Traditional Link Building Is Over

Search Engine Marketers (SEMs) cannot drop a healthy portion of their marketing budget on snatching up links

Today’s link building is a very different process than what it used to be. In a post-penguin world, Search Engine Marketers (SEMs) cannot drop a healthy portion of their marketing budget on snatching up links from websites across the web and expect their websites to climb to the top of the Google Search Results. SEMs must be extremely careful with which sites they intentionally build relationships with. Even though links are at the core of the ranking algorithm, Google is showing a weighted preference for “fresh”, or current, material. There’s no way to get fresher links than social media. If you’ve already attempted gaining social links and your site still isn’t ranking, your site may be falling short on other core values that search providers are scrutinizing.

What do influencers prefer to link to?

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The first question that needs to be asked is what types of content influencers prefer to link to. These savvy professionals have read tons of articles that are just a rehashing of information from another website. They link to valuable information that is easily digestible. This can be a range of types and will change depending on the industry you’re targeting. What these links all have in common, though, are that they are considered pillar content by the influencer. If the link holds information that they will want to bookmark and reference back to, chances are that their audience will find it of value too. Pillar content takes a considerable amount of resources to put together, however it’s well worth it in the end. Over the course of a year you’ll have several resources that your site and others will be able to link to as reference material for new content which can then be shared. These resources are updated periodically as the temperature of the business sphere changes, perhaps once a year or every other quarter. For example, Internet Trends is a power point presentation that analyst Mary Meeker puts together at the beginning of each year. She has been doing so for so long that SEMs hold their breath in anticipation to see if their own experiences and predictions correlate with hers. The flurry of activity on industry blogs after she posts it is astounding and the report is the go to resource for which technology has been well received and which has not, which heavily influences marketing approaches.

How often do you publish new content?

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The next question is how often do you publish new content on your website? If the answer is less than once a month then you need to seriously consider a more aggressive publishing schedule. Pillar content is hard to come by and it is not conceivable to produce this type of content on a weekly basis, however publishing shorter pieces once a week will show that you are an industry expert who knows what is going on in your corner of the world. Stagnant websites are often avoided by influencers. This is not to say that a blog must be published every week on Fri at 2pm or the whole thing falls apart. So long as you are publishing content to your blog on a regular basis your site will remain current, whether that’s weekly, biweekly, or once a month. If you or your expert cannot commit to a regular schedule publishing schedule, consider asking employees or coworkers to write an article once a month in their field of expertise. By having multiple people contribute to the blog, the issue of consistent publishing becomes less worrisome than if the writing is only in one person’s workload.

Does your site look current?

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When was the last time your site was redesigned? Influencers frequent sites that have a current site design as it shows the site is active and well cared for. What is a current site design? It’s much easier to define what is not. An outdated site design generally runs along the lines of what Microsoft.com and BBC.co.uk looked like circa 1998. Other reference points are animated entrance pages, flash imagery, auto play music files, and scrolling text. By keeping these one-time trends on your site you’re showing that your brand has a dated philosophy and outlook, which is not generally something that influencers are looking to share with their audience. Influencers link to pages that are currently relevant and an outdated image can negatively influence their opinion of what your site has to say before they read the content on the page.

Is your site mobile friendly?

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While you’re thinking of site design, is your site mobile friendly? Approximately one third of traffic today is mobile traffic from tablets or cell phones. If your site doesn’t load or loads improperly on a mobile device you’re going to lose out on a significant slice of traffic. Rather than have multiple sites set up to accommodate mobile design, it is much more straightforward to optimize for mobile traffic by implementing a Responsive Design. Multiple websites require an update on the main site to be mirrored on all of the sister sites. This is a time consuming process and can often lead to confusion when updating detail oriented updates such as prices and sales. Not only do Responsive designs make it easier for your users, they make updating your site a breeze as you only have to update once and you’re done.

If these are points you’ve already taken into consideration and you’re still not receiving the links you think your site deserves, check how quickly your links take to load on multiple devices and browsers. This is often an overlooked step. Load time is a big factor in the SERPs and Social scenes. KISSmetrics has a detailed infographic based on a survey that they conducted regarding site load times. One of the most important things that they found was that every second counts. The longer a page takes to load, the higher the abandonment rate becomes. The longest that a page should take to load is 10 seconds and should ideally load in 3 seconds or less. Before submitting links to social sites, open them in multiple browsers and check to see how long it takes for the page to load. If the page times out or takes too long to appear, users will click away from the page, increasing the site’s bounce rate and lowering your share of traffic and conversions. To fix this, you’ll need to find ways to bring the load time down. Load time is heavily influenced by both the content on your site and the server your site is hosted on. While site hosting is a bit harder to control, you can optimize load time by minimizing the size and frequency of the site images. Your designers can also compress the file size of the site’s CSS. If minimizing these two factors do not work, consider moving your site to a better hosting service. There are plenty of good options, but look for a smaller company that offers you competitive prices and services such as with Active Web Group or A Small Orange.

link buildingGoogle and other search engines take all of these factors into consideration when listing your site in the SERPs. All of the factors come back to user satisfaction, which is especially high on Google’s list of priorities. In fact, the first point listed on their company’s Philosophy page is to “Focus on the user and all else will follow”. Therefore, if your site is designed with user satisfaction in mind, which is based on the above listed points, your site will rise in rankings and easily be found and shared by Influencers. No, it’s not as quick or as easy as it used to be, but your investments will be returned with interest marked by higher conversion rates.

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