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Link Building in 2012 and Beyond: Scalable Link Building

By on Apr 12, 2012 in Search | 41 comments

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There are tons of things happening and changing in the link building game since the start of the year, from the finer value being given to social signals, changes in the search results (primarily with Search plus your World and continuous roll out of different versions of Panda update), expected demise of link networks, to the improvements made by Google in interpreting the use of anchor texts to determine relevance.

Most of these changes clearly denote that we all have to adapt and evolve as well with how we market, brand and make our websites more visible through link building.

Ethical link acquisition has grown more significant, especially nowadays, wherein the practice’s results affect and encompass other areas of online marketing if done in large scale and targeted approach, such as:

But of course, we always have to remember that link development is only one part of the pie – and an important one that makes SEO as a whole – considering that to really be efficient in getting great results from link building requires a well-optimized site/landing page (for search, UX and conversions). Marrying a solid on-site and off-site campaign is the key to attaining ROI-driven results, as always.

So the big question, does link building for this year differ from what was mostly done last year? If I would have to answer this question based from what our team has been doing these past few months, I would say not that much, since:

However, there are some things that have changed along the way such as:

And as I have mentioned above, we’re still using the same methodologies in assessing our link targets, and in building strategies to acquire links from them by evaluating link opportunities through:

Basically, the link development strategies that you’ll want to implement to your site’s marketing efforts has to have the potential and ability to be naturally scaled and grow on its own to benefit both of the campaign’s short as well as long-term goals. That’s the kind of link building principle that any serious business should have.

Here are some of the mantras and methods that you can use to scale your link building efforts this year.

Find, build and leverage Linkable Assets 

Any part of a website or organization that is capable of continuously attracting traffic and natural links to it is linkable asset. It is definitely easier to build and request for links to these types of properties/materials as people will have viable reasons for linking to it, mainly the value being offered by the content or a particular element of the site.

Some of the most common types of linkable assets that a site can have are as follows:

It’s sure enough that there are other types of content that could serve as a linkable asset for your site (like an evergreen and well-research blog post). So finding already existing strong pages lying beneath your site that could possibly be an asset for your link building campaign is also crucial. In finding possible linkable assets, you can start by identifying them through digging deeper into your site’s pages and identifying the ones that are:

Understand why people are linking and staying longer on these pages of your website, and enhance them to be able to attract more natural links with minimal effort.

You can check out my post on SEOmoz about building links to linkable assets, which elaborately discusses almost everything you need to know on how to make the most of your site’s socially engaging and link-worthy content.

Reverse Engineer your Competitors’ Links

Knowing where your competitors are getting their links from is still very much important this year (and definitely will be as long as SEO/link development is alive). Competitor analysis, particularly with links, is not just about identifying the sites linking to your competitors, since you’ll also have to understand the relationships between these linking sites to be able to replicate and overcome your competitors’ strategies in terms of link acquisition.

It’s always important to know who are linking to them (especially the authoritative ones), how they got the link and why they are linking to them, before approaching these link targets. Once you have the answers to these questions, then it will be easier to build strategies on acquiring the same type of link.

You can use tools like Open Site Explorer to find your competitors top pages (and most linked to) as well as Ahrefs to track sites linking to their strong pages. Make a list of those sites and segment them by level of difficulty and importance so you can easily set priorities and goals in acquiring links from them.

Study the average volume of links being acquired by your competitors on a monthly basis and also the types of links they are mostly getting to get a clearer picture of how you can outrank them by pinpointing the things that are obviously working for them.

Content Marketing

Many people in the industry are already seeing content marketing as the new face of link building. And that’s quite true, given that the more you push great, useful and share-worthy content to your audience, the more it can attract possible links to your site and its content, which is the real essence of whitehat link building (linkbaiting).

Content marketing is a practice that simply allows a site to build enormous amount of middle of the funnel offerings to their target consumers that could be in the form of:

These types of web content are able to help in increasing the site’s conversions, especially when they are heavily promoted through social media and manual link acquisitions to make them more visible to its target audience, since the campaign gives the site’s visitors more reasons to return and consume more of the information that website is offering, which can lead to brand loyalty and transactions.

Apparently, the more these web-based materials are able to push your brand as an authority in your industry, the better chances of getting more natural referring links (as well as deep links) from other websites/blogs in your industry. This also helps in continuously growing a strong following base on social networks that can certainly make a closed-loop funnel for both link development and social media marketing purposes.

