Monday, July 22, 2013

Link Building: Add Links or Create Engaging Content ?


by David Brown
Inbound Marketing Consultant
Logion Web Design


Link building has become one of the key strategies for search engine optimization, but not without some strong push back from Google in recent years on best standards and guidelines.   


Google Wants Your Content to Deserve Links

The traditional search engine optimization (SEO) strategy that is still being used is to develop "follow" links  from high domain authority sites that may or may not have have relevant content to the target site being linked to. Anchor text would be preferable in the context of the link, preferably with a keyword or phrase that is relevant to the target site.

Although this method can be done on a "best standards" basis, Google's philosophy is that the content on the target website or blog should be so compelling that third parties would want to link to it without invitation.This is driving the content creation industry to new directions as content now becomes a key for link building strategies. Basically, it seems as if the trend in Google is to start giving just as much weight to popularity, reputation, and social response to content by sharing and linking to it as to the content creator's own efforts to build content into a link building strategy. An example is the way Google handles citations or reviews. They want the review to be directly from the customer, not copied and pasted into the website by the business or by a third party. The trend towards authenticity is important to note as Google will penalize site owners for manipulating reviews, or other content against their guidelines.


Content Creation from High Domain Authority Sites - Two Examples

Since it can be more challenging to continue to update web sites with compelling and engaging content on the primary pages of the web site one solution is to publish a blog in a strong domain authority site (such as this blog's platform -blogger.com) as often as weekly, or at least monthly, that is original and authoritative on your business or industry, and then link to the relevant web site. In many cases the blog, with stacked content and posts from prior blogs will have more traffic than the web site. When it comes to page ranking, sometimes the blog will show up higher in search results for the same keywords as the web site.

Another example of setting up links with content from high authority sites would be a news release from sites such as PRweb.com. If the news release is picked up from other news sites than it is considered to have enough compelling and engaging content to deserve the replication. Now the links are coming from that site as well as from PRweb.com. If the release is not picked up it still has a lot of relevant value for both content and links to the target site.  

Link Building Becoming an Obsolete Term?

Based on the discussion above, it would seem that the term "link building" is going to have less importance than content creation, since content can have links involved and is the only way to have links be meaningful and authentic. Since Google wants the content to deserve links, then link building is no longer just "adding a link". It has evolved into an integration with content creation, and good marketing. It all seems to be coming around full circle to smart marketing, which includes focusing on what appeals to your target audience, and publishing original, compelling content that may be shared, liked, re-tweeted, and / or subscribed to.  Copyblogger, a leading content management and training resource that has both strong authority and reputation in the industry, provides some good insights in their blog "Five Link Building Strategies That Work" - these include the use of social sites, linking out (by providing links to another authoritative blog, you may receive a link back), guest posting - making comments on a blog, and the use of article directories such as ezine articles. All of these involve content, and the links are a byproduct and natural result of the content. We are all following Google's lead when it says that links need to be deserved. That is the challenge.

Content Creation, Curation, and Strategy is the New Link Building

While direct, manual, link building is still a part of the process, the content creation industry has become a huge focus in itself and in my opinion is the new link building strategy. Some of the resources that we use for content ideas and strategy are very helpful in developing a content creation plan that goes beyond publishing one blog per week. Copyblogger is an example.  Here's just one of their many free content management resources that we use to help our clients who are small business owners who do not have the time to manage their internet marketing.

1) The Ten Rock Solid Elements of Effective Online Marketing (by Copyblogger)

In this report Copyblogger demonstrates the importance of authority, and how the perception of authority is important as a result of it being demonstrated rather than "claimed" (ex. we are the best). They are ahead of the curve in the Google trends for recognizing authority from content creation, and provide free and paid resource material that is excellent.


Authority and Reputation Play Right into Link Building (Content Creation)
Google will continue to improve their ability in "assessing the authority and reputation and all those characteristics of authors and people in general" (Matt Cutts). Although not mentioned in this blog, Google wants to give full credit to the author of original content.  If you ever notice how there is a picture next to a web site in the search results, this shows that the author has taken the right steps to show Google the connection between their Google + profile and their content. Google rewards this by displaying the profile picture next to the content in search results. This is a display of Google's recognition of authority and that improves and reflects reputation. This seems to be the case especially with Google+, when you post a blog and describe the post, the description also seems to act as an anchor text link in search results on Google. This, combined with Google's verification of the author and publisher of the content, seems to drive the relevance of the page ranking of the content. As an example, prior post on this blog is ranked # 4 in search results, and both author and publisher verification and a  post on the Google+ profile page when published was most likely very helpful. (See the following example: Portland webmaster.)

David Brown
Logion Web Design
Inbound Marketing Consultant


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