Traditionally, link building has been a major part of any SEO campaign. The more links you have, the better you'll rank in the search results. And sadly, that was the case for many years. Many SEO companies offered link building packages, and they no doubt still do today, but in order to keep clients happy the emphasis had been more on quantity than quality [I'm speaking from experience here, but I know there are some great SEO companies out there too]. As an SEO company it was a difficult position to be in. Building links in a natural, organic way is hard work and time consuming, something that some clients may not appreciate. Although I see clients becoming more aware of SEO techniques, I think it's really up to the SEO company to educate clients as much as possible and just be open and upfront about what's involved.
Times are a-changin’
It's only with Google's recent updates that we see this kind of manipulative link building being recognised and, more importantly, penalised or at least de-valued.
This therefore leads SEO companies to have a rethink. We need to optimize sites for search engines, of course, but we should keep the user at the forefront of everything we do to our websites. Does building low quality links benefit our users in any way? I'd say not.
I've always been about putting the user first, both in design and SEO. The user is (or should be) our target audience. They are our potential customers. Search is not about providing users with a list of websites that have been really well optimised, it’s about providing users with a list of the most relevant, high quality and genuinely useful websites.
OK, so we know the user comes first, but how do we apply this to link building?
This is where the term 'link earning' comes in. Taken from a post by Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz in his 'whiteboard friday' slot. Link earning, in my opinion, is the only way to build natural links to a site.
So how do we earn links?
Well let's start by producing great content. Then, let's share that content using our social networks and PR contacts – making people aware that the content exists.
Then let's give our visitors the opportunity to share our content with their networks by encouraging them to share using the standard issue 'like','tweet', '+1' buttons.
Sounds simple right? I won’t lie to you, it’s time consuming to produce great content, but your users will thank you for it long term and you’ll be building your brand’s credibility too – bonus!
Now off you go, and create some share-worthy content!
If you're not sure where to go from here - we cover all aspects of content marketing, SEO and getting links to your site in our full day SEO workshops.