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Category Archive: Link Building

  1. 7 Qualities to Look for in Every Link Source

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    Few SEO strategies have received as much attention—or as much criticism—as link building has in the past few years. The Penguin update in 2012 (and its subsequent iterations) scared many search marketers away from the strategy, and John Mueller’s comments that link building is a process to “avoid in general” didn’t help.

    But there are multiple types of link building. As you might imagine, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. If you start posting links to your site all over the web with wanton disregard, you’ll undoubtedly earn yourself a penalty—and this is the type of link building John Mueller warns against. However, if you focus on building relationships with other sites and other authorities on the web, you can benefit greatly by the process.

    When you scout for new link sources, be sure to prioritize these seven qualities:

    1. Established.


    The length of time a domain has been in circulation contributes partially to the domain authority it’s given by Google. For example, of two otherwise equal sites, one with two years of history and one that just launched, the one with two years of history would automatically be weighted with more authority. There are a few exceptions to this, especially as domains get older, but as a general rule, it’s in your best interest to look for more established sites. If a new blog pops up and you can get an easy link out of it, that won’t necessarily hurt you, but it won’t help you nearly as much as a link from a source that’s been around longer.



    Respected is a trickier quality to evaluate, because it can’t be objectively measured. It’s easy to see when a domain has been around for years and when it has just emerged, but it’s hard to tell how “respected” a site is. There are a few things you can look for, such as accreditations and its relationships with other sites, but generally you’ll have to trust your gut. Do the writers of the site have noteworthy personal brands? Do other sites in the industry reference this site often? If you mentioned this site to a coworker, would he/she be familiar with it?

    3. Relevant.


    Your ideal link building source should be at least partially relevant to your industry. For example, if you own an auto dealership, your source should have something to do with automobiles. It might be a forum for a particular make and model of car you sell, or a directory for auto dealers in your niche, or it might even be a high-profile general news source that also has a category or section specifically for auto news. The sources you want to avoid are ones that explicitly have nothing to do with your business—those types of sources can easily register your link as spam and compromise your attempts to build authority.

    4. Consistent.


    The best link sources are ones that are regularly active (and somewhat predictable). They should have consistent traffic, consistent posts, and a consistent history in the industry. Some of these factors may be difficult to measure as an outsider, but you can get a sense for the consistency or volatility of a site just by clicking through its blog and social media sites. How often do they publish new posts? How far back does this pattern go? Volatile sites are less predictable, and will pass less authority to yours.

    5. Social.

    This is a quality of both the site and the people who use it. How often do you see comments on the site’s posts? How often do the users of the site share posts on their personal social media profiles? How often does your source post on Facebook and Twitter to its audience and engage with others in the industry. Generally, the more social your link source is, the more valuable it’s going to be for your domain authority. It’s an indication of quality content, room for growth, and it’s going to give you more direct exposure to a wide audience.

    6. Reasonable.

    Some sites exhibit all the great qualities I listed above, but have unbelievably strict standards when it comes to allowing guest posts or links. There’s nothing wrong with striving for this level of quality, but in many cases, it simply isn’t worth your time to build a relationship with these sources—at least not until you build your authority with more reasonable sources. Seek long-term relationships with sources that are flexible, accommodating, and have reasonable expectations for your content and submissions.

    7. Different.

    If you’re looking for a new source, try to make sure it’s differentiated from your other sources. For example, if you already have two or three niche forums pointing to your site, don’t seek out another competing niche forum. Try for something in a slightly different niche, or try a personal blog, or try a news site. The more diverse your link profile is, the more authority you’ll build and the lower your risk of a penalty will be. Strive for diversity across all your sources, and be careful not to build too many links in one place.

    If you find a source with all seven of these qualities, you can count on it as a reliable fixture in your link building campaign. Of course, don’t forget that the heart of any good link building strategy is great content, in the form of guest posts, responses, and comments that bring value to your target audience. Follow these rules consistently, and you have nothing to fear from link building—the relationships you make can only increase your domain authority and your ranks over time.

  2. 7 Big Challenges Every Modern Link Builder Needs to Overcome

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    Link building has always been one of the biggest and most important elements of SEO, second perhaps to a high-quality content marketing campaign. Of course, thanks to Google updates like Penguin, evolving landscapes of available publication channels, and differing trends, link building tactics have changed dramatically over time—but the basic premise is still here, and still worth pursuing. Having a greater number of well-placed links on high-authority sources is still a boon for your domain authority, and correspondingly, your search rank.

    Still, the new developments and frequent changes have caused some headaches for modern link builders, who are still trying to get the most out of their campaigns. These are seven of the most common challenges I see (and feel) every day:

    1. Greater risks.

    articleimage1359 Greater risks

    First, thanks mostly to the iteratively evolving Penguin update, the risk of building a bad link is greater than ever before. One truly bad link can get your site penalized (though this is rarer than you might think), and a chronically poor link building system can drag your ranks down further than they ever had the potential to raise them. There’s no easy solution to get around this, other than diversifying your sources and playing your strategy as conservatively as possible. There are also a greater number of tools than ever before, dedicated to helping marketers understand the risk potential of their links—Moz’sOpen Site Explorer has an unofficial risk score you can use to gauge such potential.

