Diversify Your Link Building Efforts

How to lose +50% of your organic search traffic by using a single link building strategy, what happens when you fix the problem, and a few excellent link building resources.

Diversify Your Linkbuilding - Chain
Why link diversity is critical to your SEO success.

Organic SEO requires good link building. If you don’t get high-quality links – almost every month – search engines will eventually forget about your site and send relevant traffic to your competitors. That’s common SEO knowledge.

However, not all link building is equal. You can consistently build links to your site, and get crushed on a whimsical Google update just because. That’s one reason to diversify your links. “Link diversity” or getting different types of links is crucial to long-term SEO success. In the long run, getting different kinds of links is much better than getting one kind of link back to your site.

Diversify Your Holdings = Diversify Your Links

Investment advisors offer the same advice: diversify your holdings. For instance, you don’t want to put 100% of your portfolio into gold stocks. When gold is going up, things are great. But when precious metals correct, your returns are toast. In the same way, link diversity helps spread out the SEO risk among different types of links. In the Fall of 2011, I relearned this lesson.

We had been building links to an affiliate site for insurance leads through article marketing. The article marketing service was great and helped deliver solid organic search traffic to the site, but it was the only type of link building we were doing. When the Google Panda update devalued article directories, our links were hit and traffic got crushed. The first hit came in September with the final blow happening in October. The results can be seen in the screenshot showing last year’s organic search results.

Google Analytics Insurance Site Traffic Drop
What happens when you rely on one type of link building.

Overall, we saw a 56.5% drop in organic search traffic from the peak in August 2011 to the trough in November 2011. That hurt.

What Happens When You Diversify Your Links

The nice thing about SEO is most times you can fix problems, even with off-site ranking factors. If you address your deficiencies, you can see results from your renewed efforts in short while. That’s exactly what we did.

For the insurance site, we immediately stopped using the article marketing service. In December, we restarted link building, but this time we diversified our strategy. We also addressed other areas on the site which seemed to help. After several more months or link diversification and site improvements, organic search traffic recovered and even surpassed our previous high. Here’s another screenshot of the latest organic search results:

Google Analytics Traffic Improvement After Changes
What happens when you diversify your link building.

 How To Diversify Your Link Building

There’s a ton of ways to build links to your site. All of them require time, but some strategies take longer than others. In general, the more time a strategy requires, the more valuable the links. To get the most value from your link building efforts, spend time on medium-to-hard links. The results are slower but higher value links tend to result in higher organic search ranks and more traffic.

Again, use multiple strategies to diversify your links. Instead of composing another how-to, here’s a few link building resources to lead the way.

1) Link Building 101: SEOMoz’s beginner’s guide to link building. If link building still seems esoteric, this is a great place to start. It also includes a few strategies at the end.

2) 101 Ways to Build Link Popularity: Aaron Walls older, but excellent post on building links to your website. We continue to use these strategies to build links for clients.

3) The “Complete” List of Link Building Strategies:  Another purported complete list of link building strategies but this one is pretty good.