Two weeks ago, we published a post called ‘Bullet Proof Link Building Strategies For 2013 – The Experts Weigh In‘. For this post, we reached out to 25 of the industry’s brightest and asked them to provide us with what they believe will be the top three link building strategies for 2013. Over half of the individuals we reached out to were women in the SEO space, two of which responded (but didn’t provide a quote) and the rest didn’t bother replying to the email request at all.
Upon publishing and promoting the post via social media, we received some backlash that no women were included in the post. Because of the overwhelming (negative) response from the community, we decided to try again and publish a second post. This time around, we reached out to 21 women trying to increase our odds of getting enough response to put together a meaty post. A few of those we previously reached out to were happy to contribute (and did… woot!!), a few responded and said they would participate but didn’t (I’m sad we couldn’t hear from them), a few were downright nasty with us stating that this post is condescending (really???), and the rest didn’t bother responding… come on ladies 🙂
There was also some back and forth between editing the previous post (and adding to it) and creating a second post that stands alone from the first. We opted to create a second post due to the length of responses and felt that a 5,000+ word post wouldn’t do anyone any good.
So that’s enough background… There are a ton of great ideas in here, so let’s get started with Rhea Drysdale from Outspoken Media.
Let’s get real for a minute–you guys were awesome and reached out to me in the first link building interview series and I didn’t have a chance to respond in time. I did manage to forget about our email exchange and made a stink about there not being any women in the series on Twitter. We can save the discussion on gender diversity for another day, but that’s what sparked this women-tell-all follow-up and I’m sorry for setting the women’s movement back a few years by not responding initially. You have my undivided attention and thank you for the opportunity!
Narrowing this down to three link building strategies was tough. Here are my top picks:
1. PR (and social) collaboration (GASP!): I’ve had a chance to read the first interview to see what the men had to say. There were some definite themes/overlap–PR/relationships, guest posts, and great content. They’re all spot on and indicative of the evolution of the industry as a whole. I’d only have overlapped with John’s recommendations for PR partnerships though, which was my number one recommendation having just ended a process discovery call with one client’s PR agency and editorial calendar review with another client’s four PR agencies (yes, FOUR!). More than ever before PR and SEO agencies are finding a mutually beneficial relationship in campaign collaboration. PR agencies have the credibility and contacts to take our efforts to new heights. We have the technical background and strategy to drive significant results for PR campaigns that are historically difficult to put a return on and costly to produce. It’s a win/win!*
*Side note: link builders in 2013 (and beyond) who succeed will figure out not just the techniques/approach that works best for each vertical, but how to navigate the client relationship to bring their ideas to life. In 2012, link builders got too big for their britches and saw “RCS” campaigns die due to a lack of research, planning, or client trust. Without a doubt the most difficult part of high-quality, organic link development is getting client buy-in to prioritize dev time, coordinate with social campaigns, get approvals pushed through, etc. The link builders who know how to make this happen by working collaboratively with their clients and other contractors will win in 2013 and those who don’t will get flustered because they aren’t building the quality links they promised. As a result, those organizationally-challenged link builders will resort to paid links, sponsored posts, directories, blog comments, and other low-hanging fruit for the length of their contract.
2. Internal data discovery: Everyone likes to talk about great content, but what does this really mean? Identifying content that relates to not just client business goals, but their values and the values/needs of customers can quickly uncover a host of internal research opportunities that can fuel content creation. For example, we have a client who has four ideal customers, but the motivations of those customers often varies. At certain times of the year the entire industry and major news publications likes to talk about the behavior of these different groups, but there’s rarely any kind of statistically significant data surrounding the conversation. After some back and forth we realized we could tap the client’s customer service department for a database of questions/answers they already had that related to their customer’s buying cycle and motivations!In the process we also opened a door to increased communication between us and the customer service team, which resulted in our team following up on a customer service inquiry from someone who wanted to coordinate on a cross-country media tour with the support of our client. No one internally knew what to do about it… um–we did! It was just a matter of giving customer service somewhere to send those unusual requests that can become huge opportunities. In this case the customer is going to do the leg work and the brand gets reputation points plus backlinks!
