Link building is arguably the most challenging part of SEO it is a part that is very technical and requires a creative approach.
Now if you are a beginner to link building or you have tried building links without much success, then this link building guide is going to help you get backlinks sufficiently so you can rank your pages higher on Google.
Link building has built all sorts of reputations but there are generally two dominant views
- The part of SEO that lives and dies by it
- The part that considers it to be a spamming tactic
Now, we need to define what link building is.
By definition, link building is the process of getting other websites to link to a page on your website. These hyperlinks are called backlinks.
The end result might conceptually make sense and seem simple, but the part that people don’t understand and can’t seem to get right is the “process” part talked about initially and this ultimately boils down to execution.
Now the reason why execution is tough is simply that people just focus on the end result “getting backlinks to their pages”. But the process is actually very relational and relationships are built by humans, not by borrowing templates from blog posts and videos.
Now let’s redefine link building and set the tone for the rest of this tutorial.
Link building is the process of building relationships with other relevant site owners who want and will link to your content because it enhances theirs.
This definition is not just about you getting something, but includes building relationships, relevance, and a value exchange.
Now, since effective link building is tough you need to understand why it is worth the stress. In fact, backlinks are used by search engines like Google to rank web pages. And it has been this way since 1998 when Google created page rank.
Page rank is the mathematical formula that judges the value of a page by looking at the quantity and quality of other pages that link back to it.
Google confirms the importance of backlinks on their how search works page. And then under their ranking useful pages heading they stated that if other prominent websites on the subject link to the page, that’s a good sign that the information is of high quality.
We also found a clear correlation between organic traffic and backlinks from unique websites in a study of over 1 billion web pages. So while getting backlinks may be harder than creating a blog post, they are absolutely critical if you want to rank for competitive phrases.
Now you may be thinking “well someone so said not to focus on link building because high quality contents always attract links”. How do you get that content in front of people in the first place and fortunately the concept of if you build it they will come is just pure fallacy.
You might have also heard other people say I get tones of traffic without building backlinks so no need to go through the struggle. Yes, it is possible to rank pages without backlinks, but let me say this one more time “backlinks are absolutely critical if you want to rank for competitive phrases. And competitive phrases are usually the ones that are driving the most traffic and revenue for your business.
· HOW TO GET BACKLINKS
To get backlinks to your page you can:
- Create them
- Buy them
- Earn them
Creating backlinks means to manually add links to your site. This can be done by adding your website link to directories, leaving comments on blogs, or adding a website to your social media profile.
Anyone can do this with minimal efforts so they are not that effective from an SEO and ranking perspective.
Buying backlinks is exactly as it sounds you pay webmasters or authors a fee and in return, they will link back to a page on your site.
But this is against the Google webmaster guidelines and can potentially result in a penalty that could be anything from losing ranking positions or even worse getting your pages removed from Google’s search index.
Buying links also isn’t exactly cheap. After a little research, I found out that the average price of buying links was $352.
The final way to get backlinks is to earn them and this is usually done by emailing other website owners and editors and asking them to link to you.
This is the hardest method of the three. But generally speaking, the harder it is to obtain a link, the more valuable it will be. And for that reason, we will be focusing on earning backlinks through email outreach.
Not all links are created equal; some will help prepare your pages to the top of Google while others could actually hurt your site.
The question now is “what makes a link actually good?”
To simplify this as much as possible, let’s look at these two main categories
Ideally you would want to get backlinks from relevant websites and pages for example, let’s say you have a page on the best USB microphones, getting a link on the topics of video conferencing would be much more relevant than a link on a page about gardening tips.
This also plays out at the website level, getting a link from a tech site like CNET will likely carry more weight than a link from a recipe site like Allrecipes.
Now if you are familiar with authority in the context of link building, it basically represents the so-called link power a webpage has and this relates to how page ranking works.
As we discussed before, both the quality and quantity of links matters. So the more quality links a page gets, the more page rank it earns. Now page rank doesn’t appear from thin air it comes from other pages.
This means that pages with authority can pass it to other pages through hyperlinks. So the more page rank a linking page has, the more it can pass to those it is linking to. Getting links from high authority pages will have great impact on your ranking.
· THE IMPACT OF A HYPERLINK ON SEO
There are three basic parts to a link that matter in SEO namely
The Destination URL: This is simply the URL the person will visit once the link is clicked.
Anchor Text: This is the clickable word, phrase, or image attached to the link. Google uses this to better understand what a page is about and what terms it should rank for. Building lots of links with keywords rich anchors is classified as a link scheme and may result in Google’s penalty as it looks unnatural.
For example if you have a post on the best wireless headphones and had a hundred links pointing to it and the anchor text for all reads best wireless headphones then it would look quite unnatural.
Commonly used anchor texts are Companies brand name, the title of the page, the URL, and Click here phrases.
With most earned links you have very little or no control over the anchor text. So over-optimization is not something you should worry about.
Rel Attribute: Some links contain a rel attribute which is intended to tell crawlers the relationship between the linking page and the linked paged.
