Link Building: The Essential Guide
In this two part series, we will look to give you a complete overview of the various link building processes SEOs use.
In this two part series, we will look to give you a complete overview of the various link building processes SEOs use. The guide will look in detail at the various link building strategies most SEO professional’s use, ranging from basic level foundation links to the more advanced techniques used by the experts.
First of all, we will give you an overview of what link building is and how it has changed over the past few years.
What Is Link-Building And Why Should You Bother?
In its basic form, link building is the method used to attain hyperlinks from other websites linking back to their own. Search engines use links to crawl the internet, allowing them to create a big picture of both the individual sites and the World Wide Web as a whole, whereby links are used to discover new web sites/pages and perhaps more importantly, to aid in determining where a website should rank in their results pages.
Since Google brought out its Penguin update in 2012, the importance of building high quality, relevant links has never been higher and generally speaking, the more high quality links a website has pointing at it, the better it will do in the results pages.
There is a roughly generic process that most SEOs will go about when undertaking their link building campaigns, and in the next few paragraphs we will tell you what needs to be done at a foundation level to ensure that you have the building blocks in place for your own link building crusade to be a successful one.
Citations And Web Directories
Listing on Citation sites and Web Directories are the first stage of the link building process. This is one of the oldest forms of link building and although not as valuable as it once was (due to spamming and algorithm changes), it is still a core focus of link building.
The process involves signing up to a wide range of web directories to ensure your website is cited online as much as possible. There are various types of directories out there, ranging from national to local, generic to niche, free to paid, and each have their own benefits associated with them.
National directories are ones that you have probably already heard of and generally have high Domain Authority’s (DA)*. Although technically these sites do not pass link juice, they still pass authority and relevancy to your website especially in local listings – name, address, phone number (NAP).
Examples of these include Yell, 192, Brownbook, Hotfrog and Yalwa.
Listing on these sites is relatively simple, albeit it does take time to actually be approved and appear (can take four months for some sites to approve your listing).
TIP: In some cases, company profiles on directory sites have higher positions in the search engine results pages than where their own actual website appears, due to the power and authority these websites have so it really is a no-brainer.
Local directories are ones more focused on a specific geographical area and unsurprisingly, are a great way of building up local SEO. Some of these are similar to citations but the main difference being that these sites are usually only available to list on locally.
Generally, local directories carry less Domain Authority than the national ones but make up for this in terms of relevance, which of course is a massive ranking signal for Google. Good examples of these are Thompsonlocal, Citylocal, City-listings and Localstore.
There are also some sites setup that cater solely for specific cities (i.e. Total Guide Swindon, visit Bristol, etc.), which are ideal for local SEO.
TIP: This may seem quite old school and laborious, but it is surprising how many companies aren’t actually registered with these kind of sites. If your rivals are listed, you cannot afford not to be.
If you don’t already know, local SEO campaigns are massively different to generic, non-geographical ones thanks to Google’s Pigeon update in 2014.
Check out this excellent article on how to rank your business locally from industry bible, Search Engine Land, explaining why local SEO is so important, and for more information on Googles various algorithm updates check out the knowledge base on our website.
Both these national and local directories would definitely be classed as quite generic, and ones where the vast majority of UK businesses would (should) be signed up to. The next and perhaps most important type of directory that you should sign up to are the industry relevant, niche ones.
These obviously vary from business to business, but for the vast majority of industries, you should be able to find at least a couple of directories catering to your trade. These directories are not only ideal for relevancy, local SEO and Domain Authority but they also assist in driving enquires and traffic to websites. If we use a wedding marquee company as an example, two kinds of industry relevant directory sites that you should be looking to sign up for would be specialist events and wedding ones.
You may notice when signing up for some of these directories a lot of them (the majority when niche/industry) give you the option of signing up for a paid listing as well as well as a basic.