To summarize–tap client’s internal resources and data for unique research that can quickly become industry-wide and mainstream news opportunities if written and pitched correctly.
3. Internal link reclamation: This NEVER goes out of fashion and yet is often overlooked. We’ve found that a lot of link builders excel at discovery and outreach, but have never conducted a single SEO audit in their lives! Frankly, that’s irresponsible. I won’t work with a client whose site isn’t structurally sound. I’ll save the metaphors, but it’s just ridiculous to build links to a page that may potentially have three or more versions indexed and/or legacy URLs from a former CMS that have never been properly redirected. CLEAN UP YOUR SITE! This is most important for bigger sites, especially enterprise-level and e-commerce domains where there are multiple departments and little prioritization from the dev team due to financial benefits that can’t be easily quantified upfront. These sites rarely need link development they just need a diligent eye who will catch the quick wins that can have staggering affects when redirects, rel=canonical, internal linking, and error pages are responsibly handled. In 2013 (and always), link builders should be masters of on-site optimization and opportunity analysis or they’re operating with one hand tied behind their back.
Rhea Drysdale is the CEO of Outspoken Media–an Internet marketing company that specializes in organic link development, online reputation management, and search engine optimization. She works closely with her team to help grow, protect, and manage her client’s brands online. When Rhea isn’t growing her business she’s growing a family with her husband in upstate New York and working on local issues like—women in tech, education, and economic development and growth for the Capital District.
Inbound links are still important for determining site authority, but we have to be smarter about the way we build links. In 2013, I believe there will be a ton of value in doing your research, building relationships and sharing initiatives with the entire company.
1. Do the Research. Have you ever gotten a generic “Dear Sir or Madam” email, and sent it straight to the spam or trash folder? Yeah, me too. There is nothing worse than a cold link request, so don’t even waste your time if you’re not going to do the research first.
I can’t stress the importance of a link building strategy that outlines a business’ target audiences, goals, tactics and metrics. After you’ve created a plan, you or your outreach team can go to town on prospecting sites that fit into this strategy. Make sure to identify the people behind the site, the types of things they’ve featured on their site before, what they’re sharing socially, and how you can contribute value so your outreach can be completely personal. Quality over quantity is key.
2. Build Legitimate Relationships. When reaching out for guest blogging opportunities or links on high authority sites, some will spend a lot of time building up fake aliases that attempt to fool webmasters and blog owners. It’s been my experience that reaching out as a legitimate person has far more successful results.
Instead of contacting sites as “John Smith”, try disclosing that you’re working with your client to help them gain exposure in their community. Then, ask these sites what kind of value you can provide in return, whether that be a guest post or guide, an event sponsorship, or something that specifically meets the needs of their site’s audience.
3. Make Link Building a Company-Wide Initiative. It’s common for companies to have separate PR and Marketing initiatives, but I think there is a lot of value in getting both departments or agencies to work together for the greater good. Your PR team might have some valuable contacts to share with the marketing team, or maybe the marketing team is better at finding and reaching out to new media channels, but I guarantee there is some overlap. In fact, link building happens everywhere, so make sure your whole company is aware of the power of inbound links, and how to recommend your product or service to others online.
Monique Pouget is the Director of Content Marketing at Thunder SEO, an inbound marketing agency based in San Diego, California. Thunder works with national and regional clients to help them integrate SEO and social media into their holistic marketing strategies. She’s a big believer in creating compelling, unique content that *has* to be shared, and thinks that every business, big or small, should have an awesome blog.
When she’s not studying the SERPs and helping clients rank, you can usually find her riding bikes, blogging on Geek Squeak, searching for treasures at swap meets, or touring craft breweries in San Diego. Make sure to say hello on Twitter and Google+!
Building links in 2013 involves link building without doing link building.
1. The non-link citation is alive and well and kicking. That mention in the New York Times or Washington Post does wonders for positioning a company as an authority and for future mentions and incoming links. Of course, to get such mentions, you need produce (or do) something newsworthy! And if you are a local business, you already know that a non-link citation can be one of the most important things next to location, location, location.
2. We recommend that B2B companies get their PR teams involved to help them get articles published, to set up interviews and reviews, and place media in industry news and magazine sties, e.g. advertorials.