    2. The rising power of social signals.

    articleimage1359 The rising power of social signals

    “Social signals” is an admittedly ambiguous blanket term that refers to a number of different influences that are carried by social media users’ behaviors. For example, when an article is shared a large number of times, that sends a “signal” that Google can use when calculating the corresponding brand’s total online authority. Follower counts, likes, shares, and other forms of connections and engagements can all have an indirect influence on rank this way. The increasing prevalence of social signals’ influence on domain authority is a problem for link builders because it complicates an already complicated relationship between offsite engagements and domain authority.

    3. The balance of brand mentions.

    articleimage1359 he balance of brand mentions

    Similarly, the rising importance of “brand” mentions makes life more difficult for link builders. Brand mentions share much in common with external links; they’re built offsite, usually framed in content, and they confer domain authority when noticed by Google. The difference is they can exist without any formal linking structure. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it actually adds a new tool to the link builder’s arsenal, but since limited data is available about brand mentions’ influence on domain authority, it becomes a more debatable, less predictable weapon.

    4. Increasing publication competition.

    articleimage1359 Increasing publication competition

    Content marketing is a fantastic, cost-efficient strategy, and everyone is starting to finally realize it. Because of this, the content market is tighter and more competitive than ever before, with an increasing number of writers and a decreasing number of publishing opportunities. Of course, niche publications still have a way of popping up where you least expect them, but the number of contributor positions at major publishers is shrinking, and the competition is heating up. That means in some ways, it’s harder than ever to get your links hosted by high-authority or commonly sought-after sources.

    5. The threat of mobile.

    articleimage1359 The threat of mobile

    First, let me say that mobile is not a direct threat to link building or link builders in general—some might not even have considered it—but the social and search changes that mobile popularity is influencing are starting to make things more difficult for link builders indirectly. For example, because apps are starting to become more popular than websites, one day soon Google could increase the domain authority passed by a brand having an app (or being listed on a third party app), and correspondingly decrease any authoritative conference from traditional websites. This is an extension of the possibility that traditional websites might entirely go obsolete (which would render most traditional SEO programs null and void), but it’s separately a troubling consideration for link builders.

    6. Continuing diversification.

    Another problem facing modern link builders is one they faced early on in the development of link building: the challenge of diversifying the sources you use in a link building campaign. Early on, it was a problem because there was a limited number of platforms. Today it’s a problem because a “natural” diversification is easier for Google to detect and much harder to achieve when you’re using any kind of manual process at any stage of the link building process.

    7. Emerging stigma.

    Finally, this isn’t a direct challenge, but it has put added pressure on link builders. Thanks to comments from Google engineers and a rising overreaction to institutions like the Penguin update, the phrase “link building” now has a stigma attached to it, as if link building were a black hat practice. Overcoming this stigma is difficult both for professional agencies using it as part of a broader SEO strategy and for individual search marketers trying to showcase positive results for their supervisors and employers. The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with link building by itself—there are some potentially shady specific link building practices, but if you’re smart and tactful, there’s nothing preventing link building from being a viable, helpful strategy.

    These challenges are certainly tough, so it’s no wonder why more search marketers are trying to either avoid link building or treat it with kid gloves, but they aren’t incapable of being overcome. As long as you understand these challenges and find alternative strategies to compensate for them, you should have no trouble maintaining a link building strategy that continues to pay dividends for your search ranks.

  3. How to Earn Links Without Link Building

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    articleimage1286 How to Earn Links Without Link Building

    According to some recent studies by Moz, it’s virtually impossible for your website to rank well in Google unless you have lots of links pointing to your site. But according to official Google sources, link building is completely inadvisable. Of course, Google has a vested interest in dissuading people from link building; the fewer people are building links to manipulate their ranks, the healthier the online environment will be. But still, Google has historically been open and honest about what it takes for a site to rank. So is Google intentionally deceiving site owners? Or is the Moz data wrong?

    Despite what it seems on the surface, there isn’t really a contradiction here. Links are necessary for getting a site to rank, but traditional “link building” (the manual process of placing links on external sites that Google warns against) isn’t the only way to get them. It’s far more efficient, and less risky, to earn those links naturally from the material your site produces.

    So how can you do this without tripping Google’s spam alarm?

    The Basic Premise

    articleimage1286 The Basic Premise

    I’ll dive into the details of this strategy momentarily, but first I want to establish an overview. The idea here is to earn links, rather than building them directly, by promoting content that people want to link to or cite in their own efforts. The keys here are to create content that people want to link to, and then make sure that content is seen by as many people as possible.

