How To Make Links And Linkbuilding Useful In 2014 And Beyond

SEO Mar 26, 2014


Now that guest blogging is dead, how do we get links?

Do links even matter anymore?

Everyone has been linkbuilding for years, and people still do it.


Because it still works, and it still accounts for something with Google’s algorithms.

Obviously, with the “death of guest blogging” being touted on every street corner, what’s an SEO to do?

Well, guest blogging isn’t necessarily dead — if it’s done right. What that means in Google speak is: “don’t spam it with thousands of guest posts on irrelevant websites with predictable formatting and author links and too many links and spun content and…

You get the idea.

But before that…

How To Squeeze Value-Juice Out Of Links

Your rankings are increasingly relative to your competitors and what they’re doing.

So it only makes sense to do backlink analysis on your competitors.

That means, yes, you conduct a backlink analysis on your competitors websites, which should provide you with great intel and data on the hostile SEO environment of your niche and website.

You should pay attention to things like:

  • Kinds of sites linking to your competitors.
  • Kind of content used effectively and successfully.
  • Keywords targeted by your competitors.
  • Make note of ranking opportunities, especially for long-tail keywords.
  • Successful pages on your competitors websites.
  • Average number of links from, and to, unique domains.
  • Discern any link building patterns, tactics, and strategies used.

Sure, you’ll most likely come across old tactics and strategies that have lost their effectiveness, such as comments, directories, spun articles, forum links, and so on.

But tactics like local associations, some directories, case studies, variation in content (text, images, video, podcasts, and more), and even guest blogging can actually matter.

How so?

Well, think of it like this: if your site is mentioned (“citations”) on relevant websites (no insurance links on beauty product sites, please), in the appropriate context (not around spun content, footer, etc.), and by a good chunk of reputable websites, then even something like guest blogging can work very well.

So can comments.

So could directories.

And if your link profile looks “okay”, as in “natural” (not over-optimized, not using only keywords in anchor text, and more), then the occasional forum link may not look too bad or hurt.

None of these tactics are effective on their own anymore.

But you want to maintain a holistic view of your link profile and linkbuildling, and utilizing a myriad of tactics can go a long way of painting a nice pretty path for robots to follow.

And of course, whatever links your competitor has…

Prospect For Link Gold

Knowing where your competitors have picked up links will help you understand the “neighborhood” of your market.

If your competitors are getting links from plenty of news websites, then that’s something for you to pursue as well.

So, over-optimizing your link anchor text (both internally and externally) is a usual suspect when Google tries to figure out if you’re doing way too much, or just enough.

This fits in with your link profile, too.

With a backlink analysis, you can not only figure out your own but also check anchor text variance of your competitors. This is where you discover strengths and weaknesses — and what you can exploit and make use of.

Clean Up The Duds

You should also clean up that list of link prospects by checking for 404 pages of dead, removed, or broken links.

This would open up the possibility to do what we talked about above, i.e. provide websites with an alternative link. It also helps you know what sites to not waste time on pursuing, of course.

Speaking Of Duds, What About Guest Blogging?

These are scary words:

“So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.”

Matt Cutts

Sounds like the end of the world, right?

Not so fast.

In the world of linkbuilding, it’s paradoxically not even about linkbuilding.

Think of it this way: you want to get relevant traffic (visitors) to your website.

To do so, you need to promote your site, and a blog is great way of doing so. You can drive traffic by acquiring links and show up in search results and doing regular ol’ marketing and promotion, via social media and other avenues.

The idea is to get the right kind of visitors to your site and funnel them to a specific outcome.

So, guest blogging should be done more selectively, without the spammy content, and provide enough value to motivate a reader to visit your site.

This might also result in a backlink, but the primary goal should be traffic, not just link stats.

How Do You Make It Work? 

Here’s a quick run-down of do’s and don’ts:

  • No links in the author byline and section.
  • Use a variety of media, like images, video, and audio.
  • Do not force keywords into anchor texts.
  • Use 4-5 other links, to authority sites, within the article.
  • And obviously: write original, quality articles.

If you intend to make use of guest blogging, this is the only path to make it work for you, and avoid penalties.

It’s not about mass tactics anymore, but crafting a few new ways of using old tactics to get links.

Long Live Links!

If they’re linking to your competitor, and other websites, follow those trails, as you might find more opportunities and link prospects.

Get a sense for how far the “neighborhood’ stretches, and knock on every door.

Tools Of The Trade

So, what tools can you use to do link prospecting?

Let’s look at a couple…

  • Google Reverse Image Search — This is how you find copies, or similar, of an image. You simply use the image to search, not text. If you track down an image you hold rights to, you could ask for them to give proper attribution in the form of a link.
  • — Here’s the basic idea: find sites that have recently expired. Any links pointing to this site will show up as broken. Find out who’s linking to them, and contact webmasters and let them know one of their links is broken, and then you can give them an alternative. Sure, you could use this for nefarious black hat tactics, such as buying expired domains and set up your own private blog and link network, but we won’t go there today.
  • — This is an interesting tool, because it uses a machine learning algorithm to determine content that will be most useful to you, instead of counting links, upvotes, or other social signals. You could find forum discussions, comments, media sources, blogs, and more that might not show up right away in Google, because we often only search for what we know, and blissfully ignore what we don’t know.

Now Bite Into That Gold To Audit It

Now, you have amassed an impressive collection of prospective backlinks for you to try to make use of.

But are any of them good?

You want to avoid “bad” websites and over-optimization, primarily.

Your link profile will give away a ton, and helps Google determine if you’re boom or bust for rankings.

The call to avoid “bad” websites speaks for itself. Don’t go for links on foreign language websites, avoid content that has nothing to do with your niche, spun content, and more.

See? You could still derive plenty of value from links, even in 2014 and beyond. It’s not over, by any stretch of the imagination.

You just need to move from a numbers game and link accumulation, to thinking more strategically and holistically.

Perform audits and analyses of your competitors and their links. Get a good grasp of what they’re doing, and what their profiles look like.

Do some of what they’ve done, but create a better, more “natural”, link profile.

Pay attention to where your links could come from, get co-citations, look to do guest blogging that’s not actually the guest blogging of yesterday.

As always: quality over quantity for SEO in 2014 and in the future.

  1. Avatar
    Azizul Yusof

    Thanks for the tips Damian, especially on the 3 Tools.

    Will try them all.

    1. Avatar
      Damian Thompson

      Glad you liked them

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