The world of search engine optimization (SEO) is both simple and complex. At the most basic level, SEO is a series of steps that make your website more search engine-friendly and encourage it to appear higher in user search results. The complexity arises in knowing which of those steps to take, having the technical knowledge to complete them, knowing when to do them and understanding how to combine them for maximum effectiveness.
Many people approach SEO with a mindset similar to playing darts; they throw a bunch of things at the website and hope something scores enough points to get some results. While this method might earn you a few lucky traffic spikes, it isn’t a good long-term plan.
A better solution is to approach SEO with a pre-determined strategy that will improve your search engine ranking and deliver results over the long-term. A comprehensive SEO strategy should have multiple components, such as link building, page optimization, content creation, keyword research, social media tie-ins, and much more.
If you’re working without a lot of technical SEO knowledge, link building is one of the best (and easiest) ways to improve your site’s search rankings and increase traffic.
What is link building?
Link building is the process of creating links from other sites back to your own. Link building is a great tool because it can improve your site’s search rankings while also creating additional sources of traffic directly to your site. There are many online platforms, which can be used for tracking link building efforts (like Ahrefs.com, Majestic.com and SEMrush.com), as well as plenty of guides on how to use these tools (for example, an ultimate guide from CopyProBlogger.com)
Why does link building matter?
Google is the current undisputed leader in online search and has been for years. Though Google keeps its search ranking algorithms private, it has long been acknowledged that the amount of outside links a site has is a good indicator of site quality and authority. Links are a heavily weighted factor in site ranking and adding quality incoming links to your site will improve your site’s visibility in search rankings.
Important points about link building:
Not all links are created equal
Links are not all the same in terms of value in search engine rankings. Links from older, established and/or high traffic sites will contribute much more to SEO rankings than a link to a small blog that gets few visitors and is rarely updated.
Quality vs quantity
When working on a link building campaign, you should focus on getting high-quality links versus a large number of links. You also want to avoid linking to sites that look or act like spam. Too many links to poor-quality websites can actually harm your search rankings, as search engines will equate the quality of your site with the quality of the sites that link to yours.
Link presentation matters
In addition to the link itself, the way the link is presented is an important factor in link building. You should try to link the keywords you want your site to rank for, instead of the common practice of linking to your company name. Linking to keywords gives more weight to the phrases that people search for and will do more to improve your rankings in search results.
Ready to get started? Here are 7 easy ways you can improve your site’s SEO through link building.
Reputable directories are a great way to get high-quality links back to your site. Most are free or charge a small one-time set-up fee. Make sure to be detailed and thorough when completing your profile. You’ll want to write a great summary of your business and list all your services, your service areas and relevant details about your business.
Consider starting with profiles on these sites, if you don’t have them already set up:
Some social media sites, such as Facebook business pages and LinkedIn company pages also act like directory listings for your business. Be sure to have those profiles correctly set up and completed, as well.
Hubspot keeps an updated list of directories for local business marketing. Check out their list of 57 online directories if you want to generate even more links to your site. When looking at the list, consider the target audience for each site before a company profile. There’s no need to waste time creating a profile on a site geared towards home improvement professionals if you own a store that sells bathing suits.
Just like any online content, you’ll need to check the directory listings periodically to ensure everything is up-to-date. Don’t create more profiles than you have time to reasonably manage.
One other great source for finding quality directory links is to consider groups you already belong to. Professional organizations and networking groups often have websites that showcase their members. If you’re already paying to be a member of the local chamber of commerce or other industry-specific groups, make sure you’re getting the full value of your membership by filling out your profile on the group’s site.
Share Your Knowledge on Other Sites
Posting great content on your own website is important, but if your audience is small, it will be tough to make that great content translate into traffic for your site. One option is to post great content on other sites and then link back to your site. The most common ways of doing that are posting in online forums and guest blogging.
One way is to join forums and communities where people ask and answer questions. You can choose industry-specific sites, such as FreeAdvice.com, where attorneys answer legal questions posted by site users. Or you can use general sites such as Quora, Reddit, and Answers.com and search for threads related to your specific niche.
Before answering questions and offering advice on the sites, set up a thorough profile that details your background and expertise and includes a link to your website. Some of these communities frown on blatant self-promotion, so focus on providing good value to generate trust and interest in your services.
Another great way to leverage audiences of larger websites and get links back to your own is to guest post on existing blogs. You create useful content and offer it for publication on relevant websites. In return, you get a link back to your website. All different types of websites accept guest posts. For larger, well-established sites with high traffic, there will be more stringent requirements. Many sites that accept guest blogs have the details of what they’re looking for in a guest post listed directly on their websites.
Establish Your Own Blog
Creating a blog on your website is one of the most common ways to share new content and build an audience. Having fresh, relevant content is a great way to demonstrate your credibility in your industry and get links back to your site. One of the main problems with blogging is that you have to consistently post high-quality content. Only posting sporadically or not posting at all can leave site users with a negative impression.
