Why Link Building Still Matters in 2014

They say that SEO is dead. At least, that’s the word that seems to be emanating from a variety of SEO experts who have been running around like chickens without a head trying to figure out what to do now. Certainly the old way of building links is becoming obsolete. You can’t simply spam the Internet with massive numbers of links anymore since Google now penalizes websites that engage in such practices.

Even some tried and true methods of link building, including things like guest postings are now considered no-nos by Matt Cutts. That said, if you want to rank well in Google, natural looking links are still vital parts of your SEO strategy. The trouble of course is getting those natural looking links in a world where they’re increasingly hard to create.

In point of fact, the fact that Google insists on penalizing websites for bad links can be a good thing for those who do SEO correctly, by creating relevant, high quality links from real websites instead of spammy garbage links. After all, in a world where junk links are a problem as opposed to merely worthless, the good links will stand out even more.

All this does make me wonder though why blogs I own continue to get hit by thousands of efforts at obvious spam links. Haven’t these guys gotten the message yet that such techniques are worthless? Unless of course such efforts are people trying to engage in negative SEO, either against my site or against other sites who have legitimate links from my site.

So What Works Now?

The things that work now are pretty much the same things that have always worked in the past even though people have always tried to find ways to create shortcuts. For example, links from relevant websites with good quality comments in the blog still work well. The trouble is that you need to get the links into the first few pages and you need to create a link only on blogs which are heavily edited to ensure that the link will count for you and not against you.

Even guest postings can still work if done correctly. They can be especially useful if you create them on websites which already have high levels of traffic because you get direct traffic from those sites. Matt Cutts even changed his blog post to reflect this fact. I’m also not convinced that the Google algorithm will ignore or penalize all guest post links. I have a feeling that guest posts on quality websites will still count for SEO purposes as long as both your site and the site you place the guest post on are high quality sites.

You Do Need to Be Careful Though

All that having been said, it is vital that you remain vigilant in ensuring that your links are done correctly. In this day and age, it is very easy to not just create worthless links but to actually damage your website’s SEO efforts if you are not careful. Thus, if you aren’t 100% certain of what you’re doing, it may be time to hire a pro to do the job for you.

The Problem with Do It Yourself Link Building

It used to be really easy to do your own link building. Just get yourself a copy of XRummer or SENuke, set it and forget it. Okay, it was never quite that easy but the tools that existed then (and which still exist today) made link building a relatively painless experience. The problem of course is that as with anything else, once someone finds a method that works, everyone piles on and bad actors eventually ruin it for the rest of us.

There was a time when this didn’t matter though – if you ended up creating junky links, it wouldn’t hurt you necessarily but it also wouldn’t help you at all in building the kind of link profile you need either. Google’s algorithm simply ignored the junk links and focused on the good stuff. I still maintain that Google should have stuck to this policy because they’ve created a problem for legitimate SEO people with their new system.

The Rise and Fall and Rise of Google Bowling

We’ve been down this road before – back in the mid aughts, Google tried to penalize websites for creating junky links to their own websites. The idea was to cut down on the ever expanding world of bot links created by the likes of XRummer and the like.

Of course, as I said above, as with all good things, bad actors found a way to ruin it for everyone else. Google bowling was the result and people started creating garbage links to their competitors in order to drag them down and by extensionl, hopefully give themselves a leg up in the SERPs (search engine results pages).

After a short while, Google’s engineers cottoned to what was going on and changed their algorithm. Instead of counting crappy links against you, they would simply be ignored completely or have so little value that even creating millions of them would be all but worthless.

That was then and this is now. Around a year ago, Google re-introduced the whole concept of penalizing sites for crappy links pointing to their sites. I’m not sure why exactly but if I had to guess, I’d say that they found that the bots had been getting better and better at creating natural looking links so that they were having trouble keeping them out of the rankings.

How they think it’s better to penalize bad links (i.e. how does the system know that something is a bad link and therefore a site should be penalized for it) any more than whether it’s legit I don’t really know. I do know however that Google is trying to help out legit website owners who are targeted for Google bowling. They have beefed up the Google webmaster tools to allow you to continually monitor your site’s health and they created the disavow tool to help you when all else fails.

Today, It’s Too Easy to Accidentally Google Bowl Yourself

The problem as I said is that today, it’s just too easy to accidentally Google bowl yourself. The powerful link building tools still exist and they can even be a big help for those who know what they’re doing with them. However, if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, you’re best off just hiring a pro to do the job for you because you can easily mess things up for yourself.

Can You Still Create Link Bait?

There’s a funny thing going on regarding the concept of link baiting. You don’t see too much talk of link baiting these days even though it is actually one of the best ways to do SEO and it’s still the only method that Google is 100% in favor of. The trouble with link baiting however is that lots of people are trying to do it and few people are doing it right. Here’s what you need to know:

So Just What Is Link Bait Anyway?

In its simplest terms, link bait refers to creating content which is so compelling that people are going to want to tell their friends about it. It’s basically the original form of creating content which goes viral. The problem with link baiting of course is that few people know how to do it right and even then, it’s not necessarily guaranteed that it will end up spreading like wildfire.

The Link Bait Dilemma

So now that we know what link bait is, it should be easy to create it, right? Well, not really. The problem is that nobody has ever been able to quantify exactly why something might go viral while something else kind of just sits there, not being noticed by people. That’s why I said at the beginning of this blog post that a great many people tend to do a bad job with link baiting – they think it’s easy but it’s anything but.

