If you own a website and you desire to get traffic from web searches, you need to get good, and quality links from relevant sites—and this needs to happen consistently. This is what we call link building. When it comes to link building, you will need excellent communication, strong social skills, creativity, and persistence. Link building is more a combination of sales, marketing, and psychology.
So, why do you need link building? Here are four reasons why:
- Links are very valuable for SEO – they are a strong ranking factor when it comes to search engines’ algorithms.
- They are valuable in creating audience – getting links from other sites allows other audience to have direct access to your site, and can also pass referral traffic.
- They are valuable for marketing – links are considered to be a vote of confidence from one site to another. Every link helps in creating a positive connection, thus developing a relationship.
- Links are essential for increasing online traffic – websites without links will have a challenge in attracting traffic—from other sites or from search.
That’s the basic explanation of link building. Now, let’s delve deeper into the topic.
What is link building?
This is the process of acquiring link or links from independent sites back to your website or a client’s website.
Why is it important?
Google searches are based around links. Therefore, the more links you get from authoritative and relevant sites, your site will be able to perform better in search for more relevant queries. Links will assist in driving referral traffic towards your site and also assist in developing relationships.
How is the link building done?
SEO experts use a personalized strategy with different tactics aimed to convince other sites that it would be in the best interest of them or their audience to link back on to a web page on your website.
When did link building start?
Link building started being popular as Google rose into fame back in 1998—and it has remained to be important up to date.
Who uses link building?
SEOs, website owners, and marketers use link building to boost traffic to their sites via search.
What’s the value of Link building?
Links are essential to the existence of the web. Actually, it is known as a web because of the links—links are the connections or webbing that brings together the millions of sites into one thing, thus creating the interconnected web.
There are two major reasons why businesses and marketers should be interested with links:
- Links are the basic means needed for online navigation, as they direct users from one web page to another. Online users, on the other hand, associate with links as a sign of authority and trust.
- Search engines consider links to be a vote of confidence from one site to another—and will use links as a sign of trust, relevance, and authority.
Links are very valuable when it comes to audience development, marketing, search engine optimization, and relationship building.
There are basically three ways in which users can navigate to a web page:
- By clicking a link
- By bookmarking a page
- Typing a complete URL path into a browser
The majority of web navigations come from links—and it doesn’t matter whether it’s in search, social media, or browsing on a certain site. There will always be a possibility that you have clicked on a link switch from one page to another. The web is powered by links, and they are essential to a site’s architecture, search, user experience, human accessibility, as well as audience development.
Most of the internet’s traffic comes from search—and a certain study revealed that it is over 60%. In 2013, Google crashed unexpectedly, and this led to a 40% drop in internet traffic. This is an indication that search is the most important channel of web traffic for most online businesses.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an entire industry that revolves around optimizing sites for search as well as boosting their performance. That’s why link building is an essential part of SEO services. Websites cannot rank in search queries without links. Google has a core system that made it to dominate over all other search engines, and this system is Page Rank.
Page Rank is Google’s algorithm, gives links value, and also affects the ranking of websites within search. Both online users and search engines place considerable value on links, and that’s the reason why getting links needs a focused and sustained effort.
According to Google, website owners must always develop great content. As a website owner, you need to create pages that offer value to your online audience. However, you also need to note that valuable content needs promotion. Therefore, if you want to get the links that are ideal for your site, you need to be deliberate about promoting your web pages to sites that acknowledge your links. There is no other way you will be able to do link building other than this.
A joint study done by Mox and BuzzSumo in 2015 revealed that most of the online posts don’t have external links—that is, links from other sites. Most of the online content has a zero chance of receiving substantial search traffic, which is a major contributor to most of the online traffic.
Every SEO expert understands the impact that natural links from relevant, authoritative, and quality sites can have on a site. This site will no longer need those many links to rank better in Google. The idea of single links has significantly increased, and this has given quality sites more power in their individual industries. For you to get a quality link, you will need to be very persuasive in proving its value.
How does search work?
Links are essential to marketers, online users, as well as internet usability. Google search also relies on links, both for crawling and ranking. So, how does search work?
Google crawls the internet by following the links available—which also explains why search needs links, thus creating an index from the pages it finds. Whenever you do a search, you are not searching the live internet—but instead, you are searching Google’s index of the internet. Google stores this index in several data centers, which are complex and large.
According to Google’s last report on the index size, there are over 130 trillion pages, which occupy over 100 million GB. This brings these questions—how does the search engine determine the pages that it should give for a particular search query? How does Google determine the relevant pages? How does Google order and rank these pages?
Google relies on algorithms, both human coded (by ranking engineers) and machine learning to identify which search results are most relevant. Today, Google’s search algorithm uses over 200 ranking signals. However, nobody knows exactly what these ranking signals are, or even the strength given to every signal—even though many people have their own speculations.
