Many SEOs – even at the Fortune 500 level – launch into link building with an eye on two or three “big head” keywords. All their efforts focus on the site’s SERP rankings for these few keywords. They typically focus on buying as many links as possible with anchor text that contains these targeted keywords. While these methods have worked, and will likely continue working in some capacity, SEOs will see increasing value come from applying their expertise and understanding in a new way.
It’s time for link builders to begin decreasing their obsession with direct SERP impact and begin designing link building campaigns that genuinely contribute value to the market, the community and the industry as a whole. This article highlights the principle shifts in thinking required.
1. “Get More Links” becomes “Build More Relationships”
SEOs have beaten the “get more links” drum until now even CEOs have started pounding it. It’s a relatively simple metric to track and therefore a quick and easy number for link builders to point to. Shift from a focus on more links to more relationships with industry participants of all kinds: pundits, bloggers, journalists, researchers and potentially even the experts among your competitors. In short, if they’re publishing content to your target market they can and should be considered for some form of engagement designed to build links.
>> Action: Identify Your Industry’s Expert Publishers
Before building relationships you need to know WHO you should be building these relationships with. You can start your “seed list” of influential publications by simply asking others in your industry what and who they read for information. By looking at their “blogrolls” you can find still more influential publishers. Also consider trying these queries: [(your industry) blog list], [(your industry) blogs], [(your industry) magazine], [(your industry) community], [(your industry) organization] to find more. Lastly, if you want to get obsessively thorough, brainstorm more queries similar to those mentioned above and run them through the process described in The Link Builder’s Guide To Analyzing SERP Dominators For Link Opportunities
2. “Manipulate Anchor Text” becomes “Design Content that Builds Links, Brand and Leads”
Anchor text manipulation can and does still work… for now. However SEOs have the tools and knowledge to guide an organization’s content creation towards not only link building, but brand building and even lead generation. SEOs can identify, with tools like Open Site Explorer and Yahoo Site Explorer, what competitor pages attract links from their industry’s expert publishers. By extracting and communicating what makes content linkable in a particular keyword space, SEOs can guide content teams and social media participants towards increased impact and influence in the market.
>> Action: Identify Your Industry’s Most Needed, Most Linked Content
Pull on the threads of your industry’s pains and you’ll find the content that attracts links… Do this systematically using this process for competitive how-to content analysis. Once you have an idea of the commonly discussed topics in your space, you can begin determining who covers them exceptionally well using this process for researching and creating linkable content.
3. “Increase SERP Rankings with Links” becomes “Increase Engagement Of Your Industry’s Expert Publishers”
The battle for increased SERPs rankings won’t go away any time soon. What we hope to see is a shift from focusing on SERPs inclusion to a focus on inclusion and citation in an industry’s expert publications. There are a number of ways to work towards mentions and links from your industry’s influential linkers, from group interviews and surveys to creating useful tools and how-to’s. You’ll find that you have far better response rates to link requests when you have been an active participant and contributor to a space.
>> Action: Design Expert Engagement Campaigns
Once you have created expert-grade content for your market you have to promote that content in order for it to earn links. Your content will earn more links if you have already established relationships with the experts in your space, and, most importantly, “preciprocated” these expert relationships by promoting them as much as you’re able. One of our favorite methods is the group expert interview and group expert survey.
We hope this article, a first in a three-part series (parts 1 & 2 here on the SMS blog and the 3rd part in an upcoming issue of the print publication), helps you to reframe your thinking about link building. It can and should involve more than just a list of URLs, a list of anchor text and a stack of cash. For folks who still find value in buying links, we certainly recommend these processes for adding an appropriate amount of “noise” and “authority” to your backlink profile. For folks looking for a new way to build links we hope our series provides a path forward towards rethinking process and rethinking the impact that link building can and should have on your organization.