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Link Building Doesn’t Happen in a Vacuum

Micha Boettiger | October 26, 2015

Link building is an essential tool in our SEO arsenal, and an important part of any serious digital strategy. Link building is NOT, however, a one-stop shop solution to all your digital marketing problems.

This is something you’ve probably seen first hand if you’ve run a link campaign in isolation any time in the last few years. Link building just isn’t very effective in a vacuum.

Link building is an essential tool in our SEO arsenal, and an important part of any serious digital strategy. Link building is NOT, however, a one-stop shop solution to all your digital marketing problems.

This is something you’ve probably seen first hand if you’ve run a link campaign in isolation any time in the last few years. Link building just isn’t very effective in a vacuum.

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I'm talking about more than just not backing up your links with content. Content is king, sure, but without good design, community engagement, and traffic, your project isn’t likely to get very far.

You can't simply skip ahead to the link phase of a campaign - you need to deserve the links first.

Link Acquisition Requires Marketing

I’ve written about problematic digital strategies in the past--particularly for entrepreneurs and new marketers. Links are an important factor to consider in online marketing because of their unique role as a primary ranking factor in search.

Backlinks are and will remain incredibly valuable because they can reasonably be interpreted as a vote of confidence in favor of your website. A link is effectively telling the website's audience “This site is good, you should look at it.”

But links aren't a magical solution within digital marketing, and you can't get votes of confidence without first inspiring confidence.

Of course, links were abused in the past. The 00’s was a pretty dark time in terms of search engine manipulation and runaway link building. As time passed, algorithms have improved and gotten better at detecting manipulation to determine which sites really deserve to rank for which terms.

Besides just picking up on grossly unnatural links, search engines can also track a host of other important factors. This means that going forward, it’s going to get increasingly difficult for sites to rank well without having other characteristics that indicate that it “deserves” the links that it has. Links are vital to search in general, but without the support of other factors that should naturally co-occur with those links, they won’t be worth much in the long or short term.

How Can A Site “Deserve” to Rank?

To determine how a site can really deserve to rank, we need to think about the service that search engines want to provide. The obvious goal of every search engine is to provide people with the very best answer to every query/search.

It’s speculated at this point that Google’s looking at, and weighing, important factors besides your links, including your direct traffic, return traffic, bounce rate, and possibly even social media shares and likes on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

A site that really deserves to rank will have more than just links. Rankings need to be grown from the bottom up, rather than imposed through some clever trickery from the top down. The better you make your site, the faster it can grow.

So, what does all that mean in terms of internet marketing and branding?

You Need An Integrated Digital Strategy

Link building and SEO are most effective when they serve to complement a greater integrated digital strategy. Naturally occurring links are built when customers or other professionals cite you or your business as an authority elsewhere on the web. The conditions that usually exist to encourage that behavior are…

  • Good site architecture and design
  • Linkable assets and authoritative content
  • Community engagement
  • Active social media presence
  • Significant web traffic

All of these things work together to begin building the authority of your or your client’s website, and brand. They all work together to validate and amplify each other. Links come in at the very end as an outside acknowledgement of the quality of these things; a vote of confidence, if you will.

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Let’s take a second and break it down a little bit…

Your site’s architecture and design work to make your site look professional, dictate crawl priority to Google, help you rank, and keep your pages user friendly and easily navigable on all devices.

Good UX and design makes your content easily accessible and encourages browsing between different articles, apps, or other linkable assets on your site. Those linkable assets provide you with content that you can talk about on social media, and also encourages other professionals and readers to engage with you about your content both on and off your site.

That social interaction is a vital tool for community engagement. Just using your social media profiles as a dumping ground for your latest content can actually damage your brand image, so be cautious. What makes people bother to look at those posts is your constant human interaction with the community. I wrote a whole article about that particular topic here.

As the name implies, linkable assets can also drive your first completely organic links. That, along with good design, UX, and engagement serves to drive additional traffic to your website, which will increase engagement and promote social sharing even more.

This cycle will continue and grow as long as you keep updating with truly relevant content, and engaging with your community.

Because this process can take a long time to set up, a host of other digital marketing services exist to drive traffic and leads directly. PPC, webinars, TV commercials, and traditional “meatspace” marketing all help businesses accelerate the process to become a big name in their industry more quickly.

...and Link Building?

Link building isn’t going anywhere. Links are the dot on the i of your digital strategy. They’re still an enormous ranking factor, and they serve to show both that you’re engaged in your greater community, and that you’re a relevant authority in your field.

Keep building those links, just don’t forget that links don't happen in a marketing vacuum.

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About The Author

Micha Boettiger

Micha is a digital strategist at Netrostar, an internationally minded Miami based digital marketing and web design firm. You can follow him on twitter @writerworldwide

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