Link Building: 9 Do’s and 5 Don’ts
Link building is perhaps one of the most well-known strategies in digital marketing. By definition, link building is the process of allowing external pages to link to a page on your site (by citing a blog post, piece of content such as an infographic or video, or any other of your valuable website). While links are not the be-all and end-all of SEO, they are certainly important in ranking factors.
So what are the do’s and don’ts I learned about link building? The problem with getting external links is that it can take a lot of time and effort in a way that follows Google guidelines for webmasters.
Let’s look at some of the best (and worst) link building practices I’ve learned:
- Focus on the “natural” links of Awesome Content: By far the best way to generate external links to your business page is to produce the best content possible. If people don’t want to read – let alone link – to your content, then you have a problem! By producing great keyword-based, topic-focused content, you’re likely to generate links from other pages just because you’re an authority source on a topic.
- Contact bloggers and professionals: If you’re new to the content generation game, chances are you don’t have the highest-ranking content in your industry at this point. That doesn’t mean you’re not in the running to be linked by professionals and other bloggers in your industry. If your content can’t be found organically (at this point) by searchable professionals in your industry (or even if it can), it’s a good idea to reach out and offer to collaborate. to link to each other’s relevant articles. If you are able to convince someone else that your content is worth linking to, then you will definitely be in contention for some external links (remember, valuable content is everything).
- Paid links with ATTENTION: Occasionally you will see the opportunity to pay sites to link to your content, especially if they are high profile and they will treat the links as highly selective advertising. Be careful though, you don’t want Google to perceive your external links as “manipulative”, so make sure that if you’re paying a site to link to you, they’re relevant and authoritative and that the other sites they link to are made in a natural way. According to Moz“Buying advertising that leads to your website is a good thing and can be a great practice for building awareness of your business. However, Google says that if you do this, you need to make sure the ad doesn’t pass PageRank to your website.Honestly, buying links is a risky business and generally not worth the risk for most businesses.
- Low value self-built links: You can also “connect” with your content by commenting on blog posts, signing guestbooks, and interacting with other relevant content. These types of links are considered low value by Google, but that doesn’t mean they’re worthless. These may be of low value but certainly count for something in terms of the number of links on a page.
- Earn links with relevant and authoritative pages: Your goal is really to earn links from the best of the best. You can see who is ranking in the top results for the search terms you are trying to target. Get links from important pages (such as Entrepreneur or MSNBC/popular news sources) and use Open site explorer to determine what backlinks other sites have generated (and what their quality/spam score is).
- References are essential: While SEO is obviously the primary consideration in link building, you also need to remember that the goal is to get quality referral traffic from reputable sites. The ultimate goal of internet marketing is to ensure that the traffic that lands on your site has the opportunity to convert and take the action you want them to take. When designing a strategy to increase backlinks, remember that you want to use authoritative sites and voices that can drive relevant traffic to your site.
- Use your customers and your best customers: Who better to link you to than previous or current customers? If you are a B2B company and another company has used your product or services, this might be one of the most valuable links you could have. Testimonials and reviews are great for SEO, but links really go deeper. Offer a discount to returning customers if they agree to link to you on their blog.
- If you don’t have a blog, stop whatever you’re doing NOW! It really should have been #1 on this list, but hopefully almost everyone knows that by now. Blogs give your business a platform to constantly update, share and provide valuable content. Not only does this make it easier to build natural links in your industry, but also when you reach out to other authoritative voices, you have something built to connect them and for them to link to you. Linking to a homepage or product page doesn’t always make sense, but a relevant blog topic can easily fit many link building opportunities.
- Grab the attention of the news or press: Newsworthy content is ideal for attracting industry and press attention. By writing about something controversial or relevant, even about the release of a new product or service, you can generate links!
Things not to do
- Masking: Showing search engines different content than what you show users by “hiding” is one of the worst practices in link building and content generation. This will definitely hurt your SEO.
- Inject links: Injecting links into a site you don’t own exploits the security of another website, and it won’t do anything beneficial in the long run. While this can be an attractive “black hat” tactic, since you can generate a lot of links quickly, it will do more harm than good in the long run.
- Paid links: Well, yes, I put “paid links with caution” in the to-do list. This is a tricky situation because as long as you follow Google’s advertising and webmaster guidelines, paid links on high-quality sites may be fine. However, I would like to point out that there are usually far too many variables in creating appropriate paid links. Unless you know the source is very reputable and uses best practices with their paid links, I would recommend avoiding this strategy altogether.
- “Commercial” links: Google has gotten smarter over the past few years. While it’s okay to trade links with high-quality, reputable sites, people got lazy and abused this idea – trade with all the sites they could to get links. This presents itself as “spam” and does not indicate any real SEO value. It’s fine to collaborate and offer a link in exchange for a link to your site, but do so with best practices and reputation in mind. Make sure the company you are “negotiating” with is relevant to your industry and will improve your SEO and referral traffic in the long run.
- Any form of manipulation: If you’re worried that Google will perceive your external links as manipulation, they probably will, and you can easily penalize your rankings for it, which means you’re back to page 100. When you abuse external links and push to the extreme to manipulate your rankings, Google doesn’t appreciate it. Work hard for quality links as they will be more durable and valuable in the long run.
Ultimately, link building is constantly evolving. What works today may be taboo tomorrow, but the important thing to keep in mind is that you’re constantly thinking about the reader. If a link is irrelevant to an article and doesn’t help the reader, the website and publisher won’t approve your link (and, ultimately, it won’t help you with long-term success. term).
I always recommend writing your content with the reader in mind, then seeing how your links and referrals flow naturally. This will help ensure that you are creating best practices for yourself going forward.
Were there any do’s or don’ts to add to the list above? Let us know on social media.