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Link Building – Make it More Human

link building

As part of BrightonSEO, I attended one of the workshops the day  before the conference. Kevin Gibbons of Blue Glass UK led the workshop about Advanced Link Building tactics, and the message that was most clear to me throughout the whole day seemed to be that we digital marketing humans have got to focus on other humans. Over the past few years, we’ve heard so many clichés over and over again: ‘SEO is dead’, ‘Content is King’, ‘Big Data’ and it struck me that maybe now we’ll be hearing ‘Make it for Humans’.

Kevin started off discussing the impacts of the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, both of which are basically designed to get rid of poor quality content so that Google can return the best and most valuable results to its users. This means that some of the tactics that had been the most prevalent in the industry for the past decade or so won’t work anymore (and might be detrimental) and we’re back to what happened at the very beginnings of the web: building links by hand to lead people to other highly valuable content.

There are so many different signals about what’s a good piece of content, and in 2013, it seems that the biggest ranking factor is human activity. Google tries to rank pages and content based on what they deserve and how valuable they’ll be to visitors to that site. This means that shares, comments and links back to a piece of content will help boost rankings. Any content you create is about the audience you can influence and the links you can attract from your target tribes and consumers.

Onsite and Link Analysis

In the context of link building, there are a few things we can do to try to get the best and most useful content in front of users.

  • Look at any pages onsite that see no traffic to them, are never updated and don’t have any comments or shares. Once you’ve identified these pages, get rid of them. Google probably sees these pages as a way to manipulate the algorithm and you could be penalised for it.
  • Watch out for anchor text optimisation, and avoid focussing on a small number of keywords. Use longtail terms and a variety of keywords.
  • Download all of your links, and analyse anchor text distribution, link volumes versus referring traffic, topical relevancy of your links, and then compare these against the main competitors.
  • Rethink what the metrics of a high quality site look like by asking yourself: what would Matt Cutts do? Is it links, pages, or engagement?
  • Build links slowly and carefully. This is the proper way to do it and even if it isn’t very fast it should help you to win the game.
  • Be as agile and responsive as you can and show your brand voice.

Content

This focus on value and usefulness means that we have to create high value content. But how can we do that?

  • Examine the brand you’re working on and isolate the USP. Once you’ve got the USP create the content around that and put it in front of an audience whose pain points you can solve based on the products or services offered.
  • Look at who is number one in your industry. What kind of content projects are they creating or strategies that are successful? Can you do something similar with your USP?
  • Create a scalable content strategy to focus on quality content production and outreach. Use a combination of:
    • Infographics
    • Quizzes
    • Microsite and Communities
    • Events
    • Tools
    • Create and then take advantage of an editorial calendar. What’s happening in your industry? What can you use to your advantage?
    • Create a hub for content and get established authors to contribute to build up the profile. They’ll promote their work to their audience and you’ll get new visitors to the site from their existing fan base.
    • Since the content is for human users first and crawlers second, make sure that your quality is high even if that means it takes a bit longer to create.
    • The importance of trust signals and the way humans tend to work means that getting a link from one site more than once is probably fine.
    • Can you tell your customer’s story by creating content around their experiences?

General Advice

Finally, a few other takeaways are:

  • In the workshop, there were a few discussions of whether using front personas was a good idea for outreach. The general consensus was that it was a challenge when trying to build relationships with publishers and it is very difficult to build up a social profile for a persona so it isn’t recommended.
  • Check in with your contacts at publishers just keep the relationship going, without asking for a link.
  • Use href=lang if you are at a multi-lingual company that uses separate local domains.
  • If you’re looking for conversions, forum links are great even if they don’t have a lot of SEO value.
  • Forums are also great for questions since people are increasingly asking Google questions instead of searching for one or two words. Rank for questions by answering them on forums like Quora.
  • Bring all of your teams together. You can’t create great content and attract the best links without your SEO, PR, web design, and social teams working together. Make the most of one great idea by pushing it out through all of your channels.
  • Google’s moving towards promoting brands, so can you get a lift in searches for your brand name by creating content and asking users to enter your brand name into Google?

Finally, don’t forget that Google’s just trying to give its users the best possible experience, not just make our lives as digital marketers more challenging. They see human engagement and user activity as the best signals to determine valuable content and these are hard to fake so be sure to create worthwhile, high quality content because that’s how you’ll build the best links.

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