This post is the last installment in a series of three, inspired by Beginners Guide to Link Building, a comprehensive resource from MOZ – highly recommended for anyone who wants to build links the right way.
Part 1 and Part 2 of this series provided a brief history of links, how Google’s view of links has changed over time, the importance of cultivating a robust backlink profile to rank well in search results, and how to spot and resolve link-related issues.
In this post, we’ll assume you’re starting with a clean slate and want to actively improve your backlink profile with outreach efforts.
UNDERSTAND THAT NOT ALL LINKS ARE CREATED EQUAL
Links that provide value to both website owner and visitor alike are the links we want to cultivate. Links from article directories and spammy comments left on blog posts, inviting people to visit your website, are to be avoided.
Here is a high-level breakdown of some common link types, and how you might build each type.
“Good” Link Example – An unpaid link from a tradeshow website where someone from your firm will be speaking. Your company is being recognized as a thought leader in your industry by being asked to speak. Ensure the incoming link lands a valuable page, e.g., a white paper by the speaker or other material related to the presentation, rather than your homepage.
“Better” Link Example – An unpaid link between your site and a customer’s site. Your product saves manufacturers countless hours during an assembly process; a key customer is willing to publish a case study and testimonial on their website with a link to the product on your website. You publish your own case study or post a video and link to them. Everybody wins.
“Best” Link Example – Natural editorial links. You publish a piece of content that influencers (bloggers, journalists, etc.) think their readers/followers will enjoy or benefit from. They link to your content without you asking them to, and they use your company name in the anchor text.
“Good” Link Example – A link from an influencer, describing or showing how to use your product. There’s no harm in benefiting from links that originate with respected industry influencers. However, if you provide products to beauty bloggers, DIY experts, food bloggers, home improvement specialists, etc., they must be transparent about the fact that they received product from you. Anything that helps potential customers see a product at work or makes it easier for them to envision themselves using the product is a positive. Since you are providing the product to the influencer, you should also be able to request where you would like the link from the product mention to land on your website.
“Better” Link Example – An unpaid link from a local news station or newspaper’s website. Your product is featured in a roundup of back-to-school ‘must haves’. Be proactive and ask that any link from the station/paper to your website land on the product detail page, rather than your home page. If time allows, promote the fact that the product was featured on TV/in the paper by placing a banner on the product page (“As seen on the IMOK-TV Back to School Roundup”)
“Best” Link Example – Natural editorial links. You publish helpful, informative content that influencers think their readers/followers will enjoy or benefit from. They link to your content without you asking them to and use your company name in the anchor text. You have little or no control where the link lands people on your website, but these are the most genuine, valuable types of links. Express your appreciation and make sure you stay in touch with the influencer.
A note about “nofollow” Links
Most incoming links you receive will be “NOFOLLOW” links, which direct the search engines not to “count” the incoming link when determining the receiving site’s rank. The entire industry is moving in this direction, and there’s not much to be done about it.
That said, NOFOLLOW links are still valuable as they provide opportunities for more visitors to come to your site than if the link didn’t exist at all. Also, Google can recognize your brand mention in the article, so not all SEO value is lost.
A rare “DOFOLLOW” link is valuable because, in addition to serving as a vote of confidence in your site, it’s also a direct instruction to Google that the link should be counted in your favor as Google determines rank. You can certainly request DOFOLLOW links from partners and websites with whom you have a strong relationship, but be aware that most links you receive will be of the NOFOLLOW variety.
identify valuable existing content, or create new Content worth linking to
Chances are, you already have a good deal of valuable content that will benefit new site visitors and prospective customers. A content audit can help you identify assets you already own (how to guides, lists, videos, white papers, PDFs, etc.) that other websites might see as worth linking to.
Keyword research can help you identify what types of content your users might be looking for, and if there are gaps on your site, or in the overall search landscape, that you can fill to meet demand. Your customer service team can tell you what types of questions people have about the products and services you provide. Can you create content that answers those questions or solves a specific problem? Craft your new content in question and answer form to promote engagement and to help rank for Quick Answers.
Promote the availability of this new or newly available content on your site’s news section and via social media. Try for a mix of landing pages – links to your homepage, to FAQs that answer common questions, to specific products – and aim for variety in link text too. Use brand mentions sparingly, and be careful not to overdo it with keywords. Anchor text, like “Learn More”, has an important place in link-building efforts.
KEEP THE MOMENTUM GOING – ALWAYS BE LOOKING FOR PROSPECTIVE LINK PARTNERS
Tools like Majestic SEO provide valuable information about your current backlink profile, allowing you to see who is linking to you, when the link was created, the link’s associated anchor text, and if you’ve lost valuable links.
When building a list of new link prospects, look to trusted resources such as trade association websites, industry websites, and relevant publishers who may be interested in linking to content that would benefit their visitors and readers. You may be able to identify the individuals who are posting to social media or creating content for their own websites by following prospective link partners on Twitter, or diving into LinkedIn.
Narrow your search for bloggers and other influencers who write about your industry and products by searching with relevant keywords. For example, if you want to identify opportunities for others to link to your new “Clean Eating Grocery List”, construct your search query like this: healthy lifestyle inurl:list
Incorporate backlinks and brand messaging into digital pr
Manual link building, as detailed above, is well worth the effort – but it’s also time-consuming. Make it easier to grow digital brand awareness and generate backlinks automatically by teaching link building best practices to everyone concerned with your PR, communications, and brand awareness efforts.
A simple checklist can go a long way. Is the press release or article headline written with SEO best practices in mind (correct character count, keywords front and center)? Are appropriate keywords incorporated throughout the release? Does the content provide answers, solutions, and real value to the reader (vs. a sales pitch)? Have you provided a link to your preferred landing page? Following SEO best practices for all promotional materials – web pages, blog posts, press releases, and more – can help generate links with slightly less effort than manual outreach to influencers.
What Marketers Need to Know About Outreach and Digital PR
Links continue to be an important ranking factor for Google, and that is not likely to change any time soon. Familiarizing yourself with your site’s backlink profile, addressing any problems or issues, and actively cultivating new backlinks via outreach and digital PR efforts will serve you well.
Information + photo source: Beginner’s Guide to Link Building (MOZ)