Link building, you’ve probably heard of it, but what does it mean and how do you do it effectively? In short, link building is the process of acquiring links from other websites to your own.
Sounds easy, but it’s one of the most complex and time-consuming SEO strategies around today.
Why links matter
Through the eyes of a search engine, links help discover new web pages and have some power in determining where the site should rank; when a website links externally to another, it is essentially ‘voting’ for the receiving website.
But we haven’t got the budget for link building
Buying and selling links is actually a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and it’s the quality and relevance of the link that really matters – so, why do we always associate link building with spending money?
Here’s how you can effectively build quality links to your website without spending a penny, as well as a few link building strategies you should definitely avoid.
Improve The Web
When you work in an industry, you naturally become an expert in your field, so it can be disappointing to see inaccurate or outdated pages and posts ranking above you for industry queries.
If you see a poor answer in the featured content box on Google, ‘people also ask’ box or just on the first page – check out any backlinks to the post or page; you can do this for free with the Moz Open Site Explorer.
Once you’ve found who’s linking to the article, approach them via email and offer your content to link to instead – it’s obviously really important that your content is better than the existing.
This method of link building can be demoralising and time consuming, but don’t give up after a few ignored emails, it is worth pursuing.
Clean Up Broken Links
As well as inaccurate answers, stumbling on 404 errors sucks, but how often do you simply keep scrolling without doing anything about it?
If you’re reading a piece of content around your industry and run into a 404 (a page error where content no longer exists or has been removed) – don’t just skip over it, notify the webmaster of the error and suggest a piece of content from your own website to replace it.
Not only will the webmaster appreciate the time you took to point out the broken link, but they may use your article instead and will certainly be more likely to link to you in the future.
Create A Unique Piece Of Content
In a such as saturated web space, it’s easy for content to be repeated and rewritten over and over again, this isn’t a bad thing – relying on one opinion would not be wise, but it does slim the chances of your content being picked up against the big players of the web.
In addition to the regular content you produce for your website, creating a truly unique, useful and honest piece of content with no hard sell will generate more links than most outreach methods:
- Independent research – Become the figure that others in the industry cite when writing their own content. You may consider paying to have this carried out independently to avoid any accusations of bias.
- Ultimate Guides – Perhaps a little overdone nowadays, but ‘ultimate guides’ still have their place – use Buzzsumo to find out what types of content is attracting the most links in your industry.
- Expert Insights – “I’ve been in the industry for X amount of years – here’s what I learned”, LinkedIn is a great platform for distributing this kind of content.
- Tools – Creating a tool specific to your target audience such as a calculator or conversion tool is a great way to earn links. You may also let others embed the tool onto their own website with your branding.
- Free Stuff – People love it. Think of something your target audience needs and show them where to get it for free; take this blog by Snappa showing users where to get free stock images for example – over 20,000 backlinks!
A great way to get started with this is to find out what content is missing or could be improved for your target audience, sometimes known as the ‘Skyscraper Technique’.
This technique is simple in theory and involves finding the best pieces of content for your topic (the skyscrapers), then creating a better, more comprehensive piece of content (the new skyscraper).
Look for Guest Post Opportunities in your Niche
Guest blogging gets a bad rep due to spam emails that almost every webmaster will receive. Despite the spam, guest blogging is one of the most effective methods of acquiring links to your site – just make sure it’s relevant and it includes a link back to your site!
For example, as a web marketing company, we may approach a photographer with the blog topic “10 tips for optimising your imagery for search”.
As a result of this post, we get a relevant backlink to our website and the other party gets a free piece of content to attract new visitors to their website.
In addition to the links, guest posting on other sites in your industry helps reinforce your expertise within your industry or niche.
Ask for and Provide Case Studies and Testimonials
For B2B businesses, case studies are an effective way to build decent quality links back to their website.
If you have a good relationship with a client, don’t just settle for a testimonial – reach out to them and tell them you’d like to feature the work you did for them.
Once it’s up on your website – let them know; chances are they will link back to it as part of a company news piece.
Give as good as you get
Similarly, if you’re happy with their service, giving testimonials and allowing them to write case studies about the service you received is a great way to acquire links – when the testimonial is up on the supplier website, they’ll often add a link to prove your business is real.
These kinds of links aren’t going to boost your rankings overnight, but they are relevant to the service you provide, they are genuine, and they will play an important role when users are researching companies to carry out work for them; all of which will work in your favour when it comes to your long term SEO strategy.
