Back in the early days of SEO, white-hat and black-hat SEO were a thing, which I thought had died. But just recently, a colleague received a clearly suspicious offer for link building for the EVG website. Really? In 2021? So I hit Google to do a quick search for “link building” and got 4 billion results. They promise fast results for an incredibly low cost. Of course, if you take them up on their offer, you run the [very real] risk of getting dinged by Google. And, of course, building links cheaply means these folks aren’t paying attention to the context, content or quality of the links. Why is anyone still buying into this?
What is Link Building?
Link building falls under SEM, or search engine marketing, and part of a sound SEO [search engine optimization] strategy. We all know Google evaluates websites in order to rank them in search results. And we know that websites that have authoritative, trustworthy and useful content rank higher. One way Google understands your site meets those criteria is by paying attention to the links pointing to your website. That’s a signal that other people trust your content and find it helpful. It’s a super simple, intuitive idea. And when your website ranks better, you get more traffic. And when you get more traffic, you get more business. So links are a really good thing. But without quality links from reputable websites, it’s nearly impossible to rank well, providing visibility to potential customers.
But the devil is always in the details.
Are all links good or valuable or helpful?
Well, it depends. You want links to your site from external domains, but those other domains need to be authoritative and trustworthy too. For example, if your senior living community website has a link from a local plumber’s website, that link isn’t going to drive meaningful traffic to your website. More importantly, that link isn’t going to impact your domain authority score. Why? Because the connection between the two is tenuous at best. Maybe the plumber did good work for your facility, but will his audience be looking for links to senior living communities on his site?
What traffic does each link drive to your website?
Ideally, those links pointing to your site are funneling traffic to specific pages (maybe a blog, a product page, or another page) on your website and not just to your Home page. If the referring site is garbage, though, any increased traffic will be worthless. If the link is from a spammy site, anyone following the link is probably going to bounce as soon as they hit whatever page they land on. That’s going to impact your site’s metrics. Google’s going to notice all those negative actions, and instead of increasing your ranking position, you’re going to see a decrease.
How long does it take to build quality links?
Like any (good) SEO campaign, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Finding and getting quality links takes time and effort. It’s worth it because over time you’ll reap the benefit of increased domain authority. Google will take notice, which can improve your search ranking. But more importantly, quality links on quality sites will drive more traffic to your website. Immediately.
How do I Build Links the Right Way?
The ethics are pretty clear: If you provide value to the reader, and you abide by the best practices of the day, you’re on solid ground. When link building is done well, sincerely and thoughtfully, everyone (the publisher, the website, and the end user) benefits.
Begin by creating outstanding content. Did you know 75% of online content has no links? Zip. But it’s one thing to say create good content and another to actually do it. Begin by taking a hard look at what your audience needs. Then produce content that answers that need. Content that resonates with audiences includes:
- Best of lists
- How-to posts
- Long-form content (1-2K words)
Next, begin building relationships with creators of other high-quality websites. That requires a small investment of time and energy to review other industry websites. You can also use third-party tools like Ahrefs and Moz to help you analyze the domain authority of websites you like to ask for a link. Then create excellent content that resonates with your audience. The next step might feel awkward, but think of it like this, it’s time to make a new friend!
How do I ask for a link?
Asking for a link is as much art as science. It all begins with a sincere email to the right person. Do your homework and see who’s in charge of the content for your target website. Then craft a message that articulates how the link will benefit their audience. Don’t just include a link to your website and expect them to take the time to look for something to read. Include a sample of the content that’s relevant to their audience. Be specific in your request, asking for a link about x to be added to a specific page.
For example, you could ask them if you can publish a guest post on their blog with a link to your website. Be nice, and offer them a reciprocal opportunity. If they don’t have a blog, you can ask for a link if they’re talking about industry news [be sure you have some news to share] and again offer to add a link to their site. The key to this approach to link building is to provide value to your link partner by making it easy to say yes.
Ultimately the secret to building quality links is that there is no secret. And there are no shortcuts. You need to deliver unique, high-value content that begs to be read. Think of it this way, links are an editorial voting system. The more good content you offer, the higher the chance someone will find that content valuable and link to it.
If you’re feeling shy about reaching out, why not take the first step and reach out to EVG? Our SEO experts can help you publish high-quality content. And we’re not shy. We’ll reach out on your behalf and help you build high-quality links too!