When 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.
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.
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.