I’ve recently heard from some people over the past couple of years that, as link builders, we should only be concentrating on links that drive traffic & revenue.
Earlier this week I watched a youtube video posted on Twitter from Wil Reynolds, which you’ll find below. I have huge respect for Wil (interviewed him within 2012; still worth a read), and in general, I believe that what he says locally comes from an excellent, authentic place.
In the event you don’t want to watch it, the typical gist of this is that the majority of the links SEOs are link building firm “don’t do anything whatsoever to the client”, considering the fact that these links tend not to drive conversions, assisted conversions, newsletter sign ups, etc. He’s one of the people that have mentioned links in this manner, and by no means am I trying to / would like to single him out (he’s merely the most vocal / widespread in the bunch).
This concept sounds great in principle, and can get you pretty pumped up. A couple of other similarly exhilarating mottos spring to mind when I listen to it (heard through the entire community):
“Fire your clients! In the event you don’t like them, then stop coping with them.”
“Build a website for users, not search engine listings!”
“Just create great content, along with the links can come!”
The problem is that we can easily sometimes swing too far in a direction, whether it’s up to the left (i.e. black hat SEO), or up to the best (i.e. constructing a site purely for UX). That can bring about extremes like getting penalties from search engines on one side, and building non-indexable sites on the other.
In this case, the notion of only pursuing revenue driving links, instead of any others, is a great illustration of swinging past the boundary in one direction.
1. Doing an issue that doesn’t directly lead to revenue
Let’s take the logic of the argument and put it on with other parts of SEO. Read this and say that, in addition to a couple of specifics (i.e. page speed improvements), that any one of these improvements lead instantly to increased revenue.
We also know that Google loves original content, and that you have many listing-type pages that SEOs create content for that we could safely assume few are likely to read. Maybe those product description sweat shops are writing content that men and women is likely to make purchasing decisions based from, but there’s a good chance only a few individuals are.
So: it’s OK which every activity we’re doing as marketers doesn’t directly lead to driving revenue. That’s a lot of what we should do as SEOs, anyway.
2. Links that could or otherwise make an impact on rankings
Wil discussed the concern the links acquired within a campaign may well not hold the impact that certain hopes to get right after the campaign has ended.
You might easily make your case that, for anything technical SEO-wise, it’s not really a sure thing that an individual fix will impact rankings. Sometimes you’re in the dark as to what exactly is causing the matter. That’s why audits contain several items to address, because any individual item is probably not what Google is taking one of the most issue with. So, for anything you’re doing on-site, it’s a danger on some level it won’t possess the impact you’re looking for.
But just how does link-building compare to other marketing campaign types that involve outreach / outbound elements (i.e. advertisements, PR, etc.)? Nearly all of those, if not completely, don’t involve 100% confidence that you’ll have the result you’re dreaming about, whether it’s branding, direct sales, or search rankings.
The expectation that a building links campaign would be wise to result in a clear rise in rankings, especially when dealing with a very complex, modern algorithm that could hinder a site from ranking as a result of numerous other issues, is unfair.
3. Existing well ranking websites & their link profiles
Now let’s look at example. Use the websites ranking for “San Diego Flowers”. The ideal ranking site in that city is AllensFlowers.com. They’ve got a bit of solid links that look like they drive a few sales here & there. They have several links that are a lot more controversial in terms of the direct, non-SEO value they offer:
These were given an award from the local event. I believe it’s safe to say very few people have groomed their list of links in this article & made purchasing decisions based off any of them.
These folks were placed in a resource guide for planning a wedding. If this page got a whole lot traffic from qualified potential prospects (people organising a wedding), then without a doubt, I could possibly see this link driving revenue. But as outlined by OSE, this article just has 2 internal links, and I didn’t think it is ranking well for “san diego wedding resources”, therefore i doubt more than a handful of people see the page every month, not to mention click that exact link to Allen’s Flowers.
These people were cited as an example of utilizing a certain technology. I think it’s reliable advice that no sales were driven here (who shops for florists designed to use mSQL?), and although it’s not niche or location related, it’s still a link coming from a very aged, DA50 website.
Do a number of these link examples pass traffic/conversions? Maybe; there’s no way of knowing for sure either way. But the idea is: these are typically links I’d want, and whether or not they passed conversions or traffic, they’re legitimate links that pass the eye test & help this flower shop dominate for those from the main keywords. And this end dexhpky71 will be worth heading out of my way to make sure our link is included upon an awards page, or that the local magazine’s resource guide includes their service with the others in the area.
4. My own experiences
With the clients we’ve had along with the projects I’ve been a part of, one of the most popular things to consider in analytics will be the referral traffic of the sites we’re building links to. I would like to see if some of the links we obtain are sending any traffic, and when they do, if this traffic converts.
One example you think of can be a .gov link project we did for any property site. Earlier in 2016, we built ~30 links throughout 6-9 months (quite a small campaign), and we watched their organic traffic grow ~50% over that time period.
Looking at analytics, ever since the links were acquired, only 3 in the 30 have sent a lot more than 10 visits. A number of them did send traffic that met conversion goals! But that wasn’t intending to make or break why we did the campaign to start with.
I recall receiving a blogroll link quite a while back that sent some serious traffic (mid 4 figures monthly), that was awesome. But when I spent time only pursuing links that might send traffic & conversions, I would’ve built considerably less links, and drove considerably less rankings for my clients & my sites (which, coincidentally, leads to less revenue).
So what’s the takeaway?
I totally understand why a lot people would like to communicate this message. The short answer is that you attract bigger & better clients if you say such things as this. As somebody who writes more being a practitioner, and much less like a thought leader, it’s clear that what I’m doing isn’t the very best lead generation technique for an agency (for all 1 big budget client that contacts us, we get 50 small business owners unreasonably trying to spend $200/month for great work).
With that in mind, I think it’s vital that you be aware of the concept of the message, while still keeping things practical. Here’s how we can perform it.
1. Check referral sources for opportunities
Scan referral traffic with your analytics for patterns & clues to a boost in traffic/revenue driving opportunities. This counts for both new links you’re building, but in addition for all past manually OR naturally acquired ones.
If you find 1 or 2 links which can be sending value, contemplate “are there other link opportunities available the same as this?” For your agency, we usually come up with a tactic that, at its core, is really a single way to get a hyperlink, but can be applied to 1000s of sites. You could have just stumbled into something where there are lots of other opportunities just like it.
By way of example – imagine an eCommerce niche electronics store getting a link from the local robotics club’s New Member Info page on the store’s Arduino starter kit product page. You will find probably 100s of other local robotics club which have website information for first time members (and are likely to have fascination with that basic starter kit), so reaching out to each using a promo code for this product could scale really well, and drive plenty of revenue (ensure they mention the promo code on the next club meeting, too!).
2. If you look for a revenue-generating link tactic, treat it much like the golden egg that it must be
Should you run into one, purchase it to make it happen right whether it can turn out purchasing itself.
Two general ones that spring to mind are press coverage & forum link building. If you’ve got an excellent product, paying a PR professional to obtain coverage could cause direct sales. If you’re inside a niche which includes active & passionate communities in forums, purchase becoming an integral part of them, and understand how you can post links in ways that’s allowed.