There's a lot of panic and turmoil right now in the world of link building, but there doesn't have to be – you just have to learn how to be a badass link builder.
SEO has changed. We can't rely on spam and automation to boost traffic and search rankings anymore. A few years ago, link builders never gave that kind of stuff a second thought – it's just how things worked.
The industry is different now, but the good news is that you can still be a badass link builder in the post-Penguin era. The better news is that you only need one tool to build the best links in the world: your brain.
We need to think like human beings because we affect other human beings with our work. The age of robots has ended.
Keeping that in mind, you can build some killer links that hold up to algorithm changes and make the Internet a better place – you just have to be smart about it. Being a badass link builder requires hard work and even harder thinking, but you already have the tools to succeed.
2 Simple Steps
A badass link builder knows that the process of link building can be explained in just two steps:
- Find a target site.
- Get a link on that target site.
That's it. It's really that simple.
The important thing is how you approach those two steps. If you go about them the wrong way, your links won't be counted, and they might even be penalized. What's worse is following those two steps in such a way that makes the Internet a worse place for the average reader or user.
Future algorithm updates will throw those links aside, but the damage that spammy links do to your brand will be much more painful. You have to do it the right way.
While reading these steps (and the rest of this article), keep this mind: a relevancy-first approach is the only sustainable link building strategy.
Finding the Target Site
- Write down your keyword on a whiteboard or a large piece of paper, and then write down every term you can think of that relates to your keyword. For example, if your keyword was "audiophile headphones", you would also write down "DJ Gear", "portable music players" and "recording equipment."
- Look at your terms. Which ones might have dedicated online communities? It's likely that all of those example terms are being blogged about.
- Use Google to find target sites. Be creative. You might search [recording equipment “write for us”] or any variation. Find the relevant sites and put them in a spreadsheet.
- Use the smell test! This is important. Because you're going to represent yourself as a real human being and put in the time and effort, you want to make sure you're only listing sites that are curated by real people. Is there steady content on the site? How recently was it updated? Does the content use proper spelling and grammar? Are the display ads reputable? Is the site owner's contact info listed? You want to find sites made for humans. Even if the site's audience is small, it's still an audience. Link farms and spam blogs aren't going to help you, regardless of their PageRank or domain authority.
Getting the Link
- Once you've found a site, come up with a concept. Would a simple link to your site be a resource for that page's audience? Can you contribute unique content? Find an angle. If your site isn't a resource, you need to provide unique content.
- Find the webmaster or blog owner's name. Read their site. What do you like about it? Is there anything missing, especially something that you can provide? Get to know the site.
- Write an email. Don't make a copy/paste form. Just write the webmaster a real message. Talk about what you liked, who you are, and your ideas. Let them know you're a real human being. Form a relationship if you can.
- Don't try to sneak crappy, irrelevant anchor text in your content. If the anchor text isn't a natural fit in the content itself, put a link in your author bio. Don't abuse the blog owner. Give them something useful.
Like a Human
Notice how much emphasis I placed on building links like a human being? There's nothing more important in this business. Putting careful thought and hard work into each link ensures happy blog owners, happy audiences, high quality links, and long-term rankings.
The point of that whole keyword whiteboard exercise was relevancy. A link to your "audiophile headphones" page coming from a birdseed retailer is useless. It doesn't help anyone, and it's really just a slightly more advanced form of spam. For a badass link builder, relevancy has to come first.
If it doesn't make sense for a webmaster to link to your site, don't pursue it. A link is a vote of confidence, and you need to be confident that the link is a good fit.
Also remember that you're asking for a link. You're either exchanging unique content or providing your site as a resource. You're always going to stand behind what you create, but the owner of the target site might not. That's OK! It's their site, not yours. Be polite and move on where you're not wanted.
It's also important for a badass link builder to give other people some love. Link to others whenever it makes sense, cite your sources, and do the research. Once you create a link, you can always link back to that first post in a future post. That gives that first blog owner some serious link love. Treat them like you'd like to be treated.
Content for the Benefit of Humanity
Good content and relevant resources work toward the benefit of humanity. Spun articles and rehashed ideas don't help anyone, so avoid that entirely. They look bad for your brand and there's a good chance the link will either be penalized or simply not counted. They're also burdensome to regular Internet users.
It can be frustrating when people sound the “content is king” trumpet. Finding the perfect idea isn't an easy task, so it's best to look inward.
Write about your experiences and your thoughts. Do some original research and go down a rabbit hole.
You don't have to reinvent the wheel; you just need to share your unique perspective on why the wheel is important. People love reading stories and connecting with others, so give them that opportunity because that kind of content benefits humanity.
Let's look at an example. Your keyword is "audiophile headphones" and you're writing for a blog that focuses on recording equipment. You can cook up a great post about headphone mixes on old analog recording equipment. That community would love to read your thoughts and experiences on how to get the most out of your headphones on an old Tascam 4-Track recorder. It doesn't have to be rocket science as long as it comes from a real place.
If you build links like an actual human being, then you're building links like a badass. You're making friends and your links are bulletproof.
There's only one catch to this method – it's hard work. It takes time, energy, and brainpower.
You don't need hundreds of links, but building 10 or 20 of these high-quality links is no small task. Each one is worth it in the end, though, because you're increasing search rankings, increasing traffic and doing it the right way.
The path of a badass link builder is never easy, but it's always rewarding.
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