Link building is the art of tactfully earning external references called links from niche relevant, reputable websites. In the world of search engine optimization, link building (or link-building, linkbuilding) is a key indicator to search engines of a website’s legitimacy, making it one of the most important steps for improving web rankings. Despite efforts from Google to improve the quality of results on the web, links from other websites still remain a strong ranking factor for SEO.
Building links is about fostering relationships, making it a time consuming process that can be especially difficult for new website owners.
Anchor text, link relevancy and popularity of the website are all factors that are used to measure the influence of a link. A website like the New York Times, which is considered an authority website (trusted source) will yield a greater impact on search results than a spammy website with no real content.
The 10 Link builders You Meet in Hell
Link building can be some of the dirtiest, most confusing work on the Internet. Link farm scams, shady link schemes and guest blogging are all part the chaotic game of search engines and how they organize the web. Despite the sophistication of Google and introduction of AI solutions, Penguin, Panda and all the others — our research indicates that links still stand to be the most effective ranking factor for quality search. These days, it is definitely about the quality not the quantity of links that determines how well a website ranks. Link building is still a thing but Google is smarter than you. Many of these influencer advertising, link scheme tactics are no longer as effective as they once were. In fact, most of these tactics used in the wrong hands can cause more harm than good.
If you think you can get through link building hell without feeling the burn of the new Google, think again! But we’ll help you try.
Imagine your website dies and is reborn again in 2020. You are confused and alone. How will you survive? It is well known that links are important when ranking on search engines like Google and Bing but what can you do to improve your odds from zero? Welcome to the modern age of link karma. In this new post-Google world, earning links is not sufficient, you have to give some links too. And depending where you give your links, you’ll be rewarded with the long term fallout of link building in a post link world.
These days you can’t just buy links without risk of de-indexing your website.
What is Link Building in 2020?
The types of link building that was working for SEOs in 2011 is not what it used to be. Link building is primarily accomplished while marketing your brand, product, or website to your niche-obsessed audience with the primary goal of building a relationship. Yes, if you can create a link out of that relationship, great! If you can create a brand ambassador that will represent your brand for years to come, even better! Link building is a staple piece in your online marketing strategy and reputation management. Oh, and let’s not forget all the PageRank and authority that is passed to your website, which, in turn, improves your rankings.
And while many link building tactics are great, you need to build links by customizing each link building campaign with a little TLC. Ensure there are no shortcuts, no thin content, no payment exchange, and no links from robots.
Google’s guidelines speak of Links:
“The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”
Here are the ten link builders you will meet as you navigate through link building Hell.
The Guest Blogger Link
The guest blogger wants to write for your website, but one bite from their post and you may find yourself in the penalty box. Guest blogging has been around for a very long time and is arguably one of the most annoying forms of link building. Guest blogs typically consist of a niche related expert or a paid contributor.
Blogs like GrowthHacker or Huffington Post are good examples of guest posting. While both of these mediums have active contributors, SEOs can often be blamed for abusing the strategy, slamming content with a nofollow link home.
Keep in mind that guest blogging is a tactic that was beaten into the ground from 2008-2013.
Guest blogging in 2020 is about link karma
It is important to remember to weed out sites that are publishing thin content that consists mostly of guest posts, or sites that feature zero guest post presence. This can be a matter of charisma and blog integrity, depending on the niche, so I would say always go for it.
If someone asks for a 300 word guest post, tell them to shove it. In 2017 that type of practice would be considered thin content, the bare minimum for a post. Why waste it to give someone a link? This comes back to the idea that link karma goes both ways. We link out to reputable sites, so reputable sites link back.
To prevent passing bad link karma, make sure your content:
- Answers a query in a useful way
- Displays information interesting to user base
- Contains a healthy amount of outbound links in the article, not just internal links
- Includes all relevant meta information, embedded videos and social links
- Don’t place your link in the author bio. It’s not 2009.
Do your keyword research and avoid trendy topics when attacking guest blogging. But remember, it’s not by reading one of the gazillion guest blogging guides on the web if you need more information on the process.
Also to note- this type of link building is pretty much useless unless you get well versed in your outreach skills. If you are looking to land guest post gigs in 2020, there are a few places you can still get decent exposure.
These link builders will offer a link in exchange for one back. This can be a great way to improve your network until someone in the network gets hit by a penalty and everyone else is affected. Link exchanges usually end poorly for both parties because the quality of links can be diminished when you are linking up with anyone and everyone.
