Many people already argue that links, as ranking signals, are getting less valuable. Google’s search algorithm is still based on the link graph.
Most of their actions (such as Penguin update, and the successive batches of manual unnatural linking penalties) to win against web spamming may perhaps just prove the real importance of links to the search technology. Seeing that links are still one of the best signals they can use in determining the relevance, authority, popularity and the credibility of a web page or an entity.
Well, that just means that getting the right types of links is still very much important in this age of SEO (and even on the entire digital marketing space). Because links don’t just help a site get better visibility on search results – it also helps information, products or services get discovered through referral.
Small vs. Big, Fast vs. Slow
Having so many search ranking factors to consider may make it seem even (in some ways) to win in search. Though, most of the time, one of the main deciding factors of who gets to win is the resources allotted by those who really want to have a bigger search and market share.
But one thing that I really like about investing in SEO is that even the small ones still have the right to compete and would still have a fighting chance – for as long as they’re proving that they really deserve to rank and be seen (through the quality of their content, product/service and the mentions they get naturally from other people/websites).
And that’s why building a strong brand presence on the web has become an important aspect of SEO – and link building makes that part much easier for search engines to understand.
Glen Dimaandal wrote a great piece on enterprise link building a few weeks ago (he also did a guest post here recently on enterprise-level content strategy). On that post, he detailed several tactics that many well-recognized companies have already invested on to effectively promote their brands over the web, such as:
- Press release distribution
- Thought-leadership campaigns
- Tool creation
- Getting interview opportunities
- Leveraging corporate partnerships
- Site acquisitions
Although in this post, I just thought of sharing some other link building ideas that not just enterprise-level companies can explore, but may also be viable for smaller businesses too.
Building a strong community within your brand is definitely a powerful way to make a website a link-earning machine.
A great example for this approach is the one that you’ll obviously see from Moz.
It has been mutually beneficial for both ends, given that their associates are helping their community grow (and their link profile for sure) – and at the same time, their associates get to build their personal brand and demonstrate their expertise to Moz’s continuously growing audience.
This approach can also be very much applicable to other industries – just like BiggerPockets, who have several regular content contributors on their main blog (that helps them earn natural links on a massive scale with less effort).
On launching an associates program:
- Make a list of people who you think can help grow your brand by having them regularly write content for your site. You can start with those who are really active in promoting their personal brands.
- Make sure you can provide the right incentives to your target associates and brand advocates (it could be through commissions, more brand exposure, direct business leads, free access to your products/services, etc…).
Creating your own recommended lists of other companies in your space (indirect competitors) – that provide products/services that your target market also seeks for (but you currently don’t provide) – can also be a good linkable asset and an effective platform you can use to build relationships with other industry influencers.
Tracking A-List News Sites’ Sources
The biggest publishers on the web heavily rely on other sources for them to be able to generate credible content while keeping up with their normal publishing frequency.
That’s why contacting the editors and journalists from these well-known news sites would sometimes be a long-shot, knowing that they’ve got plenty of things on their plate.
So why not get published on places where they are getting their news stories instead, right?
Most of these publications have content partners, and you’ll just have to put enough time and effort to dig to see the sites where they are getting their news stories regularly.
Like for instance, Yahoo’s Small Business Advisor is partners with sites like Business2Community, AllBusiness.com, Entrepreneur and a lot more. And other big content sites like Forbes, FastCompany and Inc.com also publish content from their content partners on their domain.
Even tech news sites mostly get fresh stories from other sites they trust, read, and regularly visit (well that’s obvious, since that’s what most bloggers do).
There’s a bunch of ways to track news sites’ regular content/news sources – you can do it manually (observe the top 20 content or so and see if you can find a pattern on who are they mostly linking out to as for their stories’ references). Or you can also use ScreamingFrog SEO Spider to scrape the external links from a particular category of the news site to see who the domains they mostly use as references.
Building a Learning Center
Investing to create a massive amount of useful content in your website doesn’t just help you build and earn more links. It also helps with the other more important aspects of business like brand strengthening, scaling customer support (as these content can also serve as FAQs), as well as in converting readers to loyalists and visitors to customers.
Many successful brands have already utilized this approach, especially those who’re in the web-based service/products field – and I’d surely fire one sample that’s very close to my brand: Affilorama’s Free Lessons.
These content assets normally do well when it comes to link building/earning, given that they mostly answer frequently searched queries or asked questions.
And it also makes a lot of sense to promote these pages, especially in situations where you get to simplify your answers to community members asking (or on discussions from other websites) by just pointing them to these informational pages.
Friends of Friends Marketing
Relationships are very vital in any form of marketing – I’m sure that you’ve already heard that a lot.
I remember when I was just starting that I really invested a lot of time and effort on building relationships with other bloggers in this space (I’ve even written a comprehensive blog post about the entire process 3 years ago).
Because it’s true, in any industry, that the right relationships will take you places.
Connect, engage and influence those who you can help and can help you as well. Find those who are very active in promoting their own brand, and those who write for various places.
It’s important to aim to have something of high value to their target audience (and/or even them) – which could be your ideas, product or expertise. Because the more they learn from you (the more you’ll be able to influence them) and the more they’ll speak highly of you and recommend you through their writings.
Write the type of content that your target prospects read, share and mostly link out to (follow them social networks to know what they usually learn from – then produce the same quality of content!).
Content Licensing is another marketing process that can be very beneficial to both participating entities (the original owner of the content and the publisher that will be republishing the content).
The original source of the content can get links and more exposure from the republished version of the content on a different website – while the licensee gets a free content that can help them build their own readership and links to the republished content as well.
Another form of content licensing that you can explore is allowing your content to be republished and translated into different languages – which can also help your brand reach a wider audience (for instance having a few of my posts here be republished in Spanish at Inboundespanol.com).
Several ways to implement this method:
- For licensors (content owners): you can start by reaching out to other bigger publishers in your space and ask if they’ll be interested to republish your content (especially on foreign websites that aren’t targeted to English-speaking countries – offer your content to be translated).
- For licensees (republishers – probably sites with bigger traffic): Find high quality content creators and offer content partnerships, wherein you can ask if they’ll be interested to republish one of their content on your site under their authorship (to give more exposure for them).
- Or you can also use content licensing platforms like NewsCred and Written.com.
If in case you’re interested to try this out, you might also find this document useful: content license agreement sample.
Also, don’t forget to always link to the original source of the content – and use the rel=”canonical” tag if necessary.
Micro Niche Sites
This is surely one of the oldest tricks in the book. Though using it for an enterprise-level campaign would certainly need a different approach for it (as the other supporting sites will serve more purpose than just building links that your competitors won’t be able to acquire).
Building branded niche sites (or acquiring smaller sites that specifically target different segments of your market) can be very useful if your marketing campaign is in for the long-haul.
For instance, I started SageMode last month – a small blog that’s more targeted to SMBs, entrepreneurs and startups – since that’s also a segment that our company also wants to target as clients for our online marketing services.
This new entity can help expand the business in so many ways, as it naturally builds its own identity and relationships in the long run. These things can all result to better link building opportunities, effective lead generation, and more business insights/technology.
Though focusing on this strategy will require a lot of resources, but there are still ways that you can do to lessen the volume of work needed to jumpstart this type of campaign. For example, on my first 2 blog posts for this new blog, I just did a group interview and a curated post (and I think it just took me a total of an hour to finish both).
Another approach for content development that you can do to ensure that your niche sites are continuously getting new content is to make it user-generated (like allowing guest bloggers, building a niche directory website, having a gamified or voting feature like Inbound.org, etc…).
But of course, it takes a lot of resources (budget, time and effort) to build an empire.