In the current post Google Hummingbird environment, webmasters are increasingly unsure how to tackle the important task of link building.
Editorial links are the most desirable of all: regular links that are given freely and naturally by sites that want to link to your content without any incentive. To acquire these links, you need to first provide information that is worth linking to.
There are a wide range of unique ways to acquire editorial links to your site. Here are 11 of them:
You only need to do a Google search for *blog* to realize that blogging has skyrocketed as a content strategy in the past 5 years. Writing a blog helps you to establish authority in a subject area and – if done well – provides original, interesting content for search engines to index. It’s no secret that blog platforms such as WordPress, Tumblr and Blogger have become enormously popular with content creators, not just for creating blogs, but as stand-alone Content Management Systems with which to design entire sites.
Search engines seem to lap up blog content more so than other types of content, because the technology used to create it generally produces very clean code which is easy to index AND a lot of unique content that tends to be fresher or more current. This results in more links from the search results and more traffic than traditional site pages. Blogs are ideal for social conversation as well. If you allow comments on your blog posts, it’s quite common to find yourself engaged with a number of people about the content of your post, which can lead to even more links.
There’s really no trick to this method. Create a blog, add unique content and keep it fresh by posting regularly. No-one reads a dead blog.
2) Industry / Community Involvement
It sounds obvious, but if you want to be noticed and attract links to your content, you need to visibly participate in your online community. It’s not enough to publish great content, you have to go read and comment on other blogs and news sites and keep up with what’s happening in your industry or niche, otherwise you are operating in a vacuum.
Subscribe to news feeds, comment regularly on blog posts that get you thinking, participate in forum discussions, attend conferences and events and become more visible. This will build up your profile and authority in the field, spark ideas for blog posts and new content of your own and naturally trigger more links and referrals to your blog/site.
3) Link Bait
Link bait is simply a form of viral marketing, where web site content is published specifically for the purpose of gaining attention and building a lot of incoming links in a short space of time, usually with the intent of boosting the ranking of a page or site in search results.
As the object of link bait is to gain attention, the content used as *bait* is generally something that appeals to a wide audience and is memorable. Link bait tends to contain one or more of the following elements or themes:
- current affairs
The most successful link bait has an intriguing headline and a killer hook (first paragraph). It also needs to be easily shareable.
One example that springs to mind immediately is the Bacon Explosion recipe, developed and blogged about in 2009 by a SEO and his systems administrator friend as part of a local BBQ competition. The recipe gained attention for its enormous calorie count (over 5,000 calories) and pure meat ingredients, resulting in national media attention from the likes of the New York Times, CNN and even a guest spot on Good Morning America. As you can imagine, the recipe brought thousands of links to the inventor’s blog and launched an entirely new business for them.
While this was a happy ending, you have to be super careful with deliberate link bait, because it can blow up in your face. Blogger Lyndon Antcliff found this out the hard way, when his parody blog post written for Money Magazine in the UK in 2008 made front page news across the Internet as an authentic news story until it was finally *exposed* as a fake.
4) Article Marketing and Syndication
An excellent way to attract links to your site is by writing articles about your areas of expertise and encouraging other sites to re-publish the articles for free in exchange for a link back to your site. The way it works is you use a by-line at the top and an author bio at the end of the article which contains a link back to your site. You can use anchor text in the link that integrates relevant keywords and provide the whole article, including link text, for re-publishing. This is called article syndication and the idea is to build up a new link to your site every time your article is re-published. However, you need to approach the way you go about doing this very carefully.
In the past, it was recommended and commonplace for writers to create a large number of articles and submit them to what’s known as Article Directories e.g. EzineArticles.com and GoArticles.com. These directories would then make that content available for re-publishing on hundreds or thousands of sites across the Internet. But just recently, Google advised that syndication via article directories is something they would not recommend in terms of a link building tactic.
According to the Webmaster video uploaded by Matt Cutts on the subject, they consider article directories to contain mostly low quality content and are using filters to prevent links from such content from influencing ranking. You can see Matt’s video here.
So if you do decide to use article syndication as a link building method, just make sure you do your research carefully and only choose syndication sites that have a good standing with Google and other search engines. No matter what syndication method you use, be sure to publish your articles on your own site first, to establish authority and original authorship. That way, you can promote the availability of your articles for re-publishing, but within terms that are clearly specified on your site and within your own control e.g. using a Creative Commons license.
Also be sure to take advantage of Google Authorship and link your articles to your Google+ profile so your author profile and photo shows up in the search results alongside your article.
