What is Link Building?
Link building refers to actively increasing the number of links to your website, generally because you’re trying to improve your search engine ranking or spread the word about your business. It uses assets you create and host on your website to acquire the links – whether an ebook, white paper, case study, infographic, or another helpful resource. You must also know that quality and authoritative links help, but your rankings could suffer from Toxic or malicious links.
Link building takes time and effort, and Google wants to see those links come naturally over time. Black hat SEOs often turn to buy links, which is a massive no-no to trying to cut out the hard work involved in proper link building. While it may help increase ranking temporarily, it always comes back to bite you. But do it right, and your efforts will pay off tremendously.
Designing Your Link-Building Campaign
As tempting as it may be to go out and start asking people to link to your content, that’s not an effective way to accomplish it and will, more often than not, be a gigantic waste of your time. Approaching it systematically with a clear plan will take longer, but it will yield a much higher ROI.
Link building refers to actively increasing the number of links to your website, generally because you’re trying to improve your search engine ranking or spread the word about your business. It uses assets you create and hosts on your website to acquire the links.
Set Your Goals
Knowing the goals you’re trying to accomplish with the link-building campaign will help you devise the best possible strategy to help you reach those goals. Whatever your goal with the campaign is, it should tie into your overall business goals. For example, if your goal is to build ten links – that’s not a good goal to hit if building those ten links won’t affect the overall success of your business.
Sure, you have a goal to build quality links; the more authoritative links, the better because those play a significant role in search engine rankings. But, because link building won’t make you overnight success and impacts aren’t immediate, you need more reasonable goals than “Build 100 links.”
Developing Your Assets
Your assets are what you will use to attract and earn the links. What works for you will vary from business to business and from industry to industry. An excellent way to think about it is what you can use to hook people. What will make them care about you and what you have to offer? The most common asset is content; others include data, products, services, and people. Regardless of which assets you want to use, they need to be created to serve the audience you’re trying to attract.
Think about what kinds of links you need to get. Options include:
- Homepage links
- Links to deep pages within your site
- Links that contain your brand or company name
- Links that have keywords you’re targeting
To determine which ones you need, begin with a detailed link analysis on your current website. Also, look at how you rank for specific keywords compared to your competition. Use Open Site Explorer for this analysis so you know what your link profile looks like at the start. It can help you identify opportunities for improvement, which may help guide you in asset creation or help you see current assets you can use to attract links.
Finding Link Targets
Think about the type of people you should contact because you don’t want to waste energy on those who wouldn’t be interested in your content. On the other hand, randomly reaching people will lead to a lower response rate and a hit on your reputation.
Before you start your link-building campaign, at least have a rough idea of who you think will care about what you’re doing. Who will care enough to link to it? That’s what matters. Let’s say you’re putting together a piece of content called “The Stress-Free Guide to Holiday Meals with Family and Friends” because you know how much people enjoy eating holiday meals, but stress out about making them or hosting the gatherings.
Who would be interested in this guide?
- Food bloggers: They habitually share recipes with their audience all the time!
- Parent bloggers: They know how stressful it can be managing a household with littles running around and are usually willing to receive stress-reduction and time-saving tips.
- Recipe sites: They’re willing to share anything that contains fantastic recipes!
We must dig deeper to find them now that we know who we’re after.
Locate Blogger Lists with Google
Search “list of food bloggers,” “list of parent bloggers,” and “list of recipe sites,” and you’ll find no shortage of lists to work through, where someone has already done the hard work of putting together the list.
Use a tool like a Scraper to grab all the URLs from the page. Put them in a spreadsheet for later, and then use the URL opener to open all of them with a single click. This way, you can look at them to ensure they are relevant to your content and locate contact information.
Harness the Power of Twitter
You can search Twitter for lists of bloggers and influencers, but you can also use a third-party tool, Followerwonk, to search bios. Search again for a food blogger, parent blogger, or recipe site to find Twitter users to connect to. Download your results to a spreadsheet, and you’ll be able to find the websites associated with those people to include in your list.
Researching Link Targets
At this point, you want to do a bit more research on the people you’re targeting. First, look at their social media profiles to see what they’re sharing, to make sure they’re still active, and whether they only promote their content or include others.
As you go through their websites, take notes of what they’ve shared and what interests them, so you can use them to craft a personalized pitch to them when you contact them later. Using a generic approach shows the person you don’t care about what they have to offer you – and you haven’t done your homework. It’s the quickest way to get ignored.
Next, look for contact details for the websites you find relevant. Check the header and footer for a link to a contact page or an about page that often lists contact details. You can use the ToutApp Chrome plugin to highlight email addresses on the page for you.
Prioritizing Link Building Targets
Once you have your list of link targets, it’s time to group them by priority so that you can customize your messages accordingly. You can prioritize them in any number of ways. However, you feel it is most appropriate for you.
- By blogger influence, for example, the number of social media followers on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook
- By likelihood of linking, for example, food bloggers compared to parent bloggers
- By domain metrics, for example, domain authority
Outreach For Building Links
Now it’s time to start talking to people about your campaign. Begin with your high-level targets because they can get you good results if they respond. And you can use them later for social proof when you reach out to the smaller websites. If smaller sites see other influencers have picked up on your content, they will be more open to sharing it when you contact them.
