8 Ways to Lose a Link

Content marketing means creating content with a purpose. For every piece of how to lose linkscontent you create, you should have a specific goal (or usually, several) in mind that you want it to achieve.

If you care at all about SEO – and I’m not sure I’ve met a content marketer that doesn’t – then one important goal you should have for blog posts is earning links. While the factors Google uses to determine search rankings are complicated, backlinks (quality ones, in particular) are still arguably the most important factor.

And one of the biggest factors involved in earning links is appealing to writers. We’re the ones who do most of that linking.

Let me assure you that we’re not spending our days considering whether or not we’ll make or break brands in our decisions about what to link to in our articles. We’re just trying to write the best, most useful content for our clients and their readers.

We’re not thinking about you, but you can benefit from thinking about us and understanding what goes through our heads when we decide whether or not a piece of content we come across is worthy of that link.

Just like anyone, we have our standards and pet peeves – sins that will make us immediately click off a page and refuse to consider it a worthy authority for our readers. To help you avoid inadvertently losing out on a link, I surveyed a few colleagues to better understand what makes all of us tick and decide a link is not worthy of our love.

8 Sins to Avoid if You Care About Building Links

1.    A bad website design

If your website looks like it was built in 1999 and hasn’t had an update since, it won’t look authoritative to me (or any of your other visitors). I’m not the only one who feels this way, Content Strategist and Author Leah Levy told me “I wouldn’t link to a piece if the site looks spammy — that is, it has an outdated design.”

“Spammy” is about the last word you want people to use to describe your website or content. The quality of the content itself won’t matter much if it lives on a website that looks so cheap and old that no one can get past the design.

As Linda Dessau, the founder of Content Mastery Guide, put it “Since a link is an endorsement, I steer clear of sites that look outdated or unprofessional. I want to be associated with people and businesses that have a polished and professional image.”

2.    Sloppy writing

Part of our job is paying attention to things like spelling, word choice, and sentence structure. When we encounter something that’s sloppily written or riddled with typos, you can bet we notice.

Linking to something that clearly no one bothered to proofread would make me look bad. If you can’t be bothered to take the time to read over your blog posts (or hire someone to do so) to make sure they make sense and don’t include any embarrassing errors, then writers won’t bother to share or link to them.

And it’s not just about writers nitpicking, sloppy writing makes you look untrustworthy. Leah agrees, she told me, “I wouldn’t link to anything with clear spelling or grammatical errors (nor would I trust it).”

3.    Bad UX

A good website design isn’t just about making sure you don’t look stuck in the 90’s, you also want to make sure people find your site easy to navigate and pleasant to be on.

Unfortunately, many businesses are callously sacrificing good UX in attempts to get more email sign ups and clicks. Pretty much anyone you talk to will have their opinions on what makes for bad UX (although not everyone would know to call it that).

For me it includes pop ups that block out the text and blog posts split needlessly between several pages when they could all be on one (slideshow posts are notorious offenders). I’ll put up with a certain amount of that on sites that are established enough or if the content is really useful. Normally though, I click away and find something else.

Freelance writer Susan Johnston Taylor has her own list of UX dislikes: ““If a site is littered with Google ads, broken links or typos, it doesn’t seem very credible.

As does writer and editor Christine Moline of Jane Doe Ink, who told me, “I wouldn’t link to a poorly organized post or any pages cluttered with ads.”

Linda added a couple more issues to the list: “I screen for overly aggressive or annoying pop-ups, sites that are slow to load or aren’t mobile-friendly.”

All told, different descriptions of bad user experience accounted for the most common answer I received from writers.

Just to reiterate, the final list of UX issues that will make writers click away comes to:

  • Annoying pop ups
  • Articles split into too many pages
  • Lots of ads
  • Broken links
  • Slow loading times
  • Sites that aren’t mobile friendly

If you’re prioritizing getting email sign ups or ad money over the experience visitors will have on your website, know that may be costing you links.

4.    Overly promotional content

When you’re paying for content (or investing a lot of time in it), it’s hard to set aside the idea of promoting yourself. I get it. You want a direct payoff for what you put into it.

When you make your content all about you though, it makes it come off as less trustworthy.

I head from multiple writers that overly promotional content was a no-no in their linking choices, but writer and content maven Phaedra Hise had the most to say on the subject: “I don’t link to anything that’s too promotional. I’m really picky about that – if it’s too promotional I might even link to it as an example of what NOT to do, but usually I don’t even like to give that kind of publicity.”

