Search engine optimization (SEO) is alive and well in 2019. Despite the calls that “SEO is dead” - which we have heard for years now - backlinks remain a significant ranking factor for both national and local organic listings (see Moz).
Yet, Google has evolved the algorithm, as they do every year, and continues to put out warnings about “good” and “bad” backlink building. Most recently, Google added guidance stating that any contract that includes the requirement of a dofollow link will be considered a link-building scheme, and therefore is out of bounds for digital marketers (see reference here).
Google continues to maintain that backlinks need to be the result of a relationship, and can’t be purely founded on an economic exchange. Certainly, they don’t like people paying for links. But they have also frowned upon any type of exchange of links. In fact, link exchange websites are as old as SEO itself - and are widely avoided by respectable digital marketers.
Guest blog posts became the target of fearce Google criticism a few years ago when Matt Cutts was still at Google. Although, he did walk his statements back a bit after a strong backlash. It seems untenable that people will not help each other out on blogs and online publications as co-authors, contributing or guest authors.
Furthermore, this directive to “stick a fork in it” (related to guest posting) seemed to contradict Google’s advice to “form relationships” as the primary means of gaining visibility for your business (and ultimately to get backlinks).
If this remains the favored approach to building visibility for your brand, with the hopes of getting a backlink for SEO, how exactly can small businesses land great backlinks in 2019? Here are 3 ideas:
Link Outreach - Link outreach is a widely used method that utilizes cold email as an mechanism to open relationships with other influences. With a well-tuned link outreach campaign, a small business can target specific websites and use email to outreach to them. Website owners who are receptive to building a relationship will response, and often opportunities for cross-promotion can be found. Of course, it is critical to follow all the appropriate regulations around cold email.
Help A Reporter Out - HARO is another opportunity for relationship and link building. Again, this is an email-based technology that helps publicists meet reporters in the hopes that great content producers can rapidly share relevant information with reporters who need expert sources. In many cases, the end-result is a backlink.
HubShout - HubShout offers a free product that is a mixture of Link Outreach and HARO, with a technology twist. At HubShout, you enter the keywords of your client, and their technology matches you with a story currently being written by a reporter. From there, the two parties determine if a relationship would be beneficial - sometimes resulting in a backlink.
It is clear that the rules of backlinking have changed in 2019. Gone are the days of high-volume, low DR links, link wheels, and RSS feeds. While these products are still widely available online at places like Fivvr, their efficacy is clearly diminished (if not outright dangerous for a website).
Business owners need to build online relationships to land great backlinks. There are several techniques that can accelerate this process, such as Link Outreach, HARO and HubShout.