ImageI am breaking my own resolution here not to mention link building in marketing in 2014. Ever since Google started to clean up its Link Graph by weeding the spam link economy its Page Rank (PR) system helped spawn, link building has been associated with spammers and Black Hat SEOs.

It really does not have to be that way and Google is not backing away from links just yet. But for anyone who hasn’t noticed it, we are in the semantic web age and shortcuts to authority and trust do not exist anymore. Links, really, were intended to be used as a democratic way to ‘vote’ on the expertise, value and authority of a website by providing a link back to it as a way of recommendation.  

Because accumulated links created an inevitable leaderboard they became a highly visible metric that lent itself to gaming behavior by marketers and the surface of spam websites in Google’s search. Over the last two years Google has been engaged in a sustained effort to clean all this up.

The announcement of the ‘death’ of guest blogging is the latest effort in this direction (and Tom Pick does an excellent job at explaining the changes and why this ‘ain’t so’).

So if you do want to build some back links to your website what are the best ways to do that?

1. Create Awesome Content – This is not a reiteration for all those nonsensical “Create Epic Sh*t” posts. Awesome content is content that delivers a much-needed solution to a problem, an answer to a question, valuable information when it’s most needed, consistently. In short it’s the kind of content that puts your potential audience’s needs above your own and delivers a solution quietly and effectively. This, more often than not, really does get naturally linked to. (It’s why the word “here” in Google search delivers Adobe’s Free PDF viewer at #1 slot).

2. Share Your Content Across Social Networks – A Tweet or a G+ post are, essentially, a web page. Links from G+ pass Page Rank to the sites they point to and so do many other social networks. Even if the links generated are “nofollow” they are still a signal to Google of Velocity (the speed at which a site’s content gets shared across the web) which means that they are taken into account in the site’s ranking in search.

3. Guest Blog – I know. This one is a surprise. It shouldn’t be. Guest blogging is intended to give you a platform to find an audience that is relevant to what you do. If you’re in the business of selling luxury cars and you go and guest blog on Farmer’s Weekly it’s unlikely that you’re going to create valuable, relevant, high quality content for them. So really you’re only fishing for a back link. That’s the kind of temptation the new Google restrictions are designed to help you avoid. Guest blog the same way you form offline connections. Seek, relevant, useful websites and contacts and give them your very best.

If you follow these three guidelines you will find that you get links back to your site. More than that however, you will find that you get, more relevant traffic, online recognition and you will start to gain reputation and authority. This, really, is the only way you will get anywhere in a semantic web where connections are transparent and spammy links no longer work.