Originally posted on readwrite.
To the average outsider, link building seems intimidatingly complex. You’ll be in charge of placing links to your site with a delicate balance of brand visibility and subtlety, working with high-profile publishers, and dodging Google penalties at the same time. It’s a service that costs thousands of dollars per month to manage if you’re working with an external agency, so clearly it’s not something you can do yourself, right?
Start Link Building if You’ve Never Tried Before
The truth is, while link building is complicated, it’s also approachable, even if you’ve never tried the strategy before.
What Is Link Building?
Let’s start with a primer on what link building is. As the name suggests, it’s a way to construct links in a digital environment. With the right approach, you can place links with external publishers and other websites, pointing back to various pages on your website.
Builds SEO and DA
The most obvious benefit is that the link serves a functional purpose, creating more roadways that people can use to find your site. But it’s also important for search engine optimization (SEO). Earning more links and being connected to more authoritative sources will increase your domain authority (DA), eventually helping you rank higher in search results – and earning you more traffic.
Link Building helps new business
Links are especially powerful for new and emerging businesses since they don’t have much authority or much of a web presence to work with initially. It’s also valuable here because it’s inexpensive and accessible, meaning you can use it even if you’re working with a limited budget.
There are many possible ways to approach link building. Some people attempt to earn as many links as possible as naturally as possible, creating compelling onsite content and hoping that people link to it. But it’s much more reliable to manually build links yourself – as long as you’re building them in an appropriate and Google-friendly way. More on that later.
The Benefits of Link Building
There’s no question that link building is valuable, at least when done right. But where does that value come from? What makes this strategy so effective?
- Traffic. First, there’s the potential for traffic generation. Getting a link to your site placed in the right article, with the right publisher, could conceivably send thousands of visitors to your site every month – or even more. And because the link is functionally permanent, it could keep sending recurring traffic to your site for months, or even years to come.
- Search rankings. Most people discover link building as a tactic when researching SEO. Link building isn’t the only element necessary for an SEO strategy, but it’s one of the most important. Together with onsite content optimization, coding optimization, and technical improvements, it can help your site rank higher in SERPs and, ultimately, get more organic traffic.
- Visibility and authority building. Link building can also be valuable for visibility and building the subjective authority and reputation of your brand – especially at the higher levels. Merely mentioning your brand in an article, or getting connected to the right publishers and authors, can be a boon for your entire company.
Black Hat Link Building and Potential Penalties
Link building isn’t always straightforward. Google goes out of its way to penalize websites that infringe on the experiences of its users. If it thinks you’re spamming backlinks, overtly promoting yourself, or trying to manipulate its ranking algorithm — you’re going to face a penalty.
Link building tactics that are meant only to manipulate search rankings, and that have little to no value to average users, are known as “black hat” tactics. They’re also considered unethical.
But don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to build links properly – and as long as you’re improving user experiences, you’ll be in good shape. The most straightforward tactic is to write high-quality content for an external publisher, while linking to your own onsite content as a reputable source.
Prerequisites for Link Building
Before you start link building, there are some things you’ll need in place first.
- An established website. You can’t build links to a place that doesn’t exist. If you want to get the most value from your links, your website needs to be functional, safe, mobile-friendly, and easy for users to navigate.
- Good onsite content. Additionally, you’ll want an archive of high-quality written content on your website. This is going to help establish your site’s domain authority, and will also serve as valuable fodder you can use as the destinations for your links. The better your onsite content is, the stronger your links will be.
- Social media profiles. Social media is the best place to promote your onsite and offsite content. It’s also a great way to connect with other authors and reach out to new publishers.
- Author profiles. Your business may have an awesome brand built for it, but it’s not always ideal to write as the business. Instead, you may want to write content as individual authors, complete with author profiles you can build up over time.
What Makes a Link Effective?
What is it that makes a link effective?
In terms of SEO, you’ll need to consider, at a minimum:
- Domain authority. The higher the DA of the publisher, the more valuable the link is going to be.
- Value to the reader. If the link is valuable to the reader in some way, like giving them additional background information, that’s helpful.
- Context and placement. The link needs to be relevant to the piece – and should be one of several links to a variety of sources. It shouldn’t stand out unnaturally.
- Appropriate anchor text. The anchor text can be optimized for your target keywords and phrases, but not to the extent that it makes the link seem unnatural. The text needs to blend with the rest of your content.
Long-term, you’ll also need to consider:
- Publisher diversity. Repeated links on the same publisher have diminishing returns. It’s helpful to work with as many publishers as possible.
- Link diversity. It’s not good to link to the same pages over and over; try to point to a range of different pages on your site.
- Frequency and volume. If you build too many links too quickly, it could invite a penalty.
Starting With Your First Links
You can’t climb to the top of the SERPs overnight. In fact, some businesses spend months to years developing their brands enough to start ranking higher. SEO is a long-term strategy that demands commitment and patience.
Still, the journey begins with a single step. Try to work with a low-stakes, accessible publisher to build your first link(s). Look for local publishers and small publishers in your niche – and reach out to the editors with content ideas their audience is going to love.
If they like your pitch and you get a chance to write for the publisher, take the opportunity seriously. Write the best article you can, place your link carefully (and in a way that’s beneficial to users), and comply with any requested edits you receive.
Building Your Influence
Next, you’ll need to start networking and building your influence. As you start getting featured in more publishers, you’ll get more writing opportunities naturally and your circle of readers will grow. It will get easier and easier for you to get featured with new publishers and build your presence.
While you’re at it, keep up with your old publisher relationships as well – new publishing opportunities can always be helpful.
Working With an Agency
Though link building is approachable and understandable even for amateurs, it can also be prohibitive in terms of time and monetary costs. Getting started with link building takes a lot of work, especially if you don’t already have a team of writers and established publisher relationships. That’s why it may be in your best interest to work with a link-building agency — a team of professionals who already know what they’re doing and can help you get the best results.
No matter what, link building has the power to transform your business. If you’re not already using it to support your SEO strategy or attract more referral traffic to your website, now’s the time to get started.