Over the last few years there’s been a lot of talk about the power of backlinks. Some consider links to be the be-all and end-all of organic search, others reckon their value is diminishing, and some claim that they’ll be well and truly dead in the very near future. But at this moment in time, the truth is that very few websites will see search engine domination without an effective link building strategy.
Search engines want websites to play on a level field, and one of the best ways to rank them is by identifying links gained over time (of course, these have to be natural links). Your backlink profile is a strong demonstration of your site’s quality, as it’s a culmination of all the features and citations you’ve received from third parties. Strong links signal a great brand, and great brands are worthy of the top end of the SERPs.
But how can you gain these all-important links, and what should your link building strategy include? Here are my top ten tips…
1. Make use of link building tools
Link building tools will help you to discover potential link opportunities, identify domain authorities and trust scores, and monitor your competitors’ backlink profiles. Some popular link building tools include Ahrefs, BuzzStream, SEMrush and Majestic. If you don’t want to spend any money, most of these platforms offer a few free tools. SEO Profiler is also a great option for those that want to gain valuable insight without splashing the cash. Of course, you’ll have more flexibility and gain more data if you pay for a service.
2. Create brilliant content
Google wants us to build better sites, which is why there’s such a focus on high quality content. The best way to gain natural links is by creating this content and earning coverage in an honest way. Fair enough, your content might not be shared in the very best places, but search engines will take onboard the authenticity of your backlinks and the diversity of those linking to you. But what kind of content should I create, you ask? Well, start by blogging about your niche, offering your insight into the business that you know so much about. Create informative documents to help others in the industry. Distribute press releases to local press and business desks (has something exciting happened lately? Have you brought on a staff member? Have you won an award? Have you launched a new product?) If you want to do something a little fancier, design an infographic, build an interactive web page, make a GIF or film a video. The list goes on!
3. Connect with influencers
This technique requires a lot of patience, especially if you’re wanting to build long-term connections that will benefit you well into the future. Established influencers are well aware of their value for brands, which is why they can charge so much for sponsored content. However, fresh bloggers that are just starting out will be more willing to feature you for free (assuming you’ll gift them some kind of freebie, like a voucher code or a few samples). If you choose the latter carefully, you could secure relationships with the next generation of influencers, and as their own audience and site authority grows, the links you’ve earned will become more powerful. You can also pinpoint the most influential people in your industry and promote their content; there’s a chance that they’ll reciprocate!
4. Be present on social media
It’s an obvious one, but a lot of companies (particularly the old-schoolers) still refuse to acknowledge the power of social. Not only will a strong social media presence help your brand reach a wider audience, but the content you share on there may accumulate natural links. You could also tweet portions of your most interesting stuff, such as a customer survey or some interesting industry news, allowing others to pick it up and incorporate into their own content. We’re still not 100% sure how relevant social media stats are to your search ranking, but there’s no denying that social signals play a role in the algorithm. So get tweeting, start ‘gramming, and don’t forget to ‘like’ and follow other people, too.
5. Support charities
Charity websites are inherently authoritative, so links from these sources will be a real boost for your SEO. At the same time, your brand will benefit from its connections to a great cause, and you’ll earn yourself some good karma. Get involved with local charities by gifting free products, giving your customers the option to donate when purchasing, organising a larger fundraising event, or simply popping over for a quick chat. Find out how you can help them out and try to run a campaign a couple of times a year, which will lead to consistent coverage and brand awareness, as well as further newsworthy content being generated – perfect for securing links in local press!
6. Join business groups
Business groups are a relatively easy way to build links, even if they’re not directly relevant to your industry (while the search engine considers relevance, it also focuses heavily on the quantity and quality of links despite the nature of them). Look for both local and national associations that list members on-site, as well as sharing their content across their blogs and social channels. Community sites may also welcome guest posts. In terms of the local groups, check out their events calendar and see if there’s an opportunity for sponsorship. This will secure you even more coverage and some much-deserved links.
7. Be savvy with directories
Business directories can be a quick win with link earning, though there are a few risks involved. To avoid any penalisations, spend time analysing the directories on your hit-list and ensure that they are authentic, reputable and up-to-date. If you think a directory looks questionable, then the search engine will too, which means any links earned will cause more harm than good. Once you’ve established that a directory is of a high quality, evaluate its domain authority and trust flow, double checking that a link will be worth it (anything over 40 is worthwhile IMO, anything over 60 is great, anything over 80 is bloody brilliant). When you’re happy to go ahead, submit your listing!
8. Target .edu, .ac.uk and similar
These websites have some of the highest domain authorities around, owed to their history, consistent traffic and rich content. These sites also require official procedures in order to register the actual domain, which again enhances their trust levels. Universities and government institutions will be mindful about who they link to; they need to ensure that the content is of real value, just like the rest of the stuff on their website. After all, people only visit these sites to gain super important information. It can be tricky to secure a link from a .edu, .ac.uk and similar, but it’s not impossible. Some methods include joining a Careers Fair, offering work experience placement, giving students discounts and freebies, or offering yourself up as a resource for case studies or interviews.
9. Use journalist databases
There are a few sites knocking around that allow journalists to share the stories they’re currently working on, and the types of sources they require for them (you can also post your own idea, and welcome others to offer their input or a quote). This is a great way to earn backlinks once the news stories have been published. I’ve seen some great results from HARO and SourceBottle, both of which send through daily emails listing the type of content that requires industry expertise. You might not be an expert for every story, of course, but it’s always worth responding with some sort of relevant info. Journos from leading blogs and news outlets have been known to use HARO, so there’s a chance you could secure a really strong link.
10. Stop thinking like an SEO
And finally, stop thinking like an SEO. In order to gain links, you’ve got to be creative! The technicalities of link building are important, but the actual process of achieving the links requires creative thinking, PR and good old fashioned networking. When contacting potential sources, speak to them like a human being that wants to promote a business, and not an SEO that’s desperate for a link. When you’ve secured a link, don’t just add it to your spreadsheet and move on to the next. Thank people for featuring you and offer to help out again in future – you never know the other connections they might have, and the other opportunities that lie ahead for your backlink profile.
Want to know more? Find out about the link building service on offer at Naturally Content.