Bibi Raven warns SEOs in 2023 to not limit yourself by feeling trapped in your link building strategy and reveals some of the key opportunities that you may be missing out on by focusing on just one avenue.
Bibi says: “This applies to all companies, but is especially applicable to those that sell physical products in the real world. Many retail chains have experienced lots of leads coming in from SEO, but not so many from investing in a solid link building strategy.
In the aftermath of international lockdowns and general uncertainty, you’ll want your eCommerce components to become a solid stream of income. Link building is a great starting point, where you can experiment with different tactics until you get it right. Too often companies experiment and get stuck on one type, whether that’s PR stunts, HARO, guest posts, or press releases.
The current state of your site will dictate your link building tactics. For example, if you don’t have enough content or your site looks too commercial/unauthentic, your link building tactics will be limited. While you’re working on SEO and sales-oriented copy, you should start experimenting with linkable assets right away.
One of the most common misconceptions about linkable assets is that lots of companies think they need to be epic - with beautiful graphics, really controversial topics, etc. Though ‘epic’ definitely has a place, there’s no harm in starting with a very low level and progressing naturally from there. For instance, you could do statistics or foundational pieces that tell you about the definition of a certain thing. Because these pieces aren’t commercial, it will make it very easy to build links in this area. However, these pieces can also bomb, which means you’d be sensible to start experimenting right away.
While you’re dipping into link building, keep reverse engineering what’s working really well in terms of picking up links. You can then start producing similar pieces or something else inspired by those pieces.”
What do you mean by ‘the state of your site’? Are you talking about poorer states of your content per technology, stats, stacks, etc.?
“There are many retail chains with huge eCommerce components that need fixing. Attempting to do so can drain significant time and resources, all while the company’s blog remains hidden, minimal in terms of layout, and dictated by the eCommerce platform in operation. This approach is fine in the beginning - because you can always build links to sites - but it’s important to start improving these right away. That way, you’ll be able to create more assets in the future that are easier to build links to - and bigger, passive things.
Often retail chains are beaten at their own game, such as by their affiliate partners/sites. It’s important not to rely solely on one link building tactic just because it works now. At some point, you’ll get behind in terms of content and have to make additional efforts to recover your position.”
Do big brands get beaten by affiliates because they do a terrible job at telling Google who the true entity is and a bad job at linking?
“It’s a combination, but the entity thing is really interesting as well. Lots of big companies skip the basic stuff because they want to sell so hard that they start focusing their content on the product itself. If you have a product with specific ingredients in it, you should instead focus on building out a cluster of content that focuses completely on said ingredients.
Companies often focus on the low-hanging fruit - for example, long-tails. They completely dominate those topics then start sucking up everything around it that’s related to it.”
What kind of things are SEO sites doing better today than they used to?
“One thing they’re doing better is targeting keywords that are at the top of the funnel. Companies are targeting those more than ever and a lot of them are cleaning up their content structure and internal linking.”
What are some SEO mistakes that eCommerce sites are still making but are yet to rectify?
“Content and link building - specifically the tendency to focus on the big dogs. For example, strategists aim to link to Forbes, link from this big thing and link to that big thing. In doing so, they lose sight of relevancy. Getting links from real, authentic, smaller authority sites on specific topics can help.”
In terms of the core competency of link building and content generation, what changes have you seen recently? Are there any tactics that are working more effectively now as opposed to a couple of years ago?
“Embracing a personal style of link building is a great way to resonate with different target audiences. Getting more outreach can have a lot to do with being more personally relatable, where incorporating humour like puns and jokes is a fantastic approach. Take inspiration from The Charm Offensive with Jon Buchan. His jokes are great as templates, yet everybody tends to copy his style.
Ultimately, it’s best to not rely too much on one style of doing things and instead embrace a multi-faceted approach. Use what’s out there, but inject your own uniqueness into it.”
What about the types of links that are most impactful nowadays, have they changed at all?
