A Guide to Link Building in 2018

By Derek Iwasiuk

As Google’s algorithm continues to evolve, so too do the numerous link building strategies that SEOs employ to help improve a website’s ranking in the search engine result pages (SERPs).

Finding out which so-called ‘white hat’ SEO link building methods work today but are also future-proof enough that they won’t get outdated or even penalised as soon as the next algorithm rolls out can be a minefield for those not familiar with search engine optimisation.

To help guide you through the confusing world of white hat link building in 2018 then here are five tactics that are absolutely bulletproof.

1.    Broken Link Building

Broken link building involves looking for broken or dead links, reaching out to that website’s owner, letting them know their links lead to a 404 error and suggesting a working link to replace it (i.e. your own resource).

This is one of the most popular and scalable tactics. It works since no site owner would want a dead link as it hurts their user experience.

How to do it?

There are a few ways to be successful in this tactic:

  • Recreate a popular content that no longer exists (use the Wayback Machine to see how these looked like before), then send outreach emails to those who are still linking to this non-existent content
  • Audit your website, find good-quality content (or update/tweak them), then run a broken link building campaign for each (i.e. find other site owners who would benefit from linking to your own resource)
  • Write non-spammy emails so you won’t be ignored

To find broken links, you can use tools like Screaming Frog SEO Spider, CheckMyLinks (Chrome plugin), and Ahrefs. Take note that broken link building is a numbers game. You need to reach out to as many people as you can to increase your conversion rate.

2.    Directory Listings

Building links from directory listings is one of the oldest tactics that continues until today, albeit now in a more nuanced approach—that is, you can’t pay for services to submit your website to thousands of directories anymore, as the Penguin update has effectively penalized this.

While internet users probably won’t use these directories, search engines consider these links as improving your presence on the internet.

How to do it?

Unlike broken link building, directory listings is not a numbers game. With this, you need to put value on quality rather than quantity by looking for directories that pass the following criteria:

  • Ran by a human admin that qualifies all directory submissions
  • An old directory that does not have low-quality links and survived the Penguin update
  • Has a healthy backlink profile themselves

Do not overdo this strategy as it’s only good for short-term burst of traffic.

3.    Differentiated Content

You’ll see plenty of guides online pushing for the value of creating unique content—and rightfully so. In this era of loud content noise, a unique and valuable resource breaks through that cacophony.

Marketers pride themselves in creating content that stands out, as it’s easier to earn links naturally this way. You can share it to your social media followers, build your reputation as an authority in your niche, increase your trust signals, and improve your SERP rankings.

How to do it?

Considering the sheer volume of content that you’re competing with, you can do the following:

  • Add more depth to a topic that’s been rehashed over and over (e.g. instead of top 10, make it 20, 50, or even 100)
  • If most of your competitors offer downloadable white papers, create a long-form content that’s readily available as a blog post to make it more accessible
  • Produce videos, interviews, podcasts, or infographics instead of just text
  • Get out of your comfort zone and write about topics you haven’t delved into before

4.    Syndicated Content

Syndication is allowing other publications to re-post content that’s already available on your website. It can either be a complete copy of your content or a few parts of it.

This is controversial to some, however, since you’re basically creating a duplicate copy of your own content, which Google can then opt to rank higher than your original one. Instead of the link juice going back to your site, the other publication gets the benefit.

Worst case scenario, Google will deem your own original content as the duplicate one and hide it from search results.

How to do it?

Syndication requires understanding the inner workings of link attribution and rel=canonical tags, so you’ll get the recognition from Google and the ensuing traffic:

  • Your content should fit the theme and audience of the third-party publisher
  • Ask the website to place a rel=canonical tag on your article’s page, as it signals search engines that you are the original publisher
  • Ask the website to NoIndex their version of your content as this takes care of the duplicate content issue
  • Ask the website to add a direct attribution link to their copy that leads back to your original article (not your homepage)

Syndication is especially helpful to websites that are just starting out, so you’ll get more eyeballs and increase brand awareness via the third-party’s existing audience.

5.    Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is a method used by site owners to share their expertise, increase traffic back to their websites, and establish themselves as authorities in the field by writing articles for another publication.

Although Matt Cuts, former Head of Web Spam at Google, declared the tactic to be dead—prompting a huge backlash from online the SEO and digital marketing community —he later clarified that guest blogging is still effective provided that you don’t use it to spam links.

How to do it?

You can still use guest blogging as a link building strategy, as long as it’s not your primary objective. In 2018, link building is about relationship building and getting references to your content; not merely a tool for SEO purposes.

Find publications with a considerable following and ones that align with your niche. Then, create content that will both display your expertise and remain valuable to their target audience.

Link Building Is About Adapting To Change

Link building from a decade ago is wildly different from link building of today. What may be considered white hat before could now be considered black hat or for those more contentious areas, fall into the ambiguous realm of grey hat SEO.

A case in point about grey hat tactics is using private blog networks. That is owning and maintaining a network of your own websites (usually blogs), with the sole purpose of driving traffic back to another website. Once a widely acceptable practice, this is now seen as a grey hat tactic that could deliver more trouble than benefits. Basically, there is no right or wrong answer as to whether this is good or bad for SEO, but it can court Google penalties and be too time-consuming if not done properly.

Know that strategies tend to change over time and that link building can be tough to measure. However, when done right, it drives referral traffic, gives you exposure, increases your brand’s authority, and builds a community of loyal followers to your business.

For a more in-depth look at how to build loads of fantastic links to your website safely, check out my white hat link building guide on my blog.

About the Author
Derek Iwasiuk is a search engine optimisation and digital marketing expert based in Minnesota. You can connect with him on Facebook, LinkedIn or tweet him @diwasiuk.

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