It is a broad and common refrain you have probably heard before: link building is dead. This kind of reasoning is based upon what the writer means by link building. The term “link building” implies that something can be constructed, such as a house. Brick by brick. That in itself is true, since you’re link by link, building your link profile.
However, the end result of your link building efforts can vary wildly depending on what tactics you use. Black hat tactics will technically build your link profile and can get you that link, but those of us who are more future-minded know how fatal black hat links can be in the long term.
In my experience, link building is not dead if you strive to create a ‘natural link profile,’ where people link to your website in a way they find appropriate and with a specific reason. The downside is that in doing this, you are strongly dependent on third parties; you can’t build it yourself. The upside is that it produces results, often in the forms of better rankings for your content, and more targeted traffic being funneled to your website.
So how can you cultivate a natural link profile while also ranking on highly competitive or general keywords? Let’s explore 6 tactics that accomplish both of those goals. We’ll start by walking through two general examples, followed by one example in a high competitive market. (Spoiler alert: It’s the health industry.)
1. Use your brand name + what you do
Generally one of the biggest contributors to building your natural link profile will be what you are known for: your brand name. This can easily be combined with what you do.
Let’s say you’re working for Starbucks, everyone’s favorite international coffee purveyor. By getting links with “Starbucks Coffee,” you don’t just rank for your brand. You’re also going to rank for ‘coffee’ related terms.
One way to utilize this tactic would be to look at your current and future links and see if any adjustments can be made to the anchor text by either you or the third party.
If we continue with ‘Starbucks’ as an example, a tactic could be to use the term ‘Coffee’ into their link strategy. Say a blogger wrote a review on a Starbucks location. By contacting the blogger with the message to link to the website, you can suggest to use ‘Starbucks Coffee’ by linking this in the outreach to the blogger. Links are often copy-pasted and this way the link is still natural.
2. Create great content for user groups with deep links in mind
When you create good content, deep links should not be forgotten. Otherwise, that would be a waste of all the hard work you’ve put into your creation, especially since deep links go hand in hand with what your visitors are looking for anyway.
As an expat in the Netherlands, let’s use the term “mobile subscriptions in The Netherlands” as an example. It makes sense for the expat population in the Netherlands to search this, so it makes sense for me to create content with the intent of helping this person find what they are searching for. Tim Ohlen at Straight North wrote a nice article about this.
How To Create Content For User Groups
Let’s get a bit deeper into the expat example, since this is a crucial part of link-marketing. When creating content, you must look at the visitor you want to reach. Not only does the visitor matter, but the targeted group for your content is also crucial. By this I mean we should not only consider the specific end user, but the websites that provide information to those end users, and could see your site as a valuable resource.
In The Netherlands there are several expat websites or general websites that cover the subject ‘Living in The Netherlands’.
This makes sense because Dutch is a difficult language to learn and there are certain things to take care of (health insurance, utilities, housing, etc.). For a mobile subscription website, you have the opportunity to be relevant for the expats themselves, and for these websites that act as resources for expats. Therefore, this is an interesting source to link to.
3. Get deep links out of your current links
Another way to get a deep link is to look at your current links. A website that already links to you is probably positive about what you do. You may have a nice addition to their content. Or maybe you have a relevant article that they can use. For these situations, BuzzStream offers excellent possibilities: by filtering on “Relationship stage” and possibly in combination with certain tags, you can easily identify new targets and approach them. The ‘Linking to’ is also a great filter for this.
Personally I love to work with Excel, so the export option in BuzzStream is excellent. You can choose the filters and export only what you need. Here, I choose the following filters:
- Linking From
- Primary Contact
- Email Addresses
The next steps are crucial. You’ll need to find the right angle:
- Something recent
- Where did your contact write about?
- How can you be of added value for him/her and her? And most importantly: the visitor
Ready to make a killer impression? Don’t forget to write a killer email!
Building a natural link profile in a competitive market
Let’s say your client is in the health industry. The best chance you have of ranking well regarding content related to your niche in the medical industry should be focused on general information seekers and those that are not yet familiar with your brand. The most crucial factor is consistency and building quality content, to make sure you secure your position as a trusted leader in the industry.
The main thing is to go deep. As deep as possible. This takes a lot of effort and investments, however is an essential key. The previous examples are all fun and games, sure, you’ll get some nice links out of those options, nonetheless in the long run that won’t make it in the markets that make the most money.
4. Do your own research, then use it
And not only to you. If you’re making a press release, make sure to add a link to your homepage and your research. This way, you will get a branded link and a deep link (which is the ideal combination in my opinion). There is a possibility the press release gets edited and all links are removed. In this case, my advice would be to kindly ask to add a link. This can be done in a couple of ways:
- You can ask the publisher to link to the total research so the reader can get a deeper analysis
- You can ask the publisher to add a branded link so that people can find more information about the party behind the press release (the bigger the party, the less interesting this option is: it’s likely people already know the market leader)
- The research involves a trademark they must link or take-down
The third option I used once and with success. I would use it as a last resort since it might you’re your relationship and chances in the future. It’s always nice to have a good relationship with a publisher, because as a market leader, you’re in it for the long run.
In addition, to sources that can use your research, your data is unique and you’re letting other people use it to their benefit.
5. Cover the good and the bad
Both the positive sides and the negative sides of topics are interesting link sources, however that’s not the only benefit. Covering both sides shows that you are legitimate and have little to hide. Keeping it real is something both visitors and webmasters generally appreciate. If you’re in the healthcare business, your upside can be just as linkable as the downside.
Let’s say you’re reading about a flu shot that is available to a lot of people. The news website just shows the typical information that people in general should know. As a link marketer, my hands begin to itch and I’m thinking of the best way to approach the publisher/webmaster. I would make it clear that there are downsides that people need to be aware of. Moreover, since you are the market leader, you are expected to provide a full list of those side-effects on your website.
6. Look at every contact as a link opportunity
Every conversation with every person you interact with has the potential to result in a link. And, let everybody in your organization know. If everyone in your organization would think in terms of “How can we get links?”, this would impact your business in a major way. In fact, it could make my job disappear.
It’s not only internal contacts that are important, but also external contacts. Of course, you might not get a link immediately, but by being kind and making a good first/second/third impression you create good will. That good is necessary, because one day you’re going to get a link thanks to this relationship you’ve been nurturing.
There are a couple of takeaways to remember. All of these six timeless strategies confirm that you are doing something great with your website, whether that’s because of your great brand, or because your company is being smart with content or valuable research.
As a brand, you want to be known for your services/products. By making your service/product a part of your link strategy, it will help you rank on terms of the service/product. By becoming an authority, you will become more successful in search engines and create a better link profile. It also helps to look at your current profile and look for ways to improve. And lastly, if nothing else, remember to always be honest and nice to people. Help them where you can. This will not only help you create goodwill that can result into links, but it also has the benefit of working in the real, non-digital world.