What is link building, and why is it important for your website? SEO professionals typically put a lot of time and effort into their link building tactics, in order to improve the popularity and authority of the sites they manage. Let’s look at the basics of link building, and explore some key tactics that can help to bolster your online presence.
What is Link Building?
Link building is defined as the process of acquiring links to your website from other websites. Every one of these hyperlinks allows users to navigate to a page on your site. Search engines also use these links to crawl the web. Google and other major search engines will crawl the links between the various pages on your website, as well as the links between one website and another.
Did You Know? SEO Tribunal reports that 65% of marketers list link building as the most challenging SEO tactic to complete.
The Anatomy of a Link
Here are a few common words and phrases you’ll come across during the link building process. A hyperlink is coded in the following way:
<a href=”https://www.lilo.co.uk/”>Lilo Web Dev Agency in London</a>
- The tag at the start of a hyperlink, represented by the letter “a”, is known as the anchor tag. It opens the link tag, and communicates to Google and other search engines that a link is about to appear.
- The “href” code is short for hyperlink referral. This is the link referral location.
- The text that appears inside the quotation marks is the link URL. This could be the address of a web page, a file like a PDF, or a downloadable image like an infographic.
- The text that is visible to users is called the anchor text. This is formatted in some way (it usually appears as blue, underlined text) to show users that it is clickable. Users will see this on the web page, while search engines will see the URL on the back-end.
- The forward slash and anchor tag appearing after the anchor text make up the closure of link tag. This tag signifies to search engines that this is the end of the link.
What are the Benefits of Link Building for SEO?
Link building plays a critical role in SEO (search engine optimisation). Search engines use the number of reputable inbound links to a website as an indication of its popularity. The more links coming to a website from other trusted, good quality websites (also referred to as authority websites), the better. This is a major factor in determining your own website’s authority.
Did You Know? According to a Moz study conducted in 2017, link building accounted for 17.31% of all search ranking factors. This was a notable increase from 14.83% in 2015.
Bear in mind that good link building isn’t just about quantity. It’s all about getting genuine links that have relevance to your audience and come to your site from reputable sources.
Key benefits of link building:
- Better visibility for your site or blog in search results;
- An increase in traffic from other websites;
- Helps your site to get indexed faster in search results;
- Better popularity for your website;
- The opportunity to give your audience access to a richer selection of information;
- The opportunity to make beneficial connections and build relationships with other businesses, bloggers or brands in your industry.
What Makes a Good Link Building Tactic?
There are a number of different strategies to use when it comes to link building, and getting it right can be a very challenging and time-consuming aspect of SEO. Getting it right can really give your site a competitive edge.
In the past, it was common for websites to use “reciprocal links” or “link exchange” as a link building tactic. Unfortunately, this approach was often abused and devolved into black hat tactics. SEOs would simply trade links with any site they could, instead of focusing on relevant, reputable sites for a link exchange opportunity. Some sites even had pages that were created specifically for trading links.
Because of this “quantity over quality” approach, Google devalues links that are only given for the sake of gaining a link in return. The search engine may even penalise site owners for excessive link exchanges. Since then, reciprocal links have become an outmoded tactic.
The best link building tactics are “evergreen” tactics. This means they will remain relevant and beneficial for site owners in the long term. These ten tactics are geared towards evergreen benefits, so if you can implement them successfully, you’ll significantly improve the reputation of your company website or blog.
Link Building Tactic #1: Put Content First
Content is king, and before you start looking for ways to get more links to your site, make sure users will want to share those links.
Ensure that the copy throughout your website is well-written and relevant. If you have a blog, make regular posts that focus on relevant, up-to-date topics that will interest your readers. Focus on quality and readability, rather than trying to cram in keywords.
Content that is shareable will organically start to generate links, as more readers notice and circulate your content online.
Good content goes a long way! Once you’ve perfected a piece of content, you can repurpose it, by reworking it into a different medium. For example, take some of your most popular blog posts and turn them into video content, podcasts or infographics. Or if you have a series of posts covering one topic, combine them and turn them into a downloadable, branded PDF.
Repurposing content means you get more mileage out of one piece of writing, which can help to reduce the time and money you put into creating fresh content.
Visuals also play a very important role in link-worthy content creation. Infographics can add plenty add value to your text-based content, and they’re good for sharing on social media.
Good infographics are user-friendly, visually appealing, and easy to understand – conveying a wealth of information in a succinct way. What’s more, you can add links to your infographics to direct users to other pages or posts on your site.
Good quality infographics and photographs are a big plus for your site, but the downside is that others might choose to use them without permission, or without crediting you as the source.
Sometimes bloggers will use an infographic they like, and simply forget to include the original link to the source. But others might simply steal images and use them as their own, without giving credit. The good news is you can leverage uncredited images to boost your link building efforts too.
First, round up all the original photographs, illustrations, diagrams and infographics on your site. These must all be your images, and you must own the copyright to them. Add all the image links to a spreadsheet.
