Link building is the practice of getting links from other websites to yours. Google’s popular PageRank factor has been around for so long and it attempts to determine the quality of a webpage by analyzing the number of backlinks to it.
Note that backlinks differ from outbound links, which are links from your website to others.
How are backlinks a fair measure of quality?
Take academia for instance; if many people refer to or mention your work in their own studies, it only means you have done a great job.
One way in which Google ranks website content is summarized in the acronym E-A-T which stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
Websites that consistently rank on Google’s first page stand out with these three features. They can show mastery of a topic/concept; they have been around for long enough to be generally considered a leader in the industry; they also present helpful and accurate content.
It may seem that the system is rigged against small businesses already.
For small businesses delving into content marketing, the main goal should be to attain authority status in your niche. With the right link building techniques, this doesn’t seem so hard.
Here are some ways you can make link building work for you.
First Things First: Creating Linkable Content
Every content marketer knows that organic beats artificial especially for long-term effects.
That means the best link building strategy is to post valuable content and watch it grow.
When your content is worthwhile and relevant, other websites would naturally want to link to you.
Then, how can you ensure this?
I. Comprehensive Guides: comprehensive guides pack a lot of information into one article and are usually very lengthy (>3000 words). When you make an article the definitive resource on a particular topic, other websites are more likely to refer to you.
II. Statistics, Case Studies, Original Research, Factual Insights: statistics are ubiquitous; whether a person is trying to illustrate a point or point out an important fact from relevant data, that’s what they turn to. Conducting extensive, original research into a particular subject establishes you as an authority. You can even include your findings on the topic to get higher CTR (Click-Through-Rate).
III. Infographics and Charts: it would amaze you how powerful visual content is in ranking high. One reason they do so well is that images are linkable. If you feature a unique, useful infographic or chart, or any other visual, when other websites use it, they link back to the source. You can use Google reverse image search to find websites that do not do this and email them to give you a backlink.
Link Building Strategies
Let’s be realistic. Creating valuable content is not enough. In most cases, as a small business, you would still have to put in the ‘rough’ work to get backlinks.
These are some tested and proven techniques that would serve you well.
1. Guest Posting
This age-old technique still works like magic. It involves writing for other websites and including a link to your own website.
However, many of the top websites do not allow this. Some allow it, only if you inform them while pitching your idea, and if you can prove your expertise in the subject.
Other websites do not mind at all as long as your content is good enough. Those are the websites you should look for. To perfect your guest posting, include relevant keywords (don’t overdo this).
Google’s algorithm is smart at discovering bad content.
Some years back, Matt Cutts, former head of Google’s webspam team, said:
“guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general, I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well.”
At that point, many webmasters thought the age of guest posting was done. That isn’t true. As far as you are not spammy and you don’t use black-hat techniques like link farming or buying links, you are safe from Google’s hammer.
2. Social Media
To get more links to your website, don’t stop sharing it. Have a link sharing strategy for posting links on social media.
When you do, don’t just copy and paste the links and post them. Include brief information from the post such as a useful quote or a shocking statistic that would arouse a reader’s interest to click the link.
Besides mainstream social media platforms, answer questions on a site like Quora and link to your website as a source or for more information.
Do the same in forum discussions and blog comments. But remember a very important aspect of all these: don’t be spammy.
3. Online Directories
Online directories are great for link building because that’s all they do: provide contact information about and backlinks to relevant businesses.
However, not all directories are good. Some are spammy and apply black-hat SEO techniques that would get you punished by Google.
Find trustworthy directories in your niche; if you are into local SEO, there would surely be local directories you can set up your information on.
4. Simply Ask
Sometimes, all you need to do to get a backlink is to simply ask.
You may email the website’s admin saying you found a great article on their website, and you have a similarly relevant post that they may want to link to.
Email outreach is an effective strategy if you know how to convince the site owner.
Backlinks Quality and Black Hat SEO
The experts know that in link building, quality matters more than quantity.
Yes, you read that right. All links are not created equal. For instance, if yours is a tech outfit, a backlink from TechCrunch (if you get it) would do you better than one from a random website.
Besides, Google’s Penguin update was the beginning of filtering links based on quality.
Now, Google punishes websites that engage in spammy link building and other black-hat techniques like link farming (a group of several websites linking to each other) and reciprocal linking (like link farming, but on a smaller scale).
You need not buy links either for your website to do well. Only make sure you get links from relevant sites.
In link building, you would have to build relationships and leverage your contacts in the SEO scene. If cold pitching does not work (and it often doesn’t) you can bank on your contacts to see you through and even introduce you to others.
Build important relationships by engaging and interacting with the relevant people, especially on social media.
Link building is a lot of hard work. You have to constantly pitch website owners to request backlinks and guest-post on their websites. And there would be rejections.
However, the more you try the higher your chances of success. Having to constantly share your posts on social media and forums is no small deal either. But the great benefits of link-building justify the process.