“It’s difficult to identify these because, when building a variety of backlinks for clients, it can be difficult to pinpoint which ones are working well and which aren’t. Guest posts seem to still be working well, but when you research competitors you’re likely to find their worst links are still working too. To say it’s confusing at the best of times would be an understatement.”
With guest posts, do you want to incorporate a link within the body of the text or do author bio links work okay?
“Most clients will say they’re not particularly keen on author bio links. You’re probably better off focusing on in-content links because there’s a whole concept around them and people will be more inclined to click on them. However, you’d be wise to accept an author bio link from a great site.”
Do you also try to add links to other entities in the industry to demonstrate where the website you want to build a link to sits?
“External links? Absolutely. On the client side, certainly, but also in guest posts and other content. It always makes sense to link out to other sites - but not competitors.”
Do you use second-tier links as part of your active strategy?
“No, they’re too complicated, even for a chess master! It’s difficult to think more than two steps ahead, so second tiers have a habit of being brain-busting. However, there is evidence to say they work.”
Should you not try to get too clever and simply build links to your sites from relevant, authoritative websites?
“Yes. You should start with link building practices that fit your personality and lifestyle well. It’s like that episode from Authority Hackers where you have to think about how things affect you. If you’re risk averse and you don’t like looking over your shoulder, you should probably be avoiding black hat tactics and, instead, focus on getting ahead of the game. However, it is useful to see what everybody else is doing to determine whether you’re likely to get hits.
These tactics can be great as a starting point, but it’s better to fine-tune your approach so it better fits your personality.”
If you’ve published a great piece of original content, can you use links as a launch strategy, where you try to build links for the first month or so and then leave your content to organically obtain links?
“This is where a combination of link building tactics can work well. Lots of people build linkable assets that they think will attract all the passive things in the world. Unfortunately, what they fail to realise is that this is unlikely to be successful - because the domain won’t be strong enough yet or won’t rank for relevant keywords. What you can do is boost that piece of content with a couple of buildings so it gets picked up and starts getting passive links.”
Does the content have to be exceptional for this tactic to be successful?
“Not always. If your content isn’t up to scratch you can just reverse engineer. You can look at a content explorer like BuzzSumo and also use Ahrefs. Instead of using a topic that’s relevant to the client, you can use a word that indicates the type of content. For instance, ‘how many’, ‘why’, ‘the worst’, ‘the best’, ‘stats’, etc. You can then filter the amount of referring domains, the amount of paid traffics, or the number of social shares. You can start seeing what kind of pieces worked well, how you can apply them to your niche, or whether they’re already in your niche.
We once got a link from a US magazine surrounding Jennifer Lopez’s engagement ring. We were doing lots of counter-ideation for a client and did some foundational pieces around gemstones. One of those gemstones was mentioned in the article and they quoted clients. All of this happened via content that wasn’t even groundbreaking, it was merely a Wikipedia-style article about buying a specific gemstone.”
Concerning link building, do you look into competitors, see what links they’ve generated and try to replicate the same links?
“Yes - competitors, backlink sizes, etc. are certainly worthwhile because they’ll give you inspiration for angles you can use on your journey. It’s difficult because everybody is picking up so many links these days, especially spammy ones. It’s tough to wade through and see the kinds of strategies people are using. Whether you’re super efficient at ads as competitive backlink campaigns or not, they’re always worth including.”
What shouldn’t SEOs be doing in 2023? What’s seductive in terms of time, but ultimately counterproductive?
“Though reverse engineering and getting inspiration were mentioned earlier, that doesn’t mean to say you need to copy everything. Once somebody publishes a template somewhere for an email or link building tactic, everybody tends to copy it exactly.
You should really stop just copying people, because this is a tactic that’ll die out very soon. Learn from the best, but be unique.”
Bibi Raven, also known as Bibi the Link Builder, is the Founder of BibiBuzz and you can find her at bibibuzz.com.
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