Am I building authority to my site from external websites?
We’ve arrived at the final step. And last certainly doesn’t mean least. Building authority to your site from external websites, also called link-building, is one of the most critical steps in SEO.
But with all the work you’ve done up to now, you probably already know that. In fact, we’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to share any stories, challenges, or wins from your SEO journey in the comments below.
First of all, what is link building and why is it so important?
Link Building 101
Link building is the act of getting other websites to link to yours. Not only does having lots of high quality links pointing to your page increase your traffic, it also helps search engines crawl the web and between individual pages on your site.
Link building can involve a very basic strategy and set of techniques, or it can be the most difficult part of SEO. It just depends on how you do it.
Anatomy of a Hyperlink
There are four parts in a hyperlink. Links can point to other sites, graphics, sounds, files, email addresses, and other locations on the same page.
The first ‘a’ is the anchor tag that tells search engines a link is going to follow.
Second is the ‘href’ which stands for hyperlink referral and indicates the URL the link is pointing to. (A # indicates a local link to somewhere else on that page).
Third is the visible text, meaning what users will see on the page. It’s the front end of the hyperlink usually highlighted in some way to signal that it’s a link.
Finally, is the link tag closure.
Link building helps search engines discover new webpages, extract and index content, and determine how well they should rank in the search results. So when we type a keyword into Google’s search bar, we’re not actually searching the web, we’re searching Google’s index of the web, that is, what it has determined good enough to store and show in the search results.
Page ranking is dependent on more than high quality, relevant content. Lots of high quality external links to your site mean a better report card with Google, which is great news for you because you’ll rank higher in the search engine results page (SERP) than without them. It’s a vote of confidence in your favour.
But there are more benefits to link building that just ranking. A well defined and executed link building strategy can:
- Help you build relationships with key influencers in the industry
- Send referral traffic to your site
- Boost brand building
Whether you’re collecting natural links or manual outreach links, we’ll take a look at what types of links you want pointing to your site and how to make that happen.
How to Get A High-Quality Link (or many!)
Start a Link Building Campaign
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of link-building, it’s important to mention that link-building takes time. If you manage to acquire 10 links in the first month of your campaign, that’s a job well done, but you’re not going to notice a difference overnight. It takes time for those links to have an impact on your site’s traffic.
Determine your hook.
You need to reach out and offer up a relevant asset. What will make people care about your site and what you offer enough to want to link to you? This varies according to your business and industry. Examples are: content, data, products, services, and people.
If you want to offer content then you need to know what people want to know about. Social media can steer us in the right direction here when we scout out and analyze the type of stuff people are sharing. Offer content that is relevant and gives a unique angle on a particular subject. (See Step 9 to SEO for more info).
Get various types of links.
- Links to your homepage
- Links that contain your brand
- Links containing your target keywords
- Links to deep pages, eg. a product or category page
If you’ve been following from Step 1, then you’re getting to know a little bit about dogs, if you didn’t already. Let’s stick with that example.
You have a dog training website and you’ve just created the Ultimate Guide to House Training Your Puppy. Who might be interested in this content? Pet bloggers, e-commerce shops selling dog merchandise, dog trainer apps, pet stores, and pet sitter companies.
Go through each one (yes, it’s time intensive), and contact sites that are relevant to your pitch. To narrow down results a bit, consider only looking at pet bloggers that have a resource page, to which you could contribute with your guide. Such a search looks like this in the Google search field:
Pet bloggers inurl:resources
That command will return a list of pet bloggers’ resource pages. Boom. Those are the ones you want to start with.
But don’t just cold call them. Learn about their ethos to determine relevance to your site. Also, check on whether or not they link to other sites.
Then, prioritize them first by domain metrics, influence, and the probability of them linking to your site.
Check up on the competition.
If you can become a master in link building you’ll be way ahead of your competition
Here’s an excerpt from Step 2 to SEO on how to get insight from your competitors:
“How many referring domains do your competitors have? This points to site popularity and strong SEO.
You can use the MOZ link explorer tool (free for 30 days) to generate a list of all the backlinks to your competitors’ sites. From there you can compare those links against yours (use a spreadsheet for this) to see where the gaps are, if any.
If you’re already ahead of your competition, this is not your current focus (but, don’t lose focus of this important aspect). If you are behind, time to step-up your link-building strategy.
What sites are linking to your competitors and not to you? Reach out to them.”
Become a Master Builder
Link building is full-on. That doesn’t mean that you have to spend all of your time trying to get links. Compared to every other SEO task on your plate (creating content, on-page SEO, keyword research, etc., etc.), we recommend devoting as much as 30% of your SEO time to link building, at the very least.
Once you have your strategy in place, you may consider hiring someone to manage this task if you want to go all in. Otherwise, MOZ gives us a free downloadable link-building guide (for beginners!) that helps out big time. Get it here.