If you want to rank for your chosen keywords and keyword phrases, link building was (and continues to be) a profitable SEO strategy to invest in.
But gone are the days when securing “any old link” will translate into results.
That’s because Google’s latest algorithm changes are actively penalising sites with a bad link profile
Worst still, you may actually need to clear up your link profile before you can climb the organic rankings again.
So, if you’ve been penalised recently you may be wondering if you should give up on link building altogether? My answer is simple – absolutely not.
You see, if you don’t short cut and break the Google rules, a white hat link building strategy will deliver some serious return. But to get results, you need a long-term view AND the willingness to invest more effort to secure the quality links that make the difference.
In this Link Building Guide I’m going to reveal the link building strategies I use to earn the right links and achieve page one ranking and I’ll also highlight the link building strategies to avoid
But before we get to that, let’s quickly recap why link building is so crucial for your SEO…
Why is link building used as an SEO strategy?
Link building has always been a really important part of Google’s algorithm.
That’s because backlinks (that’s where another site links to yours) are seen as an indication of authority.
Remember, Google’s customer is the person who jumps online and wants quality information – fast. Therefore, it’s in Google’s interests to ensure the search results returned are relevant.
Now, when you look at links in this context it makes sense that backlinks can indicate authority. After all, if someone else links to you – they must like what they read, right?
The problem is that this tactic was manipulated as a quick win. In the past, get lots of links (any old link) and your rankings did soar. But a problem soon surfaced. Poor quality websites were rising to the top of search queries – and the end user was getting a disappointing search experience.
Hence the reason for Google stamping its foot (so to speak!) As a result, low-quality link-building tactics are now very risky. In terms of links, what Google wants now is evidence that the backlinks you do have – are earned.
And that’s the secret to creating a robust, long-lasting, sustainable link building strategy for your business…
Go after QUALITY, not quantity. And EARN, not gain your backlinks.
What does a quality link actually look like?
The easiest place to start is by exposing the link building strategies to avoid…
Avoid link building strategies that “gain” links
In short, if a link is easy to come by, it’s not worth having.
In fact, such poor quality links could get you penalised. So avoid the following. If you don’t you could find yourself having to remove links (a very time consuming process). What’s more, there’s no guarantee your ranking will recover once poor quality links are gone.
- Directories (there are some exceptions, particularly for local search e.g. Yelp)
- Article directories
- Blog networks and low quality guest blogs
- Paid links
- Low quality press releases
- Forum and comment spam
- Site wide links (except for navigation)
In addition, ensure you avoid anchor text manipulation too. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a spammy, keyword stuffed link profile, which Google will also penalise you for.
Use these link building strategies that earn quality links
I’m a strong advocate of link building. That’s because it’s a tactic that helps me secure page one ranking for my clients.
Four link-building tactics that I use to get authoritative, earned links.
Which could you try?
- Create great content
First thing’s first.
Great content MUST be the cornerstone of any successful link building strategy.
That’s because if you create content that’s useful, valuable and interesting, it’s more likely that content will be shared and linked to it. In turn, this supports Google’s thinking that backlinks should be editorially given, based on merit.
The fact is, getting people to read your web content will naturally lead to backlinks (assuming the content is good). Here are some examples of the type of content that can add value to your visitors:
- Content that offers solutions to the problems your customers need to solve
- Plenty of useful, relevant information that’s frequently updated and timely
- Evergreen guides that help your visitors or cover-off important topics
- References from trusted sources.
- Focus on distribution
Getting people to actually see (and read) your content is absolutely crucial to earning links.
In fact, raising the visibility of your content is in some ways more important than securing links themselves. This is one of the key reasons why your social media strategy needs to be aligned with SEO. If you’re active and engage with your audience, you’ll benefit by building momentum and interest in your website.
So promote away, and if the content you’re sharing is good, you’ll see an increase in the amount of natural, earned backlinks.
In addition, engage via email outreach to get the right people looking at your content.
Talking with influencers and sharing your content can deliver a valuable payback. The key here is NOT to ask for the anchor text. Google is becoming more cynical of anchor text that you control (it’s one of the reasons guest blogging and associated author bios have got a bad name). And anyway, in my experience it’s always better to give the influencer full control over how they link back to you. That’s because it results in a much more natural link profile (which Google will reward you for).
- Guest blogging
There’s been a lot of confusion around the SEO advantages of guest blogging just recently.
Some people are even claiming that guest blogging is dead.
To be fair, this is partially true – especially if your tactic up until now has been to write rubbish content just to get a link on any site that will accept your article.
Again, to get value from guest blogging you need to focus on quality and relevancy.
So aim to write for popular niche blogs that post content that’s relevant to your website’s focus. Don’t just post for the link. And anyway, well-targeted guest blogging offers far broader benefits than just the link.
- The right guest platform will send quality traffic to your website
- It can help you get in front of a new audience of relevant customers
- If you have articles published on quality sites, more people will share and link to them
- Provide free knowledge
Quality content can take a number of forms – it doesn’t just have to be your blog or your main website pages. There are other strategies that can generate backlinks too. Here are a few I’ve tried that work:
- Offer free tools, a free eBook or a video series etc. – you could create an opt-in page on your website for these. If your offer is good, you’ll find that you’ll attract natural shares and backlinks
- Interview someone important – if you can secure an interview with a key player in your niche, you’ll be able to generate valuable back linking opportunities
What should you do now?
None of what I’ve said here is mind-blowing.
In fact, Google’s changes shouldn’t really be a surprise based on the poor SEO practises that Google has clamped down on in the past. If you’re building your SEO based on a loophole that you’ve identified, be warned, Google will catch up on you – quickly too.
The best advice is to don’t even try to play games. Just focus on delivering what your customer wants – and you will be rewarded. In short, if you create quality content that people want to read, you will be rewarded by increased organic visibility and a natural link profile.
Then, you can use on-site SEO to support this, and get closer to those lucrative first page results.
What do you think?
Are you struggling with a poor quality link profile? Do you want to know more about earning the quality links that will raise the profile of your website? Please pop your questions in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.
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Hazel Jarrett, director of SEO at SEO+, is well-known in the SEO space, has won many awards during her 20-year career and has been published on various well-known sites. Through her services and training programs, her SEO strategies have generated 10s of millions of sales for her clients, earning her a big reputation for delivering the results that matter.
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