There’s still a lot of talk about the relationship between SEO and links. Some people say that they are inseparable when it comes to optimization, while others argue that link building has already lost the importance it once had for SEO. Indeed, after Google Penguin was released, it became very difficult to reach your SEO goals by simply building as many links as possible from various domains.
Nevertheless, it’s difficult to deny that links are still an inevitable part of optimization, as they serve as a powerful indicator of the relevance and value of your content. The rapidly changing SEO landscape compels web marketers to shift their online tactics toward earning high-quality links.
To figure out how to do this properly and effectively, in our latest #SEOcafe chat, we discussed advanced link-earning strategies with our special guest Cameron Francis, digital marketer, mentor, and founder of eTraffic.
How can marketers assess the quality of a link? What tools should they use?
Today, link earning doesn’t mean that you should try to build every possible link. You must pay careful attention to the quality of each potential link you might receive. To do this, you can check whether or not a website you want to earn a link from meets the following requirements:
- The website’s content must be relevant to your topic
- The website’s content must be high quality
- The ads on the site must also be high quality
- The site must have an active online community presence
- The website itself must be high quality (design, interface, user-friendliness, etc.)
Also, make sure it is appropriate and acceptable to associate your company or your brand with the website.
In addition, you should consider the type of link you might receive (follow or nofollow) and where it is located on the page:
The right tools, if they’re used correctly, can greatly assist you with your marketing campaigns, saving you time and helping you analyze your efforts. There’re plenty of online services today. We made a list of tools based on recommendations from our chat participants and our own observations.
Ahrefs. This tool is used by both SEO gurus and novices because of its simplicity and convenience. It has several subscription plans and provides data such as new links, anchors, linking domains, etc.
Open Site Explorer. Created by SEOmoz, this tool offers free, premium backlink analysis.
Majestic. This service provides in-depth analysis on links. Even though there are free and paid options available, the latter provides much more functionality.
BuzzStream. This tool helps identify websites from which to request links. You can categorize links by several factors: PageRank, type of link, date found, and contact status. It also offers free and paid plans.
Inspyder Backlink Monitor. With the help of this tool, a user can check the status and anchor text of a link, as well as its PageRank and IP address.
Analyze Backlinks. This is an easy-to-use service with a simple interface that provides analysis on a website’s backlinks. It allows you to choose several (filtering?) options, such as not repeating links that came to your site from the same domain.
LinkPatrol. This is a paid WordPress plugin that helps you eliminate spammy links on your website, monitor newly added links, as well as discover and get rid of problem anchor texts.
In addition to using tools, rely on your own brain and common sense:
What are the key differences between link earning and link building?
An increasing number of marketers are beginning to realize that link building is an outdated technique as well as a sort of black-hat SEO technique. The main goal of this approach is to get as many links as possible, no matter their quality. Instead of link building, a new approach that is focused more on creating excellent and relevant content is worth sharing.
When you’re trying to earn links, you should do it naturally; if you want other people to share your content, you don’t have to do any additional work. The major difference between link building and link learning lies in the techniques that website owners use to get those backlinks and achieve their goals.
So, if you’re goal is to earn links, you should focus on:
- Publishing the best piece of content on your specific topic. And this is no exaggeration. You should produce helpful, engaging, and trustworthy content, not to mention it should be unique information.
- Building relationships with content creators and making new friends. You should find and connect with new content creators who’re experts in your industry. Subscribe to their social profiles and follow them. You can also cite their content as reputable sources. Relationships work wonders! Andy Crestodina described this in his article, in which he provided excellent tips for the biggest trends in search.
- Effective promotion and distribution. Promote your content the right way and distribute it among people who will be naturally willing to share it and link to it.
Your goal should be to focus on the quality and value of your backlinks. Instead of building them, try to build your brand and authority. If you produce and publish something of high quality, your content will be a natural magnet for links.
What types of content marketing tactics should marketers use to earn links?
As we’ve already said, content is a valuable part of any link earning strategy, but it will be an effective and powerful tool only if you use it properly.
Create shareable content. Infographics are increasing in popularity, and there is a good reason for this. They are shareable, more eye-catching, and visually appealing. People usually remember more of what they’ve seen and less of what they’ve read. So, infographics are a good way to capture your readers’ attention and attract more people to your website.
