What defines the position in which any given webpage is placed on a Google search is its complex and “ultrasecret” algorithm. Knowing that this algorithm is built on an infinity of variables and factors, this means that each one of those variables can be worked on. However, for Google, “worked on” means “manipulated”.
In the past months, most of the link building techniques have been unauthorized and considered webspam by Google. Techniques that were not only common practice, but were once actually considered as the recommended practice, are now viewed as a bad practice, and those who used them must not only stop doing so immediately, but must also undo all the work done to date – these unilateral decisions have, of course, retroactive effects.
The purpose of all this seems clear: each and every link that was worked – that appears by initiative of the webmaster (or his/hers employee) – is SPAM and must be removed. Only natural links will be accepted – and what exactly a “natural link” is, is also uncertain, subjective and can be changed unilaterally.
Considering this dark and apocalyptic background, we can probably say that link building is dead and gone, right?
Well… wrong. It’s actually pretty much the other way around.
Link building is not dead. But it will demand an additional effort in terms of digital marketing, extra creativity and originality so that links pointing to your website are encouraged and occur in a natural and organic way – just as Google likes them to.
What is indeed gone is traditional link building, the usual techniques – the easy ones – those that have been used throughout the years.
So what can you do in terms of link building and SEO?
Link building remains one of the most important SEO tools, and will certainly continue to be one. But it must be looked at using a different perspective. Instead of just “building the links”, you must focus on building linkable content.
Without disregarding all the offsite techniques, the work must start “inside”. Is your website properly prepared for SEO? There is a lot you can do about that, but there are a few elements that are mandatory:
- Page title
- Using title tags (H1, H2, etc)
- Friendly URLs
- “Alt” attribute in images
- Keyword density
- Internal link with proper anchor text
- Pages with unique content
- Landing pages – specifically created and optimized for each and any campaign or goal
Don’t just have a Facebook page. Social networks allow a new experience of proximity and interactivity with your audience. Beyond the basics – communicating your brand, your activity and your updates – you can go further and become closer to the ones your business cares about (making them care about you too).
Don’t do it just for the sake of planting a link. Don’t consider guest posting as merely an exclusive link building tool (that was also shot down by Google), but mainly as a marketing technique, collaborating positively with other strategic websites that are relevant to you and your audience, in a constructive way.
Keep an eye on where you’re being talked about. You can actually set a Google alert to let you know when that happens. Then, if necessary, answer, participate, interact! Answer questions, deal with complaints, say thank you to compliments. Do it wisely, and you will not only get the link you want, but you will also leave a good impression of your business.
Originality and creativity
Don’t just react to when people talk about you. Being proactive is just as important as a capacity for good reaction. In that sense, original content is essential – not just new, but also (and mostly) creative.
Get people to talk about you with different types of content such as:
- FAQs or tutorials
- Free tools and resources
- Price and product reviews or comparisons
- Job offers
- Videos and multimedia content
In the end, the future of link building mirrors the future of SEO and, in a broader sense, the future of digital communication. The tools and resources available to us are not static and don’t remain frozen in time. As everything else, they change and evolve, and because of that, they demand a constant struggle, based upon originality and creativity, so that they remain effective.
Link building has been an essential SEO and digital marketing resource. And, in spite of all the changes it has gone through in the recent past, it will remain as one. Most likely, it will become even more important, because every path that closes forces you to find a new one, filled with great potential and possibilities!
By Rui Araújo