Now you’ll need to find the websites that are embedding your images without credit. You can search for the image URLs using a tool like Google Image Search or Tineye. Make a note of all the link results you find.
Sift through the results and check whether they are giving credit for the use of your images. You can do this by searching for your site domain in the source code of each page. Make a list of those that aren’t crediting you. Then reach out to them and politely ask that they add a link. If this is done in good faith, for an image you own the copyright to, most people will do the right thing and will happily credit you as their source.
This is a good way to reclaim links that would otherwise be lost.
Link Building Tactic #2: Resource Page Link Building
A resource page is simply a web page that provides a list of helpful links and resources for a particular subject. Resource page link building is the process of getting your site added to lists like these, i.e. listed as a trusted resource for a certain niche.
Contact the owner of the resource page and alert them to your website’s presence – they might have no idea it exists – and explain why you feel your site would be a useful resource. If you’ve put in the work to create high-quality informative content, they will likely be happy to add you.
Not only will you get more links, but you’ll also enjoy a boost to your site’s reputation and be perceived as more credible by your target audience. People tend to trust resource links because their primary purpose is to help and inform, rather than sell.
How do you find these resource pages? You can enter specific search strings into Google to get some useful results. For example, if you run a blog about online marketing, you could try the following search strings using your topic as the keyword. Searches like these will get you started:
online marketing + “resources”
online marketing + “helpful resources
online marketing + “useful links”
You’ll likely find a huge variety of potential resource pages, so look for a few key factors to help you narrow down your choices. You can use tools like MozBar to find out more about the pages you’re considering. Look for resources with good page authority and domain authority.
In some cases, resource pages will actually have a line encouraging you to email them with relevant resources to add. They may even have a form on the page itself to submit resources.
Make sure your content is relevant to the audience of the pages you’re planning to contact. Some pages focus only on scientific papers and journals and will not include “everyday” blogs, so be sure to put your effort into pages where your content is more likely to be granted a link.
Reach out and pitch your content – you may want to focus on the one specific piece of content, or a specific section of your website. Send the webmaster a polite, professional request, and don’t be too pushy.
Link Building Tactic #3: Creating Resources and Tools
Content like infographics and “definitive” guides are good ways of generating links – but why not take it a step further and create your own free, user-friendly tools related to your industry? Simple visualisations, calculators, converters and trackers are great ways to engage your audience and generate links.
This is another great opportunity to reach out to resource pages and get your tools featured there.
Link Building Tactic #4: Broken Link Building
Broken links are those directed to content that is no longer available. They typically display an error message when clicked. Broken links and dead pages aren’t conducive to a good user experience, and can negatively impact the reputation of a website.
It’s important to identify broken links and either repair or remove them. This is where “broken link building” can be a useful tactic.
If you’re browsing a website or blog in your industry, keep an eye out for any broken links. When you find one, reach out to the webmaster and notify them that the link is broken. Suggest a replacement link to your own website or blog, if you have suitable content that is similar to what they were originally linking to.
Be sure to check your site regularly for broken links as well, to ensure visitors to your site are getting the best possible information and a seamless user experience.
Link Building Tactic #5: Guest Blogging
Guest blogging is a tried-and-trusted link building technique that has stood the test of time. A guest post on a reputable industry blog is a useful and very organic way to boost traffic and get natural backlinks to your site.
Did You Know? In 2018, Search Engine Journal noted the success of multiple entrepreneurs who have harnessed the power of guest blogging:
- Kissmetrics founder Neil Patel publishes an average of 100 guest posts a year.
- Leo Widrich of Buffer wrote a whopping 150 guest blog posts in two months to help build links to the site.
- Julia McCoy of Express Writers gained $5,000 from a single successful guest blog post on SitePro.
When looking for guest blogging opportunities, have a look at sites in your industry and ask yourself the following questions:
- Do they have good domain authority?
- Do they have a high social following?
- Do they send out a regular email newsletter?
- What is their site traffic like?
- What are their monthly pageviews and monthly reach?
- Are they currently accepting guest blog submissions?
- Do they credit guest writers?
- Look at the bio section of the site’s guest posters – will you have the opportunity to add a link?
When looking to get a guest post featured by an influencer in the industry, it helps to build a bit of a rapport first, before jumping straight into your pitch. Sign up to the site’s newsletter, and spend some time engaging with them across their various social platforms. Show that you care about the topic and have insightful thoughts to offer. Then you can get in touch with them directly and pitch your guest blog idea.
Successful guest posts can help you in the following ways:
- Generate links from well-respected in your niche;
- Encourage targeted traffic (more visits from users interested in your niche);
- Give your brand more exposure;
- Build your credibility;
- Create great relationship-building opportunities.
Guest posting can also be used to help you rank for highly competitive keywords, making it the backbone of a good tenant SEO strategy. Good guest blogs on high authority sites can help you to rank for keywords and phrases you wouldn’t realistically be able to target otherwise.
This can be especially beneficial for new websites trying to find a foothold in very competitive industries.