A link exchange is a cluster of websites that operate similar to a web ring. These types of link building schemes can result in a Google penalty or worse, complete de-indexing. Link exchanges are highly discouraged by Google, however adding reciprocal links to websites that you are collaborating with doesn’t have to be a black hat practice.
This type of link building requires a human touch, understanding the value of the link exchange and likely setting something up with a guest post. The old days of link scheming are long over, but some companies still manage to sell the practice to unknowing business owners and new startups.
Always make sure that the website that you are collaborating with is well optimized and has quality content. If you participate in a link exchange with a poor quality website, it can hurt your website.
Reporter looking for an Expert Link
Sometimes you get lucky and the right person can refer a journalist for solid information. Not everyone has horse shoes readily available to provide such luck, and as such rely on tools to find the right reporter for the job. If you need to get in touch with journalists and respected media outlets, we recommend using Help A Reporter Out (HARO).
Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is the most popular sourcing service for reporters and industry experts, connecting professional journalists with relevant expert sources to meet journalists’ demanding deadlines. This enables brands to tell stories, pitching new articles related to the industry insider’s expertise. HARO is backed by CISION, a leading global media intelligence company from Chicago.
This is definitely the easiest way to get a reporting link without chasing down reporters yourself.
The Outreach Addict Link
Creating content on a consistent basis not only builds links internally (by linking out from your posts), but also gives you the ability to naturally attract links to your content. A blog is essential to many strategies, such as linking out. Outreach is just part of the blog game, and if you can find the right audience to share a message online there can be amazing potential for earning quality links. This type of link building strategy requires perseverance and a bit of luck, but the most difficult challenge will always be keeping your head up as your fire off those emails!
A blog is a means to an end from a tactical perspective. Creating the blog in itself won’t build you any links; it’s what you do with the opportunity that builds links.
Here is an example of an outreach email you might end up writing:
I recently came across www.lioneater.com and saw that you specialize in Technical SEO. I am having some issues with SSL certificates and spent the last few days searching for a technical answer regarding their worth for search optimization. I’ve never dealt with this issue: what’s your take on SSL certificates for SEO sake?
Also, I’ve been working on my website building skills and would love to submit a case study for your blog. I’d be happy to be part of your awesome content catalogue, thanks!
Although outreach can feel hopeless, it can uncover serious leads for future projects and improve your relationship building skills. We definitely think outreach is a part of good link karma.
Outreach requires time and research
Before sending outreach emails, do a little research.
Finding quality link partners with established communities is on the top of the list when it comes to qualifying prospect sites. You put the time and effort into the outreach, don’t waste it on the wrong site. Every outreach email should be specifically targeted for the type of website you are reaching out to, with subject lines and details tailored to the prospect.
For guest post opportunities, try including quality links to other articles. If you haven’t written for a similar audience, try and find something that showcases your best work. Locate a few related websites that already link to the pages you are referencing and add detailed contact info, such as social profile pages so your prospect can investigate the potential worth of your post.
The link builders that do this well put in hard work, long hours and plenty of research before going out into the wild west that is good outreach link building.
Infographic Maniac Links
If you haven’t met them yet, you will eventually. These quiz champions love infographics, and are willing to put them all over the web to entice you to follow suit. Infographics can prove to be an effective tool for sharing information, but using them as a link building strategy doesn’t guarantee any results. But since you are going to try and prove us wrong anyway, here are a few sites that will accept any infographic you might have ready. Hopefully they can be used to help gain exposure for your brand.
Some infographic maniacs will say that you can get authority websites to link back to you by making creative, visually compelling pieces of content. Although this type of link building is a bit of a unicorn, it can work. But it requires that you follow a few rules first:
Key elements of viral infographics
- Great design. Eye-catching, visually stunning design with outstanding images is a good set up for a viral infographic.
- Thoroughly researched statistical data. Infographics are a visual representation of data. A good infographic has to have something behind it or else it won’t get picked up for backlinks.
- Promotion, out reach and targeted collaboration. Without the proper channels promoting your infographic, there is a good chance it will get lost in the garbage with all the other sub-par infographic junk.
Make sure your infographic has embed code!
This is super important if you are going to try and earn links with infographics. A little technical mark up can make the difference between something that sticks and an infographic that is missed completely.
