Debbie highlights effective link building as the key area for 2023 but also cautions against ignoring the other aspects of SEO, like content and technical SEO.
Debbie says: “Link building will be all about diversifying your tactics and building relationships.”
What link building tactics are most effective at the moment?
“A lot of people are focusing their efforts on things like guest posting. There are a lot of great things about guest posting. You can have control over the content that you write, the pages that you link to, and the anchor text that you use. Sometimes, even with one guest post, you may get three or even more links to your website, which is awesome.
On the other hand, guest posting can be a bit of a numbers game, since you’re sending a bunch of emails out to people. Some people are not fond of these emails, especially if they don’t advertise guest posting. Plus, if they are a highly authoritative site, they might not be open to letting people create guest posts and then link to their sites because they want to protect their link equity.
Therefore, instead of just focusing on guest posting, you could look at other tactics, some of which are higher risk. Guest posting is a lower risk, medium-low reward. There are also other tactics out there, like creating a research report. Assume there is a topic I am interested in, and I do a study - maybe a poll. I might learn some interesting statistics or data points about this topic and share that with journalists or content writers. That will be something much more valuable for them that they want to link to. That’s what I would recommend, in terms of more long-term, high-risk, high-reward tactics.”
Would you recommend trying to build relationships with top journalists in your area and giving out your unique content?
“Distributing it to as many places as possible is better. It’s possible that many journalists are interested in reporting that one study that you do. Don’t limit yourself. If possible, try to find statistics or uncovered data that will be interesting to a large audience - and widen your net. You can approach even more journalists rather than remaining very specific to your product.”
What are some more effective ways to start building relationships if you don’t know any journalists or top writers personally?
“For journalists, it’s about understanding what they cover by reading the actual posts they write, and then following and understanding what types of topics they want to cover. That way, you know exactly whether or not your report matches their interests.
Also, aside from just building a relationship with journalists, it is easier to build relationships with your product or service partners. Say you have an app which you integrate with another. You can talk to them and see if you can amplify each other. That way, you can write guest posts on their site, and they can write on yours. In the future, if you produce a valuable report, they can also share it. Then you’re not only just getting a link from the guest post, but you’re building that relationship to increase the number of links, mentions, and interactivity with your partners.
Another thing with building relationships with journalists is using a service called HARO, which stands for Help a Reporter Out. If a journalist is looking for a subject matter expert to give a quote on a topic, they’ll post a request on HARO. A subject matter expert can then submit a quote and potentially get a link and build a relationship. These two tactics are key to helping you maintain that relationship with journalists.”
Is it also important that you try and personalise your outreaches, to begin with?
“Yes. So many people send emails, and it can be pretty obvious that they haven’t even looked at your website or thought about how you can really practically work together. If you just raise the bar slightly by demonstrating that you’re reading their content, they’re much more likely to listen to what you have to say.”
If you don’t have the data yourself, as an organisation, can you partner with a data provider, and then both of you could feature within whatever report you’re creating?
“There was an example of this a few months ago, where Zoom partnered with Survey Monkey to do a pretty big survey related to remote work. Now, that’s a partnership that they can leverage. They published the report on Survey Monkey and Zoom’s domains and got links and press mentions. With this approach, you can work with someone potentially bigger than you and get people interested - especially journalists.”
What gives you the best chance of generating links back to your site? Is it possible to get a keyword-rich link as part of this?
“It depends. I worked on a research study earlier this year for Dialpad that was on the state of video conferencing. We were able to get links. However, sometimes, after publishing a report, they might link to the homepage and mention Dialpad but not link to the report directly. Yet, I’d want people to get to the report and find it. In those cases, I might reach out and ask them to link directly to the actual blog posts page. That way, people can get there without getting lost.
You shouldn’t necessarily fret over anchor texts because it steps more into spammy link building. You want the writer to decide on what that anchor text might be. For the destination URL, try your best to get them to link directly to that page instead of something like your homepage.”
What are your thoughts on Google’s awareness of social media links from social media? Is there any SEO value even when the links are nofollow?
“The value in that is the visibility that you get on social. More people knowing that your content exists will open more doors. If a journalist is following a publication, and they share a report, and many people are linking to it on Twitter, they might be compelled to write their own posts about it - maybe from a different angle. It’s hard to say if Google counts those links because they are nofollow, but they open many doors for more link opportunities.”
Do you try to keep conversations going with thought leaders with journalists on an ongoing basis? What are the best ways to keep these relationships warm?
“You can use Google Sheets to organise everybody. It works most of the time, since you can group journalists according to the topics they do. Then, when you go back to the sheet and do a Ctrl-F, find the specific topic that these journalists cover, and then reach out to them when there’s something relevant.
Basically, anything that you can use to organise your contact list works. Then, if you get people that like your work and ask you to inform them of future publications, you can annotate that on your list. When the need arises, it will also be easy for them to mention your report and copy and paste statistics and the link into whatever they want to write. That’s how I usually approach it.”
Is there a link building technique that used to work quite well but doesn’t anymore?
“People who are trying to do the skyscraper technique. Basically, you find something link-worthy and create another that’s maybe 10% better than what’s out there. Then, you go back and look at who linked to them, reach out to them and say, ‘Hey, I created something much better than what you linked to. Can you please link to mine?’
Such emails don’t add that much value because no one wants to spend time going to their CRM and updating that content. With link building, you need to consider what value you will give to the person you’re outreaching out to.”
Would it be a better long-term approach to build relationships with up-and-coming bloggers within your niche who are more open to having conversations and might be more authoritative in a couple of years?
“Definitely. You should also be looking at people who edit the content on different blogs. If there is a new editor that just got hired, you could send them a congratulatory message and hint that you are open to collaboration in the future. That’s potentially one way you can try to build a relationship there without being too creepy.”
What shouldn’t SEOs be doing in 2023? What is seductive in terms of time, but ultimately counterproductive?
“When it comes to SEO, many teams might focus on content. Yet, there are three pillars of SEO: content, links, and technical SEO. All three of these are essential; you cannot only focus on one thing. Let’s say I create an awesome piece of content that takes forever to load. That’s not going to be a great user experience, and Google will probably not rank your page well for whatever keywords you are targeting.
Let’s also say I have good content and my pages load fast, but there aren’t many links to my site. Links show Google that you are a trusted authority on the topic you are writing about. If you don’t have a bunch of links, then Google might be a bit sceptical about sharing your content. It is important to not only focus on one thing - but all three areas of SEO.”
Debbie Chew is the SEO Manager at Dialpad, and you can find her over at debbieychew.com.
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