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Contact South West Web Marketing Link Building Tips And Strategies

Getting other websites to link to yours is a critical component of improving your search rankings, with each site that links to you acting as a “vote” for your content. John Straw explains how to improve your link strategy.

Links give Google important clues about the content contained on your site via the words contained in the anchor text of the link or the alt text of the graphic linking to you. Important measures of comparison between you and your competitors will include:

How many sites link to you?
How many trusted and authoritative sites link to you?
What was the context of the link as defined by the link anchor itself and the content of the page the link is on?

The best links come from a website of page that specialises in your business area and which has your keyword somewhere in the link anchor or is a page all about the keyword.

Link builders
Whether you’re going to build links yourself or employ an experienced pro, you should know that one of the skills a link builder needs is the ability to think strategically about the challenge.

The next thing a link builder needs to do is work hard. Links based purely on finding shortcuts, more often than not result in not making much progress in the rankings, and the rankings that are achieved are short-lived. Go for the hard authoritative links as well as the easy and quick wins.

Finally, it’s possible that if you’re in a competitive market you’ll need money as well. In fact the more competitive the market the more money you tend to need.

So what do link builders spend money on?

Most business will invest some money in the lower value link strategies like human edited directories. This is then followed by money spent on PR submissions.

In competitive markets many brands then spend money on high-risk tactics like buying links. This is seen as an acceptable risk to the business even though Google can penalise websites found to be in breach of their guidelines. If you’re smart this is not something you should ever feel the need to do.

Really smart link builders invest their time and money developing brilliant, original content and promoting it to other websites. Is it all worth it in the end? You bet. SEO can have a huge ROI, which in my experience far exceeds that of paid search. It also lasts a long time.

Where to build links
There are lots of ways of acquiring links and there are lots of reasons for another website to link to another. The main types of sites and link building strategies to consider are:

Blogs
Blogs are a great source of links because they tend to be more contactable than other sites, they’re sociable by their very nature and they can boost your rankings significantly. Find ways of working with bloggers through strategies like product reviews, guest posts, PR, sponsorship, comments, competitions and promotions, and widget and badge use.

Resources
Resource pages are pages on sites where a webmaster has curated a list of sites they think would be of interest to their sites’ visitors. Typically these resource pages are on pages called “useful links” or “resources”, although they can also be contained within popular blog posts. Try contacting the people who looks after these pages by email, phone or Linkedin to introduce yourself and your site.

Article sites
Article sites allow you to submit an article to a category of your choice. This article can read and/or re-published by other visitors. Most article sites let you create links from within the content to your site.

Directories
There are thousands of directories online but few are worth bothering with. The most trusted ones have human editors that only let the best sites in. These directories are used and pass their trust and authority to your site. Because of this, most good directories involve you paying to be added. When adding yourself to a directory you may be able to specify the text that forms the link to your site. Consider using your brand name plus a keyword of your choice.

Forums
If you’re going to join a forum, make your contribution useful, make ongoing contributions to establish your credibility and don’t be a link spammer. Link to your site only if you have a page that adds value to the thread. Also, don’t be afraid to link to other sites that add value to a thread, this is part of establishing your credibility in the community.

News sites
News sites publish topical content and where the content is original, they tend to be authoritative and great for improving rankings. They can be high traffic traditional news sites with offline brands or purely online.

Getting links from news sites involves a relationship-based approach to link building, which is very similar to traditional PR. Journalists of news stories need to trust the source of a story so establishing a relationship and your credentials with them is important. To make news sites want to include you, your site should ideally be the primary source for information that a news story is based on, or contain unique information which, if included, would make a news story more complete.

PR submission
PR submission sites work on two levels. You can specify a link of your choice from within the submission, which then gets published on their site. The site then allows other websites and journalists to access the release. This may then get picked up and republished. The links you’ve added don’t often survive the re-publishing process. The best PR Submission sites involve you paying to be able to add links from within the content.

Local Links
If you’re a local business, local links and citations (mentions of your business and business contact details) are important parts of how search engines rank local results.

Finding and getting linked to and mentioned by local directories, blogs, news sites and resources are good ways of increasing your local rankings.

The relationship between content and links
It’s clear that good quality content is vital. Google is changing and it has declared war on low-quality content. This would include content farms and websites that simply re-publish feed-based content. This means that content published in the hope that links are going to be built through feed-based syndication are likely to be devalued. Strategies that involve you creating and promoting your own brilliant content through direct engagement and social media should be increasingly used.

How many links do you need to build?
Small local businesses have a different link-building requirement to the super-competitive verticals like financial services and gambling. In both instances, quality is much more important than quantity, which means simply looking at how many links you have versus your competitors is not a very good key performance indicator. In addition to how many links you need, another KPI is how fast you should build them— known as link velocity.