Few important factors and actions in content marketing:

Basically, content marketing is a link attraction technique, and being consistent with it is definitely a scalable link building strategy.

Partial-match Anchor Text Strategy

Since Google has now have implemented some changes on how they use anchor texts as a ranking signal, employing a partial-match anchor text strategy for your link building is just as vital as how exact-match anchor texts were before.

Have different sets of variations for your targeted keywords to use when building links from other websites. You can use the technique that was shared by Ross Hudgens on generating anchor text variations through excel.

The main key to an effective partial-match anchor text link building is to just secure the targeted keyword(s) within the link’s text, while making the link more descriptive than usual (ex: “Affilorama’s free affiliate marketing training lessons” instead of  the plain “affiliate marketing training”).

With this, you are also able to target and optimize your pages for the keywords’ other possible long-tail queries. Another advantage of placing longer strings of texts for the links you are building to other websites is that it gets higher chances of being clicked, since it’s more perceptible to readers, plus the fact that the link’s visible text is very descriptive.

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging has been one of the most effective ways to build links these past few years, and seems to be the top method of most agencies and practitioners for link acquisition, knowing that the value of the links acquired through this technique appears to have great impact when it comes to pushing keyword search rankings, along with its other advantages like the capability of the method to refer traffic, followers, leads and disseminate online brand presence.

An efficient guest blogging campaign focuses on getting content placements on sites/blogs that are known to be an authority in your field (or closely related to your industry that caters to a fraction of your market), have high traffic and will pass link value that can influence search rankings.

Finding blogs where you can submit guest blogs to is easy. You can use this link prospecting method to make a big list of highly relevant blogs where you can acquire links from by pitching to write a guest entry for them.

Other factors that you should also consider when doing guest blogs:

Bonus tip:

This originally appeared on my last month’s newsletter:

Are you struggling with volume link building? Well, we all do, sometimes, especially if you’re in the whitehat arena (whether you’re working for an SEO agency that have monthly KPIs or working on a very competitive vertical that necessitates content-based links), as penetrating content-based links from highly relevant sites takes time more often than not.

Anyway, I’ll just share something that our team has been implementing that allowed us to meet the volume needed for some of our clients’ link building campaigns – covering industry-related news and pitching it as a guest blog/column.

Basically, you’ll just need to be updated with the news in your industry and recreate/rewrite it (and you could also include your own views about it) and then offer it as a guest blog to relevant blogs, since most bloggers are busy researching, writing or with their day jobs, and most of them have no time to cover these topics.

The great thing about using news stories as your topic for guest blogs is that blog owners will most likely publish your guest blog right away, since it’s news (and their readers wouldn’t want to wait for weeks to have that story published on their blog). So you’re doing them a favor.

And that kind of content relationship can grow eventually, and perhaps you can be a regular contributor/columnist to their blog who’ll specialize on news-related posts (which means more high-CTR link opportunities for your site).

How to do this:

  • Hangout on news sites that provide articles about your industry (for instance, if you’rein the tech/business industry, you can find content ideas from Technorati, Gizmodo, Mashable, Techcrunch, Yahoo! News, etc…).
  • Become the second wave coverage, by writing (rewriting) about the news articles you find from your news sources.
  •  Find blogs that have readers who’ll find your “rewritten news article” useful. You can easily do this through Google Search (example query:  tech news “write for us”).
  • Contact the blog owner, and ask if you can submit a “news article” to their blog that’s related to what most of their topics is about, and mention that “their readers may find your contribution useful”.

To give you more idea on how this one works, here’s a live sample:

There are also other avenues for external content distribution that you can choose to employ to scale your guest blogging campaign:

Editorial Link Building

Like what I’ve said before, I believe that this is the most powerful type of link there is. Simply because it’s voluntarily given, which what Google wants, and are more often than not clicked by people who gets to see the link, seeing that this type of link is placed within the body of the content.

Getting editorial links from content creators requires a content-centric campaign that will naturally attract people in referencing you as the originator (which is why content marketing plays a big role in today’s age of link development), wherein you’ll really have to earn the link/citation.

