Link building remains an integral part of a successful SEO and marketing strategy, and it’s essential that B2B marketers have a clear understanding of what it is, how it works, and how they can achieve link building success. Even though many people have heard of it, there’s a lot of confusion and myth surrounding the process. In some cases, a person’s efforts have a detrimental effect on their search engine ranking, for example; there is a correct and incorrect way to do things.
That’s why we’ve put together this article, in which we’ll cover the essentials of developing and maintaining a link building campaign that has a positive impact on your bottom.
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Before we get into the nitty and gritty details of how you can develop your link building portfolio, let’s first take a look at what links actually look like in practice. Essentially, it’s the process of getting a link to a page on your website hyperlinked on another website. These are called “backlinks.” For example, let’s say you run a website that sells pet food. If a blog on a third-party website had a post about looking after a dog, they may include a hyperlink for a URL on your website with the text ‘inbound marketing.’ The aim of developing a link building strategy is to get as many of these links placed on high authority websites.
There are two primary benefits to developing a robust link building strategy. The first is that it can point people who otherwise may never come to your website to your site. It essentially grants you more exposure, and puts your website in front of the audience of another website. That is one benefit; the other, which is much more important, is that it greatly affects a website’s Google ranking. In an age when there are so many websites vying for the top spot on the search engines, it’s vitally important that you use every trick in the book to get yours up there.
Aside from the points made above, as a B2B marketer you should care about link building because Google cares. Indeed, they’ve all but admitted that there are only two things that have a huge influence on how a web page ranks -- the quality of the content, and the quality of the links that point to that website. When you want to rank highly on Google, you’ve got to play by their rules: unfortunately it’s their game, their field, their ball. If they say backlinks are important, then they are. There are other reasons why link building is worthwhile to you, too. Web links are what the internet IS, for starters. And in the eyes of a web user, a link on a credible website is an endorsement, something that says “the website we’re linking to is trustworthy and sound.” Trust between the user and the website is more important than ever, and a backlink is a pretty solid endorsement of trust.
So you’ve concluded that backlinks are going to be good for business, but how do you actually go about getting them? You won’t be surprised to learn that it’s not quite as simple as just submitting your links to other websites, and waiting for them to include them on their web pages. It’s more of a longer-term process. Over time, you’ll hone in on the process that works best for you, be it reaching out to websites with guest posts, mutual linking, offering to switch out broken links on websites to working links (on your site), creating an infographic, or something else. We’ll take a look at these methods in more detail later on.
If you’re going to undertake a link building campaign, then it’s important that you’re not just focused on getting as many links on as many websites as possible (this actually isn’t a recommended method.) You need to develop a process for managing the links you have out there in cyberspace. This could be as simple as a Google Sheets spreadsheet with your links, where they’re located, and their effectiveness (such as the quality/relevance of the website where the URL is placed). This will help you have a clear view of how well your campaign is going, how many you have out there, and so on.
Of course, while we understand that link building is important, it’s not the only marketing tactic, and it can also be time-consuming and difficult to get to grips with. As such, you’ll want to look at having one person in charge of your backlink activity. This will help to avoid confusion when it comes to your link management, but also aid in your relationship development. It’s much easier for one person to know your links, processes, and potential relationships in detail, rather than have multiple players who understand just a little.
There’s little value in seeking other websites to place links if you don’t have your own house in order. Before diving into the complicated and time-consuming world of placing links, you’ll want to first focus on your own website, and make sure that it’s watertight. This means fixing any and all technical or design issues that your website has. For example, does your website have fast loading times? Is it optimised for mobiles? Is the SEO angle robust? Are all the pages on your website working properly?
You’ll also want to focus on your own website links. They’re the only ones on the web that are entirely under your control. It would be silly to overlook them!
