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9 Easy Ways to Build Links

The techniques being used today to build links to a website have certainly evolved along the constant evolution of search. And apparently, the growth of search as well as the increase in competitiveness led to the birth of many creative, advanced and scalable link building tactics.

However, this doesn’t mean that we have to ignore the basics – knowing that “advanced” is just being really good at the basics.

Easy ways you can build links:

What has change?

Just like before, search engines are getting smarter every day, and they are now smarter than what they used to be.

But the most obvious change is that link building is not just a part of SEO anymore.

  • Link building is a branding tool.
  • Links that can send substantial amount of relevant visitors are valuable (in SEO, branding and conversion or lead generation standpoint).
  • Links affect search rankings, but it also allows websites to get directly discovered by its target audience/customers.
  • Search is now more reliant with marketing-driven metrics. And when your links are authentically byproducts of your marketing, they are much stronger.

So in this post, I’ll revisit several methods that can help you easily drive quick and easy wins when it comes to acquiring solid links to your site.

Link out to others

Linking out or mentioning others’ works, especially those who are in your field, can strongly enhance the linkability of your site, seeing that you’re using other trusted sources as a reference for your content.

Although, the linkability of your site won’t just stop there, since it can also help acquire links through:

  • Getting trackbacks – which is not as bad as most people think, as it can also refer traffic back to your content (and can also serve as a signal that search engines can use to find and index your content).
  • Initiate reciprocation – this is one of the best ways to get into your prospects’ (or target influencers) radar, and if you’re providing good content, then the probability of having them link to you in the future would certainly be high.
  • Getting social links – many have forecasted that social links will be the future of link building, well it is. Publishers tend to share content (especially if they’re good) when they are mentioned in it, and this can somehow drive more relevant traffic and send signals that search engines use as a ranking factor to determine a page’s popularity/authority.

Some of the most popular methods used in getting industry influencers’ attentions:

  • Interviews (group/crowdsourcing).
  • Ego-baiting (making a list of top brands/experts in your space).
  • Writing about or reviewing their company/product/service.
  • Expounding or contradicting their ideas.
  • Curating popular blog posts in your industry.

crowdsourcing

Talk to people

Building relationships, which is very vital in this age of marketing, obviously starts with conversations. The Internet made communication easier for people, so why not invest some of your time and effort in connecting with other publishers and influencers in your industry.

There are so many ways to engage your target link prospects and there are also many ways to acquire valuable links through conversations such as:

  • Blog comments
  • Forum posts
  • Q&As
  • Social networking
  • Email outreach

Relationships are considerably a solid driving force for marketing, knowing that building alliances can help make the syndication and distribution of your content a lot easier. The more you exchange ideas with people in your industry, the more link opportunities you can get.

Bonus: James Norquay recently did a case study on how giving away gifts may result to links and/or shoutouts, and you might want to check that out.

cyrus

Join industry-specific communities/platforms

The web has grown so much this past decade that it seems like any industry that you can think of already has a place online where enthusiasts actively participate/discuss (niche communities).

Inbound.org, Hacker News, Bigger Pockets and a lot of other popular subreddits on Reddit are few samples of these kinds of online communities – that seemed to become a huge part of the modern culture of industries.

hacker news

Establishing yourself or your brand as an authority on these platforms can certainly impact how others see you, which often makes your brand more linkable.

Another approach that you can take advantage of is through finding online publications in your industry that have “community blogs”. It’s easier to get published on these kinds of blogs, but it’s very important to ensure that the ideas and information that you’ll share will be more likely useful to their audience.

community blog

Publish content on popular/linkable websites

If you consider your brand an expert in what you do, then aim to get published on the top blogs in your niche – because there’s so much value to get from that.

moz

The best thing about submitting content on site’s that you know that are highly linkable (and have a huge following) is that aside from building high-value links to your website, you also get to attract 2nd-tier links pointing to the content you’ve contributed.

 ahrefs

This type of content placement easily connects you with other content publishers (which can get you ton more of links), and definitely potential leads/customers to your business, given that your content is visible to thousands of those blogs’ followers.

Repurpose content

Transform your site’s successful content assets into other formats, as you can easily get more links back to your site (as the original source of the content) once you start distributing it to other content platforms.

Some of the formats that you can use to repurpose your existing content assets:

Slide presentation

You can upload your slide deck on Slideshare (and include links on your slides). I’ve done this approach a few weeks ago, and was definitely successful, as the deck (that was originally published as a blog post) managed to get 3,000+ views and send almost a hundred of new visitors to my blog.

Video

You can also convert your guides/articles into video tutorials and upload them on video hosting sites like Youtube or Vimeo. The best part about using method is that videos, particularly from Youtube, have better chances of getting higher search rankings for long-tail search terms. So it can certainly help you attract highly targeted traffic.

video

Ebook

If you have ton of long-form content or series of blog posts that can be combined into one, then turning them into an Ebook is also a great option. Aside from offering it as a giveaway to your readers, there are also a couple of ways to make the most out of your Ebook or PDF documents for link building, like:

  • Uploading it on Scribd or Accel.io
  • Offering it to other bloggers to be given away (or be used as an incentive for their opt-ins).

Infographic

This is one of the most popular (and perhaps effective) ways to repurpose content, as images are easy to distribute and tend to be shared more a lot over the web.

You can submit your infographic to numerous infographic directories:

Or image sharing/hosting sites to get more links.

Other ways to ensure that your infographic will reach more of your target audience:

  • Encourage your readers to use it, by providing an embed code on the original page hosting it.
  • Launch it first on high-traffic blogs/websites in your industry, to ensure that it’ll be seen by your target audience.
  • Promote it through your guest blogging campaigns (by embedding it within your contributed content).
  • Use reverse image search (via Google image search or Tineye) to track blogs who have used your infographic but didn’t link to you.

Transcribe videos from other influencers in your space

This part of the post will actually be a part of Pole Position Marketing’s annual link building secrets free ebook – and I’ve just thought of giving you guys an exclusive preview of how extremely awesome next year’s edition will be.

Many influencers and/or experts from different industries use videos as a medium to communicate their brands’ messages and also to showcase their expertise. Using this content format these days may come in various forms such as:

  • Video tutorials
  • Conference presentations
  • Webinars, hangouts or Q&As
  • Video blogs
  • Infomercials and kinetic typography

Transcribing videos created by thought-leaders in your industry and publishing the transcription in your own website can benefit you in so many ways, seeing that:

  • The method allows you to build a linkable content almost instantly (since the information shared in the content is from an industry/topic expert).
  • It helps you to get into your target prospects’ radar, which will make it easier for you to connect, engage and build relationships with them.
  • You can get links directly from them (through attribution), if they decide to use your transcriptions alongside their videos.

What makes this strategy really viable is that videos – as a platform for online marketing – have been well accepted and widely utilized in many industries, which means the tactic can be replicated on any other verticals.

Example:

Earlier this year, Ross Hudgens did a transcript of Matt Cutts’ webmaster help video on what Google SEO changes are coming next.

Ross notified Matt Cutts about it:

ross-tweet

And Matt obviously liked it:

matt-tweet

Tips on transcribing videos

  • You can do it manually, or you can also use Inqscribe – a video transcription software.
  • Make sure that the transcript is readable (removing the uhms/ahs, breaking the transcript into shorter paragraphs, appropriate use of punctuations, commas, etc…, and including images/screenshots if possible).
  • Don’t forget to give link attribution to the original source of the video content when you publish the transcript on your site/blog.
  • Let the original source of the video content know about the transcript you’ve created, and start engaging.

Regular content contributions

I’ve mentioned this many times before, that regularly contributing on the top domains in your industry is far better than link dropping to hundreds of mediocre blogs through guest blogging.

quote

This is actually my most favorite link building tactic today (aside from link baiting and building evergreen content assets) for many reasons:

  • It establishes trust and indicates relationships – a factor that is very important to search engines.
  • It can help improve AuthorRank (given that you’ll be consistently contributing content on highly credible publications).
  • It can scale relationship building (as you continuously engage with their readers) and content distribution efforts (especially in promoting your upcoming content assets).
  • Great for branding, based on your association with the authority blogs you regularly write for.

Profile pages

Profile pages are easy link acquisitions, and there are ton of places over the web where you can build a profile with a link to your website.

Though it might be easy to get these links, there are ways that you can do to make them hard-to-replicate.

Because it’s not really about the link (whether it’s dofollow or nofollow), it’s about how you make use of your profile pages to make the links coming from it more valuable.