The Influencer Link
Guarantee that there is someone in your little town looking for an interview. Yeah, these indie blogs can fall apart after a few years, but if they are doing influencer marketing right, the link can prove valuable in growing a directed audience. These links are dangerous since a lot of influencer marketing is paid, making it difficult to measure in effectiveness. This type of link building strategy can also be a lot of fun.
Influencer Links could come from industry experts, thought-leaders, educators or even indirect competitors. Anyone who can have an impact in your industry’s online community has the power to be an influencer and potentially earn some link karma.
A great way to earn influencer links is by participating in interviews with influential players in your niche, such as:
- Participating in ‘expert roundup’ posts
- Blog interviews
- Podcasts or recorded calls
What makes for good influencer advertising?
An influencer differs for every brand because they must have a relevant fit. This is the most important characteristic when targeting influencer marketing to amplify the message of your brand. A good example in recent days is Donald Trump, who is known to be one of the most influential social media users with over 20 million followers. Not to mention he is the President of the United States. But if he tweeted about SEO services would it result in any sales? Likely not, because his audience is not interested in SEO services. In this sense, defining the context of the influencer is key for appraising their value to the brand. Donald Trump would likely hurt a millennial brand before he helped it, considerations such as these are important before dishing out dollars at influencer advertising.
After we have vetted potential influencers and established someone that has a relevant fit for the brand, we have to measure the reach of their message. If we target the person we are using to influence a purchase correctly, we know a positive recommendation will result in a manner that actually will be heard. Influencer marketing is about reaching the right audience, after all.
The value of the influencer’s ability to cause action by their audience is the true value of influencer links. This relationship evolves naturally when you target influencers that are in contextual alignment with your brand and have a strong reach.
A loyal branded audience will soaks up influencer recommendations and help grow your reach to new potential customers.
Press Release Links
They are horrible and Google has officially said that they are no good, but people still push and chase for the press release links. We don’t believe in them, but since you are reading this for a reason, we’ve provided some tips and tricks. Take all of this with a grain of salt. Press release links are for the reader of press releases, NOT A TYPE OF LINK BUILDING.
Dummy Checklist for Press Release Links in 2017
Adding links still helps drive traffic to a website, but don’t over do it. Over optimization in press releases is BAD!
- Does the press release contain embedded video and media that links to digital assets?
- Does the press release increase brand visibility?
- Does the press release spark a story idea and lure a journalist or blogger to explore a larger story to gain a natural link?
- Does the press release educate and inform your audience with relevant industry information?
- Does the press release report on industry news or data?
- Could the information be submitted as an infographic version of the press release?
If you can answer yes to these questions, someone might be able to take your press release and turn it into real content, which is the best chance you have at earning any links from press releases in 2017.
5 Things To Avoid on Press Releases in 2017
- Generate links out of thin air. “We just earned a new link by putting out a Press Release!”
- Earn link juice from Google. “That PR link will improve our rank!”
- Include PR links in your link building strategy. “We’re doing PR links for October!”
- Over optimize anchor text. “best service in state”
- Keyword stuffing. “Accessibility? Accessibility! Accessibility..”
Google may have penalized press release links in the past, but if they are used properly (no lazy link building here) then they can still generate results. Although these results can lead to links down the road, it is strongly suggested to avoid this strategy for link building campaigns. Press Releases are for releasing information to the press, not building links. Lots of bad link karma here.
Comment Blog Links
These links are all over the web and arguably the least valuable.
It’s definitely classified as low hanging fruit but you can still get value from commenting on blogs.
If you do it right, you’ll build rapport with bloggers and hunt for links at the same time.
If you do this, make sure you don’t drop all of the comments on the same day; you will look like an idiot for anyone moderating. Do one or two a day for a couple weeks until you get that link, guest post, or whatever the goal of your comment is.
Matt Cutts recommends using your real name when posting on blog comments, as it has a better likelihood of being accepted through the moderation process.
Just adding another link in a blog comment does nothing for your SEO. Writing comments like, “Wow, great article you really nailed some good points, give me a link,” serves no purpose for the reader and will not do well for Google. If you sell gingerbread cookies and place links on websites that deal in Snowshoes and Snow equipment, why should Google give link juice when it has nothing to do with gingerbread cookies?
