It’s no secret that Google’s algorithm changes have flipped the SEO industry on its head the last few years. Simply put, the technical SEO and link building commonly deployed a few years ago has much less of an impact as they once had. In some cases, they have a negative impact. Building links for the sake of rankings in lieu of creating great content that solves problems is no longer in vogue. Google’s algorithm update, code named Penguin, is responsible for this change.
Building Links Today
Google still uses links in its algorithm. However, they are much more particular as to the ones that matter. With so many potential pitfalls how is an SEO supposed to build links now?
The answer is – they shouldn’t. Number of links built shouldn’t be a key performance indicator (KPI) or goal for an SEO campaign at all. SEO KPIs should include high level metrics like number of keywords driving traffic, total traffic from organic search, conversions from organic search, etc.
Traditional SEO success metrics like rankings and number of inbound links are either a trailing indicator of success or no indicator at all. This fundamentally changes what it means to win at search today.
Owned Inbound Marketing
Winning at search today requires creating quality content consistently that people want to consume and share. By doing so, blogs and online media outlets will naturally link to the owned content. This is the cornerstone of using inbound marketing for SEO success. However, the above description represents an owned media approach to inbound and SEO.
Earned Inbound Marketing
The same principles that make owned inbound marketing so impactful on today’s search metrics can be deployed on the earned side of inbound marketing. This earned approach represents a peculiar marriage between traditional link building and public relations. The below are 14 steps to deploy an earned inbound marketing campaign that is Penguin-approved.
- Network with known, successful blogs and online media outlets that align with your industry via social media and phone. Build REAL relationships with community managers, editors-in-chief and popular contributors over time.
- Probe them to find out what type of content, case study or survey data would be prized by their communities.
- Suggest you do the leg-work and research to create the white paper, ebook, guide, etc. Ask if you can interview them as a subject matter expert for the advanced content.
- Create the advanced content. The quality and value of the content should be unquestionable. It should be professionally designed. Your contacts should be wowed by the effort.
- Create an owned landing page to download the advanced content on your website or blog.
- Create a lead nurturing campaign for landing page conversions.
- Offer to give the most popular blog or online media outlet exclusive first-time publishing rights to an article that presents some of the core takeaways of the advanced content.
- Write the article. This should be easy if you created the advanced content yourself. Make sure there’s a strong textual call to action in the middle of the post and at the end that points to your landing page. Don’t include ALL of the takeaways from the advanced content.
- Deliver the article. Get agreement on a publishing date.
- When published, socially promote.
- Analyze the data and adjust the landing page accordingly.
- Offer the other blogs and online media outlets articles that present secondary or tertiary takeaways from the advanced content. Make sure these other articles are unique and equally valuable. Some media outlets will prefer to write their own articles about your content. That’s okay, too.
- Repeat steps eight through 11.
- Watch your referral and direct web traffic soar, your sales funnel fill up with leads and your bounce rates drop. Increased organic visibility follows.
Here’s what the above 14 steps look like successfully deployed:
The above earned inbound approach is best deployed in the midst of an ongoing owned inbound campaign and acts as Internet nitrous for driving traffic, conversions and online community. However, it’s also a great tactic for brands just getting started with inbound and content marketing because it expedites the success curve and provides new outlets for brand exposure.
The major value proposition of the above is not search engine visibility. It’s the referral traffic and conversions it provides. However, one of the secondary effects of a successful deployment is valuable, Penguin-approved, links that soundly communicate to Google your digital relevance for its search engine.
For help with the valuation of your current referral traffic download this Valuing Digital Marketing Channels with Attribution Models ebook.