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Influencers Drive Global B2B Content Marketing Success

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Influencers Drive Global B2B Content Marketing Success

With the mountain of competition in B2B, establishing trust with potential buyers is no easy feat.

Unlike in ecommerce, where transactions are typically swift, and purchases are at far lower prices, B2B sales cycles are lengthier and involve much higher stakes.

With endless opportunities to choose from, community has become more crucial than ever, as people search and check social media but ultimately rely on trusted peers for advice when making important business decisions.

So how can B2B businesses ensure their content stands out and gets noticed – and most importantly, trusted – by their target audience?

This is where influencers, or subject matter experts (SMEs) in the B2B realm, play a pivotal role – particularly in the context of expanding to international markets that speak multiple languages.

By harnessing the reach and reputation of well-known SMEs in the local markets, B2B companies can amplify their international content marketing efforts, ensuring that their message resonates with diverse international audiences.

Over time, SME collaborations enable B2B companies to cultivate a strong community around their brand, which then drives inbound leads and growth across international markets.

Why Involving Local Influencers & SMEs In International B2B Content Marketing Campaigns Is Crucial

Extensive research plays a hefty role in the B2B buying process, in that:

  • B2B buyers complete up to 70% of their research prior to even contacting a sales team.
  • 87% of B2B buyers say online content has a major or moderate impact on vendor selection.
  • 78% of B2B referrals create viable customer leads for the business.

What do all three of those points have in common?

B2B buyers are looking for a trustworthy source to confirm information found during their research.

As such, partnering up with SME influencers is key to building up this crucial brand trustworthiness, especially if you’re a global brand expanding into diverse international markets worldwide.

In fact, up to 86% of B2B brands have reported some measure of success with highly targeted influencer marketing.

But selecting the relevant influencers for the right market is key for content to resonate with local target audiences.

For example, a highly knowledgeable SME from New York City is unlikely to have much sway or influence if you’re targeting customers in Tokyo, on the other side of the world.

This is because:

  • An English-speaking influencer has little effect on a primarily Japanese-speaking audience.
  • Perceptions towards B2B products and services vary by location because buyers’ needs differ by region.
  • Cultural tendencies of buyers in niche markets have significant sway over purchase decisions.
  • If influencers lack shared cultural values with the local target audience, their recommendations will fall flat on that audience.

How To Identify And Build Relationships With Local B2B Influencers And SMEs

So, how do you identify the right SME collaboration to expand the authority of your own business in a new market? And how can you build a relationship with them in order to incentivize the SME to collaborate with you?

Let’s now take a deep dive into the process.

Step 1: Research People Who Matter To Your Local Target Audience

It all starts with researching who your audience cares about. A free tool like SparkToro is one of the easiest ways to get started.

Based on your search filter, SparkToro identifies who your target audience follows and trusts as a source of credible information.

You can then curate lists of relevant SMEs for the market you’re looking to expand to, which should ideally also include lesser-known yet still highly credible SMEs whose audiences tend to be more engaged.

To give you a concrete idea, here’s an example of a SparkToro search for a company that provides consulting services and a SaaS tool for document automation. Its goal is to expand into the German market.

I set the filter for “my audience frequently talks about,” typed in “document automation,” and selected Germany for the location.

SparkToro then summarizes the list of influencers, websites, and lesser-known destinations that earn engagement with that buying audience:

Screenshot from SparkToro, May 2023

 

In this case, there is a mix of English-language and German-language influencers and relevant publications. Ideally, you’ll want to focus on gaining credibility within the local language, so SparkToro is the just starting point.

You’ll then need to dig deeper into what and who is relevant to contact, as well as invest time into building relationships with SMEs, depending on the relevance of their followers.

Step 2: Identify Ways To Involve Them That Require Little Effort On Their Behalf

Once you’ve conducted the research and identified the relevant SMEs to collaborate with within the local market, the next step is to determine how best to approach them.

Keep in mind that the most effective outreach strategy is one that makes it as easy as possible for SMEs to see the value in a partnership. Don’t just beg for their time and offer up nothing in return.

For example, you can offer for them to attend a panel discussion on a highly relevant topic for their industry and local market.

