If You Must Get Links, Do It Like This

by / Monday, 21 May 2012 / Published in Search Engine Optimization

This is a piggyback article that I’m posting on the heels of How to Get Links Without Trying to Get Links, so make sure to give it a read if you haven’t already. For me, the takeaway was this:

What I mean is that by focusing on linking, sometimes we will unknowingly offer less-than-stellar content because our focus is off kilter. And I think our readers can smell it a mile away.

What Jenna’s saying here is that we, as SEOs and webmasters, have become so entrenched in metrics and measurements and charts and mega-graphs that we seem to have lost sight of the fundamentals upon which the Web was built.

Stellar content.

For a Minute There, We Lost Ourselves

Think about it. If you’ve been doing this Internet thing for a while, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Let’s take a poll, shall we?

Do you do any of the following? Select from the list below:

  • Do you use any software with a title that begins with an explosive adjective (mega/massive/jet-propelled/turbo-fueled) and is immediately followed by the words “niche finder”?
  • Do you devote more time to keyword research than you do to sleep?
  • Have you optimized each and every page of your beloved website with your best cherry-picked “money” keywords?
  • Do you watch your rankings for said keywords in the SERPs with bated breath, expecting movement… any… second… now…
  • Do you own some sort of paid traffic tool?
  • Do you know exactly when to expect the Googlebot to come crawling?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then don’t panic. You are still a good person. I swear. And these traits aren’t inherently bad, even though the Big G sometimes seems to want us to think otherwise.

On the contrary, it’s GOOD to monitor your sites and traffic. It’s GOOD to do research if your ultimate objective is to rank. But the problem is that the desire to rank has outweighed the desire to produce quality content, which then becomes a chicken-and-egg argument. The true metric is whether you enjoy the subject of the site you’re creating. Is it something you’re passionate about? Enthusiastic, even? Do you like it even just a teensy little smidge? If not, you’re doing this for all the wrong reasons, and that “less-than-stellar” content Jenna was harping on will soon begin gracing your sad, over-optimized pages – if it’s not there already.

Instead, why don’t you try following the Site-Reference method?

Make the content, love the subject, get fired up, and the audience will follow. However, it is indeed true that you can create prolific content and still suffer traffic malfunctions. It happens. The Web has just as much amazing stuff as it does garbage, so it will take a whole heck of a lot of work, passion, and exposure to get your shot at the limelight.

Let’s Talk About Exposure

What defines exposure on the Web? Shh… It’s the four-letter word Google doesn’t want to hear you say. That’s right: It’s a link. And Google’s stance on backlinking is an ever-changing one. We’ll never know the true extent of the metrics used since we don’t have any way to find the Big G’s secret sauce for its algorithm.

In a post-Panda, post-Penguin world, what do we know about link building?

Well, we know negative SEO is on the rise. With all the controversy, that’s kind of a given. But it’s caused us to lose sight of something we’ve known for quite some time: That most sites have oodles of links which Google doesn’t count at all. Check out what Matt Cutts had to say about the matter ages ago.

We also know that Post-Penguin, quality links are the name of the game. That means that links from pages on sites that Google trusts are key to ranking. Trust from Google translates to PageRank (PR). Sites are ranked on a scale of zero to ten with zero being the least amount of trust and authority in Google’s eyes. Most sites have trouble breaking a two. The system’s tough, and Google employs an army of manual reviewers with the sole task of assigning PR to pages on websites (are you starting to understand why quality content is so vital yet? Hint: It’s bigger than just your traffic).

Before, the easy way to get some link juice from high-PR pages was simply to drop a few thousand blog comments on them, buy some paid guest posts, or purchase some sidebar links, right? Well, times have changed, and so must your strategy.

The New Way to Get Juice

Google’s changed. It will continue to change, and so will the Internet. It’s the nature of technology. Here’s what won’t: It will always be imperative to produce stellar content. I’m going to break the process into two steps:

1. Love your niche.

Loving your niche means being passionate about the subject of your site. It also means connecting with others in your niche and being part of the conversation, the recent events, the news. When you’re connected, you have your finger on the pulse of your industry, and by default your content will take the information and add to it in a meaningful way, which in turn will drive the conversation forward and make your voice matter.

2. Get involved with the leaders.

Once you have the first step in check, this next one should come naturally. The leaders in your niche likely have pages with decent (or great) PR already, otherwise they wouldn’t be leaders. When you connect with them, you may just end up with a presence on their site or blog – or even unprovoked mentions in their posts – after all, they’ll look to you for insight and the newest industry information, so the backlinking will come naturally.

Do you see what I did there? Once you’re hot and heavy in your niche’s ecosystem, the backlinking will grow from that involvement, and I think that’s precisely what Google is after.