Is link building dead as an effective content marketing tactic? The not-so-simple answer is: yes and no.
Thanks to a series of changes made by Google to its search rank algorithm over the past few years, many traditional link-building strategies are indeed no longer effective. Gone are the days when a publisher could significantly boost rankings by just commenting on blogs or paying for inclusion in massive directories.
Still, this doesn’t mean that the tactic is no longer useful. Google has said that link building itself isn’t inherently bad, and the search engine still clearly rewards valuable content that is legitimately linked to by others. What has changed is that many old-school spammy tactics are now deeply frowned upon and even sometimes punished.
So what does this mean for marketers? Essentially, that you should abandon any linking efforts that merely create the appearance of interest and instead focus on content marketing tactics that actually deliver your content to a relevant audience.
In particular, here are three tried-and-true link-building strategies that remain effective:
1. Collaborate With—and Reference—Others: Often organizations create content such as e-books or white papers solely by relying on their own staff. This is good for establishing expertise, but it does little to encourage sharing/linking.
Instead of going it alone, try to collaborate with others on your content or at least make sure to reference outside insights. By doing so, you’ll be creating a natural vested interest for these people/organizations to share your work.
2. Engage With Relevant Niche Communities: Most social media communities such as LinkedIn Groups, Subreddits, and Google Plus Communities make any links shared “nofollow” to prevent spamming. This means they usually aren’t a direct link-building source. However, they can still be highly effective if the members post your links on other platforms or their own websites.
Of course, for this tactic to work well the content has to be relevant to the audience. This means that you should do your homework on what the community values, and also try to engage beyond just posting links to your own work.
3) Build Relationships With Bloggers and Reporters: PR is probably the oldest link-building strategy of all. While some traditional tactics, such as drafting press releases, have lost value over time, others, such as nurturing relationships with those who cover your field (bloggers, reporters, etc.), remain very effective.
The key to success here is to be relevant and personal. Most “influencers” are bombarded by a flood of pitches every day, most of which they ignore. However, if the outreach is personalized, applicable, and comes from a familiar source, it has a much higher chance of success.
Ultimately, each of these content marketing tactics comes down to the same thing: link-building is now about getting great content in front of the appropriate interested audience.
Yes, links still help with search rankings, but fundamentally the strategies that succeed in this new world are those that are based on human interactions, not on tricking an algorithm. Or, as Google says in its advice to publishers, before pursuing any particular tactic, first ask yourself: “Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
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