“Stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done.” This fateful quote from Matt Cutts is one of the most annoying modern SEO traps in marketing.
Guest blogging is not a bad strategy. If you go about it the right way, it can still be very beneficial to your site. Cutts simply wanted to cut out the spammier side of guest blogging, and by claiming that the strategy as a whole is dead, he successfully scared away many of the most abusive guest bloggers out there. It worked, but it also made many people paranoid that their legitimate posts would earn them penalties.
Despite the arguments about how guest blogging is fine and the perfectly reasonable strategies for using it in the present, not to mention the jokes, many marketers are still very hesitant to attempt guest blogging as a link building strategy.
As such, I’ve decided to compile my favorite techniques for building links naturally without guest blogging. These won’t involve tiered link strategies, exploits, or anything else abusive; they’re 100% all natural, free range, organic white hat link strategies.
Bear in mind, though; the only difference between a white hat strategy and a black hat strategy is implementation. Link building as an end goal exists for many methods, some of which are spam and some are not. Many, though, simply become spam when you push the issue too much. Don’t go overboard, or even the best strategy will come back to bite you.
One of the keys you’ll discover as you look into link building strategies is that you have to provide some kind of value. Either you’re an authority and the value you provide comes from knowledge and experience, or you’re willing to spend money and the value you provide comes from either that money directly or from the way you can use that money to benefit others.
The goal of interviews is to become that informational authority outside of your own blog sphere and community. You’ll want to use a site like HARO, or Help a Reporter Out. This site allows people like you to register, as well as interviewers who write for blogs, news agencies, magazines and other publications.
Interviewers will post topics they need covered, and people like you will be given the option of responding. The interviewer can then pick someone to interview. If you’re chosen, you then become an informational source for the interview.
It works in the other direction as well. You can be the one giving interviews and publishing them on your blog. The people you interview will link to you as a “hey, check out this interview I did” technique for their own growth.
Interviews are great for building informational authority. After all, no one would interview you if you didn’t know what you were talking about, right? Likewise, the opposite is also true. No one would consent to an interview with you if you didn’t have a position from which to ask questions.
Newsjacking is the process of taking a current event and adding your own take on it. This is a risky technique, though. If you take a tragedy you shouldn’t and you newsjack it in an insensitive way, you end up looking like a jerk or a war profiteer. Try to stick to events that are relevant to your industry or to the world as a whole, and don’t try to twist tragedies to your own ends.
The way this becomes a link building strategy is the involvement of public relations. Essentially, you will build a list of news publications and blogs that accept press releases. When you create your current events relevant content, you then send out a press release about that content.
Note that you’re not trying to get the press release itself published. Very few people still publish press releases, and when they do, they’re very finely crafted. No, you’re trying to notify the writers on staff at the publication that your content exists, and allow them to write whatever they feel they want to about it.
You have a handful of social network profiles active, right? If not, well, get on that. I’ll wait. If so, the idea behind this is simple, and you’re probably doing part of it already.
The first step is to set up monitoring for brand and product mentions. Whenever someone mentions you, you should be notified. This is normal; it gives you an opportunity to respond to mentions, fix issues before they become issues, and reach out to people on the fence and convince them to convert.
The second step is to filter the results to find the people who are most influential. These are people who have large audiences or publications of their own. Reach out to them when they mention you, and build a relationship there. Offer them links to content they would be interested to see, give them trials for products, and generally do whatever you have to so you can get a link from their site.
There are other forms of outreach involving social media influencers, generally simply called influencer marketing. The goal here is to identify industry and general influencers who are small enough to take an interest in you, but large enough to benefit you. You can start small, don’t worry; you can always work your way up the totem pole.
The goal here is to find people who are influential on social media and active to boot. Identify them using any of a million influencer tools, then start to reach out to them. Comment on their posts, like their links, retweet their shares, and generally get your name in their notifications as many times as you can. Eventually they will start to respond, and you can start to grow using their attention.
Content marketing and outreach is sort of a combination of all sorts of organic community building. The idea is simply this: create good content and get people to link to it. Sounds simple, but it’s a lot harder when you realize literal millions of people are trying to do the same thing, and they’re all stingy with their links.
Write good content. Write excellent content. Look for the most popular content in your niche and then out-do that content, writing on the same topics but doing it better in every way. Outshine everyone.
When you create great content, you can then reach out to other blogs, other influencers, and other entities that may be interested in it. Link them to it, and you’ll get some people linking to you in their future content.
