A few months ago I did an interview with link building expert Eric Ward and he came back with some really great insights about white hat link building. Here is one of my favorite points of his:
But of my total traffic Google is responsible for less than 10% of it. The remaining 90% of my traffic comes from tens of thousands of links all over the web. Sites that link to the hundreds of columns I've written, conferences I've spoken at, presentations I've given, etc. Put another way, if Google goes away tomorrow, I still have 90% of my traffic, and that helps me sleep at night. So links are my lifeblood, not Google. I'm completely serious when I say if your business cannot survive without Google, then you have not taken advantage of all the web can do for you
I know that in the wake of the Panda and Penguin updates (among a barrage of others) many site owners are left facing some pretty significant damages. As a small business owner myself I know what losing 50+% of your traffic can do to a website and online business, especially if you cant recover it quickly. There is no denying that ranking well in the organic search results is going to be a huge boon to your business and introduce your brand to an immense amount of people but, as Eric Ward pointed out, if your business cannot survive without Google than you are not taking full advantage of the power of the web.
I think most site owners vastly underestimate the time it takes to build a strong link profile with touch points from all over the web. But they also underestimate the long term potential these quality links can have for their business. Most site owners want to go for the low-hanging fruit; the easy-to-get links that supposedly help boost your SERP ranking. I would argue that if ranking better is the main motivation behind your link building chances are you are going to run afoul of a Google animal sooner or later.
Here are 3 types of links you should concentrate on building (and not worry about rank anymore):
1. Links From Sites Your Target Audience Visits
What blogs do your best potential customers read? What industry associations are they apart of? Where do they go for networking opportunities? What conferences do they attend? All of these sites are the kind of places you should want to build links from because they provide a direct path between your target audience and your website. You need to concentrate on building links on sites your target audience actually uses and visits on a day to day basis. In some cases it might be fairly simple to get the link; other instances might be a lot more complicated and take a lot of concentrated effort. There are some sites I've been working for several months to get a link from but its well worth the effort! Sure, a link from a generic directory is going to add a little padding to your link profile but will anyone ever actually use that link to come to your website? The links that don't drive traffic and are just a link for links sake are typically the ones that land websites in hot water. Get yourself a spot on the sites where your audience is!
2. Links From The Personal Sites/blogs Of Industry Authorities
Every industry has its experts. When these people talk everyone listens and getting a mention and link from their personal website or blog is a goldmine to your link building efforts. After that interview I did with Eric Ward went live he threw up a little mention about it on his site (its good personal branding for him after all) and traffic to that blog post shot through the roof. That's the kind of link I love! Who are the leaders in your industry? What can you do to get a link on their website? Keep in mind that most out of the blue requests for a link are going to get denied (if they get noticed at all). These experts are probably inundated with link requests every day and most of them get trashed right away. What do you have to offer them that no one else does? This is definitely not an easy win link but the power of one link coming from an industry experts site cant be denied.
If you cant get a link from their site directly, a social media mention can be almost as powerful. Industry experts tend to amass more followers than anyone else and any content that gets shared by them is sure to benefit immensely from the exposure.
3. Links From Niche Websites
A common mistake I see many site owners make is right out of the gate they go straight for the biggest and boldest links they can find (and usually don't get) or they go for the easy pickings. There are a lot of sites in the middle that you're missing out on and the value of those links adds up over time. Your industry might be a little different, but in the world of SEO there are hundreds, if not thousands, of SEO related blogs, forums, directories, associations and more. I should track down and review each and every one of those sites. Some of them are bound to be pretty worthless, but there are probably a lot of diamonds in the rough that are well worth the dig. For instance, I was recently reviewing a competitive link analysis and found a .gov site for small businesses with a very active section for internet marketing. In 7 years of link building I had never come across this .gov site before but finding it definitely made my day. Think of your own industry and how much link building meat you're missing by going after the low hanging fruit. Is it more work and time consuming? Absolutely. But 10 links from good middle-ground sites that send 10 visitors is 100 new, targeted visitors each month. And I will take that over an easy win link any day.
I know that when you're managing your SEO in-house white hat link building can get pushed to the background. There is no time to spend an hour looking for one link, right? But its going to be an hour well spent when you finally land that link. As Eric said, the web is full of link building opportunities that are just waiting for you to leverage.
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