The SEO blogosphere is saturated with talk of social media’s growing importance as a ranking factor. Blogs, including this one, are filled with advice about creating unique and original content for your site regularly (must keep the Panda happy!).
All of that is good, sound advice.
But let’s not forget that links still matter. In fact, they remain the single largest off page factor determining where your website ranks for any given keyword. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is how Google perceives the value of a link and how it determines whether or not that link is one that you’ve acquired for editorial value (a big ‘yay’) or because you paid the blogger to stick your irrelevant link on his high Pagerank website (a big ‘nay’).
Your Competitors Want Your Links
When we start a new campaign, whatever the sector is, the first thing we do is identify the competitors (generally, those ranking the highest and carrying out the most activity geared towards achieving rankings for the keywords we’re going after).
Then, we take a look at competitor back link profiles. Why? Well there are a few reasons:
- We want to know how many links your competitors have and what quality those links are in order to determine how much work we believe it will take to ‘beat them.’
- We want to know if there are any websites (whether directories, industry bodies or similar) that link to all the competitors. This could be indicative of a site or organisation that it is important that you acquire a link from.
- We want to check out their best links!
If a competitor has some particularly good links, there’s a good chance that we will go out and acquire those too, wherever possible. That will be one tiny part of our link building strategy. The majority will be in acquiring links for editorial value and more often than not, these are links it is difficult for competitors to just simply ‘acquire.’
Use Your Contacts and Case Studies
If you’ve worked with a major brand, a charity or a Government body, you’ll benefit from a link from them. But why would they link to you?
Personally, I’m not a fan of just asking all your clients to link to you. We don’t employ that strategy at Tecmark. If our clients ask if they can link in, of course we gladly take those links. But we don’t employ a strategy of, by default, pasting our links all over a client website.
One thing we do, however, is issue a press release or blog post when we’ve worked on a particularly notable project. We’ll also offer up a version of that to the client for posting on his or her own site (with links to both parties and other relevant content on the web). These links, within these release, benefit both sides but, most importantly, have editorial value. There’s a reason for them being there. And what’s more – competitors cannot replicate them just by emailing the webmaster!
I’ve never been a fan of the whole ‘build it and they will come,’ thing. The sheer volume of unvisited websites on the net testifies to the fact that it simply doesn’t apply online.
Build it, maintain it, market it, share it, nag your friends to share it, revise it, try again… and maybe, if you do it well, they will come.
The same applies to link bait. Create an amazing piece of content, whether it’s text, video, image or audio, and get it on your website and you’re half way there. Then you need to get people to it.
However, once you get people there, you’ll also find (if the content is as good as you think it is) it results in some links that you simply can’t just ‘acquire.’ These ‘natural’ links are by no means passively acquired. You have to put the work in to ensure visibility of your content. But they’re frequently links that you couldn’t have achieved any other way.
Link Bait Example
In January 2011, we released some of our own mobile web statistics. We updated this with a second release in August 2011. We have since found that our figures have been quoted (and us cited as a reference) on a whole host of websites – many of which chose to link to us, either to the research page itself or back to our homepage.
Examples of those include a link from the First Choice holiday blog, a brand mention from the Telegraph, scores of links from tech blogs and even links from our competitors.
What we did was essentially become a source of information by spending time researching using data we have access to. It’s good practice to cite your sources and as such, hordes of great websites used our information and cited us.
This has resulted in a large number of links back to the Tecmark site that simply cannot be easily replicated by our own competitors.
And the same applies whatever field you are in – creating a piece of content that has some worth to others can and will generate back links for you – back links that, given their nature, are likely to be more valuable than spammy, paid links.
Creative Link Building
As I said at the beginning of this post, links still matter. Google still uses links as a critical ranking factor and it’s unlikely to change. What will matter is the way in which we acquire them. Google is getting better and better at identifying spammy or paid links. Google’s also getting better at identifying link farms and devaluing them.
The focus should be on:
- Link bait
- Socially shareable content
- Links your competitors cannot replicate
- Links that are there for editorial value
This means, if you haven’t already, you need to get a lot more creative with your link building than simply emailing webmasters.