The End of Link Building: Should We Be Chasing Links Or Building Great Content?
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The End of Link Building: Should We Be Chasing Links Or Building Great Content?

The End of Link Building: Should We Be Chasing Links Or Building Great Content?

The death knell has been ringing from the bowels of Castle Greyskull Google for a while and although I’m not sure the sword is falling quite yet, there have certainly been some web spam team ninja stars flying around the place targeting the kind of low quality link building strategies that certain ‘guest blogging’ strategies dress themselves up to be.

Matt Cutts recently sounded yet another warning to the black hat brigade about how low quality guest blogging is tantamount to paid link acquisition. And that’s against Google’s terms is it not?

Guest blogging is a perfectly acceptable means of reaching your audience via somebody elses appropriate audience and one of the advantages is that you can get a link back to your website. But having been latched onto by so many SEOs in the past few years this strategy has become a defined ‘link building’ strategy and the lower quality end of the game has tarred the brush for (nearly) all.

My view is that there is still plenty of room for non spammy, well thought out, carefully considered guest posting if the metrics (and your gut feeling) marry up. We don’t even link out from our guest posts with exact or even partial match anchor text any more, just URL or branded links from relevant, on topics content and blogs. But even this is starting to take a back seat as we evolve our service into something less ‘link buildy’

So why (mostly) no more link building?

It’s always been a mainstay of the whole SEO process right? It used to be more links, then it became better quality links, then we had watch our anchor text ratios, then we had to avoid anchor text and now what is it? What the heck are we supposed to be doing to let Google know we’re a reputable source, worthy of ranking highly for our longtail keyword themes (because keywords are so 2011)?

Try this….

Have great content, actually on your website.

That’s (almost) it. Forget creating content for links and finding places to post it and start creating content for people. If you stop looking for links and invest the same amount of time and energy into creating high quality, unique content that will appeal to your target audience and the associated Linkerati and the links will start finding you. Good old fashioned linkbait folks. Only now we get this whole social network, advocates doing your work for you deal into the bargain.

Don’t put your great content on other people’s sites, put it on your own site, let nature take it’s course and reap the rewards of your efforts.

No, of course this won’t happen all by itself, you’re going to have to put a bit of effort in, but the ROI on this strategy is directly proportionate to the effort you make over the longer term, and SEO is a longer term effort today more than ever it was. You have to future proof yourself against the next potential Google update (Google index apocalypse)  that finally says “Sorry folks, I need to see high quality content allied to mighty social signals and reputable authors and I don’t care how many links you’ve got from thin content on low quality blogs” – Not so unrealistic is it?

There is a process to this and your link building strategy (or that of your web team or agency) might already be set up for this:

1. Identify your target audience:

Who are you writing for? What sort of content is going to engage them? Maybe your accountancy firm or geographical survey company might seem like it’s devoid of sexy ideas for interesting content, but know your audience and you’ll brainstorm some ‘adjacent content’ that will appeal to your target audience without being directly about what you do. As an accountant, your audience may be small businesses terrified of the perils, pitfalls (and fines!) of HMRC. So what about “Everything A Small Business Needs To Know About Tax, VAT & HMRC”? Think big, think indispensable guide, think thought leader, think authority, think audience.

2. Competitive Intelligence

You might already be looking at who links to your competitors (that’s why they rank above you right?) so why not take a look at what content people are linking to? There’s a wealth of content ideas out there sat on sites that rank better than yours. Go get inspired by it. Take a look at the glorious (and free!) Buzzsumo for trending content that getting lots of social buzz. This is happening right now, people are creating great content, get moving!

3. Distribute it to your followers

What followers? Your facebook likers and twitter followers and Google plus, er, circlers. This would really be a post of it’s own, it’s a big topic (but start here) and one you need to get your head around because the value is big, far beyond just a group of people to share your content with and help deliver those genuinely earned links, but also potential customers, influencers and advocates.

Bomb proof your strategy

Great content will deliver more than links, it will stick around, it will continue to give and it will help you to garner the kind of authority, social signals and general kudos that Google will be looking for in the not so distant future (and a little bit already…) and it’ll do this naturally without you having to go out chasing links with your precious time. I’m not saying that links garnered through fostering relationships with other businesses and people isn’t valid, or that carefully managed guest blog posting isn’t going to be the potential ranking difference between you and a ranking competitor but if you want to invest your time wisely and with a future proof (algorithmically bomb proof) link acquisition strategy, socially allied content for your website is the way forwards.

Follow James Wittering on Google+

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