Link building is alive and well, helping countless business owners achieve more domain authority and greater ranks for their business websites. Despite a rocky few years with the arrival of Google Penguin, and insistence from Google authorities that link building should be avoided, if executed properly, link building bears little risk and is almost a necessity for earning ranks in modern search engines.
That being said, it’s not an easy strategy to pull off—it involves research, strategic direction, careful execution, and ongoing management. Throughout the process, you’ll encounter some major hurdles, some of which can ruin your campaign if you aren’t careful. Knowing those hurdles ahead of time and anticipating their demands is crucial to long-term success:
1. Identifying the right sources.
The start of any healthy link building campaign is a proper selection of sources. You can’t distribute links randomly throughout the web like you could in the early 2000s; Penguin has added a layer of sophistication from Google that evaluates the power of a link based on a number of factors about the source. In short, the more authoritative and more relevant a source is to your business, the higher the value of the link will be. The trouble is, getting links on the highest authority sources is a challenge, and finding blogs and forums within your niche can be daunting. Find a good balance, and never sacrifice quality for quantity—in general, one good link is always better than three questionable ones.
2. Convincing webmasters to host your links.
If you’re trying to earn a major anchor link on a company’s home page (or one of their other core pages), convincing the webmaster of your value can be difficult. You can always arrange for a quid pro quo exchange, such as donating money to an organization in exchange for being recognized via a link, but remember that buying links directly is inadvisable. Even if you post links through a public method, like embedding a link in a comment or response, you still have to get past the moderators preserving the quality of the site. Try to make the exchange as valuable as possible, either through the quality of the information you’re providing, or through other means.
3. Earning regular spots.
The first link from a source is always the most authoritative; subsequent links do carry power, but nowhere near as much as that first core link. Still, getting regular opportunities to post on a high authority site is often easier and more productive than seeking out new sources all the time. Despite that relative ease, earning a regular spot is still a challenge, especially as you move up the ladder. Again, the key here is to provide some sort of value, usually in the quality of the content you produce, which leads me to my next point.
4. Producing the right content.
When you post content for a link building opportunity, whether that’s in the form of a guest article or just a comment in an online thread, you have to accomplish two goals; first, you have to preserve your brand and quality standards, and second, you have to appease your target source. The target audience of your link building source may be different from your usual crowd. Pay close attention to this, for if you sacrifice either your brand voice or the appeasement of your new target audience, you could damage your reputation and compromise your chances of earning further links.
5. Diversifying your sources and tactics.
Once you get into a link building groove, it’s easy to slip into a pattern. The methods you use to find sources, the tactics you use to earn positions, and even the types of content you produce can all fall into an indistinguishable, repetitive rhythm. In the short-term, this can help save you time, but diversity is king when it comes to link building. If you want to stay out of Penguin’s sights and continue an upward trajectory of authority, you need to shake things up from time to time.
6. Scaling your strategy.
When you’re first starting out, those highest-authority sources are a pipe dream. You won’t have the authority to appeal to those webmasters, or the skills to produce for those target audiences. Starting out with lower-authority sources that are still valuable is a challenge in itself, but then you have to find a way to gradually scale upward. This goes for the quality of your sources as well as the quality of your content, and even the amount of effort you put into your strategy overall.
7. Maintaining checks and balances.
Last but not least, link building isn’t a strategy you can “set and forget.” Like content marketing, it’s a strategy that needs your constant attention, evaluation, and adjustment. Occasionally (monthly for small companies and possibly weekly for large ones), you should be running through your link building efforts, evaluating links you’ve earned without deliberately building links, and evaluating both the effectiveness of your current strategy and possible new tactics to incorporate. As you spend months and even years growing your link network, this will grow to be an ever more difficult task, but it must be done if you want to continue refining your processes and earning better and better results.
As you continue to improve and expand your link building strategy, watch out for these potentially deadly hurdles. One wrong move could lead to a penalty, and one flaw in your strategy could prevent you from achieving your true potential. Keep a close eye on your link network and don’t be afraid to experiment; unless you do something truly egregious (like buying links in bulk), there’s always room for recovery.
In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International.
He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building.
In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International. He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building.