Here’s an example of how you might contact an SME for collaboration via LinkedIn or email:

Email template to collaborateImage created by author, May 2023

This type of message prompts a response from SMEs for a few reasons:

  • They know they’ll be advertised without paying.
  • They don’t have to spend tons of time preparing, especially as it’s a panel discussion, so their time commitment is minimal.
  • They have a chance to network with and learn from well-known people within their industry, bringing back benefits for their personal and company brands.

Step 3: Nurture Relationships And Provide Ongoing Value

Finally, once you connect with an SME and convince them to collaborate together, you want to maintain and deepen that working relationship, because this increases the chance of future collaboration opportunities.

In fact, if the relationship becomes a strong one, the influencer is likely to refer your B2B business to their network, or even come back to you themselves as a customer.

This is actually the long-term strategic value of such partnerships because it directly impacts high-quality inbound lead generation.

Ways to strengthen ongoing relationships with SMEs include:

  • Regularly engaging with their own content, such as by commenting on or sharing their updates to support their efforts and keep your brand top-of-mind as they continue producing new content for their own audience.
  • Offering to mention them and/or link to their content in future content you create.
  • Offering to meet up for a coffee at in-person conferences and get to know them.
  • Develop a partner referral agreement so you both can refer potential customers and generate inbound leads.
  • Continuing to collaborate on marketing efforts together where both brands are promoted.

How To Apply B2B Influencer And SME Data To Both Global & Local Content Marketing Efforts

Now that you’ve got the process in mind, what are some direct examples of how to apply SME collaborations across content marketing efforts?

I’ll cover this in further detail in the below section for various types of content marketing applied both globally and locally.

Panel Discussions & Co-marketing Webinars

As mentioned in the message example from the how-to section above, panel discussions are a highly effective method for beginning engagement with SME influencers because they require little to no preparation time for the participants.

Plus, in nearly every market, industry titans enjoy conversing with their fellow experts to share insights and recommendations to listening audiences.

Panel discussions can be both live or virtual events, but regardless of the format, they’re a great resource that elevates the authority of your own brand to your audience due to the SMEs who attend.

Global Approach

To give an example that works globally, here’s an example of a live panel discussion about the secrets of successful influencer marketing and content creation.

successful collaboration exampleScreenshot from The NAMM Show, May 2023

This topic applies globally because it’s a question that brands all over the world struggle to answer.

When applied to your own content strategy, ideally, the SMEs invited to such a discussion should come from multiple markets, particularly those that you plan to expand into internationally.

An important point to note: global in-person events should be treated as annual affairs.

Creating a one-time event that pools together the biggest influencers in an industry is a special occasion, so it’s not something to do regularly, as they come with higher resource costs for both you and the participants.

Local Approach

When applying the concept of a panel discussion within a local market, you can go much smaller in scale and ideally virtually, which provides more flexibility to create recurring panel discussions throughout the year.

Start by selecting a topic that is relevant to the local market and the target audience.

For instance, if you’re an IT company and are targeting German businesses, you could host a panel discussion on “How German Companies Can Finance Digital Transformation” (but in the German language equivalent).

Then, use your SparkToro account to identify the biggest German influencers in the IT industry and invite them to participate in a special panel discussing tips to scale digital transformation across Germany.

Here’s an example from a similar event:

Example for financial collaboration with influencerScreenshot from germany-finance.com, May 2023

By hosting a panel discussion with local SMEs who speak German, you present valuable insights to your buying audience in Germany in that localized setting and context.

You can then deepen relationships with key players that your target audience already follows, and follow up by creating localized content that resonates with those same local market buyers to guide them further on their buying journey with your brand.

Whitepapers

Whitepapers are one of the most valuable resources in B2B content marketing when they include original data and information that isn’t available anywhere else.

You can make whitepapers with unique data by gathering information from SMEs.

Plus, SMEs typically appreciate being cited in whitepapers because their personal brand is attached to that in-depth report, which automatically elevates their own standing and credibility with their followers.

Global Approach

A global approach to this strategy is to select a topic that has a more universal appeal.