This is done mainly by strengthening the link value that your profile pages can pass back to your website/brand. Here are several methods that you can implement to efficiently integrate your profiles with your campaign:

  • Interactions and activities occurring on your profile page(s) (ex: engaging your followers on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ for them to click-through to your website).
  • Building links to your key profile pages (ex: linking to your Google+ or Twitter account when leaving comments on blog posts you read).
  • Cross linking or promoting your other profiles on networks where you have a larger following base (ex: asking your followers on Twitter to also follow you on Google+).

about.me

Build readership

Lastly, the easiest way to become the ultimate link building machine is to have a strong readership – and most especially if other content publishers are also reading your stuff.

This is not really that easy to pull off, as it requires hard work and consistency (in pushing out content that will make your target readers return for more).

Some of the strategies for content development that I focused on to gradually build my blog’s readership:

  • I created more evergreen content, so I can continuously attract new readers to my blog (as most of them find me through search).
  • I tried to blog regularly (3x – 4x a month) so my existing readers will have a reason to come back.
  • I used to allow dofollow links on the comments section to entice readers (spammers) to comment on my posts (because the higher number of comments new readers see, the more your content gets interesting to them).
  • I focused before on publishing long-form content (with unexpected hooks or ideas that they won’t find anywhere else) to increase the shareability of my blog posts. Because the more social shares, the more you can get new readers, and more potential linkers.

Once you’ve built a strong readership, link building gets a lot easier.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

Looking for more advanced SEO strategies and hard-to-replicate links? Check our link building services.

Managing Advanced Link Building Campaigns

trello

The link graph has always been a core part of Google’s search ranking algorithm. Even though the popularity of its importance led to the growth of web spam, Google still keeps on finding ways to make it more difficult to manipulate search rankings through unnatural linking behaviors.

Penguin updates and the unnatural link manual penalties just prove how important links are (and they’ll probably remain very vital in the future), as it is somehow addressing businesses to finally move on from the old ways of gaming search.

Link development is still a valuable process in marketing a website, and knowing how to manage your link building campaigns effectively is still an essential skillset.

Goal Setting

In starting a new campaign, it’s best to first understand why do you need links or link building. To give you a few reasons why it’s needed on a holistic digital marketing campaign:

  • To mainly improve the site’s domain authority (DA) and the domain’s ranking ability. As higher a domain authority may help the site gain better search visibility for all the keywords (head terms and long-tails) it is targeting.
  • To improve referred visitors to the website – through the links acquired from other authority websites in your industry (for marketing and content discovery).
  • To improve site indexation, as links can serve as signals that will help crawlers find and index new pages and the continuous changes implemented on the site.

Once you know why you’ll be doing link building, it’ll be much easier for you to establish your campaign’s goals. For instance, to successfully get all the 3 areas mentioned above, you’ll need to:

  • Get highly visible links from high DA sites in your industry – to be able to absorb domain authority as well as relevant traffic back to your website.
  • Be consistent with progressive link acquisition, based on your primary metrics (authority and relevance).

Your goals will help you determine the actions you need to take. This stage will give you a lot of insights, particularly with what methods to focus on in order to meet your campaign’s objectives.

Further reading: 10 types of links that really matter and how to get them

Minimum Viable Service

This is very similar to the business concept that has been popularized by Eric Ries (minimum viable product), wherein you provide different sets of tasks in the initial stage of the campaign that will not require extensive knowledge about your clients’ product/service/company for you to be able to deliver substantial output on your campaign’s first month.

It will mostly be comprised by tasks that don’t need a lot of effort, but can still offer enormous results. A few samples of activities that you can easily provide as a minimum viable service are (while you’re preparing for the high-value tactics):

  • Penalty diagnosis
  • Content asset inventory
  • Technical SEO audit and recommendations (you can check out Annie Cushing’s audit checklist)
  • Easy to acquire links (such as profile pages, web/niche directories, social profiles, etc…).

Including this business strategy in your consulting service’s structure can strongly improve how you head start and handle campaigns as whole, given that these actions can also help you and your clients draw actionable ideas and have a better grasp of the campaign’s path.

Strategy Development and Prioritization

You can then build a strategy or list of actions to implement based on your campaign’s goals and the findings from your initial activities (research phase).

Start by asking yourself what methods you can use to reach your goals.

  • What types of links do we need to improve our DA and click-through traffic?
  • How do we get them? Can we get them fast?
  • Can we expect immediate results (link acquisition, traffic, rankings, revenue, etc…)?

There are so many tactics to choose from, and you can start here.

Breakdown your to-do list based on each method’s level of priorities and difficulty. Start with the ones you know are important, high-value, but not that time consuming.

This will help you create a better and very actionable timeline for your campaign, which is very crucial as you proceed.

Process Documentation

Document all the processes that you’ll implement in your link building campaign, for this will help you scale your staff’s training process (and your client can also use this to train their in-house staff).

process doc

In creating your documentation, make it as comprehensive (and comprehensible) as it can, like including all the steps they’ll need to do for each listed tactic, and including screenshots if necessary.

What this documentation will normally include are:

  • Step by step guide for all the tactics your campaign has to execute.
  • Sample email templates for different types of outreach methods.
  • Tips on improving or making each technique more efficient.

Task Delegation and Communication

Use project management tools to track everything that’s happening in your campaign. This can most certainly help in organizing your team members’ tasks, gaining insights with your campaign’s current state, or to determine if it’s on the right track and what areas are lacking.

It’s also a good way to collaborate with your clients, and to notify them as well with what’s going on in real-time. We use Trello internally.

trello

Aside from having a better outlook of your campaign, this stage should also help you track your team’s performance, as well as initiative. And it’s imperative to discuss with your team the tasks that need more urgency and consistency.

Reporting

Reports – the most critical part of a campaign and perhaps one of the main products of any SEO provider. Paddy Moogan shared a really good template for link building reports on his book (The Link Building Book), and I highly suggest checking that one out.

Aspects of a good link building report would usually include:

  • Executive summary – which briefly explains and highlights all the notable areas for the month of the campaign.
  • Improvements – the things that have improved, which could be increase in organic traffic, referred traffic (through the links you’ve acquired), conversions driven by links (via assisted conversions on GA), increase in domain authority, and there could be a lot more.
  • Actions taken – a detailed report of all the tasks you’ve implemented for the entire month, which could also include the list of links successfully acquired, published content, as well as audit findings and recommendations.
  • Action plans for the succeeding month – including your campaign’s next steps is definitely a good way to impress your clients, as the more you get to learn and understand their business/industry, the more you can suggest result-oriented approaches to your link building.

Continuous Opportunity Discovery

Always be on the lookout for things that will not just improve your link building campaign, but also for opportunities that can help your client take their business to the next level.

This may come in the form of coming up with content assets that will allow them get more links, rankings, traffic, leads/conversions, or it could also be realizing partnerships that may able to help their product development, branding or even just their link building.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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The ROI in Forum and Comment Marketing

inbound.org

Building and earning visibility through conversations has proven itself to be a very result-oriented approach in online marketing.

Sharing your knowledge and expertise on online communities doesn’t just help you build links (that get clicked more often than not), but it also allows you to build a strong brand presence that will let people in your industry know that you really know your stuff.

And best of all, it can also help you generate leads/sales directly.

Examples

To start off, I’ll throw a couple of samples of how I personally gained from just being active on some of the biggest online communities in the SEO industry in the past.

Note: My links’ actual conversion data (from early 2010 – June 2013) has been wiped out when Google Analytics’ new interface was launched earlier this month.

A few years back, my blog marketing strategy heavily relied on building conversations on other sites (particularly those that I knew where my target customers are) – and I believe they really paid off.

For instance, I used to be active on Warrior Forum in the early days of my blogging career (in which I have contributed 173 forum posts).

Warrior Forum

Over the span of 3 months, I’ve managed to get a few service inquiries:

warrior-conversions

And I was able to work on 2 good projects (for $500/month – that was my monthly rate before).

tony bianco

So if I had a total of 173 forum posts, which could have taken me 2 minutes to make each post (a total of 346 minutes or 5.8 hours), and say I’m paying myself $20/hour. Then the total investment I made for this specific task would be $116.

The return was two $500/month worth of projects. Not bad for an investment right?

Another sample would be my current presence on Inbound.org (being one of the community’s top users).

inbound.org

Which definitely have generated a lot of business leads for Xight Interactive for the past several months:

inbound-conversions

It has been much easier to close deals with prospected clients coming from this community, since they already know what type of service they are looking to get.

inbound-inquiry

Other than getting service leads, it also helps me scale my marketing efforts, as I get more linking opportunities – seeing that other community members perceive my brand as an authority in the field.

link opportunity

Calculating the amount of efforts I’ve done vs. the results I got (as a business owner) was definitely satisfying.

