The art of natural link building

In the early days of SEO, link building was little more than a numbers game; the more links you had pointing towards your site – no matter how suspect – the better your rankings. These days, the leading search engines are a little more sophisticated, with a far higher premium placed on ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ links, and potentially serious penalties for spammy or shady practices.

All of this makes the art of link building a more complex, but ultimately much more rewarding, task. Here are a few lessons every SEO professional should keep in mind.

1) Work with a professional copywriter

Natural links are all about creating strong, authoritative content. Nothing undermines this impression faster than clunky sentence structure, poor grammar or copy that’s riddled with spelling errors. If you just don’t have what it takes to write a fantastic article that will gain impact, a professional copywriter with a good working knowledge of your industry can help you to create compelling and easily digestible content that your readers are much more likely to share.

2) Good for the consumer = Good for Google (and vice versa)

These days there’s no real separation between good content and good SEO content. Sure – there are certain disciplines that remain more important in specifically SEO-focused content, but search engines are increasingly likely to reward content that adds genuine value to a web page from the user’s perspective. Whether that’s hands-on guidance, professional insight or something quirky and entertaining, if the user responds positively to it, you should see your search rankings improve accordingly.

3) Don’t expect something for nothing

These days, most bloggers are wise to the value of a natural-looking link, and they’re not likely to host a guest blog or write about your business without some form of remuneration. Paying for links is a risky business, and can lead to crippling penalties if you’re caught out. Casting a wide net for guest-blogging opportunities can be a frustrating and time-consuming experience, so it might be worth exploring other ways to get links from industry figures.

4) Cultivate brand ambassadors

Instead of essentially ‘cold-calling’ high value blogs, encourage your more pro-active customer base to become part of your online community. You can do this by offering exclusive products for review, sponsoring a project or activity that they’re working on or sending them to industry-specific events and conferences. Maintaining an active dialogue with your customers through your company blog or via social media is an important part of keeping them engaged, and could make them more inclined to put up a link.

5) Don’t recycle news stories – create them!

Using a blog or a newsfeed to pull together news and insights from your industry isn’t a bad way of generating links, but if you’re simply recycling stories from elsewhere, you’re not likely to get much traction out of it. Generating your own headlines can be a much more effective way of getting people talking about – and linking to – your brand. A compelling news piece – perhaps based on a study or a survey of your customers – presented in an interesting and visually striking way can provide the foundation of a highly successful link building campaign.