Common Ways to Do Link Baiting

Over the past decade or two, there has been an effort to quantify what it is that makes people notice specific content so that it gets linked to and goes viral. For example, if you have pictures of babies, cats or dogs, you are more likely than not to see your content go viral. Of course, just simply having those things in your content is no guarantee but it does help.

It also helps to have content which people will want to share. For example, if you create content which is particularly funny, people are more likely to tell their friends about it which will in turn create additional links until the content goes viral.

Another great way to grab attention is to reveal something shocking. In fact, in this day and age, you don’t even need to have something shocking to talk about which is entirely factual. Simply reporting on a rumor (although preferably one which is sourced from somewhere that is reliable) can make content go viral.

You may also see content going viral if you create something shocking which is intended to be a satire. A good recent example of this is a post by a site called Empire News where they claimed that Orange is the New Black, the hit TV show from Netflix, had been canceled.  It was just a hoax on a satire website but it quickly went viral because people love the show.

So How Can You Do Link Baiting?

Today, the easiest way to do link baiting effectively is to grab onto someone else’s coattails. Write a controversial article or create a funny, satirical video about a company or product which is well known and you are likely to attract attention from that person, which will in turn get your content to start going viral. If nothing else, you could always try insulting Donald Trump

Article Marketing the Right Way (Hint: The Links are Still Important)

Article marketing is so old, it’s become new again. Well not really but I still see other SEO experts mentioning how article marketing is dead. The thing is, they say this because they don’t understand what article marketing actually is. It is not article directory marketing and it’s technically not SEO either. However, it can have an effect on your SEO efforts even though that’s a secondary rather than a primary benefit of article marketing.

What Article Marketing Isn’t

Okay, let’s start with what article marketing isn’t. It is not the old style BUM marketing which is better called article directory marketing. That kind of SEO involved creating thousands or even millions of links from article directories all over the web and then using those for your SEO efforts. It worked for a while but hasn’t been a good method of SEO for at least 5 years and probably longer.

The Right Way to Do Article Marketing

The right way to do article marketing is to create really high quality content which will get picked up wire style by major newspapers. In order to understand what this involves, go and pay a visit to your favorite major newspaper website. Doesn’t matter which one you choose. They’ll all have the same kind of thing.

There will be a mix of articles on the site, many by their own staff reporters. However, if you check carefully, you’ll find that a number of articles say they were written by AP or Agence France Presse. These are known as wire services. They have reporters all over the world whose stories will be run in multiple newspapers.

Real article marketing in essence means becoming like a wire service. You create high quality content within your niche and then you take that content and then include a link in the about the author section. Large websites pick up your article and they then provide a quality link back to your website.

The Main Benefit of Article Marketing

The main benefit of article marketing is not really about SEO though it does have to do with link building. The main benefit is that you get a link from a well known website which will provide you with plenty of direct link traffic. The search engines never actually enter into this equation and often, the articles will be ignored by the search engines because they are the same content as exists elsewhere.

Secondary Benefit Related to SEO

The secondary benefit of article marketing, which is related to link building SEO is that you develop a reputation with the public at large. This will then allow you to get lots of high quality natural links back to your site because you are considered an authority. In addition, you may also get linked back to directly from the website where you placed an article because they also consider you an authority.

Bottom Line

Article marketing is still one of the most effective methods available for getting plenty of traffic to your website and it even has benefits for your SEO efforts. However, it has to be done right. Write very high quality, long form articles which quality websites and newsletters will WANT to publish and you’ll see the traffic beat a path to your virtual door.

5 Link Types That Still Work in 2014

I know very well that a number of people have been making dire predictions about how link building is dead in 2014. And you know what? They’re right. Link building as we once did it is dead and buried and good riddance to the old, spammy way that so many people built links. Those methods that worked so well in 2010 are not only worthless today. They can actually hurt you.

It’s All about Relevance

Before we actually get into talking about link types, we need to mention that quantity is nowhere near as important as quality. Google’s system is now designed to check carefully if a link comes from a relevant site. If it doesn’t, it can hurt you in the long run. That said, here are five kinds of links which can work well today if you use them correctly:

.Edu Pages

Please note that it’s no longer enough to simply put a link to your website selling dog food into the wiki page of the sociology department at some university. Instead, you need to individually hunt down the .edu page which would actually be relevant to you (i.e. the dog food thing might work on the veterinary college’s wiki page if you can write something worthwhile and relevant and not just spammy ad garbage).

.Gov Pages

Or consider a .gov site which deals with your particular niche. For example, a financial services company might create relevant content on a .gov wiki about retirement planning. You should also look to ensure that the page you create your links on is actively moderated. That will help ensure that you don’t end up getting a link on a relevant page which is buried in junk links making Google decide to penalize you for it.

Forum Links

No, you can’t just set up Xrummer to create millions of forum profile links for you. That doesn’t work and can actually hurt you. However, if you find relevant forums which are actively moderated to ensure that spam is not allowed there and you actively participate and provide useful ideas and content on the forum, these kinds of links can still be very valuable.

Job Boards

Yes, job boards can still provide you with good quality links which get people to click on them and which get you some Google love. Moz.com even mentions these kinds of links specifically as being useful for creating good quality SEO. Of course again, relevance is king. Don’t think that you can simply create a fake job listing in order to get a link from a job board. You need to genuinely be looking for someone and the ad needs to genuinely be about your company and be placed in the appropriate section of the site.

Non Profit Organizations

This is still a great way to get links though you do need to provide something of value in order to make it work. In essence, you can get a link from a well known non profit organization and this will count highly for your SEO efforts but only if you agree to provide some kind of sponsorship for them. This can either be in the form of an in kind donation or in the form of a cash donation.