Link Building 101
We talk a lot about developing a content strategy for your website. The idea is to transform your digital space into an informational hub from which visitors gain instant value. Content strategy often remains on-site, meaning the content resides within your dot-com. Sometimes your brand will contribute content to sites other than your own, in the form of guest blogging. This is a link building tactic.
1) What is Link Building?
To put it simply, it is the act of proactively seeking referrals to your website from another in the form of links.
2) Why is link building important?
Link building is the single most critical factor when it comes to ranking. Keywords are important, too, but the search engine algorithms have been modified to place a higher emphasis on links. The number of inbound links a website has is a direct reflection, according to Google, of that website’s overall quality. Brief history lesson: the earliest version of Google was nicknamed “BackRub” because it was intended to determine a website’s importance based solely on the number and value of backlinks. Obtaining links to your website proves the quality of its pages. SEOmoz, one of the industry leaders, has designed a great visual for grasping various search engine ranking factors. The chart shows that the linking metrics play a significant part in determining the placement of a website on the SERPs.
3. How can I do it?
Not everyone sees the validity or importance of link building and is eager to get crackin’. For this reason, we commend your enthusiasm. Before you get carried away by the gusts of gusto, however, it’s important to understand a few things. Number one: It’s not easy to earn links naturally. That’s because quality content is rare and difficult to generate. Quality content, you see, serves a purpose and actually deserves links. It essentially answers a question and does so in a unique way. Second: When you sign up for the task of manually link building, prepare to encounter hours of tedious work. You have to ensure that each website you’re attempting to acquire a link from actually has a decent page authority. Then you have to reach out to the webmasters individually and ask them to cooperate. So wait, we’re saying you have to write emails to individual webmasters? Yep. We are. *Crickets*. It’s hard to figure out where to start sometimes, but the best way to just jump in and do it. We’ve compiled a starting point/idea generator for you. It’s not the solution to your problems, but it will give you an idea of what kinds of sites you should be reaching out to.
4. What are the wrong ways to build links?
Google (and the other engines) are improving every day, so fortunately, the “black hat” methods are becoming less and less prevalent and effective. Basic rule of thumb: when it sounds too good (too easy) to be true, it probably is. If your “SEO” is buying links on your behalf, you might want to end that relationship.
Here are some specific black hat methods of link building, according to Google Webmaster Tools:
- Links that are purposefully trying to manipulate PageRank
- Links to spam or shady websites
- Buying or selling links
- Extreme, unnatural reciprocal linking
Take a step back and remember how the whole concept of “ranking” works: Google assesses websites based on their relevancy, quality, and validity. If you’re trying to buy your way up to the first page, doesn’t that seem a bit unethical? The good news is that those of us who play by the rules have the Goog on our side. And Papa G does not hesitate to strike down the sinners. When you search Google, you’re not searching the Internet. You’re searching Google’s index of the Internet. The swiftest, most effective way for Google to penalize a scummy site is to remove it from the index.
5. Good tactics of link building.
Okay, so now that you’re good and depressed, let’s talk about link building success stories. If you don’t believe your brand can come up with link-worthy content, then think again. You definitely can. There are the naysayers who claim their industry or brand isn’t interesting enough to be backed up by a blog or white paper – we beg to differ. One easy, accurate way of determining who is searching for you is to do some keyword research. You’ll be able to see people’s exact queries. This gives you an idea of how many people are looking for answers and it gives you a reason to provide a solution.
Our friends at Distilled have assembled a fantastic chart that effectively shows the process that is required of successful link bait, as well as how essential it is to include every element. Take a look and let the different layers sink in.
6. Easy ways to get started:
a. Put great pieces of content on your site. This is really what it comes down to. Great content proves that you’re the best. If your brand can’t produce unique, relevant content that answers questions and leads to conversions, then you probably don’t belong on the first results page anyway.
b. Submit guest posts. This is easier said than done, but it’s certainly not impossible. As an expert in your industry, you should come across a myriad of concerns or questions that your clients present to you on a daily basis. If it’s an issue you’ve dealt with, the chance that someone else in the world will encounter this issue as well. Document your experience and don’t forget to add your branded flair to the post. Then do the dirty work – figure out which sites will actually help your cause. (If their PageRank isn’t better than yours, then the “link juice” you acquire isn’t going to be very potent.)
c. Write and send out press releases. Did you publish a fantastic guide recently? Evolve did, so we sent out a PR that announced it. Some pretty huge sites picked us up, like yahoo finance.
d. Find relevant forums or speak up in social profiles. Here’s your chance to self-promote. Is this to say that you should comment-bomb every blog or news source you find? No, but if you have relevant information to contribute, you shouldn’t hesitate to speak up on behalf of the brand. You might make some friends in the process. (And everyone knows that digital friendships shortly lead to link exchanges!)
e. Add an embeddable button that links back to your site. For example, if we wanted to spread the word of our SEO Guide for Beginners while also allowing the readers to feel good about what they’ve learned, we could offer an “SEO Beginner and Loving it” badge (or something like it, with better copy) that people could add to their website. This tactic isn’t always recommended, as it’s a more passive way of getting links.
Not all of these methods will work for you, and that’s okay. Link building is a slow, steady race to the end, and as long as you stick to reaching out and refining the quality of whatever link bait you’re offering, you will reap sweet benefits.
Before you start a link building strategy, you need to set things straight on your site! Check out our SEO Audit service:
SEO Audit SEO Audit: Onsite SEO Audit: Competitive Keyword Research
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