- The Topic of Discussion: Acquiring High Quality Inbound Links
- The Specific Details: High quality inbound links – from authority websites (think academia, governmental, respected publisher) – require high quality content (think articles, video, widgets etc) designed to be in focus with the marketing strategy of an existing business and its potential customers.
Natural link building. The process of creating something of value, finding authority places to pitch it and being successful in this endeavor.
Nothing sexy. Nothing overly exciting. No presentation accompanied with massive spikes in traffic or voluminous numbers of link building numbers. Buzzwords were not used (even though the term “linkbait” was referenced once, it was in begrudging fashion) and were definitely not needed. More importantly, it’s not what most would consider easy, and natural link building takes time to develop success.
Enge’s arguments for “why” choose this strategy make complete sense, since the end goal is to build a website presence in authority locations, using the most appropriate and recognized methods for building long term link authority. For many business owners, this type of link building will be the cornerstone strategy for their SEO endeavors.
Here’s a breakdown and list of recommendations for small business owners, looking to embark on this link building strategy.
- Gather Your Content Ideas and Build
Get an idea of what types of content your customers and website visitors want to see, read and use. Focus on building these assets for distribution and to pitch future link opportunities.
A specific example was a widget for a real estate client, designed to showcase town information in line with their real estate listings on their web pages. This provides value to the real estate agent, who needs content to enhance the marketability of their listings.
Beyond widgets, think about articles that solve problems frequently asked in your industry, or tools and reference material people will want to come back to time and time again. Note that in some cases, this resource may never reside on the client’s website. It was written purely for distribution to other online resources.
- Gather a Short List of Link Targets
Start cataloging a list of resources that are appropriate for pitching the content you are developing. Search for high quality, authority websites which already have locations (on their website) where the link opportunity makes sense.
Begin by gathering a list of names, email addresses and phone numbers (yes, phone numbers), among other link building details, where you can begin communicating to, once your content is ready to be distributed.
- Get Personalized in Your Link Requests
Once you’ve gathered your list of contacts and the content is ready to be distributed don’t slack off with the actual link requests. Each link request must be handled as an individual request. Here’s a short list of things you want to consider:
- Use the specific name (if possible)
- Create a unique and authoritative subject line (nothing generic like “link request” or “hello”)
- Identify why you are approaching them as quickly as possible
- Indicate why your piece of content is valuable to their website visitors
- Unless it has already been established to do so, its best to never directly ask for a link
- Be professional in your delivery
Eric noted that many publishers and editorial resources have established guidelines for formats, layouts etc for articles and submissions. If you are targeting these types of resources, make sure your content is in line with existing requirements.
- Don’t Forget The 2nd and 3rd Tier Opportunities
When you’re researching your most desired link targets, it’s not wise to just ignore the rest of the bunch. I would recommend documenting and recording as many contacts for link requests as possible that are relevant to your business.
While you may not spend as much time and energy focusing on these secondary resource, it’s worth reaching out, particularly if you know (through your research) that there is some form of opportunity for receiving content, whether that be articles, press releases, announcements etc.
- There’s More to Quality Link Building Than Just The Link
One of the key benchmarks discussed when a link building campaign is initiated is the relationship to overall website traffic. If you’re truly building quality inbound links, not only should your search rankings improve (thereby increasing search referral traffic), but the amount of overall visitor traffic should improve.
A specific example was a link acquired from a reputable governmental website, which in turn help lead to traffic improvements of over 5 times the original traffic numbers at project inception.
- Use Social Media Channels To Research Content Ideas
I was glad that last night’s discussion did not turn into a conversation on social media or viral marketing, but it’s important to realize that high quality content may get picked up in some of these high trafficked social media websites (like Digg, StumbleUpon etc) or bookmarked in notable social bookmarking websites (such as del.icio.us)
Spend some time researching articles, resources and content bookmarked that has succeeded in these networks, for generating ideas that have the opportunity to gain as much online visibility as possible in as many verticals as possible. But leveraging the social media community for obtaining inbound links is a completely different topic of conversation.
Does Link Building Really Suck?
For many people, having the knowledge and focus that there is really one way to achieve high quality inbound links is a boon for their SEO endeavors. For others, it’s a challenge that needs to be overcome. The reality of the situation is that (to coin a title) link building is just harder now than most people expect it to be. If you don’t have the time to invest in generating link worthy content than you need to find ways to scale this endeavor, and/or incorporate it into your existing business strategies for website development and marketing strategy.
One final point: Jim Spencer of JBS Partners asked an important question on quantifying this type of link building effort with the sliding scale of alternative strategies people will recommend for targeting inbound links (blogging, directories, press releases etc). I think it’s important to note 2 important answers to this question:
- A comprehensive link building program always contains more than 1 strategy, so being able to leverage multiple tactics for link acquisition is an important point.
- Links acquired from content found on authority domains represent what almost any SEO professional would want a client to acquire. This type of link is less likely to experience any decrease in value as a result of the changing landscape of search engine optimization.
Overall, last night’s SEO Meetup was a great experience and contained great discussion amongst the group. If you’re in town when one of these events is going on, I would highly recommend stopping by and spending the time.
Final Final Note: If you are interested in link building and want to learn more, make sure to check out Rae Hoffman’s interview with 11 SEO Experts on Link Development Strategies. It contains 11 questions covering a variety of link building topics such as social media, link training and trends in the search engine marketing related to link building.
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