I’ve already shared 1,545 articles on Inbound.org (although I’m not saying it’s about the quantity of your contribution). So let’s say it takes me a minute to share a single post on the site – which actually isn’t, since I believe it’s just a few seconds (a total of 1,545 minutes or 25.8 hours). Then I’ve already spent $516 worth of my time on contributing to Inbound.org (if say I’m paying myself 20 bucks per hour).

The returns were I was able to close a lot of new client inquiries and got more marketing firepower for my blog’s brand – which I can truly say a win/win.

Improving your conversational marketing strategy

Like any other marketing strategy/tactic, conversational marketing also has a few best practices of its own.

Generosity is key.

The more you add value to the discussions or give valuable information to other people in your target communities, the more you can:

  • Make your brand and contributions appear more authentic.
  • Build an authoritative identity for your brand.
  • Standout in discussions that really matter (increases click-through visitors).
  • Help and influence other people.
  • Build better relationships and become more linkable.

I know some people in our industry who have been really generous in sharing their ideas/knowledge, which I think have helped a lot in establishing themselves as an authority in the field.

One perfect example would be Benj Arriola (of Internet Marketing Inc.), who has been so generous in giving people advice (whether it’s on a forum or in a Facebook group).

benj

Invest more time on communities that will actually drive results

Participate on blogs, forums, social network groups and other online communities in your industry that really matter. Choose the communities that have:

  • A strong search share (to ensure that your contributions will be seen by their constantly growing search-driven visitors).
  • Large traffic, an active community and majority of it is your target audience.

Scaling your conversational marketing efforts

There are also a few things that you can do to make the most out of your forum and comment marketing campaigns, such as:

Hire smart people to do the community infiltration for you

If you have a great in-house team that really knows how your product/service(s) work (your sales or marketing people), then adding these small tasks of participating to online discussions can tremendously help you build a solid sales funnel. Just imagine if they can just do this for 15 minutes every day, right?

I’ve been working with Affilorama for the past 3 years, and I know that they’re support and sales team do this on their free time.

Always measure

Check the top referring online communities that are driving conversions on your website (via Google Analytics). Spend more time on the ones that are really working.

Give product samples to other active community members

Get to know the other active users in your target communities, especially those who’re already/somehow considered to be an authority (but not the moderators).

Give them free samples of your products, as these can help you:

  • Get more inputs on how you can further improve your product (which can make your brand more link-worthy in the future).
  • Build rapport with the people who really care about your industry – and eventually build brand evangelists who can voluntarily promote your content within the communities they are active in.

Build more non-linking brand mentions

Instead of aiming for links when using this approach, use conversations to mainly amplify your online branding efforts. Because there are ton of advantages in doing this, such as:

  • It reduces the chances of getting flagged as a spammer (especially on forums), when you’re slightly promoting your own products.
  • It can cultivate more branded search (given that you didn’t provide a link) – which is a very powerful signal that search engines use to determine strong brands.

forumpost

  • Search engines can understand these non-linking brand mentions (through phrase-based indexing and the concept of co-occurrence), which means they will most likely count them as votes for your website to have better ranking ability on search results.

For more tips on comment marketing, watch the video below from one of Rand’s Whiteboard Fridays.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre

Tactical Link Building Insights with Jon Cooper and Brian Dean

This week, I had the chance to pick the brains of two of the most creative minds in the link building sphere today – Jon Cooper and Brian Dean.

A week ago, we received a tweet from Dean Gareth Davis about having us three talking about link building. So I guess this post is a sneak peek of how might that go in the future.

I sure do hope that we can do this again next time with the rest (Ross Hudgens, Garrett French, James Agate, Julie Joyce, Eric Ward, Paddy Moogan and Mr. Link Building himself – Wil Reynolds).

Anyway, with no further ado, here are some of our insights on how to tackle link building these days.

1. For agencies (knowing that they mostly work with clients in different verticals/industries all at the same time), what do you think are the best ways for them to scale and simplify the process of link development?

joncooperJon: Scaling for an agency comes down to three things: people, process, and relationships. First, you need to be able to correctly & quickly hire to keep up with demand.

While you don’t want to rush into hiring someone, you need to be able to quickly assess whether or not they’re a good fit; otherwise trying to take on more work at an accelerating rate while waiting for the perfect hire is what’s going to cause some short & long term issues.

Second, you need to have the right processes setup that standardizes most of the repetitive tasks you’ll be performing. The biggest priority is simply having one; it doesn’t have to be even close to perfect, you just need to have something in place so you can start from there in terms of improving efficiency.

Lastly, save yourself some pain & effort and try to develop relationships that you can tap into for multiple clients, otherwise sending out a blast of cold pitch emails each time around is going to be frustrating & time consuming.

One thing I’ve been considering is specializing in a certain vertical (i.e. just health or just real estate) so you can build up those relationships and tap into them for every client, and not just the few that you’ll get within the same vertical (in that case, blogger personas would be a good route to go).

Scaling for an agency comes down to three things: people, process, and relationships.

brian deanBrian: Let’s face it: a campaign for mobile phone site is going to look A LOT different than one for a local landscaping company.

Interestingly, your client’s niche didn’t really matter before Penguin: you could build the same type of links for all of them.

In fact, when I first took on SEO clients (before I really knew what I was doing), all I needed was their target URLs and keywords. Whether they sold business consulting or microwaves, my approach was exactly the same.

Needless to say, those days are long gone.

Because today’s SEO clients need a lot of TLC, I’ve noticed quite a few agencies specialize in one vertical (law, dentists, hotels etc.). It saves them a lot of set-up time. They have guest posting targets, broken link building opportunities, and relationships ready to rock.

There’s no need to spend time searching for “keyword” + “write for us” or “keyword” + “inurl:resources” when a new client comes on board. You already have your pre-prospected targets in an Excel spreadsheet ready to go.

So that’s one way to scale: carve out a niche and focus on client acquisition in that vertical.

The other strategy would be to invest in training your team. If you delegate the bits and pieces of link building to low-skilled staff, you don’t have a “link development team”…you have a backlink assembly line.

Yes, it’s efficient. But it’s not the holistic brand/content development/right brain approach that’s crushing it right now.

I recommend that agencies try to create a staff of Jon Cooper’s, Garret French’s, Jason Acidre’s, and Eric Ward’s.  This caliber of expert can come up with a 100 powerful link developed campaigns within seconds of seeing a new client’s site.

That makes link building easy to scale: you don’t need to spend weeks figuring out the best approach for every single new client you take on. Instead, when you land a new client, the experts on your team bang out a custom, winning plan on day 1.

So that’s one way to scale: carve out a niche and focus on client acquisition in that vertical.

jason acidreJason: I actually wrote a piece last year on Buzzstream on developing advanced processes for agencies and enterprise-level SEO teams, and I believe that those structures are considerably efficient nowadays, especially with the constant changes occurring in the online marketing space.

Aside from getting the right people, and having a system in place where your talented staff can work around with – it’s very important to have solid core principles (on how you approach web marketing)  in which your process/people can stick to or base their actions from – and eventually enhance along the way.

It’s not just about making sure your people know the best practices in SEO/link building, it should be more about them understanding how the web really works (especially with how people consume the web – or the things that make people share and link).

Influence the people within your organization/agency to integrate your value proposition with how they do their work. Like with us, our primary goal for every campaign is to improve conversions, so our methods in link acquisition are almost always aligned with this objective.

Principles drive actionable strategies – and often results to far simpler processes and result-driven actions.

2. Link earning is all about standing out in the competition. So what’s the fastest way to really stand out to start earning high-value links?

joncooperJon: I’m actually against the idea of link earning because I’ve seen far too many great websites, content, and products that “earned” links but didn’t tap into nearly all of the opportunity they could have taken advantage of because it would take some grunt work in terms of traditional link building & outreach.

So understand that standing out (doing something noteworthy) and actually getting high quality links aren’t one in the same; otherwise, we wouldn’t need marketers because the best products & services would always win.

But with that said, there are a few tried & true practices to stand out that are almost universal. The first is simply by finding what the best are known for, and just doing it better. It’s a poor example because it’s from the SEO industry, but I found this to be super popular, so I just redid it to make it even better.

The second is the “be everywhere” approach. Plan a day, probably 2 months out, that you want to be seen everywhere. That means building up relationships with all the bloggers in your industry and seeing if you can get a guest post to go live on their blog on that day.