Again, digital transformation is a subject that impacts brands all over the world, so creating an in-depth whitepaper on the topic has global appeal – but only if it’s backed with information from highly credible SMEs.

A great example is the “Data and Digital Transformation: Insights From Shipping Leaders” whitepaper created by S&P Global Market Intelligence. It includes insights from six of the leading SMEs from various international markets.

In the same manner that S&P Global Market Intelligence has done here, ensure in your content strategy that the SMEs included for global content also appeal to your international target markets.

Local Approach

When it comes to the local approach, the main difference from the global is that you want to target the analysis and present the whitepaper findings within the context of a regional point of view.

Paralleling the global subject matter, you can create your own whitepaper explaining the ideal digital transformation journey for the shipping industry in one particular market.

As an example, let’s use the Port of Los Angeles, which continues to struggle with supply chain issues in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Your whitepaper can answer many of the questions that have ground supply chain businesses in Los Angeles to a halt by inviting SMEs with experience managing those ports to contribute information.

Although the example is in English, the concept applies across markets that speak other languages, too.

With a more localized approach, you gain specific insights to publish in your content and establish your brand as a thought leader in that particular market.

This also increases your opportunity to build relationships with key local players and generate leads and referrals from the target buying audience.

Podcasts

Podcasts are a heavily growing medium for B2B content marketing.

By collaborating with influencers and SMEs on a podcast, you can tap into their expertise and reach new audiences through audio content that millions of people stream throughout their busy days.

Global Approach

When building your podcast, start by identifying global influencers and SMEs with a strong following in your industry.

For example, if you’re an HR consulting company, you could collaborate with a senior HR specialist.

Choose a topic that would be of interest to both the global audience and the local influencers.

For instance, you could create a podcast episode on “The Future of Work in a Post-Pandemic World.”

You can follow examples from the HubSpot team that manages their podcast, “Culture Happens.” In this particular episode, they discuss the future of remote work.

You can even reach out to those same presenters and invite them to participate as guests on your own podcast discussing the topic in a similar but unique manner.

Through this collaboration, you tap into their wider audience, build your brand credibility, and generate new leads and referrals through your podcast.

Local Approach

The localized podcast approach involves identifying SMEs who have followings in particular markets and that speak the language that your business intends to target.

For instance, to localize the podcast example from above for France, you could do an episode around “Streamlining New Employment Regulations Around Remote Work in France” and invite an HR specialist from the French market to speak about their experience with handling these changes.

This helps you build a loyal following in concentrated local markets, which translates into higher volumes of inbound leads that grow your business internationally.

Collaborate with SMEs to Win and Global and International Content Marketing

In the highly competitive world of B2B, where trust and reputation are paramount, leveraging the expertise and influence of SMEs is a powerful strategy.

As you strive to make your mark in international markets, remember that collaborations with trusted and local influencers can help your content shine, resonate, and ultimately drive success in your B2B endeavors.

Over time, these partnerships with SMEs not only help you create valuable and trusted content but also cultivate a strong community around your brand.

By providing informative and practical content, you can position yourself as a B2B industry thought leader and trusted source of knowledge.

And most importantly, by tapping into the networks of global and local influencers, B2B businesses can drive inbound leads and foster growth in international markets.

More resources:


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Google Answers Question About Toxic Link Sabotage

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Gary Illyes answers a question about how to notify Google about toxic link sabotage

Google’s Gary Illyes answered a question about how to notify Google that someone is poisoning their backlink profile with “toxic links” which is a problem that many people have been talking about for at least fifteen years.

Question About Alerting Google To Toxic Links

Gary narrated the question:

“Someone’s asking, how to alert Google of sabotage via toxic links?”

And this is Gary’s answer:

I know what I would do: I’d ignore those links.

Generally Google is really, REALLY good at ignoring links that are irrelevant to the site they’re pointing at. If you feel like it, you can always disavow those “toxic” links, or file a spam report.

Disavow Links If You Feel Like It

Gary linked to Google’s explainer about disavowing links where it’s explained that the disavow tool is for a site owner to tell Google about links that they are responsible for in some way, like paid links or some other link scheme.

