A few weeks ago, we dove into the scintillating question on every amateur marketing and business owner’s mind: “What are backlinks?” Ok, that might be an overstatement. But building backlinks is a crucial part of any search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, and now that we’ve given you the what and the why we need to give you the how because all that yummy information isn’t very useful if you know what to do with it.
What Not To Do
We talked at length in our last post about the importance of link quality. All backlinks are not created equal, and there are right and wrong ways to go about earning them for your site. It’s as important to understand what not to do as being armed with healthy tactics for building backlinks.
It’s not uncommon for people to read enough to learn that backlinks from other websites can build relevance and authority in the eyes of Google, and can boost your site in search, and don’t explore the concept any further. When people learn about the power of a link-building strategy, the first thought is to get as many links as possible, whatever means necessary. Don’t do this. You should always try to maintain a healthy link profile – one that indicates to Google that you are earning your backlinks through high-quality and relevant content and professional relationships.
Spammy link profiles – those that are built through in unnatural ways (read: purchasing links) won’t fool Google, and chances are you’ll actually be penalized for your efforts. And let’s face it, no one wants to piss off the Big G. Here’s a few examples of what not to do when building backlinks:
Purchase Links Sure, there are plenty of services out there that will get you “x” number of links for “x” number of dollars in “x” number of days. All you need to know about these services is that they are a scam. Google discounts – and often negatively weights – paid links in organic search. This strategy is a quick and expensive way to plummet in SERPs.
Link Exchanges Paying for links includes exchanging goods or services – not just cash – for inbound links. This means all those emails you get promising a link to your site if you link to theirs should go right in the trash can – or better yet, your junk folder. There are ways to naturally earn links and build relationships online in which you promote each other’s content (which we’ll cover in a minute), but when done at volume, Google can smell your spammy intentions from a mile away.
Directory Links Once upon a time, a large number of directories existed online where you could pay to have your website listed among hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of other sites to get the backlink. We’re not entirely sure why anyone ever thought this was a good idea, but plenty of people jumped on the bandwagon. And guess what? Google found out. And put them all in time out. These directories still exist – and most certainly are not worth your time or money.
Healthy Link Building Strategies That Work
Okay, so no spammy link practices, got it? Now that we’ve covered what not to do let’s get into the good stuff. First and foremost, your link-building strategy should mirror your overall marketing strategy – and even your business goals.
For example, suppose your efforts are aimed at brand recognition. In that case, you should put your energy into building relationships with other organizations and brands that have an audience you want and getting links from their content to yours. If it’s authority you’re after, then your efforts should be in sharing high-quality, relevant content with as many highly respected sources as possible. Here are a few tactics you can deploy to start building a healthy link profile naturally:
Customer and Partner Links This should be the first stop on your link-building journey. We know word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool in your arsenal, so use it! If you have partners or customers you work with regularly you should be able to earn links from them with relative ease. Offer to write testimonials of their products, case studies on the various ways you’re working with them, or guest blog posts on topics that matter to their customer base.
And keep in mind that this work doesn’t all have to be done online. You can hit the bricks and get involved in your community. Volunteer or donate to local organizations, host a professional networking or educational event, and develop relationships with real, live people. Building brand awareness and establishing your culture in the community is one of the best ways to source digital opportunities.
Create Exceptional Content Yes, this is easier said than done. But if you’re not already regularly publishing to a blog and creating insightful and unique content to share with the universe, then you need to start. People aren’t going to link to your home page out of the goodness of their hearts. Everyone is doing what you are – seeking only the best and most relevant content to help their audience (and, in turn, themselves) solve their problems and meet their goals. If linking to you isn’t going to help, they’re not going to do it.
Blog posts and guest posts to others’ blogs (make sure they are high-quality sites!) are just the tip of the iceberg here. If you’re able to create a unique resource – like an infographic, online tool, or quiz – you’ll have an easier time attracting a lot of links with just one resource. Yes, this takes a lot of time and effort. And yes, it’s worth it. As is usually the case, you get out what you put in when it comes to search engine optimization.
Build Resource or Pillar Pages In a similar vein to creating exceptional content, if you can create the end-all-be-all resource on a particular topic, there will be no shortage of people who will want to site your research as a source for their smaller projects. Content pillars are in-depth resources on a specific topic that are super user-friendly, shareable, and well-designed. As always, the geniuses over at the Content Marketing Institute have put together an overview of everything you need to know about pillar content. (For the record, this a great backlink for CMI and well-earned. Those guys know their s***.)
So there you have it. Put good stuff into the world, get good links back. If this sounds like a ton of work…it is. But never fear, The DofM is here to help you create a healthy and successful content and backlinking strategy that meets the goals and needs of your business. Just give a shout to get started.