Link Building Tactic #6: Build a Community to Build Links
Create an online community for your users, in the form of a forum. This is where your target audience can come to ask and answer questions, have in-depth discussions, and share their favourite resources. Providing a forum will build steady referral traffic and user loyalty.
Here are some quick ways to start building a sense of community and interactivity on your website:
- Dedicate an area of your site to community-building and user posts;
- Enable comments on all your blog posts, so users can communicate their thoughts;
- Engage with your users by responding to their comments.
Link Building Tactic #7: Unlinked Mentions
Sometimes another blogger or site owner will mention you or your business without including a link to your site. Just as you can leverage uncredited images, you can also use unlinked mentions to gain more links.
In order to find relevant unlinked mentions, you can use a tool like Content Explorer. You can use the tool to find unlinked brand mentions and web pages related to a particular topic.
Once you have a list of pages containing unlinked mentions of your site, draft an email to each webmaster, thanking them for mentioning you and asking them to add a link to your site.
Link Building Tactic #8: Create and Contribute to Crowdsourced Content
A crowdsourced blog or “expert roundup” is created as a collaboration between a number of contributors with expertise in a certain field or topic. All contributors are credited. These are really valuable pieces of content that bring multiple expert opinions and tips together in one place.
Crowdsourced posts help you to:
- Reach a wider audience, as the content will be shared by a group of influencers among their followers, who will share it with their contacts in turn.
- Connect with your peers and audience, by opening up conversations and establishing relationships.
- Position yourself as a thought leader, and have your name associated with other authorities in your niche.
How do you go about crowdsourcing a piece of content? There are a few approaches you can take:
- Gather published quotes from a number of influencers, create a post and credit each of them.
- Reach out to your community via an email survey, newsletter or social media post, with the question or topic you’d like to discuss.
- Post a question or start a conversation on a reputable forum, and curate the feedback you get.
- Reach out directly to the influencers you want to work with. This can be intimidating for “small-time” site owners, but if you never ask, you’ll never know!
Be sure to choose a question that means something to your community. It shouldn’t be too simple, and it shouldn’t have one obvious answer. This is something that needs to spark a conversation or friendly debate. Research popular key phrases and industry news to determine the topics your community is most eager to discuss.
Link Building Tactic #9: Internal Link Building
So far, we’ve focused on ways to gain links externally, from other sites. Internal link building is also a powerful tactic. Internal links are used to link multiple web pages on the same domain. You can place them on your website, to link one page of your site to another.
Key benefits of internal links:
- They’re useful for helping Google and other search engines to discover new content while crawling the web.
- They help Google to understand and rank your content more effectively.
- Google states: “The number of internal links pointing to a page is a signal to search engines about the relative importance of that page.”
- You can use them to direct traffic to high priority pages with good conversion rates.
- They allow your users to navigate your website easily, improving the user experience.
- Internal linking is also very easy to implement.
Internal link building is useful because it gives you more control over where and how the links are placed, as well as the anchor text. You can use descriptive keywords that tell users (and search engines) what topic they will find when they click the link.
Link Building Tactic #10: Competitions and Community Outreach
It often pays to think outside of the box – or in this case, outside of the web page. Look for local non-profit organisations and find ways to support them with donations, volunteer work days or company outings to their premises. Non-profits typically give credit to their supporters in their email newsletters and on their blogs, as well as their social media channels. Lending a hand will improve your brand’s exposure, and help to establish your reputation as a business that supports their local community. It’s also a great opportunity for team-building.
If you sell a product or service, competitions and giveaways can help to generate engagement and earn you genuine links. You can run the competition on your own site or social channels, or reach out to other bloggers in your niche, asking entrants to share your content (like a blog or infographic) in order to stand the chance to win.
Alternatively, you can reach out to other bloggers in your niche who run regular competitions, and offer your product or service as the prize for their next competition. The competition announcement page should include a link to your site, for those who want more information about your products or services.
Hosting events like meetups or conferences can also help you to gain links. Attendees will share their experience on social media and some will write blogs about their experience, usually crediting and linking to the host. And of course, this is an excellent opportunity to meet and connect with others in your industry – building real-world relationships that will eventually translate into a stronger reputation for you and your business.
Black Hat Link Building Tactics
Black hat link building strategies are those that go against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. The risks associated with black hat tactics (such as heavy Google Penalties) don’t justify the potential rewards of these kinds of links.
Common black hat link building strategies include:
- Cloaking, where a site shows different content to the search engines compared to what is displayed to users.
- Including hidden keyword text on a page that is visible to search engines but not users.
- Inserting hidden links into other websites.
Google Penguin will target sites that use spammy link building techniques, doling out algorithmic penalties. Google may also issue a manual penalty for “unnatural links”. Find out more about algorithmic and manual penalties here.
To avoid being penalised by Google, be sure to keep a clean, white hat link profile across your website and blog.
One component of Lilo’s SEO services is white hat link building, placing ethical links to the client’s own site on high-authority external sites. This is one tactic that forms part of a larger, tailored SEO strategy for our clients.