We recently had a great turn out at our quarterly lunch meeting of the Virginia SEO MeetUp. The afternoon flew by as the group talked and shared ideas on everything connected to SEO. There were lots of questions on things like which conference should they budget to attend and what new tools were out there. It seems all the talk of recession has a lot of SEO/SEM shops budgeting for only one show this year and only investing in tools with a clear ROI. That conversation alone was noteworthy, but overall the one topic that sparked the most debate centered around link building and which tactics were working.
It was really surprising to hear the diversity in the answers to “What’s working in link building.” A couple people piped up and said they were seeing sites rank in top spots with nothing but reciprocal links. Others maintained they were still using the brokers to purchase links and saw no adverse effects from their link buys.
One person shared how writing good stories and using social media was driving links, while another person talked about using Squidoo. Almost everyone agreed the flack around using nofollow to channel PageRank was prudent on certain pages but overall was overrated. Blogs are still a popular tool to use to attract links, and everyone is still using the directories (yay!). Basically, the bottom line for link building was, personal preferences aside, just about everything is still working.
Here at Alliance-Link we find that to be the case as well and continue to use the more commonly discussed linking strategies for most of our campaigns. However, we find, like any other marketing function, in order to “work” effectively on today’s Web, the execution of the tactic has to adapt to current trends and always be quality focused.
Reciprocal Links For example, the power behind reciprocal linking isn’t in the number of link partners you acquire, it’s in the control you have over the use of targeted anchor text on a specific site. Swapping links with a business in your niche or a complimentary industry is “good,” but it can graduate to “great” if a keyword specific anchor is placed as a reference source on a well known or well ranked industry page. This approach eliminates the need to find massive numbers of link partners while prominently promoting yourself within your niche.
Press Releases Press releases are another old school linking technique. While they still work at attracting links, for the most part the resulting links are low quality and don’t work toward increasing your link value. We’ve never used press releases as a primary link building tactic. We’ve always relied upon them as a way to secure media attention and hopefully interviews.
The power in a well crafted, news-worthy press release can be measured in the number of follow-up calls it generates, not skimpy links sitting on some press release distribution site or scraper. Yes, these “skimpy” links may work toward your overall link popularity, but they do absolutely nothing to increase your visibility or algorithmic authority.
Write your press releases to include a call to action for an interview, a giveaway, or a free ebook. Don’t make the release flat and one-dimensional — offer something that will entice a journalist/blogger to contact you for more information. Pay for the upgraded tracking service most of the distribution companies offer and keep tabs on who downloads your release. Start a database from the sources you uncover.
Check backlinks to your competitors and look for news sites in the results, then add these locations to your journalist database. Pretty soon you’ll amass a nice list of people to mail your most newsworthy items to.
While there was group consensus that “everything was working,” we also agreed that link building was tedious, time consuming, and could be downright boring. No matter how you slice it, linking takes time, money, and a lot of dedication to researching quality partners. Personally, I don’t see it that way. I love a challenge and think it’s fun, but hey, I am a little different!
Crank up the Huey Lewis, figure out a budget, and set an amount of time each day/week you’ll dedicate to your linking endeavors and then stick to it. That way, no matter what happens, you’ll have a stable of established links working for you.
Debra Mastaler offers link training and custom link building campaigns through her Williamsburg Virginia based firm Alliance-Link. She is also the author of the link building blog The Link Spiel. The Link Week column appears on Tuesdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.