Since the beginning of Google, search engine optimization was pretty much all about getting links to your website with certain phrases as anchor texts. Get enough of them, and your rankings would rise to the 1st page for the terms you’re targeting. Simple as pie. These days, however, things are a bit harder. If you utilize the common tricks for gaining links, Google may turn around and give your website a slap. Still, links very much matter in the SEO equation, so how do you go about getting them without having to live in fear of Penguins?
In a pre-Penguin world, the best way to create a backlink was as follows: Find a discussion forum, create an account, add an html link to your website as the signature. Voila.
Nowadays, there are a few issues with this method. For starters, if you’re going out there in the web and placing exact match anchor text links to your site, Google views this as unnatural. In essence, you’re trying to game their search engine results by placing a link that only serves one purpose: to boost your rankings. Another issue is that you’re doing this from what Google likely perceives as a “bad neighborhood.” Look at this way, so many people went about filling up discussion forums with these kinds of links that they are now reputed havens for spammers. Thus, Google no longer gives as much clout to a link from a forum or blog comments section. Moreover, if your website’s “link profile” is lopsided in that you only appear to receive links of this type, you’re asking for an unnatural links penalty of some degree. It’s just not worth it.
So here’s what you do:
Create REALLY good content
These days, you have to try and create really compelling content that will lead people to want to share it. Are you passionate about what you do? Do you have a lot of knowledge and insight in regards to your field? Utilize these by creating very useful guides, videos and/or infographics. Put a lot of effort into this content and be sure it’s something you are confident and comfortable sharing with the rest of the world wide web.
It helps to have friends in high places, right? So start making friends.
You can use fancy tools like Followerwonk to find out who the big influencers are in your field on Twitter. Alternatively, you can just roll up your sleeves and look up key figures in your field on Twitter and Facebook and see who has a big following. Keep a list and reach out to them. If they Tweet something you agree with, retweet it. If they share an article you enjoyed, favorite it. Do this over time, and it probably won’t escape their attention. You should also feel free to comment on their posts. This is a great way to break the ice, and if you happen to develop a rapport, this will help you out big time when it comes to trying to get a link in the future.
You can also join relevant groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ and rub elbows there. Share your content, follow people, and become a big, happy family.
Now you’re part of an online community in your field. You’re sharing content together, establishing connections, and in the process, you are setting up a network that you can leverage when you want to get links to your site. While you’re doing all this schmoozing, you may actually be building links. If your content is good enough, your growing list of connections may already be sharing (and in effect, linking) to you already. Keep up the work, and it’s bound to happen.
However, let’s say you want to be more proactive about getting links. It’s nice to think that your social media efforts COULD be getting you links, but you want a little more instant gratification and certainty than that. So now let’s do some guest blog posting. In other words, you want to write an article that will be published on someone else’s blog. In return, you will get to customize your own author bio section — your opportunity to include a link back to your site.
You want to be careful here, because low quality guest blog posts that are pretty clearly only in it for that link can get you in some trouble with Google. You want to put as much effort into your guest blog content as you would your own articles. Make sure you really have something interesting to say. The link should be an afterthought.
Finding the right blogs is a bit tricky. You’ll want to make use of search engine parameters to find exactly what you need on the web.
Here are a few tips to start off with:
First, you may want to start off by searching for blogs that openly offer guest blogging opportunities. By this I mean they have a “Write for Us” or “Become a Contributor” section on their site.
Therefore, the best way to look for these is to enter these very phrases into Google. You also wan to be sure that you’re looking for a blog that is in your niche/field. If you’re a real estate agent, and you have an article pertaining to real estate that links to a site about video games, that clues Google into the possibility of spam, which is no good.
To narrow down the guest-friendly blogs that are relevant to your niche, simply be sure to also include a relevant key phrase. The end result should look something like this:
Plug the above into Google, and you will likely see real estate-themed blogs that have a “Write for us” section. You can and should also narrow this down further by including a relevant location (i.e. cities in your service area).
Once you’ve found a few blog in the search results that you think might be relevant, click it and have a look around. Does this blog seem popular? Do people actively comment and share its posts? Is the content of high quality?
If you encounter a blog that looks dead, and the articles seem like they were written by someone whose first language definitely isn’t English, then avoid it like the plague. This is likely a “link farm” that will only get you in trouble.
Let’s say the place doesn’t look too shabby, and you want to proceed. Take the time to read some articles, see how the author(s) interact(s) with the community, and then you can choose to do the following:
Proceed to interact with the author on social media, as described in the, “Make contacts” section above.
Skip that step and contact the author by email right now.
If you choose to contact the author out of the blue, make sure you write a very personalized email that shows that you really took the time to familiarize yourself with their writing. Approach them with an unique pitch for an article that you know hasn’t already been written on their blog (because you took the time to read through it), and you’re pretty confident it will be of interest to their readers.
Do that, and you may have yourself a genuine guest posting opportunity. Send that highly personalized email, and if you don’t hear back after a few days, feel free to follow up (and possibly reach out via social media as well).
If you do get an affirmative response, then take your best shot at writing a guest post, and for your efforts, you can include an author byline that includes a link back to your website. We recommend that you don’t worry about the anchor text — keep it simple.
The above steps are definitely a lot more time-consuming and work-intensive than going to a random forum and creating an account. However, if you really want to get ahead these days, it’s what needs to be done. The methods of old don’t really cut it anymore, unfortunately.
Agree? Disagree? Feel like you have more to add? Share below in the comments section.