There’s no set number of guest posts you should shoot for, but aim for at least 10. At the same time, put together at least one or two serious posts on your blog that will wow people ahead of time, and have them go live that day and the next.

Essentially, you want your name to be everywhere, even if only for a day or two.

brian deanBrian: The best way to make a name for yourself is to find the content gap in your industry and fill it with mind-blowing stuff. Your competition is probably too lazy to publish amazing content that blows people’s minds. Their blogs probably bang out boring, useless articles like “5 Tips for …” and “7 Simple Ways to …”.

There’s a place for that sort of content. But it’s not going to make you stand out.

For example, when I started Backlinko, I was entering the crowded, competitive, and noisy SEO space. I knew that I hadto publish amazing stuff 100% of the time if I had any chance of making a name for myself.

And it’s like that for most industries. You need to bring it every single time you publish, especially when just starting out.  The content bar is set very high in almost every single industry right now. If you want to earn links with content, you need to think of ways that you can beat what’s out there on every single level: design, comprehensiveness,utility, UX.

Of course, content alone isn’t enough. The “marketing” part of content marketing is crucial. Another way to stand out is to blitz your industry with guest posts, interviews, infographics etc.

You want to be everywhere your target market is. When they go to a forum to ask a question, they read your helpful response. When they go on Twitter to see what’s new, they see people sharing your new infographic. When they check their favorite blog, they read your guest post. When they go to Google+, they watch your Google Hangout.

If you get yourself in front of your target audience (or the linkerati), over and over again AND impress them with great content when they land on your site, your competition won’t stand a chance.

Content alone isn’t enough. The “marketing” part of content marketing is crucial

jason acidreJason: There are many ways actually, but these are the two that I would mostly suggest people to focus on:

  • Create something that’s really hard to do (and let people/publishers in your space know about it). A lot of starting up brands has been successful with this approach – same thing as to what Jon Cooper did with his complete list of link building strategies and when Brian Dean co-authored the advanced guide to link building, which were both well received by the SEO community.
  • Focus on becoming an authority in a particular niche in your industry (become the go-to-brand in that niche). This is quite similar to my approach back when I was just starting, where I focused more on writing about link building.

3. Most seasoned practitioners know and understand that the first month of every campaign is the toughest one. In content and link development standpoint, how do you manage your clients’ expectations (or their expected results) for the first month? What are the deliverables that you mostly focus to accomplish on the first month of the campaign and how do you justify these results?

joncooperJon: An interesting solution to this problem was found by a colleague of mine who’s doing local SEO for clients, all in the same competitive space (but obviously different cities).

What he would do is during the first few months, not only is he building up the site and doing all the white hat, long term things needed to rank, but he was always throwing up a second site and doing some grey/black hat SEO to get it ranking early on, and as a result, not only was he able to focus on the long term with his client’s main site, but he was also able to drive business for them in the short term (by the time these sites burned out, his main sites were ranking much better).

For others though, this approach might not be possible for a couple reasons. First, you’re probably not that good at actually ranking sites with grey/black hat tactics. The second is that it just might not be an option (i.e. because their site is ecommerce and you can’t just throw up a site over night with some textbroker content).

So for the first month, you’re just going to have to suck it up and do things like everyone else; tell the client to focus on the links coming in on a month-to-month basis, and that most movement won’t be seen until at least 3-6 months out depending on your velocity and the level of competition in that vertical.

brian deanBrian: For me, the first month is the hardest because you’re under the microscope. A client that checks his analytics and SERP positions once a week may check once a day during that first month.

One way that I’ve turned the first month into a huge win is by focusing on on-page and on-site improvements. In my experience most new clients tend to make the same fundamental on-site mistakes:

  • Trying to target 5+ keywords on every page
  • Stuffing the keyword meta tag with 25+ keywords
  • Poor landing page design that causes sky-high bounce rates and subpar dwell time
  • Ignoring basic on-page SEO best practices (long content, adding multimedia etc.)
  • Dozens of useless snippet and archive pages that dilute PR and trigger Panda

Fortunately, you can usually overhaul their on-site SEO over a weekend. And the next time Googlebot comes around, you have a tightly-optimized site that will get an almost-instant boost. That way, I can tell them: “You should see a slight-yet-significant improvement within a few weeks. As I start to build quality links for you, this will improve even more over time”.

Giving a client some results in month 1 establishes trust and makes them more patient. That way you can do the long-term link development work (relationship building, infographics etc.) without feeling like you’re under the gun.

jason acidreJason: I believe we use the same approach as to what Brian does – we tend to look for quick wins (through technical on-site audits/recommendations) first, as this is the most important part of SEO anyway.

Although, aside from that, it’s also important to at least come up or develop a solid content asset (or help improve an existing one) on the first month of the campaign, which can attract links/traffic (or will be really appropriate to build artificial links to) on the first month (and also over the next few months of the campaign).

The great thing about this approach is that the result will not just yield links (and potential rankings), as the result may also reflect through the conversions that the content asset can help provide on the first month.

It’ll be so much easier to get the trust of your new clients when they see that your efforts are positively affecting their business goals.

4. What link building methods would you suggest to any organization (agency, enterprise, SMBs, publishers, etc…) that are easy to implement and can somehow drive immediate results.

joncooperJon: There isn’t one universal link building tip for every business model and every sized client. If there was, there would be 10x the link building agencies out there. Most of the easy wins are on-site that drive immediate results.

For bigger sites, if the domain authority is there, you can do a TON with internal linking. A good example of this is a very well-known ecommerce brand. Because they already had a lot of incoming links, all they had to do was create a lot of content so they could utilize it for internal links.

So what they did is they made mashups of “Product X vs. Product Y” (even if X and Y weren’t entirely related). The content used for each was the same in every mashup (i.e. Product X content was the same whether it was being shown vs. Product Y or Product Z), but because they were combining the content in new ways (i.e. X vs. Y is different than X vs. Z is different than Y vs. Z) Google was seeing it all as unique content, thus giving the internal links juice (and thus driving some serious revenue in terms of better rankings).

Would this exact strategy still work today just as it did roughly 2-3 years ago? Who knows. But the takeaway is that there’s a lot of opportunity you can take advantage of from an on-site perspective.

brian deanBrian: Here are a few that aren’t necessarily new and exciting, but they work really well and can be applied to almost any industry:

  • Resource page link building: I don’t see this talked about as much as it should be. Almost every industry has hundreds of high PR resource pages to take advantage of. And you don’t need to lie, beg, cheat or steal to get your link. These pages exist just to link out to great content. So if you have that, it’s just a matter of asking nicely.
  • Infographics: The buzz behind infographic marketing has died down over the last 18-months. But that doesn’t mean infographic link building is dead. Because this medium is still new-ish, there are A LOT of tweaks and hacks out there to make the strategy more effective. For example, I’ve been doing quite a few infographic JVs lately. That way you halve the cost and double the promotion from every infographic. That’s just one small tweak. Every time I launch a new one I get 2-3 more ideas like this that I’ve never seen published anywhere. There’s lots of untapped link building potential with infographics.
  • Handyman link building: I use this as the umbrella term to describe improving another person’s site for a link. Broken link building is the most famous application, but there are dozens of others out there. For example, Bill Sebald just created a very cool tool and approach called Content Refresh“. It’s basically finding outdated content and helping the site owner make it more up to date. I know other people that find ugly site headers, buy a nicer one on Fiverr, and then send the site owner the nice one. Lots of opportunities here as well.

jason acidreJason: I also believe that there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to link building. But there’s one common thing in any industry or type of business – a customer that’s looking for a product, service, solution or information.

It’s just a matter of how you can find these people and how you can demonstrate that you’re the best provider.

I’d suggest to start by looking for discussions (blogs, forum threads, Q&As, etc…) that are precisely about the solutions/products that your clients offer. Participate and make sure that you’re really helping them solve their problems.

Other things that you can also do:

  • Link reclamation – if the business has been already there for years, then you might also want to check if the site has unlinked brand mentions or links pointing to the wrong URLs.
  • Inviting or hiring expert authors in your industry to contribute content on your site.
  • Comment marketing – to establish your brand as an authority in the field and to also build relationships with other publishers in your space.
  • Distributing content on user-generated sites that have high search share (ex: Slideshare, YouTube, Pinterest, etc…) that can target your long-tail keywords – to get constant referral traffic/leads.

5. What’s in your campaign rule book? Or what are your initial protocols, action steps and goals to be set (for the next 3 – 6 months) when working on a new link building campaign?

joncooperJon: It’s more so of a checklist of different things to run through, just because each campaign is never the same (every site has different advantages/disadvantages, competitors, assets, etc.).

