Lots of business owners see link building as a dark art. A pointless task that can sap a lot of your time and energy with no guaranteed ROI.
If you’re not a savvy inbound marketer, SEO, blogging and content marketing can feel useless. Link building is often placed at the top of this list. It’s seen as a waste of time, energy and often returns intangible results.
But link building isn’t something to dread. Not only can it help create business partnerships and collaborations, but done correctly it can increase the amount of visitors to your site.
And for most SEO executives that isn’t even the main goal of a link building campaign, it’s an added benefit, something else positive to report on. Most link building campaigns have the goal of increasing a website’s authority in the eyes of Google.
Crawling the web, how spiders rank your site
To understand a website’s authority we need to understand how Google judges and indexes a website.
Google has millions of digital robots called “spiders” constantly crawling the web. That analogy might make your skin crawl but it’s a very accurate way to think about how Google indexes sites.
These spiders are constantly crawling and will, on average, re crawl the same site once every two weeks. They will land on a site’s homepage, crawl it to check for new updates like new text and then follow every internal link on your homepage (links in your nav bar for example) and will index all the other pages on your site in the same way.
This allows Google to build a picture of your site and helps it understand what it’s about. Crawling a site regularly gives Google the information it needs to rank your site’s content and will serve relevant web pages up to searchers using the search function on Google.
If you’ve ever wondered how Google decides what to show in its results when someone searches something, crawling sites is how it does it.
So, where do backlinks fit into all this?
When Google crawls a site it doesn’t just index all the information on the site’s pages. It also looks at the internal and external linking structure of the site.
If that sounds too technical it basically means Google looks at which pages on your site are linked to one another AND what other websites have links pointing to your site.
Having lots of links pointing to your website is an important factor Google considers when ranking your site. This is why backlinks are so important.
The more backlinks you have from other sites the more you can prove to Google that you’re a trustworthy, credible source of information. The more you can do that the more likely Google is to rank your content and services highly when people are searching for a solution to a problem.
You can have the most beautifully designed website in the world, with a well written blog and great navigation but it will still struggle to rank for tougher search terms without a healthy backlink profile.
So, how do you build a banklink profile and campaign that’ll help boost your site’s authority and get you ranking on the first page of Google? Below are three things you should consider to make sure you’re generating regular healthy backlinks to your site.
Getting Relevant backlinks
This is one of the most important factors to consider when asking other domains for backlinks. How relevant to your customer is the information or services provided by the site you want a backlink from?
For example, there’s no point getting loads of backlinks from stationary suppliers if you’re a car dealership. When Google crawls your site it will see you’re a car dealership but then get confused when it sees loads of backlinks from pencil merchants. This will make Google rank your site lower than your competition.
A good strategy for building healthy backlinks is by partnering with companies that work in adjacent industries to you. So, if you run a car dealership, messaging car insurers for backlinks is a good way to build both your websites authorities without directly competing for customers.
When Google crawls your car dealership site and sees you have links from car insurance sites, car accessories sites and car maintenance sites it’s going to see your site as an industry expert. The relevant links from other sites will count in your favour and help your site rank higher on Google’s search engine results page.
How to get relevant backlink
Sadly there’s no quick-fire way to generate lots or relevant backlinks to your site. A backlinking campaign needs to be considered and thorough. It can take a while to build up the relationships with other sites to the point where they’ll give you a backlink.
Some strategies that can work are:
Produce an article on your site that lists your 10 favourite car accessories (let’s stick with the car dealership example) for busy families. Once the article is written you can message the companies who made the accessories and ask them to link to your listicle. It’s free marketing for them and you’ve written some nice things about their products which they’ll want to show off to their customers and linking to your site is the best way to do that.
Like a listicle but a bit more direct. This might take longer than writing a “top 10” article but asking a company if you can review their product will greatly increase your chance of getting a backlink from them.
Once you’ve published your review you can send it over to the company and work on a little promo and linking campaign to push your review out there. A review adds a lot of credibility to a company so they should be happy for you to write on and share it on their site.
Use a broken link check tool
This is where things can get a bit more frantic. You can find a company that offers an adjacent service to your own and put their site through a free online broken link checker tool. This will show you a list of the site’s broken links. What you need to do from there is email the site’s manager and let them know you’ve found a broken link on their site and offer a link to some of your website’s content instead.
