11 Apr 2013 – Andy Morley – Featured –
Links have always been an important part of SEO and in recent years have formed the backbone of all good SEO campaigns. Since the first Google Penguin algorithm update back in April 2012 it has become more important to build links the right way, and the safe way.
Here are 10 useful tips to keep in mind when building back links for your own or your clients’ websites.
1) Quality Not Quantity
There used to be a time when the guy (or girl) with the most links would win the race to the top of the search results. Those days are long gone. Modern link building campaigns should focus on quality not quantity. Google Penguin has seen many websites get penalized for poor quality links. These are generally the links which take very little effort to obtain such as directory submissions and spammy blog comments.
In the post Penguin world it is much more beneficial to build high quality links, from high quality sites which are highly related to your own website. This is nothing new I hear you say, and you would be right! The general advice given in the SEO world has always been build high quality links.
However, the real world of SEO does have small clients with small budgets. Don’t fall into the trap of buying a ton of low quality links. Try and build a few higher quality links for your client rather than risking their online profile with low quality.
This is always a tricky one to explain to clients…. It has been made easier post Penguin.
2) Build Connections Before Links
High quality links don’t grow on trees! They are pretty darn hard to find! As with anything which is valuable it takes a certain amount of effort and time to build high quality links.
Link building is very similar in a lot of ways to networking (not the IT networking with cables and routers). Building long lasting relationships with other website owners can make or break your link building campaign. Each and every SEO should have their own little black book of contacts who can help you with building links.
If you have worked in the SEO industry for a period of time you may already have connections you don’t even realize could help! If you work in a team for an agency your colleagues and past colleagues are a great connection!
If you are a solo freelancer I am willing to bet you have a network of people you can call upon to help with your link building – people you have dealt with in the past or have helped with their own link building campaigns.
Making a connection with other SEO’s and webmasters will open doors to link building opportunities. They may have their own websites which you can gain links from or even better put introduce you to some of their connections.
If your really don’t have much of a network to call upon why not start building one. I use Twitter a lot to reach other webmasters and take that initial step in building a relationship. This leads me onto my next point…
Say what!!?!? Before you can build a high quality link you need to engage in conversation with people. Quite obvious really when you think about it. As I mentioned earlier, links don’t grow on trees.
There is always a moment where you have to reach out to somebody in order to start building links. This phase of the link building process is called the “Outreach” phase and can be one of the most important stages of the entire link building process. Often it will either make or break your campaign.
Taking the first steps in communicating with other site owners is like making a first impression. Take time to understand a little more about who it is you are talking to, what makes them tick as a person? Who are their site readers? What is the best method to contact them? If they are active on Twitter, could this be the best way? Always try to make a good first impression. Don’t hit them straight away with a link request or worst yet appear to be using an email template! (Even though you probably are).
Most importantly, try to finding their name. A personal email will usually get a much better response than one which starts “Dear webmaster”.
A very well respected and knowledgeable SEO (and link builder) called Paddy Moogan has written a book simply titled “The Link Building Book”. This book is awesome and should be on all SEO’s bookshelves. It explains the fundamentals of link building in great detail and there is a brilliant section about outreach.
4) Become An Author
Yes… content is still king. Come on you didn’t seriously think you were going to read a post about SEO link building and not hear this old classic? Writing or producing content is extremely important to any link building campaign. As we have already discussed, easy links such as directories or spammy blog comments are no longer much use.
The best links are “editorial in content” links, placed within the body content of a web page (not in sidebars or footers). These are much harder to obtain and often involve writing articles or blog posts around a related topic to your website. There are two main tactics which require a certain level of content creation,
1. Article Marketing
2. Guest Blogging
Each of these have been really useful in the past for building high quality links, however they have also given birth to a wave of crappy “spun” content, which has tainted the water for real, unique content writers. Spun articles are basically copies of existing documents, tweaked slightly using different words and sentences to say the same thing as the original. Spun articles have been seen as a horrible, quick and easy way to build links IF you can fool webmasters into thinking the article is unique.
It is highly important to produce unique content for your link building. Learning how to write and becoming an author is essential in the post Penguin world. With rumors of Google Author Rank still being heard around the dark corners of the SEOsphere, writing great content and linking it to your Google+ profile may help influence the rankings of the page where the content resides, providing you have a trustworthy and influential “author rank”.
Modern SEO demands a much more involved strategy of creating content which can be placed on related websites, aimed at their readers and audience. The need for great content has given rise to “content marketing” as a SEO strategy in its own right.
5) Know Your Audience
When building links and writing content it is important to know your audience. Knowing who you are writing content for is important. If your readers enjoy and relate to the content you have produced, they are more likely to want to share it and ultimately link to it. Social shares of content have become an important factor in SEO. The more often your content is shared on the likes of FaceBook, Twitter, and G+, the better.