This is what it advises:

“If you have a manual action against your site for unnatural links to your site, or if you think you’re about to get such a manual action (because of paid links or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines), you should try to remove the links from the other site to your site. If you can’t remove those links yourself, or get them removed, then you should disavow the URLs of the questionable pages or domains that link to your website.”

Google suggests that a link disavow is only necessary when two conditions are met:

  1. “You have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site,
    AND
  2. The links have caused a manual action, or likely will cause a manual action, on your site.”

Both of the above conditions must be met in order to file a valid link disavow tool.

Origin Of The Phrase Toxic Links

As Google became better at penalizing sites for low quality links and paid links, some in the highly competitive gambling industry started creating low quality links to sabotage their competitors. The practice was called negative SEO.

The phrase toxic link is something that was never heard of until after the Penguin link updates in 2012 which required penalized sites to remove all the paid and low quality links they created and then disavow the rest. An industry grew around disavowing links and it was that industry that invented the phrase Toxic Links for use in their marketing.

Confirmation That Google Is Able To Ignore Links

I have shared this anecdote before and I’ll share it here again. Someone I knew contacted me and said that their site lost rankings from negative SEO links. I took a look and their site had a ton of really nasty looking links. So out of curiosity (and because I knew that the site was this person’s main income), I emailed someone at Google Mountain View headquarters about it. That person checked it and replied that the site didn’t lose rankings because of the links. They lost rankings because of a Panda update related content issue.

That was around 2012 and it showed me how good Google was at ignoring links. Now, if Google was that good at ignoring really bad links back then, they’re probably better at it now, twelve years later now that they have the spam brain AI.

Listen to the question and answer at the 8:22 minute mark:

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How To Build A Diverse & Healthy Link Profile

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How To Build A Diverse & Healthy Link Profile

Search is evolving at an incredible pace and new features, formats, and even new search engines are popping up within the space.

Google’s algorithm still prioritizes backlinks when ranking websites. If you want your website to be visible in search results, you must account for backlinks and your backlink profile.

A healthy backlink profile requires a diverse backlink profile.

In this guide, we’ll examine how to build and maintain a diverse backlink profile that powers your website’s search performance.

What Does A Healthy Backlink Profile Look Like?

As Google states in its guidelines, it primarily crawls pages through links from other pages linked to your pages, acquired through promotion and naturally over time.

In practice, a healthy backlink profile can be divided into three main areas: the distribution of link types, the mix of anchor text, and the ratio of followed to nofollowed links.

Let’s look at these areas and how they should look within a healthy backlink profile.

Distribution Of Link Types

One aspect of your backlink profile that needs to be diversified is link types.

It looks unnatural to Google to have predominantly one kind of link in your profile, and it also indicates that you’re not diversifying your content strategy enough.

Some of the various link types you should see in your backlink profile include:

  • Anchor text links.
  • Image links.
  • Redirect links.
  • Canonical links.

Here is an example of the breakdown of link types at my company, Whatfix (via Semrush):

Screenshot from Semrush, May 2024

Most links should be anchor text links and image links, as these are the most common ways to link on the web, but you should see some of the other types of links as they are picked up naturally over time.

Mix Of Anchor Text

Next, ensure your backlink profile has an appropriate anchor text variance.

Again, if you overoptimize for a specific type of anchor text, it will appear suspicious to search engines like Google and could have negative repercussions.

Here are the various types of anchor text you might find in your backlink profile:

  • Branded anchor text – Anchor text that is your brand name or includes your brand name.
  • Empty – Links that have no anchor text.
  • Naked URLs – Anchor text that is a URL (e.g., www.website.com).
  • Exact match keyword-rich anchor text – Anchor text that exactly matches the keyword the linked page targets (e.g., blue shoes).
  • Partial match keyword-rich anchor text – Anchor text that partially or closely matches the keyword the linked page targets (e.g., “comfortable blue footwear options”).
  • Generic anchor text – Anchor text such as “this website” or “here.”