One of the ways search engines detect link spam is to look for unnatural link velocity. For example, an average business website that’s had 20 pages for the past two years and never been heavily promoted, may acquire a link a week naturally if they are lucky. If this website suddenly acquired 200 new links all with a similar commercial link anchor text, it’s going to look suspicious.

What’s more natural is to have a steady growth link volumes and a steady growth in new content, with most new links pointing at this new content. As more websites discover the content you’re publishing, more will take an interest in what you write and link to when writing their own content. As this steady growth in followers continues, each new item of content that is published attracts more new links with naturally varied anchors.

But whatever type of business you have, a good start is to:

Publish a few links every week via guest posts, press releases, articles and quality directories forever. Write regular high quality content and promote it to bloggers, journalists, and resource curators via email, telephone and social media forever. After a few months, review your progress and adjust your strategy accordingly.

The value of a link changes over time
I’ve got some good news and some bad news. Lots of the links you’ll create will lose their value over time, and just a few will increase their value. Which ones will help you the most for the longest depends on where the link is on the linking website and what type of page it is.

If the link to you is from a permanent resource, you’ll get way more benefit than if the link is from a page that is destined to be relegated to the archive. Sites that suffer most from this “link decay” are blogs, articles or PR submission sites.

If you push content to sites where links get relegated to archives, you are going to need to keep publishing on an on-going basis in as many different places as possible. If you get the high quality links from pages designed to be read and referenced (linked to) for a long time, then you’ve got yourself a link that won’t decay and might even increase in value.

Turning prospects into links
Getting other websites to link to you can take time. It’s about making friends. The website owners you want links from get lots of requests every day, so you need to stand out from the automated link request crowd. Here are my top tips:

Take it slowly and get noticed — comment on their posts before emailing, follow them on Twitter, mention them and re-tweet. Then get to the point — what content do you want them to know about? Examples could include your:

◦ Latest news they’d want to share
◦ Research that’s interesting, relevant and can be trusted
◦ Infographics that tell a story their users would be interested in
◦ Competitions or promotions
◦ Widgets that do cool or useful stuff
◦ Badges for being in your top 100 or other award
◦ Resources that have been created that are useful
◦ Downloadable ebooks or whitepapers
◦ Round-ups of the months news in your market – and yours included
◦ Interviews with influential people they’d be interested in.

Suggest where you think they should link to it. Remind them of your credentials about the subject.

Make sure you have a WIFM — “What’s In It For Me” still motivates others – WIFM’s can include:

◦ Making their own curated resource more complete or authoritative
◦ You’ll give them free quality content
◦ You’ll sponsor part of their site or make a donation
◦ You’ll give them a paid writing gig on your site
◦ You’ll send them product samples or discounts
◦ You’ll give them exclusive information they can break first
◦ You’ll given them research you’ve done but not published
◦ You’ll interview them and enhance their profile.

As a general rule, the better and more relevant your content the less commercial the WIFM needs to be. Finally, it’s easy to say no to an email request from a person you do not know. So you build more links if you can make friends and be approachable.

Guest posts
Offer to write a guest post for their blog. Guest post blogging is a great way of building links. The big win of this strategy is a link to your site in the introduction or the post footer a guest post.

Suppliers
If other companies supply your business they are all potential link targets. There are the obvious suppliers that sell their products to you for re-sale. Then there are the not so obvious ones — your accountant, lawyer, landlord, phone supplier, recruitment agency and many others. If you write them a testimonial and give them permission to add it to their website, the chances are they will.

Your customers
Lots of your customers will have websites. Why not ask your customers to write about and link to the product they have bought, and tell you about it when they’ve done it. The WIFM may be a discount code, prize draw, free sample, private sale preview and so on.

Link spam and trust
Because links are so important, Google and the other search engines invest massively in detecting when they are being gamed. The type of things they watch out for include:

Links that come from sites that aren’t trusted or will be of little benefit, for example the linking sites have:

◦ Few backlinks of their own
◦ High levels of reciprocal links
◦ Link out to highly commercial sites with anchors relating to subjects like Viagra and porn
◦ Low amounts of unique content.

Links being acquired quickly from low value sources can be suspicious. So make sure your links are built gradually and avoid automated submission services. Also avoid an unnatural number of the links containing the same commercial link anchor text. Use natural language patterns, synonyms, related keywords, combinations of your brand name and anchor text.

Summary
Building links will have a dramatic effect on your rankings, so make sure you allocate sufficient resources to this task.

Links help your website and its pages gain trust, authority and relevance. This then helps them rank highly. You can publish or “take” links from other websites or you can promote great content and have links “given”. Given links are typically more valuable than those that are “taken”.

For more information or to chat about your online marketing, contact Shaun on 07957 214474 or email enquiry@southwestwebmarketing.co.uk

Tags: Web Design, E Commerce, Social Media, Social Listening, Marketing Strategies, SEO

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