Getting your website the love and recognition it deserves is all about building as many links as you can.
One of the goals of effective SEO is to get your website to the top of the search engine’s results pages for a given keyword, and link building has long been at the heart of most online marketing strategies.
Links can drive traffic and they can contribute to the authority of your site. And SEO was a lot easier when that was all there was to it.
But there’s a lot more to SEO these days than just linking to your site using a couple relevant keywords. You might even be able to get some good attention without an actual link. It takes a little more work, but when you combine these tactics with traditional link building, the results are more natural, more effective, and possibly even more enticing to search engines.
The Evolution of Link Building
In the early days of the internet, a lot of online marketers took great liberty (and advantage) of link building, which often took the form of malicious, unethical link buying and link farming.
During these days, SEO professionals went link crazy, stuffing an over-abundance of links into their website content and going to less-than-honorable lengths to get a link from almost any or all external sites, regardless of the quality.
“Quantity” mattered far more than quality. It worked in the search engines, and it was easier to show the higher-ups that work was happening because: “Hey, just look at all these links pointing at the website. We promise they’ll help, eventually.”
Google quickly took notice of the unpleasant search experience this over-reliance on links produced and introduced some algorithm updates that specifically targeted pages with low-quality, spammy or excessive backlinks.
Sites that violated these new guidelines were heavily penalized. Some were dropped completely out of the search results until they fully cleaned up their backlink portfolio.
Despite this evolution, though, links are still a foundational part of an effective SEO strategy. But that doesn’t mean they should be the whole of your strategy.
If Not Links, Then What?
Links are a good start, but as the search engine algorithms continue to develop, your strategies also need to evolve.
This is most apparent when you look at some of the latest updates that put a much greater emphasis on high-quality content and improved user experience.
In other words, Google wants you to prioritize users over search engines.
While the first step in that process is to improve the quality and relevance of your content, there are also some “linkless” ways to bolster your website’s online credibility, trust and visibility. These include:
- Influencer Marketing
- Social Media Interactions
When customers and other businesses mention your brand in a positive context it’s like a little virtual pat on the back and something of a trust booster. Even if they don’t link directly to your site, getting a mention on a quality site still counts for something.
If web users see your brand’s name positively mentioned online enough times, they will likely Google your company and check out your website.
This is also a good place to discuss “citations,” which are like business listings on various websites. They don’t need to link to your website, but they should carry information like your company’s physical address and phone number. This will help the search engines make associations with your company that can help you improve your online standing in various ways.
With so many options online, customers can easily get overwhelmed, frustrated, and distracted. On top of that, web users are generally suspicious of sites they haven’t heard of or businesses they haven’t worked with before.
This has made online reviews extremely important in the modern marketing world.
Customers are simply more likely to trust the opinions of other customers who they perceive as being just like them.
Google My Business, Yelp, and various social platforms have made it easy for the average customer to make their opinions heard.
While positive reviews are what we all want, customers are often suspicious of a company that has nothing but glowing reviews. So, don’t be afraid of the occasional negative review. If a customer is genuinely displeased with your efforts, they should feel free to express themselves.
As long as you respond to it in a professional and prompt manner, you can turn that negative into a much stronger positive.
When people see your honest attempts to make the situation right, they will likely take your business more serious and view your brand with more respect.
When the search engines see a lot of activity on these review platforms, they’ll attribute more authority to your website – even without a link.
Influencer marketing involves working with the people that have the attention and respect of your targeted customers, such as Instagram influencers related to your niche with a bazillion followers.
If your ideal demographic follows certain online personalities, they’ll be more likely to check out your website when that person endorses your company’s products or services. You have to approach influencers correctly, but if you can make a good connection, this is a great option for companies that are new to the market and have little or no brand recognition – but do have a great new product or service.
As with mentions, an endorsement of your brand’s products or services may or may not have a link. Even with an unlinked mention and endorsement, web users who are curious and interested will search for your brand and explore your website, indirectly increasing brand recognition and website traffic.
Social Media Interaction
The widespread, daily use of social media has made it mandatory for business, but how it is used and the value it provides can change and evolve all the time.
You can target specific audiences for better conversion rates with social media marketing, but real social media success requires two-way communication. This is when relationships begin to form – which means that the other half of this relationship will be more willing to engage with you.
Addressing each customer’s interaction on a personal level will make that specific customer feel great and increase the likelihood of earning their continued business.
So, it may not be a link that you get out of these interactions, but it just may be a paying customer.
Changing The Way We Do Links
Voice search has changed how people use the internet, and customers aren’t searching with a single keyword or phrase anymore. Instead, they’re using very specific long-tail keywords and complex phrases. Search engines understand this and tend to reward websites that do more than just get as many links on exact keywords or phrases as they can.
It is important to continue to utilize high-quality backlinks from reputable external sites. This kind of attention can be great for your website, but it can wear thin after a little while.
Always utilize a range of good content along with “nonlinked” referrals, recommendations, and endorsements to get the kind of attention that lasts.