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The end of this year should see Google rolling out its new Penguin update, which is said to include some real-time elements that could significantly change the game for link building strategies in 2016.

A lot of the conversation around link building often starts with a phrase like: “Remember how easy link building used to be?” Well, 2016 looks like it isn’t going to get any easier, but that doesn’t mean it’s something you can skip. Link building remains an integral part of a strong SEO strategy – you just have to be more careful about how you do it.

2016 is going to require a change in perspective. Link building is tied very closely to Authority Building, which means that you have to look at it as more than just a number. While links are certainly necessary to build authority, there may be some other ways you can make your link building more effective.

So let’s take a look at the things you need to know going into the New Year to stay on top of the best link building strategies.

Real-Time Penguin

Penguin updates are all about targeting spammy link tactics and monitoring the quality of any links pointed at a website. It has been the cause of severe drops in rankings for many websites since it was first introduced back in 2012, and Google releases statistics on how many web searches it feels are affected by each update,

But that could change because the next update is going to switch to real-time monitoring and changes.

The real-time penguin is going to be “always on” and constantly looking for bad links or links that have been removed or disavowed, making it much more difficult for black hat or even grey had techniques to work. Of course, while this means that it will discover removed or disavowed links faster – so companies can get out of penalties sooner – it also means that you can get penalized just as quickly.

What this means for link building is that you have to be surer than ever that your methods are natural and follow the guidelines set by the search engines.

The Need for Quality Never Changes

Thinking “I need fifteen thousand and twenty seven links to succeed” is about as old fashioned as you can get in the SEO world. Now, you need to create links that people will want to click. Linking alone is not going to deliver the results you need to succeed in 2016.

This does mean that you can diversify the mediums through which you publish content and build links. Where previously it may have been important to get as many links as you could from as many different sites as possible, it’s now okay to be a little more focused with the sources for the links as long as you diversify the content you produce for your audience.

For example, eBooks are more effective for B2B industries while blogs, press releases, videos, and articles provide the bite-sized information that many customers expect. Infographics and micrographs are also very shareable and provide great opportunities to gain links.

Whatever else might change in link building, useful content has not and will not.

Make Content that Answers Questions

Building authority is about being useful. Every customer has certain pain points, which creates an opportunity for you to help them with some good content.

How does this build links? Because those people probably know other people with the same problem, and they’ll share the answers that they find. They may share the link on their social media or in some other form, which means that useful links are being spread to the people who will actually click them.

This means you’ll have to create more than just top ten lists or other fun pieces of content. You can still be fun, but if you can actually provide an answer – say a guide that walks someone through the process of using a specific tool/product/service – then you’ll be on the road to better results.

Collaborations for Links

Collaboration is extremely important for building authority. This isn’t about the old link swapping schemes – where you link to them if they link to you – but working with people and companies in the industry to build relationships so that linking to you is a natural reaction.

Links that Don’t Link

Many of us like to joke about the amount of data Google has and the things they know about you. However, the reality is that this level of information means that things like brand mentions – even without explicit links – can have meaning for Google.

Offsite reviews also may not have a direct link to an exact page, but Google sees the review and understands that they’re talking about you, so even link-less mentions can still be very important for building authority.

Experts and Authorities

Creating content that features tips and guides from industry experts is a great way to attract authoritative links. It’s a simple process, and one that can help you on your way to the kind of collaboration mentioned above. You ask someone to provide some small content, and they will often do so because it is a great to get included on a list with many other industry experts.

They will then link to the post themselves to show their audience where they have been featured, which can open your website up to a whole new audience.

Links that People Engage With

Your analytics program tells you exactly which link is sending you traffic. That means the search engines can see that to.

What does that mean for link building?

Probably that if you’re relying on the last link in the last sentence of an author bio in your guest post, you aren’t going to see much success.

But if your link is up high in the body of the content, and it connects to relevant or important information, it has a lot better chance of being clicked and followed. If that happens, it will likely carry more weight with the search engines.

This counts for both internal and external links. If you’re randomly linking around your website because you feel like you need more links, visitors will not actually use them (and probably won’t even notice them), and they won’t be helpful at all.

Effective links on your own website can come in the form of supplemental content. This is something Google talks a lot about, but many marketers don’t. This is a simple way to help users find other products and content they may also like.

Real-time Penguin is going to change a lot for link builders, so keep these tips in mind as you go through 2016 and stick to the established guidelines and the time and money you invest in the process will be well spent.

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