Remember, you’re contacting a real person, so craft your pitches with the information you noted in your research. Call out certain content you like that they created and shared. Focus on honest conversation and prove to them the value your content will offer them. They don’t owe you anything, and you ask them for a favor. Keep the message short and sweet but detailed enough to show them why they need to care and what action you want them to take. Offer to write the content for them because they may like your content but not have enough time to write about it. However, save that last bit for the most significant influencers because it will require additional time and resources – so it’s not something you want to offer everyone.
Personalize the message with their name, a good subject line, something specific about their work, and an appropriate email signature. If you come off as a spammer, this and any future attempts to connect will be ignored.
If you don’t hear from someone after that first email, it’s okay. People get busy, and the more popular bloggers and influencers will get emails like this daily. Following up once is okay if you don’t get a reply the first time. This reinforces that you’re a real person and not a spammer using automated software to make contact.
Keep your outreach organized so you can tell who you need to follow up with and when. You can track replies in a CRM or a standard spreadsheet.
It can be discouraging if you get negative responses, but you should always take the time to reply instead of ignoring them. This builds a relationship because you never know when you could have a better opportunity to work with this person again. Get as much feedback and information as possible so you can use it to improve future campaigns.
Tips for Link Building Campaigns
Guest Blog for Other Websites in Your Niche
The author byline is a great way to get links and build your brand back to your site and encourages people who like your work to go back there to learn more about you. You want to guest post on high-quality, high-profile websites, though, because those are the ones that will do the most work for you. If you’re blogging on sites with no authority or traffic, it won’t do you any good.
Find sites in your niche that allow for guest posting by going to Google and searching “write for us” or “contribute” with your niche keywords. Sites like SEMRush, Search Engine Journal, and Entrepreneur are great for those in the SEO, Online Marketing, or Business niches. Every niche has high-powered and respected publications, but you can also find Medium publications that accept contributions if you want something different.
Make Use of Broken Links When Link Building
Prospecting for broken links is an excellent way to connect with people. If you find a broken link on someone’s website that your content could be a viable replacement for, you can provide mutual benefit.
Use a tool like Check My Links to find broken links and email the site owners to let them know you found a broken link on their site. They’ll likely be thankful you spotted something for them, and you can casually mention you have a link they could replace it with.
Take your time with link building, and remember you need different domains in your link profile, too. If your main competition has 1,000 referring domains, you need at least 1,001 to have a shot at competing. You never know what kind of ongoing link-building efforts they have, so you should never really stop trying to build links.
The importance of uploading your disavow file during a site move from insecure HTTP to secure HTTPS cannot be overstated. Forgetting to upload this crucial file can nullify all the hard work you have done in detoxifying your link profile and disavowing unwanted links. Now let’s explore why the disavow file is often overlooked during the HTTP-to-HTTPS migration and why it is crucial to your website’s success.
Detoxifying your link profile is a painstaking process that involves ridding your site of unwanted links such as spammy, artificial, or low-quality ones. At SEO Inc., we have performed hundreds of link detoxes, removing 21 manual penalties and many algorithmic penalties. Our clients who have benefited from our link detox services have seen their rankings return. Ultimately, a link detox is designed to restore your rankings. When a website gets many crummy links pointing at it, Google can slap it with a penalty. Disavowing these links is one way to ensure your website is not associated with spam.
However, forgetting to upload your disavow file to your new HTTPS site in Google Search Console means there is no layer of protection between you and all those crummy links you had already disavowed. All the linking signals, both good and bad, will eventually transfer over to the HTTPS site. This means that all those toxic links that you had disavowed will now point to your new site, defeating the purpose of disavowing them in the first place.
When you forget to upload your disavow file, you create more work for yourself during the site move by having to find your most recent disavow file and import it to the new property. This mistake is time-consuming and detrimental to your website’s success.
The question then is, why does this mistake happen, and how can you avoid it? When moving from HTTP to HTTPS, you must juggle many tasks to smooth the transition. The disavow area in Google Search Console isn’t the most accessible section, so it’s often overlooked. Here are some specific mistakes we have seen that have led to some bumpy website moves:
- Not implementing 301 permanent redirects from HTTP to HTTPS. Preserving your links is a high priority when moving your site to HTTPS. Neglecting this could result in broken links that frustrate users and sever valuable sources of precious link juice. 301 redirects ensure that your old links send users (and search engines) toward the right places.
- Forgetting to update settings in Google Analytics. Google Analytics is one of the most potent tools a webmaster can wield. However, failing to update it for your HTTPS property means you’ll miss out on all the data for your new site. This mistake could cost you your ROI, which you cannot afford.
- Failing to update hard-coded links from HTTP to HTTPS. Old links pointing to the HTTP page that is then redirected to the HTTPS version will lose some link juice or PageRank. Make sure to link to the correct versions.
Everything we’ve mentioned above is usually kept front-of-mind over the disavow file, which is why it’s often forgotten. When moving your site over, there are three things to remember when uploading your disavow file:
- Set up your new Search Console property. Your new HTTPS site will be separate from the old HTTP version, but the disavow file will be the same. All you’re doing is moving the former disavowed file to the new site to preserve all the disavowed links.
- Make sure you know what you’re disavowing. If you disavow a link at the domain level
If you need help with a link-building strategy, let us take care of it. Contact the team at SEO Inc. today to learn more about how we can help you grow your online presence.