Link building is a crucial part of your search engine optimization campaign. At a minimum, it can be a great strategy to build brand awareness and signal to search engines that you have something important to share.
When done correctly, link building can help cultivate what we like to call “SEO juice”. The more juice you have, the more authority and value your ‘backlinks’ (external websites linking back to your website) carry. But there are some link-building practices that can do just the opposite.
Join us as we discuss the dos and don’ts of link building. By the end, you’ll be primed to rake in all that sweet, sweet SEO juice you’ve been dreaming of! Ranking for high-level keywords you didn’t think possible!
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What Is Link Building?
Link building is the practice of proactively seeking out ways to get other websites to link back to yours. This can be anything from a blog post to a product – essentially any page on your site. When you receive a mention on another website, they can create a backlink to your website.
This is done by using anchor text and tethering the link to said text.
<span>Beyond blue media has the <a href=”https://beyondbluemedia.com/services/”>best digital marketing services</a> in the entire state of Colorado.</span>
In this example, you can see that the link is inserted using an <a href> tag. This is code language for link insertion. The anchor text is “best digital marketing services”.
The whole point of link building is to create as many of these inbound links as possible from other industry leaders in your niche. But it can be a lot easier said than done.
When a site links back to you, they’re giving you an endorsement that says “Yes! I approve of these people and this page as a resource”. Search engines, especially Google, use this as a key ranking signal. As you might imagine, this isn’t something a lot of SEO-savvy websites give out willy-nilly. It takes persistence, relationship building, and a wealth of stellar content.
So how does one win over the hearts and minds of other folks on the internet and turn that trust into fruitful link-building? Let’s take a look.
Link Building Do’s
There are many, many methods to go about link building (some better than others). It can be difficult to suss out the tactics that work from the ones that ween no results. Broadly, we must work towards creating “link-worthy” content others will organically want to share. But we have a few other methods up our sleeves you might want to try out too.
So much of link building is building and maintaining relationships - networking. Find other people in your niche you think might benefit from your content. Who might find your products, business, brand, or services link-worthy? Seek them out and see if you can get them to feature you on their site in some way.
If this seems like a daunting task, you’re not alone. Before getting in touch with anyone, be sure to plot out an outreach strategy. First, put together some good shareable assets such as infographics or well-researched, expert-backed blog posts.
Next, look for who you want to connect with. A good way to find a potential partner in link building is to search for those who mention your target keyword in their articles or sites that have linked to similar pages to yours in the past. You wouldn’t want to reach out to a publisher who has zero interest in what you are linking to.
Seek Out High-Quality Links
Of course, the goal is to garner as many links as possible. But the quality of who you’re linked to is a major factor in the success of a link-building campaign too. Look out for a website that holds authority and PageRank potential (a tool based on Google’s rating system for relevance and strength).
A good way to determine where a site stands is to consult Ahrefs or Moz. They both feature helpful tools to see where a website might stand in its level of authority or relevance. Ahrefs uses a ranking system called “DomainRating'' while Moz uses a “Domain Authority” metric.
Building Off Broken Links
Over time, links can break. Whether the destination website removed the original content or changed the URL, links on older blog posts might not function properly anymore. One tactic you can use to build links is to step in to replace these broken links with similar content that is better than the original source.
Chrome plugins such as Check My Links or LinkMiner can be vital tools in this strategy. They help analyze pages with a lot of outbound (external) links to see which ones are still working and –more importantly for you– which are not. Use it to scour a site you want to score a link on. If you find any broken links, find or create content on your site that could replace it. Once you have something you feel could provide them value, email the site owners and pitch them your link.
Create Cornerstone Posts
As you know, quality content is everything. But building out shorten pieces here and there can only get you so far. Cornerstone, aka pillar, the content will be a great asset as you push through your link-building campaign. This is a great way to display your know-how and industry authority.
