How To Naturally Build Links Without Guest Blogging

LinkWhen I was a digital marketing intern over the summer, I spent weeks sorting through client link profiles trying to rid them of “bad links.”  Many of the sites I looked into barely had any “good links” to speak of.  This experience made me realize how important it is for companies to take control of their link profiles.  However, “link building” can be a touchy subject in SEO as it is often associated with less-than-honest marketing tactics.  Marketers have taken to calling it “natural link building” to avoid being associated with pre-Penguin link spammers.  Although “link building” carries a stigma to some extent, it is still an extremely important part of successful digital marketing strategy.

In this post, I share some creative ways to gain more “good” links for your website (without being shady, of course).  And in case you’re wondering about the title, guest blogging is not on the list because everyone is already doing it.

How Does Hummingbird Affect Link Building

Before we talk about how to naturally build links, we of course need to discuss Google.  As we know, Google is constantly changing its algorithm to make search results more relevant for the end user.  According to Nate Dame at Search Engine Land, the Hummingbird update is a new search engine rather than just an algorithm update that is forcing marketers to focus even more on linking to quality content.  Read more about the update in Dame’s Hummingbird article.

Make a Consistent Effort

It is important to make natural link building a constant part of your strategy instead of a sporadic effort for two reasons.  First, you want to make sure that your company stays relevant.  To do this, you should be putting effort into your content strategy and providing value to your customers on a regular basis so they will return to your site.  Second, you will set off red flags if you have sudden spikes in linking activity with long periods of nothing in between.  That will make it more likely that your link building efforts will end up being penalized and hurt you in the long run instead of help you.

Have a Presence on Google+

It’s becoming more and more apparent that Google+ is an important factor in search rankings.  And now Google+ posts are even showing up in search results, which means it’s absolutely necessary for your company to post content on Google+.  Get more tips on getting Google+ shares and other scalable link building tactics from Jason Acidre on the Moz Blog.

Reclaim Links

According to Acidre, reclaiming links is “probably the oldest trick in the book of white-hat link building.”   You can reclaim links by using tools like Open Site Explorer to locate all the links to your site that are no longer working or are linking to the wrong version of your page.  Some of your broken links may just require a simple fix.  Other links might need a 301 redirect, which is a bit more time consuming but doing this will not only improve your link profile, it will also improve the user experience on your site.  (No one likes being directed to a page that no longer exists.)

Another way to reclaim your links is to find out who is talking about you on the web by using tools like Google Trends or browser alerts.  Search for reputable sites with strong PageRank that are mentioning you.  If these sites aren’t already linking to you in their content, you can get in touch with the site to ask them to kindly link back to you in the content.  Emma North wrote a great post on how to reclaim links and more creative link building techniques for the Koozai blog that you should check out.

User-Generated Content Sites

The method I came across in my research that I liked best is utilizing user-generated content sites.  These sites rank highly in search results, especially for long-tail keywords.  My favorite UGC site is SlideShare, but Pinterest and YouTube are also up there.  What I like best about SlideShare is that it’s a great forum for you to be able to repurpose your content and get more use out of it.  You can easily make a SlideShare presentation out of a popular blog post or video you have created, for example.  The goal of using UGC sites in your natural link building strategy is to provide something that is useful to your audience and matches the long-tail keywords they search for.

You might also take a popular news story and figure out a way to relate it to your industry.  For example, digital strategists Kristian Henschel and Julian Cole used Lindsay Lohan, a very popular figure in the tabloids, as inspiration for a SlideShare presentation.  They created “A Digital Strategy for Lindsay Lohan,” which to date has received 71,792 total views, 131 embeds and 24,626 embedded views.  Finding a fun and creative way to demonstrate their knowledge of digital strategy really excited Henschel and Cole’s audience and inspired them to share and link back to the content.  This also brings up the importance of linking to your website through all your UGC site efforts so you receive the full benefits for your link profile.

Conclusion

Natural link building can sound like an intimidating and complicated process.  However, the more I read about “natural link building,” the more I see that it is simply content marketing with an emphasis on promoting your content and building relationships.  Create great content that your customers and others in your industry find useful, make sure to place it where they can find it, and they will naturally want to link and share.

