LINK BUILDING: QUALITY VS QUANTITY – When Less Is Definitely More

Posted by: Joe Ryan
Date posted: July 11 2014

Picture the scenario: you sit down on your laptop, put on your link building cap, don your link building glasses, flex your link building muscles and then set out to find hundreds of links from blogs, directories and content sites, but you still cannot achieve that first page result, even with a fraction of your links. Seriously! What’s up with that? What does that page have that yours doesn’t?

A good guess is that your links are from poor or low quality websites. Yes, they number in the hundreds but lately, Google and other search engines are giving more authority to sites that already have strong and high quality links. So it’s safe to say, you’re looking for a link love affair at the wrong places.

In some aspects, link building is an important part in ranking high within search engines. As a rule, one of the main ingredients to getting your rankings high up there, is to have unique and informative content. That should be a given. But if you really want to break into the top ten, you need other websites to link to your site content! Why? Without other high quality websites linking to yours, you will find it tough to be an authority in your niche and rank for your primary keywords. So which is better? A high volume of low quality links OR a few quality links?

Link Building Quality vs Quantity

With Link Building, Less Is More

The famous phrase “Less is More” is extremely relevant in the current link building status quo. “Quality vs. Quantity” is another phrase which is coined regularly by SEO’s, but frequently ignored due to:

  1. Client budget restrictions (meaning the quality is sometimes out of reach).
  2. Existing (old hat) internal processes for link building.
  3. Profiteering (getting clients aboard and selling cheap/low-end services) and churning clients.
  4. The list goes on…….

In reality, the process of creating engaging content, reaching out to potential (high quality) publishers with your content and finally acquiring a willing publisher, is no easy task! However, once this process is in motion (however painful it’s been), your traffic will improve, brand awareness will increase and you will acquire targeted and relevant traffic. However, this process comes at a cost = time and resources.

Below is a basic diagram of the strategic link building process:

High Quality Link Building

Diamonds Aren’t As Big As Bricks

So, you’re performing your link-building routine and you come across a website that you feel would be a good fit for your content and you would add value to the website. So, what’s next? Well, you could use tools like MozBar to quickly evaluate a websites Domain Authority and other characteristics to know whether they’d be a high quality partner. And if they are? The reality is this one link will likely be much more likely to send traffic to your website due to the content you’ve provided (high quality!) and ultimately improve your search rankings at the same time = double bubble!

It’s like getting more value for your money or getting more bounce for the ounce as they say. This is why content that is engaging, compelling and unique is crucial for your site to thrust its way up in the rankings.

Why More is Sometimes Less

It’s natural to get excited when receiving lots of “yes, I’ll publish your content” responses from webmasters. Your hopes get boosted. They reply to your emails and agree to post your articles, your hopes now shoot through the roof! Your fingers are working overtime sending emails and articles back and forth. At the end of the day, you’ve just emailed a little over 100 bloggers and most are willing to post your article. Bam! However, following this process, your rankings still didn’t improve much :-(.

Most likely, the reasons are one or more of the following:

  1.  Your articles are published on sites that easily accept guest posts. Usually, these sites have a lot of outbound links (spam) because they accept posts for different SEO campaigns (and financial gain reasons).
  2.  You’re attempting to ‘pay to publish’ an irrelevant and poor quality article.
  3.  You are reciprocating content (exchanging content) with a competing website (most likely someone in the same niche as you are, but in the USA). This is not great as Google may consider this as a reciprocal link exchange, and your site won’t receive much PageRank or link juice anyway via this strategy.
  4. Your links are coming from Link Networks, which have been built by various link building agencies for the pure purpose of being able to ‘build links’.
  5. Your content is published on sites whereby anyone can freely post articles or images (unmonitored [free for all sites]) without any quality control process.
  6. This list goes on……..

How to Avoid Low Quality Links/Publishers: An In-House Guide

Most SEO companies will know that getting a multitude of low quality links is a waste of time and can damage the reputation of your website – don’t waste your time or damage your brand.

Here are some of the quality control processes we adhere to when acquiring quality publishers for our client’s content assets (basically, to get high quality links :-)….

