Why Adviso doesn’t consider link building to be a stand-alone strategy
Today, sustainable SEO cannot be built on unnatural links. To increase the organic visibility of your website and maintain it over the long term, you’re much better to opt for relevant, targeted, popularity-based acquisition strategies. That’s why at Adviso, we prefer to think in terms of an overall content strategy rather than in terms of a link building strategy.
The goal of good content is, above all, to respond to users’ needs. By analyzing the behaviour of your target users, you can identify trends that you can use to create quality content that gives your users what they’re looking for. This content then has a higher likelihood of being re-shared on social media or on other sites, which then provides you with greater visibility, both on social media and in terms of referral and organic traffic.
To maximize these content creation efforts, your best bet is to produce “evergreen” content – that is, content with a long shelf life, as opposed to content based on current events, which rapidly becomes outdated and cannot be reused.
But before we move on to anything else, let’s start with some background on what backlinks are and why they’re useful.
What are backlinks for?
Link building rhymes with rankings. There is no question that, from the beginning of the Internet, exchanging links has proven to be one of the most effective strategies for promoting a website. Getting new links helps improve your standing with popularity indexes like Google’s PageRank (no longer public as of a few years ago) and alternative indexes that have entered the ring, like Moz’s Domain Authority and Majestic’s Trust Flow. This strategy leads to two undeniable advantages. A quality link generates:
- Direct traffic (referral): Internet users who click a link from an external site to your site;
- Indirect traffic (organic): The quality and quantity of links pointing towards your site can improve your PageRank and by extension your search engine ranking.
Here’s where things get interesting. There’s more value in focusing on quality than quantity. In the beginning, PageRank was calculated exclusively based on qualitative criteria: the more links pointed to a page, the more popular it was considered to be. Today, a page’s popularity is still an important criterion for Google’s algorithm, but you no longer need hundreds of backlinks to rank well in search results. Search engines have instituted new, more sophisticated calculations to evaluate these criteria, that factor in the quality and relevance of the sites that point towards the target page.
The Google algorithm is different than PageRank
Contrary to popular belief, PageRank is not the name of Google’s algorithm. It’s just one set of criteria among about 200 others. It measures only the popularity of a page, and has nothing to do with the amount of traffic it receives.
It’s happened that I’ve seen a site’s organic traffic increase considerably while its PageRank stayed the same, as a result of something that happened on social media.
Total organic sessions. You can see that traffic tripled over about three months as a result of an action on social media.
What is a quality link?
Now let’s get back to our conversation about quality links. Links can be separated into three categories:
- These are links created organically without any action on your part. For example, if one of your articles is cited by another website, or an influencer tries your product.
- Links created following an action you initiated. For example, reaching out to a site that wrote about you, or to influencers who might be interested in your content.
- Links that you control entirely. For example: purchased links, link directories, ecosystems of sites that are linked together or managed by you (link farms).
The first two types are the ones that interest us. These are the ones that let us stand out more easily from the competition.
What tactics can you use to get quality links?
And that’s it for the theory! In concrete terms, when we’re working on content marketing mandates, there are several successful tactics we use. The first goal is to increase organic and social visibility, the second is to get quality links with the least amount of effort.
Contrary to what you might think, co-created content isn’t exclusively reserved for companies with big budgets. A “good” influencer knows how to adapt their prices based on the size of the company and the appropriateness of the brand’s message for their own community. And sometimes it’s better to seek out smaller influencers with smaller communities that are less costly and can still give you great bang for your buck.
- The influencer produces content for the brand;
- They share the content with their community, and eventually mention it on their website;
- The brand and the content benefit from the reach of the community, and the content reaches its target audience;
- You get social mentions and quality links (sites or blogs in the same sphere of activity or that deal with similar themes) as well as a potential increase in recognition.
If properly executed, outreach can be an equally effective tactic. To succeed, the first step is to create content that mentions or quotes your chosen influencer. In the world of food, for example, this might be a recipe created by a blogger. The second step is to reach out to the person you’ve quoted, letting them know that you’ve mentioned them in your content. The majority of the time, the person will share your content on their platforms (if it’s relevant).
This can also garner quality social or web mentions, since they’re coming from communities you’ve targeted ahead of time.
Finding brand mentions
Seeking out brand mentions is a direct way to create semi-organic links. Of course, your brand/site needs to be well-known enough that your products, services or content already have existing mentions.
If that’s the case, a simple targeted Google search will show you a list of the sites that are talking about you without driving to your content. If the site is a quality one that you might benefit from (referral traffic or an advantageous backlink), then an email to the author of the content or the owner of the site asking for them to mention you with a link, will give you a nice boost with very little effort.
Together, these three tactics allowed us to drastically increase the organic traffic to the blog of one of our clients.
Search trend analysis
More time consuming and tedious, this tactic requires stronger analytic capacity. The goal here is to identify user searches that present an opportunity for your brand:
- The search volume is sufficient;
- The competition on this search term isn’t too high;
- You don’t have any content optimized for this search;
- This search would interest the target audience of your site.
Depending on how strong your site’s SEO is, it could be easy or difficult to rank for certain search terms. The higher your authority, the easier it is to rank correctly.
That said, there’s nothing forcing you to focus on high-volume searches. Long tail searches with low search volumes might very well do the trick. Generally these requests are very specific, so it’s easy to provide content that’s highly targeted to respond to the search query while landing right in the sweet spot where competition is low, giving you the opportunity to more easily attain the top spots in search engine rankings (SERPs).
Once you’ve landed this coveted spot, you’ll benefit from maximum visibility in SERPs and could potentially recover a few backlinks, as you can see with this content.
When you approach it seriously, this tactic requires a certain amount of investment.
- In tools: Ahrefs, SEM Rush or Moz for competitive analysis, Keyword Tool for search trends, BuzzSumo for top content within the same topic…
- In writing: Whether you do it internally or externally, the quality of your content needs to be excellent and the writer needs to have mastery of the subject, and be skilled at writing for the web.
Beyond link building
Looking for backlinks at any cost is like producing content without a specific goal. Today we believe it’s important to have a larger vision for content. Strong content can perform in SEO but also in social (even organically!), so it’s to your advantage to seek out several types of mentions (including backlinks) and shares.
For us, and for our clients, spending time generating unnatural backlinks is not useful over the long term. We prefer to optimize or create quality content that will generate backlinks as a by-product of the effort we put in.