In late July, Google updated it’s stated policy on what ‘linkbuilding’ activities now constitute link schemes. While the update was clear - heavy hyperlinking in press releases, advertorials and large scale guest-blogging are now considered link schemes – the repercussions of the update and it’s lasting impact on SEO have been far more murky.
Nobody likes murky. Not in a drink and especially not when real business outcomes are associated with search visibility and the traffic it generates.
With the session promise of sharing how to linkuild the right way, Jennifer Slegg introduces Chuck Price, Founder of Measurable SEO. Jumping off the stage to begin his presentation, Price’s goal is clearly to dispel the notions that links ‘no longer matter.’ He starts with humor and honesty, “[l]inkbuilding is NOT sexy! Nor is it fun.” But, Price asserts, links are still the number 1 factor influencing search ranking. Two thing are certain, Matt Cutts has said as recently as July in an interview with Eric Enge, that links still matter and not all linkbuilding is bad.
However, linkbuilding has changed and Knowledge Graph was one of the game changers. Relevancy matters more than ever. Links that were once deemed powerful in 2010 may offer little value today.
What Would Google Do?
If Google operated a web based business, what would they do with their site? This is not a hypothetical posed by Price. It’s a reality. Google Ventures is, drum roll….the venture fund owned by Google. And according to Price, one can make the logical assumption ‘your house, your rules’ to use the site as a great barometer for the linkbuilding activity that you can learn from and replicate.
So more specifically, marketers looking to linkbuild the right way today need to understand:
- Quality is key: Real and relevant editorial links are so important.
- Quantity is NOT key: A few of the right links can get the job done.
Price continues the conversation on link quality and introduces a great litmus test all marketers should follow, courtesy of a quote attributed to Eric Ward and paraphrased as: Would you want that link even if it Google didn’t recognize it. It’s an important reminder to us all that the true value of the link – whether it’s a follow or nofollow – is derived from whether or not the site linking to you is relevant and reputable.
Time for Action
Using this litmus test to guide your linkbuilding efforts, Price recommends marketers think of a tight action plan that includes:
- Get Your Free Links: Using Google Webmaster Tools, locate pages that are throwing 404 errors. Instead of losing the link equity of that now defunct page, 301 redirect that URL to the most appropriate page on the site.
- Assess the Competition: In this instance competitors are the businesses outranking you for a key term. Using link intelligence tools (see list below), you can identify the high quality links that your competitors own. Focus on the links that are relevant for your business as well and commit to creating the content and/or relationship to earn that link.
- Issue Press Releases: It’s not what you think! The role of the release isn’t to acquire links through the over optimization and inclusion of hyperlinks. Instead disseminate unique and clever releases with the goal to ‘earn’ coverage from other sites and/or media outlets. To be clear, coverage is not re-posting the release, it’s a site crafting a unique story or mention of your brand.
- Reverse Solicit Guest Posts: While guest blogging on relevant, high value sites still deserves a place at the ‘marketing tactics table’. Consider the opposite action as well as a powerful linkbuilding opportunity. Solicit authors who contribute content on topics important to your brand and with Google+ rel author and considerable Klout. They’ll be naturally incentivized to promote their posts on your site.
Helpful Linkbuilding Tools
To execute a plan like the one above, access to link data is important and the tools Price likes include:
Nate Dame, a new father (wait for the relevance!) and CEO of SEOperks, brings the session to a conclusion with a few important points that help frame the true activities and interactions that we should associate with linkbuilding.
2 ‘Dame’ Good Linkbuilding Points
- Let People Link Naturally: Dame has found that the more hands off he is with ‘directing’ people how and where to link, the better the results. Inspire sharing and step back!
- The Link is Not the End-Result: Receiving a link should mean something much more meaningful than another tally in the link column. Your content resonated with someone, and because you followed point #1, you didn’t creep them out with directions like ‘actually, link here’.
While not all of us are new parents like Dame (think of the crazy population increase if that were true), maybe we should think like them when we linkbuild. How about a new litmus test: could you look your real or hypothetical child in the eye and say ‘I’m proud of the way I grew links’?
If not, it’s time to put these experts advice into action.