To maintain a healthy backlink profile, aim for a mix of anchor text within a similar range to this:

  • Branded anchor text – 35-40%.
  • Partial match keyword-rich anchor text – 15-20%.
  • Generic anchor text -10-15%.
  • Exact match keyword-rich anchor text – 5-10%.
  • Naked URLs – 5-10%.
  • Empty – 3-5%.

This distribution of anchor text represents a natural mix of differing anchor texts. It is common for the majority of anchors to be branded or partially branded because most sites that link to your site will default to your brand name when linking. It also makes sense that the following most common anchors would be partial-match keywords or generic anchor text because these are natural choices within the context of a web page.

Exact-match anchor text is rare because it only happens when you are the best resource for a specific term, and the site owner knows your page exists.

Ratio Of Followed Vs. Nofollowed Backlinks

Lastly, you should monitor the ratio of followed vs. nofollowed links pointing to your website.

If you need a refresher on what nofollowed backlinks are or why someone might apply the nofollow tag to a link pointing to your site, check out Google’s guide on how to qualify outbound links to Google.

Nofollow attributes should only be applied to paid links or links pointing to a site the linking site doesn’t trust.

While it is not uncommon or suspicious to have some nofollow links (people misunderstand the purpose of the nofollow attribute all the time), a healthy backlink profile will have far more followed links.

You should aim for a ratio of 80%:20% or 70%:30% in favor of followed links. For example, here is what the followed vs. nofollowed ratio looks like for my company’s backlink profile (according to Ahrefs):

Referring domainsScreenshot from Ahrefs, May 2024

You may see links with other rel attributes, such as UGC or Sponsored.

The “UGC” attribute tags links from user-generated content, while the “Sponsored” attribute tags links from sponsored or paid sources. These attributes are slightly different than the nofollow tag, but they essentially work the same way, letting Google know these links aren’t trusted or endorsed by the linking site. You can simply group these links in with nofollowed links when calculating your ratio.

Importance Of Diversifying Your Backlink Profile

So why is it important to diversify your backlink profile anyway? Well, there are three main reasons you should consider:

  • Avoiding overoptimization.
  • Diversifying traffic sources.
  • And finding new audiences.

Let’s dive into each of these.

Avoiding Overoptimization

First and foremost, diversifying your backlink profile is the best way to protect yourself from overoptimization and the damaging penalties that can come with it.

As SEO pros, our job is to optimize websites to improve performance, but overoptimizing in any facet of our strategy – backlinks, keywords, structure, etc. – can result in penalties that limit visibility within search results.

In the previous section, we covered the elements of a healthy backlink profile. If you stray too far from that model, your site might look suspicious to search engines like Google and you could be handed a manual or algorithmic penalty, suppressing your rankings in search.

Considering how regularly Google updates its search algorithm these days (and how little information surrounds those updates), you could see your performance tank and have no idea why.

This is why it’s so important to keep a watchful eye on your backlink profile and how it’s shaping up.

Diversifying Traffic Sources

Another reason to cultivate a diverse backlink profile is to ensure you’re diversifying your traffic sources.

Google penalties come swiftly and can often be a surprise. If you have all your eggs in that basket when it comes to traffic, your site will suffer badly and might need help to recover.

However, diversifying your traffic sources (search, social, email, etc.) will mitigate risk – similar to a stock portfolio – as you’ll have other traffic sources to provide a steady flow of visitors if another source suddenly dips.

Part of building a diverse backlink profile is acquiring a diverse set of backlinks and backlink types, and this strategy will also help you find differing and varied sources of traffic.

Finding New Audiences

Finally, building a diverse backlink profile is essential, as doing so will also help you discover new audiences.

If you acquire links from the same handful of websites and platforms, you will need help expanding your audience and building awareness for your website.

While it’s important to acquire links from sites that cater to your existing audience, you should also explore ways to build links that can tap into new audiences. The best way to do this is by casting a wide net with various link acquisition tactics and strategies.

A diverse backlink profile indicates a varied approach to SEO and marketing that will help bring new visitors and awareness to your site.

Building A Diverse Backlink Profile

So that you know what a healthy backlink profile looks like and why it’s important to diversify, how do you build diversity into your site’s backlink profile?

