Imagine the internet as one big city.
Your website is a building in that city, and the external links pointing to your website are like roads leading to that building. The more high-quality external links you have pointing to your website, the easier it is for people (and search engines) to find you.
That's why link building should be an essential part of any SEO strategy. As any SEO Professional would tell you, links are “the currency of the internet.” Their role is similar to that of a real-life reputation in that the more high-quality links you have, the more authoritative your website is.
If you're new to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), you might be wondering what all the fuss is about when it comes to link building. After all, isn't it enough to just create killer internal links to great content and let organic traffic flow naturally?
Unfortunately, it's not quite that simple. If you’re feeling confused already, don’t worry. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about this SEO strategy.
What is Link Building?
The process of Link building is the acquisition of hyperlinks from other websites to your own. A “hyperlink” is just a fancy name for a link, and in SEO terms, a link is simply a way for one website to point to another. You'll hear most SEO experts refer to these links as backlinks or Inbound links.
When someone links to your website, it’s like they’re giving you a vote of confidence. The more votes (backlinks) you have, the more popular and authoritative your site will become in the eyes of both users and search engines.
Google's algorithm uses links as one of the main ranking factors. If your website is garnering a lot of links, it's a signal to Google that it has trustworthy and relevant valuable content worth ranking.
What are the Different Types of Links?
Are you planning your link building strategy already? Not so fast. Before you try acquiring links from other websites, you should understand the different kinds of links and what makes them valuable. Here are the three main types of links you need to know about:
Follow and No-Follow Links
Follow links are valuable types of links because they pass along “link juice.” Link juice is essentially Google's way of measuring a link's value and whether another site endorses it. When a website links to yours with a follow link, they're passing along some of their own link juice (and authority) to your website.
No-follow links don't pass any link juice and are therefore not as valuable as do-follow links. They're still worth pursuing as they can increase your brand recognition and drive traffic to your website.
As the name suggests, these are links that users generate. For example, users may generate links to your website by including the relevant links in blog comments.
You can also generate these links to promote your own awesome content. The downside of these though is that the link quality could be lower, meaning that Google doesn’t recognise them much.
User-generated content won’t do any harm to your site. But might not be recommended to invest too much time on a link building strategy that doesn’t necessarily guarantee you results.
Natural links are the kingpin of links. They occur when other website owners link to your content. These are links earned organically, without any intervention on your part.
In other words, you didn't have to ask for them or build them yourself. For example, if a website owner is impressed by the quality of your content, they may choose to link to it from their own site.
Natural links are the most challenging links to earn, but also the most valuable. They're valuable because they come from high-quality authoritative sites that are relevant to your niche.
Why Should You Care About Link Building?
If you're running a website, there are two main reasons why link building should be on your radar.
First, it's one of the best ways of increasing your site's authoritativeness.
Let's assume you have curated a killer blog that you intend to publish on your fairly new website. You hit publish, expecting traffic to start flowing in, but days go by, and there's no sign of any movement in your website's traffic.
You start wondering why this is the case. After all, you created great content, so what's the problem? The answer is simple: your blog post is competing with millions of other pieces of content in the search algorithm vying for attention on the internet.
For it to show up on Google's search rankings and get seen by your target audience, you need to give it a little push. Link building is one of the best ways of doing this, as it will boost your website's reputation and authority.
Second, link building is an effective way of increasing the reach of your content. By building links to your content, you're effectively giving it a wider audience.
The more people who see and engage with your content, the more likely they are to convert into customers or clients. Link building is thus critical if you want to increase the search traffic to your website and achieve your business objectives
Examples of Common Link Building Methods
Sorry if all the above information sounds a bit abstract. To give you a better idea of what link building looks like in practice, let's look at some examples of common ways of building links.
Requesting Links from Other Websites
Brace yourself for knocking at some virtual doors. This may sound like a long shot, but it's a perfectly normal and legitimate way of building links. The key here is about building relationships and to be strategic about who you're reaching out to and what you're asking for.
Of course, you can't just go around emailing random website owners and asking them for links.
The key here is to target websites that are relevant to your niche.
For example, if you own a website that sells cycling equipment, you would want to target websites about cycling, fitness, or even healthy living. There's no point in reaching out to a website that isn't related to your business, as its readership is unlikely to be interested in what you have to say.
Another vital factor to consider is the quality of the website you're targeting. Don’t try to get a link from a low-quality website, as this will damage your own website's reputation. We will get to the details of how to determine the quality of a website later on in this guide.
Adding Links Manually
Are you ready to get your hands dirty? If you're not afraid of a bit of coding, you can add links to your website manually. This means placing links to your website in guest posts, press releases, and blog comments. The good thing about building links this way is that you control where your links appear.
This method requires a bit of time and effort on your part. You also need to be strategic about where you're placing your links, as you don't want to come across as spammy or be penalised by Google. While this method won't give you a significant advantage, it can increase your referral traffic, which is always a good thing.
This is probably the most difficult but also the most effective way of building links.
Creating great content that people want to read and share is no easy feat, but it's worth it.
When you have truly awesome content, people will want to link to it without you even having to ask. Of course, this doesn't happen overnight, and you must put in the hard work before seeing any results.
But if you're consistent and patient, eventually your efforts will pay off, and you'll start earning high-quality link opportunities. This method may take longer than the others, but it's by far the most sustainable in the long run.
Which Are the Best Link Building Techniques/Strategies to Use?