  1. Is the website/domain relevant contextually?
  2. Has the website acquired good social engagement relating to the content published?
  3. Has the website maintained a good level (or increased) traffic following Google updates, such as Penguin or Panda (among others)?
  4. Does the website have an author with good klout?
  5. Is the website relevant to your geographical audience or a top level domain (TLD) relevant to your region (such as .co.uk for the UK)?
  6. Does the domain have a high level of authoritative referring domains when auditing with MajesticSEO?
  7. Does the domain have a good Moz Domain Authority?
  8. Is the c-class IP address unique comparing to other c-class IP you already have links from? There are many tools available to identify duplicate c-class IP’s, including Majestic SEO and others.
  9. Is the publisher hiding links (same colour as the rest of the body of content)? This can be considered as hidden links and essentially an unethical practice, which could penalise the publisher of your content along with you (or your client if you’re an SEO) at the same time!
  10. How many outbound links is there on the page your content is to be published (and site-wide)? The best course of action is to audit the website and ensure a modest volume of outbound links.
  11. Make sure there are no more than 3 small or 2 large ads above the fold. Following Google’s Page Layout Algorithm Update that targeted websites with too many ‘top heavy’ ads, it’s extremely important to check whether your potential publisher has too many sponsored ads because chances are the site will lose traffic due to penalisation in the long run (if it’s not already).
  12. Does the website publish ‘sponsored’, ‘advertorial’, ‘brought to you by’, or other ‘paid’ options? If yes, try and avoid these following Google’s crackdown on advertorial networks/paid content following (but not limited to) Interflora being banned for abusing this link acquisition strategy.

The Outreach Process: Creating Quality Content Assets & Relationship Building With Publishers

Being realistic, content marketing isn’t a small-scale process that many can do extremely well. It has become a major marketing battlefield, creating quality content need not be complicated. The ultimate goal in creating anything of value is to share it with the world.

Here are simple steps in creating the perfect (or near perfect) content marketing strategy:

1. Laying the Groundwork

For any strategy to work, you need to be a visionary. Someone with a clear view of what he wants his marketing plan to tackle and eventually solve. This is laying the groundwork for your marketing strategy to help build your business. You need to get your people to see what you see. You have to make them envision what you envision which should be aligned with your organisational goals. In this way, you’re moving as one. This marketing strategy will help your team:

  • Make the content production be in tune with your business goals and your client’s needs. This can be made much easier by requesting an events calendar from a client to ensure you’re aligned and content marketing efforts are scheduled to be more effective.
  • Plan the budget allocation well to ensure assets are tip top.
  • Map out content to major events holidays and seasons to achieve greater relevancy with your audience.
  • Address the loopholes your content relating to specific keywords, client personas or stages in the sales process.

2. Answering the 4 W’s in a production process

So now we’ve laid the foundation, it is now time to put the processes in place and give it a smooth flow according to what you planned. Consider the following:

  1. WHAT? What are the types of content that your target audience wants to read? Can your team deliver? What is your call to action for each of your content assets? What is your ultimate goal? Make sure these are clearly marked from the get-go.
  2. WHO? Who are the members of your marketing team? These include the writers, editors, and publishers and everyone in the team should know who is in charge of the content and what their responsibilities are.
  3. WHEN? When do you publish? Are you publishing too frequently or you are too lax? There should be an established frequency of output so that your audience will be updated.
  4. WHERE? Where does a team member find the first draft of the content? Is this copy superseded or is the final one? Each member should know the flow of the content documents and where to find what at any given time. There are many project management software’s available to help you with tracking, to-do lists and renaming of files. You might want to consider getting one like Podio, activeCollab or Basecamp.

3. Finding the Creative Writer

If your writers don’t have the expertise required on a particular subject matter, chances are their output will not have the authoritative mark that everyone wants to see. This is why it is important to have a team of expert writers with knowledge on specialty topics or niches. But then again, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go about this relying on your one dream team. It is also good practice to bring others into the fray of content marketing which may include people in sales, experts in certain products or even your customers. They too have their opinions and they give a certain authenticity to your content. They just probably don’t know how to phrase it or write it with your team’s kind of flair for writing skills.