Cornerstone posts can rake in traffic, comments, and social media buzz. The key is to pack a lot of relevant information into one spot. Think of it as several blogs packaged into one. For example, if you’re in the beekeeping business, perhaps you could write a massive piece detailing the process of starting your own hive from establishing your colony to harvesting the honey.
Once you have this pillar content in place, not only can you pitch it to others in your industry for a variety of topics within your industry, but you may also garner organic backlinks.
Your PR game must be efficient enough to truly make an impact in reaching other people.
Hire a PR Team
Hiring a PR team can prove beneficial in the long run. Though typically expensive, they hold the keys to the publishers you want to connect with. Thanks to their years of networking, you can get extremely valuable mentions and links from some high-authority websites.
Link Building No-No’s
Link building, like many facets of SEO, is riddled with poor practices and less-than-ethical methods to get a leg up on the competition. Aside from being flat-out immoral, this may also come back to hurt you eventually. These strategies fall into the category of black hat SEO.
Stay in good standing with the powers that be by avoiding these four big link-building no-nos.
Don't Pay For Links
Don’t outright pay for links! This is a black hat SEO technique that could actually land you in hot water. Most of the time, services offering paid links use “link farms” or low-quality “news sites” to host your link. This does not offer much value as they have virtually no authority or relevance.
Search engines are constantly on the hunt for inappropriate SEO “hacks”. Google is known to conduct manual crawls on suspicious websites to penalize any website properties interlinked with them. This could lead to less traffic and a lack of trust from search engines until you displace a streak of “good behavior”.
What we mean by not paying for links is:
- Don’t pay a publisher to host your link on their website.
- Don’t pay people on freelance networks that are cheap.
- Don’t pay a marketing company that says they can get you “free links for cheap”.
- Don’t pay your neighbor to build you links (we guarantee George doesn’t know what he’s doing if he doesn’t know the basics of SEO 😉 ).
Don't Link Build Via a PBN
A PBN, or public blog network, is a collection of formerly expired domains owned by a single entity or publisher. These domains are bought up at registrar auctions and repurposed to host backlinks. For a fee, a website can include its backlink. This is a method some use to generate passive traffic to their site. But, surprise, surprise, Google is not a fan of PBNs.
While using a PBN has been seen as acceptable in the past, it is most definitely a black hat tactic and if you get caught, you may find yourself in bad standing with search engines. These websites maintain limited updates and often have next-to-zero internal links. This is a huge red flag since internal linking is one of the best ways to improve overall website strength and SEO.
Over time, this will show up as a red flag on Google’s radar. If they find your link on that suspicious site, you could get a strike against you, especially if the site has already been marked by Google as “spam”.
Don't Wander Too Far Outside of Your Industry
You might have the urge to spread your links far and wide with nary a care in the world about where they land. What’s the harm in securing a backlink wherever possible, right? Well, while it’s true that having a multitude of links is important; if they aren’t in a relevant setting, it might not gain you as much SEO juice as you may hope.
Guest blogging is a good way to link building. But don’t jump at every opportunity that may arise. Take a look at the site and see if it aligns with your industry. Will people in your niche gather there? If not, you won’t garner many benefits from building out blogs for a link on a website not relevant to your industry, products, or services.
Don't Be Too Pushy
Again, link building is just as much about cultivating relationships as it is about securing backlinks. It’s crucial that your communication with website owners is respectful. Don’t push them too hard for a mention on their site. You want publishers to actually get to know you and your brand. Show them why you can provide value to them and eventually, they will be more inclined to feature you. If you’re too aggressive, you might upset them and lose out on a great connection.
Truthfully, you’ll get a lot of nos, but you can also acquire a few good yeses.
Moral of the Story
Link building takes patience, a stellar arsenal of high-value content, and a knack for networking. Although there are some “get links quick” tactics out there, they really aren’t worth the potential penalties that may follow. Stay the course and build connections within your niche. Over time, you’ll see success if you consistently follow link-building best practices.