Strike a proper balance between images and texts. Despite the previous point, don’t be too obsessed with images and infographics. Text is also crucially important. First of all, it helps Google discover what your webpage is about. Without text it will be more difficult for search engines to understand whether or not your content is relevant.
Create quizzes and run contests. Quizzes are an interactive, engaging and entertaining type of content. What’s more, they’re both useful and fun! You can also run contests. They will help you engage your audience and, at the same time, allow your readers to increase their knowledge and improve their skills. People love and tend to share (posts about contests?)
Always do research. Do research on a regular basis in order to find out what your audience wants, talks about and searches for. Check the latest trends in your niche. This will help you create something that will solve your readers’ problems and answer their questions.
Be educational. It seems like an obvious suggestion, yet it’s a very important one. You should serve as an expert in your niche and provide your audience with useful insights into your industry. Educate your readers, create step-by-step guides, how-tos and tutorial videos. Also, you can invite experts and include interviews with them in your content.
Publish controversial content. It’s not easy to think differently and offer a new opinion, but it’s worth doing, because anything unusual and controversial attracts particular attention and makes people think. They’ll share what they find surprising.
Today we have so many opportunities to create and express our views, thoughts and ideas. Don’t stick to a single strategy, use interviews, roundups, infographics and videos, to name a few.
Why are infographics so popular? And what are the elements of a good infographic that will get shared?
People are always busy and never have enough time. This compels them to scan information, instead of reading it carefully. Infographics help to solve this problem and have thus become widely used by marketers. Let’s figure out the main elements of a perfect infographic.
- Interesting information or data. These are the basics. Nobody will care about your content if you don’t provide current, helpful and trustworthy information. If you want to include statistics, make sure they’re reliable and accurate.
- Visuals and storytelling. Infographics are much more than just graphics or pie charts, they tell a complete story. So make your story captivating! Use techniques that work, but also make your infographic unique and thrilling. And make it simple. Your design shouldn’t be confusing because of a complicated structure, multiple fonts, (odd?) shapes or superfluous text. Minimalism is an art.
- Shareability. Make sure your infographic is easy to share, and provide an embedded code.
- Sources. Never forget to provide links to your sources, if you’ve used any, and include some facts, statistics and figures in your infographic. To make it clear, never forget to do this!
How can marketers earn links through building relationships online?
As we discussed above, we should build relations, not links. For quite some time, marketers generally followed people on Twitter in order to reach out them. Nevertheless, there are many other opportunities to build relationships that can also lead to new links.
- Use special tools. There are various online tools for planning your activity, such as BuzzSumo and Impactana. These tools allow users to identify content that is shared the most. This will help you find new influencers in your industry.
- Engage with people. Connecting with people is an essential part of building relationships. To do this, you can ask people questions in the comment sections, for example, and respond when they ask you something. Share your knowledge freely, as this demonstrates your level of expertise.
- Give before you take. Start by sharing other people's content, instead of asking them to share yours first. This shows that you really care about their interests, and thus more people will be willing to collaborate with you. Caring about people actually helps you earn more links.
- Offline meetings. Communication shouldn’t be limited to online conversations. When you reach out to someone, you can try to connect with them offline. If you live in the same city, you can even have lunch or grab a cup of coffee together. Face-to-face meetings are much more personal, and they make it easier for you to gain a person’s trust. If this is impossible, you can also have a conversation on the phone or via Skype.
- Start collaborating. Once you’ve reached out to an influencer, you should start working together. Invite them to create content together, or take part in your roundups or other activities.
What strategy has worked best for you when it comes to earning backlinks?
Natural links will never lose their importance to SEO, while link building seems like one of those strategies that comes and goes. You have to produce content that is helpful, educational and trustworthy. Focusing on this strategy will help you build strong, long-term relationships with influencers in your industry. That means you’ll have to invest more effort and time into achieving your goals; use your creativity and brainstorm. Do research in order to find out your audience’s real needs and engage with your readers. If you follow all these tactics, besides gaining high-quality links, you also build your brand, increase your brand awareness and authority, and become a trusted expert in your industry.
Here are some strategies that our Twitter Chat participants shared with us: