The State of Link Building in 2014
The processes and effectiveness of link building have been under constant scrutiny over the past few years. Between Google's anti-spam Penguin updates and less-than-reputable SEOs taking advantage of decent linking techniques, the link building arena looks very different in 2014 than it did even three or four years ago. Techniques such as submitting to forums, blog commenting, using directories and article marketing are often now seen as spammy, ineffective or counterproductive. As far as guest blogging goes, different SEOs have various opinions.
Is Guest Blogging Really Dead?
A few years ago, guest blogging was the linchpin in many link building campaigns. It provided a good way for expert content creators to share a quality piece of content on a high-ranking site, thereby ensuring some visibility while getting the all-important quality backlink in the byline. While many people still use this tactic, Google's head of web spam, Matt Cutts, famously declared the practice dead in January of this year.
In his post on guest blogging, Cutts wrote, "stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy." He cites a spam email he received about guest blogging, as well as a series of videos showing how the practice has been increasingly frowned upon by Google over the past two years. Basically, guest blogging went from a decent link building technique to a spammy practice that became overused by low-quality sites.
Despite Google blatantly claiming that guest blogging will have negative effects, not all SEOs agree about the practice being dead. Many argue that an honest post authored by a verifiably real expert that provides actual quality and insight couldn't hurt either party involved. The factors that cause this strategy to look spammy, such as clearly targeted anchor text or a backlink profile that's nothing but guest posts, are ultimately what will lead to being penalized by Google - either manually or by their algorithm.
Content Marketing is the Present (and Future)
So what's a site to do when all the previous link building strategies are frowned upon by the biggest name on the Internet? Well, it's been said and implied time and again by Google: create great content and the links will come. It could be argued that Google is essentially trying to kill "link building" altogether. "Link earning," on the other hand, is a term that could guide marketing strategies that Google will have no problem with.
But there's great content everywhere, right? Well, yes. It will be up to marketers to find ways of getting some exposure for their fantastic, fresh content. This is where some of the latest content marketing tactics come into play. Some of them include:
- Using sites like SurveyMonkey to provide your content with unique facts and actual data.
- Developing real, direct relationships with other companies and experts who may wish to share your content.
- Paying for some ads on social networks, especially Facebook.
- Creating eye-catching, interesting, shareable infographics (such as this widely-shared graphic about how handguns work).
- Interviewing actual experts about a topic that's not yet widely covered (sometimes called a content gap). If all goes well, both you and the interviewee will be excited to share it.
The possibilities are endless, but the main goal is to develop an audience of your own that shares, responds and, of course, links to your content naturally. After all, many marketing experts encourage small businesses to think like the big ones, and how often do you see big sites paying for links, submitting to directories, or conducting a guest blogging campaign? Pretty much never - their content usually speaks for itself. At the same time, it must be remembered that links are still incredibly important for SEO, and creating quality content will be useless without getting people to link to it. So...
Link Building Isn't Dead Yet
Link building is not necessarily dead, but it's definitely time to throw out the old playbook if you haven't already. Ultimately, Google is trying to ensure that everyone play by the same rules instead of trying to "game the system" somehow. Innovation, authority and creativity in both content and its marketing will help get you the links you need to grow.