Most of traditional SEO link building is still centered around the idea of actually building the links as if on a construction site. The idea or metaphor that links are like bricks and you can use them for building has been successfully contested recently by Ross Hudgens in his essay “Please exit the link building“.
It was an excellent write up, but in the end it failed to offer a solution that is not really about building links. The alternative to link building is of course getting links.
Getting links implies that you do not manually build the links like a house in the real world, but people from outside who you may not even know link to you.
This is of course the logical way to get links, and was the way the Internet worked even before link building was considered to be part of SEO.
In the early days it was assumed that search engine optimised sites are, by definition, keyword stuffed pages which no sane human would link to. Thus you had to artificially inflate their link popularity. Much of link building today is still marred by this absurd dogma, despite the Web being quite a different place in the second decade of the 21st century.
Today the work of the link builder is to a large extent about earning the links while not actually touching the pages that are linking.
So it’s actually the content creation part of link building that takes most of the time and effort these days. Whole teams work on infographics, widgets or other content-driven link baiting campaigns.
Getting links does not require a whole team though; I do it myself all the time. It’s better to have a team, but one dedicated person can achieve quite a lot as well when it comes to creating linkable content.
Before you actually get links, or rather before you create the content to get links to, you have to ask yourself a few questions.
- What links are you after?
- Who will link to you, and from where?
- Why will these people link to you?
If you can’t answer all three of them without flinching your linkbait article, your whole campaign to get links will probably fail. You may get the wrong links by the wrong people for instance, or you may get no links at all.
What kind of links are you after?
What do you mean, what kind of links? Aren’t links all the same? Well, there are:
- Natural links and optimised links
- UGC links and editorial links
- Nofollow links and “dofollow” links
- Site-wide links and page-level links
- Footer links and in-content links
- Low quality links and authority links
- Static links and social media links
- Likes, tweets or HTML links.
I always combined a contrasting pair to make the meaning of each a bit more clear.
Who will link to you and where from?
A clear goal would be to get high authority editorial in content links from a list of bloggers, to answer the first two questions. Then the third answer could be “because you write a flagship blog post for them as a guest blogger”.
Another typical goal, one that is easier to accomplish, could be to get natural UGC links with the nofollow attribute to get social ranking signals and a healthy backlink profile. In order to do that you have to target certain social media outlets, not necessarily Facebook and Twitter, as you do not go after likes/tweets as part of this goal.
In many cases, niches and countries you would try to contribute to forums and similar communities.
Why will these people link to you?
You still have one question left: why would forum users would want to link to you?
Real communities are always self conscious; that is, when you write about them you’ll get members to notice and get interested in you. Unless of course there is no real community or it is not web savvy enough to notice by itself. Then you have to actually tell them. An article “Why community x is the best place to go” is the easiest way to win hearts, unless of course you lie and it isn’t that great. People may notice and a backlash may even ensue.
A good way to approach a community is to do something that is specifically of use for them.
Some competitive niches require high quality authority links, while you dominate others with less effort.
Your link profile also needs all kinds of links, so it’s never a mistake to use simple ways to get more links even if these are low quality. By low quality I mean not spammy on purpose, but simply of lower quality than an editorial link at a well-known publication. For example, you can publish a blog with a full RSS feed and declare the content to be under a Creative Commons License. So people would copy it and redistribute your links along with it.
This works even without a CC license, as a lot of aggregators, social sites, scrapers and content thieves republish it elsewhere or at least snippets of it. Indeed, Google and Facebook are the biggest content thieves as they copy whole articles and reuse them on their sites.
The Link of Attraction
So in short you have to ensure that you attract the people who can bring you the links you need and give them a reason to link to you. That reason is your laser targeted content created especially for the audience that has to link to you. You attract the people you have chosen to attract and give them what they want.
* Image: abandoned building site by 2xtrouble