The End of Scalable Link Building – Now What?

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On January 20th, 2014, Matt Cutts, Head of Webspam at Google issued a warning about guest blogging, the most common scalable form of link building used by many SEOs today.

We anticipated this long ago. In September 2012 I wrote an opinion piece on Moz offering 7 alternatives to guest blogging.

Yesterday, Cutts took it one step further by announcing on Twitter that Google has penalised a large guest blogging network.

Matt Cutts announcement on Twitter

It was later confirmed by Ann Smarty, the owner of largest guest blogging network MyBlogGuest, that it was them that took the hit.

Ann Smart Twitter

Smarty herself defended her network in a comment to my post in 2012. A year and a half later MyBlogGuest is dead, and so is guest blogging as we know it. Guest Blogging is likely to be the last scalable link building tactic to be used for SEO.

Franky it should be. It was almost only ever used for placing manipulative links beyond the search engine’s immediate notice. Now Google has called it out. The support MyBlogGuest is getting on Twitter is ridiculous, and I’d question their understanding of true SEO.

Now what? How do you build links?

Simple. Don’t do it. Forget about link building. Instead build genuine website and brand awareness, and links will take care of themselves.

Certainly don’t outsource link building to anyone that promises X links for Y dollars. The type of offers you will find on Fiverr, eBay, or even by some agencies, unless you’re keen to get your site penalised. Even more so, when working with a “reputable” agency with big fancy clients, ask them what their track record is. How many of their clients were hit by a Google penalty? What is their method to obtaining links? If the words “link building” “submissions”, “articles” or “guest posting” come up, run. Again, unless getting penalised by Google is your kind of thing.

3 viable alternatives to link building

Here are 3 alternatives to link building. These are ways to generate real website authority and brand awareness without obsessing about links and risking being penalised by Google:

1. Influencer Marketing – Influencer Marketing is about working with influential people (bloggers, Social Media personas) to reach new audiences. It’s a legitimate way get people to publish information about your brand and endorse your product and contents. The important thing is not to obsesses about links, but rather about promoting your brand in a way that will intrigue followers to take interest in it, search for it, visit your site, and maybe link to it if they feel like it.

2. Display Advertising – What is this, 1998? No. Display advertising done right today is an affective way to raise brand awareness. Targeting capabilities on networks like the Google Display Network and Facebook are better than ever, allowing to specifically reach your target audience. Don’t believe me? A Harvard study earlier this year found display advertising generates search volume, clicks and conversions. The effect of display is long term, and shouldn’t be measured in the same simplistic way paid search often is. Smart attribution analysis is the answer.

3. Exceptional products and content – Focus on creating exceptional products and stand-out content. Become recognized as an expert in a field. Put the user’s need at the centre, and fulfill that need in the best way possible. If you publish exceptional content, you’ll draw links naturally, as most of the web is full of mediocre to lousy “SEO” content. Creating exceptional content is really (and I mean, REALLY) hard. Maybe the hardest part in all of digital marketing. But this is why it works so well. It may take hours, days or even weeks to produce that exceptional piece. But do it right and you can forget about link building forever, and get truly sustainable SEO results.

SEO has changed. Link building as we know it is dead. Today, as demonstrated by the alternatives above, SEO is no longer about link building but rather about taking a multi discipline approach based on creating exceptional products and content, and generating true awareness. And that’s not just SEO anymore. It’s digital marketing.

Update, March 22: Many reports out of sites hit by a manual Google penalty in the last few days, likely related to the action Google took against MyBlogGuest. If you were affected, reach out. We can help.