There are 3 different types of optimizations that you can do to improve your site in search, and they include:
- Technical SEO – this is the optimization of the technology involved in Google indexing and crawling your site. Technical SEO included domain architecture, robots.txt, technology stack, server codes, internal links, page speed, and redirects, among others.
- On-page SEO – this the optimization of a web page’s HTML and content. On-page SEO is considered to be a more granular view of the elements of a web page, which assists Google in understanding the intent of a page as well as its topic. Mostly, this included things like the URL, title, words on the page, header tags, meta tags, images, and others.
- Off-page SEO – mostly, off-page SEO refers to links, even though it also included citations.
Both on-page and technical SEO are essential, and your site cannot rank to its full potential with a clean and optimized technical SEO and on-page SEO. Luckily, everyone has control over these two elements, as they are a direct result of how you create your site and its platform. As you scale your site—increase the size and number of web pages—and also involve more technology, on-page, and technical SEO become more technical.
Off-page SEO, on the other hand, is the SEO element that you have the least control of. It needs you to convince other sites to offer positive signals to your website, and this cannot happen if you don’t have a good cause. Mostly, links are the most ranking value for single signals. They are essential to ranking when it comes to competitive search. It is not easy to secure a link in a relevant manner from authoritative sites. Google’s original algorithm succeeded since it used links like a core ranking signal, and no other search engine used this signal by the time.
Google is in business to make money
The primary source of Google’s revenue is search. As a matter of fact, search played a major role in the majority of Google’s revenue before it split to become the alphabet. So, how does Google earn revenue from search, despite the fact that it is free? With adverts, at the bottom or top of the SERPs. In 2015, Google reported $74.5 billion in revenues, and the growth continues to be consistent each year.
To ensure that Google continues to make money from search, which is the core of the company, Google must do two things:
- Create compelling user experiences
- Continue driving users to click ads
What’s in between the lines?
Optimization vs. manipulation
There is one rule that each SEO expert must follow—starting with the searcher intent. Before optimizing any page for search, you should consider if the page should be at the top of SERPs. If the page doesn’t, you might waste your efforts because of two reasons:
Lack of longevity
Google wants to give searchers the most relevant results. Whatever success you achieve might be short-lived if that page does not deserve the ranking.
The ability of SEO experts to rank pages with poor content has largely reduced in the last few years—and this can cause severe penalties—especially when Google considers it to be manipulation. By nature, SEO is very strategic. Identifying the opportunities in the industry, doing competitor analysis, tracking results, implementing, and testing changes.
It’s easy for most people to push the limits of optimization—but it’s more important more than ever to follow the SEO best practices. Therefore, you should ensure that you follow the guidelines set by Google to the latter.
One of the easiest ways to manipulate a site to the top of SERPs is to build links that are manipulative as links have the largest impact on rankings. Google has strived to make sure that search results are not affected by these manipulative practices with algorithmic and manual penalties. These penalties are very severe to the extent that they can remove your site from SERPs.
This means that you should make sure that you only build authentic and meaningful links that help in improving the human experience on the internet. Therefore, you should ensure that you secure real and relevant links.
Link Signals and Metrics—quality assurance
Every search engine uses links as a core ranking signal within its search algorithms.
That’s the reason why this equation is not as easy as:
More links = more rankings
Most people have tried to manipulate Google’s search algorithm for many years. Google, on the other hand, is always trying to improve the quality and relevance of its search results, coming up with new ways to find and rank the most relevant and best results. Google performs major algorithmic updates after every few months in order to improve their understanding of links
This is the reason why SEO experts should ask themselves whether the link they are using will be beneficial at the moment and whether it shall continue to offer value in the future. There are several ways that can assist you in building good and quality links that shall continue to impact your website positively.
The significance of link quality
It’s not a coincidence that relevance leads our list of links metrics. Google always emphasizes relevance—in its search results, in meeting user needs and intent.
Quality links will always add value to the interned by improving user experience. According to Google, every link you build should add value to:
- Website linking
- Your audience
- Your website
If you follow these rules in creating links that add value to all these parties, then you will be able to make the internet a better place, as you improve the ranking of your website.
Technical considerations should always be on top of every SEO expert. However, this doesn’t mean that you should always be guided by these considerations, but that you are aware of their impacts. You should always avoid links that have some search value, but they don’t have any other metrics (human and relevance value). However, you can secure links that not have much value and SEO impact, but that advance the reach, value, and reputation of your site.
Google wants you to build links that both search engines and humans will rewards. The following are the technical considerations of quality links:
- Tag attributes
- Anchor text
- Link placement
Link building strategy—how to develop the campaign
The phrases “strategy” and “tactics” are mostly used interchangeably in SEO—even though they have different meanings.