I mean, links are nice, but you don’t want to get one by becoming a writer’s example of what not to do.

5.    A statistic without a link or citation

None of the other writers mentioned it, but this is one of my personal rules. If your article mentions a statistic without telling me where it’s from, you will immediately lose my trust.

The thing is, many of us think we know statistics we don’t. I’ve come across the same statistic casually mentioned in article after article that I’ve never been able to track down to a source.

Sometimes the source is a research report that costs hundreds of dollars, so I understand if not every statistic can be easily linked to. But make sure you let me know which report that costs hundreds of dollars it’s from so I’m willing to at least take your word that it’s real.

I can only speak for myself on this one, but if you ever want a link from me, make sure you cite your sources.

6.    Outdated information

A lot of industries move fast. If your blog post from three years ago says something that’s no longer true, then it’s losing value in the link economy.

Says Susan, “If a post is several years old or clearly references outdated information, I’d try to find a more recent post to make sure I’m linking to something that’s still current.”

That doesn’t mean your old posts are useless, just that you should make a project out of updating them now and then. In particular, any posts you have that are popular and bringing in traffic now should be revisited so you can see if there’s a good opportunity to update any of them for accuracy.

7.    Lack of authenticity

This relates somewhat back to overly promotional content, if you come off like you’re trying too hard or acting like something you’re not, people will notice.

Barry Feldman, founder of Feldman Creative put it at the top of his list of things he won’t link to: “Posts lacking personality. I think you can offer a lot of knowledge, but I’d rather not align my brand with yours if it’s boring. And that represents 90% of content marketers, sorry to say.“

The good news is that if 90% of marketers are doing it wrong, then bringing some real personality to your writing is a good way to differentiate yourself.

On a related note, Carol Tice, author of the recent ebook Small Blog Big Income and the blog Make a Living Writing , cited one of her biggest dealbreakers as when “the blog author is pretending to be an authority when they really just started doing the thing they write about.

There’s a definite value to positioning yourself as a thought leader or expert – but only if you have the knowledge and experience to back it up.

8.    Moral reputation

Carol had another big sin that she mentioned: “I won’t link to posts on the Huffington Post due to its policy of not paying writers, since I am an advocate for fair writer pay.”

She’s the only one of the writers I talked to that mentioned this particular point, but I suspect we’ve all shied away from visiting or linking to a website if we know the brand represents something we disagree with.

Be careful what you stand for and how you treat your employees and contractors. If you gain a reputation for being about something that many writers don’t agree with, they’ll be quick to find another resource to go with instead.

Conclusion

To summarize, the eight deadly sins that will lose you links are:

  • An outdated website
  • Sloppy writing and typos
  • A bad user experience
  • Being overly promotional
  • Not citing your sources
  • Letting your content become outdated
  • Not being authentic
  • A bad brand reputation

Avoiding these things obviously doesn’t guarantee you links. We’re still going to seek out the resources that are most valuable to our readers and relevant to the subject we’re talking about. That may be your links; it may be those of another business or publication. But if you’re guilty of one of these eight sins, then even if your content is useful, there’s a good chance we’ll look for another resource to use instead.

If you want to appeal to the people doing the writing, then take heed. Producing valuable content is one part of the puzzle, avoiding the errors on this list is another.

Link Building is Dead, Practice Link Encouragement

Within the most of marketing industry, to say that link building is dead isn’t terribly controversial. Nonetheless, many businesses haven’t yet left behind the idea and come to marketing firms and consultants convinced it’s what they want for their business.

The shift in the direction that SEO and online marketing have taken in the past couple of years due to recent Google updates is good for consumers, but bad for businesses looking for an easy fix to outrank the competition.

If you care about competing online, you can’t hire someone to do a little SEO work for you as a one-off project and expect results. Instead, you’ll have to drop the idea of an easy fix, and think bigger.

Content Marketing=Link Encouragement

It’s certainly still true that gaining links back to your site is mostly a good thing, but the quality and relevance of the sites giving you those links matters more than the quantity. The only way to get a link from a site with any authority is for them to want to give it you.

They have to believe that what you’re offering provides value for their visitors, and feel comfortable associating their site and brand with yours. Without that, you won’t get anywhere.

For this reason, the best approach is not to set out to “build” links, you need to encourage them by providing something that relevant sites will value. As you’ve probably surmised by this point, that means content.

The Good News

Content marketing is not an easy, quick fix. It’s a long-term process. But, it comes with many benefits besides link encouragement.

