According to Matt Cutts, Google has experimented in the past with algo changes that completely discounted backlink signals. Google factors in over 200 signals in how it ranks its search results and it tried some experiments where backlinks are completely discounted. Cutts said that the results produced low quality results. As a result, backlinks, as a ranking signal, are here to stay… for now. This is why link building is still required in search engine optimization.
With that said, Google Penguin has taught SEOs that not just any backlink will do. Link quality counts for a lot and, based on Google’s recent crackdown on payday loan sites, manual penalties on SEO guest posts and spammy guest post platforms, as well as its recent moves to reduce the SEO impact of press release, article directories, and other low value sites, Google is paying close attention to how links are built.
In an ideal world, Google expects online publishers to just produce high-quality content and backlinks will ‘naturally’ appear as more and more people link to the high quality resource. The problem with this thinking is that it takes so long as to be impractical as an SEO strategy for most online publishers. You will still have to make some effort in generating links. But instead of merely filling out an online form that gives you instant backlinks or building links the easy way through forum profiles or Web 2.0 sites or low quality blog farms, you have to actually ‘earn’ links using high-quality content from authorities in your niche who employ the highest editorial standards in their decisions as to who to link to and why.
In other words, link building is still a winning strategy but you need to focus on earning links and you need to focus on building high-value links. Here are the top 20 ways to build high-value links that can withstand whatever algorithm update or mood swing Google goes through.
Method #1: Build an Authoritative High-Quality Blog
Blogging still remains one of the best ways to build backlinks. However, you can’t ‘blog’ the same way as many low-quality online publishers blog and expect your links to be worth anything. You have to stock your blogs with high-quality resources that can’t easily be found elsewhere in your niche. You need to focus on turning your blog into the ‘go to resource’ for specific information in your niche. What types of content will set you apart? Focus on how to’s, exhaustive glossaries of niche terms, in-depth interviews of movers and shakers featuring questions that really challenge the interviewee, in-depth reports, or content that truly challenges the conventional wisdom in your niche.
For example: anyone can come up with an SEO blog that rehashes the same crap featured in other SEO blogs, but it takes a high level of commitment to quality and details to produce a blog like Brian Dean’s Backlinko[link backlinko.com] and feature actual case studies that walk the reader through actual processes. Regardless of your niche, you need to take your blog’s content quality up to this level otherwise, you run the risk of your posts getting lost in the blogosphere’s ether.
Method #2: Identify the Most Authoritative Websites in your Niche and Contribute Compelling Stuff
Let’s face it, as much as Matt Cutts says SEO guest posting is ‘done,’ reality says Cutts is wrong. Why? Even the highest quality websites require high-quality compelling content. And these sites aren’t shy about posting high-value content if they are sure such content will add value to the lives of their readers. Great content, truly great stuff, is a rare commodity and even the most exclusive blog or website will jump at eh opportunity to publish truly compelling original content. Take advantage of this fact by finding the most authoritative blogs and sites in your niche and studying them thoroughly. Figure out their Domain Authority and trust.Use quicksprout to figure out their strongest content. Offer a content brief or proposal that fits the niche you’re targeting and the site you’re building a link to as well as addresses the topics the target blog or site is most interested in.
Tip: When contributing, aim to hit the ball out of the park. You are not just building a link, you are aiming to peel as much traffic from the host site as possible. This is why you need to pack as much information and value into your contributed post without the text becoming a hassle to read. The cheap way to do this is to outdo similar content by increasing quantity. For example, if the ‘industry average’ for your niche is a top 10 list, you step up and offer a top 50 or top 100 list. The problem with this is that it is too easy to think that the value of your content is the number of list items instead of the value the reader gets from the individual items in your list. Don’t fall for this trap. Compiling a top list of 100 crappy items is still, no surprise here, crap. Focus on quality instead. Find a neglected angle in your niche and pound that to the ground. Don’t waste the reader’s time.
Method #3: Interlink your Blog Posts and use your Blog as an Authority Magnet
You’d be surprised at how many ‘bloggers’ publish post after post with no external links and no internal links. This is not much different from fishing by not using a hook or bait. You’re just cranking out content and your content is lost in the white noise of the Internet. Listen, over 2 million pieces of content are shared on social media networks every single day. Your post must get notice amidst all this noise or you’re just wasting your time.
