6 Steps To A Successful Link-Building Strategy
Search Engine Optimisation is vital to the success of any business, or at least one with an online presence in this modern, technology-focused landscape.
Whilst Search Engine Optimisation as a concept is broad and encompasses a whole load of different ranking factors, backlinks, and therefore link building remains an important part of any SEO strategy, especially one designed to grow your business.
Once you have a new website, attracting new audiences and generating internet traffic to visit will be a priority, but it's not a given. It doesn't just happen on its own.
To achieve that, you'll need to do some link-building. If it's a new term to you, let's give you a quick crash course in link building.
WHAT IS LINK BUILDING?
A link, or a hyperlink to give it its full Sunday name, is simply a way to get from one part of the internet to another. That could be a link between different websites, pages on the same site, and even links to photos, videos, blog posts, or any other online 'object'.
Every time you've been on a website and clicked on a highlighted piece of text, an image or a button that takes you somewhere else, that's a link!
Whilst these links obviously make navigating the internet easier for users, they also allow search engines like Google, Bing and DuckDuckGo to do their job better.
These links allow the search engine's robots (aka bots) to 'crawl' the web, using these links as virtual signposts, if you will, to discover these linked pages, images, etc. when they appear all over the internet.
For Google et al to discover a website, page (or whatever), it needs at least one link from an already-crawled site that goes to it. There are two types of links; external and internal.
External links (aka Incoming links) are those 'sign-posts' that connect to your site from an unconnected, external website (or vice-versa). If other sites link to you, then that's an external link, sometimes called a 'backlink' in SEO parlance.
Internal links, on the other hand, are links that exist within the same website, linking pages to each other but always within the same domain. They help you get from one part of a website to another, linking relevant content to help you discover new things.
If you want to know more about link building, check out the fourth of our Back To Basics series on this very subject, which is linked here. Hey look, that's an internal link!
Whilst linking might sound simple, it's easier said than done, especially when it comes to external links.
Getting another website to link to yours is the goal, but it takes work, at least doing it properly does, i.e. getting the right audience to your website without resorting to underhand tactics.
There are plenty of nefarious techniques used in getting backlinks, but these almost always. hurt, rather than help, your SEO efforts.
In terms of SEO, links help drive traffic to your site which helps it to rank higher but don't forget what the purpose of links is.
They're there to send visitors from the page that they're currently on to other pages on your site that they might also like. It's this holistic approach to SEO that can really set you apart.
So now we know what a link is (and you've read our blog post about it), to help you put together a successful link-building strategy for your website, we've put our heads together and come up with 6 steps you can use to start creating those all-important connections. Starting with...
#1. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Just publishing your website and hoping for the best isn't enough to get drive traffic to it. Part of any SEO effort, particularly one focussed on a link-building strategy, will require you to understand who your audience is.
You don't just want ANYONE coming to your website, you want people who are going to benefit from what you offer.
To utilise your audience and help you get those links, you need two things. You need to know:
Who your audience is right now.
What your ideal audience looks like.
Understanding these two points will not only help you attract new visitors who might want to buy your product or service, but also grow your existing audience.
There are a number of online tools available to you that help you to know your audience. Free tools like Google Analytics and the inbuilt analytical tools (aka insights) within social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook can also give you a fantastic insight into who your audience is. Use them!
You can also utilise some more traditional methods like surveys, reading comments on your blog posts or talking to them
They will be able to offer a unique insight into your business and be able to tell you whether your message is getting across (or not) in the way you hope it is.
For example, here at CubeSquared Digital, we specialise in working with small business owners based in the UK.
We're a small business ourself, so we understand the time pressures and the general lack of resources that these often sole traders experience.
We also understand that the intricacies of the online world encompassing SEO, digital marketing, etc. can be daunting for them, especially when they're trying to run the many other parts of their business day-to-day.
Because of this, we offer a wealth of advice through our blogs as we aim to demystify the whole 'digital marketing' thing to make it easier for them to navigate, whether they're a client of ours or not.
We write in a very irreverent style to help break these technical aspects of business down into a language they can understand and the content we create is aimed specifically at small businesses and start-ups.