Before you begin looking at your websites to host links to your website, you’ll need to first thing about who you’re trying to targeting. While the boost that back linking can give to your search engine ranking, it also functions as a way for new customers to organically find your website. To return to the example from earlier: a person who’s reading a blog about inbound marketing may reasonably also look for inbound marketing agencies in London. Enter your link. That’s a clear example, but sometimes you’ll need to think a little bit more abstract. There’s value in creating a buyer persona for various aspects of your business, including your link building strategy. If you have one, you’ll be able to approach websites that people who match your buyer persona visit.
You don’t always need to go out and ask other websites to link to your website. Sometimes, they’ll do it of their own accord. It does happen! The secret to this is to have excellently researched, high-quality content on your website, and then actively promoting it around the web. If the content is valuable, then you’ll find that other websites use it as a basis for blogs on their own site, which they’ll be obliged (by etiquette) to link to your website.
So what does a piece of sharable content look like, anyway? It should be well-presented, address a specific issue from a new angle (content that’s great but adds nothing new isn’t valuable), and contain the most up to date information. All of those ingredients will lead to a piece that’s valuable. From there, it’ll be about promoting it on your social media channels, and waiting for traction to develop. We've written a whole different article about generating good B2B content marketing here.
Because the world of building links can be complicated, it often makes sense to work with third-parties, especially in the case of writing. You’ll be able to focus on identifying potential link opportunities and managing your profile, while a professional writer can get down to the business of writing the content.
It’s not enough to know that you have links placed on another website. You need to have the data. For example, you’ll want a snapshot of where you’re currently linked online, how effective those links are, and which keywords are working -- and more importantly, which ones aren’t. If you’ve been the one that’s placed links on other websites, then a simple spreadsheet that allows you to keep tabs of where they are will suffice. For links that you didn’t place, you can use a backlink checker to see where they are.
As well as checking your own links around the web, you’ll also want to keep tabs on your competitors. There’s value in monitoring what they’re doing with relation to their products and services, customer service, and so on -- you should also have an idea about where they’re placing their links. Just like you can do with your own links, you can use a link checker. One recommended approach is to search the links for a number of your competitors, and then check if there are any keywords or websites that come up again and again. That’ll help tell you where you should be.
Backlinks are becoming a little bit like keywords. Back in the day, a website would fill their website with as many keywords as possible, and wait for Google to find them. But then Google got smarter. The same can be applied to backlinks. There was once upon a time when it was the number of backlinks that mattered -- but then Google wised up. Now, it’s much better to have one backlink on a high authority website rather than ten on low authority websites. As such, it’s worthwhile spending some time to develop a relationship with websites of quality. You may have to work a little harder to get them, but they’ll pay off.
This isn’t to say that keywords don’t have their place. They absolutely do; it’s just that you should avoid overusing them. If you’re getting your link placed on another website, then it should be included under a robust anchor text. It’ll work well, so long as the link looks natural (for both the website it’s being written for and the specific article it appears on). A good method for coming up with keywords is to use what people are searching for online as the anchor text.
Of course, it’s not always easy to get placed on high authority websites, especially in the early days of a website. If you’re trying to promote a website that has zero authority, it’s best to start with the sites that’ll be receptive to doing you a favour, such as sites belonging to your friends, family, connections, and so on. There won’t be much incentive for a website owner to include a link to your webpage (unless you have something exceptional). Start small, by getting on medium authority websites of the people that you know, and then slowly build up. Once your authority begins to creep up, you’ll be able to target the superior websites.
It’s best to have a diverse set of pages that are linked to on your website, rather than just one page (such as your homepage). Think of it as the same way as you would investing in stocks; it’s better to hold a diverse range of stocks, rather than put all of your chips on one company. By pointing links to various parts of your website, you’ll be elevating the overall backlink strength of your website.
You’ll want to make sure that all of your website is well-written, well-researched, and quality, but it’s extra important when it comes to the sites that you’re directly linking to. Google penalises links to websites with poor grammar, so your link may end up doing more harm than good for your website.
