It goes almost without saying that link building and SEO, as a whole, changes very quickly. Even if you search for “link building in 2014” or “current link building best practices” you are likely to run across some information that is dated and could be harmful if used.
This link building guide is going to solve that issue by:
- Talking about link building tactics that are being used as of
June 2014Updated 10-7-2014
- Focusing on long term link building strategies
- Updating this post anytime that a method changes or no longer works. Please sign up to receive these updates via email if you want to stay ahead of the game.
Now, let’s get started with a brief overview of what link building is.
Link building is the practice of creating or earning links from other websites that point back to your website increasing the trust, authority, and keyword rankings of your website. Link building is currently viewed as the 3rd most important factor in how your website is ranked by Google.
In years’ past, the sheer volume of links pointing to your website was all Google considered in deciding how to rank your site. This progressed to needing a lot of links with your target keywords as the anchor text, this practice went from an SEO best practice in 2005-2008 to a red flag that led to penalties when the Google Penguin update was first released in 2012. Fast forward to June 16, 2014 and the best way to build links is to earn them naturally, or create contextual, relevant, and high authority links with diverse anchor texts. For the sake of this article, earning a natural link refers only to links generated through publishing content on your site, if you take any action to get a link, it is not naturally earned in my opinion.
Who need Links? Just Write Great Content!
Matt Cutts has said numerous times that the best way to improve your search rankings is to create great content. Sounds great in theory, but there are two major flaws with this.
- Google has to use an algorithm to evaluate websites and even though they are highly advanced, they rely on other signals to evaluate content quality. Matt Cutts recently said that without other signals, they rely on the on page SEO factors to determine quality and relevance.
- The second issue is the overflow of content on the internet. For example, if you search “how to tie your shoes” you will see:
I highly doubt that there are 36 million unique ways to tie your shoes; this means plenty of sites are giving you the same information in a different style. Since so many sites have seemingly “great content” Google must use other factors to distinguish which batch of re-hashed information they want to rank. This proves to be true every time a scraper site outranks the original piece of content.
In this case, the domain authority of the site, the number of social shares to other pages on the sites, and the overall trustworthiness of the site will all be considered in combination with on page factors.
Who is most likely to get natural links?
- If you have a huge following on social media, you can probably skip link building and focus on getting your information viewed and shared socially.
- If you are writing a piece of content for your authority site, you may rank without any inbound links to a page.
- If you have a very high trust flow to your site, you may be able to rank a new piece of content without building any links to it.
Since your site may actually rank without link building directly to the target page and you already have an audience, you may get enough links from other sites to maintain or improve your rankings naturally. This is common for large sites like Website Magazine, Search Engine Journal, and Yahoo Small Business Adviser.
Natural Links? Not Likely for You
If you have a company or website with a very small social following, low domain authority, or only a few links pointing to any page on your site, even the very best written piece of content is rarely going to rank.
Since you do not have an audience already and you are not ranking for the primary keyword or a long tail variation, you are not likely to get naturally occurring links to your page.
So What Should I Do?
That leaves you two options, keep writing content and hope that Google actual starts ranking sites based on content alone or look for ways to get links and shares for your content. If you are just going to write and hope, thanks for reading so far but you better get back to work because you have a long road ahead. If you are willing to hustle and earn links that will get your content ranked, keep reading.
Link Building No No’s
Before we talk about what you should do, let’s take a moment to go over what you shouldn’t be doing.
- Mass Directory Submissions
- Large Scale Social Bookmarking
- Forum Participation with Anchor Links
- Submitting Content to Article Directories
- Building a high percentage of links with rich anchor text
- Guest posting on low-quality websites
- Using spun content for any link pointing to your main website
- Building only PR4+ links. You need links from PR0 and higher to look natural
- Building all your links in one go and leaving it alone for months to come
- Getting links primarily from unrelated websites
- Buying public blog network links
- Incorrectly building a private blog network
- Using only one link building strategy such as web 2.0 link building
- Building links to only your homepage (stop using only the home page for PPC too!)
- Not doing anything for fear of getting penalized. If your traffic from search is already zero; what do you have to lose?
There are about a million and nine other tactics you should not be using as well, but the ones above are the most common.
10 Link Building Strategies You SHOULD Be Using in 2014
Alright, this is what you have been waiting for….the biggest secret in link building…..the one method that will rank you above the competition…….that magic trick that is killing the Google SERPs…sorry to disappoint but there are not any link building shortcuts unless you are using black/grey hat SEO. While you can rank a site using black hat, they results are not long lasting and you are extremely likely to get penalized. Today we are going to focus on long-lasting and strategic link building. Let’s get to it!
Outreach Link Building– Websites do not link to websites, people link to people. Outreach link building is kind of like cold calling. You gather a prospect list, pre-screen the information and come up with a final list for outreach. If you follow conventional wisdom, it will tell you to reach the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time. That method worked for a while but now webmasters and business owners are getting tired of the barrage of outreach emails they get every day. So what can you do to set yourself apart?
- Create a list containing only the very best link opportunities, the kind people dream of getting.
- Take the time to do a little research on each opportunity and find the right person to contact. Visit their social profiles, columns, and other properties to get a feel for what they like, write about, and the type of content they curate.
- Craft an email with a common interest so that you can attempt to create rapport, just like a sales call.
- Keep your email short and get straight to the point, they know you want something so make it clear so you do not seem sneaky.
