There are a lot of theories out there about the best way to link build. The bulk of which can be broken down into two basic categories. Whether your experience leans more to one side than the other, there is success to be had in both approaches, especially when utilized in coordination with each other.
The way I see it content has five key purposes:
- Build Links
To determine your content strategy, key factors to keep in mind include: voice, brand and audience. It can be easy as an SEO to put your blinders on and forget that content is used for reasons other than link bait and on-page optimization. The best content strategy is devised with a synergistic approach in mind—understanding that content is not only going to benefit your overall goal of more links and better optimization but it will also assist in creating a memorable brand, increase your audience base and establish you as an authority in the industry (if done right).
Keep in mind that content is not just text. Your content strategy consists of overall web design, graphics used on any internal webpage, videos, social media updates, email campaigns and more. To begin in the process of devising your strategy ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is most likely to be interested in what you offer (your audience)?
- What type of information is your business most readily able to provide (your brand)?
- How do you feel content will be best received and shared (your voice)?
Once you have these answers you are on the right track to what your content strategy should consist of. Unless the content resonates with your visitors, it will not contribute to your link-building efforts. Good content will always fulfill at least four of the five purposes mentioned above. This should be your key for gauging what good content is.
Keep in mind that no one is perfect, but we all need to start somewhere. If you can simply answer the above questions and get to work you are on the right track. But unfortunately these days, the saying "If you build it, they will come" doesn't hold as much truth as it used to. The next step in approaching an effective content strategy is streamlining the voice, design, graphics and information across all checkpoints (website, social media, press, email, print). As new information is provided, thread those throughout other opportunities your audience has to view it outside of the website and bring them in.
- Good content doesn't just acquire links.
- Don't just create good content, streamline it across all marketing fronts and push it well.
- Stay true to your brand, voice and audience.
Link building through direct outreach—or as I sometimes call it, brute force, can often feel like a lot of work with seemingly little return in links. I think the key when considering direct outreach as a priority in link building is to understand that this is what businesses that win do. This is an online marketing strategy with due diligence!
Because not only have we committed to create quality content, but also to discover additional ways to refer visitors to the website, increase web signals of authority and achieve overall SERP domination.
When approaching direct outreach for link building there are four strategies to master to accomplish a well-rounded backlink portfolio:
This is the process of using a tool like OpenSiteExplorer.org or MajesticSEO to pull a competitors backlink portfolio and compare it with your website of preference. Any quality links a competitor has acquired, but you have not, are a good place to start your outreach.
Knowing the potential link opportunities is the first step. But keep in mind simply asking for a link doesn't usually blow over all that well. This is where your creativity comes into play. Assess the web property and determine how you can best benefit or support their initiative. These benefits fall under the realm of guest-written content, a joint contest/giveaway, added benefit to their visitors through a relevant reference or possibly a business partnership or sponsorship.
This approach will usually have the lowest conversion rate, but the links established here can have the greatest impact on a campaign.
This approach is one that should go hand in hand with your content strategy. The difference between this content and that mentioned above is that this is all external from the site. Content used to build links will include articles, press releases, guest blog posts, news articles and tips.
Key items to keep in mind when pursuing the publishing of external content are where, what and why:
- There are websites where links are going to be higher in value than others. Be sure where your content is placed fits well with the content provided, has established authority or is doing what needs to be done to gain authority in the future.
- Be sure what your content consists of meets the big five standard (inform, instruct, entertain, convert, build links). Content should always be uniquely written by a writer that knows about the subject or is learning the subject well enough to have a comprehensive conversation about it.
- Why publish content if it doesn't have a purpose? You don't. The greatest example of this is a press release. A piece that is specifically meant to be news should not contain non-noteworthy information. Sometimes this standard will require a good deal of creativity, but almost always you will be able to discover an angle that is worth writing about.
Link building through a social approach can be broken down into two segments:
- Social Profiles - this is the process of simply owning your brand within each social arena. Set up your social accounts and fill them out fully with quality descriptions, links and logos.
- Social Signals - this is where combined efforts between SEO and social come into play. When pushing a target page the use of social media has proven to have great effects. Not only should relevant links be posted to the target page from your account, but a strategy to acquire a high number of dedicated followers who will post those links should be a goal. The first step is integrating social options throughout your site to capitalize on the traffic already arriving.
Establishing author authority through high followers and getting followers to re-post links is difficult. If there is not a strategy in place to accomplish this there should be.
Easy (directories, forums, blog comments)
Approaching directories and interacting on forums and blogs are still essential strategies in the brute-force approach. This helps cast a net online for search engines to locate and determine your authority and relevance.
Keep in mind that each of these opportunities while easy, should not be exploited. For instance, don't use spammy usernames that target keywords just to get a link for a blog comment. This is annoying and most comments are moderated anyway so you are more likely to get a link if you post a real comment through a real name.
- Direct outreach in link building is an essential part of organic SEO.
- Link building through direct outreach is very difficult, but will pay off.
- Quality does matter. If you link build through these processes without quality in mind it can have an adverse effect on your campaign.