matters:
So you’re a savvy entrepreneur with a great site, service, or product and you open your site on the web, but there’s no traffic or sales? What gives? The fact is that you can think of links as almost like little roads, if you want to work your way up to main street you have to pay for it (with ads) or make a new main street, build the links and connections that eventually funnel people in and let Google know you deserve it. Basically Google and Bing just want us to sit idly by and wait for the notoriety to build or links to roll in, but they won’t. (Thus why many must pay.)
What Makes a Good Link:
We need to recreate what is supposed to be an “organic” and natural process. Even more interesting not all links are created the same, some links matter more than others.
A Good Link Comes From a Site With Tons of Traffic and Many Sites linking to it:
A link from New York Times is worth more than your Uncle Bob’s Widget Emporium LiveJournal. This is an important distinction to understand because you want to become an example of a highly valued link, read more here.
A Good Link comes from a site that’s an authority in the field:
We don’t want to be linked to from just any where, we want sites that actually cover our vertical. If we run a site about plumbing, getting a link from a blog about it is better than getting a link from your grandma’s yarn blog. It’s important to read up on the difference.
A Good Link Isn’t Spammy:
Don’t just go out and buy random links. A few estimates peg the total amount of spam on the web at 60%. There is tons and tons of garbage out there. Getting a link from it is next to useless, and worse still you’re chasing an algorithm instead of real humans. Try to calibrate your efforts towards real people, not bots! Imagine if you were asking for directions in a new city, and a doctor and the local drunk gave you advice, who would you trust? Google functions on the same sense of trying to establish authority that you or I would use. Governments, Schools, Non-profits, and labs with their .edu and .org domains tend to have a little higher significance, based solely off the fact that they’re organizations with pedigree.
Links should be fresh:
Great sites get mentioned and linked to all the time. Look at a site like Amazon, between its referral links and stirring up controversy over its experiment and stock valuations it’s constantly getting mentioned in the press. The fact is that even a great link will decay over time. Again Google is tracking references and citations, if something becomes less referenced over time by humans that must mean it’s fading into obscurity and mattering less.
How do Social Shares Factor In?
While there is some correlation with social shares, the fact is that Google doesn’t own that realm. They track the people that like and love items, but not what they like and love on platforms that are easily spammed. Which is to say, if million of people are loving a piece of content and going to it on the Android platform or a the chrome browser Google Will know it, and it will likely eventually effect rankings if not click through on SERPs.
Importance of Anchor Text
Ever wonder why those stupid exact match domains used to be so popular?
At the end of the day the “target” keyword anchor tex at the “target page” and “homepage” ages is going to have the largest effect,but we need a good mix of other links to actually grow..
A Note on Domain Authority:
Below are my rule of thumb observations on how domain authority works.
90-100 – For the most part no-follow from sites like Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc
70- 90 Broad – mass market sites with huge appeal, these are the sites that would be recognizable in across much of society
50 – 70 – Sites with large audiences, or approaching mass appeal.
20 -50 Mature sites or with relatively large audiences and strong niche audiences
0-20 – New or young sites (but might still have the audience you care about)