Link Building has been under fire over the past few years, there’s absolutely no hiding that. The question on many SEO’s mind is, should we even be link building at all? Well I’m here to tell you that I still believe in link building and I’d like to share some tactics to link building in 2015 that will keep your website safe from dreaded Google penalties like Penguin and Panda.
I’d like to start by saying, nobody really knows what’s going to happen in the future. Google is changing their algorithms on such a frequent basis that something that could work this week may be considered spam next week. So it’s very important to stay up to date with industry news so that you’re aware of what is going on in the world of SEO.
With that said, the only real long term strategy is to take as much risk out of your link building as possible. There are some blackhat SEO tactics that in certain circumstances I would recommend, but that is for a later post.
Link Building Strategies
When it comes to a client’s site, I would always air on the side of caution and stick to the safe link building tactics. You basically want to stay as far away from Google’s radar as absolutely possible. Wouldn’t we all love to rank first on Google overnight? (If you work at an agency like I do you know that most clients actually believe this is possible and some even expect it). Sadly the days of overnight rankings have gone for high competition keywords, especially if you want to maintain that ranking for the long term.
Typically, the keywords that bring in the largest amount of traffic to a site are long tail keywords. It is estimated that around 70% of keywords that bring traffic into a site are made up of search queries that are 3-4+ words. Thanks to the Panda and Penguin algorithms, over optimizing your site and the anchor text your building links to has become a very risky business. Fortunately, thanks to long tail keywords, you can build your websites traffic up by targeting several, low volume, and niche related long term keywords.
It can be tough selling the value of long tail keywords to clients, especially ones that lack SEO knowledge because they all expect to rank number one for the biggest searched keywords within their industry. The first step is educating your client on the importance of long tail keywords and communicating that they are not going to outrank Home Depot for the term ceiling fans or whatever product keyword they are competing with an enterprise company on.
Another argument you can make to clients that want to target big, fat head type keywords, is that studies show that a top spot for a fat head keyword only relates to about 30-40% of the overall search traffic. You’d expect a short tail keyword to produce a smaller click through rate because these types of searches show several results that don’t have a thing to do with what is being searched for. This is not the case when it comes to long tail. In doing a long tail search query we are giving Google more hints about what we are looking for, therefore they are able to narrow your search results down, leading to a much higher click through rate for those of us who are ranking number one for that given query. This is why you should target the safer, longer tail keywords with your link building strategies. I’m not saying to completely ignore the fat head terms, but they shouldn’t be the focus of your link building strategy.
If you need further proof as to why you need to practice safe link building tactics, just imagine your site being penalized by Google. If you’re a huge business that spends tons of money with Google every year like Halifax in the UK, you’ll be able to come out of a Google penalty in a week or so (yes, Google, I know your secret to getting out of a penalty… it’s spending money with you…), but if you’re a small business, then a Google penalty can absolutely destroy you. You’ll get deindexed and you’ll have to figure out how to get traffic to your site through paid forms of media such as Facebook ads, banner ads, Display, and Pay Per Click. Trust me, this is not how you want 100% of your traffic coming in. If you are willing to take this risk, good luck my friend!
One of the problems with link building is that there are many people on the web that claim to be “experts” in link building. There are several agencies and companies that promise you “expert” link building advice and then turn around and charge you $350 for a DA 40 link and you’re sitting there with something that you have to prove an ROI on that you won’t be able to. The real way to build links is to build relationships. You need to seek out the influencers within your niche, befriend them, provide them with awesome content, and let the links come to you. You can read more about building these relationships in one of my recent posts on How to Get a Backlink on Forbes. Link building all starts with the content. The promotion aspect needs to be talked about on the ground floor. It’s so much easier to find topics that are highly engaging and highly promotional, and tie those topics back to your client somehow, than it is to pick a topic that the client wants, (many times highly branded) and then figure out how the heck to promote it. So, the first step to link building is finding a highly engaging topic to discuss in whatever content piece you are creating.
In the end, Matt Cutts and all his fellow Googlers want you to stop guest posting, and doing all those other spammy link building tactics. However, they know that we all need links to rank, links are still 70% of Google’s ranking algorithm so having links is essential in being found within the Search Engine Results Pages. My point is, you need to link build, but you need to practice safe link building, because if you don’t, Google and Matt Cutts will go all Liam Neeson on you.