Ah, link building. To some, it’s a messy minefield with ever-changing goalposts (thanks Google). To others (like us), it’s a massive opportunity area. A business’ link building strategies can make a huge difference to its SEO. That’s if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t know what you’re doing, we’re here to break it down. Strap in for the what, the why and the how of link building strategies…
What is link building and why is it important?
Quite simply, link building refers to the process (or processes) of getting hyperlinks to your website from other websites. The purpose? To improve your search rankings. Since the Nineties, search engines have looked at links in the same way that we’d look at votes. So, for every link to your site, that’s another vote for your content and value.
In 2020, there are two ways that search engines use hyperlinks. The first is to discover new web pages, and the second is to establish how high-performing a page should be. In other words, how well it should rank in the search results. The more high-quality links you get out there, the better your ranking, and the more traffic you’ll get.
The different types of links explained
There are various link types to highlight when discussing link building strategies. Let’s start with the good…
An internal link is a link from one page of your website to another page of your website. These are lovely links for a couple of reasons. First of all, when used in a savvy way, they aid the user experience. Let’s take a real-life scenario, to explain. Let’s say a visitor is reading a blog about making cakes and, as they near the end of the article, they come across a link that takes them to another article – this one all about the tools needed for cake making. Not only could this useful for the visitor, but it could actually keep them on the website for longer. Which, in turn, improves your website authority and your ranking.
An external link – also known as an outbound link – is a link to another website from your own. You might use an external link when mentioning national statistics (see what we did there?!), or to link to a recent news story when writing about something topical, such as COVID. External links are thought to be more powerful than internal links, purely because search engines believe what others are saying about you is really telling, and much more reliable than what you’re saying about yourself.
When it comes to link building, it doesn’t get any better than this. Naturally derived links – also known as inbound links – are links to your site that are freely given by other bloggers or website owners, namely because the content they’re linking to (i.e. yours!) is seen as useful and value-rich. Now, unless you’re an already established, high-authority website these kinds of links are difficult – if not impossible – to get. But it’s not unheard of. Creating impactful, valuable content is your starting point. Then, one of the best natural link building strategies is to seed a piece with an influencer or prolific blogger, and hope that your content is circulated.
This is the most common type of link building, and it can be especially effective for businesses that are just starting out. It involves contacting owners of high-ranking websites and pitching a content idea. If accepted, you’ll write a guest post for this site and, within the content, link back to your own website – otherwise known as a backlink. This is the link building strategy we’re going to focus on in this post. Below, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to steer you in the right direction.
But first, let’s briefly consider the bad link types…
We really don’t like these ones, and neither do the search engines. Self-created links are non-editorial links designed to trick the search engines. The problem? Google, especially, is rather sophisticated, and knows which content is high-quality and which isn’t. Self-created links carry little weight. Not only does Google consider these types of links to be invalid, but websites can actually be penalized for going after them. There are lots of self-created link types, but here are a few examples of where you’d find them…
- Un-moderated blog comments
- Embedding in infographics
- Embedded widgets
Your step-by-step guide to outreach link building
Start by identifying the pages you want to link to
Firstly, you’ll want to establish exactly which pages you want to drive traffic to. There are two approaches to this. One is to choose a page with great content that’s already ranking for some keywords. You can use a tool like Ahrefs to explore this. Or, if don’t have the budget to pay a fee, take a look at Google Analytics. Alternatively, you can go for a page that’s not performing well currently, but you believe the content is super-strong and you think it’s got the potential to rank. Lots of businesses start with those former quick-wins, but there’s no right or wrong here.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to try and get your chosen page(s) onto page one of the search engine results. If a page is already performing well organically, just one or two links could push it up.
Next, you’ll need to seek out high-authority websites
When it comes to choosing websites to go after for link-building, you don’t need to be restricted to those of the same niche or subject. What is important is to seek out high-quality websites – this could be a blog or a website, and it could be something entirely unrelated to your area or subject matter. The key? Finding the right angle to connect both platforms.
Google is all about providing the best quality search results for search queries. Sites that demonstrate the E-A-T concept (a concept introduced by Google itself) are seen as high-quality for this reason. E-A-T stands for:
Google puts huge significance on these qualities. So, for your website to be seen as expert, authoritative and trustworthy, it needs links from websites that also demonstrate these characteristics.
You’ll need to determine whether or not a site is high-quality in terms of content. You’re looking for things like a strong and consistent tone and, it goes without saying, top-quality grammar and spelling. If you’ve given the content the thumbs-up, then check out the policy on guest posts. Usually, a site will have some guidelines for these. If not, you can always get in touch to ask if they’d accept a submission.
Making the approach
I cannot stress enough the importance of The Approach. This is the part where you establish rapport and begin to build a relationship. It’s your opportunity to introduce yourself and your business, link to other great guest posts you’ve written (if you have), and explain – and this is the most crucial bit – WHY you’ve chosen their particular site.
You need to show that you’re not just after their traffic, but you have a genuine interest in their site and content. Be specific, too – don’t just gush generally, but actually pin-point specific articles you loved, or highlight something you’ve taken away and put to good use.
You’ll need to pitch the angle you’re going for, as well. Make sure your headline is SEO friendly, and add a synopsis – brief but explanatory – that summarises what you’re going to be talking about in your post.
Make sure you’re clear on the rules
No matter how effective your initial link-building conversation, submitting a guest post that hasn’t followed a clear set of instructions is a huge no-no. Lots of websites will explicitly state what’s needed. Here are some examples…
- Minimum and maximum word count
- Specific formatting instructions
- Links to authority sites required (if quoting facts or statistics)
- The number of backlinks to your own site (usually just one)
Get to work!
Now’s the time to get writing. It goes without saying your content needs to be of superb quality. So, be sure to properly proof your work. A second pair of eyes is always a good idea – even the grammar and spelling ninjas amongst us can miss errors. We’re all human, after all. Check your links work properly, and always ensure your layout and copy is optimised for the web, with keyword-rich text, headers and bulleted lists for clarity and flow where applicable. And never, ever, ever plagiarise.
As for that all-important backlink? Well, make it a strong one. Give your placement some thought and don’t let it be tenuous.
Be sure to follow-up
Once you’ve sent over your work and it’s been well-received (you’re an awesome writer, so it’s bound to be), then don’t forget to follow up.
Be sure to ask when your guest post will go live on the site, and make a note to check on that date. No sign of it? It’s absolutely fine to send a polite chaser. Key word being polite here! Just a gentle nudge to make sure your hard work doesn’t go to waste.
Finally, promote your guest post
As with any piece of content you put out there, you want to shout about it via your social media channels, emails and newsletters. It’s good practice and courteous to be seen to be driving traffic to the site you’re link-building on, and it could also inadvertently land those same visitors back on your site.
So, while it might feel like a lot to take in, if you can get your head around link building strategies and incorporate these into your business plans, you could completely transform your search engine ranking. And always remember – you are what you E-A-T.
Want to know more about strategies for improving your SEO? Get in touch with the team at Bubbli.