A 2013 study by Search Metrics, (Rank Correlation 2013 for Google USA), showed that backlinks remain essential to a good ranking strategy – with the number of links being the third most important factor. But let’s be careful about focusing too much on link numbers…
In these post-Penguin days, sites continue to rank well based on relevance and authority. Relevance means providing useful, on-point content. Authority, in terms of link building, has evolved to include attributes like:
- Social Signals (Are your links being shared on social networks?)
- Trust Rank (Are you getting backlinks from reputable, on-topic sites?)
- Freshness Factor (How often are you getting new links?)
- Outbound Links (Are you selectively choosing to link out to high-quality sites?)
Here are some link building best practices to keep in mind as you prepare to go after quality backlinks:
1. Focus first on quality and relevance.
As you research the websites you want to include in your link building strategy, make sure those sites cater to the audience you are targeting and regularly feature the kind of content that matters to you. Link building needs to be a thoughtful process. Sure, you could solicit hundreds, even thousands of random links to drive traffic to your site, but irrelevant links won’t attract quality leads – and they may actually hurt your authority score in Google’s eyes.
2. Be remarkable.
Write great content. Focus on educating, not selling. Offer ideas people want to link to and share.
3. Promote your content.
We all know the quote “if you build it, they will come.” To some extent this mantra applies to your site content, but you’ll get significantly more traction with active promotion. Share your content in social circles, where your target market participates and freely offers links back to quality sites. Most of these will be “no follow” links that will not give you official “credit,” but as you continue to build a presence within the right forums, your messages overall will earn more credibility and attract more link building opportunities.
4. Spread the love.
Make sure your link building strategy doesn’t just bring people to your home page. Create links that land on different pages of your site. Make sure the language used in the link (the anchor text) aligns with the content on the landing page as much as possible. Readers should immediately feel like they’ve arrived at the right place.
5. Take your time.
Link building is like relationship building. You don’t walk into a single event and expect to leave with 100 great new relationships, right? Instead, you make a handful of connections that you can nurture and grow over time. Treat your link building the same way – start small and build momentum.
6. Clean up your act.
Think you are clever by visiting industry blogs, commenting on a post, then casually leaving a link back to your site? You are not. Most site managers see right through these comments; they’ll delete your link no matter how complimentary you are. Don’t be deceitful. If you want a link from the site, just ask. Look at who the site caters to, write a custom request to the site owner, explain why a link to your site is relevant to their audience, and give a good business reason.
7. Offer free content.
Are you considering link building through guest blogs or other content contributions? Here is an article on crucial do’s and don’ts when making your pitch – Link Outreach No Nos. (See how that worked? Nicole wrote an article I liked and thought would be helpful to our audience. Now I am sharing it and extending her some relevant link juice in the process! And, no… I don’t know her!)
It’s easy to get confused by the changing rules for SEO and backlinks. Some marketers avoid the headache by ignoring link strategy altogether. But the biggest takeaway here is actually pretty encouraging:
Going forward, search engine optimization is more and more about simply being human. All the tricks and schemes are being replaced with honest discussions, original writing, helpful answers, one-on-one networking – the kinds of things good companies already do in their offline marketing. If you need more advice or resources to get your expertise online, we can help.