Link building has to be part of every search engine optimization project, no matter whether you’re dealing with a brand new or an aged website. Why? Because the number (and quality) of links coming to a website from others, and going out from your website to others is a major ranking signal. You could have a perfectly optimized site, but without links, you’ll struggle to obtain any kind of substantial ranking.
Now, there are two kinds of link building – white hat, and black hat. White hat methods are the ones I’ll focus on here, because Google and other search engines are against the black hat methods. Those are shady techniques that may work for a short period of time, but are ultimately against terms of service and could cause your ranking to come crashing down thanks to a manual penalty or a future algorithm change.
White hat methods take longer, but build ranking more naturally. As such, this kind of ranking is easier to sustain over a period of time because you’re much less likely to fall victim to a manual penalty and better able to withstand any algorithmic changes. Focus on providing value to your readers, and you’ll be on the right track – because everything Google does is aimed at improving the user experience for searchers.
This is by no means an exhaustive list – but here are 9 link building methods that I consider the most effective.
1. Earn Your Links with Quality Resource Content
Create content that others can use and link to as a resource for their audience. Though it can take a while to craft this kind of content, especially when it comes to case studies, research, and other types of in-depth material. Try to include a variety of this kind of content in your editorial calendar so you can still keep publishing while you build it.
2. Make it Easier for People to Link to You
Who doesn’t love easy? If you’re publishing an infographic that you want others to share, include the HTML code with a link back to your site already built in. That way those who are interested only have to copy and paste that code to display the infographic on their own blog. Each time they do, you get a back link.
3. Link Out to Quality Resources
Whenever there’s a quality resource to help your readers find more information, link to it appropriately. For example, if you’re writing a piece related to small business funding, you could link to the Small Business Administration. While it’s a long shot you’ll get them to link back to you, the point is you’re adding value for your readers. And sometimes, when you link to smaller but equally valuable sites, you may get a link back from them.
Whenever you link to someone else in your content, share the article and let them know you’ve mentioned them. While they may not link back to you, they will likely share the content with their own audience, which helps build traffic since it increases exposure to your content. You may find you get new social followers, which also helps build potentially valuable relationships.
4. Link to Other Internal Relevant Pages
You have pages and posts on your website, so you should link to them wherever it is appropriate on your website. Internal links are a huge part of link building since you are in complete control of everything about them, from their location on a page to their anchor text.
There are CMS plugins that automatically hyperlink a certain word every time it appears on your website – this is what Wikipedia and similar sites use – but it’s not really a good idea unless you’re a big brand, or enhances the user experience. I’d recommend instead, to go through all your previously published content and link in context wherever it makes sense – changing up the anchors accordingly.
As you write new content, you can link to certain topics you’ve already written about it, so you can link to it and ensure it makes sense from your reader’s perspective. You’ll see that I do it often on blog posts. My first purpose is always for you, my readers, to help make it easier for you to read more on a topic I’ve previously covered. But, it does help from a back link and SEO perspective, too.
5. Spy on Your Competitor’s Backlink Profiles for a Starting Point
Spend a decent amount of time looking through your competitor’s back link profiles. You’re saving yourself time in the long run because sites that link to your competition may also link to you. And, you’ll learn how many links, and the types of domains those links need to come from to help you beat them in the search engines.
Of course, you won’t be able to get links from all the same websites – like if your competitor was mentioned in a random news article. But, you may find a high-quality niche directory you could easily get a link from – one that you didn’t know about before.
A great tool for this is Ahrefs. Run your competitors through the tool and export their backlinks to a .CSV file. Then, place them all in a single Excel workbook, so you can sort them with various metrics to find the best opportunities for your own site.
Remember, you don’t have to stop once you run through your full list of direct competitors. You can also take a look at indirect competitors in your vertical or other relevant niche sites are getting links. If you’re a local business, look at other sites in your area. If you’re in ecommerce, take a look at how other sites are getting links to the same kinds of pages you’re struggling with.
6. Just Ask
Start with the people you know – friends, relatives, clients, business partners, or anyone else. Someone you know has a website or a blog of their own, so you never know who may be willing to link to you.
Generally speaking, not just any links will do. It’s better to get to links from relevant websites. If it’s not relevant to your niche or your audience, it won’t have much of an impact on your rankings, and website owners will be less likely to link to you. So, if your best friend runs a clothing website, and you’re building a site on goldfish ownership and care, it’s not going to make much sense.
You can also ask the people from your competitor’s lists. There are plenty of email templates out there to help you figure out what to say – though blindly emailing may not be the best way to go about it. It’s better if you can build a relationship with someone at the company before asking for something. You can use a tool like Voila Norbert to find corporate email addresses if you’re in the B2B space, and then a tool like MailShake to help you handle cold emailing.
7. List Your Site in Relevant, Trustworthy Directories
These links vary in value depending on the quality and size of the directory. The key is focusing on the directories where your potential customers will be looking to find you. There are numerous trustworthy directories in the homebuilding niche, for instance – such as Porch, Houzz, and Angie’s List. If you have a service related to building a home – make sure you join those platforms. There are many free directories you can submit to for decent back links.
There are also paid directories you can join, such as Chamber of Commerce. Some of these paid listings can pass legitimate link value, but others won’t really pass anything and aren’t worth the time and money. Others worth considering are Business.com and the Better Business Bureau, if you run a business that makes sense to list in either of those. Certain niche specific directories also require payment to be included.
If you’re in a global business and have versions of your website available in multiple languages, you could submit to appropriate non-English directories, as well.
8. Include Your Link in Testimonials You Leave for Others
Take a few minutes to write a list of the products and services you’ve bought recently. As long as it doesn’t come from a massive company like Walmart, there’s a fairly decent chance you can get a link on their site in exchange for leaving a testimonial or a review. Of course it will depend on the domain and whether it’s dofollow or nofollow as to how much weight, if any, it will hold as a back link, so do your research before sending out mass emails to offer testimonials.
9. Include Your Website on Profiles Wherever You Can
If you sign up to become a member for most sites, you’ll get a link in your profile. Not all of these links will be do-follow and pass link juice through Google, such as the case with Twitter. Even if you don’t get the link juice, that’s one more place for people to discover your website, so you should include it. This way, you can at least drive traffic to your site.
The best thing to do is start with an analysis of your own website’s back link profile. Check to see what links are already out there, and then craft a strategy based on the amount of time you have available. Dedicate a bit of time each day to building new links to your website with any of these methods, because too many links too fast will send signals to Google that something fishy is going on. Links should appear naturally, so as tempting as it may be to build out as many as you can as fast as you can for increased rank, you could be shooting yourself in the foot.
Keep an eye out for next week’s post when I share even more back link building methods you can use to improve your rank.