I like the term link building, it does what it says on the tin. White hat link building that involves earning natural high quality links without paying any money is where link building has been at for at least 4 years at least.
We all know (we always knew) that you can't buy links for clients to manipulate search results and get away with it like you could perhaps a few years ago. You could get away with it back then if the link was relevant.
I'm surprised with the technologies that Google have at their disposal that they hadn't developed a comprehensive dodgy link detection system sooner for spotting and devaluing / penalising paid links. In 2007 we were waiting for one to emerge, nothing came.
The message running through the SEO industry 6 years ago was that it was only a matter of time when Google will develop a sophisticated detection of “illicit link activity”. There have been the odd high profile cases every year since 2007 of a website being nailed for buying links against Google's guidelines - some thought this was scaremongering on Google's behalf but the SEO industry always reacted. I remember back in 2010 people stopped buying links at websites like Text Link Ads and advertorials as a result of a few high profile cases hitting the headlines as a result of some shoddy SEO agency work which impacted upon the rest of the online marketing communities.
A few years back we saw Interflora hit the headlines in newspapers and magazines such as Computer Weekly. Interflora's SEO agency secured advertorials on national and local newspapers but the content was poor quality and the links within looked so obviously paid for, they got caught. I know for sure that many other SEO agencies and some of the biggest websites have secured advertorials on the same newspaper and magazine websites who weren't caught.
Many thought Google would never take on the publishers but it seems no website is too big to feel the back hand of Google if you break their guidelines and manipulate search results via buying links. They also removed the Page Rank away from those papers that sold these advertorials so the SEO value was seriously downgraded making the proposition for selling further advertorials for a tidy profit and help manipulate search results more difficult.
Google scaremongering? No, they are trying to help make the web a better place and removing the rubbish and cheats. By exposing a few high profile websites, this was the warning shot required to help everyone stand to attention and clean up before getting hit themselves.
White hat SEO agencies and those implementing quality link building will not need to worry, and that's a really great thing because for a long time have they seen their hard work hampered by others using less that legitimate ways of gaining links for clients.
A few years ago I attended 'Linklove' and the big message was that PR is one of the best ways to build links in a natural and scalable way and 'don’t build links, earn them'.
PR is the backbone to most of my most successful link building campaigns and so I supported this sentiment along with producing high quality audience specific content to publish on high quality relevant sites.
A shift in mentality has been required with traditional SEOs required to stop gaming the system and adopting traditional marketing mindsets which involves getting PR for their clients. This was echoed in Will Critchlow’s recent presentation on “The future of Link Building”.
'High Quality' and 'Relevancy' have been the two main words that appear over and over again in any of these Linklove type events and conferences...because it is true. It's what the audience wants and more importantly to us, it's what Google wants.
Those who do not use PR as part of their online marketing will inevitably need to change. Link building campaigns that involve PR have proven to be successful. I can give numerous examples of campaigns i've worked on where PR both supported and aided link building with great results.
Post Panda and Penguin - Lets Outreach!
I admit I had a slightly smug look about me when Google's dreaded algorithmic updates like Panda and Penguin were implemented that cleaned out all the low quality links from content farms and low authority sites leaving many SEO's in a spot of bother and cursing Matt Cutts and his Google spam team. Those that stuck to high quality link building were rewarded with ranking increases, no lengthy link clean up or disavow exercises and now more than likely more clients signing up with them.
|Image Source: Search Engine Land|
Companies need to be proactive in conducting link removals as Google takes a much firmer stance with dubious backlink profiles. I've heard this to be a very labour intensive laborious task, especially for those clients with lots of un-natural links and will inevitably lead to those SEO agencies changing their tactic of gaining links for clients from that day forward.
Once the two Google Panda and Penguin updates had sent shocks waves around the SEO community, people began almost immediately to use new terminology via posts and social media. Words like 'outreach' was adopted throughout 2012 as opposed to the commonly known 'link building'.
This 'outreach' involved getting more creative and spending time securing 'high quality' and not 'high quantity' links from relevant authoritative sites. Those that weren't used to traditional online marketing were in for a shock. Those that were online marketing experts were happy has Larry.
Websites like Followerwonk overnight must have seen spikes in traffic from SEO's looking for influential bloggers and social media contacts. Also the abundance of top blog lists were finally put to some good!
Infographics are still as popular as ever but the web has been flooded by online marketers producing them. Whilst many infographic attempts have been criticised and ridiculed, there's little doubt that when done correctly, a well designed interesting or funny infographic is an extremely effective method of link bait. But today the trick is finding something new and refreshing that nobody else has done. Time is needed to research and create something high quality rather than in the days gone by when you could simply send an email asking for a link and job done.
If a client has products or services to offer bloggers as competition prizes or product reviews or some research or useful statistics they have then great, the opportunities are plentiful. I expect to see a surge of product reviews and competitions on blogs and websites this year.
But what about those clients who have websites in a niche like titanium suppliers - they will of course find this type of online marketing unrealistic and this is where again PR and quality engaging articles will work along with listings on niche directories.
More time is now being generally taken to earn links. Poor quality links secured months or years ago are still poor quality links now. It is much better to build a few good quality links that are genuinely relevant to an audience or community than many links for links’ sake. Quality over quantity. Those SEO's that supply link building reports will need to adapt their reporting (perhaps via quality scoring metrics) and learn to educate clients and manage their expectations. They they will see less links and wonder what the hell is going on!
People link to people, fact. Link building for me has always been about relationship building, building relationships with key bloggers and webmasters and earning links via something creative, something useful whether it be a piece of high quality engaging content that they want to feature on their site, an info-graphic or video. It should attract existing readers for the blogger whilst gaining new readers and traffic so it's a two way relationship.
The Future of Link Building
Will Critchlow’s recent presentation on 'The future of Link Building' pleaded to all SEO's to stop corrupting the online marketing industry, to stop giving each other a bad name and stop cutting corners and start doing genuine online marketing. I thought that was great, i've always liked Will and do even more so now, I don't know him personally but have followed him for a long time. I agree. The SEO industry is maturing, it's had to, but there are unfortunately people who break the rules like the naughty school kid who's always in detention.
It's no longer the fear of being punished by Google that is making SEO's change there ways (it has certainly contributed) but link building services from SEO agencies and individuals working hard on a daily basis on client SEO link building campaigns who want to play by the rules and not endorse or be a part of in any shape or form of illicit link building activity. These are people who have a genuine interest in implementing quality link building techniques, do a great job for themselves and the company they represent and for there clients is where this industry is at.