Content marketing. Infographics. Motion graphics. PR stunts. Companies are getting smarter, savvier, and – dare I say it? – sexier with their marketing. Some brands now accumulate social shares, online buzz, and links the instant they click “post”… without ever sending a single outreach email.
Even if you’re not at the helm of a hugely popular company that earns links by the dozens, you may be seeing a shift in the amount of links you earn as the result of your content marketing efforts. Is manual link building necessary if you’re going to get these links anyway? Or, if you’re new to online marketing, you may be wondering why link building exists in the world of SEO. Isn’t the goal to receive natural links?
Link building is not dead, and despite the surge in popularity of other link gaining-methods, it is still absolutely worth your time and efforts. Here are three reasons why link building and outreach isn’t going away any time soon.
The “Build It and They Will Come” Myth
If you’re familiar with the 1989 film Field of Dreams, the main character, Ray, hears a whisper that says “if you build it, he will come”. In response to this whisper, Ray plows over his cornfield to build a baseball diamond. Eventually, Ray’s “field of dreams” results in a variety of baseball players from the past, including his father, arriving to play.
It’s easy to assume that the same type of happy ending will occur for your great content – that is, simply build a fantastic post, and people will flock to read it. But your blog may not be a field of dreams. In fact, it may very well be a ghost town. What if you don’t have enough readers? What if all your social shares just happen to be missed?
Great content doesn’t always get noticed. Link building is a way to ensure that it’s seen by someone, shared, and surfaced on a platform from which it can receive additional views and further shares. Without link building and targeted outreach, you may be waiting for links that simply never happen.
Sometimes You Have to Ask For It
Of course, there’s an opposite problem that sometimes occurs: your great content gets noticed, read, and shared over and over again… but not linked.
If you have a dedicated group of readers who are regularly commenting on your content and sharing it on your social networks, you probably greatly appreciate their time and attention. (As you should!) However, from time to time, you may want to consider asking them for a link, especially if they are powerful influencers with their own blogs or websites. They may have thought about linking you, but perhaps they got busy or forgot… or maybe they simply never considered it!
This should be a simple process – just send a short email thanking them sincerely for their support, then ask if they would be inclined to share your content on their blog or website the next time it’s convenient.
This tactic should be used with caution, however: if the content you’re asking to be linked isn’t targeted, and the influencer you’re asking isn’t already very familiar with you and your business, your request probably won’t go over well.
100 Links Are Better Than 1 Link
Let’s say you publish a new infographic and it immediately receives a link from a powerful influencer. Should you put your feet up on your desk and call it a day?
I really hope you didn’t answer “yes” to that question. While it’s true that receiving a link from a website with a fantastic reputation or thousands of readers can make you feel like you’re flying, why stop there? Why be satisfied with one link you received without even trying when putting in just a little more effort can earn you many more?
Our CEO at WebpageFX has a rule of thumb for outreach that I like to follow, and it’s this: for every hour you spend working on something, spend at least an hour promoting it. So if I spent three hours working on an infographic, I would then spend three hours finding relevant websites on which I think it would be a good fit, finding the names of the appropriate contacts, and sending these contacts emails with links to the infographic.
Without link building, it’s true that you might get a few very powerful links, especially if your website is well-known. But with targeted outreach, you could gain many more, especially if you put the right amount of time and effort into your pitches. Why settle for “good enough” when “amazing” is an option?
Outreach is the New PR
One of the questions I posed at the beginning of this article was related to the goal of receiving “natural” links. I believe there’s a feeling among those new to the world of link building that outreach is “unnatural” – that is, asking someone for a link, or to run a piece of content with a link in it, is somewhat deceptive.
I felt this way for some time, myself, when I was new to SEO. However, I feel that outreach and link building is an evolution of marketing – specifically, an evolution of the public relations subset of marketing.
PR specialists used to seek out publicity in the form of getting products on television shows, featured on the radio, or in press releases that were then perhaps featured on additional websites or news sites. This was how a brand established authority and created awareness. Now that websites are out of their infancy, we’re seeing an evolution in the way authority and awareness are established. They’re now established through – you guessed it – links!
My personal feelings on the “unnatural” nature of link building are that we, as marketers, must find a balance between our own objectives and the good of the Internet and the websites to which we contribute. Before you ask someone for a link, think about the context of the link. Is it sensible? Will it look out of place to a reader? Will the owner of the website think it’s strange? If you answered “yes, no, no”, then you’re in good shape.
Link Building is Still Worth It!
Although more great content is surfacing on this wide and wonderful Internet, that content sometimes needs a little push to receive the kind of exposure and authority it deserves. That is why link building is still worth it, and why it will continue to be a relevant and important component of Internet marketing for the next few years… or at least until Google makes another algorithm change!
Do you feel that link building is worth doing? Are there any other reasons that you feel link building is still relevant and important to marketers and anyone creating content? Feel free to share!
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.