Link building has been an important element of SEO ever since Google introduced PageRank to their algorithm many years ago. For SEO newcomers; PageRank is a theory and patented technology introduced by Larry Page, the founder of Google which basically attributes value to a document (page) on the web based on the quality and number of links pointing to the page from other pages on the web. Here is a full explanation of PageRank.
As is well documented the Google search algorithm is incredibly complex with over 200 indicators which are constantly tweaked through around 500 algorithm updates per year to create ever more relevant results for searchers.
All SEO’s have an interest in the details of the algorithm and how it may be made up – we all want to know that we are focusing our efforts in the right places, however – I have always been conscious that it is important to keep this interest healthy and to have a general philosophy around how SEO link building should be done and to constantly be open and flexible to small adjustments in my philosophy but to have a general course and to stay true to that in the long run.
My SEO link building strategy is influenced by people like Eric Ward, Garrett French, Distilled‘s many experts, as well as fresher faces such as Gab Goldenberg and also of course by the official words of Google via Matt Cutts and the Google Inside Search blog.
I believe that link building should be about proactively making logical connections amongst sites on the web – a bit like match making. Link building is about getting relevant links from related sites – this brings referral traffic from people who visit your site because they are interested in finding out more about you because they heard about you on the site where you were mentioned.
If you build links in this way then you grow traffic to your site through these links and then guess what; you get more and more search traffic because you are doing exactly the things that search engines pick up as signals of relevance and quality. It is tough going and takes time to gain momentum but once you do start to have your name on many sites across your niche then you begin to become an authority which is when you really notice things starting to happen with your business.
This approach to link building is basically brand building without the TV ads and billboards. It is all about building awareness of and respect for your brand. The activity itself gets links but then the end result, a well known brand, then brings far more links as a consequence.
The importance of branding in SEO link building
In almost every industry the leading companies are highly trusted and because of this their brands are worth a lot. This does not happen overnight – it takes a lot of work but once you have a brand that is trusted then you will find that SEO becomes easier and through good SEO you will grow your brand. The two are intertwined – there is not one before the other, you should be constantly thinking of your brand and how to enhance it’s perception in every part of your SEO work.
Once you have a respected brand then you will pick up links 100x more easily then when you were starting out – bloggers will refer to you when giving examples, journalists will reference you and quote you in their articles and curators will include as a given in lists of potential suppliers.
Here is a great article on branding through SEO by Trond Lyngbø.
How to identify good link opportunities for brand building and SEO growth
This is more on the general approach to link building; I recently wrote a post on creating a CRM database for link building which will help you on the practical side of the process.
So, where do you start?
At Deep Footprints I like to think of a client’s website as a kid in a school. My aim and purpose is to help them become the coolest, most popular kid in the school. All of the other kids have a level of influence over how popular my kid can become and it is important therefore to become friendly with the most influential and popular kids.
Taking this analogy back to your industry – what are the 100 most popular blogs that cover your industry? Who are the 200 most influential people on Twitter within your industry? What are the top informational sites within your industry? What are the key industry bodies and regulators for your industry?
You need to build up lists of all of these sites in a database – I recommend Buzzstream as a great tool for managing this logically as I covered in the above mentioned post.
To determine which sites are worth getting links from I use the following indicators, in this order of importance:
- Perceived similarity in users to our clients site – are the users on this site likely to buy something from our client?
- Level of social sharing on blog posts
- Number and quality of comments on blog posts
- Traffic according to Compete.com/Alexa rank
- Page Rank – this can be seen in most SEO browser plug ins – I use the one from SEObook for Firefox
To identify the sites to research you can use advanced operators for running searches on Google and Bing that will return good and relevant link opportunities.
Advanced operators allow you to run searches to find certain link opportunities such as:
“target keyword XXXX intitle:list of suppliers”
Also mentioned in the above post is the Link Prospector tool from Citation Labs. This tool allows you to run searches on a wide variety of link opportunity types such as blogs that you could contact to offer a guest contribution, sites that have lists of websites/resources relating to your industry, directories in your industry, professional organisaitons in your niche, sites that run interviews relating to your industry etc etc.
Create your lists of websites and then group them with similar sites – you can then scale your opportunities by using a single link building strategy for multiple sites.
Understand your link building resources and what you can offer
Let’s be realistic – Other websites will not link to you for no reason, you need to have something that will appeal to them. If you are in an industry awash with blogs then there is no point in just adding to the pile; you need to do something that will stand out and provide value to others in your industry. What is different about your company; what unique knowledge and skills do you have that you can promote and share?
A lot of link building does come down to content creation so you really need to match the needs of your industry to your skillset. For example if there is a dearth of stats for your industry and you have a data miner, researcher or a statistician on your team then it is an opportunity to create some content that will garner a large number of links.
If there are a lot of textual blogs but no video content, yet you have someone who studied media production on your team then you have the opportunity to create a series of videos that will help give guidance and knowledge to others in your industry.
Start by going through your team and understanding the skill-sets they have and who has a bit of spare time, or who could have a bit of time freed up to create content that will be attractive to other sites in your industry. Be clear on the amount of time that is available from your team members each week. Some SEO link building projects may be one off pieces e.g. a large scale research project or survey, but the majority of content that will gather links needs regular creation as you cannot expect to hit the jackpot every time so hedge your bets.
Tie your resources to the link building opportunities
Once you know the sites that you want links from, have identified the type of content that will appeal to them (you could just ask them what they think is missing from the industry) and you know what you are capable of producing then you can get to work on creating the content and selling it in to the target websites.
Guest posts are a great way to get started as all bloggers need help creating regular, high quality content but it is also important to grow the quality content on your own site and to raise awareness of this as eventually you want to get to the position that you have many regular visitors to your site who naturally share your content and link to it.
You will have heard the term “Content is King” and you will have also heard people talking about the necessity for good quality content. These pieces of advice are not to be ignored; when creating content for the web people sometimes disconnect themselves from the fact that they are in front of potential clients for some odd reason. When creating content you should imagine that it is for a face to face pitch with your dream customer as in reality it could be seen by many high value potential clients so make it special.
There is a lot of detail that I have not gone into here on the practical side of the task of link building but I hope that what i have done is shown you how to identify realistic link building opportunities and to be in a position to take advantage of them so that you too can become the cool kid in school