After running through mostly on-site things (i.e. is there unique content on these category & product pages), the first few things to do in terms of link building are just going after the easy wins after doing competitor research.

Depending on what we turn up here, going after those links could mean a month of work or 6 months of work. After that, we usually dive into what exact content can we create that we know we can get links to (throwing mud at a wall just isn’t practical; the content we create always has a link focused purpose).

brian deanBrian: The first thing I do is help them create a linkable asset. Here’s the process that I follow:

1. Look at the client’s market and see where there’s a content gap.

2. See if there’s content on their site that could be improved upon or turned into a linkable asset. That’s usually faster and easier than starting from scratch.

3. If they don’t have that, I help them create a linkable asset. I prefer infographics and ultimate guides because they’re cheap and easy to share.

4. I try to get as many eyeballs on the content as possible. That means posting it on industry forums and trying to get it featured on popular newsletters (a massively underrated content promotion strategy).

5. Once the buzz has died down, I pound the pavement with an email outreach campaign.

This campaign usually gets some brand awareness and quality links to the site. Then I focus on some fundamental strategies, like broken link building, resource page link building, and link reclamation.

Once a month or two has passed create and promote another linkable asset. Rinse and repeat.

That’s the initial protocol and action steps. I actually don’t try to set specific goals besides creating one awesome piece of content every month. There are too many variables for me to say: “You will get between 25-50 links from this infographic”.

jason acidreJason: I always start with the goals and limitations (resources, access and/or budget). Because having these parts very clear at the start makes the strategy development and implementation more adaptive.

With that, you can easily identify tasks to highly prioritize and not – and basically focus on things that will really yield results.

My main rule (personally) is to just make sure that each task is relevant and aligned with the campaign’s long-term objectives. That’s why we always do a project briefing (internally) before working on a project.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow us on Twitter @jasonacidre, @pointblankseo and @Backlinko.

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22 Link Building Tips from @xightph

Links will always play an important role in the search, aside from the fact that it’s the core in which most search engines’ algorithms are based on – it’s still the best way to rank content.

Experts also believe that links are still very much important, though it’s known that Google will most probably just value those that are evidently natural and non-manipulative.

Anyway, for the past year and a half, our company/team has been known to specialize in this area of online marketing (although we also offer other technical marketing services, our brand has just been so attached to this particular marketing practice).

Given that we’ve been doing this for quite some time now, I just thought of sharing the things we’ve learned from working with dozens of clients (from different countries, industries, working on various business models), as well as the mindsets that we’ve grown to believe in as a team when it comes to implementing link development strategies.

1. Diversity is one of the key factors to succeed in online marketing these days. That mindset pretty much applies in link building as well.

And the best way to get a good variety of link types (through voluntary given citations/mentions) is to make sure that you’re promoting a great product/service that has a strong unique selling point, which will make people want to share it with their friends.

2. There are 4 major factors that make brands/sites earn editorial and contextual links – content, relationships, expertise and unique value. Being consistent in building on at least 2 of these main factors can certainly help you get ton of hard-to-replicate links to your site.

factors3. Invest on continuous creation of evergreen content assets that aim to solve perennial problems or frequently asked questions in your space. It’s the best way to scale link building, since they’ll almost always be searched and most likely be used as a reference by people finding your content.

link-growth

4. There is more value and advantages in contributing content regularly on high-traffic industry publications than submitting one-time guest posts on hundreds of mediocre blogs. Focus on 5 – 10 top industry sites (that your target audience go to) and get more visibility from them.

5. Create high-value content assets before launching a guest blogging campaign. It’s easier to get guest post opportunities when your prospects already have an idea of the quality of the content you produce. Guest blogging is also more efficient when primarily used to support your site’s strong content – wherein it’s more appropriate to include in-content links back to your site’s relevant assets.

content asset

6. Invest on developing redistributable content such as images (data visualization, memes, cinemagraphs, etc…), slide presentations, videos/kinetic typographies, PDF/whitepapers and badges. Aside from getting natural links from people who might reuse them, these content initiatives can also help you connect with other content publishers, drive traffic and build brand awareness.

7. Invite authority guest bloggers. It’s the easiest way to bait links – knowing that most seasoned bloggers reference their own works. It’s also a great way to expand your network and following base.

8. Build alliances. Make friends with entities/organizations that share the same ideals as yours (preferably emerging influencers in your industry). That way it will be easier to syndicate your content (as well as theirs) – which exposes your content to a wider audience and can result to higher chances of getting natural links.

9. Apply lead generation techniques when doing link building to get more results from it. Find and participate on specifically targeted discussions using search phrases and search operators that target people particularly looking for solutions (ex: “where can I buy + keyword”, “need help with + keyword”, etc…).

search lead gen

10. Promote useful content where it’s appropriate. There are so many channels where you can promote or build links to your content such as related discussions on other blogs, communities/forums, Q&A sites, and even using paid social ads.

But what’s really important is to ensure that your content will really add value to the discussion and to those who can read them.

comment

11. Always track for mentions (linked or unlinked), yours and competitors’. Asking for links that you’ve really earned (unlinked brand mentions or mentions pointing to your social profiles) is the easiest way to get links through outreach.

Tracking your competitors’ brand mentions is also important, as this can help you find new prospects that you can engage and be connected with. You can use Google Alerts or Moz’s Fresh Web Explorer to track these mentions.

12. Think branding. Link building is more efficient when used as a brand building tool. And given that Google is favoring brands on search results, then link building (when done right) can definitely hit more birds with one stone.

Focus more on branded anchor texts (your brand name, products, events, content assets, etc…) when building artificial links (awareness > link).

13. Aim for links that will get clicked, because they’re the ones that can most likely influence search rankings. Some of the most known factors that make links more clickable:

  • Prominent position in the document (the higher, the better).
  • Links that have highly descriptive and longer strings of anchor texts tend be clicked more.
  • If the link is on a high-traffic page.
  • Sentiments of the texts that surround the link.

14. Strengthen your links’ attributes with the help of other signals for them to pass more value (ranking power) to your site.

link attributes

15. Always check assisted conversions (on Google Analytics). It will allow you to identify and understand link types and sources that are sending qualified traffic and conversions to your site, which you can develop a process to make it replicable.

assisted conversions

16. Comment marketing is both overlooked and misused, but it’s definitely one of the most effective inbound marketing techniques out there. Here’s why:

  • It allows you to build relationships with other content publishers.
  • It can help you establish your brand as an expert – particularly if you’re contributing high-value information in the discussions.
  • It opens a lot of opportunities for linking (like being invited to become a contributor, or having your opinions cited by the publishers you communicate with).

Always consider your comments as a part of your content efforts.

17. Start learning how real writers reference other people’s works, because that’s how natural links are done. Use partial match and highly descriptive anchor texts, and understand the concept of co-occurrence.

18. Internal links are the most powerful type of link that you have full control of – make use of them wisely. Make your site’s stronger content (that are receiving natural links, social signals and constant traffic/activity) internally link to your site’s key pages that need more ranking power.

19. Be open to share internal data, especially to content publishers.

sharing data

20. Try to get links from pages that are already ranking well on search results or submit content to domains that have strong ranking ability (high search share). Getting your brand published on domains that have higher potentials of ranking for your long-tails can constantly send relevant traffic to your site.

linkable-asset

21. Update past successful link baits or content assets hosted within your site. I tried this a few months ago on this post, and it doubled the social shares, number of comments as well as the links it generated for that particular content.

updated post

You can even implement the same approach when reaching out to other publishers/bloggers (where you can suggest helping them update their old, but still useful content). Use Bill Sebald’s Outdated Content Finder to track pages that need to be updated.

outdated content finder

22. Use the linker outreach method to get your content in front of prospects that really cares or genuinely interested about it.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

PS: We’ll be launching our company’s website soon, so it would be really awesome if you can follow us also on Twitter @xightph for more updates. Thanks!

The True Value of Link Building in Post-Penguin Era

trusted links

There has been a lot of talk around the industry that the ROI in link building is diminishing. Mainly because of the constant algorithmic updates (particularly Penguin) that strongly impact this marketing platform, as well as with the shift that Google wants to take on in revolutionizing its search.

However, I’m still one of those who won’t really believe that link building will soon be over as an effective medium that can help websites/brands earn more and win over their competitions on the web.

