Link building has changed quite considerably over the past 12 months or so.  In less than a fortnight, the Google Penguin update will be celebrating its first birthday.  I don’t suspect too many will be coming to that party.

Google Penguin 1st birthday
(image credit: litlnemo)

Before the Penguin update, SEOs and link builders were getting away with a lack of creativity and a lack of skills by throwing money at websites and essentially purchasing their way to the top.  To be kicked out of Google 12+ months ago required some seriously excessive building of bad links, not just bad luck.

The guidelines have since changed.  Trying to cheat the system doesn’t work anymore.  Some people have moved with the times and others I can still see on the internet are getting left behind.  Continued comment spam, purchasing of links, mass directory submission and other black hat techniques that don’t cut the mustard in 2013.  Or at least I haven’t noticed any shoddy link building rising to the top (of course there are only so many websites I have checked the backlink profiles of).

So in 2013, what should we do Barrie, you ask?  I’ll tell you…

Don’t build links with the sole intention of ranking.  Build them for traffic and sales, depending on the purpose of your website.  Not all websites have something to sell of course.  The majority don’t.  But for those that do… traffic can be turned into customers and customers can be turned into repeat customers.  And that I suspect is what you’re looking for.

So Barrie, what can we do to get this traffic you speak of?  I’ll tell you…

Authoritative Content

Whether this is a blog post or a static page on your website, if you can create an authoritative page in your sector, naturally it will rise to the top of Google for the term it focusses on.  As lots of people like it, and share it on social networks, over time people will link to it and come back to it as a resource.

It’s all well and good saying “create something authoritative”, it takes a bit more effort than that.  You really need to be the daddy of your sector, the know-it-all, the popular one.  Insert exciting and/or useful images on the page to boost the users’ interest and give users something extra to link to on the page.

You’ll know how successful your post is over time in regards to the traffic it receives and where it begins to rank.  Wikipedia is a source of authoritative content and let’s be honest, that site ranks in the top two positions for a lot of search terms.  But you’ll notice for many a non-commercial search that many of the results on page 1 are authoritative resources.  At a guess, these pages are likely to have picked up links and traffic continually over time, depending on what you’ve searched for.

Curated Content

Resource lists, top 10s, best of’s, weekly roundups etc. are a popular way to attract traffic and links to your website.  If you’re including other people’s work in these lists, then tell them about it as they’ll more than likely be proud to see their face on a third-party website, which can result in them sharing it with their social followers and even referring to, and linking to your content from their own website.

Interviews

In the same way mentioning other people’s work on your website engages them to share your work, interviewing people in your industry is a sure way to get them to share content on your website.  Conducting interviews with people, especially authority figures in your sector can make great content.  Presumably your audience is going to want to hear the interview you’ve created for them.  And on top of that, the person or people you’re interviewing can share your interview with them, hosted on your website to their audience.  Their audience that may want to hear from them.

Publishing your videos on YouTube, with a link to either your website within the video or in the description below is useful for sending targeted traffic.

Infographics

These got blown out of proportion in 2012 when infographics were created for the sake of creating an infographic and that they were the thing to do.  Some of them ruined what would have been good content.  Some of them were just awful.  But if you’ve got good content worth sticking in an infographic, create a really good design (or outsource it) with it and put a lot of content around it.  This can be expanding what the infographic is telling the audience.  But the extra content generally helps make it a more authoritative resource and gives the audience a choice of linking to your content because they either link the graphic or the content… or both.

Publishing your infographic on sites like Visual.ly can help send some more traffic your way.  But be careful that being hosted on another site can gain traffic and links to that third-party website instead of your own.

Reviews

In our industry we can review conferences, tools, our work etc.  In your industry there may be a lot more fun things to review ;)

I’m not talking about Amazon-style product reviews with four sentences describing if your purchase was “good” or “bad”.  But if you can produce an in-depth review of a product, service or whatever’s relevant in your sector (adding images and/or videos of the product in action is always an excellent idea), then this can be an authoritative source in itself.

Your review could then be useful in blog, forum or social discussions when people are looking for the information you have provided.  In turn, this is sending you traffic and creating links.  Again, uploading a review of the video to YouTube can send a few visitors your way (or review computer games and get millions (and millions) of video views: https://www.youtube.com/user/JamesNintendoNerd).

Guest posting

This used to be and is still being used with the sole intention of building links.  But I like to go one better than that when I guest post.

Contributing to other websites, particularly those with a bigger following than you or your own is a good way to build up your own following, trust and authority.

Yes, there’s a good opportunity to throw a link into your own site and I do recommend doing that.  Whether it’s naturally in the content itself or within your “about the author” section which is usually standard on website’s these days.

A link on these sites can send a few visitors your way, but creating worthy pieces, whether it be news or opinion on a third party site is a useful way to build up your following and exposure that you may not get otherwise.

These days, whether it’s for me or my clients, I try to negotiate continual guest posting opportunities where either I or the client will contribute to the same website on a weekly, monthly or occasional basis.  It really depends on your industry, the website(s) you’re contributing to and the time you have I guess.  But each guest post should be seen as an opportunity for more than just a link.  Use it to prove you’re knowledgeable in this sector and win over additional followers to your website or social profiles.

Breaking news

Breaking News everybody
(image credit: Barrie Smith)

It’s pretty difficult in the modern age to be the first to break the news.  But you don’t have to be the first.  News sites all repeat the same news, in the same way many companies cover the same pieces of news.

But if you can get in there quick with news there’s a good chance of it you’re increasing your chances of getting picked up with a number of Twitter ReTweets or Reddit Likes if you get there before anyone else.  Chances are you heard the news first on Twitter though, right?

One lucky break and it can send all the traffic you ever dreamed of to your website.  Perhaps people who are looking for news aren’t looking to buy, but you never know.

And if you are the person who breaks the news, then you increase your chances of being quoted or cited by several other websites.  And that, my friends, is a chance to pick up the golden eggs of links.

Branding and influencing

The point I am getting at throughout this document is one that has been brought up many a time over the past few months.  That is to build your brand and not just links and to influence the influencers.

All of the methods I have mentioned above are perfect examples of how to increase your brand exposure online, if done correctly.

Building links solely for ranking isn’t the most effective strategy for your business in 2013.  So get building your brand, trust and customer base through other methods than just ranking (or trying to rank) in the top 5 positions in search engines.

And get up-to-date with your link building methods.  If your SEO agency or link builder is suggesting directory submissions and purchasing links in 2013, then they either haven’t a clue what they’re doing, or you’ve only offered them £50.  For everyone else looking for results, get it done properly – give Barrie at Receptional a call.