A few years ago in April 2012 there was an interesting interview with Matt Cutts on what makes a quality site and was asked if he thought link building is a problematic concept in and of itself.
Matt Cutts response to this was:
It segments you into a mindset, and
people get focused on the wrong things.
This comment highlights the problem with a mentality of SEO's so heavily focused on building links to clients websites that they forget the fundamentals of online marketing. So instead of focusing on link building, focus on the concepts of creating genuine online marketing with quality at its heart. Create incredible, link-worthy content that will earn links from quality websites.
As i've said before, building quality links is hard and takes a lot of resource and effort but the longterm results are well worth it. As it's not a short-term game, it's important to manage clients expectations. It is very rare that overnight success is achieved unless your client has something exceptional to utilise such as an amazing story, video or infographic. For most, immediate success is not usually on the cards.
You need to stick to the task and build up quality links over time. If you start with content that is genuinely useful, and if you target sites that are real authoritative sources of information for high numbers of readers within your niche, then you will succeed and start to see powerful and sustained results in a matter of months.
In order to achieve this, SEO's now need to adjust their mindsets of 'links for links sake' and focus on quality not quantity.
So here I share some tips on how to think and act when it comes to link building today in 2015.
1. build relationships
It’s people who link to people and not websites so get to know key people within the niche you are working. If they get to know you, they are far more inclined to do something for you. You scratch my back i'll scratch yours scenario and link to their Twitter account in a piece of content you are writing (we talk about this in point number 2 below).
Recommended Reading: How To Win Friends And Influence People. Written by Dale Carnegie and first published in 1936 is one of the first best-selling self-help books ever published selling 15 million copies world-wide.
Engage and win friends through useful comments on relevant blog posts and forums. From the email conversations that follow, you can quickly build up contacts with people all over the world...that's the the beauty of the Internet!
Don't forget offline communication and build personal relationships wherever you can as relationships can bring opportunities future links. So look to:
Phone or Meet Up
Do not underestimate the power of actually talking to someone either over the phone or via Skype - they will remember you more than by an email. If you get the chance to meet up, this is the best way to build a relationship face-to-face over a coffee or a beer.
Attend local and national meetings/events
Any relevant event or meeting is good to attend and network as those there will likely have websites or blogs with link building opportunities. You’ll easily build contacts among fellow delegates and even among some of the speakers.
2. give a little bit
As Supertramp sang 'there's so much that we need to share, so send a smile and show you care' - okay along with that smile send a link :) don't be afraid to link to other websites from within any type of content you're creating - on the contrary, encourage it, especially linking to key bloggers or sites (not competitors).
Linking to their twitter feeds is a good tactic and tweet them about their mention in your content - likely chance is they will follow you and share the content too. This is relationship building again and is now key to link building.
3. know the niche
The majority if not all of your potential quality links will come from relevant websites, blogs, forums, associations, email newsletters specialising or related to your niche. You need to understand and build relationships within that niche to establish your position within it and these following 6 tips will help:
1. Set up Google Alerts to monitor keywords or competitors
2. Setup an RSS newsreader...not Google Reader as it will not be available after July 1, 2013
3. Read key blogs - top blog lists are useful - use their rss feeds to populate you newsreader
4. Be active in industry forums
5. Read industry newsletters
6. Comment on blogs but nothing spammy...must be useful to the reader
As an SEO you will have no doubt have undergone some analysis on your client. Knowing your clients customers is very important when it comes to link building. What articles could you write about relating to your clients customers? Is there anything you can dig out and use such as statistics to create an infographic or interesting customer stories - people are interested in other people and if you write web copy that highlights interesting stories, you’re sure to attract links.
5. forget automation and link networks
If it's too good to be true...it probably is. There are many link building companies and schemes offering to build links automatically but you should avoid these like the plague! Do not waste your money and end up having to clean all the spammy low quality links they will obtain. The links they will get will do more harm than good.
6. think quality not quantity
These days it's all about quality and obtaining trusted authoritative links from within a niche...not the number of links you get. Quality sites have higher levels of traffic and so a mention on one will inevitably result in increased traffic to your site.
Also quality content and links attract other links. If a trusted authoritative site is linking to you, for example from the BBC, then many others will more likely to link to you. It's like the rich get richer scenario or the strong get stronger - people with good inbound links get more inbound links without asking. This is link building as it's best.
You can also reference a high quality link in correspondence to webmasters and journalists which will give you a much higher response rate. As a link from the BBC is such a valuable endorsement, it's great to use it as a testimonial ‘as featured on the BBC’ on your clients website.
7. reverse engineer links
One of the first things many SEO's tend to do when working on link building strategies for a client is to look at competitors links. However, be careful not to let competition dictate your link building strategy. Would Google really make it that easy for a website to simply find the “secret” to a competition’s link building and reverse engineer for similar success? What worked 5 years ago will not hold the same value now. Don't get me wrong, an in-depth competitive link audit is still very much an important job before any link building strategies have been devised. Why? it gives you a good baseline and shows how your clients website measures up against the competition.
If your client has 200 links but it's top competitor has 5,000 you know some hard work is on the horizon. However how many of these 5,000 links are high quality links? If a large proportion of a competitor’s links are from low quality directories or spammy content farms and article syndication sites then it's not going to take many high quality links in order to rank above them. Of course every niche is different so this is generalising but a good idea is to seek out the most valuable links within a competitors’ link profile and look to provide something of real value for that site - think 'earn the link'.
Look to earn links from websites that do not link to your competitors that are relevant and have good domain authority.