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Strategic Link Building

enge-eric
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A reader sent an email with a great question about the Widget Case Study that I published in my By The Numbers column. The question was as follows:

"If the widgets are built in javascript (presumably), how does it help with SEO? Was it via NOSCRIPT tags?"

Actually, the answer is no. The nature of the benefit has to do with the ongoing evolution of what SEO means. As we all know, link building is a critical component of improving ones search engine rankings. In spite of all the tweaks and changes to search algorithms you hear about, this is likely to remain true for the foreseeable future.

So the short answer to the question above is that one critical strategy for getting visibility for your site and its content and tools. CLIQ accomplishes this. It may not receive links directly (although some of the people who install the widget will link to the site that provided it), but it will create visibility.

The question got me to thinking about the broader strategic question underlying it, and concept I call Strategic Link Building. The rest of this post will focus on that topic, and provide a more comprehensive answer to the original question.

It is generally acknowledged that there is this notion of Trust Rank, where some sites are more trusted than others. For example, if nearly every site in a given market area links to one site, the chances are pretty good that the site receiving the links can be considered "authoritative".

You can also identify people in pretty much any space who are major influencers. Many times these people have their own authoritative sites, but many times they don't. An example would be a highly respected writer for a major newspaper.

An owner of an authoritative site has a valuable asset, as does a major influencer, and it is likely that they will treat this asset quite seriously. As a result, getting a link from them is not easy. I also maintain that it will become increasingly unlikely over time that you would be able to purchase a link from these sites or people.

No doubt we will continue to see stunning exceptions to this guideline, but Google's recent hard line against selling and buying links that pass PageRank will put cause fewer and fewer of these types of sites to sell links. Their reputation is critical, and they must protect it.

Even among non-authoritative sites, you will find a growing reluctance to link out to other sites unless they perceive them to be authoritative themselves. No one wants to link to a bad neighborhood, and if you are going to send some of your link juice to a third party, it better be for a really good reason.

Fortunately, many, many site owners will link to other sites when such good reason exists. The first step in getting these types of links is to become an expert regarding the topic matter of your site, and then make that obvious through the nature and the quality of the content and tools on your site.

Once you have done this, the next step is to create a high level of visibility for that expertise. There are many good ways to approach doing this. Here are a couple:

  1. Get links on authoritative sites
  2. Earn the trust of influencers in your space

So how does this all relate to link building? If you can accomplish either of these 2 things, you have gotten yourself into a situation that will produce links even if you do nothing at all (except continue to publish great content). That's a great place to be, and it will keep you secure from changes in search engine algorithms.

How do you earn that type of trust? Generally speaking, not by emailing someone and asking them for a link. Here are a few ideas as to how you can develop such trust:

  1. Build a relationship by investing time and effort to help out the person whose trust you are trying to earn
  2. Syndicate some of your content (showing your expertise) to other major sites in your market space
  3. Mount a successful social media campaign that provides regular visibility on relevant social media sites
  4. Offer tools to other parties that they can put on their sites

In the case of widgets, it fits in with point 4 in the above list. They can provide an excellent way to get visibility with a lot of people. Or in the case of the subject of our case study, CLIQ, it provides visibility with a highly targeted audiences (the other sites in the CLIQ), and it directly exposes your high value content in a fashion that is similar to syndication.


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