Anyone who is anyone knows that link building is an important skill to have in your toolkit when doing SEO for your customers.
Link building is not just doing one thing but it’s rather a few different skills that come together. These include mastering your content, sales, coding, understanding the human psychology, and marketing. This ensures that you stand out when trying to get other people to link to your site.
No matter what anyone says the bottom line is that if you want to get more people on your site, and link building is the most important part of your process.
I have broken this guide up into 7 parts for you.
Let’s get started.
1. The fundamentals of link building
Let’s take a step back in time and recall the days before Google dominated the internet. The likes of Yahoo, Alta Vista, and Ask Jeeves ruled the search engine lands. Basically, they ranked websites based purely on the contents of a webpage.
Google totally changed the search engine game with the PageRank Algorithm. The process basically looked at the number of people that had linked to your page. That algorithm was 20 years ago, and even till now, it’s by far the best way to determine the quality of the webpage. Google has maintained link building as the go-to ranking signal.
A lot has changed in 20 years and Google has moved onto Penguin (explained later). The shift has been from quantity to the quality of the links.
So what is a good link, and how do I make that happen?
2. Finding high-quality links
So firstly, let me break it down as simply as I can, on what makes a high-quality link and what makes the link bad.
Authority of the page
When trying to build a link to the page, you need to consider whether it has a high authority in PageRank? Because if it does, then this is going to directly impact your rankings in a positive way. As a matter of fact, Brian from Backlinko conducted testing and found that the authority of the page matters more than other indicators.
Remember that links from high authority pages pass on more authority to you, which is known as PageRank.
The thing to remember is that Google doesn’t share your PageRank information publicly. This is because it’s part of the foundation of the famous Google algorithm.
Authority of the site
So now onto determining the sitewide authority.
Think of it this way. If you were linked by smh.com.au and say… a not so well known blogger. The Sydney Morning Herald link is going to have a much bigger impact overall.
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably already onto your emails drafting your pitch to smh.com.au! Remember outreach is hard but it’s always well worth the effort.
A great metric to use is the one by MOZ known as Domain Authority. This is a metric widely used in the industry and is what I fall back to on the platform I prefer using, SE Ranking.
Ok, so we have covered the authority side of things, but that’s not all.
Relevancy of the site that you have a link with matters a whole lot as well! Let’s take an example of a website we’re doing SEO for. Their main focus is blogging about Law in Australia.
While doing my outreach I find a blogger who’s willing to link with us. The only thing is, his blog is about how awesome the Sriracha sauce is. Will that still work?
Sorry to say, but no! Even if it carries a high authority number. How do we know this? Well again one of my favourite bloggers interviewed an ex-employee from Google and they mentioned that getting links from high authority is valuable but relevancy will matter to the theme of your site in PageRank.
The positioning of the link
The position of where the link is on a site is super critical as well. Remember hiding links in the footers etc are never worth as much as links that are in the centre of the content.
Editorially placed link?
Whenever placing a link always stop and ask yourself, was the link editorially placed? Meaning, did someone place the link cause they think your site is awesome? If you answered yes, then good!
If the link is placed from a generated profile and dropped into a site? Then it’s definitely not an editorial link. Remember creating links that aren’t editorially placed can be considered 2 things. The first they’re not natural links and second they can be considered a violation of Google guidelines.
Linking the anchor text
So this is really simple and is when part of the text is a clickable link. Something to note is that Google uses anchored text as a ranking signal.
When Google scans the texts it sees the anchored text and reads it as a link. Like anything SEO related, abusing anchored text may be considered spammy. Remember to link your co-citations for the words and phrases that are near the link.
Google uses co-citations. The reason is that the text around your link also tells Google what the page is about.
What the hell are Nofollow and Dofollow!?
So when I first started off, I couldn’t work out what Nofollow and Dofollow were. Basically, all I understood was that Dofollow was really good.
Basically, Nofollow is when the link tells Google not to count this as an endorsement. Now as it’s SEO related, you want to get as many Dofollow links whenever possible, but always size up the links quality!
3. Marketing your content
So good quality content helps you build fantastic backlinks. But remember, putting your content with just text, isn’t going to get the results you want. The key is that certain types of content work best for developing links. The four most common types, and the ones I try and use are:
Try and use items like images, diagrams, infographics and charts to add visual appeal. Remember that people reading your content will find it much easier to read your content and connect with it if it is visually appealing.
