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Building links to your site is quite easy if you’re willing to resort to dodgy tactics, however thanks to Google’s Penguin updates it’s becoming less likely that these links will actually benefit your SEO in the long term.
Interflora is a high profile example of what can go wrong if your linkbuilding strategy isn’t whiter than white.
So to avoid being exiled from Google, SEOs need to direct their efforts into building sustainable links.
At Distilled’s LinkLove event on Friday Hannah Smith ran through a series of tips and tactics for building valuable links that your site can be proud of and that Google will look kindly on...
1. Get blogging
Blogging has proved to be a very successful tool for linkbuilding for many businesses, including Econsultancy, but it can be difficult to get your content shared if you don’t have a well-recognised brand.
To help gain exposure and build links, Smith recommended a paid-for tool called Zemanta that recognises the main themes of your blog posts and puts it in front of bloggers who write about a similar topic, thereby giving them suggestions of content they might want to link to.
In past 12 months Smith built 257 links for a client using Zemanta at the cost of about $14 per link.
2. Make use of photos
If you have decent images on your site then it’s likely that other people are already stealing them, therefore you should take advantage of this by making them embeddable.
Smith suggested a tool created by Paddy Moogan that makes all images embeddable, so whenever somebody tries to pinch a photo they are automatically given an embed code containing a backlink.
Site owners should also consider placing all their images on Flickr and licensing them through Creative Commons so people can use them under the condition that they link back to your site.
A perfect example is this eye-catching image of Econsultancy CEO Ashley Friedlein at our Innovation Awards a few years ago, which is published in our Flickr stream.
3. Stop talking like an SEO
When asking people for links, you need to bear in mind that they probably aren’t au fait with the latest SEO jargon.
So for example, if you’re asking a journalist for a link back from a photo they’ve used, ask for an image credit rather than an attribution link.
Similarly, you don’t want to guest blog, you would like a byline.
4. Make sure you’re actually getting those links from photos
There is a new tool called Image Raider that allows you to find out who’s using your photos and whether or not they’ve linked back.
Then you can seek out the people that haven’t linked back and ask them for an image credit.
5. Using video
If you’ve worked hard to create video content that people want to share and embed then you need to make sure you aren’t just building links back to your hosting platform (e.g. YouTube or Vimeo).
You can find out who has embedded your content using the video statistics tab in YouTube, then go and politely request that they add a link back to your site.
Furthermore, Distilled’s SEO consultant Phil Nottingham has created a video embed link generator, which automatically creates a backlink each time the content is embedded on a third-party site.
6. Working with existing communities
A common tactic for SEOs and marketers is to try to interact with a relevant online community so they might consider linking to you.
Unfortunately they tend to be alert to it and don’t want people trying to exploit their communities, so how can you approach them without being shunned?
Smith said that in the past she bought advertising in online communities, not for the links or any SEO benefit, but to get relevant traffic that is likely to convert.
Also, after paying for advertising they might be more open with you, as you’ve given them some money.
7. Getting PR coverage with no links?
More often than not publishers are wary about linking to a homepage or promotional landing page as it’s seen as being too commercial.
However they don’t have the same qualms about linking to ‘people’ or ‘about’ pages as it is seen as providing context and information. Therefore it’s a good idea to create profile pages for your employees.
8. Can’t find someone’s email address?
Smith recommended using Gmail plugin Rapportive, a free tool that helps you to find people’s email addresses.
9. Make sure to follow up
Just because a blogger has agreed to add in a link that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will actually get around to doing it.
Unfortunately people are busy, so you need to give them a nudge to remind them.
Smith recommended Gmail plugin Boomerang, which allows you to schedule emails for later, gives follow up reminders, and alerts you if you haven’t heard back from a particular contact.
10. Great content will help secure guest blogs on great sites
Guest blogging is a great way to build valuable links back to your site, however it’s difficult to secure bylines from top tier publishers.
To make your request stand out from the crowd, you need to product high quality, useful content that the site will be eager to publish. This might be new research, a best practice guide, or tips for how to achieve a certain goal.
It does require some commitment to keep coming up with interesting ideas, but the returns make it worthwhile.
The ultimate goal is to become a regular contributor, as that delivers greater returns and requires less effort than scrabbling around for low-level guest blogs every month.
Incidentally, at Econsultancy we firmly support Smith's views on guest blogging, and would like to take the opportunity to point you in the direction of our post detailing 15 tips to help you become a brilliant guest blogger.
11. Make use of all available data
If you want to produce an infographic but don’t have any of your own data, then simply source some from the internet.
Distilled created an infographic using data available on The Guardian’s website, then contacted one of its journalists to let them know. This resulted in a link from The Guardian to the client’s website.