By Paul Parcellin, Staff Writer
March 7, 2016
As an affiliate marketer you’ve probably heard that the content that you provide on your site or in your blog must be of top quality if you hope to attract an audience of qualified prospects. You may also have gotten the impression that link building is something to be avoided.
With Google’s Panda 4.2 update, designed to lower the ranking of sites with weak content and return sites with higher-quality content closer to the top of search results, it may seem that content is all that matters.
Yes, content is king. The best researched, most useful and insightful material is the cornerstone of a successful affiliate marketing site. Common sense will tell you that content that offers real value to readers will create a buzz, and that visitors who are interested in great content will share your material with others and likely return to that site.
But some folks who are in the know say that link building can still play a vital role in improving your site’s ranking and it’s placement in search engine results pages.
John Mueller, who heads up Google's Webmaster Central Help Forum, recently responded to a question about link building, and his answer helped set off another round of controversy about link building.
"We do use links as a part of our algorithms, but we use lots and lots of other factors, as well," Mueller said during a Google+ hangout a few months back. “So only focusing on links is probably going to cause more problems for your website than it actually helps."
Some may have assumed he was saying that link building is at best of limited worth, and at worst potentially harmful to your site’s ranking.
But others say that Mueller’s comment really meant that link building is still a factor that Google takes into account in evaluating and ranking sites.
While marketer Chuck Price says that Google gives different factors, including links, different weights when it comes to determining a site’s ranking, links can be both good and bad. If the only kind of links you have are ones you got by contacting site owners and asking them to link to your content, Google may see those links as less valuable to the user.
Mueller said that asking for a link is not entirely a bad idea, though. In the case of a business that was linking to its competitors and asking them to return the favor, Mueller commented that in some cases that would make sense. But links that you received by badgering other webmasters into giving them to you would probably be viewed by Google as less than relevant.
Mueller suggested instead that marketers reach out to others who are offering relevant content, and for whom your content may helpful. “If you’re bringing this content to a webmaster and they think it’s good content, then generally that’s OK.”
But, if you’re going to build links by asking webmasters for links, you may want to consider these suggestions first:
• Think about whether or not it’s logical for this site to link to your content. If the linking site has no connection to the content that it’s linking to, Google may look upon that link unfavorably.
• Suppose that the link you’d receive were a no-follow link – it had no impact on your site’s ranking – would you still want it? If the answer is no, then it’s likely that the link would not add value to your site and would therefore be irrelevant.
In addition, Mueller suggests making it as easy as possible to link to your content. Have a URL that’s easy to copy and paste.
Marketer Ben Fuller says that due to the 2012 Panda update, you can’t turn your site into an overnight success by using spammy tactics and offering low-quality content. Link building is still a valid tactic for improving a site’s ranking, but now it’s a slower, more gradual process.
He offers some tips on accumulating links organically over time, which is the way to build natural links that won’t adversely affect your site’s ranking:
When discussing link building, SEO blogger Michael Martinez says that he distinguishes between placed links and earned ones. The links that you acquire naturally, through good content, are fine. The “self-placed links” are the ones that can get you into trouble, he says.
Fuller suggests using content that may help you collect more links:
Case Studies – You can help consumers who are doing research before making a purchase by posting helpful case studies. They can also provide an opportunity to talk about obstacles that you’ve overcome and the success you achieved as a result of that, which will help strengthen your brand.
Polls and Questionnaires – Many of us enjoy offering our opinions about products and services, and surveys, polls and questionnaires can serve a double purpose. They can help engage your audience and they may also allow you to collect useful information that will help your business.
Content Curating – When you share news and information that you’ve compiled from other sources you are curating content. Rather than merely copying material from other sites you can also create your own original content based on the information others have produced. You could write an evaluation of the material that interests you, or you might want to simply summarize it. If it’s information that interests you, chances are it will interest your audience, too.
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