I’m hearing lots of talk in the SEO community questioning the value of building links.
The current SEO trends seem to be leaning toward focusing on the technical aspects of SEO and leaving link building as an afterthought – or not a thought at all.
I think technical SEO is extremely important and a great technical SEO professional is worth every penny they earn.
But failure to create a strategy around building quality links is leaving money on the table.
If you are stuck on measuring links by volume, I think you’re doing it wrong.
I have many case studies that show that a few relevant, high-quality links will garner better results than several thousand non-relevant, lesser quality links.
Modern link building is not a numbers game.
Modern link building is a relationship game.
Relationships are hard.
Relationships take time.
Link building is hard.
Link building takes time.
But this article is not about creating an overall link building strategy.
In this article, I’m going to give you four link building tactics that work.
None of these ideas are groundbreaking.
But my hope is that some of you get some ideas from this list and put your own spin on it.
And I’m sure to some of you, at least a couple of these tactics will be new to you.
Feel free to use any and all of these ideas, and don’t hesitate to put your own spin on them.
After all, there are many ways to do link building wrong, but there isn’t one way to do it right.
1. Vendors, Customers & Friends
Link building is about relationships.
It stands to reason that one of the easiest ways to gain quality links is to leverage the relationships your company already has.
One of the first link building activities we do with any client is asking them to brainstorm a list of vendors, customers, and friends they think might be willing to provide a link.
Then, using our link building evaluation methodology, we evaluate each opportunity and prioritize.
Don’t get me wrong, we don’t go after every opportunity that is out there.
Relevance is important.
While a high-quality link is always desirable and can, in many cases, still provide significant value even with a small degree of relevancy, most people’s personal contacts can only provide links that aren’t exceptionally authoritative.
However, I’d argue that if you have a business relationship with a company, their site intrinsically has a modicum of relevance to yours.
The action item for this tactic is to create your list and don’t skimp.
Create as comprehensive a list as you can.
Then evaluate the links that could be garnered from the list and prioritizing them based on your evaluation criteria.
Next, take the top prospects on your list and meet with them or call them on the phone!
As a general tip, we find that if we can talk to someone in person or on the phone, we are far more likely to gain a link than if we merely send them an email.
For the rest of the list, communicate with them through the appropriate channels.
The appropriate channel is how the prospect is most comfortable communicating with you.
Don’t forget to ask for the link.
2. Trade Publications
When I worked in a Public Relations firm, trade publications were the bread and butter of easy publicity success.
Once, a colleague at the PR firm was praised for landing a story in a trade publication.
I’ll never forget when the big boss hit reply-all (instead of just reply) to tell the manager that she shouldn’t praise account executives for getting hits in trade publications.
He said we should own the trade publications.
He was right.
If you have a decent product and can differentiate yourself, you should have articles in trade magazines focused on your vertical.
The articles, which frequently appear in the online versions of the trade publications, should give you a highly relevant, quality link.
The action item for this tactic is to explore the different trade publication in your niche and start reading them.
Get to know the frequent writers – who are most likely either editors or freelancers.
Follow those writers on social media – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, wherever they are.
Interact with the writers, providing them with feedback on their stories as well as information that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with your company.
Basically, work to make their job easier.
Then, when you come up with something newsworthy about your company, pitch away.
Don’t forget to ask for a link in the story.
It amazes me how many times public relations folks don’t even ask for the link.
Journalists frequently don’t think in terms of links, so reminding them that you would like one usually doesn’t insult them – in fact, they are usually grateful.
3. Link-Worthy Content Campaigns
Why do sites link to other sites?
The answer is pretty simple.
Sites link to items that they think will be useful to their audience.
One of the most common tactics I see sites employ is to look at what is currently working for your competitors and copying the type of content, but trying to out-execute the competition in terms of the quality of the content.
This is a viable tactic – but one that frequently fails to provide optimal results.
The smaller your pool of likely linking sites, the less effective copycat content will be.
Creating linkable content is difficult.
But you won’t ever know if a piece of content is linkable until you try it.
The action items for this tactic is to brainstorm at least three quality pieces of content that you think influencers in your space will like too.
While it’s a good idea to look at what type of content is working for others, try not to crib too much from your competitors.
Work to come up with a content idea that hasn’t been explored very well.
When creating the content, think about exuding expertise, authority, and trust, or as Google likes to call it, E-A-T.
The content you create should be a resource for both influencers and end-users wherever possible.
But creating the content is not enough.
This is where the “campaign” part comes in.
You need to put together a plan to get your content noticed by the gatekeepers that can reward you with a link.
Don’t try to pitch to everyone in the world.
While it is tempting to play a volume numbers game, you will be more effective if you limit the pool of influencers you want to peddle your linkable wares, too.
Concentrating on the most important contacts allows you to spend the time needed to successfully obtain the highest quality links.
4. Be Controversial
Controversy gets links.
Brands that understand their audience can take advantage of taking controversial stands.
If you know how your audience feels about a particular issue, taking a stand on that issue only reinforces your brand’s relevance to your target customers.
Brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Heneiken, Starbucks and many others have successfully parlayed arguably controversial social stands into thousands of links from high-quality sites.
And the links have come from not only relevant sites that cater to the brands’ supporters, but from high-quality sites that cater to those opposed to the brands’ social positions.
In other words, they get links from their supporters and their detractors.
The saying “I don’t care what you say about me, just spell my name right” has never been truer than in the battle for high-quality links.
The action item for this tactic is to make sure you understand your audience and what is important to them.
If you don’t understand your audience, don’t employ this tactic.
Just ask the folks at the Komen Race for the Cure, who are still recovering from their controversial decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood almost a decade ago.
But if you know your audience, be vocal about the causes that are important to them.
Don’t be afraid to take a stand that your audience will appreciate.
One caveat – taking a stand can be somewhat exhausting.
Trolls are real.
There will be those who oppose your stance that will work to harm you online.
If you have extremely limited resources to combat your detractors, taking a controversial stand might not be feasible, no matter how well it will play with your target audience.
But if you can fight the trolls, the links you can garner from taking a stand are well worth the risks.
Once you have taken a stand, you aren’t done. You need to create a campaign to let folks know about your stand.
Just like in the last tactic, you need to make sure that the important folks know about the stand you’ve taken.
Again, don’t play a numbers game with your outreach.
Find the most important folks, and make sure they are aware of your stand.
This list will most likely be different from your other lists, as you’ll want to find the influencers that are particularly interested in the stand you take.
There are literally thousands of ways to creatively obtain high-quality, relevant links.
Most look at link building as an impossible chore.
I think that’s because they are looking at link building in the wrong way.
It doesn’t take thousands of links to be successful – it just takes a few of the right links in most cases.
Letting your creative juices flow to create unique and effective link building campaigns is one of my favorite parts of SEO.
If you understand that success is achievable if you push boundaries, it might become one of your favorite parts of SEO as well.
Featured Image: Created by author, July 2019
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