Search engine rankings are an intensely competitive space. Every brand wants to be on the coveted first page of the search engines. One of the essential factors to get you there are links. Authoritative backlinks are a signal to search engines that your content can be trusted.
A strong link-building strategy can help you gain trust and authority to jump to the top ranks on the search engine result pages (SERPs). Getting there is a gradual and sustained process, but you can create an excellent link profile with the right approach.
This guide will look at the importance of link building. We will also look at five effective link-building strategies.
Let’s get started!
Why should you care about link-building?
The links to your site impact your online reputation and are an important factor in how Google ranks your site. The better the quality of the links, the more Google trusts your content.
Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines place considerable weight on the concept of EAT- expert, authoritative, and trustworthy. It helps Google determine the user intent of the site. More links from authority sites in your niche signal higher expertise and diversity. To earn the trust of Google, you will need links from these types of sites.
However, this doesn’t mean you populate your site with a lot of links. The Penguin update to Google’s algorithm says that the quality of links matters more than the quantity. It means that the links you use should be relevant, have topical authority, and occur naturally on your site.
So, that leads to the question, what does a good link look like?
I like to use the following metrics to assess backlink quality:
- Relevancy – You want to get links to your site from other sites operating in your niche.
- Domain Authority (DA) – With Domain Authority, a site is provided with a rating from 0-100. The higher the score, the more authoritative the site. Try to get links from sites with a DA 40+.
- Trust Flow – A site is ranked on a scale of 0-100 based on the quality of its backlink profile. The better the backlink profile, the higher the score. The site should have a 20+ Trust Flow.
- Traffic – Rather logically, the more traffic a site has, the higher the chance someone will click on your link. You want to get links from sites, or pages on sites, with a high traffic volume. I’d aim for 5k+ visitors a month.
The guidelines I shared above provide you with a rough overview of the type of site you want to secure links from. For the remainder of this guide, I’ll discuss how to secure those links.
How can you run an effective link-building campaign?
An effective link-building campaign relies on your ability to create great content and then build relationships with other publications in your niche so you can get that content published. This approach, coupled with strong SEO campaign management strategies, can help you climb up the search rankings.
Link-building goes beyond the occasional guest post and requires sustained effort. This section will look at five ways to run an effective campaign to build links to your site.
1. Make an outreach list
Your link-building campaign starts with an exhaustive outreach list. You need to create a list of suitable sites to reach out to based on a set of criteria. The easiest way to create such a list is to review the backlink profile of authoritative publications in your sector.
For instance, I operate in the digital marketing and SEO niche. One of the top sites in the marketing niche would be a site like Search Engine Watch or Hubspot.
With the help of a backlink profile tool, export the referring domains of your target website. You should end up with a Google Sheet with columns of data. The sheet might look a bit like this.
After exporting a list of referring domains, you’ll need to clean up your list. I always do the following:
- Delete all of the low authority domains. For example, you might delete all of the domains with a Domain Authority of 39 or less. Alternatively, you might delete all of the domains with a Domain Rating of 49 or less. It depends on what metrics you use.
- Remove all of the high authority domains from irrelevant sites. For example, remove sites like Facebook, Youtube, national news publications, etc. You’ll also need to remove referring domains that aren’t relevant to your niche.
After cleaning up the data, you’ll end up with a shortlist of relevant sites where you’d like to secure a link. The next thing you need to do is find the email addresses of the editor at these publications.
There are numerous ways to find the name of an editor at a publication. My favored approach is to research each publication and try and identify the best person to contact. Social platforms like LinkedIn offer a great way to find the editor at a top publication.
For example, here’s what a quick LinkedIn search for “Editor” at Hubspot reveals.
LinkedIn does limit the search results unless you pay for a premium account. There are some premium LinkedIn tools that will help you get around this.
An alternative to LinkedIn is the company blog.
Most blogs feature the author. Spend a few minutes browsing the site and look for a face or name that pops up repeatedly. There’s a good chance if they’re publishing content on the site, they are the person you should contact, or they know the person you should contact.
2. Craft compelling outreach emails to build relationships
Your outreach email to your target list is the start of your relationship with the editor and site.
If you’re planning a mass outreach campaign, I recommend you create a standardized email template.
Your email outreach should highlight why you’re a suitable author. Don’t pitch ideas initially as it takes time to come up with topics and you don’t know who will answer.
