Episode Overview: A technically optimized website is only half the battle when it comes to securing the top spot on Google. You also need the reputation to back it up. Join host Ben as he speaks with iPullRank Founder and Managing Director Mike King about how to build your site’s reputation and authority to signal to Google your site is worthy of reaching the top ranking spot.
- Your content’s quality and organization is just as important as the links housed within it as Google’s algorithm is getting better at evaluating overall content quality.
- Buying links are still a bad tactic, along with widgets that embed anchor text. It’s best to remove the anchor text.
- Building reputation requires a multitude of tactics including creating excellent content, building social media profiles and advertising to the right people, at the right time.
GUESTS & RESOURCES
- Mike King: Website // LinkedIn
- The Voices of Search Podcast: Email // LinkedIn // Twitter
- Benjamin Shapiro: Website // LinkedIn // Twitter
Ben: Welcome to The Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro. And today we’re going to talk about why content alone isn’t enough to master SEO. Joining us today is Mike King, who is a hip hop recording artist turned SEO and the founder and managing director of iPullRank, which is a digital media marketing studio that produces great results for their clients through a strategy first approach to content marketing, analytics, social media, search engine optimization, and a host of other services.
Ben: Mike and his team have worked on a number of high profile SEO projects, including Ralph Lauren, ADT, State Farm, Hawaiian Airlines, and Citibank. Yesterday, Mike and I talked about the factors that you can control related to the technical setup of your website. And today we’re going to continue our conversation by looking at what are some of the external factors that influence your SEO performance. Okay, on with the show. Here’s the rest of my conversation with Mike King, founder and managing director of iPullRank.
Ben: Mike, welcome back to The Voices of Search Podcast.
Mike: Ben, it’s been so long since we spoke.
Ben: I’ve missed you since yesterday. It’s good to reconnect. Always a pleasure to have you on the show. Just for anybody that didn’t hear the podcast yesterday; Mike, first off, gave me a hard time about having my content website hosted on Squarespace.
Mike: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Ben: And then we talked through what are some of the ways that he would audit a site that was going through a migration like I just went through. When we’re thinking about looking outside of content to improve our SEO performance, I think of it as figuring out what you have in terms of technical performance and some of the challenges, how you’re communicating with Google, but it’s also about what your reputation is. Today, I want to talk to you more about the link building side, about reputation. When you’re thinking about getting a site to perform, and let’s say the site is actually performing, how do you start to build reputation? How do you give the signals to Google that they should be ranking you number one?
Mike: Yeah, it’s really about attracting more and more links. And higher quality links, of course, are the ideal. But I think in this space, we are very high minded about link building when we talk about it. But when it comes to the actual practice, it’s not that interesting. It’s actually very similar to doing outbound sales where you’re just reaching out to people and saying like, “Hey, we’ve got this awesome piece of content. Why don’t you link to it?” And then there’s also the layer of the passive acquisitional link. So the more that you produce content, that’s valuable to a specific audience, the more they’re naturally going to link to it.
Ben: All right, first off, everything that I hear from SEOs is links don’t matter anymore. Google is great at natural language processing. They’re able to get down into, not necessarily the domain, not necessarily the page, but the individual passage’s paragraph. And they’re pulling more content out and understanding how to answer user’s questions and provide them the right content, which means that the link is less important. But you’re telling me that links are the most important thing for building your reputation. Help me reconcile this. Do links really matter? Are they the only thing that matter? Or is it just getting the right content on the page and Google will find it?
Mike: No, it’s both. If you think of it as an equation and you think of there being weights on every part of the equation, I think that as SEOs we’ve over indexed on link building because of the fact that we know that to be the thing, and if you do a bunch of that, anything can rank. But the reality of it is, if you have content that’s better optimized, you need less links. And I think what Google does is they turn that weight up and down for different queries and different verticals and so on, on the links, knowing that people go more in that direction.
Mike: So you can have a different combination of good content and good links or bad links and good content or great links and mediocre content and effectively achieve the same result, because ultimately Google is scoring pages based on these different factors. So it’s not one or the other. It’s just that our industry has largely gone after the links because that’s the one thing they know how to effectively control. But if they’re using something like content experience or some sort of content optimization tool and they’re effective at it, they know that if you optimize your content better, you can see things jump positions based on just doing that as well. So it’s not just the links.
Ben: Okay, so links are still important, the content obviously important, and Google’s getting a little smarter in terms of understanding what the purpose of the content is. It’s a sliding scale, depending on what type of content you’re producing, what your vertical is. That said, link building is still very important. You can’t buy links. I know that that’s not allowed, right, Mike? Nobody can buy links anymore. Should not buy links, right?
Mike: You should not. I mean it works, but you shouldn’t do it.
Ben: Oh no, it’s a bad idea. Do not buy links. Honestly, joking around a little bit, you want as many links as you can, but you can’t have a paid relationship to get those links. Talk to me about some link building strategies, what works, what’s gray area, what’s your gray hat strategy and what are you actually not doing?
Mike: So in my experience, everything works. Everything from terrible blog comment links to forum spam and all of that. I’ve seen all of that be effective, but not sustainable. So the things that I find being sustainable are really just creating great content, reaching out to people and getting them to link to it.
Ben: The right way to do it. You create your content, you share it in relevant communities and you hope that they’re going to like your content comment and share it, right?
Mike: Right. But you know, the SEO industry is always looking for scale, things that are repeatable and so on. So most people are doing guest posting. Full stop. That’s what most people are doing, right? I mean, I don’t recommend you making that your only tactic. I also don’t recommend you guest posting just for links. I would recommend that you have a variety of tactics, whether that’s broken link building, resource link building, doing more of the high end stuff where you’re reaching out to journalists and giving them a series of content assets that they can build stories around. But you have to do some of everything to get enough links to be effective. So what I just don’t recommend is buying links at all. Anything that is a transaction where you give someone money and then you get links out of it, don’t do that.