Let’s recap several advantages of link building and why it wouldn’t likely be extinct:

  • It can drive referral traffic, especially if the links are contextual and placed on high-traffic and thematically relevant pages/content.
  • Links and brand mentions help businesses become more authoritative and visible to their target audience (link building is more efficient as a branding tool).
  • Links help sites (and web documents) in getting found and discovered, not just by search crawlers, but also by users.
  • Links can also increase a website’s conversions.
  • Link building still directly impacts a site’s ability to rank on search results.

I’ve handled sites that heavily relied on SEO/link building alone for the past few months – without the help of content marketing, social media and other traffic/lead generating channels – but were still able to produce tremendous results (bringing us closer to the business’ goals) in a short period of time.

organic search results

traffic overview

Although we all know that it’s always best to have a diversified source of traffic, it’s given that it’s not the way how it works on other niches.

Perhaps that’s why I strongly believe in link building as a very significant process in this age of online marketing. It can still yield results – overwhelming results.

My thoughts on Penguin and the future of link building

What I really love about SEO, as a profession and an industry, is that it continues to challenge its practitioners. While search constantly enhances and evolves itself, it also tests and changes/improves our own views and principles along the process.

Let’s start digging in through few of my observations based on our team’s available data. Although, I’m sure that I’ll be updating many of the things that I’ll be mentioning in this post in the coming weeks.

Possible Google Penguin filters

Matt Cutts mentioned that the new version of Penguin – Penguin 2.0 – goes deeper on to the site’s inner pages (the links pointing to them), as the first Penguin mainly targeted homepages.

Some practitioners argue that this isn’t true, although our data somehow suggests that it is (which will be shared on the latter part of this post).

Below are the factors which I think Google Penguin 2.0 uses in determining a site’s degree of penalization – based on my initial assessment – listed in particular order (according to each factor’s weight).

  • The quality of the link source. It’s easier for them to identify spammy websites or link networks these days (sites with Panda-prone content, contain tons of manipulative links, and have low user-engagement rate).
  • Degree of penalty could be based on the ratio of # of bad vs. good links pointing to the site’s pages.
  • Thematic relevance of the linking domain(s).
  • Amount of links with exact match anchor text pointing to a page (over-optimization), as well as their positions in the linking pages (sitewide, footer, comment section, contextual, etc…). But these might only serve as supporting metrics for the first factor I mentioned.

Ratio of # of Bad vs. Good linking domains

I think that the degree of the penalty from Penguin 2.0 depends on the ratio of bad vs. good links pointing to a certain site, as I’ve seen a couple of the sites we’ve been handling that were mildly hit by the recent Penguin update.

For instance, the site with the stats I’ve shared above was also hit (by 27% loss in search traffic).

penguin 2.0

The site has only a few linking domains to it, since we’ve only focused on getting links from 3 high DA sites (through regular content contribution).

linking domains

Though the problem is that several spammy sites have scraped the content we’ve published on one of the sites we’ve contributed to. So basically, the ratio of good and bad domains linking to the site is around 4:13.

If Penguin has devalued the other domains linking to the site, then this may have caused the slight decrease in search traffic (as the links are no longer passing ranking value to the site).

Another case is from a huge site we’ve been working on for months now that have thousands of great links, but also have a few hundreds of bad ones, specifically from:

  • Scraped content hosted on spammy websites/content farms.
  • Negative SEO.
  • Directory links, articles and social profiles with exact match anchor texts (built by their previous SEO service provider).

links - sample 2

This was slightly affected by the recent Penguin update, with 17% decrease in organic traffic.

penguin 2.0 - 2

The loss in traffic wasn’t that massive knowing that it has thousands of good links. Although, I will still need to observe it in the next few weeks to ensure if Penguin was really the reason behind its gradual loss in traffic (penalties usually have sudden drop and not gradual decline in search traffic).

The last one is from a small blog that I’ve been helping out in the last 4 months. We’ve managed to grow its search traffic by 500% in the first 3 months, but lost 38% of its organic traffic after the Penguin update last May 22, 2013.

penguin 2.0 - 3

The main reason was I didn’t check its historical link data, and just recently found dozens of spammy links pointing to its inner pages (from link networks) – which were built by the SEO he previously hired (early last year) – as I thought that the site was launched September last year.

Here’s a sample:

sample spam link

This site has less than a hundred linking domains, and the ratio of good vs. bad LRDs directing to it is around 20:45.

links - sample 3

I believe that regaining its search traffic is still very doable, so as to the 2 other sites I’ve mentioned above.

In getting their search visibility back, the link development campaign should focus on three things:

  • Build more quality links from trusted and relevant domains (have high DAs) to outnumber the bad links pointing to the site and its pages.
  • Disavow links that you have no control of via Google Webmaster Tools (disavow tool).
  • Try to remove low quality links (obvious spammy links) by contacting webmasters and requesting for link removal.

Diversity is crucial, but not a requirement

To make a site’s link building really diversified, it needs people (real people) to genuinely link to it. This means you need to really get out there and do remarkable things for people to talk about your brand (this is where content, relationships and other awesome stuff come in).

Artificial link building is promotional work, and no one is saying that it’s not allowed. Don’t forget that link building is also a marketing tool that can help your site get found (by your audience and search engines).

So if you’re going to use artificial link building methods (such as guest blogging, linker outreach, forum marketing, etc…), make sure that you can get the most out of them.

Consider these techniques as mediums to get more traffic and potential linkers to your site’s content, rather than just using them to draw signals to manipulate search rankings. Become more visible in few chosen communities where people are most-likely to share or link to your works.

You don’t need hundreds or thousands of unique LRDs

Number of unique linking root domains allows you to become more competitive in terms of having more ranking power in search results – that is what it was before.

But I think many have misinterpreted this, as many have disregarded the quality of the domains that they are trying to get links from (just to make their sites have more LRDs than their competitors).

I’d still choose and recommend having repetitive link acquisitions from a few chosen strong domains (that are entirely relevant to your site) than link dropping on hundreds/thousands.

Because this approach will make your link profile look more authoritative, based on the relationship that it’s building with other high authority domains in its field (think 5 solid contextual links from SEOmoz vs. 50 links from other not-so-popular SEO blogs).

As I’ve mentioned on the first sample website I’ve shared above, it has only 3 solid link source (in which we’ve continuously contributed content to), but the results were far greater than what most would expect.

Monthly link audit is imperative

You’ll never really know if you’re already a victim of negative SEO. Remember my mistake on the third sample site I’ve shared above? I forgot to dig deeper on its historical link data, and see where it got us.

If only I knew that it has dozens of spammy links (built by its previous SEO) before last week’s Penguin update, then I could have suggested earlier (few months back) to have those links removed or disavowed.

Avail link research tools like Open Site Explorer, Cognitive SEO and/or Ahrefs to easily monitor your site’s new and old links.

Another thing to consider in your link audits is measuring the impact of your existing links, and treating them as a part of your site’s assets (particularly those that are continuously sending referred traffic and conversions – as well as linking external pages that are ranking very well in search results).

Make these incoming links more powerful, by building 2nd-tier links to them.

Relevance and Context

Links are far more powerful when they are being clicked by users. It passes more trust and ranking power, based on the usage of the link, as well as the relationship between the linking page and the destination page of the link.

It’s easier to entice people into clicking a link when they are relevant to what readers/surfers are seeking for or interested in. Several factors that can increase clicks on links:

  • Position of the link
  • Length of anchor text
  • Traffic of the linking page
  • Context and sentiments of the texts surrounding the link
  • Relevance of the content to the link’s destination page

Building more links that can attract referred traffic can definitely send out more positive signals about your site/brand, which impacts your site’s ability to rank better on search and convert more referred visitors.

AuthorRank

Being a verified author (through authorship markups) and having a strong author portfolio (for AuthorRank) is more important than ever.

trusted links

Verified authorship will amplify the strength of the links you are building and other authors are building for your site, since these citations/mentions are expected by search engines to be more credible and trustworthy – based on the level of trust that other people see in your author profile (from both social and web graph).

Image credit: The Evolution of Search by Tom Anthony

Key takeaways:

  • Start growing your author portfolio both in and out of your site.
  • Build relationships with other authors and publishers in your industry.

Anchor text – partial match, branded links and co-occurrence

I have always believed that the most important role of links (in SEO perspectives) is to mainly absorb and pass domain authority back to your site, for it to have more ranking power (making all of its indexed pages capable of ranking highly on search results).

Using descriptive anchor texts was – and is still – the best way to make search engines understand what the link’s destination page is all about.

Although many have abused this ranking factor in the past to manipulate search rankings (and up until now), Google is still able to use other methodologies to understand links – knowing that this is very important to them.