Interlink your blog posts so you can pull the reader deeper into your blog. This is a great linking strategy not just because you are trying to have your site rank for certain keywords but also because it pulls the reader into deeper (and hopefully higher quality) areas of your blog. The more you engage your readers, the higher the chance they might link back to you or mention your blog post on social media. While social media mentions alone don’t automatically mean your blog post will get more love from search engines, such mentions put you on the radar of bloggers and niche authorities who might link to you (especially after you reach out to them via email-read below). The same logic applies to linking out from your blog posts to authority sources. Not only do the authority link outs clearly establish your credibility (you back up your claims) but linking out to the top content sources in your niche puts you on the radar of such authority sites. You can reach out to them later to have them link to high-value resources on your own site. Again, just like with social mentions, merely linking to authority sources doesn’t give you an immediate SEO benefit but paves the way for effective relationship building later on
Method #4: Find Authority or Resource Round up Blog Posts in your Niche and Get Listed
A fairly common blog post type in any niche is when a blogger lists trusted blogs or resource sites within a niche. Look for such posts in your niche and identify the best resource post or pages on your blog or site. Contact the blogger and mention your high-quality link and ask for inclusion. If your page is worth its salt and truly adds value to the lives of readers, your link will get included.
Tip: Many niche resource lists are very specific. For example, a blogger in the SEO niche might list a list of blog posts that lay out different glossary terms for SEO or search engine marketing. Make sure the page you want the resource list to link to fits the theme of the list and focus on getting a link to an internal page. If you insist on getting the resource list to link to your home page, your request has a high chance of getting rejected.
Tip: Be careful how you approach bloggers with resource lists. Not all resource lists are worth getting listed on. Make sure the list has a decent Page Authority. Make sure there aren’t too many outbound links already on the page. Make sure your post or page is truly high quality before approaching the blogger. In many cases, these bloggers are very sensitive if you hit them up via email. You might want to engage them first via Twitter or social networks. Once they warm up to you, ask for their email address and make a good case why they should include your link. Sure, this all takes some time and effort to do but if you pick the right targets (you filtered by Majestic Trust Rank/Citation Flow, Page Authority, link saturation, and niche-specificity), the resulting backlink will make all your time and effort worth it.
Method #5: Get Interviewed by High Value Websites
Closely related to Method #1, if you become an authority in your niche, many bloggers in your niche would want to post what you think about certain topics in your niche. This goes with the territory. Your credibility makes their blog look great, and you get backlinks. Of course, this is not easy to do. Your blog must reach a decent level of credibility for you to get interviewed. How do you benefit? You get backlinks from a high-value site. You get an opportunity for your interview to pull direct traffic. You increase your brand’s credibility in your niche.
Why would high-value sites want to interview you? The interview format is actually a very easy way to get high-value content. Properly formatted and properly done, it is all business and never spammy. Also, interviewing the right personalities in their niche makes blog owners stand out in their niche-they get to pick the brains of the movers and shakers in their niche.
Tip: Engage high Domain Authority blog and site owners in your niche on twitter by sharing interesting content (not necessarily stuff on your site). Once you get a decent level of engagement with them, tell them that you’d be delighted to be interviewed by them.
Tip: Prepare a link that explains why people should interview you. Make sure you explain clearly what you bring to the table-your expertise, your background, and qualifications. Also, ‘sweeten’ the deal by offering to tweet the interview link to your followers, post the link to your Google Plus page and Facebook Fan Page. Mention other ways you can add value by driving traffic or attention to the interview. Make it worth their while to interview you.
Method #6: Improve on your Competitors’ Content and Steal their Backlinks
Using Majestic SEO and other tools, look at your competitors’ backlink profile. Which of their content gets the most link love from blogs and sites in your niche? Can you come up with a better version of their most linked content? Come up with a better version and spice things up a bit. How? Add videos. Add infographics. If your competitors’ most popular content pieces involve list articles, pound each list item to the ground by packing it with as much detail and information as possible. As much as possible, do case studies for each list items (if applicable). In short, take the quality of your competitors’ best content and multiply it by one thousand times. Aim for the stars. This is no time to be mediocre or aim for ‘good enough’ content. Given how competitive content marketing and SEO have become, ‘good enough’ is not enough.