Congratulations on making it to the fun part of this guide! Now that you know the basics of link building, it's time to get into the nitty-gritty and find out which link building techniques are the most effective in helping you get backlinks from quality sources.
The following strategies have been proven to be effective time and time again. So without further ado, let's jump right in!
Guest blogging involves writing a guest post for other websites relevant to your industry and including a backlink to your website in the article. When done correctly, guest blogging can be an extremely worthwhile link building tactic to implement.
But guest blogging opportunities won't come looking for you. You need to seek them out actively. Using Google search operators is a perfect way of finding guest blogging opportunities.
For example, if you want to guest blog about SEO, you could search for "SEO" + "guest post." This would bring up a list of websites that accept guest posting about SEO.
After identifying some websites you think would be a good fit, contact the website owner and suggest your idea of writing a guest post for the website. However, ensure that you're only guest blogging on high-quality sites.
Create Linkable Assets
Linkable assets refer to the type of content that screams "share me!" Examples of such great content include infographics, eBooks, and whitepapers. Research shows people are 30 times more likely to read infographics than text articles.
The key is ensuring your linkable asset is high quality and informative so that it shows up in search engine rankings. Nobody will want to link to something that's poorly made or not interesting.
If you're not sure what kind of content would make for an excellent linkable asset, take a look at the content already being linked to by other websites in your niche. Chances are, if they're linking to it, it's because it's high quality and informative. You'll surely get some high-quality valuable links if you can create something even better than what's already out there.
Broken Link Building
You don't have time to build linkable content? No problem. There's another method that can help you get backlinks, and it's called broken link building.
A Broken Link strategy involves finding external websites in your niche with broken links and then contacting the webmaster to let them know. Tools such as Check My Links can help you find broken links on other websites.
After finding some bad links, go ahead and find the owners. Contact them and let them know that one of their links is pointing to a page that users cannot access.
Be sure to include or suggest a backlink to your piece of content as a resource they can use to replace the link pointing to the 404 page. This may seem like a small thing, but it's a sure-fire way to get high-quality links from relevant websites because you're essentially doing the website owner a favour.
Don't Slack Off on Social Media
Content promotion via Social media isn't just for promoting your content. It can also be a perfect tool for building different link types. How, you ask?
As part of any content marketing strategy, one should incorporate shareable content. That way, every time you post something on social media, the likelihood of somebody sharing your valuable content is higher. And if they do share it, there's a chance that their followers will see it and click on the link.
In addition to sharing your own relevant content, you should also share other people's content that's relevant to your niche. When you do this, you'll build relationships with other people in your niche, and they'll be more likely to share your content in the future.
You should also increase your visibility on different social media platforms by responding to brand mentions and engaging in conversations relevant to your niche.
These practices can help you establish yourself as an authority figure, which will make people more likely to link to your content. You can rely on a digital marketing agency to help you with social media management if you're not sure where to start.
Hunt High and Low for Unlinked Brand Mentions
The press and other high-authority sources probably mention your brand regularly. However, not all of these mentions will link back to your content. That's why it's important to actively search for unlinked brand mentions and then contact the author, requesting they include a link.
One way to find unlinked brand mentions is to use Google Alerts. Just set up an alert for your brand name, and you'll be notified whenever someone mentions it on the web. Check the results regularly so you can promptly get in touch with the relevant parties.
Email the site owner politely, asking them to backlink to your content page. In most cases, they'll be happy to oblige. After all, you're not asking them for anything that isn't already rightfully yours.
Copy Your Competitors' Backlink Strategy
You're allowed to be a copycat... at least when it comes to your competitors' backlink strategies. One of the easiest ways to find high-quality backlinks is to look at your competitors' backlinks and then try to get the same links from sites they're tapped into.
Some of the best tools that can help you see which websites link to your competitors include Moz's Open Site Explorer or Ahrefs' Site Explorer.
Once you have a list of potential websites, determine the best way to contact the website administrator and ask if they would also be interested in linking to your website.
You should also analyse your competitor's anchor text to see what keywords they're targeting with their backlinks. If you can get links from the same websites and use the exact keywords, you'll be well on your way to building high-quality backlinks.
How Can You Tell Whether You're Dealing with High-Quality Links?
The internet today has over 1.7 billion active websites. That's a lot of websites, and it can be tough to determine which ones are high quality and which ones aren't.
Here are some things you should look for when trying to determine whether a website is
Is the website relevant to your niche? If not, it's probably not a high-quality website. Links will be of high quality if they contain content related to what your website is about. To tell whether a website is relevant, ask yourself whether you would still want to link to the website even if there were no SEO benefits.
If the answer is yes, then the link is relevant.
Domain authority is a metric that's used to determine how well a website will rank in search engines. A website with a high domain authority is more likely to rank well, while a website with a low domain authority is less likely to rank well.
Tools like Moz's Link Explorer can help you check a website's domain authority. Always choose a website with a domain rating that is close to 100.
Trust applies everywhere, even on the internet. You should only get links from websites you trust, as these will be of high quality.
To determine whether a website is trustworthy, look for the following:
- The site's lifespan
- Presence of a secure socket layer
- Social media activity
- Website's traffic per month
If a website ticks all the boxes for these elements, it's probably trustworthy and a good source of backlinks.
So, there goes everything you need to know about link building. Although the recommended strategies can help you nail your link building campaign, don't forget that if you want your business to be more discoverable, the most important thing is to produce high-quality content and be persistent.