We've heard it over and over, that link building is "dead" or severely disabled. But we like to think it merely underwent a serious change in 2013. What got you traffic in recent years isn't working any more. Google algorithms got savvier at separating links it considers high-quality from those that invite a drop-kick in rankings. The idea is to make it more difficult to manipulate search engine results, but some honest efforts are being slapped, too. So where does this leave your local business SEO strategy?
In the waning days of 2013, Google announced a public attack against several link networks, sometimes with gleeful gusto. To Backlink.com's claim that its link-publishing software "is not detectable by the search engine bots", Google’s chief spam warrior re-tweeted with this P.S.: "Au contraire." Touche!
Link-building has become a dirty word because the practice has become meaningless. If you buy links to bolster your credibility, chances are greater than ever that it will backfire. There are too many other pathways, such as email marketing and social media, and too few guarantees of success. As digital marketer Erin Everhart put it, "Saying you’re going to build a link is like saying you’re going to build a treehouse without confirmation that you’ll have 2×4′s or a tree."
Google still likes and needs links, but in quality, not quantity. The new focus is on content marketing, in which you write content for a specific audience and organic links will naturally follow.
- Create content that Google considers worthy of being linked to, not something that you have to convince someone to link to. It's like making a few good, influential friends as opposed to 100 acquaintances.
- Don't try to over-optimize your anchor text or stress about whether it fits an exact search term. This applies not just to blogs, web content and online business directory submissions but also to press releases, guest posts and advertorial content.
- Don't leave a comment with a link on someone else's blog. This puts you in the cross-hairs.
- Be leery of submitting content to article sites created just for link-building. Seriously, who goes to an article site to read articles?
- Target your audience and link to only those sites people actually visit. This is what's called earning links, as opposed to purchasing them and seeing what sticks.
To reach real people takes real effort, not check-writing. When you put the focus on good placement and meaningful content, you are already on the right path for your local business SEO in the coming year.