Having your own blog also gives you the opportunity to trade guest posts with other sites. You can write a post for their site and get a link and you can offer them the same on your site. You both get fresh content and a link to your site. Just be sure you are agreeing to trade posts with high-quality sites that you are comfortable promoting to your customers. Don’t get so caught up in trading links and posts that you lose focus on the main purpose of your blog: to add value for your customers.
Share Your Content Across Multiple Channels
When you’re making the effort to regularly publish quality content on your blog, you want to be sure people are seeing it. If you don’t yet have a lot of traffic to your site, not many people may benefit from what you’re posting, unless you share it across multiple channels. You can make it easy to share content by including buttons for sharing content directly on your website. Buttons can be easily added using a simple plug-in on your website. There are also 3rd party sharing services, such as ShareThis and Sharexy that make it easy to create social media sharing buttons and add them to your website.
Having people highlight and share your content across various social media channels will expose you to a larger audience of potential customers, as well as generate additional links to your site. You can leverage the social networks of your existing customers to expose your business to new customers and add links to your site as your content is shared.
Have a Contest or Giveaway
If you use social media, you probably see a lot of online contests. In most cases, you enter the contest by sharing a post, commenting on a post, or some other type of online interaction. Online contests and giveaways are a goldmine when it comes to generating links to your site and shares on social media. People love to get free stuff and sharing something online takes only a few seconds, so it’s the perfect way to engage your audience.
When creating a contest, make sure your prize is valuable enough that people will care about winning, but not so costly that it could damage your business cash flow. If you’re not sure how to go about running a social media contest, there are companies like Wishpond that will manage it for you. When setting up the contest, remember that your main goal is to generate links to your site, with secondary goals of getting more traffic to your site and exposing new potential clients to your business. It is helpful to choose a prize that is unique and valuable to your target audience, instead of something generic that might appeal to anyone. Keeping the contest focused will get you the best possible results.
Just like all businesses these days, most newspapers are moving online. That means a mention in a news article will probably result in a link back to your website. And it’s not as difficult as you may think to network with reporters and become a source of expertise in your field. One simple way to connect with reporters looking for sources is to sign up for Help A Reporter Out (HARO). The site exists exclusively to connect journalists with sources.
To get started, you sign up for HARO’s mailing list and choose your areas of expertise. You’ll then get up to three emails per day, five days per week, listing queries from reporters looking for sources. You can respond to queries that are relevant to you. If the reporter selects your response, you’ll be mentioned in the article and usually get a link back to your site.
Since HARO is used by reporters of all types, including major news organizations such as Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, pitching to queries can earn you very valuable links to your site.
In addition to the value of the links, being quoted as a source in a news piece will give extra credibility to your business and add to your reputation as an expert in your field.
Use Current Relationships
As a business owner, you probably have a current network of businesses that you partner with on a regular basis. This can be a great source of relevant links for your site. Ask people you regularly work with if they’d be willing to link to your site as a trusted partner. You can offer the same in return. If it’s not feasible to include a site link in the site’s content, you could consider trading blog posts or doing some social media posts for each other.
If you are a B2B company, happy clients are another great way to get links back to your website. They can list you a trusted vendor or partner and link to your site. In turn, you can add them to your portfolio page or client list. As with all other link strategies, be sure to link to high-quality websites that are relevant to your business.
What NOT To Do
Link building is a great tool to improve your SEO and results in search rankings, but it’s critical to do it the right away and create links that are relevant and meaningful. Do not try to take shortcuts with link building. This will negatively impact your search rankings and in extreme cases can get you banned from the search results completely. Google and other search engines are in the business of providing quality search results and can take drastic measures when they believe people are trying to game their systems.
Do NOT buy links
There are services all over the internet that sell links to sites for the purpose of improving rankings. Do not fall into this trap. Sites that sell links get flagged as spam. Buying links to random sites will hurt your site far more than it will ever help.
Do NOT post spam links in blog comments
We’ve all seen irrelevant comments with links on various blogs. The idea is to get a link on a highly visible blog page, even if it’s just in the comments. In reality, most of those comments are deleted by the moderator as spam. If you’re going to provide a link as a comment on a blog, make sure it’s relevant to the conversation. Stay far away from services that claim they will get you lots of links this way. Those links will likely be flagged as spam and do more harm than good to your search rankings.
Link building is just one facet of a comprehensive SEO strategy, but there’s a lot that can be done to improve your search rankings and visibility with this one technique. Make sure to establish a link building strategy that is manageable for you and sustainable for the long-term. You should also put a system in place to track your links and measure the results of your efforts.
Interested in implementing a link building or SEO plan, but not sure where to start?
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