This is an article by Felix Rose-Collins. He is a Co-Founder of RankTracker and in charge of Growth, he has been doing SEO since 2009. Felix is a strong believer in data driven marketing. Feel free to follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Relationship Building Is The New Link Building
Link building is a massive part of SEO, and it always will be. It’s not going anywhere! However, the type of link building that we use today is hugely different — almost unrecognizable, in fact — from the early days of SEO. Practically every aspect of SEO has undergone a major revolution in recent years; everything from overall technique to more specific features such as keywords and anchor text, and it’s no different when it comes to link building. Today, it could reasonably be argued that it’s now less about the links themselves, and more about the relationships that are formed with backlink-enabling blog owners.
Quite simply, the internet is a big place, and it’s one that most of us (even the best of us) can’t navigate on our own. While we can create some of the most emotionally engaging content in the world that would convert visitors in mere seconds, this content is completely useless unless it’s seen by the right people. Content publication and guest posting is said to be the most effective link building tactic, which is why this technique should always be a top priority when attempting to reach out to an audience.
The Early Days of Link Building
The ‘go to’ method in the early days of link building was undoubtedly to purchase links. To be fair, however, this was a pretty sensible solution at the time, especially considering there was very little in the way of webmaster guidelines that looked down on this sort of thing. Today, buying links is actually considered poor practice — a little seedy even — though it still happens (much more than it should). So what exactly happened to transform paid links into something so negative? Google happened.
Google & SEO
In January 2000, the link building world changed forever. This was when Matt Cutts joined Google’s Search Quality Group, helping to create Google Panda; an algorithm that rewarded high quality sites with a better page rank, and penalized low quality sites with dreaded ‘below the fold’ spots. Almost instantly, this reduced the visibility of low quality sites such as content farms, largely rendering backlinks bought on these types of website pointless. Reports claim that Ehow.com lost 50% visibility thanks to Panda.
Modern Link Building
The link building of today focuses more on building relationships with bloggers and big name online influencers, rather than simply putting the spotlight on the links themselves. It’s easy to see why this evolution has happened. These influencers have a ready made audience that are sat waiting for new content. They’ve established themselves, they’ve built a following, and they have your target demographic eagerly checking in to the website multiple times per day in some cases. Why start at the bottom of the ladder when you can easily fast track yourself, and come in to a fully formed audience?
Thanks to social media platforms, these bloggers aren’t just faceless names; we see into their bedrooms when they post videos on Youtube, we watch as they upload pictures of themselves to Facebook, and we know when they’re doing their weekly grocery shop at Target thanks to the Twitter updates. These bloggers are a part of our lives, we see them and correspond with them more frequently than we do members of our own family, and we trust them. 92 percent of people trust the opinions of others over branded content. If an online influencer is supporting a link, then we’re supporting it, too. Simple.
Is it Working?
It seems so! Early research suggests that the average business makes $6.50 for every $1 they spend on ‘influencer marketing’, and confirms that this is by far the fastest way to obtain new customers. Around half of us are now making networking a priority, with many claiming that the quality of their customers has increased as a direct result of the support of a notable blogger. The results may be better when an influencer genuinely believes in your brand, so it’s worth taking time to select your leaders carefully.
Don’t Put all Your Eggs in One Basket
Relationship building for link building purposes isn’t a one time thing. In fact, forming connections, or ‘networking;, with influencers should be a regular and ongoing aspect of any good marketing campaign. It’s about looking at sustainable link building in the long term, rather than seeking out a quick fix. There’s two reasons for doing this. Firstly, Google is pretty strict when it comes to SEO. Secondly, we’re fickle!
A Single Link Relationship is not enough
Building a single link building relationship isn’t good enough to appease the Google Gods. Excessive link exchanges between two sites is essentially no better than buying links, with Google deeming the method to basically be link purchasing without the exchange of money. It’s a frowned upon technique, to say the least, and it’s not going to benefit your SEO campaign.
Bloggers have a very short shelf life
Regardless of how important an online influencer is, bloggers typically have a very short shelf life. As ‘Mommy Blogger’ Kerry Sauriol writes for the Huffington Post: ‘Each year it feels like the age gap between myself and these bloggers grows bigger and bigger. They are young and pretty and have cute little kids. I am well into middle age and so – compared to these blogs – is my site’.
Successful Link Building Through Relationships
While there has been a definite shift from the links themselves to the relationships formed with backlink enablers, we can’t completely forget about one or the other, or any other aspects of SEO. Successful link building is about the combination of different methods and techniques; forming relationships, selecting relevant backlinks, creating engaging content, and even taking care to choose beneficial anchor text.
Anchor text has even greater importance since the introduction of Google Hummingbird, which thrust the term ‘semantic search’ into the limelight. Therefore, it’s essential that anchor text is spot on, allowing Google to derive meaning from the link, and include it within any relevant search results. There’s no secret to successful link building; it’s just about working to ensure it’s the best it can be.
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