    Developing Great Content

    articleimage1286 Developing Great Content

    The first step of the process is developing content that people will want to link to. This can’t be your ordinary, run-of-the-mill article (though if you do write an article with sufficient depth, it could earn links on its own). There are a handful of qualities you’ll need to make sure it contains:

    • An original premise. People won’t link to content that covers something they’ve already seen a million times.
    • A detailed headline. Catchy headlines are nice here, but they’re secondary to a concise description of your approach. For example, “new data on raccoon migration patterns” performs better here than “you won’t believe what we learned about raccoons!” even though the latter may earn more net shares.
    • Statistics and data. You need hard numbers that other people don’t have if you want to be cited as an authority. It can be hard to secure these numbers, especially if you’re working with a limited budget or a team with little experience in original research, but this is a necessity. Try calculating these numbers based on observable data you can find on your own, such as through surveys or general perusal.
    • A visual element. Strictly written content might earn you some links, but if you want to make a sizable impact, you need a visual to go along with it. many have found success by creating infographics or videos that convey this original research, but as long as you have some kind of accompaniment, you’ll be in good shape.
    • Great writing. This should go without saying, but your content does need to be well-written as well. Otherwise, people will lose interest. Write in a colloquial style and don’t be afraid to inject some humor into your work.

    Distributing Great Content

    Once your content is created, all you have to do is work on distributing it. The original piece of material should reside on your main domain (probably on your blog)—otherwise, you won’t get any of the authoritative credit if people link to you. From there, the options are open to you. You’ll definitely want to distribute the piece on every social channel you can find—Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are just the beginning—and do so on a regular, rotating basis for as long as your findings remain relevant. Try phrasing your introduction of the piece in different ways to appeal to different audiences.

    Then, submit your piece to different forums and blogs in the industry. Appeal to individual followers and readers who might be in need of the information you present. Hopefully, your followers will take it from there—as long as you get a few dozen people sharing the first edition of your work, their followers will share it with a new ring of followers, and the circulation will explode. A portion of readers who find your material interesting or helpful will end up linking to you on their own blogs and social profiles, resulting in a massive increase in total links pointing to your domain.

    Honorable Mention: Brand Mentions

    articleimage1286 Honorable Mention (more…)

  4. 7 Reasons Your Inbound links Aren’t Increasing Your Rank

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    Despite Google’s insistence that link building isn’t a good way to increase your rank and regular naysayers warning that traditional link building is either useless or counterproductive, it remains an integral and valuable part of a well-rounded SEO strategy. Building the right links in the right places can greatly increase your overall search visibility and drive tons of new traffic to your site.

    However, with the wrong approach, your links might do nothing at all for your search ranks—and you might not even realize your mistakes. If you notice your ranks aren’t moving despite link building for weeks or months, there are seven probable causes that could be interfering with your efforts:

    1. You’re Posting on the Wrong Sources.

    articleimage1152 You’re Posting on the Wrong Sources

    Remember that the quality of your source has a direct bearing on the impact of the link you build on it. Building a link on a low-quality article directory won’t have the same positive impact as building a link on a well-established government organization’s site. In general, links on .edu and .gov sources are the most authoritative, followed by links on highly renowned and well-respected publishing sites and major brands. The lower you go on the totem pole, the easier it is to build links, but if you go too low, you won’t build any authority for yourself.

    2. Your Link Diversity Is Low.

    articleimage1152 your Link Diversity Is Low

    The types of links you build also have an impact on your authority. For example, if you use the same link over and over—such as one pointing to your home page—you probably won’t see much of an increase in your search rankings. Instead, you need to use a diversity of different links pointing to multiple internal pages of your site. If you can, avoid using the same link multiple times and instead focus on using only the most relevant link for the context of your post. Having a wealth of blog posts and articles to choose from can help this considerably.

    3. You Use the Same Sources.

    Let’s say you have three or four high authority sites that you use as link building sources. Because they’re high quality, the authority they pass to your domain should be proportionately high. But over time, you’ll notice your rankings start to level off; this is because having highly authoritative sources simply isn’t enough. You need to have a wide range of different sources pointing back to your domain. Otherwise, Google will assume you’re involved in some sort of link exchange scheme, and your domain authority will never increase.

    4. Your Content Isn’t Relevant or Valuable.

    articleimage1152 Your Content Isn’t Relevant or Valuable

    Google’s search ranking algorithm is incredibly advanced. It does more than just detect where you build links and where they point—it also analyzes the context of your links and uses that information to determine how relevant or valuable your links are to the conversation. If you post a simple link with a simple comment in a thread that is otherwise ripe with valuable contributions, that link won’t end up passing much authority. On the other hand, if your link helps support the author’s argument or if it deeply adds to the conversation in some way, it will appear to be far more valuable.

    5. You Aren’t Using Brand Mentions.

    articleimage1152 You Aren’t Using Brand Mentions

    Mentions of your brand on high authority sources, without a link, can also pass authority to your domain. They’re practically risk-free, since Google won’t penalize you for building brand mentions, and they serve as a perfect complement to a core link building strategy. If you aren’t using brand mentions regularly in addition to building traditional links, it could be the reason why your ranks haven’t moved much lately. Be sure to wrap your brand mentions in well-written content, and post regularly on high-authority external sites.

    6. Your Bounce Rate Is Too High.

    articleimage1152 Your Bounce Rate Is Too High

    It could be that your links are fine—they’re spaced out appropriately, they’re diverse in nature, and they’re built on a wide range of different high-authority sources—but your website’s quality is preventing Google from moving your ranks accordingly. For example, if Google notices that users who follow your links on external sources tend to leave within a few seconds of landing on your pages, it will keep your rank fairly low. You’ll need to improve the design, layout, navigation, and writing of your website to ensure that your incoming visitors like to stay there.