We disable blog comments on all of our web properties and avoid this problem altogether. Comment links are right up there with press release links, both abused to the bone and offer little if any juice.
Tactical Links (Pay to Play)
Some links can be bought simply by being in business. The BBB strives to maintain the integrity of business online, but the fact remains that many of their links are related to paid accounts on their platform. These grey hat link building strategies can be found in particular corners of the web. Yes, paying for a link is technically against Google’s Guidelines, however there is no other way to get a link from Apache or the BBB. In the case of the Apache foundation, the link comes after you donate to the charity. In the case of BBB, the link comes after you pay a respective fee to be a member of the Better Business Bureau. It doesn’t guarantee that your business is legit, in well standing, or exemplary as far as customer service. Many businesses use these links to shortcut in their link building strategy.
The Better Business Bureau
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) was founded in 1912 as a non profit corporation focused on improving trust between businesses and the public. As far as becoming a member its pretty simple. Pay for a membership and you will get a link from one of the highest ranked websites on the web. Depending on the type of business that you are involved in, talking to the BBB will be a must. In competitive industries with customer service issues such as hospitality, having a membership can save your business from negative seo.
Rasterweb accepts donations and the content is pretty good too. If you wanted to “buy a link”, this is technically a way to do it. In the about page, RasterWeb describes Pete Prodoehl as a tech enthusiast. “I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I like it here. The winters are cold and unbearable and the summers are hot and unbearable. I don’t travel as much as I’d like to. I hope that changes someday.” Donation is a good enough reason to support really good content. We’re Canadian and understand cold winters, too.
Technically buying links is bad. But people do it, and these sites will let you donate for a link, which isn’t really buying a link, but it kind of is, so yeah. We wouldn’t pay for it either. If there is any reason to donate to apache it is because they provide value to businesses and the web. Don’t do it just for a link.
Link Reclamation & Branded Links
Sometimes links get lost, and the fastest way to get them back is to file a reclamation request with the webmaster where the link was located. If your brand is being mentioned, make sure you ask for that link. For example, if someone mentioned “Lion Eater Marketing” on their blog, I might ask if they could include a link so the reader would know where Lion Eater is located on the Web.
Link Reclamation is one of the best types of link building in 2017 and beyond.
We didn’t even include link reclamation in our Link Builders You Meet in Hell infographic because this strategy is not really evil at all. Fixing broken links is what makes the web go round.
The Future of Link Building relies on Relationships
Modern link building requires face to face interactions, hand shaking, and actually caring about the relationships you build online.
Relationships can have a short shelf life. No matter how enthusiastic, persuasive or charming you are, it’s hard to remember someone from the Internet. One of the easiest mistakes rookie marketers make is that they attend great networking events and fail to properly follow up with the people they have met. Must be a millennial thing, but some free advice: If you meet someone you genuinely see valuable opportunities with
Make the connection and follow up immediately!
This is more important in life than anything. Always send a “nice to meet you” or “great insights regarding marketing” e-mail to let these new contacts know you’ve taken the time to remember them. If you have any type of newsletter list feel free to add them and then send them the latest copy. Always reinforce who you are, what you can do for them to improve their content and thank them for the connection you’ve made.
How often do you meet people at the exact moment when they need what you offer? Probably never.
If link partners don’t think of you when the moment comes up, you’ve lost out on the link opportunity in 2017. It’s much easier to maintain connections while they are still warm than to reheat a foggy memory after the relationship has been left to grow cold. Relationships take time and energy, so pick the right ones and foster them. This is the best method of link building in 2017.
Brian Dean is still the boss when it comes to link building relationships
Have the types of link building really changed? Not much. Pro SEOs like Brian Dean have been ahead of the curb as far as the spirit of link building, understanding the complexity and relationships behind the process. The only way to link build in the competitive semantic world of the new Google is by reading some of his original work, such as the Content Relaunch. He shares research and actionable advice to increase blog traffic. He shares in-depth articles that actually link out to equally useful content, as well as providing an awesome newsletter.
So take the time to turn your network of connections into educated customers, it’s well worth the investment for your website in the long run. Plus its good to stay in contact with colleagues and industry experts.
Twitter RTs, Responses, & DMs can be an effective way of building relationships. If you want to begin to building a real relationship with an industry leader online, try retweeting your favourite tweets by them. If you can respond and engage with them publicly, it is much easier to move to a direct method of communication such as email or phone call.