Link building is an integral, though much misunderstood, part of SEO. High-quality incoming links show your site to be a valuable resource.. But, do it wrong and you could find your site penalised.
Link building has changed dramatically over the past few years. Old-school tactics such as directory submissions, blog and forum comments, and other tactics that were widely adopted once upon a time, now only create low-value links from a search engine perspective. In today’s content-driven online landscape, what are the biggest link building challenges, and more importantly, what can we do to overcome them in 2019?
First, let’s look at why backlinks are so important.
Link building is a major part of ensuring that your website begins to rise up the Google rankings when people enter your chosen keywords into search engines. Inbound links (or backlinks) direct users back towards your website and therefore increase the traffic that search engine software examines when deciding where to place a website within its listings.
Links impact rankings. Google have confirmed that links are among the top three most important ranking factors, along with content and Rankbrain.
Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, said the other two factors, aside from Rankbrain, were links and content:
“I can tell you what they are. It is content. And it’s links pointing to your site.”
Well, back in the day content was king. Then along came Google with their world famous page rank algorithm which looked at how many people linked to a page – almost like a third party tick that this was good content. If it’s worth linking to, it must be good. But people cottoned on to links being important and built them without regard for where they were coming from. They gamed the system. And so Google fought back with the Penguin update, which looked at the quality of links.
If we’re taking links to mean a vote of confidence, it matters that the link comes from someone who knows good content and is themselves an authority on the subject matter.
It is true that when you start to create links leading from other places to your website, you must do so gradually and thoughtfully. If you spend an entire day building lots of links – from social media sites, from your blogs, from comments you leave on appropriate blogs elsewhere – you will definitely get the benefit from it. But too much too soon can alert the search engines to a sudden spike in links leading back to your website.
It definitely pays to do a little at a time so you can get the benefit from gradual and natural improvements.
It is vital that you seek links from authoritative sites. That is, ones with good page authority – their page rank impacts you. Links from authoritative pages pass on some of that authority to you. Links’ quality is also determined by ‘Domain Authority’ – that is the sitewide authority. Links from really heavyweight sites are hard to get, but well worth the effort. Moz explains this really well in its Domain Authority article. You can view a website’s DA by using MozBar (a free Chrome-extension), Link Explorer (a backlink analysis tool), the SERP Analysis section of Keyword Explorer, and dozens of other SEO tools across the web.
Websites are able to gain more authority by having other authority sites linking to them, having links pointing to the site for a longer period and by behaving themselves for a decent amount of time.
Well, they use a number of tools, outlined in the short video below. It is important to note however, that Google does not directly use the Moz DA score – they have their own internal algorithm for this. Given that we don’t have access to the scores for that, Moz is the next best thing.
The authority of the site is vital, but it needs to come from a site that is in a position to confirm your authority on the subject. We’ve had this confirmed straight from an ex-Google employee…
SearchEngineJournal pondered this very question. It’s not an easy one to answer, especially when you look at Google’s PageRank algorithm:
This is the formula that carries authority from one page to another. It doesn’t include everything that impacts rank through linking. There are so many variables. So which is more important – relevance or authority? Jenny Halasz explains it really well:
Focus on the natural fit – a mixture of authority and relevance – in order to achieve the best results from your link building attempts.
A link’s position on the page is important too. It’s no use having a link buried in a footnote. Aim for links within the main text. That position means that the person linking to you deems it important enough for people to be tempted to click on it for further information. This is called ‘editorially-placed’:
You are looking for the RAT trifecta – Relevance, Authority, Transfer. That is, the transfer of DA/PA to your site from another via a link. It helps you to rank, as we’ve already covered. We’re usually taught that nofollow links don’t help your SEO. But Pratik Dholakiya argues that nofollow links can be a useful tool in your SEO arsenal, providing an indirect benefit.