4. Having Regular Editorial Meetings

Like any major newspaper company, hold regular meetings to get updates on what the status is on just about anything. Whatever the frequency of your meetings (daily, monthly, annually), make sure it tackles everything about content issues even down to the last performance evaluation of team members. These meetings serve more than one purpose:

  • These brainstorming sessions can give a ton of output in just a short amount of time.
  • The sharing of research materials can be interesting to each other and widen each other’s knowledge base.
  • The evaluating of strengths and weaknesses of the content at hand can be used to point out where they can be improved.
  • The discussion of the latest trends, industry news and promotions or press releases can open up other opportunities for each team member.
  •  These meetings provide a venue to strategise and prioritise the content production.

5. Collecting and Selecting

We like to collect and collect only to find out that what we’ve amassed is a pile of junk. When doing new content, make sure we’re collecting and spending time on what can be delivered and what has more value. We must figure out which pieces of content will be best suited to your customer’s current need. One thing about collecting a pile of junk is that you can still find ways to repurpose those content and reuse it in new and uncommon ways to make it still usable. It’s like getting more mileage out of these repurposed assets and making it more relevant.

6. Be Prepared for What Lies Ahead

The next generation of content marketing may be something we have not yet foreseen. For its full potential to be felt, we must create content strategies that combine the best practices involved in digital marketing. These include blogging, Social Media, Email marketing, PR, SEO and others for maximum impact.

7. Contacting the Site Owner

Contact the blogger and if he/she responds positively, offer them either full content assets (fitting for their blog/website and ready to publish) or the research materials to write an article about a particular topic or a company brand. Negotiate for the cost of creating the article.

8. Adding More Than What is Expected

Lastly, provide engaging infographics, video or images and include them in the article. These additions attract the readers to stay on and read more. If you load them with all text, even their eyes will get tired from reading. Infographics and images provide a respite from words and add a little spice to your article.

Convinced Yet?

How much more can we convince you about this idea of quality over quantity? Basically, this process is time-consuming and will be more expensive than the normal link-building process. However, this will produce links that really matter compared to the hundreds of low quality links.

Do you believe that “Time is Money”? Well, the old saying is true. Link-building takes time when doing it correctly. Just processes of looking for quality sites, earning engagement on your creative content, creating quality content you can link back to your site in, etc. can be expensive for business owners when it comes to time and resources.

This is when a full campaign takes place. The brain storming, research, conceptualisation, graphic designing, video production and sourcing of images should all be done in painstaking detail. The staff alone to do each one is both time consuming and expensive. Expertise Required!

Sites that have engaging posts, have relevant content and are authoritative are far better than sites that belong to the Unwanted Sites list.

Link builders all want to reach that quota on ‘number of link built per month’. But unfortunately, this is not the computation factor for your ranking and traffic progress. The correct computation factor is and will always be the quality of your backlinks.

So, having 1 to 3 quality links in a month is enough to propel you to become superior in your niche. Look at the links at Forbes.com. You’re safer having one link published there than having hundreds from unknown websites.

The New Golden Rule for Brand (Link) Building

It’s now time to accept the new SEO golden rule: Quantity alone is unacceptable. Quality is what you need. And so now that we’ve shed more light on the topic of link quality vs. quantity, you should be able take your new found knowledge and crush the competition. But if you’re still left in the dark, come to us at Digital Search Group and we will brighten the path to your success.

  • Gary Viray

    I appreciate how you laid out succinctly the building blocks of what makes a good brand building strategy is about.

    If I may add, link building should be understood as synonymous to brand building. For sure any brand would not want to be associated with poor neighborhood that can mar its reputation instead of increasing its brand equity.

    • http://www.digitalsearchgroup.co.uk/ Joe Ryan

      Hi Gary,

      Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed.

      I couldn’t agree more – link building is most definitely synonymous to brand building and, let’s be honest, staying well away from those bad neighbourhoods is a prerequisite if you want to maintain/build upon your brand reputation.

      Have a great day ahead.

      All the best,

      Joe

  • Andy Wright

    Very informative, thanks for the info ;-)

    • DigitalSearchTeam

      Glad you liked, Andy and thanks for the positive feedback.

      Joe

Joe Ryan is the Founder & CEO of Digital Search Group Limited. Joe's helped numerous websites recover from Google Panda/Penguin related issues