A simple guide to link building in 2019
Link building is an essential part of any successful search strategy.
Along with perfecting your on-page optimisation and making sure the technical elements of your site are in order, well-executed off-page SEO campaigns have the potential to get you ahead of your competition and boost your online visibility.
Link building with content
There are lots of different approaches to link building but inspiring content and data-focused stories are often the fuel that gets brands the links and coverage they need online. Whether that’s through data-driven infographics, helpful online hubs, or uncovering the surprising stories publications, sites and press want to link to.
But beyond ideas and outreach process there always needs to be a grounding in the SEO basics that make up a great off-page strategy. And that’s what we’ll be sharing with you in this post.
In this guide we’ll cover the link building basics you need to know, and some of our top tips for future success.
Let’s get started.
What are link building campaigns?
Link building or off-page SEO campaigns aim to grow the number of links pointing from other sites back to your own site.
When a site includes a link back to your website, search engines see this as a virtual thumbs up – a sign that your site and the content on it is valuable and can be trusted.
The more trusted a website is by search engines, the higher it’s domain authority or DA rating.
How can link building campaigns help SEO?
A well-executed link building strategy can deliver plenty of benefits to your overall search performance and help to boost brand visibility.
In fact, links continue to be one of the most important rankings factors for search engines.
According to Moz’s Search Ranking Factors survey, search professionals believe Domain-Level Link Features (DLLF) account for 20% of Google’s overall weighting when assessing a website’s ranking. DLLF’s are all related to a website’s backlink profile and could include factors like the quantity of links a site has pointing to it, the quality of these links, and the page rank of the domain.
That’s because when good, influential sites with a strong domain authority feature a link back to your website, some of the value from their authority can be virtually transferred to you. This shared link equity (sometimes called ‘link juice’) will then help improve the overall trust and authority of your own site.
So, any links will do?
No, not all links are created equal.
Your goal should always be to achieve high-quality, relevant links from good, influential sites, rather than aiming for high volumes of links from lower quality ones.
Relevancy is also key.
You might get a link from a site with a lower domain authority but it might also be very relevant to your brand and audience. This link would be just as valuable – if not more – than a link from a top DA rated site that has zero relevancy. The more relevant the site featuring your link is to your industry, the more valuable the link will be.
If you’re in the practice of buying links, it’s time to re-think your approach. Search engines are smart and can recognise when link placements look unnatural. To combat this, search bots value paid-for links far less than ‘natural’ links.
And if a suspicious pattern of links occurs, such as a huge spike in links that are gained in a short space of time, this can even result in penalties for your website. Penalties that can drastically impact your rankings and search performance.
So, when it comes to link building it’s always better to aim for quality – and relevancy – over quantity.
And beyond just links?
Any type of link or mention can add value for SEO, although follow or dofollow links are often considered the priority. Users and search engines can use this type of link to get back to your site.
Occasionally a site may use a nofollow link instead. This still appears as a normal link for a human to use but has had the HTML changed to instruct search engines not to follow it.
But nofollow links, brand mentions or implied links (where a piece of content or a brand is referenced but not necessarily linked to) are still all good indicators of your site’s trustworthiness.
And ultimately, having good brand awareness will result in a brand that is recognisable online. Because the more often a brand is featured and mentioned across various platforms and sites, the more likely it is that search engines will take notice.
What metrics should you use to measure link building success?
For many brands, the most obvious success metric to measure is the number of links secured.
But there are several other KPIs you should be tracking to understand the true performance and value your off-page activity is delivering, including:
- The number of links gained
- What type of links these are i.e. follow / nofollow
- The number of mentions achieved within the coverage (linked and not linked)
- Which sites the placement / coverage is on
- The relevancy of that site to your brand
- The domain rating of the site
- Referral traffic from links generated
- Quality of referral traffic i.e. time on page, goals / conversions
Looking deeper than just link-based metrics can help you provide far more tangible results and assess the most valuable placements, including growth in referral traffic and on-site engagement KPIs.
For example, if your off-page SEO strategy includes links from influencer and blogger sites it can be just as important to check the volume and quality of traffic these publishers are driving to your site. This way you can be sure the links are having the desired impact on the end user, as well as delivering a high-quality backlink.
6 quick tips to improve your link building
- Get creative – When it comes to generating link-worthy content, think like a journalist, not like a salesman. Know the topics that your link targets are already sharing and that are generating good engagement with their readers. This way you’re giving your link targets content they will already be after.
- Mine your own data – Think your brand doesn’t have anything to unique to offer? You’d be surprised how much valuable data can be found and turned into newsworthy stories. Sales data, demographic data from analytics and even survey data from customers can all be unearthed and combined with other third-party sources to get insightful stories.
- Look out for unlinked brand mentions – If a site has already featured your brand name, your site or brand is already relevant. So, there’s every chance they will be happy to switch this into a link if you take the time to reach out to them.
- Domain authority isn’t everything – Take a balanced approach to your link profile. Lower DA sites can be just as valuable if they are still relevant to your brand and industry.
- Join forces with your PR team – If you have PR activity already taking place, make sure you’re both aligned and can work together. Keep your SEO and content teams up to date with event calendars and upcoming PR projects, and vice versa. This way you’ll both know which sites and opportunities are being targeted, and when. SEO input can also help strengthen traditional PR activity. For example, your search experts can give guidance or recommendations on the best outreach targets and the most relevant landing pages to point links to.
- Don’t pay for links – Don’t waste your budget on links that are likely to be of a lower quality and that search engines won’t value as highly. Invest this budget in creating higher quality content in the first place. The sort of content that will give you more opportunity to get the natural links you’re after!
Want to know more about link building campaigns?