I believe that it’s a good sign for everyone, because if it’s getting easier then something must be really wrong.
Link building has been a very important process in online marketing ever since, and will always be. Not just because search engines will always be reliant to links in finding and ranking web-based documents, but also given that links can benefit sites in so many ways such as:
- Building brand presence and authority
- Sending referred traffic
- Generating leads and sales
- Creating signals that can help improve search visibility
Aside from getting your site discovered by your target market through links, the process alone of trying to acquire links from different content distribution channels can also help establish relationships, which is a very important aspect of modern marketing.
Link building has grown over the years and as you can see on the chart below (by Getlisted.org), link building is now being more considered as a marketing practice used for brand building, rather than a practice that’s just under search engine optimization.
But the most exciting part about link development is that it can be used for both brand building as well as in improving sales. It depends on your approach, knowing that you can always choose to integrate conversion optimization principles with your link building efforts.
The main essence of link acquisition – even way before SEOs learned how links can affect search rankings – is earning the citation. Earned, in a way where your content is worthy of being used as a reference by other websites.
If you’ll notice, most hard-to-replicate links are specifically created for the destination page/site or mostly brand-related mentions. So in this post, I’ll be sharing some tips on how to create opportunities to get links that will be hard for your competitors to compete with.
Create hard-to-replicate content
Online marketing is driven by content. Content will always be king, and I know that there’s no need to explain why, but here are a few reasons why:
- It gives people a reason to visit your site.
- It can change your audience’s perceptions and influence buying decisions.
- It allows you to demonstrate your brand’s expertise and establish authority.
- It’s what people will share, link and reference to.
- It expresses your ideologies, where conversations can start and where you can eventually build relationships.
- If your content is really useful, it will be searched and it will certainly be found.
Provide content that can’t just be easily copied by everyone else. Because when people can’t replicate your content, they’ll more likely use it as a resource, instead of creating one that’s just similar to it.
John Doherty wrote a post on producing content with or with no budget, which specified three types of equities required in creating a hard-to-replicate content.
If you have 2 from any of those three, then you can certainly create a unique content that can help you get ton of links.
Good samples of this are Jon Cooper’s complete list of link building strategies and Ed Fry’s link bait guide. Both obviously took time and talent to be executed, but the hard work paid off, seeing that both were well-received and are ranking well on search results.
Content development is the best avenue to establish thought-leadership. Being innovative with how you produce your content can lead to lots of linking opportunities, as you open up new ideas that your audience can think of, and write about (and of course use yours as a reference).
Several components of an original content that will make it worthy of editorial coverage:
- Comprehensive guides
- Innovative ideas
Lastly, it’s important to optimize your content for search and to promote and build links to it to make it more visible to its target audience. The more it attracts traffic, the more you get possible linkers to it. For more comprehensive tips, you can check out this guide on getting editorial links.
Consistently provide useful content on and/or off site. It’ll make it easier for you to be associated with other content publishers in your industry.
In link building these days, relationships are very vital. It’s certainly one of the best ways to build hard-to-replicate links (because your competitors can’t easily replicate your relationships).
Try to engage and be on the radar of those who are active in guest blogging in your industry. If these people are finding your blog really useful, they’ll definitely use some of your content as a resource – or even mention you as a sample.
Do the same thing for them (mentioning their works on your guest posts), to initiate the mutually beneficial relationship.
Peer-to-peer SEO can strongly affect how your online community sees your brand, and thus helps to establish credibility and attract more linkers to your content.
Collaborating with your industry peers to create content is also a great way to strengthen brand presence in your community and enhance linkability. A great sample of this type of content is from Nick, Don, Sean, Anthony, Chris and Peter – where they have discussed the current state of link building.
Organizing a Google+ Hangout discussion with peers and recording the video and publishing it as video with transcriptions is another format that you can take advantage of. Max Minzer recently did two of this type of content, like this recorded broadcast about link building for 2013.
Invite guest authors to contribute content to your site as well, as you can get more in-content links from this approach (especially if you’ll be inviting people who are active in producing content on and off their sites).
For instance, both Neil Patel and Nick Eubanks did a guest post here on my blog. Both entries are receiving natural links, where most are from their other guest entries published on other authority blogs.
This approach to online marketing is a two-way street, so it’s really important to make an effort and ensure that the other party is also benefiting from the relationship.
Build strong micro niche sites
Use microsites to create more linking, traffic and lead generation opportunities for your site, not just to directly build links to your site from them.
Build a separate site – that will focus more on a specific niche that you’re also targeting – and work on developing its own community.
I’ve seen a lot of big sites who have done this strategy (like an enterprise-level printing company investing on a graphic design blog and community to acquire relevant link targets and leads).
The key to building a strong micro site is assuring that it will offer value to its audience/market. A perfect sample of this is Affilorama’s Traffic Travis, a free SEO software that already has thousands of users.
Given that Traffic Travis has thousands of users and newsletter subscribers, it can easily pass through traffic to Affilorama through its newsletter (since users are automatically subscribed to its newsletter once they download the free version of the tool).
Newsletter links are one of the hardest kinds of links to replicate. And the best thing about this type of link is that it’s mainly intended for driving highly targeted traffic and you have full control of it (which will surely be envied by your competitors).
Another advantage of having authority microsites is when they are able to attract and acquire voluntary given links (Traffic Travis has tons of those), which opens up more link building opportunities like:
- If some of its contents are getting natural links from highly authoritative publications, you can move the content to a new URL under your main site and 301 the old page from the microsite (to pass all the links to the main site).