If you have more natural link building tips, share your comments below.

What Really Makes a Successful Social Media Strategy

IMG_1393 (2)As someone relatively new to the social media marketing field, I am always seeking out the advice of experts. Luckily in this field, social media experts are constantly sharing their knowledge on Twitter, Google+ and everywhere else on the Internet. And I’ll admit it, I love an article that promises to teach me “How To Be Awesome at Social Media In 4 Easy Steps” or will tell me “7 Things Everyone Who’s Anyone In Social Media Already Knows About So You Really Need To Know Now.” I really am a moth to a flame when I see a title with a numbered list – I can’t resist clicking.

My predictable and often time-wasting love of numbered lists (hello, everything on Buzzfeed) is what led me to click on Chris Brogan’s article, “4 Bullet Points For More Social Media Mastery.” Now I’m pretty embarrassed to say this, but I took this article seriously for much longer than I should have. Just read the article and you’ll understand my embarrassment. I was eating up all of Brogan’s tips, beginning to feel more and more like someone in-the-know as I finished each bullet point. Maybe I was even getting a little bit smug.

It wasn’t until I got all the way to bullet point #3 where Brogan lays out the “action plan” (also meant to poke fun at all these types of articles) that I finally got the joke. Especially when I read this paragraph:

“Mashable. Lots of people like Mashable. Just share that. Also, retweet pretty much anything said by the following: @guykawasaki, @chrisbrogan, @garyvee, @marismith, and pick a few of YOUR favorite social media guru/master/ninja/rockstars. In fact, just set your accounts up to auto-tweet their stuff. Faster that way.”

Everything mentioned in that paragraph would be a sure way to annoy all your followers, which Brogan and any savvy social media marketer is well aware of.  (And even I know that saying you’re a social media guru, master, ninja or rockstar is the quickest way to discredit yourself as being any of those aforementioned things.)

Getting Started With Strategy

While Brogan’s article wasn’t “serious,” it seriously got me thinking about what really makes a successful social media strategy (which I’m sure was Brogan’s true intent). So I did a quick Google search for “social media strategy” which returned a cool 450,000,000 results. Not wanting to stray too far from my pattern, I clicked on “3 Steps to an Effective Social Media Strategy” by Amy Porterfield. I’d like to paraphrase what I learned from her article because her approach is simple and it’s a process with proven results. Here we go:

1) Assessment

Get a clear understanding of your audience’s needs and wants by simply asking them. There are many ways of doing this for free or very little money (Survey Monkey, Google Docs). Then decide what you’d like to accomplish through your social media efforts and narrow your goals to only one. Porterfield states that social media goals are usually these three things: awareness, sales or loyalty. Again, you should only focus on one.

Another important part of the assessment process is for the team to identify the driving force of the brand’s social media presence.  Porterfield references what Jay Baer calls your “One Thing” that stands behind every message you communicate to your customer.  It’s what makes you stand out and what makes your brand special.

The last part of the assessment stage is formulating the tactical social media plan. This includes scheduling, editorial calendars, contingency planning, etc. The plan should be as detailed as possible.

2) Implementation

The implementation stage is when you will put your plan to work. No plan should be written in stone, especially in the fast-paced world of social media. It’s important to be flexible and make tweaks as you go along as well as keep an eye out for new opportunities.

Also, the implementation stage is no time to be shy. Embrace your social media presence and promote it. Add links to your company website and to your email signatures. Don’t make your pages difficult for your community to find.

3) Measurement

Get back together with your team a few months after you’ve implemented your social media strategy. Use the analytics and reporting tools available to you to go over the numbers and see what’s been working and what hasn’t. Schedule time to collaborate and come up with new creative ideas on how to connect with your audience. Then start the process again.

The Core of a Successful Social Media Strategy

With so many people out there claiming to be experts and an almost overwhelming amount of information and new tools and platforms, it’s easy to get sucked into the idea that we need to know it all. Of course it’s our job to be knowledgeable about current social media trends, but what we really need to be an expert in is our customer. That’s why the customer’s values and how we meet their needs is always at the core of a successful social media strategy.

What do you think makes a successful social media strategy? Have any tips on how to stay ahead of social media trends? Leave your comments below.