You should always try to write for your audience. Use words they would use and write in a tone appropriate to them. If you were writing for children, you wouldn’t use long complicated words. If you were writing a highly technical post about the internal combustion engine, you would write according to your readers understanding of engineering principles.
This can be key to generating links to your content, and ultimately improving upon your SEO.
6) Mixture Of Link Types
Over the years I have been doing SEO (8 to be exact) it has always been important to build a mixture of link types, not concentrating on just one method, but trying to build a well rounded and diverse link profile.
Types of links you may consider are as follows:
- Forum Posts
- Blog Comments
- Articles & Blog Posts (in content links)
- Brand Links
- Local Citations
- Keyword Rich Hyper Text
- NoFollow & Follow Links
Some of these methods are pretty old, but if done correctly they can still be useful for your link building. Some are easier than others and some are more valuable than others. Be sure to consider each method in your campaign.
7) Always Add Value
The Internet has become awash with low quality content. It is important to always try to add value to the website you are hoping to gain a link from.
Adding value via a useful article or blog post is a great way to build links. High quality content will naturally attract links.
If you are building links by way of blog commenting, always try to add value to the discussion of the post. Try to make a relevant and useful comment. This way your comment is more likely to get accepted by the blog owner, building that all important back link.
8) The Metrics
Not the Hollywood block buster movie starring Keanu Reeves! By metrics I mean domain metrics such as PageRank, Domain Authority, Page Authority, MozRank, MozTrust, Linking Root Domains, External Link Volume etc…
When looking for potential back link sources it is important to pay close attention to these domain / page metrics because they provide a good indication of the quality and potential of the link.
I usually base my link building around SEOMoz’s metrics, primarily Domain Authority (DA) and MozTrust (MT). As a general rule of thumb I try to target sites with equal or higher DA score than my own website. However, I have spoken to other SEO’s who use a different set of these metrics to qualify their link targets… Some opting to base their decision on MozTrust primarily.
PageRank – The oldest of the metrics. This is Google’s own scoring system. Sites are given a rank from zero to 10. This should be used as a guideline only. The reason being is that the visible PR score seen on the Google Toolbar is a snapshot and not 100% accurate. The PR algorithm is always changing, “toolbar page rank” is often out of date.
Domain Authority – This is SEOMoz’s best attempt at determining how well a domain will perform in the search engines. Sites are scored from zero to 100. The score is calculated using a combination of other metrics such as number of linking root domains, total number of links, MozRank & MozTrust. Because DA is scored on all of these factors I find it gives a greater overall view of a domain.
Page Authority – Very similar to DA, however, it is based on the Page level rather than the domain level.
MozRank – This is the visual representation of the number of links to a webpage. It is calculated using the volume of links, quality of links and number of root domains pointing towards a page. The higher the MozRank of a page the higher the quality of incoming links.
MozTrust – This works in a similar way to MozRank. Instead of representing the number and quality of inbound links to a page, however, it measures the overall trust value of these links. The higher the trust value of a page, the higher the quality of a potential back link.
9) Earn Links!
Links which are earned are usually higher quality then links which are built. This happens when people truly love your content. They love it so much that they are willing to link to it without being prompted or asked to. Once your link building reaches this level, you have mastered the Art!!
Earning links isn’t easy. With the amount of content being produced on a daily basis, you need to make sure that the content you produce is of a higher standard than the rest and most importantly place it in front of influential readers. This is an important factor with any content marketing strategy. Getting your content published and read by the right types of people will help it spread, generate social shares and grow links organically!
I have a client who earns links without even trying! With no fresh content being produced, no content marketing strategy, no link building work being done…. HOW? It’s simple, they do a fantastic job and look after their customers!
They are a well respected company in their own industry and their work is top notch. Because their customers are happy they are also happy to recommend my client to their own contacts. Industry forums are awash with recommendations and as a result links are being formed naturally!
I think there is a lot we can learn from this sort of online “word of mouth”.
10) Be Realistic
My final point, being realistic in your approach to link building, is also very important. Draw up some goals and try to stick to them. Don’t try to over reach and obtain links from sources which you have a “cat in hell’s chance” of obtaining.
If your website is brand new and has no links pointing to it, DONT try to approach high level bloggers asking for links because they will LAUGH at you! Remember, it is important in SEO to link out to relevant sources as well as build links from relevant sources. If your website is low quality, why would somebody want to link out to it?
Build links realistically. It takes time to build a highly respected website, but once you have achieved this, links will start to form naturally. And, if you remember to look after your customers and do a fantastic job, your link profile will start to grow quickly.