2016 is here, and it should come with little surprise that link building is much the same as it was in 2015. Links are still important.
Your links still need to be relevant and they still need to come from human-curated sites. They have to make sense from a user’s perspective. Most importantly, your content and outreach needs to be top-notch.
But it is a new year, so you have to move forward. If you produced great content last year, I hope you earned plenty of links. I hope you built some relationships with your outreach. Even if you did great last year, it’s time to start again and keep that momentum going.
And, if you’re just starting—don’t worry. 2016 is full of link building opportunities.
This post outlines seven healthy links (or many more, if you play your cards right) you can build in 2016. They’re not all quick, easy, or cheap, but almost every good link I’ve ever built has required real time, thought, and effort.
If you’re interested in sustainable links and more relevant web traffic, read on. If you want something quick and easy, there are posts on other websites to help with that. If you run a real business or work with clients, who run real businesses, just make sure the links you build are earned and will benefit your website in the long-run.
In most of the following sections, I’ll have suggestions for link builders who are just starting, as well suggestions for more established link builders. You can mix and match.
1. Local-Related Linkable Asset
Many of the best links you can build originate from your content. You don’t have to be a world-class writer or designer to earn those links, especially if you have good outreach skills. You do have to be willing to do research and apply your expertise, though.
Hard work helps, too, of course.
This year, build a great piece of local-focused content. Even if you’ve built popular content, based on your town or city, come up with something original. The goal here is to attract links from sites that relate to your town, city, county, or state.
It doesn’t have to be related to your industry, as long as it’s related to your physical location.
And as long as it’s useful.
If you’re just starting: Think outside the box. You can start small, as long as it hasn’t been done by other local-specific websites.
- Develop an ice cream tour or shaved ice shack tour of your town, complete with Google Maps markers. Start working on it now, so it’ll be ready for the summer. Besides great links, you’ll quickly become the most popular person around town.
- Build a list of dog-friendly restaurants and bars in your area, complete with menu recommendations, where to park, and other relevant info.
- Create a list of supposedly haunted houses and buildings, complete with their ghost stories.
- Build a guide to family-friendly art, writing, and pottery classes in your area.
Those are just a few random suggestions, but they should get you going in the right direction. If you mention a specific business, such as a restaurant in your content, be sure you reach out to them and show them your guide.
You don’t have to build a gigantic guide. If you create something fun, charming, and useful, local sites will be eager to link to it. Think of it as making an endearing indie film, instead of a Hollywood blockbuster.
If you’re established: Think bigger. Make a related ultimate guide to your city’s parks or aggregate information from popular websites and make a comprehensive guide to biking and hiking trails.
You can also create a guide to historical buildings, complete with interviews from local historians. Be thorough and make it something that visitors or locals will actually see as a useful resource.
If it’s good enough, you might even be able to get some .gov and .edu links.
2. Industry-Related Linkable Asset
Just as you create a local-related linkable asset, create an industry-focused linkable asset, too. The best links for most businesses’ websites come from local sites and industry-related sites. Invest in some content that’s useful for your niche.
If you’re just starting: What’s the most annoying question your customers ask? What’s the most common question new employees always ask? Basically, what’s the one thing that seems like common sense, but no one seems to know?
Answer that question and do it from your perspective. Build your personal story and expertise into it. Build a guide around it and outline everything in a “how-to” fashion. Make sure your content doesn’t talk down to anyone, but make sure you completely answer the question. If you can add relevant images, illustrations, and video, you’ll do even better.
As always, make it useful for your audience. Make sure a potential customer would come away from it feeling informed. And don’t put them to sleep. Keep it lively.
If you’re established: Why not actually try the Skyscraper Technique?
Basically, find the best performing content in your industry and one-up it. Brian Dean outlines all of that in his excellent post.
If you just Google the term, “Skyscraper Technique”, you’ll find several detailed success stories. And stories from several people, who didn’t quite succeed. This is a big undertaking, so I recommend you read several of those stories and do your homework.
If you’ve tried the skyscraper technique to no avail, feel free to move on to the other six suggestions in this post or try making another type of industry-related linkable asset.
But, if you’ve never tried it, this could be the year of the skyscraper.
When I say interviews, I don’t mean the same link-bait, industry-expert roundup posts we see all the time. Those still work to a good degree, but you can aim higher.
Instead of interviewing people who do exactly what you do, why not interview people who are popular and beloved by your audience?
You’d be surprised by how many famous people are happy to grant interviews, especially if you’re polite and willing to give back.
Reach out to their press agent or PR person and be sure to express their value. And be sure to follow up.
Once you complete your interview and post it to your website, search for others, who share and link to that type of content and do some outreach, letting them know about your interview.