This comes down to your link acquisition strategy and the types of backlinks you actively pursue. To guide your strategy, let’s break link building into three main categories:

  • Foundational links.
  • Content promotion.
  • Community involvement.

Here’s how to approach each area.

Foundational Links

Foundational links represent those links that your website simply should have. These are opportunities where a backlink would exist if all sites were known to all site owners.

Some examples of foundational links include:

  • Mentions – Websites that mention your brand in some way (brand name, product, employees, proprietary data, etc.) on their website but don’t link.
  • Partners – Websites that belong to real-world partners or companies you connect with offline and should also connect (link) with online.
  • Associations or groups – Websites for offline associations or groups you belong to where your site should be listed with a link.
  • Sponsorships – Any events or organizations your company sponsors might have websites that could (and should) link to your site.
  • Sites that link to competitors – If a website is linking to a competitor, there is a strong chance it would make sense for them to link to your site as well.

These link opportunities should set the foundation for your link acquisition efforts.

As the baseline for your link building strategy, you should start by exhausting these opportunities first to ensure you’re not missing highly relevant links to bolster your backlink profile.

Content Promotion

Next, consider content promotion as a strategy for building a healthy, diverse backlink profile.

Content promotion is much more proactive than the foundational link acquisition mentioned above. You must manifest the opportunity by creating link-worthy content rather than simply capitalizing on an existing opportunity.

Some examples of content promotion for links are:

  • Digital PR – Digital PR campaigns have numerous benefits and goals beyond link acquisition, but backlinks should be a primary KPI.
  • Original research – Similar to digital PR, original research should focus on providing valuable data to your audience. Still, you should also make sure any citations or references to your research are correctly linked.
  • Guest content – Whether regular columns or one-off contributions, providing guest content to websites is still a viable link acquisition strategy – when done right. The best way to gauge your guest content strategy is to ask yourself if you would still write the content for a site without guaranteeing a backlink, knowing you’ll still build authority and get your message in front of a new audience.
  • Original imagery – Along with research and data, if your company creates original imagery that offers unique value, you should promote those images and ask for citation links.

Content promotion is a viable avenue for building a healthy backlink profile as long as the content you’re promoting is worthy of links.

Community Involvement

Community involvement is the final piece of your link acquisition puzzle when building a diverse backlink profile.

After pursuing all foundational opportunities and manually promoting your content, you should ensure your brand is active and represented in all the spaces and communities where your audience engages.

In terms of backlinks, this could mean:

  • Wikipedia links – Wikipedia gets over 4 billion monthly visits, so backlinks here can bring significant referral traffic to your site. However, acquiring these links is difficult as these pages are moderated closely, and your site will only be linked if it is legitimately a top resource on the web.
  • Forums (Reddit, Quora, etc.) – Another great place to get backlinks that drive referral traffic is forums like Reddit and Quora. Again, these forums are strictly moderated, and earning link placements on these sites requires a page that delivers significant and unique value to a specific audience.
  • Social platforms – Social media platforms and groups represent communities where your brand should be active and engaged. While these strategies are likely handled by other teams outside SEO and focus on different metrics, you should still be intentional about converting these interactions into links when or where possible.
  • Offline events – While it may seem counterintuitive to think of offline events as a potential source for link acquisition, legitimate link opportunities exist here. After all, most businesses, brands, and people you interact with at these events also have websites, and networking can easily translate to online connections in the form of links.

While most of the link opportunities listed above will have the nofollow link attribute due to the nature of the sites associated with them, they are still valuable additions to your backlink profile as these are powerful, trusted domains.

These links help diversify your traffic sources by bringing substantial referral traffic, and that traffic is highly qualified as these communities share your audience.

How To Avoid Developing A Toxic Backlink Profile

Now that you’re familiar with the link building strategies that can help you cultivate a healthy, diverse backlink profile, let’s discuss what you should avoid.

As mentioned before, if you overoptimize one strategy or link, it can seem suspicious to search engines and cause your site to receive a penalty. So, how do you avoid filling your backlink profile with toxic links?

Remember The “Golden Rule” Of Link Building

One simple way to guide your link acquisition strategy and avoid running afoul of search engines like Google is to follow one “golden rule.”

