Create a Link Building Plan That Will Work in 2019. And 2020. AND 2021
I’ve spoken to a number of clients (and competitors for that matter) who invested time and money in doing XYZ to make Google happy, only to see an algorithm update make XYZ an outdated practice that could actually hurt you.
Money gets wasted, playbooks get thrown out, and agencies get fired over an algorithm update. It’s an ugly scene.
I can confidently say, after 10 years of helping brands of all sizes: If you’re doing the right things, you should be excited for the next Google update. If you’re using outdated, or shortcut-driven things, you should be terrified of the next update.
If you’re doing the right things, the next Google update will probably reward you and boost your rankings. But if you’re doing shady things, the update may pull the rug out from any SEO footing you’ve gained so far.
The Google Algorithm Has Never Made More Sense Than it Does Today
This is honestly the most excited I’ve ever been to work in SEO, because the algorithm makes the most sense it ever has. By that I mean it’s rewarding the things it should reward. It’s based on real marketing and real content.
In 2019, there’s an analytical approach to how to write an effective piece of content. And when it comes to link building, you’re trying to create value. You’re not trying to manipulate things to promote a page that’s not really good.
Simply put, over the last 2-3 years, Google’s algorithm has taken big steps towards rewarding the workers and the planners, while punishing cheaters and the shortcut-takers. And this trend will continue.
That’s where Google is going in 2019 and beyond. So if you’re proactive instead of reactive, you will see big SEO and link building wins today, while future-proofing and insulating your success.
Google in 2015 Compared to 2019: Possums, Penguins & Pandas
If you’re still struggling to find the ROI of a good content strategy, you’re thinking in the past!
Let’s set the Wayback Machine to 2015. Back then, you were building links and funneling them mainly to your commercial pages. But then, the Google Penguin update happened.
After that, you’re no longer over-optimizing for anchor text, but you’re still setting up the majority of your links with phrase match or other types of keywords or semantic-style, but the traffic still goes to commercial pages… never the blog.
I mean, who on earth was sending link building traffic towards their blog in 2015, right? And who had time to do manual outreach for their link building
Fast Forward to 2017
We start to hear whispers about long-form content and trying to do manual outreach to promote your blog content; not a home page or a commercial page.
This was a fundamental shift in link building and what we’re trying to promote.
Fast Forward to 2019
The trend has continued.
You need to prove to Google that you’re earning traffic and you should be earning those links. Like I said, the algorithm makes more sense today than it ever has before. It comes down to content and it comes down to links.
You want to be investing in the highest possible content and you want to be promoting it properly.
And you want to be funneling the link building juice to two non-commercial pages on your site, like a blog, a case study or an article. And then you want to funnel that traffic back to commercial pages through heavily optimized anchor text.
In 2013-2015 you would just blast your commercial pages. Now you want to blast back to your blog pages, and then from there, to commercial pages.
If You’re Not Focused on Content, You’re Still in 2015
Ask yourself, which of these three scenarios really tells Google that your site is producing valuable content that should be rewarded.
Scenario 1: You get a lot of links, but you haven’t really had any substantial blog posts in the last year or two. But you’re getting all these links to your commercial pages.
What Google Sees: You’re a little shady. Why did you get 20 links in November- December when nothing else has changed on your website?
Scenario 2: You are creating all this blog content that is +1000 words, 4 or 6 times a month. But, nobody has ever really linked to that content and nobody has ever really shared it.
What Google Sees: Your content sucks. It’s better than nothing but this content has little-to-no chance of ranking for competitive keywords.
Scenario 3: You’re writing quality and long-form content, based on solid keyword research. Once the posts go live, you’re including them in your manual outreach strategy, and earning really valuable links back to your content, which then funnels that link-juice back to your key commercial pages.
What Google Sees: You’re organically earning links to high-quality content. And you will be rewarded.
The last one is obviously what we recommend. That is a strategy that is going to last. It’s taking the learning from the last 10 years of the algorithm and applying it to 2019 and beyond.
This is coming from someone with 10 years of experience in building SEO strategies. This is a plan that I’ve proven will work for both multinational brands and “the little guys.”
*Drops the keyboard like a Mic*
2019’s SEO and Link Building Playbook in 4 Steps
I know I’ve focused on content creation and link building for 800 odd words now, but real SEO is basically a 4 step process. I led with link building because it has seen the biggest fundamental shift in recent years, and to stress it’s importance.
But SEO wins come from following these 4 steps:
1. Keyword Research & Analysis
2. Content Mapping
3. On Page Optimization
4. Link Building
Write them down on your whiteboard, because these are the pillars of everything you’re going to do. Some are more time-consuming than others, but they’re all equally important.