Some of the most efficient anchor text strategies that can help bring more value to your link development campaign are:

  • Using partial-match anchor texts, rather than exact-match. This approach doesn’t just make your links look natural and diversified, but it also makes your links highly descriptive for both users and search crawlers.
  • Build more branded links to your site, as this can still impact your site’s overall ranking ability, given that this type of link can pass domain authority and trust.
  • Since Google is also applying phrase based indexing in their search algorithms, utilizing co-occurrence (placing generic keywords near linked or unlinked brand mentions) to help search engines determine and understand what your brand is about.

co-occurrence

Link building is about building the right signals – to build trust.

Links are gateways to experience. And most of us know that great experience is what makes brands remarkable and it’s also the main thing that Google would really want to serve to their users.

eric schmidt

Great links begin with great content/experience. And great content/experience over the web wouldn’t be accessible to people without links. That’s why link building will still and always be significant.

Link building is valuable, because it’s a part of a bigger process. SEO, branding, content marketing and traffic/lead generation are far more effective with links!

For more advanced link building tutorials, you may check out some of my other posts:

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre

44 Creative and Innovative Link Building Experts and Their Strategies

Update: This post was originally published last Sept 3, 2011, which was entitled “26 creative and innovative link building experts and their strategies”. A lot of changes have happened in the link building scene these past several months, which made me decide to update this big list of resources. 

With the constant advancements that occur on various search engines’ algorithms, it is certain that the search and link game will be harder in the days/months/years to come compared to what it was like a decade ago.

Search users’ behaviors tend to grow and change as these developments arise and being employed by search engines, which makes the online marketing space more competitive, especially when it comes to link building.

Many say that link building is tough, well, yes, it is, seeing that the search industry is still in its youth stage and still has immense potentials of growing.

There are also a good percentage of companies all over the world that are still in the juncture of realizing the importance of building a strong web presence for their brands. If this other piece of the pie starts to get involved in the online marketing game, then that might just inundate the web with more sites hungry for links, which clearly means a birth for more spammy linking tactics or a new dawn for more innovative strategies.

Nowadays, in order to be efficient and to truly attain great results from your link building campaigns, you may have to fully require creativity in your strategies for reasons such as:

  • Search algorithms continuously change in order to keep up with their users’ needs.
  • Competition – on any industry – keeps on growing by the day.
  • Web users are getting smarter.

The rules in link building may frequently change, but its essence as an aspect of web marketing will always remain vital, whether it integrate itself to other new developments (like social signals), as it is the most uncomplicated way for search engines to determine websites’ authentic popularity and authority.

Having that said, I decided to list some of the most creative and innovative link builders in the industry that I know, including their works that somehow influenced my views as an SEO, and perhaps to serve as an inspiration in developing your own link building strategies.

Rand Fishkin1. Rand Fishkin, Founder and CEO of SEOmoz“white hat SEO evangelist and the face of modern Search”

5. Eric Ward, Link Evangelist at Adgooroo“link building wizard”
Wiep Knol6. Wiep Knol, Founder of Gila Media“creative link marketing expert from the Netherlands”

Tom Critchlow7. Tom Critchlow, Former VP of Operations at Distilled (now works for Google) – “the face of Search’s next generation”

Michael Gray
8. Michael Gray, President of Atlas Web Service and author of Wolf-howl“legendary link ninja”
Todd Malicoat9. Todd Malicoat, author of Stuntdubl“one of the pioneers of link baiting”
Garrett French10. Garrett French, Founder of Citations Lab“content-based link building expert”
Rae Hoffman-Dolan11. Rae Hoffman-Dolan, CEO and Managing Director of MFE Interactive“the link interrogator”
Ross Hudgens12. Ross Hudgens, author of Authentic Marketing“thought-leader on scalable link building”
Napoleon Suarez13. Napoleon Suarez, SEO Consultant at SEER Interactive“out-of-the-box link building specialist”
Ryan Clark14. Ryan Clark, CEO of Linkbuildr“ingenious link development strategies straight from Canada”

Melanie Nathan15. Melanie Nathan, President of CanadianSEO – “link building extraordinaire”

Hugo Guzman16. Hugo Guzman, VP at Zeta Interactive and author of Enterprise Interactive Marketing“corporate-level link building expert”
Justin Briggs17. Justin Briggs, SEO Consultant – “the link building scholar”
John Doherty18. John Doherty, Director of Distilled NY – “the fastest rising pundit on the Search sphere”
Debra Mastaler19. Debra Mastaler, author of Link Spiel“the link guru”
Dan Cristo20. Dan Cristo, Co-founder of Triberr“the serial web entrepreneur and developer”
Tad Chef21. Tadeusz Szewczyk, SEO blogger at SEOptimise and author of SEO 2.0 at Onreact“Global SEO player from Germany”
Kristi Hines22. Kristi Hines, author of Kikolani“leading media curator in the industry”
23. Jennifer Van Iderstyne, Online Marketing Director at Search Slingshot“the link building artist”
Wayne Barker24. Wayne Barker, Online Marketing Consultant at Boom Online – “the link specialist from Nottingham”
Julie Joyce25. Julie Joyce, owner of Link Fish Media“the link specialist”
26. Michael King, Director of Search at iAcquire – “advanced inbound marketing strategist”
richard baxter27. Richard Baxter, CEO at SEOGadget“the link gadget”
jon cooper28. Jon Cooper, Author of Point Blank SEO“the link building prodigy
paddy moogan29. Paddy Moogan, SEO Consultant at Distilled and Author of the Link Building Book“the link wizard”
d7ac2fd6d788d54f55f94f2650fd838d30. John-Henry Scherck, SEO Consultant at SEER Interactive – “the link mechanic”
d4f22u1a2235x2t0l73432. James Agate, Founder of Skyrocket SEO“the guest blogging genius”
de89d42d1f5abc2c1d4dd05c55a1128133. Kane Jamison, Founder of Content Harmony“the data-driven content strategist”
mypic34. Stephanie Chang, SEO Consultant at Distilled – “the link building teacher”
Back Camera35. Ed Fry, General Manager of Inbound.org“the link baiting prodigy”
cyrus shepard36. Cyrus Shepard, SEO and Content Marketing Consultant for SEOmoz – “the content astronaut”
1675b74ff21652c29edde2c7e82f0a3937. Peter Attia, SEO Consultant at Cucumber Nebula – “Any color of hat link building expert”
anthony pensabene38. Anthony Pensabene, Content and SEO Consultant at Skyrocket SEO – “one of the best writers in the industry” 
bill-slawski-1039. Bill Slawski, Author of SEO by the Sea“the link scientist”
michael martinez40. Michael Martinez, Author of SEO Theory“the link theorist”
chris dyson41. Chris Dyson, Author of Triple SEO – “the link MacGyver”
chris gilchrist42. Chris Gilchrist, MD and Founder of Hitreach“wordpress SEO expert from Dundee”
tim grice43. Tim Grice, Head of Search at Branded3“the link wizz”

Some of my Link Building Posts

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Image Credit: Justmathing
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80/20 Link Building Tactics

mozcon

I’ve been practicing the Pareto Principle or the 80-20 rule since the start of this year, which is basically focusing on tasks that can actually get more results, but will only require minimum amount of efforts.

This rule is pretty much applicable in link building as well, even in online marketing as a whole (as explained very well on a recent blog post by Dan Shure) – wherein you can just allocate more of your time on implementing processes that can help maximize the efforts you exert through the results that you’re sure they can generate.

Just like what Dan advises people who want to apply the 80/20 rule in SEO:

  • Figure out what’s working and do MORE of it.

  • Figure out what’s NOT working and do LESS.

In link development, value results to volume. Making sure that you’re brand is offering real value will help ensure the results that you want to expect from it (whether it’s increasing traffic, brand impressions, shares, sales, and most especially – links).

Below are several link building activities that don’t necessarily need lots of efforts but can certainly help impact your business goals.

Evergreen Content

This type of content asset can tremendously help throw a bunch of links to your site over time, as people will always find them useful.

Some of the most known forms of evergreen content are encyclopaedic articles (think Wikipedia), case studies (particularly using your products/services as the solution), and comprehensive tutorials (blog posts, videos, PDFs, etc…).

Having more of this type of content on your site can constantly grow your link profile, knowing that the information within the content will somehow be never outdated (and can be a valid resource that other publishers can reference to).

link-growthFor more tips on this, you can check out my old post on how an evergreen content can automate your business sales and marketing.

Annual Events

Branded events are another asset that companies/businesses have that can improve and scale their site’s linkability, especially when you have a strong landing page for it that will just be updated every year.

