You are probably familiar with the term link building; the process of acquiring links from other websites that direct to your own in order to increase visibility. What you might not be aware of is the transition in SEO from link building to link earning. Link earning is similar to link building in that you strive to get links from other sites that direct back to yours, but you do it by creating amazing content that people want to link to and share. In essence, you are earning your links from outside sources instead of building them yourself. Earning links takes a bit more strategic thinking, but is a lot better for you, and your ranking, in the long run.
Today we are talking about link earning as a strategy so that you can take advantage of the benefits that link earning provides: search engine optimization (SEO), direct traffic, and branding.
Although there’s more to SEO than link earning, high-quality links from other sites are a major way to increase your rankings. And simply the increase in Web traffic produced by clicks on links to your site is a huge plus. Even if they don’t click the link, they’re seeing and remembering it with the probability they’ll visit your site later, hence branding reinforcement.
One reason to focus more on earning links than building them is because there’s a high risk of penalty if Google sees your building as unnatural or devious. Since Google’s Penguin algorithm, and now with their “Mobilegeddon” algorithm, you must be even more careful—or there could be serious consequences.
Google stresses the following: “Links should be editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner.” They go on to say, “The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community.”
Execs and managers should get involved regarding their links and content, make final approvals for budgeting the time and effort, and be sure to keep up with Google’s changing algorithms and the way they view external links. It’s challenging to make good decisions when you’re uninformed.
Above all, avoid spamming and “scheisters” that promise link building that will instantly get you to the top of a first page in a search. It’s easy to unwittingly hire so-called professionals who say they’ll do this. Some use software that publishes large amounts of links pointing to your site—regardless of the low quality of the sites on which the links are placed. Then you’re responsible for the penalties that result—not to mention traffic that’s not interested in your product or service.
1) Quality Links = Industry Relevance. You can list another site’s link in your “Resources” or “Partners” section and they can do the same for you. But it takes time and effort to find sites with whom you want to exchange quality reciprocal links, sites that would interest your B2B audience.
One link-earning strategy that’s often ignored by manufacturing and high tech is to target local links. It's amazing how few companies do this. Do you belong to your local chamber of commerce? How about your suppliers and customers, are you on their pages? Did you support a local sports team, donate to charity, or sponsor a contest? These opportunities will also improve your offline profile. It's a win-win.
2) Create quality content. Quality continues to be the theme when writing content. Quality content is the cornerstone of link earning. Useful, interesting, relevant—that’s what your readers are looking for. Your website will rise in ranking as a result of readers’ comments, posts, tweets, or likes. If you’re regarded as an industry expert, people will refer to you and await your next pearl of wisdom.
One simple way to pull in links to your site when you’re trying to fill a gap in your content is to create “evergreen” content. Evergreen content is high-quality detailed content pieces that have no expiration dates and work to pull in links, social signals, and repeat visitors. Also known as "submit it and forget it" content, evergreen content can take the shape of infographics, FAQ or resource lists, industry roundups, or key industry definitions or acronyms.
For something to be defined as evergreen it must remain relevant for long, sometimes indefinite, periods of time. A piece of evergreen content should be as relevant and useful to your site audience now as it was when it was published. Every industry has its niche community. Connect with yours, identify a need, then construct a resource that fills it.
Evergreen content can also “zoo-proof” your site against Penguins, Pandas, and assorted algorithmic animals.
3) Use social media. Social media like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ increase Web traffic and brand awareness and earn back links. They provide opportunities to get excellent links, position yourself as an industry expert, and reach out to industry contacts.
4) Guest blogging. Increase your audience size, receive inbound links, and form business relationships with other industry experts by guest blogging. Again, quality, relevant content is key! Be aware of the other website’s parameters and reader type so you can win followers. Include back links to your site but don’t overdo it.
5) Submit articles to directories/directory links. More search engines will deem your website trustworthy when you’re listed on reputable directories—thus, higher ranking. These directories also include a link to your site—thus, increased traffic. SEO experts like Strand know which directories are appropriate, which will improve your ranking, and they’ll act as a directory submission service provider, setting you up with the most reputable directories.
6) Press releases. Press releases are the best way to get dozens of back links from top news groups. Again, you’ll be seen as a credible industry expert, which search engines like. Build relationships with editorial staff. Follow up as to when articles appear and track response in terms of Web traffic from these publisher’s sites.
Link earning is a process that takes time and consideration, but is well worth the effort. This is not a place to cut corners. One thing to keep in mind, which rings true here at Strand, is to create something; an image, infographic, white paper, blog post, etc. that will give your readers a take-away. Content should not be created for face-value interest, but have a nugget of knowledge that makes your readers think and smile. Doing this will give them more reason to share your content and help you earn some quality links!
This is the sixth in a series about preparing your high-tech B2B company for an inevitably growing increase in online marketing tactics.