As always, there are many ways to build editorial links to your site or its contents, such as:

  • Creating a newsworthy content that have viral-marketing potentials, then pitching it to known curators, columnists, bloggers and/or news editors in your industry to get press coverage/mentions.
  • Launching a social media marketing campaign for your compelling content, through both manual social outreach and paid services. You can check out this post on viral marketing strategies for more tips on getting your content in front of possible linkers.
  • Sharing your site to Google News, since most of their channels are sometimes being used by journalists/bloggers as a source for their next stories, and this can lead to editorial link acquisitions and traffic generation to the original source of the story.
  • Tracking the links from your competitors’ similar content, and reach out to those sites and ask if they’ll be interested to link or share your content.
  • Mentioning your content through your externally distributed content such as guest blogs, free ebooks, slide presentations and press releases to increase discovery rate.
  • Reaching out to sites that have already linked to you in the past, as you’ll have better chances of acquiring links/social shares from them.

Authority, Brand and Relationship Building through Communities

Slowly develop your brand as an authority through genuinely contributing your expertise, sharing your ideas and helping out others to solve their problems to online communities and discussions (blogs, forums, news sites, social networks and Q&A sites).

Be consistent with your identity (profile avatar, username, description and approach) and try to assimilate your business’ unique value proposition with your persona as a contributor.

Becoming very noticeable by being everywhere, making yourself (or your representative) stand out in your industry’s online community, and by getting mentioned by people who you have built connections/relationships with will make you a linkable asset, and that what makes this strategy very scalable.

This will then make it easier for you to find better link opportunities in getting:

BizDev Link Building

Build links that will focus on driving more business to your site. Below are some link building techniques which are more aimed to driving targeted customers, but can also help in improving the site’s branding and search engine optimization campaign:

Blog Incubation – invest on building support blogs that will provide interesting and socially-engaging content for each different sector of your business’ target market (ex: say you have an ecommerce site for furniture and home decors, you can run several external blogs that will strictly focus on a single topic area, such as a home improvement blog, interior design blog, lifestyle blog, architecture blog, room design blog, office design blog, etc…). Once these blogs are already generating a good amount of highly engaged traffic, you can then start adding your main site as an additional navigational link on these blogs (using head terms as anchor texts) to refer the blogs’ interested visitors.

2nd tier link building – build links to pages that have remarkably mentioned your site/brand to boost their search rankings, particularly pages or articles that are from authority websites and are targeting keywords that have substantial search volume and could be found through queries that have intent to purchase (ex: “best link building tools”). Ross recently wrote a brilliant article on this technique being used to increase conversions by continuously referring more possible customers through the page where the site has been mentioned.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed, follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre and/or add me on Google+.

Image Credit: Sirgerg

Jason Acidre

Jason Acidre is Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive, marketing consultant for Affilorama and Traffic Travis, and also the sole author of this SEO blog. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre and on Google+.

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41 Comments

  1. The best! Let me add some: Quality content is equal to high AuthorRank. And building links from blogs and posts that has high AuthorRank will add more value to your site since they have high trust and authority than just linking on spam and networked blogs. Since the 1st day that Google introduced Authorship Markup on SERPS, we all know that Google is going to reward authors that produce excellent and quality contents – just like Jason Acidre, KaiserTheSage.com

    So It will always go down to one simple thing, stay shitty, crap and die or do good and valuable stuffs and prosper :) Change for good!

  2. Holly

    April 12, 2012

    Post a Reply

    Quite a thought. I was having headaches about link developing strategies. There are indeed tons of techniques that can be used but only few of them will really help you reach your goal and that is to raise the quality of your links.
    -Holly

  3. June

    April 13, 2012

    Post a Reply

    I agree that link building in 2012 isn’t wholly different to how it was last year or the year before. The main thing that has happened is that the spammiest, easiest to get link building options have been devalued or totally wiped out. Anchor link text (partial more so than exact now) from relevant sites is still the key, with a sprinkling of social activity mixed in.

  4. Hey Jason,

    Awesome post. I’m a huge advocate of guest blogging (it’s the core of our link building services), but already I’m seeing signs of Black Hats starting to manipulate it. If your focus in on the outbound link more so than putting out great content/advice for people, you’re doing it wrong. The covering a news topic for a guest blog post is also brilliant. Thanks for the tip!