Below is an example of an email template you could use for a guest post inquiry.
I hope you’re having a great MONTH. I’m reaching out to you because I’d like to write a guest post for your site. Just to provide context to my inquiry, I’ve written for SITE A, SITE B, and SITE C in the last few months. I know I can write a great piece of content your audience would love.
Let me know if you’re accepting guest posts at the moment. Btw, if you’re currently writing guest posts, I’d be happy to introduce you to some contacts in my professional network.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Make the email personal and focus on starting a conversation. Most people you message won’t respond to your initial inquiry, which is why I recommend you only pitch ideas to people who respond to your message.
3. Guest Blogging
Guest blogging is one of the most effective ways to build your link profile. It opens your brand to a new audience and allows you to be featured on high-ranking sites.
If you want to run a guest blogging campaign, you need to pitch relevant ideas. There are numerous ways to come up with logical ideas for your guest post-campaign. My preferred strategy is to do a bit of competitor research on the website.
Identify the competitors of the site you want to write for. Next, look at the top-performing content and keywords for these sites. You can use Rank Ranger to conduct this research.
Create a list of ideas. You can then check if the site you want to write for has covered these ideas before by doing the following Google search: site:website.com keyword
Replace website.com with the URL of the site you want to write for. Add the relevant keyword you wanted to cover. Let me give you an example.
You can see from the results that Rank Ranger has written about the Google BERT algorithm update in the past. They probably don’t want more content on that topic. So, I’d enter another search term and repeat the process until I found a topic Rank Ranger hasn’t covered.
The nice thing about this approach is you have a justification for any guest post ideas you share. Essentially, you’ll tell the editor, “I think this is a great idea because your competitors have covered this article in the past, and you haven’t created content covering a similar keyword.” The better your justification for a guest post, the higher the chance an editor will accept your pitch.
When the editor has accepted one of your ideas, you’ll need to start writing.
4. Link Inserts/ Broken Link Building
A complementary link-building strategy to guest posting is link inserts and broken link building. With link inserts and broken link building, you ask a publication to insert your link or replace a link in an existing piece of the published content.
I like broken link building and link inserts. They offer a fast and effective way to secure backlinks to content on your website.
A link insert campaign is relatively straightforward. The first step is to identify suitable content around a piece of content you want to promote. For example, if I wanted to secure links to “My Ultimate Guide to SEO,” I would:
- Create a list of search terms that are relevant to my guide.
- Shortlist sites that appear in the top 50 search results for each of these terms.
- Send an email to editors at these sites to ask if they want to include my link in their content.
It is easy to run a link insert campaign. The response rate for a link insert campaign is usually lower than a guest post campaign. It’s also a good idea to offer something in exchange for a link insert. For example, you could offer the editor a link from another site in exchange for updating their content. These types of incentives will improve your response rate.
A broken link-building campaign is harder to run than a link insert campaign.
The best way to run a broken link-building campaign is to search online auctions that sell expired links. For example, GoDaddy has an online auction for expired links.
Your goal is to find an authoritative expired domain that was operating in your niche. You then need to review the backlink profile of that website and the top pages on that expired domain.
There are two things you can do at this point:
- Identify a post that covers a topic you’ve covered before. Look at the backlink profile of that page, and ask editors at the publications referring to that piece of content to update the link to your resource.
- Create a piece of content based around the most linked pages on their website. You can then ask editors to update the broken link to the expired domain to your content.
It is a great way to offer a tangible solution instead of asking for a link right away. Doing this helps you build relationships and get visibility for your brand.
Climbing the Search Engine Rankings
Link-building is a great way to establish your site as a trusted source for search engines. It allows you to rank better as you link to established sites with higher rankings. Focus on the quality and not the quantity of the links. It also allows you to tap into a new audience and expand your audience.
To create a compelling link profile, create a target list of sites. Look for relevance, site authority, and page rank before you zero in on your final list. Create a list with contact information.
Craft compelling outreach emails that are personalized and offer value. Use this as a chance to start a conversation and build relationships. High-quality content and guest blogging are great ways to put your expertise to use by creating useful resources for your audience.
If you are a young business and creating consistent content is taxing on your resources, there is another way. Use the broken link technique to build your link profile. These tips will help you climb up the search engine rankings and get you noticed by both Google and your target audience.