Last week I was in Las Vegas attending PubCon. While there, I was able to sit in on a session held by Duane Forrester, Senior Product Manager over Webmaster Tools at Bing; you know that other search engine.
In a way, Duane is like the Matt Cutts of Bing, in that he covers alot of webmaster queries and shares how Bing works at conferences and more. I already discussed what Jason Calacanis and Matt Cutts covered at PubCon and their small scuffle right here.
Today, I want to discuss a topic briefly mentioned by Duane Forrester and dig into some of the ideas that it spawned for me.
That topic was the idea of either paying for links or paying for great content. Basically, Duane covered a quick anecdotal story of a webmaster who used to spend nearly $100,000 PER MONTH on links (Yes, that's a crazy high amount!) to help his sites rank better.
Then I believe some of those link networks got taken down (not sure on all the details), but he decided to instead just focus on hiring writers and producing great SEO friendly and sharable content.
He was getting more traffic AND natural links by producing great content for the same $100k per month investment than he was spending on links before.
So, this spawned a few thoughts for me. First, why not just buy links? And second, is it really that easy to get natural links if your content is so great?
Why Not Buy Links?
First of all, I think you would have to be living under a rock to not know that Google has said over and over again, that they will penalize you if you are found to have purchased a link. There is no questions asked on this one. Buy a link, get penalized when discovered.
The tempting aspect of it of course, is that Google has no easy way of knowing if a link was purchased. So, many purchased links are never penalized and can indeed help boost rankings.
Of course, if you are buying links from a known network or other obvious location (i.e. a page that says, “Buy a Link Here”) you are much more likely to get caught. However, I actually attended a separate PubCon session where the entire presentation was how to go about buying links without getting caught.
So, buying links is extremely risky, but there are indeed methods (such as presented at PubCon) that can reduce your risk. The purpose of my post today is not to go into all those methods, but here's a couple of ideas:
- Don't buy from well known link networks
- Contact webmasters on your own to find link opportunities
- Be very careful who you contact, and try to be as anonymous as possible
I'm not here to tell you what is best for your business, but just be very aware of the risks. However, personally if I am building a website that I hope to have long term potential, I avoid buying any links.
So, if you are building a website that you hope will some day be your full time income, I wouldn't advise buying links; the risk is too high. So, authority sites, business websites, or other long term projects would not be ideal properties to buy links for.
On the other hand, if you want to dive into the higher risk and quick return venture of small niche sites or multiple simple affiliate sites, maybe buying links to get quick rankings would make sense.
But just realize that those sites might only last 6 months or a year before you have to churn out some more.
Its your choice.
Great Content = Natural Links?
Now, I come back to the story shared by Duane Forrester at PubCon about the publisher that went from buying $100,000 in links per month to spending the same on content instead, and found his return in traffic, links, and rankings to be ever higher.
I will just say right up front, that for a small niche site, its probably going to tough to garner many natural links, unless you really think outside the box. And I want to cover some of those ideas.
Strategy 1: Lots of Content
However, if you have a large website, focusing on content actually becomes much easier. For example, my buddy has a larger website project that he has been working on for the past several months, where he is publishing new content on the site essentially every single day (either outsourced or written by him).
These are just well researched articles answering questions or targeting specific keywords within the niche. This friend of mine has not attempted to build a single link to the site or hired anyone to do so.
Well, the site now is getting fairly large with content, and lots of people are finding it through long tail searches on Google. In turn, people are sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, and other places, often without any initiation from my friend.
This has also led to natural links from other sites, again, not initiated by my friend at all.
People find the content, like it, share it, link to it, and the traffic just continues to grow without any link building from anyone.
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Here's the Google Analytics from that site over the last several months to show you the natural growth.
So focusing lots of content on long tail keywords is great way to get traffic from Google (these low competition phrases can rank in Google without any links) and if the content is good, people will share and link to it on their own. But again, this could take hundreds of articles before you see a lot of traction (the above site has about 120 original articles on it and growing daily).
You have to be good at keyword research and consistent with the content for this to work well.
Strategy 2: LinkBait
Another strategy for strictly using content to garner traffic and links is through good PR or more social content.
What we are talking about here is linkbait.
I'm not going to pretend to be an expert in producing link bait, but its a strategy that allows you to focus on exceptional content and get links, rather than paying for links.
Distilled.net produced an excellent guide for creating viral link bait in a number of different ways. So, if you are interested in understanding the type of link bait that I am thinking about, you can read that.
In addition, there are hundreds examples of websites doing well with some of these link bait ideas. Here's just a few examples:
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Some of these examples have garnered thousands of links and dramatically increased the authority of these sites! These are really just examples of paying for content such as infographics, videos, or other sharable content, then promoting it through contacts and letting it take off naturally from there.
Linkbait for Niche Sites?
The question is, can linkbait strategies work for niche sites? Honestly, I can't see any reason why not. If you are able to come up with an excellent infographic or other shareable content, the results should be the same…people will share it.
So, in fact with the right idea, its possible to just spend a couple hundred dollars on a link bait infographic (or other medium) and generate many more links than you would from buying a link building package somewhere. Why haven't I been doing this in the past? Well, it takes a bit more creativity and connections, and paying for links just seemed like the easier way to go.
In addition, I've traditionally built sites that I only expected to make a couple hundred dollars per month from, so it wasn't worth the effort.
However, now that I look at it, this is a much better long term strategy, and there is no reason why it couldn't work for a niche site. And if you are going into a niche that has growth potential, its probably a great way to go.
For my most recent Niche Site Project, Perrin and I are indeed going to attempt some of these linkbait strategies. So, rather than just buying a link building package somewhere, we are going to pay for content that we create through our own creativity, and work on ways to promote this content and garner links.
I'll be discussing more on this in the coming week.
Overall, when you are building your own web property, you should be thinking what makes the most long term sense for your business. Is buying links worth the Google slap risk?
Do you have the creative ability to generate links through some sort of content campaign? Or are you able to pay for daily or multi-daily content for your website? If so, you may be able to just pay for content rather than paying for links and still see all the benefits of great links pointing to your site.
In the end, you have to do what's right for your business.
I would love to hear any comments or questions that you might have in regards to buying links or content production. Feel free to join the discussion below!