TABLE OF CONTENTS
- What is Link Building?
- Why is Link Building Important?
- How Does Link Building Work?
The internet is basically an intricated web of pages interlinked together. How does a search engine establish one page’s relevance over another’s? One of the most significant ways is by analyzing how a webpage fits into this intricate web, as its relationship with other pages can be a clear indicator of it being relevant or not. This aspect of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is referred to as “Link Building”.
What is Link Building?
Essentially put, link building is the practice of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites back to your own; such links are therefore referred to as “backlinks”. As much as this might seem like a technical process, we will see it mainly has to do with content and marketing aspects, instead; hence, the ways to approach it are numerous and diverse. In one’s journey to becoming familiar with all of these ways, however, it is also crucial to learn how and why each one of them might or might not turn out to be effective: throughout the last years, in fact, in an attempt to fight against spammy practices, Google has been implementing several policies against or in favor of many of these practices, making the landscape much more complex than might have otherwise been.
Why is Link Building Important?
As much as the quality of a webpage’s content and its conformity to all the best practices for it to be “understood” by a search engine are crucial, they might not be enough for the page to rank high in the search results. In a world where such best practices are more and more widespread and well-known and in which increasing effort is being put into their implementation, there might only be one way left to truly stand out from the competition: establishing authority. Link building, therefore, is paramount because it is among the main ways to earn such authority; backlinks, in fact, are essentially votes of confidence for your site.
Furthermore, link building often helps to build valuable relationships with other relevant websites and blogs in your industry: in fact, in outreaching to such contacts to promote one’s content, one is also inevitably paving the way for long-term relationships with key influencers in their industry, which will in turn make one’s business be seen as highly regarded and trusted.
Let us also not forget that a website pointing to yours means increased referral traffic, as part of their visitors are redirected to your page. These last two points combined valuably contribute to brand building, which is ultimately what one is aiming at when establishing authority in their niche.
How Does Link Building Work?
As anticipated earlier, link building actually has a lot to do with non-technical aspects; in fact, the main way it works is by seeking to obtain backlinks through various techniques, including manually contacting websites already using your content or suggesting it to resource pages and blogs. Before suggesting specific ways to do so, let us draw a clear line between good and bad practices.
The Boundary Between Good and Bad Links
Paradoxically, the most obvious and straightforward ways to engineer backlinks have often actually become the worst ones, nowadays; as explained above, this has simply come as a result of search engines’ effort to provide quality rankings in their results. Consequently, the quality of a backlink now lies first and foremost in its relevance: links should come from websites with content closely related to your own. In obtaining links from others, however, do not neglect checking their own trustworthiness, as this will also have great influence on the quality of the link itself. Placement of the link is also crucial, as it can directly influence the visibility and performance of the link itself: aim for the upper body of the content, whilst avoiding sidebars, the lower body of content, and the footer. Finally, “anchor text” (the actual text in which the link to your website is embedded) is key to determining the quality of such connection because search engines’ algorithms use it to indicate what your page is about; the optimal strategy, here, lies midway in the spectrum between complete irrelevance and exaggerated optimization, as the latter might be perceived as too commercial or engineered.
Having shown how obtaining the link itself is not the whole story, let us now dive deeper into specific link building strategies.
Successful Link Building Implementations
Link building strategies can be categorized into three main types.
1) Earning Links
- Being newsworthy: earning the attention of the press, bloggers, and news media is an effective, time-honored way to earn links. Sometimes this is as simple as giving something away for free, releasing a great new product, or stating something controversial.
- Involvement in one’s local community: for a local business, community outreach can result in some of the most valuable and influential links.
Examples of ways to do so are:
- Engaging in sponsorships and scholarships;
- Hosting or participating in community events, seminars, workshops, and organizations;
- Donating to worthy local causes and joining local business associations;
- Posting jobs and offering internships;
- Promoting loyalty programs;
- Running a local competition;
- Developing real-world relationships with related local businesses to discover how you two can team up to improve the health of your local economy.