    7. You’re Only Focusing on Links.

    Link building is a valuable SEO strategy, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a bit player. Site relevance, content marketing, proper onsite structuring, mobile optimization, and social media marketing are all more important to Google when it comes to determining a site’s overall rank. If you’re neglecting any of these strategies in favor of link building, it’s no wonder why you haven’t seen results—instead, you need to focus on the fundamentals first, and then work on the peripheral items like link building.

    Take action to correct these link building errors immediately. The sooner you perfect your link building approach, the sooner you’ll get on the right track for SEO development, and the more time your domain will have to cultivate authority. Successful link building campaigns are the product of years of effort, and only when complimented by more valuable strategies like content publication and social media marketing. Remember that there are no shortcuts to great SEO: results are only the product of hard work and dedication.

  5. How Risky Is Your Backlink Profile?

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    articleimage1063 How Risky Is Your Backlink Profile

    The strength of your backlink profile is going to dictate the eventual success or failure of your overall link building campaign. With a strong, diversified portfolio of sites linking to yours, your domain authority will skyrocket, but if even a handful of your sources are low-quality or are considered spam, it could compromise the results of your entire SEO campaign—even if your other strategies are in perfect order.

    Occasionally, it’s a good idea to take a snapshot of your backlink profile and audit your current status. Take note of your profile’s current quality, and take action accordingly.

    Where to Find Your Backlink Profile

    articleimage1063  Where to Find Your Backlink Profile

    There are a variety of free tools available to monitor and track the number and position of your current backlinks. One of the most useful and easiest to learn I’ve found is Moz’sOpen Site Explorer, appropriately nicknamed the “search engine for links.” Here, you’ll be able to plug in your site’s URL and instantly generate a list of all the sources on the web that are currently pointing back to your domain.

    Unfortunately, at this point you’ll have to manually go through each source and determine how you stand—there is no automated tool that can accurately tell you how risky or safe your backlink profile is, though there are a handful of existing and upcoming tools that can evaluate the strength of a given source.

    Overall Factors

    articleimage1063 Overall Factors

    For now, let’s take a look at the overall nature of your backlink profile. You should have no problem forming these types of conclusions at a simple glance, without digging into each source individually.

    Source Diversity

    First, take a look at all the different sources you have currently pointing to your site. As you might already be aware, Google takes source diversity very seriously—if it looks like a vast majority of your links are coming from one or two sources, there’s a good chance your rankings will suffer. If, however, you have a large number of different external sites pointing to yours, you’ll be in good standing.

    Page Diversity

    Source diversity isn’t the only type of diversity that matters. You’ll also have to make sure that the links pointing to your site aren’t all pointing to the same page or same group of pages. For example, you probably have several hundred pages on your site. If you notice the majority of your inbound links going to your home page, that makes your link profile more risky. If most of your links go deep into your site, connecting to specific and unique pages, your backlink profile is much more secure.

    Frequency and Volume

    You’ll also want to get a feel for the volume and frequency of your link postings. In some ways, having more links is a good thing, but if you find your link volume is overwhelming compared to the current size of your business, it might be a red flag (especially if your diversity is low in either of the above areas). If the bulk of your links are created in large-volume chunks, that could also be a bad sign. Work to improve your volume of links, but only on a consistent and gradual basis.

    Source-Level Factors

    articleimage1063 Source-Level Factors

    Once you’ve analyzed the overarching themes of your backlink profile, you can dig a little deeper into the strengths and weaknesses of the individual sources comprising it.

    Relevance to Your Industry

    First, take note of any sources that appear to be totally unrelated to your industry. These tend to be red flags for Google. For example, if you’re in veterinary medicine and a bolt manufacturer is linking to you, there’s probably no valid reason for that link to exist. If there are lots of pet-related and medicine-related pages linking to you, however, that’s a good thing. Evaluate the relevance of each source as you work your way down.

    Authoritative Strength

    The strength of each source also matters; if a spammy site links to yours, it could bog down the relative authority of your site. Don’t let this happen. If you see a site with particularly low authority (anything that appears spammy or annoying when you visit it), try to get rid of the link. Any sites with major brand recognition or cemented authorities will drastically improve your overall profile strength.


    articleimage1063 Context

    While going through your individual entries, take a look at the context of the links that have been posted. If they’re floating in the middle of nowhere with no grounding content and no apparent reason for existing, they will likely be considered spam links. Instead, make sure the majority of your links are practical to other users and relevant to the conversation at hand.

    If you notice that your backlink profile is exceptionally risky, take this time to take action. Work to actively remove any backlinks that are particularly risky or are posted on a harmful source. Then, revise your entire link building strategy to ensure that your backlink profile never sinks back to the level of risk it once was. On the other hand, if your backlink profile appears to be in order, simply keep executing your strategy the way you have been and create a follow-up task to re-audit your profile after another month of work.

    By taking initiative and keeping a constant eye on the state of your backlink profile, you’ll avoid the possibility of getting penalized out of the blue for your link building practices. Instead, you’ll forge a clear path toward consistent, measurable organic growth.

  6. The Difference Between Natural and Unnatural Links

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    Link building has been the subject of heavy scrutiny lately. Between advancing iterations of Google’s link-judging Penguin update and some scathing comments from Google’s own John Mueller, many in the SEO community have come to think of link building as a new taboo.

