January 2, 2014: Link building remains a critical component of SEO performance. As illustrated in Moz’s latest search engine ranking report, collecting feedback from more than 100 search engine professionals’ links is still believed to be the most important part of the algorithm (approximately 40%).
But the mechanisms by which inbound links are acquired and valued in association with Google’s search ranking algorithm are changing rapidly. Julie Joyce’s article on Search Engine Watch outlines many of these changes quite and is recommended for review. The bottom line is: Tactics designed for building links solely for SEO performance and minimal user benefit are being increasingly identified and devalued in Google’s search ranking algorithm.
Acquiring links in the new year requires a more marketing-centric approach, centered around building connections with individuals and organizations associated with an organization’s strategic marketing efforts. Here are 7 B2B link building tactics we used with success in 2013 and will continue executing and refining in the new year.
404 Inbound Link Cleanup
It’s surprising how little awareness B2B marketers have of this relatively simple tactic for recovering inbound links. In late 2008, Google announced the release of their crawl error report in Webmaster Tools.
The crawl error report tells site owners what pages the search engine has found that are broken. More importantly, it identifies the third party web pages those site references (broken links) were found on. Here’s a screenshot of what the data looks like, on a per-web-page basis.
While this tactic isn’t very exciting, it’s an easy first step in re-acquiring links for your B2B website.
Event/Trade Show Review
MarketingSherpa’s 2012 Lead Generation Benchmark Report indicated that trade shows are one of the most effective lead generation tactics utilized by B2B marketers but are also the most difficult to execute, on account of the time, effort, and expenses involved. As such, it’s important for B2B marketers to get the best return possible for their event marketing investments.
Here are two recommendation sets we created for specific event marketing and SEO link building initiatives.
- 12 Simple Ways to Build Links Through Events
- 4 Ways B2B SEO Tactics Augment Event Marketing Initiatives
The important thing to remember is that there are link opportunities for B2B SEOs pre, during, and post-event. Don’t miss out!
Guest Post Outreach
While we realize Google intends to become more aggressive in evaluating the quality of guest post initiatives, this shouldn’t deter B2B marketers seeking to establish content development opportunities in their specific industries and for applicable target audiences.
The key is to consider whether your organization would be writing for a particular publication even if an SEO friendly link wasn’t involved. If the answer is “Yes,” then it still makes sense to guest post. Neil Patel has some great recommendations on guest post guidelines and getting your pitch accepted.
Matt Cutts recently offered a Webmaster Tools video with insights and advice about what site owners should be aware of if they consider guest blogging.
One final recommendation I would add when considering guest blogging is to have fully completed and maintained social media profiles, particularly LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter. Publication editors will (and should) do some online due diligence to get a sense of your online marketing behavior.
Collaborative Blog Post Development
A more comprehensive type of link acquisition is collaborative blog post development, which involves reaching out to various industry sources for feedback and contribution on a particular topic of relevance. The hope is that the piece will resonate well enough that it drives social shares and organic link backs either from direct participants or those related in the industry.
Here are a couple examples we’ve created for industry columns:
- 10 Concepts Critical for Aligning SEO to B2B Marketing Strategy
- 12 Perspectives on How B2B SEO Can Better Support PR & Communications
Similar to successful guest post outreach, the key with collaborative blog post development is to find effective topics that are easily digestible and of interest to possible participants and their audiences.
Third Party Mentions via List Building
List building is another simple content marketing tactic for acquiring links and social media visibility. List building requires a topic or point of reference and a collection of third party sources.
Here are a couple examples on our blog:
- 32 B2B Marketers to Add to Your Google Plus Circles
- 30 Great Tweets from MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum #mpb2b
Even though people say they grow tired of lists, they still like to see their content marketing achievements and/or names appear in them, assuming the list is well thought out and constructed. Lists are also less time consuming than collaborative blog post development because you have more control of completion dates and details.
In my experience (and because of the negative reaction list posts sometimes get), longer, more comprehensive pieces typically work better for both lists and collaborative posts. Readability (scan-ability) and presentation layout matter as well though.
Check out these examples on Social Media Examiner to get a sense of what it might take to really hit a home run with a list post.
We use tools like HARO and Topsy for two reasons: 1) To monitor opportunities to pitch a publication or journalist on a particular topic relevant to our industry or our client’s industry, and 2) To turn leads into link building opportunities and mentions for both our clients and our own business.
Here is a very recent example.
But a more subtle method of use for HARO in particular is to more quickly find contributing sources for collaborative blog posts and third party lists. As long as your publication fits the required criteria, this can be a great way to crowdsource material and connect with high quality contributors.
It’s pretty simple: Pay attention to important brand-based keywords used online and make sure you’re acquiring inbound links when possible. Google Alerts used to be a pretty reliable resource for keeping track of keyword mentions but has experienced issues of late.
Here are few free alternatives:
When considering your B2B link building tactics, don’t forget regular discussions between business groups (or client/vendor relationships), which can lead to new information discovered, spurring new link building ideas. Great link building requires a mix of creativity, thorough market understanding, and proactive action. Sometimes the best link building ideas simply come from understanding initiatives clients and business units already have in the works.
What are your thoughts on link building tactics in the new year? Do you have a successful tactic worth sharing or discussing? We look forward to reading your feedback and perspective via comments below or let’s connect on Google+ or LinkedIn for further discussion.
Author Note: Casie Gillette contributed tactics towards this post.