Link building is the offsite SEO activity of getting other websites to link to your website. Search engines use links to find new web pages and to determine the rank of pages in search results. When many websites link to a page on your website, search engines look more closely at the page in determining whether the page should rank higher. When a website agrees to add a link to your website be aware of the use of nofollow and noreferrer as these parameters affect your PageRank. Nofollow links should be used all the time except in the following situations.
- You know the guest author or interviewee. Allow the author or interviewee one link back to their site which can be their name or company. Be careful to ensure they are known for being an upstanding citizen and do not use shady business practices.
- Editorial links.
- if you are citing a source
- if you are providing an unbiased and uncompensated review of a product or service
- if you mention a positive association that you have have with another website.
Types of Links
When another website adds content with links back to your website, it is considered a natural link since you did not need to ask for permission. In cases, where you contact a website and ask for a link, it is known as an outreach link. The last scenario where you find a website that does not require permission and is wide open for anyone to add content, adding a link is known as a self-created, non-editorial link. Search engines disapprove of self-created, non-editoral links insofar as to devalue and negatively affect page rank. Examples of self-created, non-editorial links are
- Blog comments that are not moderated
- Press releases with optimized anchor text
- Article directories
- Guest post signatures
- Embeddable widgets
- Infographic embeds
- User profile pages
- Forum signatures
- Directories that are not moderated
Link Building Campaigns
Actively trying to build links requires a process with measurable goals. Building 10 links as a goal is not realistic because it takes time for organic traffic to increase and you wouldn’t know if it was due to link building efforts or other reasons. The goal should be inline with a company’s long-term marketing goals. For example, a goal to increase leads for service X is a measurable goal and ends with a visitor completing a contact form.
For a link building campaign to be successful, there must be some assets which can be content, data, products, services, or people that visitors will want to visit. You can buy links as money is an asset but this is against the policy of search engines and is considered to be black-hat or unethical.
You must also determine the types of links that you want in your campaign. Is the campaign to target the home page, a product or service’s page, a page to increase branding awareness or promote a person, or keyword targeting.
Deciding who you want to target that cares enough to click links about your products, service, or industry is the next decision. Sending links out to anyone will lower your response rate.
People are attracted to click-worthy content in various ways. Perhaps the content you create is based on one or a combination of the following ideas
- a news article
- an amusing story
- a controverisal topic
- an infographic
- a contest
- ego-bait (mentioning a person in a positive manner)
- a deep dive into a product or service.
Finding a Target Audience
Once you have your content created you need to find a target audience. The target audience could be bloggers, websites that need your products, people in positions to say yes to purchasing your products. For example, if your marketing goal is to raise awareness of your excavation products search Google for keyword phrases
- excavation bloggers
- construction bloggers
- excavation websites
- construction bloggers
The results usually lead to top 10 lists and you’ll be surpised by other related uses; in this case it was archaeology and demolition. Click on these top 10 list and copy the website links that you can evaluate for your campaign.
With Google’s advance query syntax, you can search for pages that have specific keywords. For example “excavation equipment intitle:vendors” or “excavation equipment inurl:vendor” will only return pages where excavation equipment is in the title of a page or vendor in the url.
Once a list of websites is compiled, you need to evaluate them to see whether they would most-likely post your content and have visitors click on your links. TagCrowd.com can be used to generate a tag cloud to show must used keywords.
You can also target people in certain professions. FollowerWonk is a free tool that will search twitter bios. In our example, search for construction managers. You don’t need a tool to search for construction manager on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Each person should be evaluated to determine if they are only interested in promoting their business and their products. Examine their blog and social media to see what kind of person they are. There is no benefit in approaching a person that is not interested in helping you.
The list of people and websites is probably long even after reviewing them so they need to be grouped by the type of message you will be sending them. Some ways of grouping are by domain metrics (Domain Authority and PageRank), influence (# of followers), and chances of linking. Your final list should be prioritized by most-likely to give you a link on highly ranked websites.
Reaching Out to Your Target Audience
When reaching out start with the people that are your top priority. The people that you contact receive requests all the time so its important keep your email short and to the point. They will be interested in
- what you want them to do
- why it benefit them
- are you a genuine person and not a spammer
People are very busy so it’s important that you stay organized and record responses. Avoid mass emailing as it’s difficult to customize. Followup with people that don’t respond after a couple of days. Keep your email short and to the point. Don’t resend the same email. If they still don’t respond move on to the next person on the list since you don’t want to spam them. Remember you can always include them on the next link building campaign.
If a person responsible for the website responds negatively, always respond and try to find out why. Ask them what changes they would make to improve the content so it’s link-worthy. It may be that you asked a blogger to write content but they don’t have time. By responding you continue to develop a relationship and improve your content for the next person to contact or for your next link building campaign.
The success of link building may not be immediate as your competitors are link building as well or your target words are not working or it could be your company’s history or domain authority. Link building is not easy but is rewarding when it meets your marketing goals.