    Since the dawn of online search engines, external links have been a major factor in calculating a domain’s overall authority, which in turn influences its ranks for various keywords. Google Penguin introduced a new determination algorithm, which scouted whether or not a link was “natural.” So-called unnatural links would earn penalties or hurt domain authority, while natural links would improve domain authority without issue. To get around this, many search marketers simply adjusted their link building tactics to make their links appear to be more natural, rather than relying on the cultivation of purely natural links.

    Now, Google’s ability to detect natural links is more advanced than ever, and with some Google employees insisting that link building should be avoided altogether, it pays to know the real differences between natural and unnatural links.

    The Strict Definition

    articleimage1060 The Strict Definition

    In the truest sense of the definition, and the one Google uses as the basis for its algorithm development, natural links are ones that you had no part in creating. Some neutral third party decided that your domain was worth linking to, so they posted a link somewhere to prove a point or offer a resource.

    Unnatural links, on the other hand, are any links that you put into place yourself. That means even your most carefully-placed, intelligently created, authoritatively sourced links are considered unnatural if you placed them with the intention of increasing your rank.

    That being said, Google still isn’t all-knowing (though it gets a little closer every day). Its algorithm can only use certain indicators to judge whether or not a link is natural, and as long as your link passes those tests, you won’t be penalized. Learning these indicators can help you understand what types of links are considered natural, and how to structure your own links so they appear to be natural in Google’s eyes throughout the course of your link building campaign.

    Types of Sources

    articleimage1060 Types of Sources

    First, Google takes a look at the type of source being used to host the link. If the link is pointing to a domain in an industry wholly unrelated to that of the source, it will be considered unnatural. As a result, keeping your links to only the most relevant sources of your industry or business is a wise strategy. On a related note, higher authority sources tend to pass more authority than lower authority sources, so getting a link featured on a major publisher or .edu site is much more natural and much more powerful than stuffing one into an article directory.

    Source Diversity

    articleimage1060 Source Diversity

    Google also looks for patterns in how and where you’re posting links. Essentially, it can tell if a particular series of links have been placed by the hands of a single individual or company. For example, if all your links are confined to only two or three different sources, Google will conclude that you’re either spamming the links or you’ve engaged in some kind of mutual link scheme with those other sources. Either way, your links will appear unnatural—so make sure you’re using a wide variety of different sources.

    Link Destination

    If all the links pointing back to your domain point to the same page, Google will deem them to be unnatural. For example, if you use your homepage as your primary URL when posting external links, eventually Google will pick up on your habits and penalize you. Instead, use a variety of different link destinations, getting to the deepest pages of your site whenever possible.

    Anchor Text

    There was a time when anchoring your links with keywords or words related to your industry was a good idea. That time has passed. If Google notices too many of your links using the same keyword or keyword phrase, it will become wise to your tactics and judge your links to be unnatural. Instead, try to anchor your links with words that actually describe what your page has to offer, or better yet, let your link sit naturally in a bed of text.

    Link Context

    articleimage1060 Link Context

    The contextual placement of your link also matters. For example, if you post a link by itself with no explanation as the only comment on an external blog, your link will definitely appear unnatural. If, however, you introduce your link with a thoughtful explanation of why it’s helpful in response to another member’s comment, your link will appear to be natural—even more, it will be natural. Work to frame your links in a real, natural context and you should have no problems building authority.

    Your Best Bet

    articleimage1060 Your Best Bet

    There are two things to consider here. The first is that link building is really only a small factor in what determines your overall authority—your social presence, onsite structure, and content are all far more important.

    The second is that “natural” link building can be achieved relatively easily—arguably more easily than by using unnatural tactics. Instead of trying to meticulously plan the placement and structure of your links, let them come naturally. If you’re browsing a forum and you see a way to help, introduce yourself and make your links genuinely helpful. Produce and syndicate high-quality content that will make people naturally want to link to you—doing so will create far more links than you could possibly create yourself, and they’ll all be natural too.

    Understanding this, work to perfect your strategy in a way that is most beneficial for your customers, including more SEO tactics than just offsite link building. If you do so, Google will reward you.

  7. How to Build Links Without Penalties in 2015

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    Link building has been under significant scrutiny under the past few years. New iterations of Google’s now-infamous Penguin update have been rolling out annually since its inception back in 2012, and John Mueller recently denounced the practice of link building altogether by stating “In general, I’d try to avoid that.” These actions and opinions would seem to suggest that Google is on a perpetual crackdown to prevent any link building from taking place.

    As a search marketer, I can see why. Many companies have taken advantage of the fact that external links pass domain authority, and have spammed the web with unnecessary or useless links purely for their own ends. When done improperly, it is an annoying and destructive process.

    However, even now, there are ways to build links that are constructive and beneficial to the online community as a whole. While Google could never explicitly condone link building for SEO and their updates are constantly refining what constitutes a “good link,” there are only a handful of fundamental principles you’ll have to follow in order to build links effectively in 2015.