Content gives you the opportunity to earn trust from your audience and demonstrate that you know your business. A consumer trying to choose between a business that talks about how good it is, and one that shows how good it is by giving a taste of the knowledge and expertise it’s able to impart has an easy choice.

With some time, effort and strategy put into it, your business can build up a community around its content that doesn’t just attract customers, but creates advocates. A customer that feels she has a relationship with your business will make sure that people in her life know who to turn to when they need your services. A loyal customer that feels a bond to your brand is a better marketing tool than anything a marketing firm can do for you.

SEO Best Practices: Press Releases

One of the main tenets of search engine optimization is link encouragement. While many refer to this as “link building,” I feel the best practices for gaining links to your business website is to provide content that encourages people to share it. In this regard, press releases are an especially good tool for SEO.

The best practices for SEO don’t just encourage more links to your site, they offer valuable information to potential customers and those running relevant websites.  Press releases provide your business the opportunity to bring important news about your company and products to a large audience and give many news hungry websites something noteworthy to publish.

There’s a long list of potential topics a business can benefit from publishing press releases for: the release of a new product, substantial updates to current products, an important new hire, geographic expansion, upcoming events, charitable activities, new programs, initiatives and anything else your company does that’s new or noteworthy.

For more ideas on potential press release topics and a surplus of examples that you can use as format templates, just check out any of the many press release distribution websites, such as Business Wire or PRWeb.com. The cost of posting your press release to sites like these can be well worth the level of attention they receive from them, but there are also a number of free press release distribution websites like PR.com and 24-7 Press Release.  It’s also worth taking some time to research industry specific sites that you can submit your press release to as well. These can be especially valuable as they help your news reach the most relevant audience and encourage links from more relevant sites, which are especially good for SEO.

Press releases draw attention to your business, alert a wide audience to company news and are a great tool for link encouragement. As an SEO best practice, they’re relatively easy to produce and distribute, at little cost.

SEO Best Practices: Networking

One of the primary tenets of good online marketing is ensuring that your small business carves out a visible space in the larger community. This applies both to the online community as it relates to your industry and the geographic community that you’re a part of, the latter in particular if the goods and services you offer are primarily targeted at local consumers. In terms of search engine optimization, building positive relationships is important as it’s likely to lead to more links to your website.

By establishing positive relationships with bloggers, publications and other businesses and organizations active within your industry and community, you can help expand the reach and awareness of your own business. The value of networking to business is nothing new and certainly not exclusive to the benefits it provides to search engine optimization, but there are new techniques and venues to explore for developing beneficial relationships for your business.

In person networking is still one of the best means of creating new contacts. Local networking events and conferences provide valuable opportunities for meeting people in your community and industry who can help with an exchange of ideas, projects and links. You can learn about services and products being provided that can help your businesses, while also raising the profile of your ability to help other businesses and individuals with your own goods and services.

Moving more into the online sphere, there are multiple useful strategies that can be deployed for online networking. Social media is in some ways an ideal tool for this. LinkedIn was developed for precisely this purpose. It offers an easy means to stay connected to those contacts you meet at the live networking events, as well as an easy to use solution for seeking out new relationships with individuals doing work of relevance to your industry. There are many industry specific groups you can join on LinkedIn to stay informed of and contribute to conversations occurring of importance to your profession.

Though in many ways less direct, Twitter is another tool many are coming to find useful for networking. You can follow prominent industry leaders, journalists or bloggers with an emphasis in your area, as well as other local businesses and organizations to stay afloat of any events, updates and notable comments or articles they’re likely to highlight. By contributing thoughtful and useful information via your Twitter messages, you can gain more attention for yourself and your business and cull a following of your own. Much of the value of Twitter lies in interaction: showing that you’re listening and interested in what others are saying and also willing to provide valuable information as well.

While it involves a little more time and work, developing a presence on industry blogs, listservs, forums and message boards provides another venue for increasing your online profile and getting the attention of those in your field that could serve as productive networking contacts. Following the most pertinent online resources and adding insightful comments where appropriate will demonstrate your value to the community and ensure that people are more likely to think of you and your business when a need arises for the services you offer.

One of the themes that appears commonly in discussions of what makes for good SEO is finding opportunities to add value. Use the knowledge you’ve developed in your industry to provide helpful information to others and it will go far towards raising your profile in your industry and helping you develop and maintain the kinds of relationships that are crucial for long-term success. All of this will help lead to a growing awareness of your business and a greater likelihood of others to link to your website and increase your page ranking.