Lists work well as blog posts and can be highly linkable content. You know the type I mean. Things like: Top 10 Kids Movies, 50 Ways to Propose, World’s Richest People Under 30 etc. There’s a very good reason why US Late Show host David Letterman always ends his show with a list of Top 10 Things. Because they work. They’re funny, they’re memorable and some people will sit through the entire show just to see them.
6) How To’s / Tutorials / FAQs
I’m not sure if it’s still there, but in the foyer of the Googleplex in Mountain View California, there used to be a large screen that displayed search queries typed into Google from around the world in real time. Watch it for a minute or less and you were bound to see a search query that starts with “How do I…?” or “What is the best way to…?”
Clearly, a great deal of people use the Internet to research how to perform a particular task or answer a specific question. You can take advantage of this habit by creating content that answers common questions. If you have good skills in a particular area – in a certain piece of software for example – you could create a web page, short tutorial, PDF or blog post about how to use that product/tool/software and publish it on your site. Game cheat sites were born out of “how do I…?” search queries, as were sites like WikiHow and the now defunct Google Answers.
The nice side effect of writing How To content is that you build up your credibility as an expert in your field and increase the likelihood of your site becoming an authority site in your niche.
See if any of your existing site information lends itself to creating How to or FAQ style content and re-write it for maximum link value. Or better still, create a How To video and upload it to YouTube.
7) Original Research
Another logical link acquisition technique, and one that Matt Cutts refers to in his video blog post on the subject is the creation of original, unique and/or exclusive research into a particular subject.
If you conduct a new study or undertake research that is not available anywhere else on the Internet, chances are that it is extremely valuable to others. Product comparisons, statistical research, software reviews, experiments and detailed analytics can all be translated into pages of content and shared online. Such unique content is bound to be picked up quickly by search engines and shared by others, particularly if you circulate it via your social media channels.
Let’s face it, some personalities build a huge following on the Internet and will attract traffic no matter what is written about them. I’m not just referring to celebrities either. Every industry or niche has evangelists and personalities that are well known for both good and bad reasons. You can use this to your advantage by writing articles about them or better still, scoring an interview with them and republishing it.
But just like in traditional journalism, if you want the piece to be shared and linked-to, you’ll need to spend some time carefully planning your questions in a way that will elicit unique information and candid responses from the person that can’t be found elsewhere.
9) Products and Tools
If you have a tech-savvy team or a keen developer, you might look at mini product development as a link building technique. You can create small but useful products or tools for free and syndicate them via your site. For example, a Word Press theme, a plugin for Firefox, a simple iPhone app, a shareable game – anything that can be packaged up as a product, easily delivered and associated with your brand.
Be sure to include your brand attribution within the design interface and a link back to your site. By providing the the product/tool for free, you are more likely to achieve higher circulation, which should have a snowball effect in terms of incoming links.
10) Resources and Collections
When you compile a list of resources in a particular niche or subject, you are saving others a lot of research and tedious yak shaving. Because of the concentrated amount of information and content you offer on a particular subject or theme, you’ll often find that more sites will link to your site rather than conduct their own research, particularly if that theme is trending or attracting high search volume.
Group together your resources in a subject or pull together a new collection that you think others might benefit from and publish it. Perhaps your existing content lends itself to being categorized into different subject areas? For example, do you have a bunch of blog posts on scrapbooking techniques that could be bundled together to create a Beginner’s Guide to Scrapbooking? What about all those PDF documents on your server – could they be grouped together to form a collection or library for your visitors to browse and download?
This leads into our final editorial link building technique:
11) Existing Content
To build new editorial links, you might think you absolutely have to create new content. But that’s not necessarily the case. Revisit your existing site content and internal marketing material and see if you can recycle it or rework it to fit into one of the categories listed above.
Take a close look at the following for inspiration:
- previous newsletter content
- related blog posts
- customer testimonials
- technical product content
- email campaigns
- survey results
- site metrics data
- ad campaigns
- PDF documents
- case studies
Create a Fresh Content Ideas list and whenever a new idea hits you, jot it down or schedule it into your Editorial Calendar. You’ll be surprised at what a 15 minute detour into your blog archives or Google Analytics account can produce.
Finally, when you’re planning editorial content, ask yourself “Is this quality content? Will people find this interesting or useful?”. If you can’t honestly answer “yes”, it’s simply not worth publishing. Rethink and rework until you have truly linkworthy content.