That rule is to ask yourself: If search engines like Google didn’t exist, and the only way people could navigate the web was through backlinks, would you want your site to have a link on the prospective website?

Thinking this way strips away all the tactical, SEO-focused portions of the equation and only leaves the human elements of linking where two sites are linked because it makes sense and makes the web easier to navigate.

Avoid Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

Another good rule is to avoid looping your site into private blog networks (PBNs). Of course, it’s not always obvious or easy to spot a PBN.

However, there are some common traits or red flags you can look for, such as:

  • The person offering you a link placement mentions they have a list of domains they can share.
  • The prospective linking site has little to no traffic and doesn’t appear to have human engagement (blog comments, social media followers, blog views, etc.).
  • The website features thin content and little investment into user experience (UX) and design.
  • The website covers generic topics and categories, catering to any and all audiences.
  • Pages on the site feature numerous external links but only some internal links.
  • The prospective domain’s backlink profile features overoptimization in any of the previously discussed forms (high-density of exact match anchor text, abnormal ratio of nofollowed links, only one or two link types, etc.).

Again, diversification – in both tactics and strategies – is crucial to building a healthy backlink profile, but steering clear of obvious PBNs and remembering the ‘golden rule’ of link building will go a long way toward keeping your profile free from toxicity.

Evaluating Your Backlink Profile

As you work diligently to build and maintain a diverse, healthy backlink profile, you should also carve out time to evaluate it regularly from a more analytical perspective.

There are two main ways to evaluate the merit of your backlinks: leverage tools to analyze backlinks and compare your backlink profile to the greater competitive landscape.

Leverage Tools To Analyze Backlink Profile

There are a variety of third-party tools you can use to analyze your backlink profile.

These tools can provide helpful insights, such as the total number of backlinks and referring domains. You can use these tools to analyze your full profile, broken down by:

  • Followed vs. nofollowed.
  • Authority metrics (Domain Rating, Domain Authority, Authority Score, etc.).
  • Backlink types.
  • Location or country.
  • Anchor text.
  • Top-level domain types.
  • And more.

You can also use these tools to track new incoming backlinks, as well as lost backlinks, to help you better understand how your backlink profile is growing.

Some of the best tools for analyzing your backlink profile are:

Many of these tools also have features that estimate how toxic or suspicious your profile might look to search engines, which can help you detect potential issues early.

Compare Your Backlink Profile To The Competitive Landscape

Lastly, you should compare your overall backlink profile to those of your competitors and those competing with your site in the search results.

Again, the previously mentioned tools can help with this analysis – as far as providing you with the raw numbers – but the key areas you should compare are:

  • Total number of backlinks.
  • Total number of referring domains.
  • Breakdown of authority metrics of links (Domain Rating, Domain Authority, Authority Score, etc.).
  • Authority metrics of competing domains.
  • Link growth over the last two years.

Comparing your backlink profile to others within your competitive landscape will help you assess where your domain currently stands and provide insight into how far you must go if you’re lagging behind competitors.

It’s worth noting that it’s not as simple as whoever has the most backlinks will perform the best in search.

These numbers are typically solid indicators of how search engines gauge the authority of your competitors’ domains, and you’ll likely find a correlation between strong backlink profiles and strong search performance.

Approach Link Building With A User-First Mindset

The search landscape continues to evolve at a breakneck pace and we could see dramatic shifts in how people search within the next five years (or sooner).

However, at this time, search engines like Google still rely on backlinks as part of their ranking algorithms, and you need to cultivate a strong backlink profile to be visible in search.

Furthermore, if you follow the advice in this article as you build out your profile, you’ll acquire backlinks that benefit your site regardless of search algorithms, futureproofing your traffic sources.

Approach link acquisition like you would any other marketing endeavor – with a customer-first mindset – and over time, you’ll naturally build a healthy, diverse backlink profile.

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SEO

Google On Traffic Diversity As A Ranking Factor

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Google answers the question of whether traffic diversity is a ranking factor for SEO

Google’s SearchLiaison tweeted encouragement to diversify traffic sources, being clear about the reason he was recommending it. Days later, someone followed up to ask if traffic diversity is a ranking factor, prompting SearchLiaison to reiterate that it is not.

