Edit 31 May: Got a reply from Tom Critchlow, my mail must have been lost somewhere as he never got it, but the second time around he was more than happy to provide an answer, and this answer is probably something none of us expected.
Edit 21 May: Just got a reply from Rand Fishkin, like I said, the guy is just busy, from my experience he is always ready to reply, and what a reply I got from him!
Over the past few weeks we have been concentrating on link building as a center topic on this blog. I know some of you think the sun shines out of my… with my slick advice and all, but I thought it would be a good idea to offer insight from the top SEO’s in the market today for one simple question:
What is in your opinion the most effective link building strategy at the moment and why?
I must admit I was surprised by the replies, the quantity and the quality of them. I didn’t receive replies from only two people, and that is to be expected as I know they were busy with ProSEO, so here is a shout out to Rand Fishkin and Tom Critchlow who are always fast to reply, I know you were busy, and if you decide to add to this post feel free to drop me a line. So here are the answers I received from the few people I respect and admire:
Obviously the perfect link building technique depends on the client and industry etc but if you want the all out most effective thing right now I’d say it’s design and HTML5. Sites that look stunning and leverage fresh technology seem to do exceptionally well. For example consider http://benthebodyguard.com/ and http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com/.
Rand Fishkin – http://www.seomoz.org/team/randfish – @randfish
In my opinion, social engagement is one of the best ways to earn links in today’s environment. Because participation in social media (and not just Twitter + Facebook, but blogs, forums, LinkedIn, Quora, StumbleUpon, Flickr, etc) is still so nascent in so many industries (outside of technology + startups), there’s an outsize benefit to becoming a leading participant and authority in those spaces. By contributing robustly – comments, answer to questions, intelligent comments, substantive discussion, etc. – to social areas of the web, you can build up a great brand presence that earn links of all kinds.
In particular, I recommend not only participating on other sites, but bringing the discussion back to your own site’s content. When you post a rebuttal or a discussion or simply an opinion about what’s happening in other parts of the web and cite the participants, there’s a strong chance you’ll earn natural, high value links from across your industry. Those links will bring not only higher search engine rankings, but more awareness, visitors and subscribers, all of whom will increase your potential to earn new links with future content.
The short answer is that I think the premise behind the question is flawed because it’s making the assumption that what is “the best” strategy will be the same across multiple spaces, but that isn’t accurate.
What is best is always completely dependent on a) the individual metrics of the site you are working with, and b) the competitive landscape of the space you are working in.
And given Google’s incredible improvements over the last year when it comes to being able auto-filter sites at the query level, focusing more on a customized blended strategy approach helps you mimic the footprint of the dominant sites you want to beat is more important than ever.
Well, my answer is obvious, I guess I am a huge believer in building links through providing great content, especially through hosting this content on powerful blog (outside your personal network of sites). This increases your reach and builds your brand visibility as well.
Here’s how guest blogging differs from article marketing: http://myblogguest.com/blog/guest-blogging-versus-article-marketing-what-really-works/
And here’s how guest blogging is different from blogging for yourself: http://myblogguest.com/blog/guest-blogging-versus-blogging-for-yourself/
And, last but not the least, here’s why guest blogging is useful only when you provide high quality: http://www.blogherald.com/2010/06/22/why-guest-blogging-is-useless-for-link-building/
I prefer viral link bait. If you can write great content that people want to link to, your rankings will naturally start to increase. At the end of the day, good content will always win.
Create content that’s links worthy, then promote it to the people who want to read it and the linkerati.
(I would expect the same answer from Matt Cutts, short and to the point)
I think the most effective link building strategy you can focus on is quality over quantity. A lot of people are out to get as many links as possible in as little time possible, and with Google’s crackdown on low quality content, you can be assured that they are going to devalue low quality links as well. And if you want high quality links, you better have high quality content on your site to attract those links!
Guest blogging works great as a tactic as barrier to entry is usually high. This means that it’s hard to manipulate link signals on a mass scale. Google will feel no threat from links secured through content contributions to high quality websites. Spammers will stay away from this as they do from any technique which requires energy and effort.
I believe that guest blogging is the best type of link building you can do. Google is really placing a lot of value on high quality content and contextually based links, so if you can find high PR or authoritative blogs to guest post on, that is going to be the best way you can drive quality links to your site.
The only caveat is that this strategy does take some time, because you are creating unique content. However you can outsource this to an expert if you have the budget. More and more companies are allocating budget towards content development, because they are seeing how important it is, if they are looking to be found on the web.
At an agency level, the most effective link building strategy is a strong relationship with traditional PR firms and media buyers. Why? Because these guys hold the key to reaching the most powerful websites on the web. Most of the time they’ve already established relationships and are spending money with the big players, why not work some inbound links into the contract? This is hands down the easiest and most effective tactic available IF you’re lucky enough to have these partners working on your accounts.
At an in-house or freelance SEO level, I think guest posts on industry blogs is the best way to get inbound links. Of course it’s time consuming to write great content, and you’ve got to be willing to connect and participate in blog communities, but the payout is worth it.
Great Stuff Guys, Thanks Again
So there you have it, one simple question “What is in your opinion the most effective link building strategy at the moment and why” gets this many different answers from different SEO experts. This will surely help you in your link building efforts, so consider the advice given here when you start your link building.