For those that do work with us, we want it to be more of a collaboration so offer a 'one-stop shop' to them so they don't have to deal with loads of people offering advice that isn't joined up and they can get everything in one place at a very reasonable price.
Taking time to understand your audience really does pay dividends. It's easy, especially in the early days, to assume your target market is 'everyone', but that is never the case and it's impossible to appeal to everyone.
Instead, take time to find out who they are, where they are, what they want and you're well on your way to connecting to a group of people that can help you with your link building strategy.
#2. UNDERSTAND WHAT APPEALS TO THEM
Now you're beginning to know who your audience is, it's time to look outside of your own website to find those other sites that help them.
Chances are you're not only the business out there doing what you do or selling what you sell, so it stands to reason that your audience has plenty of other options available to them. It's time to make a list of them.
Once you know who your audience is, start to research all the websites out there that will appeal to them and have a connection to your particular sector or industry.
These websites won't be your direct competitors in the marketplace necessarily (it's highly likely they'll want to link to you!) but any relevant blogs, forums, discussion sites, consumer sites, your industry or trade body, in fact anywhere you can think of that will help you find people interested in your business (your audience), but don't yet know about it.
You want links back to your website from these kinds of sites, but remember you're not trying to trick anyone. Any links you gain should feel like it's part of your normal marketing activities and not shoehorned in!
For example, if you find a blog that is related to your particular line of work you could offer to write something for them on your shared interest. You would obviously include your website address within the post which would act as the link.
A word of warning; stay away from spamming websites (those that only exist to host links) and don't be tempted to buy links. This kind of backlink can backfire and hurt your SEO efforts, instead of helping it.
This is also true if you get a link from a legitimate website that is completely unrelated to what you do. Links might look and feel the same, but they're not created equally so make sure the ones you go after are relevant and appropriate to your industry.
#3. CREATE GREAT CONTENT
It probably wouldn't be a CubeSquared post without us banging on (AGAIN) about creating great content at some point, but it's so important when it comes to link-building.
One of the main reasons sites will link to you, whether prompted or not, is because of the great content that you have on your website.... You do have great content on your website, right? (If not, get in touch with us and let's change that). Where were we? Oh yes!
Writing great content that appeals to your target audience is important, not just for SEO, but because that audience will want to know what's going on in the industry and be interested in your own take on it.
The internet is awash with generic, banal, cookie-cutter content that people can get anywhere so make sure yours stands out from the rest and adds a unique voice to the conversation. Ultimately, you want to create content that people can only get on your website.
Sharing your knowledge and expertise will help you stand out, but there are so many options available to you when it comes to content.
You're looking to create content that your audience is going to want to see.You can, of course, write about what you do, what you sell and how great / cheap / long-lasting it is, but for this part to work you have to think differently.
Getting backlinks is hard enough, but sites will be even less inclined to link to you just to help you sell more products, so your content needs to go beyond that. Think about how people could use your product to help them.
For example, if you're a photographer, you could create posts around 'The 10 Most Picturesque Places in [insert your area here] for Weddings' or 'How To Take the Perfect Pet Portrait'.
Fundamentally, you're looking to create content that answers the questions that your audience has, solves a problem they're facing and provides them with the information that they're looking for. Why? Because YOUR website is the best place to find all of those things!
Now you understand your audience more, the content you create will be more valuable to them you can start to build trust between them and you. They'll start to look forward to your next post and want to tell people in their network about it.
In addition, as more and more people begin to see the value in your content, they're more likely to link to you.
Creating great content isn't just about the words on the page, think also about its readability. Before hitting 'publish', ensure your posts are structured so they flow and are well-written.
Include relevant images where appropriate and ensure that they're error-free. These posts are an illustration of you as a company, so take time to get them right as they'll reflect on you as a business and you want to be seen in the best possible light.
#4. 2 + 3 = 4
Resist the temptation to send everything you've ever created to every website you found. Spamming them is not what this is about and you're more likely to annoy the person running that site than encourage them to link to you.
Instead, think about which of those websites are more likely to link to the content that you've created and match them accordingly. Which ones are more suited, and therefore more likely to link, to particular pieces of content? Choose them carefully and find the best fit for each.
