photo credit: db*photography
One of the most discussed Search Engine Optimisation topics is by far link building. This is partly down to a common belief by newcomers that it is the only thing to look at and partly that each website needs a different approach.
Many Link Building blog posts exist (check out this SEOMoz Link Building Article for a good start) although people are still asking and struggling with the topic.
In this article I am suggesting an alternative way to approach the subject if you have run out of ideas; take a good look at your website.
What does this mean? When I first entered SEO this was a topic I also struggled with link building. Eventually I began to realise that there was not one solution to link building for all the websites I managed – each one needed a different approach and different ideas. I soon modified my techniques to analyse the topic/company, the industry and most importantly the website itself.
My suggestion is basically to flip your mindset and the questions you are asking. Instead of “How can I find links to promote this site?”, try asking “How can I improve this site to get links?”. Instead of “What are my options for link building?”, think “What link building opportunities does the website allow?”.
This is all quite abstract and to help picture this for your website here are some real life examples:
Scenario – Affiliate Site
Typical Approach – Many affiliate sites are following the approach of find a niche, find an affiliate program, create a basic website and get visitors. At the point of link building the website owner might look at “quick fix” solutions such as blog commenting, mass directory submission, social bookmarking etc. and soon realise this won’t work (anymore). They then might possibly look at paid directories (who don’t tend to list affiliate sites), content for link exchanges (the higher quality sites won’t promote a thin affiliate site) and maybe paid links (again high quality sites won’t be interested and your risking the wrath of Google Matt).
Suggested Approach – The real issue here is nobody has a reason to recommend your site. You have created an affiliate site that is potentially thin on information and fat on methods for getting a sale, email address or whatever. Consider changing your approach to the website by primarily offering good information, community benefits or some other value. Improve your site design to ensure you are not dismissed as just another affiliate site (e.g. Get rid of that Associate-O-Matic default template or redesign that horrific one page sales letter). Offer a unique way to access whatever you are promoting (e.g. better filters, aggregated customer reviews, special offers) that really does help the user.
Once these changes have been made your link building opportunities open up – relationships with related websites, better success rates on paid directories, organic links and it will be easier to get better quality websites linking to you (paid, content exchange or just natural).
Scenario – Dry Industry
Typical Approach – You are promoting a website in an uninspiring industry such as a funeral director or a kitchen fitter. There are no big name blogs that you can arrange partnerships with and you seem to have hit a brick wall with ideas for getting links. You are also potentially struggling with finding ways to reach your potential customers.
Suggested Approach – By looking at the website itself you can brainstorm ideas for links and potential new angles at getting customers. Don’t forget that search engine traffic is not the only way to get visitors. For a funeral site an online obituary with simple and creative ways to link and contribute could be implemented – think Facebook applications, blog widgets or simply “tell a friend” functionality. For a Kitchen Fitter find a way to utilise the wealth of experience by forming a relationship with a high profile blog or website – provide regular content in exchange for links or simply run your own blog. Always look for ways to utilise inside information or experience (good quality articles, news on the latest products or technology, industry changes).
Scenario – Underperforming Community Website
Typical Approach – You are running a forum, social networking site or some other kind of website that requires user input to be successful. The visitors aren’t coming and you are stuck in a Chicken or Egg situation – you essentially need visitors to attract visitors. Traditional link building hasn’t brought the contributions you had hoped for and the site is dying a death.
Suggested Approach – Essentially the problem here is nothing to do with link building and requires a look at your website first. Above all don’t be afraid to accept if your idea/niche/approach isn’t working – that tribe about cats living with dogs might have seemed like a good idea at the time but is there enough interest for it to be feasible long term?
Firstly take the pressure off the community aspect of your site by expanding other areas – run a blog, add an articles section or find some other area of the site depending on your topic. Reduce the size of your forum or community site as necessary to avoid giving the empty impression. Reward loyal users by featuring them in your blog, giving them moderator abilities or perhaps involving them in bigger decisions surrounding the site. Investigate forming relationships with related websites and perhaps offer incentives to other communities for joining your site.
Final Note – in conclusion, the technique I am suggesting is analysing your website and approach to find or make room for link building opportunities. This is simply a change in mindset to the traditional idea of trying all the latest approaches that surface through forums and blogs.