When it comes to link building, a strategy is a plan that you create to accomplish your goals. Tactics, on the other hand, are the methods that you use to secure links. Therefore, you will always need to have a strategy before you come up with your tactics.
There are different link building tactics, and this includes building broken links, content promotion, influencer outreach, link reclamation, guest blogging, and resource link building, among others. If you are creative in marketing or SEO, you will always secure relevant and quality links.
However, you need to note that you don’t have to secure links just because you need links. You need to understand why you need to secure those links. Which pages do you want to link to? What are the target keywords for those pages? What’s the competitiveness of your niche? Are there any available opportunities?
If you are able to answer these questions, then you will be able to have a successful link building strategy. This will assist you to not only know how you will build your links (the tactics), but you will also know why you need the links (the strategy).
The following is the analysis and research that you need to do in order to create your link building strategy:
- Backlink analysis
- Keyword research
- Linkable asset analysis
- Niche analysis review
Many SEO experts rarely discuss their strategies since every strategy differs from site-to-site and client-to-client. Every campaign strategy should be customized to meet your goals, resources, assets, as well as opportunities. There is no shortcut to achieving your goal. Also, there are no one-size-fits-all accessible solutions.
Rather, you will need to analyze the uniqueness of the site, and then develop an informed decision to achieve your goals. Let’s delve deeper into the basic research and analysis that you should do for you to come up with a strategic plan to assist you in link acquisition.
Understanding your current situation should be your first to come up with an intelligent strategy. This is the same as your backlink profile in link building. A backlink analysis is essential for developing a successful link building strategy. You will need to understand the quantity and quality of the links to your website.
Today, there are several tools that can assist you in discovering the pages and sites that link to your site. These tools are known as backlink explorers. Some of the popular explorers include:
- Open Site Explorer
- Cognitive SEO
These tools will assist you in discovering the links to your pages and sites.
During the backlink profile analysis process, you should review the following:
- How many sites link to your site—mostly known as referring domains
- The quality of these referring domains
- Which pages on your websites have the most links
- What’s the quality of those links
- The total number of your site’s backlinks compared to the number of the referring domains
- Your backlink’s anchor text profile
You need to note that the profile your backlink can vary greatly—and this depends on the popularity and age of your website, and also the link economy of your niche. That’s the reason why you need to perform the same link analysis on your competitor’s sites. When you are able to have a better understanding of your site’s backlink profile, you will be ready for the next step—doing a linkable asset analysis.
Linkable asset analysis
One of the essential elements of link building is the pages that you build your links to. Therefore, you must be strategic about the pages that you need to secure links to, and you should make sure that these pages align with your goals.
However, you’ll find it hard to build links directly to your money or converting pages because of two reasons:
- Not many sites want to link to service or product pages
- Service and product pages only attract one type of online traffic—purchase intent
When you only target users actively searching to purchase a service or product at that time, you will end up missing a large percentage of your target audience. That’s the reason why you will need pages known as Linkable Assets if you want to be successful in building links in your industry.
Linkable Assets can give you value in a number of ways. They can be lists, guides, tools, videos, resources, sponsorships, events, and testimonials, among others. You will need to find pages that other sites would like to link to when they realize that they existed.
Here are two things your linkable assets should achieve:
- Create link opportunity and offer compelling value
- Provide an opportunity to get clients and customers
Finding linkable assets mostly boils down to finding pages that common with your audience, and provide good and quality answers for the commonly search words in your sector. Mostly, you can find these pages by reviewing the following:
- Your most shared pages—with BuzzSumo
- Your most linked pages—with backlink explorer
- Your most visited pages—with Google Analytics
In this stage of your analysis and research, your objective should be to find pages that you can successfully link to and achieve the goals of your business.
Keyword research is an essential part of any SEO strategy. Therefore, you will need to look for keywords that are relevant to your website and industry. Also, you should determine how people are finding information in your industry using search. Keyword research has a direct relationship with the search results for which your site ranks for. Also, you need to note that optimization is essential for SEO, but you cannot optimize if you don’t understand that the words that you should be optimizing in your pages and site.
The following are some of the tools that can assist you to do keyword research:
- Adword’s Keyword Planner
- Moz’s Keyword Explorer
- Ahref’s Keyword Explorer
- Keyword Snatcher
When it comes to link building, your keyword research goal should be to identify:
- The keyword themes essential for your industry
- The web pages on your website designed for these keywords
- Other websites with a keyword that corresponds with the theme of your keywords
- The content opportunities in the keywords that you have identified
In your linking building strategy, it is essential to make sure that you analyze your niche, competition, and industry. You don’t have to understand only the goals and performance of your own site. You also need to understand how your competitors have been able to achieve their goals, as well as the opportunities and communities in your niche.
So, how do you measure up to the competition?
Since now you know how to do keyword research, linkable asset analysis, and backlink analysis, you need to do the same for your competition.
