Link building has long been a core tenet of effective SEO. And with good reason: Each link to your site from another on the web counts as a vote for your website — and search engines like Google count those votes when evaluating pages on the web. Essentially, the more votes you have, the better your website will rank. However, some votes count more than others.
As with many legitimate SEO tactics, the driving philosophy behind link building — endorsing quality, relevant content — has been replaced with overzealous link building schemes that rely on low-quality content and even buying and selling links.
Life after Penguin
Enter Google’s Penguin update. The search engine’s most recent change to its algorithm has quite effectively eliminated leagues of nefarious link networks. However, it has also struck fear in the hearts of ethical SEO practitioners and content marketers, who have been creating genuine, high-quality backlinks to their websites for several years.
Though Penguin has proven to be a huge blow for website owners who have placed little to no emphasis on quality content, this update also presents a huge opportunity for content marketers who have made quality content a focus from the get-go. And, if you are reading this, that probably means you.
To put it simply, the SEO game is changing. That’s not to say Google’s rules have changed — they are simply getting far better at catching the people who break them.
This article will give content marketers tips on how to effectively (and safely) link build in today’s post-Penguin SEO landscape using quality content and by forming long-term content relationships.
Focus on long-term relationship building
The old ”love ’em and leave ’em” approach to link building is riskier in this new content landscape. Instead of going out and obtaining as many links as you can on as many blogs as you can, focus on building long-term relationships with your content. Think of this as building content partnerships.
A content partnership is traditionally when two organizations come together to exchange content on one another’s websites on a semi-regular basis. However, in order to attract a reputable content partner for your own website, you will likely have to contribute regularly to a number of blogs to build your own reputation and authority.
Adhering to agreed-upon deadlines, sticking to approved topics, submitting well-written, original work, and being generally responsible will demonstrate you are trustworthy. It will also help you foster a strong, long-term content partnership. In addition to that, a focus on publishing relevant, high-quality content and building authority on your own website will help you solidify a true content partnership down the line.
I’ve found that owners of top blogs across a number of industries aren’t only seeking writers they can trust; they are looking to build an editorial team they can count on for months, even years, to come. Not only that, but building several high quality articles on a reputable blog or website will increase your chances of attracting higher-quality leads and more recognition within your industry. In fact, you may find you have websites or blog editors approaching you, not the other way around.
Approach bloggers with care
In light of Penguin, not only are webmasters and bloggers going to be more critical about who they carve out relationships with, they are also going to be discerning about who they are linking to from their website.
When you pitch a blogger on your content (and on your business), make sure you are striving to make a great impression. Take the time to browse through their posts. Make sure you read about who they are and what they are looking for — including style, topics, and the way they like to present information. Believe me, it goes a long way.
I have found that, 9 times out of 10, coming to a prospect with a story idea ready to go is more effective than blindly asking if you can submit content for them to use. So, make sure the website you are pitching is relevant to the material you have at hand. Don’t worry if you haven’t written the post in its entirety — your pitch should be somewhat casual, so that you can tailor your work to their specifications once you’ve established a connection and determined their interest. But remember, this is your chance to show the blog owner you are serious about their subject matter and your offer (which leads me to my next point).
Research the website’s guidelines BEFORE you make contact with a content proposal
I assure you, there is nothing more frustrating than receiving an email query from someone who clearly has not read your editorial guidelines. Equally frustrating is doing research on a website’s content, getting your pitch ready, and then finding the editors are currently not accepting guest posts. It happens!
Research a website’s editorial guidelines before you do anything else. Find out what the editors require, and then make your next move. It will save bloggers from getting frustrated, will save you time, and is likely to spare you from rejection. (Remember, if a website sparked a great idea, but they aren’t looking for submissions, you can always pitch it to another blog that is actively accepting writers.)
Build a repertoire of quality content on your own
The easiest way to demonstrate your writing skills and your perspective is to point a prospect to your own blog. Don’t have one? Then getting a prospect to trust you will likely be an uphill battle.
Think of the content on your own blog as an investment that not only has the potential to drive traffic to your website from the search engines, but will also demonstrate that you are a legitimate and professional writer.
In addition, pointing readers to your own blog from a guest post helps build a base of new followers, and may inspire them to engage with your site and share links to your content, as well.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wound up on a guest author’s blog and become a loyal reader in the process.
The final tip is a biggie; in fact it’s probably the most important advice in forming a long-term content partnership — be genuine.
If you’ve been harping on this quality content thing since the inception of the net, this will be a waste of a tip for you. But seriously, websites that have been around a long time and have a fair amount of recognition and reputation have likely seen and heard it all.
My biggest content marketing successes have come from being completely honest and personable with the editor I was pitching. For example, if you’ve been a long time reader, let them know which one of their blog posts helped you the most.
There is a huge difference between, “Dear Jane, Your post on content marketing for nonprofits helped me land a great guest post on the ACLU website” and “Dear Jane, Your blog is really cool.”
Which email would you keep reading?
Penguin or no Penguin, when you have truly great content and a genuine personality, you won’t need to try as hard to get someone to pay attention, because you’re offering a compelling reason for them to engage with you in the first place.
Terrific content and authentic networking will speak louder than 100 low-quality links ever could. Not only are you less likely to be affected by future Google algorithm adjustments, you’ll also be investing in a link building approach that will continue to reap real-world benefits over a long period of time.
To learn more about blogging, check out our Ultimate Guide to Blogging.
Handshake image courtesy of Aidan Jones, and licensed through Creative Commons