- Blogging and guest blogging: blogs already have, by themselves, the unique ability to contribute fresh material on a consistent basis, generate conversations across the web, and earn listings and links from other blogs. A further way to use them in favor of link building, however, is guest blogging: while it’s not the most scalable tactic, it could be beneficial to partner with a company in your industry to perform a case study or present the results of joint research. Just beware not to publish content on any sites that have low authority and have no relevance to your business just to get backlinks, as this tactic is being specifically targeted by Google’s quality-monitoring efforts.
2) Manually Building Links
- Refurbishing top content: the content already earning the most traffic, converting the most customers, or retaining visitors for the longest amount of time on your website can actually serve you a second time. For instance, you can refurbish it to other platforms to expand your acquisition funnel beyond Google; otherwise, you can also dust off, update, and simply republish older content on the same platform: by doing so and letting the original website know, you may just earn a good link.
- Social media promotion: such platforms are a powerful way to manage your brand image and connect with the community. Valuable ways to use them in this realm are:
- Posting news and updates about your brand;
- Engaging with your audience in your comments;
- Responding to brand mentions;
- Participating in social media conversations within your niche.
A final helpful way to use them is to ensure you tag brands and people of influence in your content when talking about them, as there is a good chance they will themselves reshare the post or the link you shared on social media, helping you generate a backlink from a profile other than your own.
- Resource pages building: due to their orientative and comprehensive nature, they are particularly appreciated sources for research and inspiration, and hence can be a great way to build links.
3) Requesting Links
- Customer and partner links: if you have partners you work with regularly or loyal customers that love your brand, you have many options to earn links from them with relative ease, such as sending out partnership badges or offering to write up testimonials of their products.
- Broken links: Search for broken external links on sites within your niche and reach out with a recommended piece of content from your site they can replace it with.
- Images: reach out to websites that are using your images and not citing you or linking back to you and ask if they would mind including a link.
- Unlinked brand mentions: it’s not uncommon for press or any other type of coverage to have no link and solely mention a brand, yet it is often easy to see this turned into a link with only minimal effort, as the hard work of securing coverage in the first place has already been done.
- Reclaiming lost backlinks: although some links are simply lost due to the page containing them being removed, it is often the case that such links are instead lost due to page rewrites, in which case you can politely reach out and point it out.
As a general guideline in this area, make sure to place care in the message through which you reach out to the other party: be personal and genuine, trying first to build rapport and only then pose your request.
Discouraged Link Building Implementations
- Buying links: as obvious as it might seem, it is also one of the first ways that come to mind in this realm. Doing so generates so-called “toxic backlinks”, which can undermine your authority score.
One can place sponsored links on other websites, but they should always indicate such artificial nature of the link in its code, so as to prevent a negative impact on the search rankings; this means such links will only contribute to referral traffic and brand building.
- General spammy tactics: already mentioned before, these include exploiting unmoderated blog comments to place one’s link and heavily optimized anchor texts.
As mentioned repeatedly throughout this article, the simplest and most natural way to build links is by building your brand and quality content, first; therefore, if you had to choose which link building strategy to prioritize it would be this one. To gain a better idea of this, think about all the different ways you yourself come to trust a brand:
- Awareness: you know they exist;
- Helpfulness: they provide answers to your questions;
- Integrity: they do what they say they will;
- Quality: their product or service provides value, possibly more than others you’ve tried;
- Continued value: they continue to provide value even after you’ve gotten what you needed;
- Voice: they communicate in unique, memorable ways;
- Sentiment: others have good things to say about their experience with the brand.
If all of these aspects are taken into account, backlinks from other websites will naturally follow, without the need for artificially engineered or spammy tactics which usually do more harm than good.
- SEMRush | Link Building for SEO: The Beginner’s Guide: https://www.semrush.com/blog/link-building/
- Moz | The Beginner’s Guide to Link Building: https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-link-building
- Moz | Link Building & Establishing Authority: https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo/growing-popularity-and-links