13 Link Building Tips From Google’s Matt Cutts
1) Links are (and will continue to be) important for SEO
Every time Google makes a major update related to backlinks, I hear a lot of webmaster chatter suggesting that “links are dead”. One common speculation is that social signals are replacing backlinks as the primary metric for website authority. At least for now, though, that’s not the case. In the words of Matt Cutts: “To say that links are a dead signal is wrong. I wouldn’t write the epitaph for links just yet.” He went on to say that Google has found that Google +1 social signals are “not necessarily the best quality signal right now.”
2) Link building starts with great content
In response to a webmaster’s question on how to build links without building great content, Matt suggested that you need great content in order to build great links: “You do want to build great content, and building great content is often what brings you [organic] links.” Keep in mind:
- You want to build really amazingly great content. If you want to outrank your competitors, start your efforts by publishing content that is way better than theirs.
- Just publishing great content isn’t enough – you also need smart SEO, social, and promotion strategies to achieve success.
3) Create a blog and establish yourself as an authority
Creating a blog is the easy part. Establishing yourself as an authority is the part many marketers skip. A good place to start is with a robust author bio in your blog sidebar or at the end of your blog posts. Next (here it comes again), you’ll want to publish great content on your blog. A few ideas:
- Controversy – a few rants or attacks are OK, but don’t be like the boy who cried wolf.
- Original research – doing research and publishing the results is a great way to attract links.
- Lists – these can increase the impact of your content, but doing too many can become tiresome.
- Tutorials – show your readers step-by-step how to do something, and they’ll appreciate you for it.
- Videos – these can be an easy way to share advice and info with your site users.
4) Build relationships by participating in the community
Share your expertise and knowledge by answering questions via forums, blogs, Twitter, Quora, etc. You’ll be building relationships with people who may own websites and may be willing to link to you in the future. Plus, these relationships will pay off in more ways than just links.
5) Speak at a conference
Presenting at a conference is a great way to get links, from sources such as live blogging updates, speaker bios, and event announcements. (Don’t forget the publicity and networking benefits, too!)
6) Promote your content via newsletter and social media
Create an email newsletter and use it to drive traffic to your new content. Do the same with social media – choose the platforms your prospects use, and starting building a community there. A loyal base of newsletter and social media subscribers makes a great platform to promote your new content to attract links and visitors.
7) Give away something for free
It could be a Firefox extension, a Chrome extensions, a WordPress plugin, a piece of web scraping software, a free service, or something else. The key is that you’re giving away something the community will find valuable – people will start talking about it and linking to you.
8) High quality guest blogging is worthwhile
Matt Cutts says if you’re a high quality writer that’s contributing insight and knowledge to high quality blogs, guest blogging can be a great win-win. On the flip side, though, guest blogging can be “taken to extremes” or become “spammy”, in which case Google will take action. Where’s the line between those two? Well, Matt doesn’t say a lot, but you might start by using Google’s guidelines for what counts as a high-quality site as a guest post quality yardstick.
9) You may want to avoid link building via WordPress themes, widgets, etc.
Matt has said that in many cases, links gained via footer links in WordPress themes, site widgets, and similar tactics are not editorially given and as such should be avoided. Ask yourself – did the webmaster freely and actively choose to link to me? If not, the link may not be valuable.
10) High quality directories can be valuable
What makes a high quality directory? Here are a few tips:
- How much value does the directory add for users?
- Does the directory go out and find websites to add, or do they just wait for webmasters to submit sites?
- Does the directory have strong editorially oversight that rejects low quality submissions?
- Is the directory promoting itself as a PageRank link directory?
11) Don’t buy links
Here is one of the gazillion times Matt Cutts has stated that SEOs shouldn’t buy links.
12) Don’t do article marketing
Matt Cutts said he’s “not a huge fan of article marketing.” (In my opinion, Panda and Penguin pretty solidly stated the case against article marketing as a link building tactic.)
13) Come up with a really creative hook for linkbait
Matt cited “Judging a stranger by their tweets” as an example of great, white-hat linkbait that didn’t cost a lot or money to create. Sometimes linkbait success can be as simple as coming up with a really creative hook and successfully promoting the content.
Matt Cutts and Google may not be unbiased (their goal is to get the results they want, which are not necessarily the same results SEO’s want), but there are certainly some worthwhile tips in the advice they provide. At the very least, these tips help us understand how Google would like for SEO’s to do link building. From there, we can create strategies that stay within the spirit of what Google wants to reward. As SEO’s, it’s our job to implement creative strategies that build SEO success by providing value to the user.
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