Now that we’ve looked at some of the best practices and rules to follow, let’s have a think about some of the most effective strategies when it comes to link building. There is no shortage of options, but there are some that are more valuable than others. Plus, it’s worth remembering that the success of a particular strategy is always in flux; it can be in vogue one year, and out of style the next. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the most effective approaches in 2019.
Your aim, ultimately, is to be placed on the highest ranking sites that you can. And though there are plenty of private websites with an excellent ranking, there are none better than official government and educational institution websites. This is because a large part of what determines the ranking of a site is its quality and reliability, which both .gov and .edu (and their counterparts in other parts of the world have in abundance). There are three ways to do this.
The first, which is the most straightforward, is to use the comments section of their websites, especially their blog pages, which they increasingly include. The second, which is more costly and time-consuming (though also more effective) is to create a scholarship -- essentially offering something of value to the students of the educational institution. The third is a little cynical, but effective -- you write a blog that outlines the best bloggers in a specific area, and award it to the person that runs the university's (or wherever) web page. They’ll want to include the award on their own page, and hey presto, you have a backlink,
People love visual content. This is one of the reasons why video has become so popular in recent years. Infographics, too, have long been a popular go-to option for sharing content, and though there were some commentators who predicted the demise of the infographic, in actual fact, the opposite is true: they’re more popular than ever. And they’re great for getting backlinks. Every website wants to have visual content on their website, but not everyone wants to go through the time-consuming process of creating them. If you’re able to create well-designed, well-researched infographics and promote them properly, then you’ll find that you end up on many people’s websites without trying.
Guest blogging on another website is arguably the most popular method of building backlinks, and with good reason: it’s effective, and also gives you more control of the content that contains your link. Another advantage is that everyone wins: the writer gets a backlink for their site, and the website gets some free content. Here’s how it works. First, you find a website in your industry in that accepts guest posts; you can do this by searching “[industry] “Guest Posts”” on Google.
Once you’ve identified the site, take a read of their submission guidelines. They usually only ask that it’s relevant to their website (which is in your best interest too), a word count expectation, and that you include a photo in the post. They’ll also outline information about their links policy. For example, some websites only allow a link to your site in your writer bio only. Others permit them to be hyperlinked within the body of the text.
The world is a space for conversation, and there are plenty of places to chat. If you’re involved in the chat, then you can also use it as an opportunity to get a backlink on another site. There are some rules to this, the main being that it can’t just be a three-word response and then a link to your website. You should be offering something of value, and posting on credible, high-quality websites. Quora is a good example of such a website. There, you’ll give a detailed, high-quality answer to a question. Somewhere in there, you’ll have a link to your website. This is doubly effective as your answer will help to develop your credibility, too.
It’s all good and well going after new mentions of your website, but what about the ones that already exist, but which are not hyperlinked? If you’ve been around for a few years and haven’t yet given thought to link-building, then it’s possible that you have many mentions that are just sitting there on other people’s pages, unlinked. Once you’ve found a mention, you can reach out to the website, and ask if they can insert a link to go along with their mention (providing the mention is positive). Since they’re using your name to in some way benefit their site, they’ll likely be happy to oblige.
The process of finding mentions of your company on another site isn’t as difficult as it sounds, either. Here’s what you do:
One of the handiest things about trying to get links on other websites is that it can be mutually beneficial. Not all the time, of course, but sometimes. If you come across an article on, say, ‘how to train your dog,’ and you have a webpage that goes into detail about one specific aspect of dog training (which the first article only touched upon), you could reach out and ask the blogger to include a link to your article. It’ll give added authority to their article, and you’ll get a backlink. To sweeten the deal, you can offer to include a link to their website on your article too.
If you can’t get a link placed on a .edu or .gov site (this will be especially difficult if you don’t yet have much authority), you can always look at another high-quality site -- Wikipedia. If you’ve got something to add to an article, you can edit it, and then include your website as the source of the information. Now, it should be mentioned that this isn’t as easy as we’ve just made it sound. The editors at Wikipedia are (rightly) extremely difficult to please, so you should therefore only attempt to edit articles and create links if you legitimately have something of value to add.