This might sound easy but you are gambling with your time. You could scan a site only to find it has no broken links, or the broken links it does have aren’t relevant to your site or content. Even if the broken link and your site does match up there’s no way to guarantee the website manager will swap out the links.
If you’ve got a large SEO team and the time to dedicate someone to backlinking this could work. Otherwise it may be more trouble than it’s worth.
Backlink diversity, what does that mean and how do you get it?
So we know that relevance is important when making a good backlinking profile but what do we mean when we say diversity? Link diversity can be split into two key areas, new vs existing links and the type of linking pages. We’ll go through these individually in this section.
New vs existing links
When you’re hunting for backlinks it’s important to get links from a number of different domains. The value of each new link from the same domain decreases exponentially so having ten backlinks from one domain isn’t as valuable as having three from three different domains.
Building up a great partnership with one other website won’t cut it as a backlinking strategy. You need to show Google you’re constantly gaining new backlinks from highly relevant sites to prove to it your a high quality website.
That isn’t to say multiple backlinks from the same domain should be avoided. They still carry value and Google will notice when you’re receiving multiple backlinks from one site and give value to them. It’s just not wise to make this your entire strategy as you’ll likely see your website struggle to rise up the rankings.
Types of linking pages
There are lots of different types of websites out there. There are forums, message boards, chat sites along with traditional websites and marketplaces like Amazon and eBay. Each site is viewed slightly differently by Google but one isn’t “better” than the others. Google likes to see a variety of sites linking to your domain.
If you’ve only got backlinks from sites like Quora or Reddit (Where you can post the backlink yourself) Google will ascribe less value to these collectively than a site that has links from Reddit, Amazon, online news sites, and other relevant domains.
When you’re trying to build links it can be tempting to try the tactic above. Heading to the message boards and answering questions with a link back to your site in your answer.
This is a good tactic but it must be done in conjunction with other types of link building. By combining this strategy with the ones we mentioned in the relevance section you can begin to create a varied approach to your link building efforts which will reward you in the long run.
Getting Authoritative backlinks
When we’re talking about SEO and backlinking, authority has a specific meaning. A site’s authority is how trustworthy it is in the eyes of Google. A key goal for any SEO specialist is increasing their sites authority and therefore increasing its ranking on Google’s search engine results page.
But how do we measure a sites authority
This can be a bit tricky. Google is famous for keeping its cards close to its chest and doesn’t offer any data on how they measure authoritativeness or the scores they’ve given any specific site.
But not to fear, there are a host of third-party tools that will approximate a site authority score for you and many of them are free. We’ve included two below:
Ahrefs – has a free version of its tool that will measure a sites Domain Rank
Moz.com – also has a free version of its software that’ll tell you a sites Domain Authority
Domain Authority, Domain Rank? These are interchangeable and mean the same thing. One thing to note is that these are approximations of Google’s score based on Moz and Ahrefs best estimate of how Google’s ranking a website. In real terms this means very little, it’s just worth noting.
So why does authority matter?
Your website will have an authority score. Every website does. The goal of your backlinking campaign is to gain more backlinks from domains with higher authorities than you. Whilst there’s no negative impact to receiving a backlink for a website with a lower authority score than you it will do nothing positive for your authority and rankings.
Most tools measure authority out of 100 and a website that’s sitting around the 40 – 60 mark is doing very well.
When asking websites for backlinks be sure to check their authority using one of the tools we’ve mentioned above. Check your own sites authority and use that to gauge whether it’d be worthwhile chasing backlinks from specific sites.
How should you approach building a backlinking profile?
Like any inbound marketing strategy whether it’s blogging, content creation or backlinking the key to success lies in patience. You’re not going to see oodles of success over night from a handful of backlinks. A strategy like this takes determination, discipline and time. After 12-18 months of solid backlinking work you’ll begin to see your efforts snowballing into an unstoppable SEO machine.
If you’re a small team and all this seems like a lot of manual work the best way to approach it is by parceling off what time you can to work on it every week or month. Something is always better than nothing and even a few backlinks gained monthly can help you on your way to the top of Google.
If you need help sorting out your backlinking strategy and website’s SEO Forever Agency can help you on your way to the top of the Google rankings. We’re an experienced SEO agency in Manchester who can help you stay ahead of your competition. We work with clients across a range of industries so drop us a message to see how we can help you!