    Vet Your Sources

    articleimage1006 Vet Your Sources

    This first step is also the most important. You can no longer post links wherever you please—you must carefully and critically evaluate your sources before using them. In doing so, you should have two main priorities, both of which must be met before you can proceed with link building on a particular source. The first priority is one of authority. How authoritative is this site? Is it known for providing valuable, accurate information to the public? Is it a major brand name? Does it have a .edu or .gov domain? All these things can help.

    Your second priority is one of relevance. Is this source somehow related to your brand or your industry? When dealing with a very high authority site, this isn’t as important, but otherwise, your source should be directly involved in your industry, and the more niche you can get, the better. Keep a running list of “acceptable” and “great” sources to use, and try to add more sources whenever you get the chance.

    Speak to Your Audience

    articleimage1006 Speak to Your Audience

    In the old days, link building was a sneaky process. You could hide your links in the deep corners of some far-flung website and still get authority from it. Today, you need to post with your audience in mind. Post a link with full knowledge that the online community is going to see and use your link, and consider what’s going to be important to them when they first encounter it.

    Get a feel for your target audience, including their demographics, their priorities, and their needs. Write a brief note or use an excerpt of content to explain the purpose of your link, and make sure you’re linking to an appropriate and valuable section of your website. If your readers don’t think your link is valuable, they could flag you as spam.

    Use Brand Mentions

    Using brand mentions is a way of building links without building links. As of the latest iteration of the Penguin update, non-linked brand mentions are capable of passing just as much authority as traditional links. For example, if you use your company’s brand name in the context of a blog comment, you could get just as much value as if you would have posted a link. This is advantageous because it gives you a similar value with far less risk of penalty.

    Bear in mind that links are still important. You should use brand mentions in an alternating fashion, and make sure to use variations of your name if there are any.

    Build Links Hands-Free

    articleimage1006 Build Links Hands-Free

    One of the best ways to build links without penalty is to get others to build links for you. The way to do this is to create a piece of highly valuable, potentially viral content, and syndicate it to the masses. Typically, infographics, videos, and whitepapers tend to circulate the best. If your audience likes what they’re reading, they’ll start sharing it and posting it for you, linking back to you as the original source. Essentially, you’re turning yourself into a magnet for links, and you won’t have to lift a finger once that content is out there.

    Diversify, Diversify, Diversify

    The most important strategy to building penalty-free links is diversity. Google hates to see patterns in your backlink profile—it’s an indication that you’re up to no good. Instead, diversify your practices at every level. Use multiple different sources, and work new sources into your lineup as often as possible. Post different types of links to different areas of your website, and work in brand mentions whenever you get a chance. Post at different frequencies and different times of day, and make sure you have plenty of natural links being built on your behalf by your audience.

    The more diversified your strategy is, the less likely Google will be to issue a penalty to your site. Force yourself to try new sources and post different kinds of material.

    The biggest key to building links without penalty in 2015 and beyond is to build them without the goal of increasing your authority in mind. Instead, focus on the value of each individual link. Ask yourself: is this link going to help someone? If the answer is yes, you’ll be fine. If you’re unsure, you should probably avoid building that link.

    Also keep in mind that while link building is still effective and, in my opinion, necessary for a strong SEO campaign, it isn’t the only important factor. In the context of onsite changes, ongoing content, and social media work, It’s only a small piece of the puzzle. Don’t neglect the other pieces.

  8. How to Write Great Offsite Content for Link Building

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    Link building has been under much scrutiny lately. Between Google’s Penguin update, which overhauled the way the search engine views offsite links, and John Mueller’s recent comments that he would avoid link building in general, many search marketers are wary about the state of link building and whether it’s a worthwhile strategy to pursue.

    There’s one critical fact you must consider above all others: Google still relies on offsite links to evaluate domain authority. That means even though links are more rigidly evaluated, they’re still an important factor for your SEO campaign. Building links isn’t the problem; instead, it all comes down to how you build them.

    If you build links with the sole intention of artificially increasing your rank, you’re going to get penalized. If, however, you focus on building links with quality offsite content, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of a large-scale offsite link building strategy without facing the risks. The question then becomes how do you write high-quality offsite content for link building?

    Why Offsite Content Is Different Than Onsite Content

    There are two demands for onsite content. First, you must write in a way that’s pleasing to your users—your goal is to show off your brand voice, entertain or inform your users, and make them want to come back for more. Second, you must write in a way that informs search engines about the nature of your business, using keywords and topic choices that convey accurate ideas to its hyper-intuitive crawlers.

    Offsite content has a different set of goals. You’ll want to make sure your content is valuable, but making a striking impression isn’t quite as important. In fact, you may want to write in a style other than your brand voice, depending on your goals. For example, if you’re looking to guest post and build your reputation offsite, you should focus on maintaining a consistent brand and quality. However, if you’re merely looking for a vessel to build links, you can spend less time and focus on a standard production.

