As long as Google has acted as our de facto gateway to the rest of the Internet, so too have brands and marketers developed strategies for optimizing their content according to Google’s algorithm.
This has created a bit of tug-of-war between the tech giant and advertisers. The sequence goes:
- Google introduces a new algorithm update to better optimize search engine results.
- Marketers then update their best practices to help their brands gain or maintain as much online visibility as possible.
- Within a year or two, Google significantly updates its algorithm and starts the cycle all over again.
With the introduction of Penguin in 2012 and its subsequent updates, Google has become incredibly sophisticated at differentiating between backlinks that are earned organically and those that are established using industry-wide content marketing strategies. Now Google plans to use that information to prioritize sites that predominantly host organic backlinks and, in some cases, penalize sites that do not.
Want to make sure your link strategy is up to date and penalty free? The following tips outline ways that you can update your approach, introduce new solutions and leverage your link-building experience in a link-earning world.
The Rise of Link Earning
It wouldn’t be fair to describe link earning as a completely new concept for two major reasons: First and foremost, link earning was basically the only way that individuals and businesses gained exposure for their website back before search engines were ubiquitous. Those who produced interesting content that filled a need had their website linked to by other websites. In the most straightforward way possible, great content earned you links.
Second, it’s important to point out that the strategies used to “earn” links are not considerably different than those used to “build” links. Both require businesses to make intentional decisions about their content, stay disciplined in producing brand-supported content and find ways to consistently engage with customers and other businesses.
The shift is less about strategy as it is about execution. If you were already link building at a high level and producing content that naturally attracted visitors to your site, then you may have already been link earning for years.
If your link-building strategy was minimal or depended on questionable tactics like purchasing links, your website is now a greater risk for penalties than ever before.
Chances are that Google’s standards will only become even stricter in the future. The time to get your content marketing approach up to date is right now.
Backlink Strategy Advice on Shifting from Link Building to Earning
Sometimes the differences between link building and link earning are as subtle. Convincing another business to link to your site might qualify as “link building” if you don’t have much of a history with the other website.
Conversely, you may have had an established relationship with another professional and they share your content because it is a good fit for their own customers. That would certainly qualify as “link earning.”
In a sense, link earning is merely link building being done at a consistently high level. Here are a few ways to streamline your content marketing strategy and generate organic interest in your site:
Stick to Your Schedule
It can’t be stressed enough how important it is that your brand delivers high-quality content on a consistent, predictable schedule. This is one of the most effective ways to get repeat engagement from online users.
Provide them with valuable information then let them know how, when and where to get more. If you follow up with even more useful content, you’ve got yourself some fresh, organic engagement.
Not keeping to a content release schedule, regardless of what difficulties your business had in producing on time, will quickly erode your audience. Even worse, other websites are less inclined to promote your content if they think your company is unprofessional about meeting deadlines.
Share, Share, Share
Posting links to your brand’s content on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? That’s not enough. The companies that are earning organic links consistently are also engaging customers over a broad spectrum of social media channels every day. Sites like Medium, LinkedIn and Google+ feature feeds that can be used to share content. More niche social media platforms like Pinterest can be used to share eye-catching graphics and other visual materials.
Regardless of what kind of high-quality content your company is generating, it is critical that you share that content to a wide variety of places. Casting a wide net when it comes to social engagement is one of the most effective ways to draw new and routine traffic alike to your website.
Review and Revise
If your brand hasn’t developed a strategy for evaluating the impact of your content, then that needs to change right away. If you do have an evaluation strategy and you aren’t getting the results you want, it may be because your performance evaluations aren’t providing you with the right information.
You need to identify effective metrics for analyzing the performance of your content, including, but not limited to:
- Lead generation
- Bounce rates
Once these evaluation tools and benchmarks are set in place, it’s important that your brand commit itself to constant self-improvement. Your competitors are always going to be strategizing to push their content to the next level. Equal amounts of diligence are required on your end to stay relevant. When all else fails, look at your competitors for ideas and strategies that you can turn into your own.
Preparing for Transition
Updating a business strategy isn’t easy, especially when your brand has been doing things a certain way for a long time. That being said, refusing to stay current with the times spells disaster for your brand’s long-term success.
There are plenty of ways to make the transition from link building to link earning with minimal stress and hassle. As mentioned before, these strategies are not so far apart. Your task is less to reinvent the wheel when it comes to content marketing, and more identifying the special niche that only your brand can fill.
Research will be a major factor in your company reaching its goal. You’ll need to fully understand the types of customers who might be interested in your brand and tailor your content strategy to reflect their tastes.
Talent acquisition will also play a major role in your ability to consistently earn links. Earning links and developing content that people want to share are both full-time jobs. Expecting a professional to wear both of these hats is far from setting that person up for success. Hiring the right people to produce the right content is a much more reliable investment.
Get Support If Necessary
Without sufficient expertise, turning your link-building strategies into link-earning solutions can be time consuming and costly to implement. That’s why it makes sense to work with experts and expand your education. This type of online and offline networking can help you earn more links in the long term as well. Check out the rest of this helpful blog or reach out to us if your site needs more traffic.