And they’re interdependent, so you can’t skip to Step 4 after Step 1, or your results will fall flat.
Here’s a deeper dive into each.
Step 1: Keyword Research
Of course, all the expert keyword implementation in the world doesn’t work if you’re using the wrong keywords. This can mean misreading searcher intent for your brand, or simply choosing a keyword that has too much competition.
You will want to do this once a year, but not much more. You will just want to choose your keywords and maybe audit them once a year to make sure they’re still the words you want to target.
What Keyword Tool Should I Use?
An effective keyword research service uses a combination of putting yourself in the mindset of your customer while doing a search, then looking at what other sites in your industry are focusing on.
The keywords with high search volume but little use are in the sweet spot for your SEO strategy.
I always recommend using one of these two:
• ahrefs, or
Both are very good and will take you further than Google’s keyword planner. But I definitely consider ahrefs the industry standard and far superior to anything else. Why? Feel free to ask me personally and I’ll happily tell you all about it.
Step 2: Content Mapping
Now that you’ve got your keywords, they will act as the foundation for the next step.
Take these keywords and plan:
1. What content you will generate based on those keywords
2. What internal pages will these assets link to?
Both of these steps are equally important. I always ask a would-be client why they wrote their last blog. The answer is often a moment of awkward silence.
They’re not sure why they wrote that last post. They just wrote it… to write it.
It’s fine to write a blog or two because you have a thought-provoking topic, or a personal story. Or maybe you’re quickly responding to something making headlines in your industry, and you want to piggyback on its online traction.
These are all fine reasons to write a blog, but you can’t base your content strategy around that and expect any SEO traction. And in most cases, you can still write one of those blogs and still add some keywords + link accordingly.
Anytime you publish a blog, you should know exactly what keyword you’re targeting with it, and where you’re going to link to within the blog. This applies to:
• Internal (Your own blog/site) content
• External (Link building posts/ guest posts) content.
If this is an internal post, think about what product/service page you’re going to link to. But if this is an external post, think about which piece of internal content you’re going to post to. This is the shift in link building thinking we flagged above.
So your content calendar should look something like this:
This is just done quickly on a spreadsheet. There are lots of content planning tools out there. Just ensure yours lets you plan the title/topic, the keyword, and the link.
Step 3: On-Page SEO
With your keywords and content both planned, you now want to make sure your site is set up to be found and respected by Google.
This involves a lot of the tried and tested keyword practices you already know. This means adding keywords to:
• Title tags
• Body copy
• Meta descriptions
• Header tags
You also need to optimize your images, especially if you have an online store. e-commerce SEO places a higher premium on images than other areas.
But this also means doing the little things on your page to ensure your data structure is on point.
For example, are you manually putting in bullet points, or are you using the bullet points function in WordPress (or whatever your CMS is) to add your bullets?
Doing the latter is far more likely to set you up to get indexed for a rich-snippet on Google’s front page.
These are massive SEO wins. Not only are these front page, top of the list organic results, but they’re also highly visual and most likely to earn the click.
No matter what effort you put into SEO, having a site with a poor structure is going to ruin a lot of your efforts. There are two reasons for this.
For one thing, a site that’s difficult to navigate will make it harder to get conversions when someone comes to your site. This is why calls-to-action are so important in marketing materials.
Second of all, things like broken links will always impact your ranking negatively. These are very low-hanging fruit on the SEO checklist that can still give you a huge boost.
Step 4: Link Building
We’ve already touched on how to create and optimize great content in the top of this piece. So, now let’s talk about how to pitch your content.
Again, this is not the time for shortcuts. The shotgun blast approach of just sending it everywhere and hoping to hit something is not going to get it done. Manual outreach is the only way to go.
Think of it as building relationships instead of building links.
Reach out to your targets and influencers with a personalized message, talking (sincerely) about how great they are, and how you have something their readers (legitimately) could benefit from.
If you’re creating real content with real value, this sales pitch should be easier than ever. And you can hopefully build a relationship with them so they can publish your content again in the future.
However, going to someone with irrelevant or “fluffy” content, or a clearly-templated sales pitch will ruin any chance of building a relationship before it starts.
Bonus Step: Get Help
While it’s easy to get lost when trying to find SEO success, there are lots of resources there to guide you back on the right path. However, you may need personalized advice instead.
In these cases, it’s recommended to try and enlist the services of the best SEO consultant in your city to ensure you’re creating a solid SEO base rather than following SEO fads.
Want to talk about it? You can click here to contact me anytime.