There is a really good example in which Brian from Backlinko published an infographic related to SEO and anatomy of an optimised page and it got shared 2500 times.
So in short visuals help… A LOT.
So, to be honest, I really hate listed posts, but hey… they help and people really love them. From a psychological perspective, they’re not only digestible but provide small snippets of information to the reader making it an easy read.
There is an analysis that BuzzSumo conducted with a million articles and they found listed posts generated the most amount of backlinks than any other type of content out there. That includes videos and infographics.
Research and Data
Write content that’s actually useful to people. Insights from studies and your own research will always rank better. Using statistical analysis and data will lead to highly linkable content. Using this type of content will make it highly likeable and links will add up fast.
Provide In-depth guides
Providing resources that cover specific topics in depth for the reader all in one place is particularly important. Not only does it mean that people will spend more time on your site, but it really helps you become the front of mind choice for the specific topics.
I always say that outreach is the hardest part of link building for white hat SEO. Honestly, it’s one of the best methods, especially using email outreach. The most difficult part is really getting it out from the spam folder and into the hands of the blogger.
Who is most likely to link with me?
Try and find people that are most likely to want to link with you. Start firstly by researching your keywords in Google.
Pick up all the URLs of say, the first 5 results of the keyword searches. Then run link analysis. I usually use the tools provided in SE Ranking… You can also use Ahrefs.
Now that you’ve have worked out what their authority scores are, start finding the email addresses. Something really important is please please please… don’t use the sites contact form as it will probably end up somewhere in a black hole never to be found. I discovered hunter.io a few months ago and it’s made the process a whole lot easier.
Ok now you have the email address, it’s time to send them a personalised email. When you’re sending hundreds of emails in the outreach process, you want to standardise the wording to make it as easy as possible. The trick is to make it a script without looking like one.
5. The shiny black hat
So this is an odd topic. You would think I would stay far far away from this topic. But I need to tell you about this so you know first what links will go against Google Webmaster Guidelines and what you should avoid altogether when building links.
At the end of the day, it’s all up to you how you do your SEO, but I would really recommend that you stay away from cheap tricks of black hat SEO. The risk really does outway the short-lived reward.
Google Penguin is a penalty based on the Google algorithm that will target spammy link building techniques or super shady blog comments.
The reality is that no one outside of Google knows how they use the algorithm to pick up and target the sites for manual penalties.
6. Strategies for developing links
Firstly look at the “resource page” link building. A resource page is a page that carries links out to awesome content on a specific topic.
The reason for the existence of these pages is basically for linking out. So, they make for a perfect opportunity for link building targets.
First, jump into Google and type in your keyword + inurl: links. Examples below:
Ok, now you have found some pages. Drop the URL into SE Ranking (or whatever you use) and weigh up the sites. Ask yourself, is this site worth my effort?
Find the best content you have for that site and make sure it’s relatable. Lastly, test out your outreach script and remember that the key is to use a script but not make it sound like one, rather it should sound personalised.
Hunting broken links
LinkMiner is going to be your best friend here. It’s a Google Chrome browser plugin and can help you very quickly identify broken links on a site.
Use the exact same steps as you did for resource pages and gather a list of broken links using LinkMiner. Start drafting your script for broken links and pitch your content and link for your site as the replacement.
7. Advance level link building
Remember when someone writes about you or your brand they don’t always link back to you! The best method is to send a gentle email to the writers and ask them to link back to your site whenever you’re mentioned.
9/10 times it works! But you do get the odd person who won’t reply. BuzzSumo is an awesome tool to find these mentions. This also goes for images as well. A simple reverse search can help you build links for images without attribution.
Time your emails! This is a tip I got from Backlinko and the tip makes total sense. Timing your emails for outreach to the recipients afternoon will probably mean they have fewer emails in their inbox. Now there are lots of scheduling tools out there. I say try and find a free one, but there is also an app called Boomerang you can use.
Visualise your content
Going back to the previous section about using infographics and visuals… it’s much more likely for a person to read your content and want to share, and link to it if it is visually appealing. This is considered an advanced activity as it’s very hard to execute by yourself. Usually, you need a team of designers to produce something worthwhile… but this is what makes it easier to digest the information.