Its no secret that link building is something that a lot of SEO’s lose sleep over. Where to find them and how to convince webmasters that their content is worthy and that they should take their time out of their day to link to it take up a huge amount of time. For emerging businesses who aren’t already known brands or niche authorities, building links the right way in accordance with Googles’ webmaster guidelines seems a daunting, time consuming task.
As an SEO, I too struggle with link building. It’s time inefficient and labor intensive but incredibly rewarding once links start to get earned and it begins to move the needle on your client’s rankings and website traffic. While there are a huge number of SEO tools designed to improve the efficiency of tracking rankings, performing keyword research and optimising content, link building remains a hyper-manual, time consuming process.
There are gurus and websites proposing all kinds of link building techniques that are all “absolutely KILLER” that are “guaranteed to flood your site with links”. The clickbait hype of these kinds of articles seem to feed off SEO’s desire to be able to build links at scale, regardless of niche or the authority of the current website within it.
With this in mind, I surveyed SEO’s working in house, digital agencies and on their own websites and blogs to find out which out of the “big 6” popular link building techniques they actually used day to day and which generated the best ROI in terms of time spent versus links gained.
Best link building techniques
The “big 6” link building techniques I looked at were:
- Broken Link Building
- Guest Posting
- Blogger Outreach
- Skyscraper Method
- Un-linked Mentions
- Link Reclamation
To SEO’s most of these should be familiar and most will have utilised at least some, if not all of these in your day to day. Methods like the skyscraper method have been promoted by gurus like Brian Dean and blogger outreach by Neil Patel, names that stand out in the search marketing industry when doing research on link building methods.
When gathering data, I first sought to find which of the techniques would actually be used by professional SEO’s moving forward into 2020, and which they will be leaving by the wayside.
Blogger outreach and guest posting are unsurprisingly at the top of the list, with 22% and 20% of respondents utilising these as part of their toolbox in 2020. With the ability to have strong anchor text keywords in guest posts and a potentially massive exposure to a range of new readers, making friends in high places by connecting with bloggers seems to be a very popular strategy. A win-win for both the content creator and the recipient blog.
Broken link building and the skyscraper method fill out the middle, with 19% of respondents using this in while trying to build links to improve rankings. The broken link technique brings value to a webmaster who are often happy for your help, while the skyscraper method brings value to readers (which Google loves) so it’s unsurprising to see these methods being used frequently.
Bringing up the bottom of the list are unlinked mentions (13%) and link reclamation (7%). SEO’s seem to be favouring strategies that encourage relationship building and value-add as ways of building links, rather thank asking for fixes that are mostly of benefit to the website making the request. So sinking time into once off requests that may just end up in a spam folder might not be the best method to use when trying to build links at scale.
Most time efficient link creation strategies
Blogger outreach was the clear winner as the most time efficient strategy, with 71% of those surveyed rating this highly. Guest posting was the next clear winner with 43%.
Clearly SEO’s are leveraging existing relationships to build up networks for themselves and their clients whereby quality, sharable content is being supplied and both parties are winning.
These two methods were the overwhelmingly clear winners and it’s not surprising. By building real relationships with bloggers who trust the content being supplied links can be earned much quicker than those methods that come from “cold contacting” and just requesting down a one-way street for a link to be either fixed or added.
Least time efficient link building techniques
The skyscraper method, un-linked mentions and link reclamation all fell into the bottom of the bucket in terms of time taken versus links earned, with 43% of respondents placing these into the ‘low’ category.
Despite the skyscraper method being used by 19% of respondents, there was very low confidence levels in how time effective this method is for gaining links. 43% of SEOs surveyed rated this as a time inefficient method for building links.
Creating the very best piece of content for a very specific keyword can take hours, if not days. So while it is an effective strategy that is worth the time investment (given that the page may rank well and generate traffic or brand awareness as it achieves position zero or featured snippet status) it is not time efficient per link earned given the large resource investment needed to create such stellar content pieces.
So, what are the best bets for link building?
Blogger outreach and guest posting seem to be the winners that balance time investment with the number of links generated. Scrapping some of the lease efficient methods, or at least reducing the time spent on these, namely un-linked mentions and link reclamation could help to streamline your efforts and provide greater ROI for you and your clients.
There are a huge number of SEO tools that will allow professionals to reduce the time spent on administration of these tasks, but good old-fashioned outreach and relationship building seems to be the clear cut, most time efficient way to build links. These relationships can be leverage more than once, and for certain websites or blogs can be used across multiple niches. So, get building! But build your relationships first and your backlinks will follow.
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