3. Social media is a channel that can be a link magnet, in time. Becoming involved in one’s niche and being part of the conversation increases visibility, which leads to opportunities to write guest posts, be interviewed, and comment on blog posts like this! :-
Dana Lookadoo is the founder of Yo! Yo! SEO, a boutique agency based around the concept of Word-of-Mouth SEO. Focus is on helping businesses optimize their online presence to fully engage with their audiences. In other words, helping them shout out a Yo! and be found online. She helps train corporate marketing teams and copywriters how to integrate SEO and social media as a basis of their overall processes. Her site audits and strategies focus on tactical steps and data to optimize one’s website, digital content, and search marketing processes. She speaks at search conferences and meet-ups and is active in the search marketing industry.
When she’s not optimizing, you can find Dana riding one of her road or mountain bikes. Otherwise, connect via @lookadoo on Twitter.
I am glad to see link building go in the “quality” direction. Here’s what is going to work best in 2013:
1. Social-media-empowered blogger and influencer outreach: Since high-profile authors are what Google is going to pay more attention to, growing your network of diversified and niche writers is even more important now. Social media sites are also the most effective way to find and organize those connection (here are some actionable tips). The best way to approach them is“Give without asking anything in return”: (offer them free access to your tools, your books, your research, etc). After the ice is broken, use social media to keep in touch.
2. High-quality guest blogging: Growing your in-house influential authors is another thing we should start considering – and guest blogging is by far the most effective way of spreading their reach (guest blogging also helps in relationship marketing as well).
3. Doing what others don’t (Get creative!). The worst mistake of the link builder is following closely the competitor’s steps. Any link building or link baiting tactic thus quickly gets too old. You need to think outside the box and come up with original ideas no one is doing!
Ann Smarty is content marketer and social media enthusiast working as brand and community manager for Internet Marketing Ninjas as well as running her own project called MyBlogGuest.com
1. Clean up broken, misdirected or un-optimized links. It never surprises me to pull an Open Site Explorer report for a client and realize they have amazing backlinks… pointing to pages that no longer exist (404 pages)! Some of the most authoritative links I’ve ever seen point to pages on a site that no longer exist. When link building efforts become harder and harder, I think a good strategy to implement in 2013 is cleaning up the links you already have. By putting together a list of these opportunities, establishing the most authoritative ones, I then try to figure out if there is applicable content on the site to direct that webmaster to. If no content exists, I work with the client to see why they took it down in the first place and develop this resource again, and leverage it for new links in addition to requesting webmasters link to the correct page.
In addition to links to 404 pages, I think it’s important to really analyze your backlinks and clean up broken links and optimize existing links. I’m not suggesting reaching out to webmasters and asking them to change the anchor text, but rather looking at your backlinks and seeing if there are some pointing to your homepage that should be pointed elsewhere, looking at existing links to see if other content exists that would be better linked to from that link location, or seeing if content development opportunities exist that would be better linked to from a site who you already have a partnership with. Some of these tactics can really help strengthen your site and pass authority accordingly.
2: Authored content. With author rank and rel=author becoming a hot topic the last year and into 2013, I think it’s important to look at link building opportunities with authored posts. Sure, guest posts can be one of those opportunities but I think they are a bit overused. I’m talking about well written, amazing posts as a regular contributor on sites in your brand or client’s industry. Additionally, strategic content placement on sites that properly implement the rel=author tag, and that can be associated with an author for your brand. The key thing here is working with your client to establish who that associated author is and working with them (or on their behalf sometimes) to secure opportunities.
Additionally, I think a great strategy is to start thinking about building up your author rank just as you would build up your websites authority. Use link building to support your efforts by looking for good content placement opportunities, engage with authoritative authors by linking to them and getting them to link to your content, comment on other authoritative authors blog posts and get them to comment on yours, use social media as well for the same benefit. Build relationships not only with webmasters but with authoritative authors who can share their author authority with you from a link perspective.
3: Maximize your existing brand mentions. If you have a large brand or are working with a client who’s brand is somewhat well known, there is a high likelihood that online publishers are already mentioning the brand. I’ve found that working with clients no one on their team is managing these mentions for the purposes of link building. Some of the easiest links to get are from sites that are already talking about you, but just don’t happen to link to you. Sure, large news sites and places that pick up your press releases aren’t likely to give you a link if you ask, but industry bloggers, trade publications, and the like are likely to. In a time when you must think outside the box for link building strategies, maximizing the mentions you already have is a good strategy.