It might mean that you write specific pieces of content tailored to certain websites just to smooth this process along. They are more likely to link to you if there is a genuine relevance between them, their audience and your content.
The more interesting your content, the more people will click the link and visit your website, often for the first time. The more great content you have to keep them there, the more likely you are to convert them into your customers and have them coming back to your site more often.
If your business sector is more niche and you tend to target long-tail keywords as part of your SEO efforts, then linking is often easier because there will be fewer websites, and therefore less content, related to it.
This means that their thirst for new content is greater and might be more willing to link to you. New, unique and engaging content will be like gold-dust to them.
#5. NETWORK TO GET WORK (OR LINKS IN THIS CASE)
OK, now you've found the websites, created the content and matched them togehter perfectly, it's now time to make contact with the people who manage those sites.
This doesn't just mean finding an email address on their website, but you can also connect with them on social media (in fact this is often an easier way to get in touch with them - see #6)
Before you fire off a tweet or an email, think about what you're going to write. Website owners often get many, many emails similar to this every week asking for 'guest posts' to help with their own backlinks (we know that we certainly do!) so don't think you'll be alone in doing this.
To help you stand out from the crowd, craft a personal polite message that shows you've done your research on them and highlight why you think your content is a good fit for them.
Please don't send a generic email and expect them to action it straight away. They won't!
Demonstrate that you know your audience and, by definition, theirs too. Explain to them why your content is unique and worth linking to. Finish by asking them respectfully and politely if they'd be willing to add a link to your specifically tailored content.
If writing emails isn't your thing, then you can also use social media to connect to them. There are also loads of groups on LinkedIn, Facebook and other platforms that connect bloggers and content creators together, so join these groups and get involved.
That said, if you do send messages and emails, don't be too surprised if you don't get a reply at all.
As we said, people who manage websites get LOADS of this kind of email every week and even a well-crafted one may just get lost in the Junk Mail folder, but keep trying and don't get disheartened. It only takes a few to start the link-building ball rolling.
The other way to get some, arguably easier, backlinks is to reach out to any family, friends and colleagues (inc. former colleagues) who may be in a position to help.
Although, if you are working with people you know well, then it's even more important that the link is relevant, feels natural and isn't forced because of your personal connection.
#6. GET SOCIAL (MEDIA)
Like it or loathe it, social media is a key part of any marketing strategy and when it comes to link-building, it also has an important part to play.
When you're creating this great content, don't just let it sit on your website in isolation. Spread the word via your social media profiles.
If there are any people on social media that you think should know about your content specifically include them in your posts so they are notified. Again, that doesn't mean spamming them with every post, so choose wisely.
Depending on what your content is, certain social media platforms will work better than others consider what works best and where. You might also need to tailor the style and tone of your accompanying message to fit the platform and your audience. LinkedIn might require a more professional tone that TikTok for example.
Social media is the perfect place for great content to be shared and promoted by other people, so don't miss out on all those conversations, not to mention retweets, reposts and likes to help spread the word and get those people talking about you (and of course the links that come with them!).
SQUARING THE CIRCLE
We hope that these 6 relatively simple steps have helped you. Creating one successful link-building strategy isnt as easy as it might sound but it serves two purposes; it helps bring your fantastic content into view of a host of new people, but also helps you to rank higher in those all-important search rankings.
It's also vital that you go about link building in the right way. As we touched on earlier, there are some dark arts when it comes to backlinks, but please don't go down those avenues. They might seem like a quick fix, but your business will ultimately suffer as consequence.
Link building isn't a panacea in terms of SEO, but should be considered a crucial part of your marketing strategy and it can make a real difference to businesses that already exist in a very competitive space.
We hope that some of these tips in this post have helped you start to understand how and why creating a link-building strategy is important.
Is there anything that you think we've missed? Have you got any other ideas that our audience might benefit from? Have you received backlinks from any funny, unusual or unbelieveably good sources? Let us know about them all in the comments below.
If there's anything the team here at CubeSquared Digital can help you with, whether that web development, SEO or copywriting, then please get in touch with us and we'd be delighted to have that conversation. Thanks for reading and please consider sharing it.