Ben: Well, hang on a second, because I do this all the time, and I’m the seller, I’m not the buyer.
Mike: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Ben: I run a marketing podcast. It’s the MarTech podcast. We have people that are sponsoring our podcast. They come onto the show, they pay to be interviewed, and the product of paying to be a high profile guest on the show is A, advertising, B, my never-ending love and affection. But also we create a page for them that links back to their domain. Is that a bot link? That’s something that I think is standard operating procedure.
Mike: Right. And so those are the gray areas that Google will call a link scheme or something like that. But I agree with you, that’s not a paid link. That is someone sponsored to be on the podcast. Now from their perspective, they would want you to use rel=”sponsored” or rel=”nofollow” on all those links. And there’s also FTC considerations of sponsored content needing to be called out as well. So that’s what they would say to do. But in practice, who really does that? A lot of people that create content that’s sponsored don’t even know about “nofollow” or rel=”sponsored” or anything like that. So I think that’s kind of like … That’s just something for SEOs. It’s not something for the world.
Ben: That’s where there’s … We say it’s a gray area. That’s one of the things that really confuses me about Google’s policies is, “Okay, you’re supposed to take your links and you’re supposed to share it with journalists and hopefully they write about it and you get your New York Times link back to your domain and all of a sudden you’re SEO gold.”
Mike: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Ben: That’s not reality for most brands, right? They’re going to have to go and have partnerships. And the partnerships result in links and a lot of times those are paid.
Mike: But again, that’s what I’m saying. That’s what I’m saying. We’re so high minded as an industry about link building, but in practice, it’s not the way that we talk about it. It is like you just described, brands doing partnerships and then the byproduct of those partnerships often being links. So how’s Google even to police that? That’s what I’m saying, like who is listening to that at a big organization? Like, “Oh, I’m not going to get this link because Google says it’s a link scheme.” That’s not real.
Ben: I hear you. And that’s why I think it’s a funny policy by Google. Let’s talk a little bit about what is not okay. You can have partnerships, you can buy some content and have people create some links for you, as long as you’re not going over the top here. What is over the top? Where are you getting in trouble with your link building strategy?
Mike: Yeah. Again, I think it comes down to buying links. It also comes down to doing things like having link widgets and so on. So that was a really popular tactic. I mean, I guess it still is, but it’s like you have some sort of widget that can be embedded and then you have control over the anchor text and the embed code. If you’re going to do that, make sure there’s no anchor text at all. It’s been proven that it’s going to be more effective. And then also anything that is like you do some sort of contest and people have to link to you to have an entry to the contest. That was something that I used to do. I thought it was a good idea, but it’s something that I’ve gone away from because it can be seen as some sort of a scheme. So anything that’s easily to identify at scale that you’ve done it, you should avoid it.
Ben: So outside of just straight link building, at the end of the day, we’re talking about building domain authority and influence and going and getting links is obviously one of the most important ways to do that, social media, right, other ways of building a presence. What are some of the other ways that you have thought about building influence that are not just straight backlink building?
Mike: Yeah. And this is a tactic that I learned from Ross over at Siege Media. They really key in on his idea of building links from passive resources. So a lot of this tactic is like you create an interactive of some sort, it’s like the state of a thing. And so what ends up happening is when you have anything like that or original research that you then make rank pretty well for queries surrounding that, when journalists or whoever is writing about that subject, they end up finding it during their research and they ended up linking to it because they found it. And so that’s a tactic that we’ve adopted a lot more in the last couple years. And we’ve seen a lot of impact from doing that.
Ben: All right. So we have our link building strategies. We’re obviously not going to be buying links. Mike, right? We’re not buying links? We’re not buying lists.
Ben: Don’t buy links.
Ben: Okay great.
Mike: Mm-mm (negative).
Ben: Partnerships. No, just don’t buy the links. Anyway. We’re trying to build as much influence as we can to get people to come back to our site, to show Google that our domain has authority. Are there any other ways that you can think of where you’re building influence to improve your SEO outside of just writing great content?
Mike: Yeah. I mean, of course whatever you’re doing in social media also influences this as well. You build up your follower base, but again, that’s also through creating great content. So the things you do with your brand as well, not just personal brand, but your company’s brand to get it out there and create more of that influence. You can’t think of link building is just this isolated thing. It’s got to be a part of the bigger marketing mix, because anything you do, or a lot of things you do, can drive those links. So we’ve had a lot of success with running ads to influencers or to journalists around a piece of content. And then even if they don’t cover that first piece of content, they end up following that brand. So as we put out more stuff, then we reach out to them, they’re more likely to actually cover and link to that content.
Ben: Well, there you have it, building SEO credibility, not through purchased links. It is about showing Google that you have a reputation, building great content, obviously that matters, but also building your social media profile, advertising to the right people. At the end of the day, what you’re trying to do is build authority and recognition, not just for your content, but for your brand as well. And that wraps up this episode of The Voices of Search podcast.
Ben: Thanks for listening to my conversation with Mike King, the founder and managing director of iPullRank. We’d love to continue the conversation with you. So if you’re interested in contacting Mike, you can find the link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter. His handle is @ipullrank I-P-U-L-L-R-A-N-K. Or you can contact Mike via his company’s website, which is ipullrank.com.
Ben: Just one more link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to voicesofsearch.com, where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You could even apply to be a guest speaker on The Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is @voicesofsearch on Twitter. And my personal handle is @BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P.
Ben: And if you haven’t subscribed yet, and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish an episode every day during the work week. So hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning. All right, that’s it for today. But until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.