Google themselves say that ‘in general we do not follow them‘, which implies that sometimes they do. Pratik Dholakiya believes that nofollow links can still help your page get indexed. Furthermore, if you’re getting links just for the sake of SEO, you’re probably on the wrong track.
Links are still potential traffic to your site, so don’t be disheartened when you get a nofollow link.
Building a strong backlink portfolio is one of the key ways to succeed with your website’s search engine optimisation, which has led to many people trying to hack the system and get as many backlinks to their websites as possible in the shortest period of time.
If you buy links, or get a high volume of low quality links, Google is likely to penalize you. Working at getting consistently high quality backlinks is a slower process but your website will benefit hugely in the longer term.
Doing a backlink audit will help you to carefully assess all of your current backlinks so you can make sure that they are relevant. If you have backlinks from link farms or exchange groups, or anything in the gambling or porn industries, you will want to disavow them straight away as it could have an impact on your website’s reputation with Google. Tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs will help you analyse links and assess whether they need to be disavowed.
Answer the following questions to see if a site is worth getting a backlink from:
If a site isn’t indexed by Google, avoid it (you can check this using the site: command in Google – this is where you type in site:domain.com into the search bar). If the search yields no results, the site has penalised and is not indexed.
Search the domain name of the site and if they’re not ranking highly for it, that could be a signal that it’s been penalised or has low authority. If it’s not on the first page of the search results, alarm bells should ring. If the domain does show up in the results, especially with multiple results, that’s a good sign.
Now that you’ve established that they’re not penalised, you should take a look at other quality indicators. One of these is regularly publishing new content. If they’re posting on the blog once a week/fortnight. If it’s been dormant for 6 months, it’s probably been abandoned.
If their audience is regularly interacting with a site, that’s a great sign. It could mean that you’ll receive referring traffic from this site. Check for comments on the blog, check stats from a site like www.quantcast.com/<domainname>.
The content of this website should have similar content or theme to yours. Otherwise Google won’t think that it’s relevant. Be honest about whether there is a direct correlation between your site and theirs. Google some of the people involved with the site – are they considered experts? Are they active in their industry? You can also google “<site name> reviews” to see if there is any negativity involved with the site and its people.
You need to check things like Trust & Citation flow (You’ll want a score higher than 10), Domain Authority and Moz Ranking (A DA above 20 is best), Backlink status (Are they only using nofollow links? if so, the link will be worthless), Spam Score (Anything above 5 is a no-go).
You can always check out your competitors to see where there backlinks are coming from, but be careful with this approach – even if they are ranking higher than you, that doesn’t mean you should automatically assume their backlinks are golden. Always follow the other steps to check each link domain before you go for it.
As we’ve looked at before, Google are looking for quality, one good backlink from a trusted, high-ranking domain will be worth far more to you than lots of irrelevant, spammy backlinks.
It’s much harder to guest post on websites now than it was a decade ago. Many websites are closed to the idea, or are much harder to win over. If you want to be successful, you need to be methodical and structured to optimize your chances of a pitch being approved.
Research Who You Want To Write For
Demonstrate your value: be generous with links to their website, share their tweets, and comment on their social media posts.
You don’t like generic emails from people you haven’t interacted with, so don’t send them yourself! Reach out before getting down to business. Have you commented on their blog? Do you follow them on social media? Do you know what they’re all about?
When you feel comfortable enough that you’ve established exactly how to approach the person, write a personalized pitch email including the blogger’s name, and make sure all the links and details you include are correct.
Be succinct: big blogs get hundreds of pitches a week – they are much less likely to read your email if it’s long.
Use a really great headline
Include specifics about your idea: what is the suggested topic? Has it been covered on their blog before? How will it benefit their website? What keywords will it rank for? Why will their readers be interested in it?
Include a bio that demonstrates your value – where you’re based, what your background is, and why you’re the right person for this post.
