Happy New Year and welcome to the first Link Week of 2010!
Eric, Julie, Garrett and I wanted to share our thoughts and recommendations on what we think will “work” in regards to link building in 2010. Last year was one of the most algorithmically significant years our industry has seen in awhile and we have some link building take-aways to share as a result. But before we look ahead, let’s take a quick look back at some of the issues and announcements that impacted the world of link building last year.
Link building influences in 2009
2009 was an interesting year… Bing was born, Yahoo! lapsed into a coma and Google gave us personalized, real-time and caffeinated search results. Social media went mainstream, “unfriend” became the word of the year, Twitter eclipsed Google as “the” verb and everyone noticed Yelp for something more than food reviews.
There was lots of drama around pink links, we were shocked to find site owners could no longer perform “PageRank sculpting” using the nofollow tag, and then shocked again to learn “sculpting with nofollow still works“! There is no shortage of opinions out there. As always, the best strategy is to try things for yourself and go from there.
People who pay attention saw “stingy” links become the new authority, link wheels rolled out as the “service du jour” and people finally stopped talking about paid links. Our link building friends in the UK saw “bizarre search results” which made for some bizarre linking and mixing speed and caffeine would normally not be advisable but in 2010 it’s a must or no flipping zippy rank points for you.
Real estate on the organic side got crowded with local, image, video, shopping, news and more all fighting for coveted space in the top results. While some struggle to find organic search results, we link builders see those varied SERPS as trends to take advantage of and situations to learn from.
While 2009 is fresh in our minds, here are our thoughts, observations and recommendations for link building success in 2010 from your four Link Week writers. Ladies first!
1. As Google continues to crack down on paid links and devalue easily-manipulated links (like blogrolls), I think that we’ll see a higher emphasis on getting links that bring traffic and not just higher rankings. A good blog that’s well-maintained and stands as an authority in a niche has the power to send tons of relevant visitors to a site through one simple in-content link.
2. I also think that we’ll see marketers figure out better ways to use social media to get links. Simply throwing a site’s URL up on Twitter isn’t the way to do it, and many people are going to figure out that engagement is what helps build links.
3. Along with this, I fully expect that emailed link requests will continue to be effective, despite the fact that many people say this method is dead. If we keep focusing on engagement, we should have no problems getting someone to open up and respond to an email.
4. SEOs will have to prove their competence and do more to distance themselves from the ever-increasing crop of so-called experts who truly know very little and can cause tons of damage. Especially with link builders, it’s going to become even more important to show results while still holding yourselves totally accountable for your methods.
5. Image links and banner ads, when done well, do still have good potential for delivering traffic, and I imagine that we’ll see those being used more.
1. Traffic is the new PageRank, so the goal is to get as much from varied sources as you can. Capture email addresses and use them in your sales and link building efforts. Balance new content, new links and inbound traffic when implementing a link campaign. Split your campaigns into link popularity building and traffic generation links—this will give you a diverse and natural looking back link profile.
2. While Twitter is my new General Hospital, it’s also my new favorite search vehicle. Use Twitter to research for link leads as you would any search engine. Use Twitter as a point of commonality when contacting people for links; “I follow you on Twitter” is a wonderful icebreaker.
3. Be wary of fad link tactics, and keep in mind the key components of link popularity and what makes a link valuable. Cookie cutter links on similar sites won’t pass the type of link popularity you need to help your pages rank for the long-term.
4. Content development will continue to be crucial but where you place content will be key. Article directories are still OK to use but drive little in the way of link popularity or syndication. Developing relationships with key bloggers, journalists and ezines will become crucial. Look also to topical online communities and the answer sites to find authorities to host your content.
5. Becoming the “authority” in your niche (especially for competitive brands) will become paramount as the search noise on the web/net escalates. One way to do this is to incorporate on and offline advertising efforts. The more people see your brand online and offline, the more they’ll trust and link to it when asked.
1. Google’s forthcoming caffeine update will drive the value of “link sharing” and “link promotion” via Twitter, Facebook, etc… Call it “real-time” link building.
2. 2010 will be the year of “link relationship management” software, and more and more link building firms will shift away from spreadsheets.
3. Yahoo Site Explorer (YSE) will die, driving MajesticSEO’s link profile data sales. Also I hope MajesticSEO can find a way to profit from giving away a little bit more of that links-per-page data.
4. “Link building” becomes more deeply integrated into social media and PR practices (at least on the content side…).
5. Competitor back link profiles and link building queries are useful, but watch for tools that discover highest value, immediately actionable link prospects from massive data sets.
Link building will be recognized as a marketing tactic far beyond organic search rank benefits. Link marketing, which is what us “old school” nuts call it, will come back to the forefront, where it should be. Site specific link marketing plans, where search rank impact is just one part of the strategy, will rule once again. Call it revenge of the old farts!
And there you have it! Keep the dial on Link Week every Tuesday for more link building ideas in 2010. And if you have any thoughts about trends in link building for the coming year, please tell us about them in the comments section below.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.