Often, there are tertiary organizations that can relate to your brand in some way. When you associate yourself with these organizations, you start to gain links. You can, for example, donate to a local non-profit and get a linked logo on their website. You can network with other blogs and cross-promote each others’ content. You can expand your sphere of influence by making friends in the industry.
There are all sorts of organizations you can target, so take your time making up a list. You have blogs in your niche, which I would categorize as small, medium, large, or top-tier. There are businesses that relate to yours but aren’t competitors. There are suppliers and distributors. There are affiliates. You can even go into local businesses in the area around your home base.
On that same note, one way you can legally and ethically convert money into links is sponsoring events and nonprofit organizations. Most of these organizations like to create pages on their websites to list off their sponsored, partially because sponsors appreciate it and partially because sponsors ask for it. When you donate money to one of these organizations, events, or causes – especially on a recurring basis – you end up getting your name on one of these pages.
These links don’t tend to have much value unless they’re actual industry events or businesses, though. They aren’t spam, they aren’t black hat, and they aren’t going to penalize you, but they might not give you much tangible value. However, they do diversify your link profile, and they get your name out there as a benevolent sponsor, both of which are good.
Content that lasts for years is excellent content and it’s a prime way to gather links. Create something people will reference as a resource, and it will live effectively forever, so long as the topic is still relevant.
For example, look at some of the major guides out there. The massive Moz beginner’s guide to SEO. The PPCHero beginner’s guide to PPC. These are pieces of content that are always relevant; there are always new beginners to these topics, so they’re always good reference documents.
They’re also aimed at beginners, which is important for appealing to a broad audience. You can supplement your beginner content with more advanced stuff, but experience is a pyramid. There are way more people – and thus way more blogs and way more potential links – at the low skill levels than there are at the top.
One great social hack to get more links is make people feel valued. Create a weekly round-up post of industry content. Figure out what the best content is and add it to your list, maybe the top 10 or 15 or 20 articles in your field in that given week. People will use these posts as references for themselves, and they will strive to create content that will make the list. They will also link to your lists as references for great content to read, or as “hey look what I did” ego fluffing. The longer you do it, the more people will follow and the more people will care.
This method is incredibly powerful, because it gets you established links and it happens under the guise of helping out other sites.
What you do is you look for sites, content, or links that no longer exist. Any time a link goes to a 404 or a redirect, it’s an opportunity. Create content that fits that role – or find content you’ve already published that fits the bill – and pull it out. Send a message to the site owner and tell them that you were reading their blog and that you found a broken link on X page with Y anchor text leading to Z site. Z site no longer exists, but as luck would have it, you have content that would perfectly fit as a replacement. Here’s the link, thank you very much.
Sometimes the site owner will ignore you. Sometimes they will remove the broken link. Other times they will replace the link with yours, and that’s a value jackpot.
Much like finding mentions and networking with people on social media, you can find unlinked mentions on other blogs and reach out to get them turned into explicit links. Set up monitoring for your keywords and brand terms in Google Alerts, then reach out to site owners that mention you and ask for those mentions to be turned into links.
I’m not a huge fan of this technique because it’s easy to over do it. Google likes mentions and calculates them as implied links these days; they can have value as they are. They also don’t like it when you have an unnatural link profile, which you might if you get every mention to be a link. A few natural mentions are fine.
If nothing else, one way you can get yourself links is to get in the public eye. When you’re a prominent person in the community, people will remember you and will link to you. Within industries, one way to do this is organize community events.
Now, I don’t necessarily mean something as big as a trade show or as exceptional as a concert event. I’m talking about anything, even all the way down to a Twitter chat. A Twitter chat is just a moderated discussion using hashtags, but a moderated discussion requires a moderator to come up with tags, monitor topics, and provide impetus for the whole thing. If you can do that, you end up in a position of recognition.
Who doesn’t like free stuff? One great way to expand your visibility is simply to approach big name bloggers in your niche and offer them free items.
The trick is, you’re not sending out “review copies” and asking for a “positive review.” Let your product stand on its own and simply ask for an honest, unbiased review. You’ll get more engagement that way.
One way you can earn links is by referencing the content created by other people. Find three or four good resources on a topic, then combine them into one quality infographic. Notify each of your sources that you used their content, and they’ll very likely help promote your infographic because they’re a part of it. You can do this with other forms of content beyond infographics, but I find graphics to be some of the most effective.
At the end of the day, guest posting is still fine, so long as you’re going about it the right way. Rather than guest posting explicitly asking for a link, or making the link a central focus of the piece, go ahead and just write valuable content. The host site will either give you an implied link via a mention or an explicit link. Either one is good and beneficial to you, plus you get your name and your presence out in front of their audience. It’s a great thing all around.