Your objective should be to learn:
- The keywords that are attracting online traffic to your competitors
- The competitors’ page with the highest number of links
- The type of websites that link to your competitors
- How your competitors secure their links
- The active communities in your industry
It’s important to make sure that you understand the secret behind the success of your competitors, essential link tactics, relationship opportunities in your niche, as well as the general linking environment.
Creating and reviewing your strategy
A successful link building strategy does not have a formula. It requires a dedicated analysis and research to determine the resources, challenges, and opportunities that you need to achieve your set goals. When you invest your time and resources to analyzing backlink profiles, linkable assets, keywords, as well as your competitors, you will have a clear understanding of your entire project.
So, how do you create an effective link building strategy?
Link building tactics to secure quality and relevant links
There is something you need to understand about the terms link building—it is counterintuitive since you don’t have the control of how the coded link is created. Manual link building involved human-to-human marketing, and also promoting your pages to another website owner, with the objective of securing quality and relevant links. Links should be at the pleasure of the linking website, provide value to the website’s audience, and relevant to the web page as well as the context in which it appears.
When you incorporate all these three aspects in your link building strategy, you will be able to get valuable links. The links that you secure will have the capability to assist both your search engine visibility and marketing strategies.
So, how can you secure such links? There are a thousand ways to do so—and they are mostly known as link building tactics. Here are a few examples of how you can secure quality and relevant links.
Building links through resources
Developing industry-valuable resources is an amazing way to secure quality and relevant links. Online resources come in a number of different formal—tools, curated lists, often-needed documents, complex guidelines, and many more. The value should be very straightforward—creating a page that will serve as a valuable resource to your nice, community, and market.
SEO can assist you in creating a resource page through keyword research, backlink analysis, and competitor analysis. When the resource is produced and live, you promote the web page within your niche. The promotion should target websites and web pages linking to the same niche resources.
A simple, step-by-step process of building resource links:
- Conduct niche research to ascertain a gap
- Analyze the link and interest opportunities
- Create the resource, and make sure that you focus on the user value
- Create a targeted outreach with a clear messaging that explains the value of the resource, as this will assist you to secure quality links
There is another way that you can use in this tactic—to change the promotional angle or simplify the process:
- Update a dead or old resource to acquire a link that’s already existing
- Begin a new outreach campaign, which a resource that’s already existing, but underperforming
- Find links to the same resources and inform the website owners, don’t forget to suggest your resource
- Search for broken links, inform the website owners, and then suggest that your resource will be a part of the repair
Building links through content
Writing content to relevant blogs, publications, as well as sites, is another popular tactic of building links. In this tactic, you create valuable content as a way of exposing yourself you a new audience and then link back to your website.
Here are some examples of commonly used content types:
- A blog post
- An infographic
- An interview
- A video
- News coverage
The process of building links by contributing content
- Identify publications, blogs, or news sites in your niche
- Find the right contact and then pitch your content
- Create your content
- Format and edit your content as needed
- Send your content for publishing
- Cooperate with the editor as required
- Monitor the outcome of your publication
The content you create should give you the chance to link back to your website—both as an inserted resource within your content, and also as part of your bio to give your audience more information about you. This strategy should be used to target websites with high authority within your nice. And, although it is a slower link building method, it can help you in securing high quality, relevant links, as well as high visibility.
Also, this is an amazing method of creating and strengthening relationships, establishing an audience, and building a reputation in your niche.
Building links through community
Another common and effective tactic of earning quality links is being in active engagement in your community. Your business shouldn’t operate in a vacuum. When you start building relationships in your industry, your website will start earning links naturally.
Community involvement and relationships are not something that you can manipulate or create for the sake of link building. However, if you are consistently and actively engaged in community events, you should be able to build quality links.
Here are a few examples of link building tactics:
- Providing scholarships
- Attending or hosting an industry event
- Presenting at a conference, tradeshow, or meet up
- Hosting a contest or getaway
- Partnering with other businesses
Steps of earning quality links through community involvement
- Check your current engagements and the areas where your business adds value to your community
- Analyze the partnerships of your business, relationships, associations, and events, and then identify possible link building opportunities
- Reach out to partners and industry websites as needed, and request the links that make sense.
Generally, this is a long-term tactic. Also, you should make sure that you examine the ways in which your business can impact the community positively.
There is no short cut to securing quality and relevant links. You will need to check how your website adds value to the internet, and the opportunities available in your site, and then secure the links that your site needs. You only need creativity, analysis, research, and strategy to make all the difference that your site needs. Every link you secure should be beneficial to your site, the linking site, as well as their audience.
Quality and relevant links can assist your site to earn meaningful and valuable organic traffic from Google search. Even though there are other SEO factors, link building remains to be an essential part of any SEO strategy.