Is it possible to have good SEO without link building? As Google moves away from a link-based economy, the answer to this question is one of the hottest topics in the marketing world.
For many years, link building has consumed the majority of time and money allocated to increasing SEO value. However, algorithm updates like Google’s Panda, and the related Panda Patent, are dramatically reducing the effectiveness of relying on links alone.
Google is pushing hard to find ways to quantify brand popularity via methods like identifying implied links, which are mentions of a brand that do not contain anchor text. The overarching goal is an organic and spam-free utopia, where all mentions of a brand come naturally.
Ambitious? Of course. Spammers and black-hatters will always find loopholes in the system, but Google is making them harder to come by.
Based on Google’s recent efforts, brands need to tread with caution. In the short-term, links still carry value; however, it will be very wise to adopt a strategy that plays into the strong signs that links will continue to be devalued, and eventually done away with.
Before you proceed, a disclaimer is warranted. The term “link building” refers to the act of building manual links, via forced or unnatural tactics.
There are still many effective ways to simulate natural links, and marketers have developed clever methods of doing so. However, this article focuses on a new school of thought, that says you can generate natural links without standard tactics like article outreach, guest posting, paid links, etc.
This is a controversial topic and many marketing experts will vehemently argue against our proposed approach, especially since so much time has been devoted to developing effective techniques for procuring links. Also, there has been no official word from Google that the Panda Patent is in effect.
Now, back to the subject…
How do brands and marketers continue to build SEO value without building links? Let’s start with the fundamentals.
– Build a great website
– Produce great content
Your website is the foundation of your online business, and Google only rewards sites that adhere to its best practices and requirements.
Building a well-optimized site is a challenge, and requires an in-depth knowledge of the technical components of on-page SEO, and the Google search algorithm. It also requires time, as there is no defined method of getting Google to recognize and reward your efforts.
Older sites may not be built according to Google’s standards, and may have a history of black hat SEO tactics. These factors make it extremely difficult to gauge effectiveness of an SEO strategy.
New sites, on the other hand, may be rewarded faster, especially if they are built correctly and are free of a spammy SEO history.
Here’s an extremely simplified list of the key factors in the Google algorithm. It’s critical to work with a marketing team that understands how to properly implement on-site SEO that follows Google Webmaster Tools Best Practices, and obeys the guidelines of the Penguin and Panda updates.
– Keywords & On-Page
– Content Quality
– Domain Authority
– Page-level Authority
– User & Usage Data
– Spam Analysis
It’s important to note that while all of the above items are important factors in Google’s global assessment of your SEO value, it’s impossible to have truly good SEO without strong Domain Authority and Page-level Authority.
Domain Authority is analogous to the old BCS rankings for college football or the Academy Awards. Google is the governing body and is assessing the overarching strength of your online presence, and awards the highest ratings to websites with the strangest sum of all parts.
Page-level authority is the ability of your individual website pages to convince search engines they are relevant sources of information.
Without these two items, you’ll be hard pressed to dramatically improve your SEO, regardless of what other tactics you implement.
Great content, in the context of augmenting a link-based SEO strategy, is that which triggers natural engagement and sharing by real people. This type of content requires a strategic approach and an intimate understanding of your audience and industry.
The good news is, there are many ways to approach a content strategy, without relying on article outreach, guest posts, paid links, etc.. It’s extremely important to focus on producing quality content that your audience cares about.
Here are multiple outlets for a content marketing strategy:
– Press & Public Relations
– Social Media
– Content Marketing
– Online Advertising
– Offline Marketing
– Email Marketing
– Word of Mouth
All of these tactics can generate natural interest and organic engagement with a brand, but may require a widespread and aggressive approach. The keys are learning where your audience is mostly likely to engage you, and delivering enough quality and/or frequency to stimulate a sustained effect.
Good SEO is a natural byproduct of having a great website and great content. As Google cracks down on unnatural means of forcing links, marketers and brands alike need to find ways to facilitate organic brand awareness and engagement.