How to generate links that drive traffic, not just ranking

Many people see link building as a way to drive rankings. But, when done correctly, it can (and should) also drive traffic.
Driving traffic has a lot of benefits beyond the obvious potential increase in leads and sales. More website traffic can provide valuable analytics data about what users are looking for and what confuses them. It can also help grow engagement and potentially referral links on social media as others begin to share our content.
In this column, I’ll explain how to identify sources of links that drive actual traffic and how to evaluate your progress so that you can focus your efforts where they will have the greatest impact.
Identifying link partners
In order to find good sources for traffic-driving links, there are a few ways you can go: competitor research, rankings and influencers.
First, find the publications driving traffic to your competitors by using tools like SimilarWeb to find their top referral sources. Not only do these tools tell

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Links: To speed or not to speed

When we first started as an agency, our link builders were evenly split into two camps: One would send out a flurry of emails to all sorts of sites and deal with them if they responded. The other would spend a significant amount of time doing due diligence prior to outreach so that anyone who did respond had already been vetted.
I always thought it was a good idea to let each new link builder find his own way, so I didn’t usually express a strong opinion about this divide. I could see the points of view of both sides, too. Why bother doing a lot of work up front if the webmaster wasn’t even going to respond? Why disappoint webmasters who did respond when you couldn’t work with them?
On the whole, I have grown to favor the prior due diligence approach as opposed to casting a wide net. I’m firmly of the opinion that some link-building tasks

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Why real human users are the key to the best links for you

Let me begin by stating that I do not put an enormous emphasis on SEO when I’m training a link builder. Generally speaking, my team of link builders knows the basics of SEO, but they’ve been taught that they can’t rely on metrics alone in order to judge whether a link is going to be good or bad for our clients. My background is in general and technical SEO, but I realized early on that for the work we usually do at my agency, most of what I knew didn’t really apply — at least, not in a very significant way.
Of course, if you’re doing high-level analysis of any sort, you do need to have a great deal of SEO knowledge. The reason I don’t train anyone to do this (on an advanced level) is that I don’t want them to ever lose their ability to think like humans. Though they must run all link-building activities by

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10 ways to generate links with online influencers

You may be thinking that no one wants to share your content, but the opposite is actually true: Because they post so often, online influencers are always looking for interesting content to share. All you have to do it research, create and position the right content opportunities to influencers so they will want to start working with you.
If you’re not sure what angle your organization should take to work with online influencers, consider the following angles: unique content sharing, product promotion, sponsorships and relationship building.
You’ll also want to be sure you are familiar with the FTC Guidelines surrounding influencer disclosures, as well as Google’s guidelines on the issues.
Produce unique content
Producing fresh content that is engaging and interesting to your target audience is what entices industry influencers to share. In addition to “how-to” posts, consider creating studies and long-form content and developing discussions that push industry issues. Because content is so competitive, it’s crucial to take an angle

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3 ways to improve link equity distribution and capture missed opportunities

There’s a lot of talk about link building in the SEO community, and the process can be time-consuming and tedious. As the web demands higher and higher standards for the quality of content, link building is more difficult than ever.
However, few SEOs are discussing how to better utilize what they already have. There seems to be an obsession with constantly building more and more links without first understanding how that equity is currently interacting with the website. Yes, more links may help your website rank better, but your efforts may be in vain if you’re only recouping a small portion of the equity. Much of that work dedicated to link-building efforts would then be wasted.
For many websites, there is a big opportunity to improve upon the link equity that has already been established. The best part about all of this is that these issues can be addressed internally, as opposed to link building which typically requires third-party involvement. Here

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Fake news! How to recognize bad advice in link building and SEO

I like to joke that whenever Moz publishes an article about links, half my clients immediately email me about it. But that’s really not too far from the truth! People with big audiences have a lot of power.
But people can make mistakes — even people with strong expertise in a subject — so you do need to be careful trusting information without backup sources. In my opinion, the best thing about Moz is that in the comments, people will call you out, ask questions and offer alternative points of view.
People will also call you out on social media, but I’ve noticed that it doesn’t always happen with smaller sites that have smaller audiences. If an individual is writing on his or her own blog and just getting started, especially if that blog doesn’t allow comments, the writer can say lots of untrue things and no one will even notice — other than maybe your poor client.
When the

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5 steps to creating a more efficient link-building campaign

Link building plays a critical role in SEO today, but despite its importance, many people still approach this component haphazardly. They enthusiastically jump in with both feet, but without a structured process, they fail to achieve the results they could.
In the past, I’ve taken both approaches: I’ve run some link-building campaigns with little to no structure, and I’ve run others with enough structure to make German engineers weep with joy.
I can tell you from firsthand experience that the latter results in a more efficient campaign every single time. Meanwhile, that efficiency leads to better results for your clients and higher profit margins for you. So today, I’m going to share five steps you can use to make your link-building campaigns more efficient.
Start with a plan
I once had a client who, despite having the best of intentions, reminded me of a squirrel who had just guzzled a double espresso. Each time we would develop a detailed marketing plan

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The role of traditional public relations in SEO

If you’re doing search engine optimization (SEO) properly today, then a significant portion of your effort will overlap with traditional public relations (PR).
This is because over the last few years, Google has minimized the effects of easily gameable ranking signals and refined their algorithm to better represent user experience. In other words, websites that satisfy their users tend to rank better than those that do not.
Inbound links are still a critical component of any SEO campaign, but the easy link-building tactics of the past have been wiped off the board, largely thanks to Google’s Penguin update(s). This includes buying links, guest blogging at scale, embedding links in plugins or themes and more.
The only type remaining as valuable and effective over the long term are the proverbial Holy Grail of link building: natural editorial links from high-traffic, authoritative websites.
And therein lies the challenge: How do we earn these coveted editorial links? Well, it’s a two-part equation.
The first part

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Relevance vs. authority: Which link has more value? (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of my series on relevance versus authority in link building. In this series, I’m sharing expert opinions from around the SEO industry. The question I asked these experts was:
“All other metrics being equal, would you rather have a high-authority link with lower relevance or a highly relevant link with low authority?”
In Part 1, I shared answers from those who opted for a highly relevant link over a high-authority link. They made some excellent points about the merits of relevance.
However, there were also a fair number of respondents who made a case for authority, which I will share here. This is why I wanted to explore this topic with industry experts — there are valid points to be made on both sides.
Expert opinions: Authority
Without further ado, let’s go through the answers that favored authority.
Authority links impact search more
Some of the experts who chose the high-authority link cited the impact these links can have on search.

“As far as I’ve seen, I’d

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Link free or die

Why are we so afraid of links?
Back in the old days of SEO, we loved any link if it was free, even if it was from a spammy scraper site or the lowest-quality directory you’ve ever seen. If we did nothing to get that link, it was a great link. People assumed that all links were beneficial — and that even “bad” links were completely harmless, with no potential to cause damage.
Then we started to get scared… and we nofollowed links. We performed loads of link analysis and reached out to sites that we thought were spammy and asked to have our links removed. Oh, and let’s not forget that time period where we were terrified of exact-match anchors and then built 50 links that all said “Click here.”
I’m surely leaving out other critical changes, but the bottom line is that links freak most of us out, whether we’re building them or they’re being built for our site.
Let’s break down five of the

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