In 2008, link building was queen when it came to ranking well in search engines. Companies dumped most of their SEO budget into link building activities designed to increase link numbers, thus ranking higher in search engines over time. Link counts were closely measured, anchor text was optimized, page 1 rankings were achieved and there was much rejoicing!
What was once an effective SEO tactic that almost everyone was doing quickly backfired during the Google Penguin update in spring of 2012. Many marketers were left scratching their heads wondering if link building was still a worthwhile tactic. Some SEO firms simply abandoned link building in favor of other tactics. Rather than spending hours and hours on link requests, they began to focus on content marketing tactics to help build organic visitors. This was a positive strategy shift but a poor understanding of how link building can be used to generate results.
Link Building (aka Content Marketing)
Link building is still alive and well in 2014. What is now called “content marketing” is basically a best practice of traditional SEO and link building. If marketers in 2011 were using best practices for link building, they would have been using content to generate links. They would have avoided shortcuts to the top like 100s of directory link submissions and buying from link networks. They would have used content to build links naturally and ignored anchor text placement. For 80% or more of the SEO world, this just wasn’t the case. SEOs continued to spam web directories with keyword rich links and forced Google to release the Penguin update in 2012. Penguin targets what Google considers “link spam”.
Link Building with Social Media
Since 2012, there has been a major shift from keywords, links, and anchor text to attracting organic visitors through great content. Great content also works well in social media, which is a win-win if done correctly. Search engines like Google have started to index a small percentage of social posts to help them distinguish good sites from poor sites.
With the number of indexed tweets on the rise, the future of link building means getting shares from social media as well as traditional links from websites. Simply getting a reply or share from an influential Twitter account may be enough to get your tweet indexed. As you can see from my list of indexed tweets, the top indexed tweets tend to be from people with high follower counts.
Link Building Tactics to Avoid
You may be asking yourself, “Should I be link building?” The answer is yes and no. Building links (and social shares) is still very effective. It’s always important to understand, what may not hurt a website today may be detrimental several months down the road. Be sure to avoid these seven link building tactics that could backfire now and in the future.
1. Directory Links
If you are submitting your website to low quality directories, please stop! You should only be concerned with a directory if it’s one of only a few high quality sites. If your website is relatively new or you need local exposure, a select group of directories make sense. Avoid an SEO firm that is still submitting your site to 100s of worthless directories each month. Even if that firm only charges you $199 per month, it’s money you might as well burn.
2. Poorly Designed Infographics
Infographics are an effective tool to gain links but are you churning out poorly designed infographics every week? If you are going to use graphics to gain links, make them easy to understand and simple. Good graphics will always be an important part of marketing.
3. Fake Shares & Social Spam
Avoid spamming social media through fake personas and fake shares. Real people matter and search engines are smart enough to know the difference. Google is hard at work on detecting social media spam the same way they went after link networks. Spammer beware!
4. Spam Videos
You may have noticed YouTube videos ranking well in search engines for “Keyword X”. It’s clear these videos were optimized for 1 or 2 keywords. YouTube video spam is Google’s next target. If your spam video is still ranking well now, it will not be for long. Create an engaging video that helps build your brand. Avoid over optimized videos created for the sake of SEO.
5. Anchor Text
Avoid using anchor text to influence search results. If your link is from a relevant website and has shares from relevant industry authorities, it will perform well in organic search. Sure, it’s still important to have some basic content optimization in place but don’t go overboard when it comes to keywords.
6. Content Mills (Content Farms)
Ok, you’ve heard content is good for generating links and visitors. Heck, you’ve seen your visitors grow over time so that’s got to be a good think right?! Stop posting articles for the sake of posting. If you don’t have anything good to post, brainstorm ideas and release good content, not just “good enough”. I’ve encountered a few clients who crank out content every day to bring in visitors and wonder why their conversion rates are so low. Know your audience and build your brand.
7. Cheap Thrills
Avoid cheap and easy hooks to gain visitors. You know what I’m talking about. Pictures of bikini models, puppies and kittens just to name a few. Just because it generates shares or likes doesn’t make it relevant to your audience. Good marketing is helping your customers solve problems. While your content should be exciting, it’s shouldn’t offend grandma or embarrass your client.
We hope these tips will help you improve your link building and content marketing in 2014. Please share any additional tips or tactics you feel need added to this list. Happy link building!