Want Natural Backlinks? Do These 3 Things.

by Andrew Krebs-Smith | July 14

Though search engine ranking factors have changed drastically over the last several years – and will continue to change – backlinks, when done right, are still an effective strategy for boosting the SEO of your website. The difference, however, is that “old-school” methods for generating links no longer work. In 2014 and beyond, natural backlinks reign. Here are three ways to get them.

Ultimate Guides

People love learning new information. They find value in content that is going to increase their productivity or make their lives easier. Creating an on-line guide is the perfect way to capitalize on this fact. It’s a sustainable piece of content that can continue to offer high rewards in link juice for months or years to come. An ultimate guide consists of well-written and resourceful information on a specific topic that can be divided into several sections or “chapters.” It’s similar to an e-book, but it lives on-line rather than solely in a downloadable format.

For example, Andrew Youderian and Mark Hayes wrote “The Ultimate Guide to Dropshipping” for the leading e-commerce site Shopify. The goal of the guide is to inform people about a particular shipping model that typically serves people who want to start on-line stores but don’t have the capital to stock inventory. The two authors took this broad topic, provided a clear introduction to what the guide was about, and then divided it into the following sections:

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The authors also inserted a cool infographic (more on infographics below) to promote their content on various channels and summarize all the information for those who aren’t really into reading super long content.

As you can see, each section has its own link—this is valuable because readers can now select specific chapters or snippets that they like, and share them on a variety of channels. This creates multiple opportunities for Shopify to be backlinked to on several external websites.

To get the most out of an ultimate guide, distribution needs to be a key focus. First, make sure to create a shareable PDF of the guide that can be easily downloaded by people who may want to read it on an alternative device without Internet access. Having a PDF version also ensures your content is sustainable for years down the road in case links break or your hosting service goes down. Use this MakeUseOf PDF tutorial to create a downloadable PDF version of your guide. Secondly, add an embed code to your infographic or any visual content that you would like shared across the web to increase backlinks. Simple directions on adding an embed code can be found at HubSpot. Thirdly, when your PDF is ready, head over to this MediaBistro resource that offers a list of places where you can share your guide once it’s completed.

After you’ve successfully distributed your guide, you can begin thinking about how you can re-purpose your guide for a stream of content that can be shared overtime. Some ways to do that are:

  • Turning certain sections into blog posts or Slideshare presentations
  • Creating YouTube videos on topics in your guide for which you’d like to provide more detailed information
  • Pulling snippets from your guide and turning them into “tweetable” copy
  • Distributing each chapter over a series of weeks in an email newsletter

Infographics

Infographics are extremely valuable to today’s on-line readers, especially since studies have shown that people have shorter attention spans when it comes to on-line content. Infographics allow you to summarize long-form content and data into a digestible format that is easy for readers to understand. Moreover, by re-purposing your blog post content and packing tons of important information into a clear and well-designed infographic, you can increase the rate at which your content is shared on-line (it’s easier for people to want to share an image on-line versus a longer article that they didn’t finish reading themselves). The one challenge many companies face is how to create an infographic without a designer. Luckily there are a host of sites that help you easily create infographics, even if you don’t have a designer on-call. Most of these sites can be found at Hongkiat’s infographic tools page.

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When you’re done creating the infographic, you can share it on the following sites to accrue traffic and increase the opportunity for a backlink. 

Media Requests

When you begin to consider how creative you can get with acquiring backlinks, focus on ways that your company can be a resource to others. Reporters are constantly being bombarded with information and assignments that they don’t want to do, and as a result they need quality sources in order to generate good stories that their audience will want to read. Top publications may already have the brand power to naturally acquire high-quality sources for their articles, however, mid- and small- sized publications sometimes struggle to fill their pieces with good sources due to their lack of brand recognition. In fact, these publications are also looking to increase their web recognition through backlinks, creating a win-win situation for both the source and the journalist.

To increase your company’s chances of receiving free coverage, position your team as a go-to resource for reporters that cover a specific topic or field. The easiest way begin do this is to sign up for Help a Reporter Out, or HARO for short, and specify the type of inquiries you would like to receive. HARO is a low pressure meeting ground to connect with journalists and writers that are in need of expert sources for immediate interviews. By responding to these HARO messages, you have the opportunity to establish your expertise and possibly gain a backlink through a series of mentions on trusted websites. These are free “editorial” links that are highly valued by Google. Not every HARO response is selected, but if it is, you could easily find yourself quoted in a major or medium-sized publication. 

HARO Productivity Trick: Create an email filter to allow only emails with key words relevant to your business into your inbox. This simple trick will save you time you’d spend reading through unqualified requests.

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Beyond formal platforms like HARO, social media outlets like Twitter have helped to open up fast and efficient communication channels with journalists. Twitter makes it easy to connect with many different types of journalists. Twitter is a great platform for writers to push out questions and get quick feedback. Build a Twitter List of  journalists in your niche and use a social media management tool like Hootsuite or TweetDeck to monitor their chatter daily. Check periodically throughout the day to see if anyone fields for answers, ideas, or throws out questions—Twitter is a great channel to directly interact with news-makers and build long term connections.

Now go get those backlinks!

Andrew Krebs-Smith
About the author

Andrew Krebs-Smith

Helping B2C Retail/Ecomm companies test, measure, and scale digital marketing. Trying to fix the agency model so that agencies are accountable to every client media dollar they spend.