If you’re just starting: Find a b-list or c-list celebrity, beloved by your audience. Or, alternately, find a b-list or c-list celebrity who’s interested in your niche. Reality TV stars and independent, but popular, musicians are good starting places. You can find plenty of interview targets with some smart Google searches.
You’ll have greater success if you reach out to them when they’re promoting something—a new product, a new season of a TV show, the launch of their podcast, or a new album. If they’re already doing interviews, they’ll be more likely to grant an interview. Make sure you take time to discuss their project in the interview, too.
Give back by promoting them as much as you can.
If you’re established: Start an interview series with more approachable famous people, who are beloved by your audience, and then use those interviews as collateral to score people with even more pull.
The same advice goes here: You’ll have much more success with people who are already doing the promotional rounds.
4. Neighborhood Links
This is a similar concept to the local-related, linkable asset I mentioned above, except it shouldn’t require much, if any, additional content.
There are tons of neighborhood, city, county, and state-specific sites that might link to you, just because you are part of their community.
You’ll go even further with these sites if you’re willing to offer a discount, willing to offer coupons, or willing to come up with a specific special offer. Some sites will link to you, regardless, but you can form partnerships, too. Build a relationship and then give back to the other webmaster’s audience.
Here are some ideas for both beginners and established link builders:
- Chamber of Commerce: You’ll have to become a member, but it’s a great organization to belong to and a great link. It often comes with good traffic, too.
- Your town or city council
- Sports clubs: Look for amateur, intramural, adult leagues, and school sports organizations and offer them a discount.
- Neighborhood-specific websites, apartment complex websites, and homeowner’s associations: Again, offer a discount if your business is close to a specific neighborhood or apartment complex.
- Locally-owned or franchised hotels: Same concept as above. Offer a discount or special offer for their guests.
Not all of these links will be easy to get, of course. You’ll have to make sure their websites have a blog or a page that might link to you, and you might have to do some telephone outreach.
5. Help a Reporter
You might already be familiar with Help a Reporter Out (HARO), but have you actually used it?
I find there’s a common misconception with HARO. Your business doesn’t actually have to be doing anything newsworthy to make a connection and contribute to a story. Oftentimes, bloggers and journalists are just looking for business owners and experts in certain fields to supply quotes and help beef up their stories.
Head to their website and register as a source. You’ll have to set relevant filters and make sure your pitch and reply are good.
If you’re just starting: Look for reporters who want small business sources. They, oftentimes, want to speak with business owners, who have overcome adversity, are struggling, or who have encountered certain obstacles.
You can offer niche-specific expertise, too. Instead of just giving cut-and-dry advice, make sure you put a little of your own perspective and experience into your reply—but avoid being self-promotional at all costs.
If you’re established: Look for reporters who need success stories. You can go niche-specific, but you can also talk about how you’ve marketed your business. Stories on digital marketing are big, and if you can offer expertise to fellow business owners in your niche (even your competitors), you’ll have a leg up.
You’ll get alerts a few times a day, and you’ll be surprised how often a reporter or blogger is in search of your wisdom.
6. Write or Film a Review
Business owners often send out their products for review in exchange for a link, but what if you look at it from another angle?
This goes for both beginners and established businesses and link builders. Find a niche-related product or service you like. Find something you’re passionate about from a small company or startup. Write or film a review of that product and detail how to use it.
You’ll do extra-well if it’s an industry-related product or service your audience will like and can afford. If you create a positive, useful review, reach out to the company behind that product or service. Unless they’re a gigantic company that receives reviews all the time, they’ll be excited to see (and share) your review.
The goal here is to keep it relevant, keep it useful, and keep it positive.
7. Customer Spotlight
This link suggestion is relatively simple, but you’ll need to do your homework first.
Make a list of some of your favorite repeat customers. From that list, determine which customers have websites, are prominent in their industry, or are prominent locally.
Call or email that customer and explain you’d like to do a customer spotlight to give something back to them and build a better community among your audience. Interview them and focus on their business, their life, and what they’re passionate about. Ask them about your product or service, too.
They’ll be flattered, of course. Who doesn’t like being in the spotlight? If they have a website or even just a large social media following, you should have no problem getting them to link to or share that they have been highlighted for their success.
If you’re eager to build some links in 2016, these seven ideas are a great starting point. There are plenty of other links you can build, of course, but sometimes you have to think just a little bit outside the box.
This year, plan on flexing your creativity, working hard, and aiming high. There’s no shortage of talent in the link building world and most niches are more competitive than ever. If you focus on high quality, useful content and forging local connections, you’ll be off to a great start.
These are just a few of my ideas. I’d love to hear in the comments any ideas you have to build great links in 2016.
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