We work with a large brand who always has someone talking about their company and services, and of course their fair share of reputation management issues. We try to avoid reaching out to acquire links within negative brand content, but for the most valuable mentions we elevate this to their team for review regardless. You know the saying, any press is good press, the same can somewhat be true in this instance. We’re more cautious with reaching out to these individuals, the last thing you want is to make a bad situation worse, but even these present opportunities that may otherwise be passed up.
Kaila Strong is the Director of Account Development at search, social & content marketing company Vertical Measures. She oversees the Account Management team to develop customized organic SEO campaigns for clients. She has been a regular contributor on Search Engine Watch and her articles have been featured on SEJ, Mashable and SEOmoz. She’ll be speaking at SMX West this March in an interactive link building clinic session. Follow her on Twitter, @cliquekaila.
Shortly before I moved to the world of online marketing, I led a team of a dozen newspaper editors, reporters and columnists. I had three things I asked them to consider before pitching any story to me. Although we might publish a story with one of the three elements, the best stories had all three components. So did the best press releases. These days, so do the best guest blog posts or link requests.
For link builders approaching the “quality content” question in 2013 (and beyond), consider all three of these critical to your campaigns:
1. Is It Timely? Timeliness can trump everything. If you’re the first person with a news article or post or parody Twitter account or behind-the-scenes video, you’re likely to be the first person to get a link. Also, if you’re the first person to share that particular idea with that particular website owner or blog editor, you’re more likely to get a link.
2. Is It Relevant? Relevant means more than related. Related to your audience’s interests and/or needs and/or location + very important for them to know = relevant.
3. Is It Interesting? Interesting is too bland of a word, really, but it’s shorter than “Would this fascinate the hell out of someone who knew nothing at all — or everything there is to know — about your topic?” If your item would this enthrall a reader or viewer so much they’re glued to the screen, or would touch their emotions in a way that they never expected, it’s almost guaranteed to be shared.
(Soapbox moment: This question applies regardless of format or design, although format or design can be a significant aspect of it. For example, would understanding the connections between prime numbers be more or less interesting without this visualization? On the other hand, does this information get easier to understand because it’s decorated? Does this information even have a point?)
First figure out the story you want to tell. Then figure out how to squeeze the most amount of timeliness, relevance and interestingness out of it for your target audience. If you can’t come up with anything, it’s probably not a story worth telling at all. Find another story.
To be clear, Arienne Holland’s background isn’t in SEO or even online marketing. That said, she has learned a lot about it since becoming the communications director at Raven Internet Marketing Tools. She divides her time between writing, outreach, email marketing and understanding developers. Before Raven, Arienne spent more than a decade as an editor and graphic designer for Gannett. She was a 2010 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for team breaking news journalism. Feel free to follow, compliment or harass Arienne at @arienneHO.
For me, link building in 2013 is mostly about being creative and careful.
1. Content: Creating relevant, high-quality, shareable content for your own site(s) and others. This includes guest posting, infographics, educational material etc. This technique will pretty much never go out of style.
2. Images: With the explosion in popularity of imaged based social sharing sites such as Pinterest and Instagram, more marketers will recognize the benefits of creating link acquisition campaigns surrounding imagery. Especially with spanchor text going bye bye.
3. (Smart!) Paid Links: Through sponsorships, donations, charitable events, paid reviews, paid guest posting etc. Google hasn’t gotten rid of paid links. They’ve just forced people to be smarter about buying them.
Melanie Nathan is founder of CanadianSEO and a veteran Search Engine Optimizer with more than 9 years of hands on experience in SEO and Link Building for websites. She is best known for being a link building ninja and a pioneer of the Broken Link Building method (aka the Reciprocity Method). Follow Melanie on Twitter to learn more.
So there you have it! We’ve heard from the guys and the gals and have a ton of great ideas to supercharge our link strategies in 2013. Thank you so much to everyone who participated in both posts. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share in the comments section below.