Just think of MozCon. It’s one of the biggest events in the industry that takes place once every year. Its landing page gets a ton of links, along the promotions and the reviews it gets (once the event is done).

mozcon

This platform, when used as a link building machine, is very effective because it offers value. And it’s certainly worth linking to.

mozcon links

You can also check out Kane Jamison’s guide on building links with local events for more extensive tips.

Author Profile Pages

If the faces of your brand are active on content marketing as well as in publishing ton of content outside your website (columns, guest blogs, etc…), then you might want to optimize your people’s profile pages.

rand

Why? Because it’s inevitable for them to get mentioned by other content creators. More often than not, other publishers link mostly to Twitter handles, personal sites or none at all, when they mention people.

So start creating these profile pages, so you can easily reclaim unlinked mentions when you see one.

Get links from ranking pages

Pages that have good rankings, even for long-tail searches, are great source of links. Not just because they can pass ranking power back to your site, but also with the traffic that they can continually send to your site (since they are receiving visitors constantly from search).

There are a lot of link building methods that you use to get links from ranking webpages, such as adding value to the existing discussions whether it’s through blog commenting, forum posting, answering on a Q&A thread, and/or even doing broken link building if it’s a resources page.

Try to do a web search of all the long-tail keywords from your list. And check the high ranking pages for each search result and see if you can help add more information on their content.

quora

The more valuable your contribution is, the more it’ll be noticeable to the page’s incoming traffic (which means higher chances of getting more referred traffic from them over time).

I did get a few links in the past that are still sending me good traffic for the past 2 years (wherein some also converts). Think of them as a traffic channel, not just link sources, to get the most out of them.

For a detailed tips on how to do this, you can check out these guides: this and this.

Build pages from other websites that will easily rank

Guest post or regularly contribute on publications that have strong search shares. These are typically the top sites in your industry (which have really high Domain Authority, Alexa Rank and SE Traffic Price – a metric provided by SEMRush).

Distributing content (that also targets some of your keywords) on sites that are obviously winning it on search will benefit you in so many ways:

  • The content will have better chances of competing in the top of the search results, and it can constantly get traffic, which means that it’s capable of sending you more qualified traffic as well.
  • It can help strengthen your brand presence, as it can continuously get impressions.
  • The link obtained through the contributed content will surely pass ranking power back to your site (because of the authority of the site and the topical relevance of the content).

For example, this post that I did on SEOmoz last year is still sending me traffic, good leads and potential clients to my business up to now.

linkable asset

You can also utilize popular document sharing sites in building external pages which can easily rank on search results, such as Slideshare, Youtube, Scribd, Pinterest, and many more. As these user-generated content sites have strong search share and domain authority, which you can use in targeting your other long-tail keywords.

Partnerships and Associations

I don’t really agree that much with other SEOs or link builders who advise that you need one link from hundreds or thousands of unique domains to really compete in search.

Yes, it’s true that you need a diversified link profile (but you also need to keep in mind that it should be natural).

I’d prefer having multiple links from a single, but trusted domain, than manually reaching out to thousands of sites just to do a guest post.

Because having many links coming from an authority and relevant site proves a deeper relationship between the two websites. If you’re getting lots of links from an authority site, then it implies that you’re also an authority, right? And that’s definitely a strong signal that search engines can use to help them determine how important your site is.

Leveraging partnerships is a very strong link building tactic, especially when you’re associated with brands/publications that have high traffic (audience that you’re also targeting). It can grow your own readership/user-base as well as help you improve your site’s search visibility.

There are so many ways to maximize your existing partnerships, such as:

Becoming a columnist for them – contributing content to your partners’ websites on a regular basis will make your brand more visible to their audience. Just look at what Distilled does on SEOmoz’s blog. They are there. Every week!

Cross-promotion of content – have a section in your site as well as in your partners’ websites that can promote each site’s new content. Gizmodo has been doing this for a while, and it’s sending good amount of visitors to its partners for sure.

gizmodo

Blogroll links – yes, they still work, in referring lots of traffic. It’s also good for branding, particularly in letting your audience know who you are associating with. Always remember that trust is a big thing in online marketing (it makes you more linkable).

Get content from other influencers

Inviting guest bloggers (authority bloggers) to write for your blog is probably the easiest way to bait links. Because they are already experts in the field who have readers who’ll share the content or link to it. And most seasoned bloggers link back to their own piece (which can be their guest blogs too) when they need references.

Another way to get great content from industry influencers is through interviews. But the thing is, most interviews don’t get lots of link love because they tend to be unremarkable. Ask really tough and interesting questions so that they’d be more enticed to link (or some of their followers) to it in the future.

Using Images to build links

Images will always be link and shareworthy because basically the web needs it, whether it’s an infographic, meme, photograph, cinemagraph, typography, GIF and the list goes on.

I have an extensive guide that can walk you through this strategy and you can check it out here – Ultimate guide to link building with images.

Product Reviews

Getting reviews of your products is one of the most powerful links you can get over the web, because links from reviews can send you potential customers who’re almost ready to buy.

Another great thing about having your products reviewed by bloggers is that it helps maintain a positive branded search results for your brand/product.

review

Peter Attia recently wrote a post on how to get blogger reviews (with awesome samples of his own outreach), which you might also want to check.

There are several methods to getting your products/services reviewed by bloggers:

Getting your existing customer base to build links for you

Add an optional field on your sign-up form where customers/users can enter their website’s URL. That’ll make it easier for you to find customers who have their own websites/blogs.

If they liked your product/services, then you have higher chances of getting reviewed by them once you start pitching (or sending them free products that they might like to review).

Getting links from your Twitter followers

You can import the list of your followers using Followerwonk. Segment your list and separate those who have websites/blogs. Since they are already following you on Twitter, contacting them wouldn’t be as hard as contacting an unfamiliar prospect.

Create an affiliate program (use OSIaffiliate)

Offering affiliate commissions will not just improve your traffic and sales, it will also increase the amount of reviews that your products are getting (which is good for branding and link development as well).

But a lot of affiliate tracking and program software generate links that aren’t really helpful or good for SEO (which is why most affiliate marketers mask their affiliate links when promoting products).

Although I found one recently that does have an affiliate link technology that allows merchant sites to get SEO value from the affiliate links directing to them or their product pages – which is OSIaffiliate.

Making your ranking pages more linkable

Pages that are ranking highly for informational keywords have great potentials of becoming a link magnet/machine, because they are constantly getting found by researchers (which could be content creators) looking for specific information.

Start digging your analytics’ search traffic and webmaster tools’ search queries data, and find informational keywords that you are already ranking well for.

For example, I recently found out that one of my pages is ranking highly for the search term “social media marketing strategies”.

social media

The landing page is getting good amount of traffic each week and has also managed to get a few editorial/natural links (as it’s somehow a good resource).

analytics

But the page is not that comprehensive yet, so what more if I transform it into the ultimate resource for social media strategies, right? It will surely attract more links over time, with just minimal effort!

In short, find pages from your site that’s already ranking for informational keywords, then improve and optimize the content for researchers/linkers.

Using Zemanta

Zemanta is a paid content distribution platform that has over 300,000 publishers within their network. Basically, it is guiding tool for publishers where it displays content recommendations while working on their new content.

zemanta

Advertisers or paid users can get their content or images be displayed more prominently in the content recommendations area, which can obviously attract more links.

Rand did a quick review of the service back in 2010, and here are some of the notable advantages of the tool/service (that Rand mentioned) on how it can improve and semi-automate your link building:

  • They can improve branding amongst a blogging audience (as bloggers will see your site/brand name while they write)

  • They can draw in direct links (if the blogger chooses to link to your work in the post or as a “related post” at the bottom – or through links from image references)

  • They can attract direct traffic from the bloggers themselves, who are likely to click on links/content that appears to be interesting

Relationship Building and Influencer Marketing

These two marketing principles take time to implement, but investing on them is definitely a must in this age of marketing. Since having industry peers and alliances can benefit your campaign for the long haul (in terms of branding, social sharing, content syndication, absorbing traffic/followers and most definitely in link building).

Start getting involved in your industry’s online community and make friends with other content publishers in your space. Because once you have your own peers, hitting the publish button will only be the hardest task you’ll have.

There are two keys to be successful with this approach:

  • Consistently provide the content that your network of influencers will likely share to their audience.
  • Reciprocate by sharing their works and adding value to their community as well.

For more tips about this marketing initiative, I have an extensive step-by-step tutorial on how to build relationships as well as on building more powerful content that you can check.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed or follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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