We are experiencing a significant shift in the SEO landscape which started early last year and will continue to evolve. As search engines become more aggressive in dealing with links meant only to manipulate search engine rankings, SEO’s reliant on short-sighted link building strategies are suffering mightily.
As uncovered in a recent news article on our site, Search Engine Roundtable ran a poll asking whether webmasters effected by Google’s Penguin update had recovered from the damage. 81% of the 500+ respondents claimed no recovery.
Perhaps one of the reasons sites have not recovered is because we (SEO’s) are thinking about link building in the wrong way. We are focused on the link when we should be focused on the user.
We need to think about link reporting and link management much differently. We need to think about the user, not the web page or link opportunity, and how we build links by building connections with individuals. User-based link building includes the websites, social media profiles, and web assets that that individual manages, is associated with, and contributes to, as well as demographic, professional, and industry (or client)-specific information.
The Original Link Management Need
At a basic level, here is how the documentation and management of link building looked before the Google Penguin update.
SEO’s focused on the link and how factors around that link may impact search engine optimization. The individual has always been a component of the link reporting metric, not the other way around. I’ve been guilty of this as well and while I believe comprehensiveness is sound, that perspective may be wrong in order to succeed in SEO moving forward.
The New Management Foundation for Link Building
Individual “users” will become the center of connectivity for understanding link performance and the association to search ranking relevancy. Link management and reporting mechanisms must focus on the user first, branching out to the web assets they own, manage, and are associated with.
Broadly speaking, individual users:
- Own websites and web assets
- Manage websites and web assets of organizations
- Own / run social media profiles, individually and as part of an organization
- Contribute to websites and web assets
- Have and build networks online, in social media platforms and in more traditional digital platforms (email, newsletter, etc)
- Connect, recommend, and reject other users, websites, and web assets
From a link building management perspective, this is a high level set of information that the new link building management profile might contain moving forward.
When thinking about acquiring the highest quality links, we need to consider:
- Traditional profile and contact information, as well as related demographic, organizational and professional information
- Web assets under control of the user, either as owned assets or assets managed on behalf of an organization
- Social media profiles and networks associated to these profiles
- Web assets which the user is an active contributor to, such as publishing sites, blogs, forums, etc
Link reporting becomes more of a relationship management engine. This shift will blend elements of sales (CRM), PR, and traditional SEO factor identification.
Connecting Link Communication Initiatives to the Individual
The activity associated to communication efforts with the individual – regardless of link focus – represents the final piece of link building management to consider.
Where we start the documentation process:
- Relationship of user assets to our organization or the clients organization (why this individual is a good opportunity to pursue)
- The type of communication we make to the individual, broken out by communication channel (social media, email, direct, etc)
- The amount of communication we make to the individual user, as a means of getting attention, communication requests, etc.
- The amount of interaction we get from the user, in the form of correspondence, social mention, link acquisition, etc
- The details of that correspondence
- Feedback associated to correspondences (good, bad, no feedback, no interaction, etc)
Link building becomes more of an ongoing activity focused around the individual. In reality, it really only becomes a small component of an overall evaluation of how effectively we are building a relationship with a targeted individual.
With data in hand, we can better understand the types of communication most effective, the platforms most appropriate per interest group (or client, project, etc), and what it takes to build productive relationships, not just links. We’re taking it all in.
This type of activity takes our initiatives far beyond link building. We’re building a process that can potentially have benefits for PR, marketing communications, and broader marketing management. I believe this is where link building management needs to go in 2013 and beyond.
What do you think?
Are your link building efforts shifting to a more user-centric approach? What tools are you using to manage your link building process? I would love to read perspective and opinion via comments below.