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The cool thing about being in the position I am as a blogger who writes about link building is that I get to hear from a lot of people and hear what they’re currently doing to build links.
The current time period is no different from any other in the 5 years I’ve been doing this. There’s one tactic that’s getting used & abused by a lot right now, and eventually, it’s going to get dinged or devalued in the near future. In other news, the sky is blue.
Today’s tactic that’s in the spotlight: scholarships. Of course, they’ve been around for a while. They’re nothing new. But guest blogging wasn’t new when it got out of hand from 2012-2014, so this shouldn’t surprise you.
The cool thing is, this one is going to flame out QUICK. The reason being is that these opportunities are shared by the Web as a whole. Sure, you’ve got some saying things like:
- There are some niche specific opportunities in certain verticals that others can’t qualify for
- They’re still editorially reviewed by web editors / university personnel
- Schools will always want to offer their students information on scholarship opportunities
- They’re not “bad” links in the eyes of the big G
But of course, it has its downfalls:
- Schools will finally be aware of the SEO value, and offer to inform their students by other means (i.e. by newsletter) besides obscure deep pages that they probably don’t even find.
- Schools will become wary of web-based scholarships, as more & more sleazy marketers will create legitimate-looking landing pages, but fail to actually pay them out.
- They might not be toxic to Google, but they’re certainly not endorsements worth counting. It’s already been widely observed that these links are being devalued to an extent, but they’ll continue in this direction.
So, we’ll be left back at the drawing board, stuck twiddling our thumbs and waiting for bloggers to publish the next big thing that scales to infinity and is easy to do.
But the posts won’t come.
I really do think that this time, we’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel. I get asked numerous times a week about which tactics we should be doing, and I just don’t have the kind of answer that they’re looking for. That’s because everyone is still looking for something brand new to reshape our entire perspective on what it means to build links. And that thinking is exactly what’s lead us to this point.
If you think like this, scanning every “entire list of tactics” post that gets published, then do yourself a favor and put yourself on the right side of fate by stopping and thinking about the tactics you already know.
So I see two options for those who refuse to play the role of the fox once the barrel runs dry and have to do actual work.
1. Do the stuff that takes effort & is as close to a sure-fire thing for the long-term.
The kinds of things I’m talking about here are:
- What Matthew Barby writes about here. It might sound simple, but it takes effort to craft a value proposition that gets found in the midst of a ton of pitches by PR (not SEO) professionals.
- The kind of content that agencies like BuiltVisible creates that’s used to get seeded on large publications.
The best thing about aiming for these kinds of opportunities is that you instantly weed out 80-90% of the industry who isn’t willing to put in the level of work needed to achieve these links, and never will put in this level of work.
2. Do the “Ghosts of Link Tactics Past” better & more effective than anyone else.
Remember the tactics from a few years back that were used, abused, and then thrown into a ditch in search of more victims?
Well, I haven’t forgotten about them.
What’s left of them are tactics that needed to be executed at a much higher level than before in order to yield the same results. I’m talking about things like guest blogging, links pages, product reviews, general link requests, and even submissions.
Once the barrel runs dry, this is inevitably what people will come back to, and only those that are able to do them exceptionally effectively will continue as link builders, simply because poor execution here will yield no results (or even negative) on a much more frequent basis than ever before.
Currently, this is where my agency lies. We do tactics that won’t surprise you. No, we don’t do anything under number 1, but that doesn’t mean we don’t build links that we believe will stand the test of time.
For example, there are numerous university websites looking to refer new students & faculty to local housing resources.
There are numerous blogs that do want external contributors. Our agency even shares an office with a college town blog network (not the bad kind, the kind that the term was originally coined for) that’s always looking for unique local contributions on what to do, what to eat, and where to go in their cities. And these are blogs that have great readership and social traction.
And that’s just scraping the surface of legitimate link opportunities that are still out there to be acquired by relatively traditional means. The difference is, those that are going to continue to survive & thrive are those that:
- Maximize up-front opportunity with deeper prospecting & analysis
- Are willing to spend the time to manually find the correct person to contact at a given website or organization
- Create unique value propositions with their outreach that triggers responses from people with flooded inboxes
- Continuously test different aspects of their outreach (great example)
- Create internal tools that give competitive advantages
And those aren’t things that are seen in the normal member of this industry. The average SEO:
- Uses all-in-one SEO suites that leave a lot of prospects on the table
- Uses automation tools to find contact information
- Uses the outreach template examples in blog posts read by 1000s of other SEOs (and inevitably used by a lot of them)
- Decides on a template and sticks with it for the foreseeable future
- Uses the same tools that every SEO is using
And at the end of the day, what’ll happen is that these average SEOs will proclaim link building is dead, and you can no longer do things like you could “in the good old days”.
Meanwhile, the few that are willing to put in the work even just using the low hanging fruit mentioned in this section will continue to succeed and will hopefully keep to themselves (and some of you will yell “hypocrite!” at your screen as you read that) as the mediocrity starts to wind down.
So I ask you:
- Why are you still looking for the next big thing? Why aren’t you trying to get ahead of your competition by stopping this kind of thinking, and start planning to do more effective and/or stop taking shortcuts?
- As link tactics continue to get flamed, can you really do this practice at a high level while you also offer local SEO, CRO, web design, and whatever the hell else? If you can’t, then you need to rethink what your service offering should include or not include.
Those are two questions that I hope a lot of SEOs & agencies in this space can start to think about if they haven’t already.
What do you think? Would love to hear from you either in the comments or on Twitter (find me: @pointblankseo). As always, thanks for reading, and stay tuned this year for a few interesting things in the works for Point Blank SEO!
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