Shout About Business Success
Awards, sponsorships and periods of business growth are all things that your business should be shouting about, but often time constraints mean that these successes are never published online.
People love hearing success stories, so make sure you rave about things your business has been up to. You may even consider sending the article to PR news release sites and local newspapers to acquire backlinks, a couple of things you may consider blogging about:
- Success – growth, acquisition of new clients, awards.
- Service – investment in latest technology, value added to customers, new services offered.
- Staff – apprentices journeys through the company, ‘a day in the life of’, employee of the month/quarter, celebrating success outside of work.
- Sponsorships – business sponsorship of events, awards, local charities, sports teams etc.
Link Building Practices To Leave In The Past
Comments on blogs – this was once a quick and easy way to score links from high domain authority sites in the past. Nowadays, these links are almost always no followed and whilst there is still a place for them, comments should be genuine and relevant – commenting your URL on a blog post will do nothing for you.
Links or ‘Our Friends’ pages – Many websites in the past had a ‘friends’ or ‘links’ pages full of reciprocal links. Whilst these kinds of links may not do any harm on a small scale, excessive and irrelevant link exchanges can result in penalisation.
Low-quality directories – Over the years, you’ve probably submitted your site to lots of business directories such as Thompson Local, Scoot and Yell; these ones mentioned are all reasonable quality directories and so provide valid backlinks to your site.
However, there are hundreds of low-quality directories that your site may have been added to over time – you can again use Moz open site explorer to identify these backlinks.
If you find these kinds of toxic links in your link profile be sure to remove your listing or disavow them through search console if you aren’t able to.
Link farms – Just don’t, is the possibility of a short-term ranking boost really worth a penalisation down the line?
Do Links on Social Media Count As Backlinks?
By definition, a link posted on social media to a page on your website is a backlink.
However, all the bigger social platforms have a sitewide nofollow by default – so these links do not hold the same value as the ones discussed above.
There is still no definitive answer on how social media impacts SEO; but Google has indicated that they do not use any social signals to determine the ranking of a website.
This is a good thing.
In a world where social links, likes and shares helped sites rank higher, we would see huge manipulations and bigger pages would dominate; throw in social paid advertising and you have a completely pay to win environment.
This doesn’t mean you should bin your social strategy, brand awareness, traffic, conversions and brand engagement all come as a result of a well-executed social media strategy.
What Determines The Value Of A Link?
Not all links are created equal, and sometimes a link back to your site could even damage your reputation or ranking. Here are a few of the factors search engines like Google use to determine the ‘value’ of a link (in no particular order):
- Domain authority of referring
- Amount of links from referring domain and page where the link sits.
- Spam score of referring domain.
- Relevance of link.
- Anchor text used when linking.
- Follow v no follow.
- Whether your link features alongside backlinks to authority websites.
- Reciprocal or not.
What Is A No Follow Link?
Nofollow is an HTML tag used to instruct search engines that a link should not influence the receiving sites rankings. Below is what a backlink to our website looks like both follow and no follow:
Follow: All Things Web®
No Follow: All Things Web®
Because of the nature of these links, people are quick to dismiss them as useless, but this isn’t the case.
No follow links may not pass on the mighty ‘juice’ SEOs so crave, but they do increase brand awareness and send referral traffic to your website; which could, in turn, lead to more links.
The kinds of no follow links that are genuinely useless are paid ones from low-quality sites, again it all depends on the quality and relevance of the link itself (picking up on a running theme here?).
Do Links To Other Pages On My Site Count As Backlinks?
Links from one page of your website to another are known as ‘internal links’. These are not treated as backlinks (think of the manipulation that could occur), but are very important for the optimisation of your site. Here’s a couple of benefits of proper internal linking:
- Improves user journey and overall usability of site.
- Helps crawl and indexing of new pages.
- Improves structure and navigation of your website.
- Shares page authority from strong pages to newer pages.
- You are in control.
- Can aid in lowering your bounce rate and improving time on site / pages per session.
Struggling With Your Link Building Strategy?
At All Things Web®, we understand that even budget link building techniques cost what businesses often can’t afford – time. Our fully managed web marketing service includes the creation of content and other strategies to help attract relevant, authentic backlinks to your site.
If you’re struggling with building links or have noticed a drop in your rankings, give one of our digital experts a call 01793 766 040.