This is the basic strategy you will use for your on-page SEO then.
But what about link building? How has that changed in recent years?
Once again, the key is to focus more on quality rather than quantity. If you once had a thousand different links all coming from low quality websites, then this could now actually stand to hurt your SEO as it will just look like link spam.
If you’ve been guilty of using these old practices, then you might consider using Google’s Link Disavow tool. This allows you to tell Google that you didn’t ask for the low quality links and thus prevent them from affecting your ranking (the fact that tools like this exist show that Google does still support good SEO, by the way!). Once you’ve removed all your low-quality links, you then need to start looking for high-quality links. Which ones are those?
Simple: they’re the ones that follow all of the advice that we gave in this article on on-page SEO. These should be sites that are relevant to your niche/industry but also that are filled with the very best quality content and that seem to have an actively engaged user base. In other words: look for the very best sites in your niche! Make your site as good as theirs and then approach them for a link.
The sites that Google will rank highest for a particular search term are the ones that appear the most relevant and that have the best content and best design. At the same time though, they will also be the ones that have the most trust. This means that Google considers them an authoritative resource and expects the information on their site to be accurate and well-written.
This is something that sites like Moz have tried to quantify with terms like ‘Trust Flow’. However, there’s no defined method of determining a site’s trust and instead we have to infer the best strategies for building trust as usual!
What we do know, is that there are some sites that Google trusts absolutely implicitly. These are sites like Harvard.edu, BBC news etc. And how does it know that it can trust them?
The current understanding is that Google will trust sites that either have a very well-recognized brand name (like the BBC, or The Verge) or sites that have ‘.edu’ or ‘.gov’ domains. So how can the rest of us thrive? Simple: we try to get links that come from those highly trusted resources. If you were able to get a link from BBC News for example, then this would absolutely transform your success.
You would find that you got hundreds of thousands of visits to your site simply from people clicking on your link and this would result in hundreds of or even thousands of dollars in AdSense and sales overnight. Meanwhile, if the content that was linked to was good, then thousands of these people would post your link and share it. And more importantly, Google would sit up and take notice that the BBC had linked to your site. A highly trusted authority is linking to your site – suggesting that your site is also a highly trusted authority.This would be worth more to you than a million links you bought, traded or posted on link directories!
Google News and Other Important Sites
If you can’t get a link from the BBC, then where can you get a link from that will have a similar result? Unfortunately for many of us, it’s nearly impossible to get a response from a massive site like the BBC (unless perhaps we have a news-worthy story and a useful contact) and thus we’re going to have to look elsewhere. A good place to start is with the Google News section of the SERPs.
If you search for something like ‘election results’ during an election, then you’ll find that a few results are highlighted at the top of the page with an image and a snippet of text. You can also click the ‘News’ tab for more news stories. These news stories aren’t manually curated but are rather selected from sites that Google trusts.
If a site is in Google News, then that is a pretty sure sign that the site has ‘made it’– especially if it’s a competitive niche. And thus, this shows you exactly where you need to be getting your links from.If you can get links from any of these sites, then you’re going to get almost the same boost as you would get from the BBC (to a lesser degree!).
But how did these sites make it so big?
Perhaps because they got links from the BBC – in which case you are getting some of the benefit via their link to you.
And the same thing would happen if they had a link from a site that had a link from the BBC. Try to think of this as a game of ‘degrees of separation’. You might struggle to get in touch with the very biggest authorities on the web but if you can indirectly trace a link back to a big site, then you’ll enjoy more love from Google the closer that relationship is.
Working With Influencers
Chances are that you already know what the biggest sites in your niche are. These are the sites that are household names and that everyone goes to when they want information on your subject. Chances are that they’re also the same sites that end up in Google News. And because they’re so big, they’ve probably got links coming in from other big sites.
So how do you get these big sites to answer you so that you can get some benefit from their links? And seeing as you’re no longer allowed to buy links or do ‘link swaps’, how do you get them to link to you? Generally, the answer that most SEO experts recommend is using ‘guest posts’. A guest post is like a link swap except that instead of swapping a link for a link, you’re swapping free content for a link.
Your job is to scope out sites that might be responsive to a message from you, to look at the type of content they publish and then to write a post that’s along the same lines. You then contact the site owner by email and show them your content, asking if they would like to publish it. The deal is that they can publish your post but only if they include a link back to your site in exchange.
They can do this by putting your link and bio in an ‘author box’, or they can do it by including your link naturally in the content of the article. By ‘embedding’ the link this way, you make it look a lot more natural and you can send even stronger signals about the topic of your post. Remember that it’s also highly important for the topics of sites linking to you to match the topic of your site. And this way, you are not only posting on a site you chose in your niche, but you’re also filling it with a directly relevant post.
This is a fantastic way to build links but there are a few caveats. The first is that you still need to be careful: Matt Cutts (who works for Google Search) has made it clear that over-use of guest posting can still lead to penalization. This is still a form of link manipulation. Likewise, you need to be careful about constantly using the same anchor text and generally being predictable. Mix it up!
Finally, consider that it will still be hard to get an answer from top influencers in your niche. The solutions include:
Making sure that your content and the site you’re linking too are great quality so that the creator will be happy to be associated with them
Delivering real value in the guest post
Spending some time developing a relationship first – perhaps by sending some emails and maybe by leaving some comments on their blog .Starting relatively small and working your way up. Look for blogs that are just ahead of yours. Each time you succeed, your site will get bigger and you’ll be able to approach a slightly bigger influencer next time!
Use your existing contacts. Maybe you have a friend who owns a blog?
Network in person. For making a big impact, nothing beats the power of actually meeting a blogger or site owner in person and making a connection that way. Go to SEO networking events and generally don’t be afraid to pick up the phone!
Link Bait and Creating Organic Links
A key lesson to apply to pretty much every aspect of SEO, is not to get carried away when you find ideas that work. For example, just because quality is key, that doesn’t mean that you need to disavow every low quality link and only ever build links from the top sites.
You guessed it – it looks unnatural again and actually looks like manipulation! Take a look at sites like the BBC and you’ll see that they have huge and highly diverse links profiles. They’ll have links from massive sites but also tiny, spam sites. When a site is truly successful, it will lose control over all of its links. Thus, it can actually be useful to make your links profile as diverse as possible.
And one of the very best ways to do this is with ‘link bait’. Link bait is an article that you have written specifically to try and get as many links to it as possible. How? One answer is to make your article a powerful resource – meaning that it will become a place for people to learn a particular subject matter. An example of this is the excellent guide to testosterone published on The Art of Manliness.
This post goes much more in-depth than many similar blogs on the same subject and as a result, countless other articles have linked to it as a resource. Another option is to create a post that will somehow support a discussion. A good example of this is the post ‘How to Win an Argument With a Nutritionist’, which includes links to studies that disprove outdated notions about nutrition. The article is perfect link-bait because people will regularly use it in online arguments to prove their point.
Finally, one more very useful strategy for your backlink strategy is to perform backlink research for other sites. Look at your competition and look at which sites have got the most traffic in your niche. Then, once you’ve found which ones those are, try to get links from the same site. Not only does this method ensure that you’re going after the right links that have a proven track record but it also helps you to find links that are likely to give our guest posts!