As has probably become clear, there’s very often something of a give and take when it comes to backlinks. You give something, and get something in return, such as writing a blog post, answering someone’s question on Quora, and so on. Another example of this type of arrangement is to provide testimonials and reviews for other websites. These are requests that most businesses, who know the value of having reviews on their website, are more than happy to accept.
It works like this: you reach out to a company offering to write a review or testimonial for the company, for their website. In return, you’re able to insert a backlink to your website. Under the name of the reviewer, it would be something like ‘John Doe, senior editor at [websitename.com],’ and perhaps also a photo. It’s a backlink for your website, but one that the other company is happy to give -- reviews are more likely to be trusted if there are a name and face behind the words.
Instead of reaching out to other blogs in an attempt to get placed on their website, why not cut out the middle person, and start your own blog? Now, it should be noted that it’s not a matter of simply firing up a WordPress blog and flooding the page with blogs that all contain a subtle nod to your main site. That’ll have a negative bearing on your authority. Instead, you should treat it as you would a serious blog. That means updating it regularly, building up its authority, and so on. Over time, when it’s ranking well, you can use it to boost your backlink profile. To save time when it comes to building the authority process, it’s a good idea to buy an expired domain that already has some authority -- it’ll mean you won’t need to start from scratch.
Part of the challenge of getting your link building strategy up and running well is that it’s one of those things that is difficult to master, easy to mess up. Here, we’ll run through some of the common areas that marketers make when it comes to their life building strategy.
It’s oh so tempting to make the most of all those open forums and comment sections to build your authority. However, it’s important to resist the temptation to include your website URL on all open corners of the internet, for the simple reason that Google won’t respect them. A link has to be connected to quality. That’s why a long-form comment of value on Quora will work. Spamming the comments section with no-value sentences and your URL will have no effect.
Another issue that can plague link building strategists is the non-availability of high-quality websites for their links. As an alternative, they look further down the chain, and then further again down the chain, until all they’re left with is bottom of the barrel sites. Now, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be placed on the highest end sites (such as, say, the Huffington Post) without putting in considerable work, but it’s important that you don’t lump in all sites that aren’t top of the range in with each other. There should be a pyramid formation approach for the quality of sites. If you aren’t placed on the best websites, then dip down into your second and third categories by all means, but avoid going all the way down the bottom. If you’re approaching websites that have nothing whatsoever to do with your interest, then it’s time to rethink your approach. You’ll get placed on those websites, but they won’t have a positive impact on your ranking -- indeed, quite the opposite.
Following on from that theme, let’s remember that it’s the quality of the link that counts, not how many you’ve got out there. You’ll spend the same amount of time and energy trying to get placed on one decent website as you will trying to get twenty links onto low-quality websites. If you’re going to sink resources into this aspect of your marketing, make sure you’re not forever going after the lowest-hanging fruit.
If you follow the best practices when it comes to link-building, you’ll increase your chances of success. In many cases, it’s not what you do, but how you do it. For example, reciprocal linking can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the approach. If you’re partnering with relevant websites and the links make sense (for the internet user), then that’s fine. If you’re approaching websites to exchange links when no value is being added, then that’s the wrong approach.
If Google says that it’s essential, then it is. Whether the website does the work in-house or themselves is not important, the important thing is that they’re doing it. It has too big an influence on the site’s search engine ranking to be ignored.
You’re not going to wing it. As such, it’s important to think about where you want to be linked, how you’re going to do it, and so forth.
Not all links are created equal. Sink your time, energy, and resources into grabbing those longs that’ll be worth your effort.
It’s all about people. Take time to foster mutually beneficial relationships; they’ll serve you well for many years.
Finally, know the difference between the acts that’ll help or harm your website ranking. Google doesn’t like to be manipulated, and have shown they’ll crack down on people who abuse or try to cheat the system.