Link building remains an important part of getting ranked on Google and other search engines, but getting an SEO link to your website can be done in many ways, and not all of them are as helpful as you might think. To understand the difference between good and bad link building and the strategies to get high page ranking links, I put together this link building guide for an all-encompassing overview of link building for SEO.
What is Link Building? You’re sure to have heard the term but what is link building in SEO? In its simplest terms, link building is the process of getting other websites to link bank to your site.Getting natural organic links in line with Google’s guidelines, uplifting your site’s authority, and improving your website ranking takes time.
The Importance of Link BuildingIs link building still relevant to SEO? The short answer is yes and although it is not the only factor to get your website on page-one search results, you will rank higher with more backlinks.More links or referrals from other quality sites alert Google that your website is an authority for whatever keyword is in the search box and each link crawled by Google is information on new and relevant content on the web.
Why Is Link Building SO HARD?
SEO experts like myself, however, have learned the hard way that link building has become more complex over time. It involves strategy and relationship building while your content must stand out from a crowded internet of high-quality content.Well-established brands have well-established teams to do this and may have a head start, making it even harder for your link-building to count.
Types of Link Building
The types of backlinks you can build for your website are numerous but not all of them will be relevant for you or your site and the ones you should acquire depends on what you want to achieve. Here are some key examples. Editorial linkAn editorial link is an organic inbound link a website uses naturally in its content and marks a strong link profile. Getting an editorial link, particularly on a high-profile website, should be your goal and I can suggest a few things to help acquire them. A trusted domain name is first and foremost with a brand name followed by .com. Editors are likely to be instantly turned off by keyword domains that come across too sales-like and spammy. Also, and I’ll mention this repeatedly, high-quality content creation with long-term relevance will attract more editorial links, including originally collated statistics or reports.
A resource link is one of the most well-known SEO links that remains popular today. It is included in a curated page of other relevant links intended to add value to users of the website they’re hosted on along similar themes to that site.Resource link building is so popular because it is effective, scalable and one of the easier links to acquire because resource pages rely on useful link acquisitions to boost their value to the site’s readership.
Reciprocal link building is the process of exchanging links between two websites — I’ll link to you if you link to me kind of thing.Reciprocal link building was vastly popular until Google introduced PageRank and adapted their algorithm to prioritise quality and relevance and so SEO experts like me had to adapt, but I still use reciprocal link building with just a few ground rules i.e., only linking to quality content from good authority sites. And if you’re going to ask for a link back, point towards the content on your website that would genuinely add value to the reciprocating webmaster’s site, such as a high-level study etc.
Web directory link building is submitting your business information to online databases like Yelp, Google My Business, Foursquare or the Yellow Pages. While directories in themselves are somewhat outdated, directory linking is not completely obsolete yet. Directory links can also be a quick win for SEO and targeted traffic using niche relevant backlinks.For the best impact, target well-established directories with domain authority and submit links under the most relevant categories. Also consider those different directories have varying features and some may include photos, maps or reviews. Think about which features work best for your business and always ensure your information is consistent and in line with your brand.
White Hat Linking Versus Black Hat Linking
These terms come up a lot when it comes to SEO and link building and it’s worth understanding them to know what not to do as well as best practices. I’ve provided a breakdown here:Black hat linkingAs mentioned, there’s a wrong way to go about link building — creating the illusion you have lots of backlinks in a bid to trick Google. Google has wised up to these manipulative tactics, known as black hat SEO and so employing these methods could hinder your web ranking and even get you wiped off search results.Examples of black hat link building strategies include spamming comments and links to your site on other sites when the link has little to do with the page content or using link farms — sites or pages with series of links that provide no added value to the content of the page.White hat linking
White hat link building refers to good link building practices that boost SEO and organically increase your website rank and they include the many examples covered so far: editorial links, good domain directory links or reciprocal links to authoritative sites, for example. Other good white hat link building tactics could include finding and pointing out broken links to web admins and suggesting an alternative — yours — for their page.In the mix of it, don’t forget that including internal links, those that point to pages in your own website, is also a key SEO tool and white hat linking method.
Basic Link Building Strategies
I could run through dozens of link building strategies, some of which get fairly advanced but you can’t run before you walk, can you? I’ve broken down some basic techniques to get you started.Content Creation and PromotionThe best way of earning high-quality links is through content marketing. The content you produce on your site may depend on your marketing coffers but between low-end to high-end budgets there are plenty of opportunities to create great content. Most websites now know to include a blog on-site and hosting guest articles is a way to exchange links and mentions. Case studies that are sharable and highlight your company’s edge are another simple and effective way of including stand-out content on your site. And don’t forget every business has its version of experts, so keep the profiles of yours on your site to encourage interaction from reporters looking for commentary to add weight to their articles, earning you an editorial link in the process.
As your budget increases, you can work in high-quality, professionally produced infographics or collaborate with a complementary business. Don’t forget about local press opportunities either. As a business owner in the local area, a column in the local paper could help you build up an audience and get a recurring backlink to your site. If you have significant money to play with, then producing surveys can attract high-quality editorial links providing you have sufficient responses — 2,000+ — and the findings are interesting.
Audits and Mentions
As well as growing the profile of backlinks to client sites, I insist that every link building strategy should take pause to monitor where those links are coming from, identify which ones might be harming SEO and which are improving page rank while identifying gaps in your link building strategy. I do this exercise by downloading a list of the websites’ links through Google Webmaster tools, which signal where to focus efforts in the future and which links to remove or disavow using the Google Disavow tool.
I don’t stop this monitoring exercise at links, however. Every time your brand is mentioned, consider it an implied link and according to Google and Bing, those linkless mentions will also boost your page rank. Capitalise on these further by responding to reviews and social media comments.Connections from Friends and PartnersUnsolicited emails asking for reciprocal or other backlinks can get overlooked, however polite the correspondence. So, over time, I’ve realised outreach SEO requires harnessing relationships. An easy starting point is to get involved in online communities such as ResponseSource and Help a Reporter Out, which connect experts with journalists, a good way of getting editorial links.Another jumping off point is your friend circle. When I embarked on my link building strategy, I thought about who I knew in my field. I asked them to connect me with anyone whose projects and content might complement mine. I widened this circle of contacts by identifying who I wanted to be connected to and contacting them to share content priorities. Anyone I couldn’t collaborate with or swap links with now, I asked if that content might be suitable for someone in their wider network and offered the same consideration back. At some point, your two content priorities may coincide while you’ve already started building a relationship.In a nutshell, link building strategies may seem time-consuming, but quality always counts over quantity. So take time to grow the reach of your website and you’ll reap the rewards with consistently high ranking pages.