- IMPORTANT: Make sure that in your brief email you show/tell them what value they get for linking to you or publishing your article. Will you share their site on social media? Do you have a huge mailing list you could share a piece of their content with? Think about what you have to offer and make it clear.
- Make sure to follow any guidelines they have published and make linking to your website easy, you could even send the HTML formatted link or articles so they can just copy and paste.
- Follow up 5-10 times if you do not get a response. If the link is very valuable, I will bother them regularly until they tell me to stop.
Social Link Building- Social links can be made it two very distinct ways. The first method of social link building occurs when you share content to an existing social following and people then share and link to your content. Well established websites like Search Engine Journal do this regularly and generate hundreds or thousands of links with very little effort on their part.
If you do not already have a large social following, you can still use social media to build links to your site. Anytime someone shares, comments, or talks about content on your website via social, reach out to them and let them know about other related content on your site their readers may find helpful. You can also link to a piece of content on their site you found to be useful and they will be more likely to link to you in return.
Relationship Based Link Building– These links can make or break your SEO strategy. If you have a personal connection that will allow you to get a link that your competition cannot get, you should take advantage of that opportunity. Personal friends with blogs, industry partners, suppliers, local newspapers, and local or niche directories are just a few of the places you could leverage a relationship to gain a powerful back link.
Donation Links– Relevancy is one of if not the most important factors considered when analyzing a link and its’ value. The second most important metric a link should be analyzed for is trust flow. Brian Dean of Backlinko even mentioned that trust could outweigh many negative factors such as anchor text over optimization. Many sites that provide a link to the site of donors have incredible amounts of trust as they are linked to directly by major authority websites. When you combine the trust flow from donation back links with a lot of highly relevant links, you have a powerful and extremely effective method of ranking in 2014.
Competitive Analysis Link Building– Competitive link building is when you analyze the backlink profile of the top sites for your target keywords and then attempt to re-create as many of their links as possible to rank alongside them. The main problem with this strategy is that many of the links they have many have been built in years past and the links offer little or no value currently. Instead of focusing on all of the top ranking sites, look for sites that have recently moved up to the first page. This will save you a ton of time reviewing link profiles and it gives you a good idea of what is working at the moment.
Multi-tiered Link Building– Unlike the strategy that calls for building thousands of 1-page web 2.0 back links, we are talking about using guest posts as part of a tiered link building strategy. Some sites will allow you to link to your website in the body of your content, but many of them will not. The sites that do allow body links to your site are the first tier in this strategy. The second tier is made up of other sites that do not allow you to link directly to your website. All of your second tier links should link out to the tier 1 links that in turn point to your website. This will result is a ton of authority links funneled through fewer guest posts and on to your site. While you may lose some link juice along the way, you will still end up with some very powerful tier 1 links to your website.
Bonus- You can take this method a step further and create a few blog sites of your own. These blogs should be relevant to your topic and contain at least 15-20 posts on each of them. Register these blogs privately and you can link directly from authority sites that do not allow in body links to your blog sites. You can then control how the blog sites link to your main website, giving you the ability to funnel the link juice and control the anchor text. Alternately, you could wait a few months and then redirect the blog sites to your main site and with it, you will have redirected the authority links to your money site.
Thematic Private Blog Networks / Niche Sites– OK, I lied, there is one method that will crush the competition, quickly! At the moment, private blog networks are dominating the rankings across several niches. So long as you have the most powerful network, you can rank for anything and you can do it pretty fast. What you want to avoid is getting high PR links from a blog network that has a generalized topic. Buying 10 new domains and filling them with relevant content would be a far better choice than building only generalized blog links. The best way to create your network is to search for expired or deleted domains that are already topically relevant to your main site. You then buy and register them privately, setup each site on a unique host, and add relevant and quality content to each of them. Take the time to set up your network correctly and you can dominate any niche.
Parasite/Barnacle SEO Pages– This strategy is a favorite of search engine reputation management specialists and affiliate marketers, but it can work for anyone. Let’s say you have a single keyword that you want to rank for. Setting up pages on sites like BuzzFeed, Blogger, or any other site with a high root domain authority can help you expedite the process. When you build links to your own website you have to be careful about quality, anchor texts, and link velocity to avoid being penalized. When you build links to a page like BuzzFeed or Youtube, you can hammer the page with links very quickly without a penalty. This method is considered grey hat but it cannot hurt your main website and it is extremely unlikely that you are going to get YouTube penalized, so go for it if you need to rank a single term or a few related terms.
High Authority Niche Directory Submissions– Many people are quick to claim a directory submission for SEO link building is a dead practice that offers little benefit. If you submit your site to every directory under the sun, they are right. If you instead look for directories that are very authoritative such as the Yahoo directory, or you look for niche specific directories, you can still get value from submitting your website. Just make sure this is only part of your strategy.
Local Citations for Non Local Businesses– Citation building is a very common practice for local SEO and it can also work very well for non-localized websites. Any good link building strategy should try to look as natural as possible. Diverse anchor texts, numerous linking root domains, and a variety of do and no follow links are all part of a natural appearance. When you get links from local citation sites like Yellow Pages, you are going to get several unique linking root domains, some follow and some no follow links. You will also get un-linked mentions which is another signal Google considers when trying to determine the popularity and quality of your website. Build 5-10 links from citations sites each month and you will have a vast and diverse link profile.
Now that you know what to do and what not to do, all you have to do is get out there and start building links to your website.