The three rel values you should know about when it comes to link building are
- UGC (User Generated Content)
Historically, Nofollow links told Google that the linking page would rather not associate themselves with the linked page. And for that reason, Google didn’t transfer authority through those links. But then Google added a couple of other rel values like the UGC and sponsored which signifies a paid link.
They also announced that going forward they will look at this link attribute as a hint meaning they may pass value through them at their discretion.
Now if a link doesn’t have any of this rel value, then it would be called a followed link meaning the link can pass page rank and help boost your rankings. Seeing as this is relatively new I recommend focusing on building followed link, although that is only partially within your control.
· Link placement
One other thing I want to touch on is “link placement”. Prominent links are more likely to be clicked and it is believed that Google takes this into account when determining how much authority a link transfers.
For instance, an editorial link is more likely to be clicked than a link in the photo. So all other things being equal, the former will be better than the latter.
Now you should have a general overview of the more tactical things that are involved in link building. But as I mentioned earlier, there is also a creative part that is required and by creative am talking about content creative as well as getting creative with your email pitch. I.e.
- Content creative
- Pitch creative
Now with enough web power in determination, it is possible to build links to any kind of page. But life is a lot easier when you have something that people actually want to link to. So let’s talk about the content side of things first.
· Content creative
There are a couple of key attributes that linkable contents has
It is usually non-commercial: Commercial contents like product pages forming e-commerce stores or sales pages are tougher to get links to because no one wants to contribute to your bank account without some kind of compensation.
So by creating non-commercial content with high integrity you are creating something that is more deserving of a link.
It is helpful: People want to link to helpful content because it directs their audience to resources that complement their own. Note helpful contents can be in all different forms, for instance well-written blog posts with factual information can get lots of links.
Healthline is a great example of this. Their blog posts are usually concise and many of their articles are written by medical professionals. Data studies and case studies are also a great type of content that attracts links.
Bottom line, if your content is a helpful resource for their audience or it supports arguments they are making like statistics of facts then your chances of earning backlinks increase.
· The pitch
The pitch is another part of link building where creativity is required. Building links means you need to reach out to authors and editors and ask them to link to you. Just like in sales these people are called prospects.
This is called the pitch for a reason; you can’t just ask people to link to you without a good reason. For example, imaging some people showed up at your door and asks you for money, you will probably be speechless and just shut the door.
But if they told you that they were raising money for a good course in your community, you might consider listening to them.
· PARTS OF THE PITCH
You need to have a good reason to contact people: Generally speaking, the better your reason the higher your chances of achieving your goal.
Personalize the pitch: This will help improve your link conversion rate and change it from a maybe option to a probably. A stronger pitch could lead to higher-value donations.
The value exchange: Some people will likely link to you if you have a good reason for contact, and your content matches the criteria we went through before, but if they are getting something of value in exchange for a link whether that be a resource that adds value to the blog or free content from a guest post, then your chances of getting a link increases.
But remember things like exchanging link for money or doing excessive link exchanges is against Google’s webmaster guideline. The same goes for sending products to a person in exchange for a backlink.
So you need to get creative here to stay in line with the rules. I want to expand on this because it’s just so highly situational based on the page you trying to build links to.
As you can see link building is both in art and in science. Pitches are also highly situational it may vary from person to person. But there are quite a few link-building strategies that are streamlined and have been proven to work time and time again.
· LINK BUILDING STRATEGIES
Let’s go through these link building strategies, what it is, why it works and how you can do them.
1) Guest blogging
This is when you create content for another website. The reason why this strategy works is that there is a clear value exchange. They can create content for free and almost always you should be able to get a link back to your site. Whether that be in the content, or the author bio.
· The basic process of guest blogging
Find other blogs in your industry
Pitch and agree on a relevant topic
Write a post for them
2) Resource page link building
This is where you get backlinks from webpages that create and link out to useful industry resources.
This strategy works because the sole purpose of the page’s existence is to link out to helpful and useful resources. So if your content is great and you bring it to their attention, you are actually helping them fulfil the purpose of the page.
· The basic process of Resource Page Link Building
Find industry resource pages
Reach out to them
Suggest your resource for inclusion
The easiest way to find relevant pages is to search in Google with the query like intitle:resources.html, inurl:resources.html and then a phrase related to your topic. Visit the pages and see if they are actually resource pages that link out to other external pages. Then reach out to the ones you want to be mentioned on.
3) Broken link building
This is a tactic where you find a dead link on a page. Create your own page on that topic and then ask everyone linking to the dead resource to link to your page instead.
This works because webmasters who care about their site don’t want to lead their visitors to broken pages. So oftentimes they will replace the dead link with yours.
4) Use HARO
This is a website that connects journalists to resources and resources with journalists. Basically, you will get an email from journalists when media outlets are requesting information on a specific topic.
Just filter through the topics and if you find something where you can add value, respond to the journalist with your expert opinion and if they use you as a source they usually link back to your site.
The value exchange here is simple you are exchanging your knowledge for a mention and usually a link from an authoritative site and there is no shortage of requests from mega publications like the Huffington Post, Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, Readers Digest.