I hear a lot of talk in the SEO community questioning the value of link building.
Current SEO trends seem to tend to focus on the technical aspects of SEO and leave link building as an afterthought – or not at all.
I think technical SEO is extremely important and a great technical SEO professional is worth every penny they earn.
But not creating a strategy around building quality links leaves money on the table.
If you’re stuck on measuring links by volume, I think you’re wrong.
I have many case studies that show that a few relevant, high-quality links will outperform several thousand irrelevant, lower-quality links.
Modern link building is not a numbers game.
Modern link building is a game of relationships.
Relationships are difficult.
Relationships take time.
Link building is hard.
Link building takes time.
But this article is not intended to create an overall link building strategy.
In this article, I’m going to give you four link building tactics that work.
None of these ideas is revolutionary.
But I hope some of you will take ideas from this list and put your own spin on it.
And I’m sure for some of you, at least a few of these tactics will be new to you.
Feel free to use all of these ideas and feel free to put your own spin on it.
After all, there are many ways to link build wrong, but there isn’t just one way to do it right.
1. Sellers, customers and friends
Link building is about relationships.
It stands to reason that one of the easiest ways to get quality links is to leverage the connections your business already has.
One of the first link building activities we do with any client is to ask them to brainstorm a list of vendors, clients, and friends they think might be willing to provide a link.
Then, using our link building assessment methodology, we evaluate each opportunity and prioritize.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re not looking for every opportunity that comes our way.
Relevance is important.
While a high quality link is always desirable and can in many cases provide significant value even with a low degree of relevance, most people’s personal contacts can only provide links that do not exceptionally authority.
However, I would say that if you have a business relationship with a company, their site inherently has a modicum of relevance to yours.
The action element for this tactic is to build your list and not skimp.
Create as complete a list as possible.
Then, evaluate the links that could be obtained from the list and prioritize them according to your evaluation criteria.
Then take the best leads from your list and meet them Where call them on the phone!
Generally, we find that if we can talk to someone in person or on the phone, we’re much more likely to get a link than if we just email them.
For the rest of the list, contact them through the appropriate channels.
The appropriate channel is the way the prospect is most comfortable communicating with you.
Don’t forget to ask for the link.
2. Commercial Publications
When I worked at a PR firm, trade publications were the bread and butter of easy publicity success.
Once, a colleague at the PR firm was praised for publishing an article in a trade publication.
I’ll never forget when the big boss clicked reply all (instead of just replying) to tell the manager she shouldn’t be praising account executives for getting results in trade publications.
He said we should own the trade publications.
He was right.
If you have a decent product and can differentiate yourself, you should have articles in trade magazines focused on your vertical.
Articles, which frequently appear in online versions of trade publications, should provide you with a highly relevant quality link.
The action item for this tactic is to explore the various business publications in your niche and start reading them.
Get to know frequent writers – who are most likely editors or freelancers.
Follow these writers on social media – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, wherever they are.
Interact with writers, providing feedback on their stories as well as information that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with your business.
Basically, working to make their job easier.
Then, when you come up with something interesting about your business, go for it.
Don’t forget to ask for a link in the story.
I’m amazed how many times PR doesn’t even ask for the link.
Journalists often don’t think in terms of links, so reminding them you’d like one usually doesn’t insult them — in fact, they’re usually grateful.
3. Link-Worthy Content Campaigns
Why do sites link to other sites?
The answer is quite simple.
The sites provide links to things that they believe will be useful to their audience.
One of the most common tactics I see sites employ is to look at what is currently working for your competition and copy the type of content, but try to outperform the competition in terms of content quality.
It’s a viable tactic, but one that often fails to provide optimal results.
The smaller your pool of likely linking sites, the less effective the copied content will be.
Creating linkable content is difficult.
But you’ll never know if a piece of content is linked until you try it.
The action items for this tactic are to think of at least three pieces of great content that you think influencers in your space will also like.
While it’s a good idea to look at what kind of content works for others, try not to rely too much on your competitors.
Work on finding a content idea that hasn’t been explored very well.
When creating the content, consider showing expertise, authority, and trust, or as Google likes to call it, EAT.
The content you create should be a resource for influencers and end users whenever possible.
But creating the content is not enough.
This is where the “campaign” part comes in.
You need to come up with a plan to get your content noticed by gatekeepers who can reward you with a link.
Don’t try to pitch to everyone in the world.
While it’s tempting to play a volume numbers game, you’ll be more effective if you also limit the number of influencers you want to sell your related products with.
Focusing on the most important contacts allows you to spend the time needed to be successful in getting the highest quality links.
4. Be controversial
Controversy gets links.
Brands that understand their audience can take advantage of controversial positions.
If you know what your audience thinks about a particular issue, taking a stand on that issue only makes your brand more relevant to your target customers.
Brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Heneiken, Starbucks, and more have managed to turn controversial social positions into thousands of links from high-quality sites.
And the links come not only from relevant sites that cater to brand supporters, but also from high-quality sites that cater to those who oppose the brands’ social stances.
In other words, they get links from their supporters and detractors.
The saying “I don’t care what you say about me, just spell my name correctly” has never been truer than in the battle for high quality links.
The action element for this tactic is to make sure you understand your audience and what is important to them.
If you don’t understand your audience, don’t use this tactic.
Just ask the folks at the Komen Race for the Cure, who are still recovering from their controversial decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood nearly a decade ago.
But if you know your audience, speak up about the causes that matter to them.
Don’t be afraid to take a position that your audience will appreciate.
A word of caution – taking a stand can be somewhat exhausting.
Trolls are real.
There will be those who oppose your position who will work to harm you online.
If you have extremely limited resources to fight your detractors, it may not be possible to take a controversial stance, no matter how badly it will play with your target audience.
But if you can fight the trolls, the links you can get by taking a stand are well worth the risk.
Once you’ve taken a stand, you’re not done. You need to create a campaign to let people know about your booth.
Just like in the last tactic, you need to make sure important people know the position you have taken.
Again, don’t play a numbers game with your awareness.
Find the most important people and make sure they know your location.
This list will most likely be different from your other lists, as you will want to find the influencers who are particularly interested in the position you are taking.
There are literally thousands of ways to creatively get relevant, high-quality links.
Most view link building as an impossible task.
I think it’s because they view link building the wrong way.
It doesn’t take thousands of links to be successful – all it takes is a few of the right links in most cases.
Unleashing your creativity to create unique and effective link building campaigns is one of my favorite parts of SEO.
If you understand that success is achievable if you push the boundaries, this might also become one of your favorite parts of SEO.
Featured Image: Created by author, July 2019