Links have been the primary way in which search engines discover new pages on the internet. Since the days when Google came up with it’s Page Rank algorithm to value sites based on number of incoming links, Link Building has been a big thing in the SEO world.
But in the modern world, where search engines use a lot of different signals to determine relevant, authoritative and quality sites, link building as an SEO practice just for getting better search engine ranking is dying.
What can Links do for Businesses?
Links serve 2 purposes:
- Links at right places help generate a lot of valuable traffic for a business’s website
- Quality links tell search engines that your business (and it’s website) is an authority in the industry and that Google should trust the site more
With the advent of unscrupulous link building activities that some SEOs have adopted over the years to work these to their advantage, search engines are killing any and all link building activity that doesn’t provide quality, relevant and valuable information to its users. After all, it’s not about search engines or your business – it’s about both our users/target audience.
How has Link Building Changed over the Years?
Link building used to be a lot about getting incoming links from wherever you can. Google cracked down on this big time with the Penguin Update. Some things that worked in the past are no longer effective, and one of SevenAtoms clients can surely vouch for that.
In the new world, the links must serve just 1 purpose: “Provide easy access to quality, relevant and valuable information to your users / your target audience / your buyer persona.”
Any type of link that doesn’t serve that purpose is either dead, or dying.
One of the first things Google killed was paid links. If these links are not nofollowed, you don’t just run the risk of getting the link devalued by Google, you run the risk of getting de-listed from the search engine directory which can be a disaster for a business.
Though not always seen as a spammy way of generating backlinks, this is one of the easiest ways to generate a link back to your site. As it doesn’t add much value and is not something that takes a lot of effort, chances are, these will ineffective at best.
A spammy way of getting a bunch of links quickly to your site was through Forum posts. Join a forum discussion, drop a link and you’re all set. But they are no longer effective as irrelevant links to your site are now being penalized by Google.
Another spammy way of generating link backs is to add a bogus comment to someone else’s blog and link back to your site. Same irrelevancy here will get your site penalized for using such tactics. Not just that, this method is now mostly ineffective as Blogging platforms like WordPress make then nofollowed links by default which means you don’t get any SEO juice out of it, even if the search engines have not yet cracked down on you.
What started out as a noble intention to share good content with the interested audience quickly became another spammy link building tactic for SEOs which also killed any value social bookmarks would provide from the search engine optimization perspective.
Guest Blogging (or Blogger Outreach)
The latest nail in the link building coffin was punched recently by Matt Cutts when he declared that Guest Blogging is Done from link building perspective. Though Guest Blogs will be around and will help serve purpose #1, they will not help with purpose #2 we discussed above.
Link Building in 2014
So what will work in 2014 and beyond?
As it must already be clear by now, any marketing activity performed online must be for the user, not for you (or your business) and definitely not for search engines. Otherwise your success will be short lived.
Earn Links, Don’t Build Them
Links have existed since before even search engines did. And it was all about earning links back then. That was the way people found businesses (apart from online directories and such). It’s time to go back to ways that will help you earn links. It can be done in many ways – by generating valuable content like Infographics, videos, eBooks, whitepapers, etc. that others can link to. Make this content compelling enough for people to link to it.
Make it Easy to Link to Your Content
When Sharing on Social Media
Make your content tweetable, or shareable on LinkedIn, or +1 it and share with their Google+ circles right from the same webpage. Don’t make people work for it, make it easy for them.
When Allowing people to Curate Content
Content curation is another way for businesses to generate a lot of quality and relevant content quickly. If you are not making it easy for people to link back to you when they curate your content, chances are, you will lose out on those valuable links.
Build Relationships, Not Links
It is no secret that people trust authoritative content that comes from a known expert than one coming from a self-proclaimed one. Build relationships with authorities and influencers in your industry. Write content that links to them. Ask them to review your content and provide their thoughts. Use their advice. Get on their good side. If they talk about you (link to you), people will listen.
No matter what you do, you should do it for your target audience. That is the only way to ensure long term success. What has your experience been like with link building? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.