Is link building dead? Matt Cutts doesn’t think so.
On Link Building’s Continuing Relevance
There are a million reasons why he should have answered differently at the SMX Advanced event in Seattle. Google has, after all, been hot on the heels of link builders for years. What started with Penguin has now evolved to a growing list of “not-tos”. So far, this includes widgets, press releases and directories. Publicly speaking against (or banning) link building would have made the Head of Webspam Team’s life easier (and clear things up for frustrated SEOs).
But he didn’t.
It appears that even Mr. Cutts himself knows what links are worth. They are the backbone of the web and serve as people’s means for navigating in and around cyberspace. More importantly, they provide affirmation for websites and their owners. Barring black hat SEO tactics, they are votes given to an online resource when it’s deemed helpful and informative.
At this point, links have become too ingrained to ever be irrelevant.
But this knowledge hasn’t stopped Google from regulating how its algorithm treats links. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Prior to the search engine’s crackdown on shady link building schemes, an aggressive link arms race was taking place in the SEO world. During this time, one merely had to pile on the inbound links to figure prominently on SERPs.
Link spam proved to be an effective tactic. Google realised this so it improved its ability to detect manipulative links and demote or penalise websites that had them. But that move didn’t have an adverse effect on its dependency on links as a ranking factor.
So how do we summarise all that’s been said so far? To borrow a line from a relevant Search Engine Land article: “Matt Cutts was frank about the state of links today: they matter, but there aren’t any shortcuts.”
Safe Link Building Strategies
With all the penalties flying around for established link building practices, it’s important to know what’s safe to link to. Allow us to provide a few insights on that very topic.
Focus on Link Earning
Link earning is a concept we’ve all heard about. Unfortunately, there have been difficulties in turning it into a scalable methodology. Creating great content is no assurance that links will come. Nonetheless, it can be foundation for implementing other methods to earn them. Integrated online marketing is the best way to achieve this.
Influencers on the web also need to promote themselves. Thus, they generally love to impart their knowledge and wisdom to others. Begin by building connections with high-profile personalities within your industry. Ask one (or maybe three) if they’re willing to be interviewed. You can use Google Hangouts to create easy-to-share video content of your conversation.
Don’t forget direct outreach
Direct outreach is a crucial component in networking (for the purpose of link earning). Let’s say you’re promoting an infographic. It’s important that you find and reach out to people who share such things. Tell them about the one you’ve made. This will lead to links. They may have missed your announcement on Facebook, but if you message them on Twitter, you’re sure to get their attention.
Finally, when choosing sites to link to, these “selection factors” should come in handy:
A relatively small backlink profile
It is in a “niche” that attracts few Internet marketers
An obvious lack of on-page optimization
A clear and obvious “author” or “team” behind the site