    Assuming you’re trying to write content solely as a vessel for link building, there are several qualities you’ll need to consider.


    articleimage997 length

    The length of your link building content needs to be substantive, but not over-the-top. Anything less than 300 words isn’t worth writing because it barely registers as a full article. Anything longer than 1,000 words is too much effort. As for the ideal range between those two extremes, that’s up to you. What type of content are you writing? How detailed do you need to be? The answers to these questions should point you in the right direction.


    articleimage997 topic

    Because your offsite articles aren’t going to be directly posted on your main site, you have much more flexibility with the range of topics you offer. You won’t have to adhere to a certain theme or follow any particular protocols. However, you will need to select topics that are at least peripherally related to your industry. The goal here is to ensure that Google reads and categorizes your content appropriately; otherwise, it could get mixed signals about the nature of your business and your keyword rankings could become unpredictable.


    articleimage997 structure

    Like with any piece of content online, your offsite link building content should be structured in a way that’s inviting to a reader. Include subsections, headings, bullet points, and stylistic differences that make it easy to navigate the greater article. This will make your article seem more valuable, and stray readers might eventually wander to your site, giving you some bonus referral traffic in addition to your domain authority building strategy.

    Link Presence

    The number and type of links you include in the body of your article both affect how Google crawls and interprets your material. If you include too many links, it could register as spam. If you include too few, you could waste your effort. If you include too many of the same link across multiple articles, your domain authority could suffer.

    Unfortunately, there’s no single rule that dictates the best link types to include. Your best bet is to diversify your strategy, using as many different links as you can and varying your link frequency from few links to many links. On the whole, one link per 300 words is a good rule of thumb, but you should still diversify regardless.


    Your content needs to be well-written, no matter what. Google’s search bots can detect the unnatural use of language, so it’s going to tell if you’ve simply outsourced your article writing to developing countries. Double check your content for spelling, syntax, or grammatical errors, and make sure all your facts are both accurate and cited. Just because your content is offsite doesn’t mean that Google won’t dock you for the quality of your work.


    Generally, it’s unwise to post too many new links at one time. Spread your link building article publications out over the course of weeks or months, regularly and consistently posting to ensure an even build. The number of articles and links you can get away with building depends in part on the size of your organization; too many external links too soon for a new business might seem out of the ordinary, while that same number for a long-established major corporation might not trigger any red flags.

    While a content strategy is usually seen as the onsite portion of your SEO campaign, it’s also critically important for the success of your offsite strategy. Once you’ve mastered the process of writing, publishing, and syndicating linked offsite articles, you’ll be able to easily and steadily increase your domain authority without interfering with your other efforts.

  9. How to Build Authority Without Building Links

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    In order to get your website found in search results, you need to have a high domain authority. The higher your domain authority is, the higher it’s going to rank for relevant queries. For many years, the best way to build that authority quickly was to build external links pointing back to your domain on a diverse range of high-quality sources. However, after the crackdown of Google’s Penguin and subsequent updates, it became harder and harder to build authority using links as a primary strategy.

    The words of Google’s own John Mueller echoed a fear in the search marketing community. Recently, he was quoted as referring to link building: “in general, I’d try to avoid that.” While links are still valuable for passing authority to your domain and a high-quality link building strategy can improve your overall domain authority without much risk of a penalty, for the average search marketer, it may be wiser to stay away from link building altogether.

    That raises an important question; without link building, how can you increase your domain authority, and by association, your search ranks? Fortunately, there are several alternative strategies that can boost your domain authority just as much as—if not more than—a traditional link building campaign.

    Creating Viral Content



    Your first option still involves link building, but in a much more organic way. Rather than building any links directly on outside sources, you’ll be calling upon your audience to do all the work for you. The goal here is to produce a piece of content with a high potential to circulate virally—that means it’s highly informative, entertaining, shareable, and practical—and share it to a wide audience. Those audience members will share your content in turn, and eventually, it will catch the attention of several dozen (if not hundred) external sources. Those sources will link to you as a credit, of their own accord, which will pass ample domain authority onto you without ever having to get your hands dirty.

    Social Media Marketing


    In addition to being a perfect outlet to begin syndicating your viral content, social media is a great platform for building your domain authority. While it’s not clear exactly which factors Google takes into consideration when calculating your social-related domain authority, there are many social signals that can actively improve your position. For example, companies with large social followings tend to have higher domain authorities than those that do not, and companies with high levels of engagement—that means your followers have a high tendency to like, share, or comment on your content—also have increased domain authority. Engage with your audience frequently and make an active effort to build your following. If you can encourage enough activity on your social profiles, you’ll earn a much higher domain authority without the need to build external links.

    Brand Mentions

    Google also considers mentions of your brand name on external sources when calculating domain authority. In a sense, you can consider brand mentions to be a milder form of external links. Because brand mentions do not trigger any spam-related red flags to Google, it is much safer to build brand mentions on external sources, and you can therefore use them as a simple substitute for your traditional link building strategy. Capitalizing on the same high-authority, industry-relevant sources, you can post occasional brand mentions to boost your domain authority, and you can also use nofollow links to attract referral traffic to your brand without upsetting any search bots. This works both for company brand names and branded names of individual products.

    Navigation and Interlinking

    If you’re looking to increase your domain authority, don’t exclusively incorporate offsite tactics. Onsite SEO implementation is just as important for building authority. For example, the navigation of your site has much to do with how much authority Google evaluates your site to have. Sites with a clear, simple, and intuitive navigation will have a higher authority than sites with a confused, jumbled, or overcomplicated system. This is because Google values high-quality user experience above all other factors when ranking websites. You can also increase your domain authority by interlinking your content; the fewer clicks it takes to get to any one page of your website, the better. You can improve this by implementing user surveys, finding ways to consolidate your pages, and redesigning your site to be more intuitive to the average user.

