Link Building 101

Link Building 101

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Link Building is the process of getting quality, relevant sites to link to yours. The strength of your link profile – how popular and trusthworthy the sites linking to you are – is one of the most important factors for how Google determines your ranking position. It’s one of most effective ways to optimize your site, but it’s also one of the most difficult.

 

 

Why Is It Important?

Why is Google the most popular search engine? Because it consistently delivers what the user is searching for. It does so by returning results that are both relevant and well known. Link building helps your site improve its search-engine rankings by earning links from other websites that are both relevant and well known. Their influence carries over to your site, kind of like references on a resume: if you’re applying for a job as a spot welder, a recommendation from the Chief Spotwelder of Weldy-Spots Industries is going to carry a lot more weight than your Aunt Maybel (unless, of course, your Aunt Maybel happens to be the Chief Spotwelder of Weldy-Spots Industries). Naturally, it’s a lot more complex, but that’s the basic idea.

Okay, So How Do I Do It?

There’re many different ways, but the most common methods are:

  1. Create content that other sites will want to share;
  2. Submit press releases to relevant news sites and products to reviewers;
  3. Find mentions of your business in existing articles that aren’t linked;
  4. Contribute a guest post on a quality, relevant site that links back to your site

Content_Pencil.pngCreating Content

Does your site have a blog? If not, you seriously may want to consider one. It’s a great way to get your name out on the web and keep both new and existing customers engaged. How do you do that? You write blog posts about things your customers find interesting about your business — and who knows what interests your customers better than you? Ask yourself: What do they respond to? What kinds of questions do they frequently ask? Is there a new trend among your industry that everyone’s talking about? Share your own thoughts!

You don’t have to cover all of that in one blog post; in fact, that’s the beauty of blogging: You can keep it limited to a single question or idea – and you should – because that way you’ll have a better chance of ranking in the search results if someone enters a query on that specific topic.

And if you’re still not sure on what you should be writing about, feel free to take suggestions from your readers. Chances are they’ll be delighted to have their name mentioned and add a link to your site from their own page.

Newspaper.pngPress Releases and Reviews

You should always be reaching out to news outelts with new developments and exciting changes to your company. These aren’t exclusive to SEO, but if you submit your press releases and/or products for review to the same sites all the time, you’re missing out on a lot of link-building opportunities. The reason is, after one or two links from the same site, the value of those links diminishes considerably. That doesn’t mean that you should sever your relationship with those existing outlets, but you should be on the lookout for new ones!

Speech_Bubble.pngLinking from Existing Mentions

This is fairly easy to do. Go to Google and search for mentions of your company, site, or product. Be sure to add the phrase “-site:[your website]” after the search terms to exclude results from your own website. When you find a mention that isn’t linked, send a polite email to the site’s editor asking them to please link to your site. Be sure to include a link to the specific article you mention as well as the link to your home page (or whichever page you’d like them to link to). And keep the email as short and clear as possible!

It also may be helpful to confine your search to a specific time period. This may not necessarily have a dramatic impact on your search rankings, but people tend to prefer current content, and a blog post from March 2002 that mentions your product will probably not have as many readers now as one from a month or two ago. You can isolate the time range of your search query in Google by typing in “daterange:” followed by the specific dates – year first, then month — you want after your search terms. So the phrase “Koala scented candles daterange:201509-201612” will return all instances of the phrase “Koala scented candles” from September 2015 to December 2016.

Ghost_Book.pngContributing Guest Posts

This may be the trickiest. First, you need to do a little bit of research. Chances are, you already know several of the most-read blogs in your industry. In fact, you may know the blog’s editors, in which case, reach out to them and ask if you can submit a Guest Post.  Perhaps they’ll give you a link back to your site without you even needing to ask.

If you know the blogs but don’t know the editors, check around the site and see if they accept guest posts. Most blogs that do will have a link to their submission guidelines on the home page. If you can’t find the submission guidelines, you should be able to search for “Guest Author” or “Guest Contributor” in the site’s search bar. If the site accepts guest posts, your search results should list them, and usually below the author’s bio there’s a short bit on how to submit a guest post.

If you still have no luck, feel free to reach out to the editor and offer to contribute.

Additional Questions…

What Are Some Good, Free Resources That Can Help?

A definite must-have is the Moz Bar. With it, you can check the domain and page authority of individual sites. This is Moz’s prediction of a website’s search-engine ranking – the higher scores a site has, the better. This is an indispensable tool when you’re looking for sites for which to submit a guest post. Avoid sites with very low domain authority, and court those whose domain authority is fairly high (say, with a domain authority of 40 or more).

You can also use it to check whether the site’s links have the “nofollow” attribute. “nofollow” is a tag that essentially tells search engines to ignore the linked page. That means the authority of the site hosting your link won’t be attributed to your site. In general, it’s a good idea not to court these sites when you’re looking to link build, but even then, if the site has a huge readership, the potential traffic to your site might still be worth it.

The Moz Fresh Web Explorer is another helpful tool to track mentions of your brand, content, or product throughout the web. This is extremely helpful if you’re looking for unlinked mentions or to see where your competitors are getting linked. It can also give you ideas for blog topics based on what subjects are trending within your industry. The only drawback is the 30-day trial period, after which you need to subscribe to Moz Pro. Nevertheless, it’s still worth a try!

We’ve already mentioned some of the Google Search Operators such as “-site:” and “daterange:” but it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with some other search operators to refine your searches.

How Many Sites Should I Have Linking to Me?

That’s a good question, but it’s not really the right mindset. Link building is as much (if not more) about quality than quantity. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t aim high, but you should always be striving for relevant and reputable links.

Help! There’s a Lousy Site Linking to Me!

It’s okay. Search engines generally won’t punish you for one or a few bad sites linking to your website. If the problem persists, you may want to call your developer or, ahem, an experienced SEO firm. But the big picture is it’s not the end of the world.

What’s Next?

This has been a broad overview of external link building, and while we’re not huge fans of that phrase, “We’ve only scratched the surface,” really, we’ve only scratched the surface. In subsequent posts, we’ll delve further into some of the topics listed here, so stay tuned!

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