So Google Penguin 2.0 just happened around a month ago and we don't need to worry about backlinks anymore, just social media, right? Wrong. Building backlinks may not be the Wild West anymore where the biggest or baddest links win, but link building is still an integral part of your Inbound Marketing strategy.
Backlinks from anywhere on the web are effectively a vote of confidence for your website, but they are all not treated equally. The inbound marketing parade of former SEO black hatters (now basically content spammers) advocates quality content and lots of it (so do mainstream inbound gurus) and this will then draw in natural, organic backlinks, or so they say. But what are natural organic backlinks?
Well, I suppose the alternative is unnatural, inorganic backlinks (what the black hat guys use). So why does it matter that we have organic link profiles for our sites and how do we get them? Simply put, unnatural backlinks are those that were created in whatever way (with software usually, but also manually) with the intent to manipulate pagerank and thus, rankings. This is explicitly against Google’s TOS and they have unleashed the Penguin and Panda (and others) updates to combat this attempted manipulation. So the quick summary on why you don't want unnatural links pointing at your website is that Google either has or will develop a way to detect these and consequently, devalue them at the least, and devalue (or de-index) your website at most. In other words, it would be stupid and shortsighted to build these.
So what are organic backlinks and how do we build or get them?
If you can't build backlinks really, or at least not the kind you want, then how do you get them pointing at your website? One answer that has been around for years and is still effective and touted by the inbound marketing masses is link baiting. Creating content on your website or sharing it online with links embedded in it allows others to share it, repost it, tweet it, or any number of other actions. From this, you get backlinks and a lot of times, traffic.
This strategy obviously takes time and investment. Instead of buying or mass creating links, you are in effect, creating content for others to share. So what are some of the link baiting tactics that can help build organic links to your site?
Tried and tested link baiting strategies for creating natural backlinks
Service or Product Creation
Create a product or service and release it on your website and social channels. By making something useful that others can learn from or that helps them with what they do daily, you will be a magnet for backlinks and sharing of your service or product.
This is a little old school, but you still see it every day because it taps into our psychology. Create a top 5 list or 10 things you didn't know about list. Make 6 tips for _____ list. People love lists and will share them incessantly online and socially.
Writing a newsletter once a month, once a quarter, or even once a year that has valuable information in it (and links to your website) can lead to people not only reading it, but sharing it online.
Tutorials and Teaching
Much like lists, people love instructions. They love to be told what to do and how to do it (although they think they don't). Creating a helpful tutorial on something that solves a problem that others have is a very effective way to attract organic links to your website.
Social Media & Networking
Duh. If you aren't sharing your pages and posts and other links to your online properties on your social accounts you are missing a large opportunity. My blog post traffic doubles by sharing one link to a new post.
Research & Study
Have you had to solve a problem for work or for your website that you had to learn how to solve? Sharing this solution with others can bring attention and appreciation. Additionally, intentionally researching a topic and sharing it for the sake of link baiting works just as well.
Controversy and Opinions
It may not be putting your best foot forward, but it works. Why do you think we all watch TV and who do you think buys those magazines at the checkout stands? People who love to read, hear, and share controversial or juicy topics and opinions. Create your own and see (hopefully with good taste).
Link baiting as a powerful form of marketing
While link bait is just that – content meant to attract organic, natural backlinks – it is also really about marketing. The higher quality content and link bait you create the stronger the effect both in attracting links and in attracting actual visitors and visibility. It's not just about links; it's about your brand. How are you seen by others and what do you produce that reflects this? Are you being well received and shared?
A donut shop may not have the reach (or budget) of a design firm, but they can create a piece of content that goes viral, getting them links, social exposure, and media attention, all for their brand. The great equalizer of the internet allows for the potential of a level playing field. To make the field level however, you need to produce unique and quality contributions that others find relevant to their situations.
Right from the mouth of Google himself: Matt Cutts talks about link bait
This is from a Q & A video session from 2009, but all still holds true. Imagine that. Google knows what works.