Link Building 2013 into 2014: What’s Working?

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Link Building for SEO has changed drastically through the years. From the primitive tactics of the 90s which involved keyword stuffing and link exchanges, right through to the noughties which involved spammy networks and spun content.

The Inevitable Fate Of Spam

One thing that has stayed consistent is the inevitable fate of the websites that get involved with fly-by-night link building tactics. Whatever is ‘push button easy’ and ‘tricking’ Google is usually not the way to go. Such tactics get overused and targeted by Google at one point or another. History has told us this…

Spammy directories, link exchanges, paid links, sponsored posts, sidebar links, blog networks… etc. We’ve heard all this before, I’m not here to lecture anyone.  This stuff isn’t (or shouldn’t be) working anymore. If you find that it is working, it probably won’t be for long… and the last thing you want is angry clients and bosses because you’re still syndicating spun content through a banned blog network…. oops. C’mon guys… let’s start looking forward.

We’re All Grown Up Link Builders Now… Aren’t We?

It’s 2013 now, and before we know it we’ll be in 2014. So what do we do now that we’re all grown up and sensible with link building? Bear in mind this post is specifically about link building, with no fluffy stuff like ‘just create great content’ or ‘create widgets’ – while this does work, of course, it is outside the scope of this post. Proactive link building is the ‘surgical’ part of your web marketing. Of course, you should still be doing the other stuff, like being remarkable, but for some industries, a little extra is needed.

I like to look at link building as if Google didn’t exist. What would you be doing if search engines didn’t exist? How would you get people to find your site? Aside from the obvious PPC or advertising answers, we need to look more organically.

1. High Quality Niche or Local Directories

Directories?? Have I lost my mind? No. Directories are actually a great natural way to give your site some web presence. High quality directories actually rank really well in Google too, so you’ll get some indirect search traffic, should you submit properly.

Now, I don’t mean submit your website blindly to 10,000 ‘SEO directories’. That would be soooo 1998. We’re in 2014 now remember, you need to be sensible about it. The more manual the better.

Look at the big directories and the local directories. Then, if there are any, you can submit to some niche directories. In total there will only be a handful, but they will be worth 1 million ‘SEO directories’ and of course, will be safe.

For example, if I was a plumber in London, I may submit to directories like these:

Etc… As well as Yell, Touch Local, and the other big directories. You get the picture!

  • Handpick and manually submit to quality directories
  • Look for local and niche directories

2. Press Releases (Only When You Have A Good Story)

There was a time, many moons ago when a company I worked for (not naming names) would submit a press release every other day. About anything. Sometimes just saying that the company exists. Links, links, links… Banned, banned, banned.

Press releases, if done wrongly can land you in a lot of trouble with Google. Don’t overdo it. Use them as they were intended. Much like linkbait, you’ll need a good reason to submit one. The valuable links won’t be from the press release aggregators (which are likely to be devalued by big G anyway), but from the editors that pick up the story and want to run it on their news or blog site. This is a great way to pick up some high quality, niche links.

If you have a good story, like you’ve hosted a big charity event and raised X amount of money, or one of your employees has won an amazing award… something newsworthy… then go ahead and submit a press release, and give it as much reach as possible. If you do this more than 3 or 4 times a year, it’s probably a little too much.

  • Only submit a press release when you have a good story (think linkbait)
  • Don’t overdo it, 3 or 4 times a year is good

3. Infographics

Infographics used to be an out of reach link building delicacy, only produced and shared by blogger royalty. In this day and age with easy-to-use software and more educated (and entry level) designers, infographics can be created far more cheaply. This does not mean however we should go out and start creating 100 infographics a day.

First of all, we need to know what the value is of an infographic. What’s the point of one?

Because, if you do manage to get hold of some data you can visualise, create one (through software or a designer) and publish it on your site… what next? An infographic is no good unless you have some reach to other bloggers that will publish it on their site, crediting your site with a link.

Consider carefully your target market, and build a list of bloggers who may publish it on their site too. Make sure the data and concept of the infographic are actually interesting. An infographic that is simply pretty won’t cut it. There are some good infographic aggregators you can submit to, too, which can provide some decent link value alone.

  • Make sure you have good data
  • Make sure it’s ‘pretty’ – VERY IMPORTANT, get a good designer
  • Reach out to a targeted list of bloggers
  • Submit to infographic aggregators for some extra reach and ‘juice’

4. Guest Blogging

Ah… good old guest posts. They work, we all know that. But you are at risk if you overdo it, like any strategy. Make sure you are guest posting to quality sites, not splogs or any networks.

Start by building a list of targeted blogs that could potentially accept guest posts. Be realistic in your targeting… will Mashable, BBC, or LifeHacker really run your guest post?

Once you have made a list of targets, brainstorm content ideas suitable for the audience of those sites. They need to be interesting and relevant.

Pitch these content ideas to your list of blogs, and see what replies you get. Don’t be offended if your reply rate is less than 20%… sometimes in less ‘techy’ industries, reply rates can be much, much lower.

Once you have agreed on the content, you can write the blog, or get it written, and organise the placement for yourself or your client.

If you’re doing guest posting on scale or doing a lot for one client, maybe because it is a competitive industry, you should try and ditch the guest post label and author box. Include links out to other related but non-competing sources. This way your links will look like unsolicited, editorial links, placed ‘just because’.

  • Be realistic with your targeting (will a food recipe site really accept your guest post on garden tools?)
  • Come up with interesting and relevant content concepts
  • Don’t be upset with low reply rates, this is just the way of the world
  • Don’t overdo it
  • Doing it on scale? Don’t call them guest posts
  • Stop just targeting sites with specific PR or DA & don’t leave a guest post footprint

So there you have it. No golden nuggets. No push button answers, just pure and simple link building, done in a real natural way. Have your own views? Let us know in the comments…

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