“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” – Mark Twain
There’s a lot of talk in search marketing that link building is dead. But the fact is link building is alive, well, and more important than ever before.
A number of upstart techniques are trying to grab the spotlight, including social media, content authorship, structured markup and more. And it’s important to pay attention to emerging techniques, and ensure they’re incorporated into your overall web marketing strategy.
But the fact is, according to Google, links remain the #1 most important factor in search rankings and visibility. Roughly 40% of your Google performance is based on inbound links. This is followed by keywords, a distant second at 25%.
Some people feel that content link building is bad or a violation of Google’s terms of service. In fact, Google approves of link building – as long as it’s done properly (see below).
Indeed, think of link building as a popularity contest: in its ideal form, link building is simply other trusted websites giving a seal of approval to yours. If you want organic Google traffic, link building is a key practice for ranking, exposure and traffic.
So what happened? The answer: a mighty Penguin was unleashed. That was Google’s algorithm update rolled out last year. Among other things, Penguin tried to weed out sites using black hat shortcuts to get links. Many people were spinning poor-quality content, and posting it across the web on low quality sites.
Many sites were hit hard by Penguin. And it can be harder than ever to get links. Today, many marketers remain uncertain, and want to avoid being penalized for link building.
The good news is that your strategy – assuming you were previously employing best practices – can largely be an extension of your previous efforts, with a few changes. These are:
1. Start with Great Content – That’s what Google’s all about – quality content. Start by creating and offering information, high-quality content. And that’s what people link to – great information.
2. Quality Over Quantity – The biggest change in link building is the emphasis on quality over quantity. Focus on say, getting 4 great links per year, rather than 4 dubious ones per week.
3. Quality Criteria – A quality link is determined as follows, in descending order. Domain authority is the top criteria, followed by page level, then page keywords and content. In other words, it’s important to get link from sites with great reputations and page rank. You also want to get the links from the home page – or as close as possible.
4. Partner Up – Your company has partners – parent company, subsidiaries, vendors, affiliates and more. Make sure they link to your site. It can be very difficult to get strangers to link to you naturally, so use your network.
5. Get Social – Make sure you have an intelligent, relevant social strategy for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google + and more. Share your great content (see above) to engage people and get followers – and let them build links for you.
6. Relevant Sites – Pre Penguin, many sites would seek links from just about any other site. However, today it’s important that links to your site are from sites or pages with related content. Make sure your links are from the “right neighborhood.” Let’s say you’re at a software company, giving away content, such as guest blogging. It’s important that your guest blogs be posted on software-related sites, rather than general or off-topics ones.
That’s it. While keeping an eye on emerging techniques, remember that link building is your one of your top SEO strategies to get Google traffic. And focus on creating amazing content, and let your links build themselves…