- You have better chances of acquiring links to your main site when you pitch sites/publications that have already linked to your microsite.
- Getting indirect links from your competitors who are unaware that you own the microsite (redirecting the page to your site where they have linked to).
Organize or sponsor events
Whether it’s supporting or organizing online, offline or local events, links acquired through these marketing activities will always be difficult for your competitors to earn. Here are several ideas for events that you can sponsor or organize to attract more brand mentions (links) to your site:
- Charitable and fundraising events
- Industry conferences or seminars
- Contests (blogging contests, photo contests, etc…)
- Supporting local university events
- Google+ hangouts
Kane Jamison did an extremely useful guide to link building with local events earlier this year. I highly recommend reading the post.
Align PR with SEO when launching new products
Product launches can easily attract word-of-mouth links and news coverage. And links pointing to newly released product(s) are definitely tough to be matched by competitors, as these mentions are really intended to share/promote the product to a targeted audience.
One of the best ways to drive ton of branded links and potential customers is through an integrated online marketing approach of PR, social and link building. By combining different outreach methods (blogger outreach, social outreach, influencer outreach, traditional PR and paid press releases) you can simply get more reviews and coverage to your new product(s).
Results from a successful integrated PR campaign for a new product can be really tremendous (particularly in generating sales and improving brand equity).
An excellent example of this is the recently successful launch of Tim Ferriss’ The 4-hour Chef. His marketing campaign managed to get more exposure for his book from several traditional media outlets, online press and authority publications, wherein the links acquired were certainly hard-to-get.
Ryan Clark wrote a post that extensively explains how to implement a successful launchbait, you can check out that post for more actionable tips on promoting new products.
There are two ways to prove and establish brand authority in the online space; (1) offer a solution (product/service) that no one in your market can match, and (2) provide high-utility and expertly made content that people will continuously consume, share and be educated with.
Content marketing has been a very powerful marketing tool because it can make a brand even more popular and credible.
The collective efforts you do in creating and promoting content, as well as in building relationships along the process can continuously create further opportunities and byproducts, as the brand create a cycle that enables it to reach more audience.
Though the advantages of being an authority in your field doesn’t end there, since you can leverage the expert status of your brand to create more hard-earned links, such as:
- Getting interview opportunities or having the right to pitch to be interviewed by bloggers or journalists.
- Higher chances of approval when requesting for link placements on .edu and .gov resources pages.
- Speaking gigs that can lead to networking and more natural linking opportunities.
Strong social brand pages
Social links have been a strong indicator of authenticity and popularity for search engines. The more social signals coming from a site/content, the more it’ll appear trustworthy (which translates to better search visibility).
Links from social channels may have not replaced in-content links from webpages in the hierarchy of link value. However, it’s still a force to reckon with, knowing that social sites are robust marketing platforms where people can discover and easily disseminate your content.
Build a strong following base on social media sites – where your target audience is mostly at – by integrating your content strategy with social media marketing.
The more you produce and promote share-worthy content, the more you can entice new followers/fans and build relationships with them through your brand pages.
Because when people start spreading your content around (on a regular basis), that’s something that will be very hard to replicate and compete with (plus people and search engines will take notice of that).
Strong author profile
AuthorRank and having a solid author portfolio will definitely be bigger in the near future. How does authorship affect link building? A lot!
Strengthening your presence as an author/publisher through constant production of useful and highly-engaging content both on and off site will increase your AuthorRank. This simply means the higher AuthorRank, the higher value of links that you’ll be capable of creating for your site.
And the best thing about this approach is that you also get to tap different byproducts all at once (getting links, social shares, followers, subscribers, traffic, conversions, branding, etc…). And a well-recognized author is something that wouldn’t be that easy to be reproduced by your competitors.
Start implementing authorship markups on your site and when you’re contributing content to other sites.
Smart content distribution
Create pages (with links to your site) on authority sites and UGC domains, because they can easily rank for highly searched terms in your vertical.
It’s important to do keyword research whenever you’re creating contents that will be distributed (on sites like Slideshare, Youtube, Pinterest, etc…), to make sure that you’re creating a content that will be searched.
Aim to land a guest post on industry publications that have high search share and domain authority as well.
Having links from pages that are already ranking very well on search results (especially for long-tails that you as well as your competitors are competing for) will always take you one step ahead from your competitors.
Integrate brand story
Making use of your brand story in your online marketing efforts is a great way to become remarkable to your target market. Your story makes you unique and can somehow separate you from your competitors and the transparency can help you attract more loyalists.
A brand is a progressive story, and making a simple effort for people to know who you are, what you want to achieve and what you truly represent can go a long way.
Here’s a basic sample, as most of you know, before I became an SEO, I was a Pro-Gamer. That short explanation of my background got me several natural brand mentions (like this one from a recent post by Peter Attia on personalities that make great SEOs).
Share your story to your audience once in awhile (or even making it a part of your content distribution/development strategy, but also making sure that it will provide value and be relevant as well), you can most certainly attract more editorial links.
Few ways to share your story without being too advertorial, such as:
- Citing your brand as a sample on your blog posts or guest posts
- Making the most out of your “about us” pages (ex: Neil Patel’s about page, or Sean Revell’s).
People can easily remember stories. And that’s one of the best ways to be on top of their minds.
Jason Acidre is Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive, marketing consultant for Affilorama and Traffic Travis, and also the sole author of this SEO blog. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre and on Google+.