A link (or hyperlink) is a clickable reference from one web page to another. We refer to the links that point from one website to another as a backlink. As SEOs, acquiring backlinks is one of the biggest levers we have at our disposal.
They form the backbone of the internet, which is built on the connections between websites, web pages, and resources. From an SEO perspective, these connections are the pathways search engines use to crawl and discover content.
Backlinks remain one of the major ranking signals and a sustained strategy for acquiring them should be an essential part of your ongoing SEO strategy.
When determining the quality and trustworthiness of your pages, Google looks beyond the limited on-page content. It also analyses the number of links pointing to that page from external sources, as well as the quality of those sites.
Simply put, the more high-quality sites that link to your site, the more potential you have to rank well in the SERPs. Nowadays Google uses numerous algorithms to help determine the quality of these links. (We’ll look at this in more detail later in this module).
What are the benefits of link building?
With a focus on SEO there are two fundamental benefits to building links:
- Page Discovery
Links are the primary way Google finds your pages in the first place.
- Page Rankings
Backlinks are still one of the most significant ranking signals and acquiring them should be an essential part of any SEO strategy.
Link building is a complicated and time-consuming business. If you get it right it can make your SEO campaign. If you get it wrong it can break your website. The goalposts have shifted over the years and techniques that worked a few years ago could harm your site now. However the need for a strong, authoritative and relevant backlink profile hasn’t changed. If anything, it’s more important than ever.
- Google SEO Ranking Factors for 2021
- How to Clean Up Your Link Profiles
- How to Create Blog Posts That Rank High in Google
- Link Building Strategies for New Websites 2021
- Introduction to Blackhat and Whitehat SEO
- How to Run an Initial SEO Audit on Your Website
- How to Deal temporarily Out of stock & seasonal products pages
- How can we better understand what local results Google are serving to visitors?
What should a good link building strategy include?
A link building strategy comprises of the various campaigns set out over time to actively increase links to your website.
Your strategy should use existing content and resources to gain links, as well as planning fresh content to actively target further opportunities.
There are two broad phases to a backlink strategy:
- Link Research
In the research phase you’re really compiling ordered lists of opportunities. Use tools to help analyse opportunities from various sources including your existing link base, competitor profiles, industry bodies, news sites etc.
- Link Building
The link building phase is where you begin to get active. Build relationships and reach out to website owners to request the pot of PageRank gold at the end of the rainbow.
Build your strategy around your resources
EARN your links. Remember, at the heart of all link building strategies should be a valuable resource. Unless your web pages offer value it is very unlikely that other sites will willingly link to you. Get this right first and your link building efforts will be far more fruitful.
Every business will have unique selling points that offer opportunities to build links. Start by identifying what your resources are and how they can help attract links. Take stock of the assets at your disposal such as: content, people, data, services, products, tools, etc.
Having a clear idea of these resources will allow you to plan and create magical pieces of content to attract the highest quality links. Make sure that the assets you create relate to your audience for the highest impact.
Your backlink strategies should align with your business and SEO goals. Ensure you’re building links to your:
- Core landing pages (products, services, category pages etc)
- Serendipitous, keyword rich content (blogs, advice, FAQs etc)
Over the course of this module we’ll cover some of the types of campaigns you could run to produce the best results, as well as strategies to avoid and why.
Where to start
With an increasing emphasis on the quality of your backlink profile, it’s become more important to dedicate time and effort to build a sustainable strategy focusing on authoritative link sources. Before building your strategy it’s essential to understand the competitive landscape and what you need to do to win.
Start with a complete analysis of your existing profile vs your most significant competitors. We’ve already touched on how to benchmark your backlink profile against your competitors. This benchmark is a great starting point. You’ll quickly get a sense of the tactics your competitors use and the volume of links you might need to compete with them. If you’re not ranking for a particular keyword but have a well targeted page, you can see what links you need to build and what anchor text your competitors use to outrank you.
What else should you consider in your link building strategy?
Setting clear goals
As with everything, track your progress. This will help you to identify what works best within your particular industry. Setting KPIs from the start will ensure you stay focused on continual improvement. The somewhat tedious nature of link building means it is often slowly sidelined over time. A realistic monthly goal will help to ensure it remains a focus.
Goals should be tied to the needs of the site. ‘Five average links a month’ may not be enough if your competitors are building 10 to 20 high quality links. Be sure to thoroughly assess what it will take to succeed within your competitive landscape.
And finally, be realistic
We can’t stress enough the impact a good link building strategy can have on a site. But SEOs do encounter problems here. It often takes time for the links you build to have an impact on rankings. Other SEO activity can yield quick results. Content updates, for example, can produce results the day after implementation.
Backlinks are not as simple, it can take far longer for Google to crawl and recognise your new links. This means it can be hard to show immediate returns from your link building strategy, even if you hit your goals.
It’s important to let your team/clients know that results from link building are not instantaneous. Your focus should be on long-term improvements rather than overnight quick-wins. Good things come to those who wait.