February 10, 2014
A good batter doesn’t step into the box without a strategy in place. Without a strategy he may get a few lucky hits, but otherwise he’s in the batter’s box flailing away without success. The best batters don’t swing at every pitch. They bide their time and pick the perfect moment to unleash. It’s the batters who are unprepared who tend to strike out.
Baseball shares a lot in common with business when it comes to preparation. Don’t let your business strike out with link building because it wasn’t prepared.
Link building is a risky strategy, because it won’t succeed if you don’t do it right. But if you put the time and effort into crafting a smart approach, rather than just tossing up links haphazardly around the Internet, link building can be a great way to increase your visibility, gain traffic and improve your search engine optimization.
As 2014 begins, get your link building strategy on track by trying some new things. Here’s what you can expect for link building this year.
What is Link Building?
Let’s start with a quick refresher on link building and what it means for your SEO strategy. Link building is essentially finding as many ways to establish links back to your targeted content as possible. It might mean guest posting on other sites where you reference a link to your company’s own blog. Or it might be asking other sites to link back to your content on a relevant page. This is often referred to as outreach.
Google loves when other sites link back to you, and your search rankings will rise accordingly if reputable sites are establishing back links to your content. However, Google can also get cranky when it thinks people are gaming the system. Not every SEO company employs an honest approach to link building, and so-called black hat tactics prompted Google to crack down on link builders, which has scared some people off from the practice.
Link building is still a worthwhile pursuit, but it must be done carefully. This year’s link building trends are built on taking a more upfront, data-driven approach to link building that can benefit the business in question but also take off the heat from Google.
Quality Over Quantity
This is something you will be hearing again and again this year, no matter what form of SEO you’re working with. We’ve gotten to the point in our online evolution where the web is so clogged with information that only high-quality, original content stands out. Rehashing old stories or putting a twist on a headline will no longer result in Google gold.
Instead it’s quality that matters much more than quantity, and that’s true of link building in particular. It’s better to have one link on a site that Google views favorably than to have 10 on sites that are suspect. And avoid link building on spammy sites altogether. Nothing can throw off your bid to dominate the search engine results pages (SERPs) faster than being associated with a spammer.
Throw Yourself Into Research
Going back to our baseball example, the best hitters know everything about the pitchers they’re going to face. They research their curve balls, the way they throw and their pitch preferences. They leave nothing to chance. The same should be true when it comes to link building.
There are many resources available to give you data on your link building to see what works and what does not. The key is finding the right data. Don’t judge your efforts on numbers without context. For example, if your SEO company tells you that you had 400 back links this month and just 300 the previous month, that sounds great. Until you realize that you still don’t know whether those back links are providing results.
Here are a few data sources that you should be looking at each month:
- How the links are classified (paid, guest post, organic, etc.)
- Referral traffic from those links
- Page ranks and secondary domain metrics from Moz or Majestic
It’s important to hold onto these reports and compare them to one another to see what is changing over time. This will give you a better idea of what is working and what is not. Though monthly information is great on its own, it’s the big picture that you’re after. Don’t lose sight of that.
You’re Responsible for Your Strategy
Most companies bring in SEO companies or advisors to help them figure out a strategy for search optimization, and link building is often a part of that. But don’t sign the checks and otherwise stay out of it. Smart companies monitor what is being done on their behalf. In addition to looking at the raw data and the results in the SERPs, they pay attention to what sorts of strategies are being used to promote their company with link building.
Don’t let people take risks you’re not comfortable with, even if they promise big results. This is your company and your reputation. If you’re wary of a particular strategy, push to move on to something else. A good SEO company will listen. If they don’t, that’s a sign you should be finding a new one to represent you.
Take Link Building Out of Its Silo
People used to use media in silos. They didn’t watch TV while they read the newspaper; they didn’t make calls on their phones while listening to the radio. We all know those days are gone, and gone, too, are the days when link building could be judged in a silo. There are a lot of other things that impact link building, such as social media strategies, greater SEO approaches and even the technicalities of your web site and how it functions. Watch your competitors and what they’re doing, and pay attention to the latest research on link building.
Make sure when you’re judging your link building efforts you take these other factors into account. Link building isn’t dead, and it’s certainly not dying. It’s just evolving. Keep these ideas in mind, and your link building strategy can continue to deliver success.