    -Erin

  5. RankPop

    April 13, 2012

    Post a Reply

    This is an incredible post! It may not be scalable to a degree, but we are huge fans of creating infographics and also turning existing infographics that are out there into “compilation posts” and then sending them to really highly authoritative sites asking them if they would like the “exclusive” on posting it.

    We’ve had great experience with this.

    You can use Amazon’s mechanical turk to get ahold of email addresses manually for like 0.05 each so you don’t end up with the spamtrap stuff you get with email harvesters.

    Then, you can use programs like maxbulkmailer to send extremely personalized message out to the media contact of site admins… and they love free and exclusive content… makes them a hero.

  6. Steve Papas

    April 13, 2012

    Post a Reply

    The more and more I do this online business stuff the more and more I see that I have to be so darn sociable. I never would have thought I would be that guy but here I am.

  7. seolinkbuilding

    April 13, 2012

    Post a Reply

    I am sorry to say this but you are turning a simple concept of link building basics to a rocket science. i have not seen any change in the link building concept except the fact that Google now have given more value to links from content rich and high authority sites, Logic. so make it simple, easy to your readers

  8. Well done. I especially agree with seoteky’s comment about AuthorRank. I am sure it will become a much bigger factor in the future.

    We try hard to convince our clients that “link attraction” is the way to go. Many are finally seeing the light. For years people have been stuck on instant gratification and “cost per link”. But if they have the patience, building engaging content for link attraction is the way to go.

    We have found videos surrounded by a solid piece of text to be an excellent link attractor.

    • Kaiserthesage

      April 14, 2012

      Post a Reply

      Thanks for dropping by Arnie!

      HD videos/infographics and comprehensive text content with it is definitely a linkable asset, absolutely agree with that! We’ve been using that technique with our guest blogging campaigns too (it somehow increased our rate of publishing solid guest posts from authority blogs)

  9. David

    April 13, 2012

    Post a Reply

    Great analysis, I think the use of content marketing and spreading links through guest blogs will become particularly important this year.

  10. Great post Jason. Most of my clients are small businesses therefore don’t have big budgets so there’s some great tips here to pass on to them.

    Excellent post for referring clients to as well!

  11. Yllaine

    April 14, 2012

    Post a Reply

    I’m actually finding ways on how to improve my site’s ranking these days. I would like to say that I’m indeed satisfied with what I’ve read. Link building has change a lot and we should all be prepared for future changes that might happen. I’m just glad to have found your site and luckily I learned new things. Hope it would help me a lot. Thanks Jason.

  12. Matt Kinsella

    April 14, 2012

    Post a Reply

    The advice here I like the most is about reverse engineering your competitors keywords. A lot can be done with researching and using your competitors keywords.

  13. John

    April 15, 2012

    Post a Reply

    I think the key thing you mentioned here is understanding why people are linking and staying on your site’s pages and improving them so you’re site can generate more natural links. Natural links are great and once you know how to scale them Google will love your site. Good tips Jason.

  14. Aasma

    April 16, 2012

    Post a Reply

    Hi Jason,

    Really interesting and informative article, Reverse engineering to your competitors is very vital and helps you a lot to outrank them by checking their backlinks and sources so that you can too build high quality links for your site.

  15. Veronica

    April 16, 2012

    Post a Reply

    excellent analysis, I can see content marketing and spreading links through guest blogs becoming a lot more popular this year

  16. Jack Sander

    April 16, 2012

    Post a Reply

    Unfortunately a blogger cannot rank its posts just by publishing quality articles, we need to do a lot of link building. Usually I use social networks and forum posting, but from now on I plan to do also reverse engineering to outrank my competition.

  17. What a great post! Very thorough. It took me several days to get through it because I’ve been so busy, but you kept me coming back even with the interruptions.

    I love your thoughts about leveraging linkable assets. So many companies think they have to start building all this new content to build links (which in many cases is true), but a lot of companies already have great content on their pages – they just need to identify where that content is and put it where people can find it.

  18. Val Adams

    April 17, 2012

    Post a Reply

    Google again updated their algo and a lot of sites have dropped their rankings. These tips definitely are very useful. Thanks Jason, you are an authority when comes to SEO and internet marketing.

  19. Gabrielle

    April 19, 2012

    Post a Reply

    To me it seems like if you’re in a niche with low competition, all links are good links. However, if you’re in a very competitive niche, the quality of links is of utter importance. This applies to all parts of seo, the competition decides how well optimized your site needs to be to rank.

  20. Asma Khan

    April 20, 2012

    Post a Reply

    Jason,
    Extremely nice suggestions.I like your idea of Partial match-Anchor text strategy.
    Quality content is also an important thing in rank increasings..

  21. Robert Koenig

    April 20, 2012

    Post a Reply

    Yeah Google recently updated their algorithm (which was actually pretty good for me, because a lot of my competitors dropped in the rankings) so it’s been a lot of work to scramble and catch up. I’ve been doing a lot of guest blogging and commenting which has proven to be really effective. I like the part of this post about reverse engineering my competitors’ stuff. I think I’ll have to look into that in the future!

  22. Andy Cahill

    April 20, 2012

    Post a Reply

    Great post Jason. This is an excellent analysis.

    Thanks for sharing.

    -Andy

  23. Adam@KeywordLuv

    April 20, 2012

    Post a Reply

    Hi Kaiser,
    Its my first visit to your blog and found it great.
    We should make links back to our url in a natural way; links from all type of blogs/ website having different PR and over a longer period of time.

  24. I can absolutely agree with you on the importance of content alone. Besides providing value, Google will not find your content useful if it is not quality. If Google does not find it, it is likely no one will. 2012 continues an upward trend of rewarding those who contribute quality content.

    Your point on guest posting is well taken. It is something that I have neglected for a long time. However I am finally starting to see the value in it and have been quietly producing a library of timeless content ready to submit. I eagerly await the results.

  25. lariane

    April 22, 2012

    Post a Reply

    a lot of companies already have great content on their pages – they just need to identify where that content is and put it where people can find it. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Brown

    April 23, 2012

    Post a Reply

    I am impressed with the quality of your work. The link to Ross Hudgens post is very useful for brand development.

    Thanks man.

  27. Dennis

    April 24, 2012

    Post a Reply

    1st time visit & bingo I hit the Jack Pot. Your post is very knowledgeable, keep up the good work. It’s good to know that keeping an eye on your competitors activity still matters a lot. It’s always been & always will be about Content, the key is how you publish it. Google is now aggressive & kicking all of the spammers out of the scene.

  28. ozlat

    April 26, 2012

    Post a Reply

    man with all these Panda updates it is getting tougher to rely on SEO alone… after reading your lengthy post on link building strategies in 2012, you have hit the nail on the head as to what we need to be doing and always should of been doing… consistent and scalable are the key ingredients I believe :)

  29. AnneGeorgiou

    April 27, 2012

    Post a Reply

    These are all create techniques. My biggest problem was always picking the most suitable ones for each client. But your post really provide a work method that could apply in many different clients! So, thanks a lot for this.
    Any thoughts or tips on handling different clients/industries would be mostly appriciate.

  30. I’ve been using link building as a major part of my SEO efforts and it’s good to know there haven’t been too many changes to link building practices. You made a great point about using descriptive anchor text. Google apparently places more emphasis on making title tags and anchor text more user friendly as opposed to search engine friendly so if your keywords are “hats” and “design” it is alot better to use “We design a variety of different hats” rather than just “hats design”. Great post as always Jason

  31. Hi
    I am new here i was just aware from few ways of linkbuilding .But here you have mentioned a no of way that are really effective. I was not aware from editorial link building and bizdev link building. Now i must adopt these two ways also. Thanks.

  32. Koundeenya

    May 9, 2012

    Post a Reply

    Incredible! I was actually scared seeing such a long post. But once I started reading, I completed till the end. Coming to link building strategies, I work only on blog commenting. May be its time i should start working on others too.

  33. Paul

    May 11, 2012

    Post a Reply

    Hi Jason,

    Very strong post. Those are some extensive and solid ideas. Am going to have a play around with some of them from the leveragable linkable assets section and the content marketing section.

    Paul

  34. Great article and very easy to digest! I was hit pretty hard with the Penguin update and I’m now focused on great quality content so I never have to worry about different animals coming out of Google.

    Link baiting though, do you not think this method is useless in some industries? Yeah it works great in technology, the arts etc, but what about finance for example?

  35. Ymoosa

    September 1, 2012

    Post a Reply

    Thank you for the awesome ips, I have been looking for ideas to increase my rankings for my seo website. I am quite new to social media so trying to learn as fast as I can.

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