Wow, it seems like only yesterday we were all obsessed with the first (of what became many) Panda updates (which was initially called the Farmer Update) from Google and the New York Times story on JC Penney’s Holiday 2010 foray into buying paid links. Oh, yeah, good times.
But 2012 is now staring us in the face, and as long as the ancient Mayan calendar merely resets back to the beginning of another cycle in December 2012, we have a lot to look forward to.
To help all of us in the SEO/link building community keep productive in the next year, I’ve come up with a set of New Year’s resolutions for all of us to follow (besides, if we’re wrong about the Mayans, at least we’ll have something to occupy our minds for a little while!).
My Link-Building Resolutions For 2012
1. DO create great content, including link/Like/Share bait, to grow links organically.
To attract organic links, we have to provide something worthy of linking to. So get cracking on creating that next sweet infographic, viral video, informative newsletter, or fantastic blog post!
Become not only an expert in your field, but be very public about your expertise, and share your knowledge with the world. Make your stories interesting, informative, and compelling. The world will wait with bated breath for your next great proclamation, and link to it en masse when it arrives.
OK, perhaps that bit is a tad over the top. But seriously, if you share the kind of information people are seeking, even if it’s only in your niche area of expertise, you will earn followers, who will help spread the word. And that’s what it’s all about.
2. DO use social media to build your community and promote that link bait.
Of course, the popular adage “Build it and they will come” only applies to movies about baseball and cornfields. For the rest of us, creating great content is only half the battle. You then need to alert the world that it exists for them to enjoy.
In 2012, that really means regularly investing time in your business’ social media presence, be it a Facebook Fan page, a Twitter account, or a blog.
3. DO consider working in social media beyond Facebook & Twitter.
Since you’ve already resolved to regularly invest time in social media outreach, do more than the minimum with the ubiquitous venues of Facebook and Twitter.
Take a look at creating a presence in alternative social spaces, such as Flickr and YouTube for media content, SlideShare for presentations, FourSquare and Gowalla for local brick-and-mortar businesses, and the rising star Pinterest for a visual social share of ideas and interests. And there are countless blogs to consider – just find the best ones relevant to your niche and contribute. But above all, make sure you get links back to your site.
4. DO consider running an online contest to generate links.
Contests are fun. People love winning. If you hold a contest, you can funnel participation through one of the approved apps in Facebook so you can require Likes to enter. You can also encourage sharing of the contest by giving second entries to those who spread the news by social media or linking.
One tip: DO NOT give away yet another iPad 2 as your prize unless you are Apple or perhaps an IOS developer! Make the contest about your business, your prize about your products or services, and use the contest as an opportunity to build relevant sales leads (or at least collect email addresses of people who are interested in what you make or do).
So many businesses give away iPads in their Likes campaigns, and in the end, all they have is a Facebook Fan page filled with an audience who cares not one whit about their company or its products/services!
What a lame way to build business! Keep in mind that the value of the prize is the cost of building your business, but building your business (and its online presence via links and sharing) is your ultimate goal.
5. DO NOT rely on bot-powered submissions to junk directories.
There, I said it. If your idea of link building is merely submitting a site’s URL to as many junk directories as you can find, regardless of relevance, then you need to read more of the articles here in Link Week!
6. DO look for creative ways to serve your niche’s community from your site or at least talk about it on your site.
You bring value to people through your expertise in your area of specialization, be it a service you offer, a product you sell, or information you provide. You are the expert. What? You say you are not an expert, but just a peddler of stuff on the Net? Think again. OK, you may not be the equivalent of Albert Einstein to General Relativity in your chosen field, but think hard.
As you have worked in your field, surely you’ve learned something of interest, such as how to be successful, how to grow your business in good times, how to persevere through hard times, and how to market yourself online.
Sometimes your potential for greatness is not necessarily in the specific one thing you do (maybe that’s a crowded field), but instead in the unique combination of all the things you do and how they are done. You have that expertise. Share it! Go beyond the norm and contribute that knowledge to your community. By doing so, you establish your own authority in your field, and that is where you have value to offer the rest of us.
7. DO ensure your site’s URL is always listed (canonically) in your profile of online business directory listings.
Go through all of your online business directory listings and local search profiles and find your company’s page. Many times you’ll have a page on a directory site where you didn’t know it existed, and often that data is either incomplete or flat out wrong.
Find those listings (especially the ones with little to no information) and fill them in, being especially careful to use the single, primary (aka canonical) URL for your site. This is easy link building for yourself, and when you make your listings consistent, others will notice (including the search engines!).
8. DO NOT buy links or Likes if you care about the long-term health of your domain name or business reputation in search.
Just a year ago, JC Penney was busy working the SERPs with its paid link ad campaign. Luckily for them, they are a big retailer with plenty of ad money to spend. After they were outed by the New York Times, they were penalized by Google for their misdeeds, but they paid their penance to society (well, at least to the Google) for a short while and now all is back to normal.
But your little business may not be so lucky. Google may not be so generous on quickly rescinding a penalty on a small business.
Can your business afford to be permanently banned from the Google index? What’s your Plan B when your little foray into the black hat world backfires with index penalties? Can you afford the loss of search referrer revenue for the penalty period? What if Google decides to never forgive you?
Both Google and Bing invest a lot of resources searching for this behavior (not to mention a few vigilante SEOs who love to out cheaters!). Unless domain name trust has no value in your line of business, don’t risk your search revenue stream with bleary-eyed dreams of temporary success.
Invest for the long term with thorough, ongoing SEO campaigns supported simultaneously by PPC ad campaigns, and a good concurrent dose of active community building via social networking. It’s far less risky, and in the long run, a much smarter way to pursue success in search.
9. DO ask authoritative sites in your niche for links.
You probably already know who the major players are in your industry’s niche (if you don’t, then whom are you competing against?). Of course, if you’re Company A retailing Widget X, you’re not likely to get a link for Widget X from competing retailer Company B. That said, if you run a very successful bed and breakfast, asking your regional B&B trade association for a link may be a good idea. There are countless variations on that idea.
However, before you go and do that, you better first have some great content published worthy of that link! Perhaps you write about running the business end of the B&B trade. Perhaps you are an expert pastry chef. Perhaps you understand the local tourism industry. Perhaps you know all about hospitality accounting. Hey, if you’re reading this, you might be an online marketing expert (the term “expert” being relative to others in your industry).
Whatever it is, develop content for your niche, dedicate yourself to periodically adding new content to your collection, and perform link building for that content collection. Even competitors may find what you have to say interesting enough to link to it. But always remember to ask for the link. They may decline, or they may not. But by not asking, you’ve all but ensured you’ll get the same result as the decline. Give your great content a chance to shine by asking for links! As long as the content is worthy, you’ll start getting them.
We all have a lot of work to do in 2012. Let’s hope the Mayans don’t blow it for us all! I wish you all a warm, peaceful, and prosperously linked New Year.
Stock image from Shutterstock, used under license.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.