Tip: Always focus on return on effort. Try to get the same piece of high-quality content linked to by as many of your competitors’ backlink sources as possible. How? Study your competitors’ link sources carefully and put together content specifications that meet all the needs of the link sources. This way, you can get links from as many link sources as possible instead of having to create many different customized content pages to appeal to each link source’s focus. For example: if your competitor has 3 pieces of content with 100 different backlinks to each page. Instead of coming up with 3 different pieces of content and reaching out to the 100 different backlink sources, you might want to come up with one page of content that includes all the elements of the 3 different pieces of competitor content. This way, you can just go through the list of 300 link sources. Focus on efficiency and return on effort. The problem with this approach is that it might not always apply since the themes on the popular content might be so different from each other that you really have no choice but to come up with different pages.
Tip: Don’t hesitate to outsource when building your pages. Get custom graphics for your text. Get custom infographics. Get custom video made. There are many video creation software package out there that use templates so building high quality ‘explanation videos’ don’t have to take up too much of your time or your contractor’s time. Whatever you do, make sure the piece of content you create is truly the best in your niche.
Tip: Other areas of content improvement include: make sure your content is truly up to date, provide case studies, clear up errors in your competitors’ resource pages, or explain things more clearly. The only limit to how you can improve on your competitors’ content is your imagination.
Method #7: Find your Competitors’ Most Shared Content and get their Sharers to Share your Version
Social mentions among influential people in your niche can lead to link earning opportunities. When people who wield a lot of influence in your niche share links on their Twitter feeds or facebook fan pages, their minds are open to linking to these places through their blog posts. Even if they don’t link to the stuff they share, by publishing the links on their Fan pages, Twitter feeds, or Google Plus pages, they lend their credibility and authority to the link and their followers might link to these resources. Make this process work for you. Go to quicksprout.com and enter you competitor’s domain. Find out their most shared piece of content. Get the url of the most viral content and enter it into Topsy. You will get a list of Twitter users who shared the content. Send those people an @ message and reach out to them. Ask them to tweet about your link since it blows away the competitor resource they originally tweeted about.
Tip: This is a numbers game. Don’t expect all Twitter users you contact to retweet or tweet your stuff. Allow for some filtration. Why? Many of the Twitter accounts are actually bots. Be happy with a 10 to 20% conversion. For example, reach out to 100 people and get 10 to 20 tweets. You might want to have your Virtual Assistant take care of this.
Method #8: Reverse Engineer your Competition’s Infographics Backlinks
One of the most common ways websites build backlinks is through having their infographics published by other sites in their niche. Usually, these infographics have a text teaser or description with a link to the infographic source. You can use TinEye or other image search engine to find the places that published your competitor’s infographic. Filter these linking sites based on Trust and niche relevance. Create a list. Contact that list with a link to your own infographic.
Tip: Before you contact your competitors’ infographics linkers, make sure your own infographics totally blows your competitionís graphics out of the water. Focus on deep and very dense content. Make sure your stuff is distinctive and actively pushes your brand.
Method #9: Contact People who Mention your Brand and have them Turn the Mentions into Live Links
Many blogs will mention your blog’s brand or your name. Sadly, most of these mentions are not via live links. Do a thorough search for all mentions of your name or your sites’ brand or name. Ideally, you should pick mentions that have few outbound links. Contact these sources and ask them to link your brand to your site. Also, ‘sweeten’ the outreach by telling them you’ll tweet the url of the post where they link to you.
Method #10: Participate in Blog Carnivals using Twitter Group Tweets
Twitter is the home of many group tweeting activities where people set up a date to ask questions from a featured resource using hashtags. For example, in the SEO industry, #seopub is a great group tweeting activity. Members ask questions and the resource Twitter user answers. These are great opportunities to send @ messages to participants to ask them about participating in a blog carnival. Blog carnivals are great because influential blogs or up and coming influential blogs in your niche link to your blog based a certain common topic you all agreed upon ahead of time. Be the organizer of your own blog carnival by using the same topic as the group tweet interview.
Final Word: Always Focus on Return on Effort
It is too easy to use up tons of your precious time in the link earning methods outlined above. You need to be efficient. You need to make sure that your time is well-rewarded. You need to get the most results and value for every second you expend in your efforts. The best way to do this is to filter the backlink sources based on quality and focus on those high value sources instead. Instead of shooting for volume, focus on quality instead.