    Historically Great Content


    Everyone knows that great content is essential for SEO, but don’t forget the fact that one piece of content doesn’t trigger an increase in domain authority. Authority must be gradually earned over time. If you produce high-quality content, consistently, over the course of months and years, your domain authority will flourish. Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut for this. Domains that have been around for decades will always have more domain authority than similar sites with a shorter history. Stay patient and committed to your domain.

    Remember, as long as you’re posting on highly authoritative and industry-relevant sources with a diverse and appropriate style of links, you shouldn’t have to fear a penalty from link building. Link building can still be a valuable strategy, especially if it is used in moderation and in conjunction with the authority-building strategies listed above. The more diverse your strategies are and the more effort you spend trying to improve user experience, the more you’ll be rewarded in search engine visibility across the board.

  10. The Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Your Link Building Strategy

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    articleimage939The Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Your Link Building

    Link building is an important part of the SEO process. When Google evaluates the authority of a given domain, it takes your offsite presence into heavy consideration. The more links you have pointing back to your site, and the more diverse and highly authoritative those links are, the more credibility you’ll be given, and the higher you’ll rank as a result. But understanding the right approach to link building takes years of experience and training, and executing the individual tasks required to build backlinks is extremely time consuming.

    As a remedy to these problems, many businesses have begun outsourcing their link building efforts. Rather than buying links directly, which will earn you a firm penalty from Google, modern outsourcing usually involves hiring an individual or an agency to go through the manual, intensive process of vetting link source candidates and posting the actual links. There are pros and cons to outsourcing your link building strategy, so its usefulness to your business depends on your priorities.


    articleimage939 benefits

    The benefits of hiring an external link building partner generally depend on finding a partner you can trust. The quality of your partner means everything to the effectiveness of your campaign, but generally, you can count on these benefits:

    You Don’t Have to Worry About It

    Have you ever tried link building all on your own? It’s a pain. The process is tedious, repetitive, and sometimes confusing. If you try to take the task on all by yourself, you’ll likely end up wasting time or at least stressing over whether you’re doing it right. If you delegate the responsibility to one of your internal teammates, you’ll be taking them away from something more in line with their specialties. By delegating the work to an external partner, you’ll no longer have to worry about any of that. It will all be taken care of for you.

    You Can Hold Someone Accountable

    If you’re doing your own link building and something goes wrong, you can only blame yourself. What’s worse is you might have no idea how you caused the incident, and no idea how you can fix it. If you’re outsourcing your link building strategy, you can hold your partner accountable for results. If you get penalized, it will be your partner’s responsibility to analyze the penalty and take immediate corrective action.

    You Can Save Money

    When you first review link building programs with high monthly rates, you might think it’s crazy to say that outsourcing your link building can actually save you money. But link building authorities have experience and knowledge of the industry, and are able to build better links at a much faster rate than you could internally. That means, for the same amount of links, you’ll actually spend more money doing it in-house than you will with an outside expert.


    articleimage939 Drawbacks

    Some of these drawbacks are subjective and won’t apply to all businesses, but they are worth considering when you’re preparing to make a major change to your link building approach:

    You Lose a Degree of Control

    This is important to a lot of businesses. Being able to control exactly which links are built on exactly which sites is a minimum requirement for some business owners. Outsourcing your link building campaign means you’re going to give up a portion of that control. You’ll still be able to set goals and provide general direction for the overall campaign, but the management and oversight of day-to-day tasks will be on your partner.

    You Can’t Trust Everyone

    Unfortunately, link building is an industry that has been tarnished by unscrupulous companies and so-called “experts” who really have no idea what they’re doing. The number of agencies conducting fantastic, high-quality link building campaigns is much higher in the modern age, but there are still occasional offenders who could compromise your domain authority and bring your campaign to ruins. If you do decide to outsource your link building strategy, be sure to thoroughly review your potential partners. Check references, talk with your account manager directly, and look for any red flags that might reveal the company’s true intentions.

    You Could Be Bound By a Contract

    This is another subjective problem, but it’s important if you’re skeptical about how link building will be able to improve your search engine ranks. Many link building affiliates mandate signups through long-term contracts, sometimes lasting a year or more, which can legally bind you to one service even if you’re dissatisfied with it after a few months. One easy workaround to this potential drawback is finding a partner with a month-to-month program.

    The Bottom Line

    If you have a dedicated expert and the resources available to complement his/her expertise, it’s probably worth it to have your own in-house link building team. However, if you’re depending on a non-SEO expert, or if you have limited resources available, it’s probably better to outsource your work. While the initial cost might seem prohibitive and the premise might seem risky, with a dedicated, reliable partner, your outsourced link building strategy will be far more efficient and profitable than an equivalent in-house effort.

    If you’re concerned about outsourcing your link building, find a partner with a flexible contract and experiment with it for a month or two. If you don’t like the results you see, you can pull out. Otherwise, continue on and watch as your ROI begins to grow incrementally.

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