What Was Said

The question of whether diversity of traffic was a ranking factor was elicited from a previous tweet in a discussion about whether a site owner should be focusing on off-site promotion.

Here’s the question from the original discussion that was tweeted:

“Can you please tell me if I’m doing right by focusing on my site and content – writing new articles to be found through search – or if I should be focusing on some off-site effort related to building a readership? It’s frustrating to see traffic go down the more effort I put in.”

SearchLiaison split the question into component parts and answered each one. When it came to the part about off-site promotion, SearchLiaison (who is Danny Sullivan), shared from his decades of experience as a journalist and publisher covering technology and search marketing.

I’m going to break down his answer so that it’s clearer what he meant

This is the part from the tweet that talks about off-site activities:

“As to the off-site effort question, I think from what I know from before I worked at Google Search, as well as my time being part of the search ranking team, is that one of the ways to be successful with Google Search is to think beyond it.”

What he is saying here is simple, don’t limit your thinking about what to do with your site to thinking about how to make it appeal to Google.

He next explains that sites that rank tend to be sites that are created to appeal to people.

SearchLiaison continued:

“Great sites with content that people like receive traffic in many ways. People go to them directly. They come via email referrals. They arrive via links from other sites. They get social media mentions.”

What he’s saying there is that you’ll know that you’re appealing to people if people are discussing your site in social media, if people are referring the site in social media and if other sites are citing it with links.

Other ways to know that a site is doing well is when when people engage in the comments section, send emails asking follow up questions, and send emails of thanks and share anecdotes of their success or satisfaction with a product or advice.

Consider this, fast fashion site Shein at one point didn’t rank for their chosen keyword phrases, I know because I checked out of curiosity. But they were at the time virally popular and making huge amounts of sales by gamifying site interaction and engagement, propelling them to become a global brand. A similar strategy propelled Zappos when they pioneered no-questions asked returns and cheerful customer service.

SearchLiaison continued:

“It just means you’re likely building a normal site in the sense that it’s not just intended for Google but instead for people. And that’s what our ranking systems are trying to reward, good content made for people.”

SearchLiaison explicitly said that building sites with diversified content is not a ranking factor.

He added this caveat to his tweet:

“This doesn’t mean you should get a bunch of social mentions, or a bunch of email mentions because these will somehow magically rank you better in Google (they don’t, from how I know things).”

Despite The Caveat…

A journalist tweeted this:

“Earlier this week, @searchliaison told people to diversify their traffic. Naturally, people started questioning whether that meant diversity of traffic was a ranking factor.

So, I asked @iPullRank what he thought.”

SearchLiaison of course answered that he explicitly said it’s not a ranking factor and linked to his original tweet that I quoted above.

He tweeted:

“I mean that’s not exactly what I myself said, but rather repeat all that I’ll just add the link to what I did say:”

The journalist responded:

“I would say this is calling for publishers to diversify their traffic since you’re saying the great sites do it. It’s the right advice to give.”

And SearchLiaison answered:

“It’s the part of “does it matter for rankings” that I was making clear wasn’t what I myself said. Yes, I think that’s a generally good thing, but it’s not the only thing or the magic thing.”

Not Everything Is About Ranking Factors

There is a longstanding practice by some SEOs to parse everything that Google publishes for clues to how Google’s algorithm works. This happened with the Search Quality Raters guidelines. Google is unintentionally complicit because it’s their policy to (in general) not confirm whether or not something is a ranking factor.

This habit of searching for “ranking factors” leads to misinformation. It takes more acuity to read research papers and patents to gain a general understanding of how information retrieval works but it’s more work to try to understand something than skimming a PDF for ranking papers.

The worst approach to understanding search is to invent hypotheses about how Google works and then pore through a document to confirm those guesses (and falling into the confirmation bias trap).

In the end, it may be more helpful to back off of exclusively optimizing for Google and focus at least equally as much in optimizing for people (which includes optimizing for traffic). I know it works because I’ve been doing it for years.

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