What is link building?
Quickly, for those not in the know, links are the connections made when someone hyperlinks from their website back to your website. This could be a citation in a newspaper or blog post; inclusion in a list of resources, and so forth. It’s a sign that someone thinks your content is good; it is, in essence, a recommendation.
Links have historically been an important way that Bing, Google and the other search engines understand what your content is about, and validate your website. “Links are the single most important ranking factor for Google,” said Scott Hendison, president of Search Commander, Inc., an internet marketing consultancy.
It used to be the more links you had, the better your search engine results. As a result, more than a few businesses (“link farms”) have sprung up over the years offering to sell hundreds and thousands of links to your site. That isn’t the case anymore, Hendison said, as Google and the other search engines have taken steps to thwart those that try to game the system.
Today, linking factors evaluated and weighed in Google’s algorithm include the number of links to your site, the quality of those links (including the authority of the site linking to you) and the anchor text used in creating those links (the highlighted text that you use to hyperlink to an internal or external webpage).
How do I build links for my business?
When asked by clients for the best way to build links, Hendison answers, “Did you cure cancer? If you cure cancer, everyone will link to you.”
Hidden in the sarcasm is the reality that great, targeted content will earn you the links you need and want.
“Definitely, the term ‘link building’ stirs up the wrong connotation with a lot of folks,” said Kevin Getch, founder and director of digital strategy for Webfor, a creative and digital marketing agency. “They should really think of it as good marketing.”
He said building links takes both time and a strategy.
Create a link-building plan
First things first. You should make sure your website or specific landing pages are optimized, and that you are offering a great user experience. The next step is to create content that folks will want to link to – or to paraphrase Hendison, go cure cancer.
I’ve said this before, but a great starting place for developing your link building (or nearly any other) strategy.strategy is to begin by looking at what’s working already for your business and see what opportunities you can leverage. Take a look at your data. Do you know where people are coming to your site from now? What pages or blog posts they read while on your site? What content are they linking to?
Knowing this helps understand what future content to create, but also helps identify what on your site could benefit from link building. You might decide to bolster the content that is already converting, or you might want to jump start underperforming pages.
Use one of the many tools out there, whether Moz’s Open Site Explorer or Act-On’s Inbound tools, to see who’s linking to your site and what type of content they are linking to. This inbound links audit is a good first step in building your tactical link building strategies.
The next step is to see what links your competitors have linking to their website.
Getch said he helped one law irm client win a high-quality link from a government agency when they saw that the content the agency was previously linking to on a competitor’s site was outdated. Getch worked with the client to create updated content, and then sent a note to the agency with a link to the fresh content. The agency accepted the tip and made the link.
Your link-audit research will also help you identify low-hanging fruit for link building. This includes making sure you have a link to your site from any industry, business, or community associations to which you belong. It includes having links to your site from vendors or suppliers. It includes potentially having links from clients, customers, and strategic partners. The research should also help you identify incoming links that are broken. The list goes on.
Additionally, you should research your industry to see which websites you would want linking to your site. Tools such as Followerwonk or Buzzstream can help identify the key influencers for your business and industry. You can set up Google Alerts or use Act-On’s prospector tools to begin building relationships with these potential linking partners.
Targeted link building
Michael Cottam, CEO of Visual Itineraries and an independent SEO consultant, said quality matters more than quality when it comes to links.
“If you are aiming to get links from a site, it should be a website you would be excited about getting the link from,” he said.
He said two of his clients, both criminal defense attorneys in different cities, rank atop the search results for their keywords based largely, he believes, from being quoted (and linked to) from their local newspaper. He said one quality link matters 100 times more than a bunch of low-quality links.
Rand Fishkin, co-founder of Moz, talked about link building during a recent White Board Friday, his popular SEO video blog.
He said once you have a kick-ass website and killer content, the next step is going out and developing the links. He talks about three strategies: one-to-one, broadcast, and paid. You can watch the video below.