Influencer marketing has seen a huge increase in recent years, with many businesses growing overnight because of careful influencer strategies. The rise of YouTube and Instagram personalities has opened a whole new sector of marketing, and crafting tactful relationships with influencers in your niche can have a powerful impact on your business and your sales. But influencers are far more sophisticated than they used to be. They know their value. But do you? How do you find the best influencers to promote your brand and how do you get them on-side – especially if budget is tight?
Word of mouth referrals are the most powerful way to build business. Around 92% of people trust recommendations from family and friends. That much is obvious. But did you know that 70% of teens trust influencers more than traditional celebrities and 4 in 10 millennial subscribers say their favourite influencer understands them better than their friends (even if they don’t know them personally). It’s not just the youngsters. Here are some more facts that should push you to use influencer marketing:
When you’re thinking about working with an influencer, you need to ask yourself some key questions:
Meeting people in real life is a powerful way to build relationships. Are there any industry events where you could meet them? Could you send a piece of “happy mail” or a note to their inbox?
76% of influencers value brands that provide them with creative freedom
47% of influencers would like to work with brands whose values are in alignment with theirs.
Another 47% of influencers have reported that editorial guidelines shared by brands are often very limiting in this study.
A lot of the pointers in the guest blog post section apply here too – don’t cold call, be personal, lay out the benefits, and be to the point. We’d also suggest giving them a deadline to respond. You don’t want to waste time waiting for the ‘ideal’ influencer to get back to you when you could be approaching others.
Influencers have often worked very hard for a number of years to gain an engaged following online, so don’t expect them to work for free. Offering them fair compensation for their marketing support is more likely to give influencers a good impression of your brand – after all, free products are great but they don’t pay the mortgage.
67% of influencers are keen to work with brands that provide them with competitive compensation.
Bloglovin’ asked microinfluencers (someone who has an audience within the follower range of 2,000 followers up until about 50,000 followers on a particular social media channel, usually comprised of a focused passion, topic or niche market) about working with brands:
An interesting metric that was revealed by this survey is about the cost involved in running influencer campaigns. Only 25% of respondents thought that brands have a realistic idea of costs.
84% of the survey respondents said that they charge less than $250 for a sponsored post on Instagram.
Also, 97% of the survey respondents said that they charge less than $500 for a sponsored Instagram post.
For a sponsored blog post, 87% of the survey respondents reported charging less than $500.
Earlier we discussed editorially-placed links. This uses Link Anchor Text – it’s the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink. In modern browsers, it is often blue and underlined like this. Google uses this as a ranking signal. But this has been used and abused over the years and Google don’t want spammy keyword-rich anchor text. You should be aiming for the right word(s) but it’s best to keep it natural and versatile.
There are various types of anchor text. I’ll give examples of each, based on promoting our blog post “How To Increase Impressions on Bing”:
Neil Patel, top influencer, says:
“I like building natural links, because that’s what Google wants. You can’t be smarter than the engineers who spend their workdays making the algorithm work smarter. So, stay off Google’s radar, focus on high-quality content and avoid a penalty on Google and other search engines.”
Focus less on keywords and links and write great content and insert links where it’s natural to do so. If it isn’t, then figure out why. When you’ve done that you’ll be able to write content that links fit into organically.
If Google gets even a whiff of spammy backlinking you’ll be hit with penalties.
Try to use LSI and partial-match anchors as part your guest post strategy. In this way, you will achieve a more natural-looking anchor text cloud and satisfy the Google gods.
Want to know what proportion you should be using the different types of link anchor text? Various studies have been done on this and the recipe for success seems to be:
And just how many backlinks should you be aiming for? Well, a Moz anchor text case study discovered that 5-10 good links with a good range of anchor text will be enough to push up your ranking for a keyword.
Got any questions about link building that you’d like answered, or other tips you’d suggest for overcoming the challenges of creating links that work – let us know in the comments.
If you need support with your SEO strategy, why not get in touch with us to discuss your needs? Broadplace is an award-winning SEO and PPC agency, and we would love to work with you to help you grow your online presence the right way.