When you have the option of both, it makes no sense (linking-wise) to upgrade to a paid position, as the link juice will remain the same. In terms of promoting your business however, it is up to you to decide whether being listed higher up in their own results pages is a good return on investment.
Some niche directories will be paid only and again it will depend on how you view the investment, but it is more beneficial to have industry relevant links pointing towards your site than the more common web directories. Also, with the added benefit of traffic from your target market this should be a key strategy.
TIP: For the entrepreneurs out there, if you cannot find a directory related to your industry, start one up yourself. These things often snowball, and it is widely known directory sites can become highly lucrative very quickly.
Infographics are visual representations of information, data or knowledge generally presented in a fun and easy to read format that can, if used properly, be an excellent source of backlinks, brand awareness and traffic generation.
TIP: There are plenty of sites out there now that can guide you through the infographic building process and one of the easiest, most user- friendly ones around is Vennage, which also rather conveniently, is free!
Infographics are a great source of visual content marketing and when designed and promoted effectively, can be a great source of link equity. At their most basic level, infographics can be used to build links by listing the graphic on submission sites, garnering backlinks in the process. There are many infographic sharing sites out there ranging from free to paid, with the most popular taking the form of visually, omginfographics and infographics showcase.
Submitting to these sites however, can be a time consuming process as many sites will ask for some unique content to go with it, i.e. a paragraph or two about why it is great, as well as being quite specific when it comes to the size and format of the piece. In our experience they tend to get lots of submissions, and so can be fairly picky when it comes to infographics that they showcase, so it is important you put the time and effort in to make it excellent otherwise you run the risk of seeing little return on your efforts.
These sharing sites do have active, interested userbases though, so make sure you fill out the submission forms correctly and include all the relevant tags so that it will show up when someone searches for something in your genre and maybe, if you are lucky, you will receive a few shares and reposts which of course, carry link equity.
TIP: Work through this list of free infographic submission sites, to maximise exposure.
Much like infographics, document sharing sites require something to be submitted in order to attain a link. The value of these links has reduced over time, however it is still a strategy that commands a place in the list.
Document sharing sites have been created so people can upload their content for other people to see. The main document sharing sites dominate the results and have a high domain authority (although no-follow) and still give relevancy and power to the pages linking to it.
The process involves converting your piece of content to a pdf (ppt) and submitting to the websites. To maximise this strategy though, you gain the most traction by getting your content shared amongst other interested parties, and this can only be achieved if your content is of high quality and adds value to the reader (as every piece of content you produce should. Content is not just king anymore, it’s the whole royal circle).
It is important to remember that the links from these sites come from internal hyperlinks (within the content), so make sure your document contains either your keywords or brand terms, as well as the company URL. Popular sites include Scribd, Zoho and Issuu.
TIP: Use Docushares for any new content on site.
This is one of the more straight forward techniques of attaining links, but also the most overlooked.
The process involves utilising your existing relationships by contacting current and previous clients, requesting a link. Success depends upon the businesses and the industry, however it is a quick win (when won) and one that does not require any investment, only time.
In some industries, companies will create a badge for you to use, while others just get added to a relevant resource/link page or a mention on the site within a blog article. This is one of the easiest ways to secure a link as you already have a relationship, thus some level of trust with them (warm link building).
TIP:Use this as part of outreach – offer them something, build a relationship.
Another one of the strategies of yesteryear. Press Release marketing along with article marketing was once the lynchpin of link building. The content was easy to produce, easy to submit and could be automated very easily. This strategy though was easily manipulated, and was popular amongst black hat SEOs, who were looking to game the search engines in hope of securing quick wins.
Sites using this spammy technique then got pinged during the Panda algorithm update in 2012, and since then, Press Release sites have lost a lot of credibility and authority.
This is not to say that Press Release marketing does not have a place in modern SEO and digital marketing though.
By submitting a press release to specific syndication sites, you can garner links by inserting them into the body of the text. As mentioned, in the past, PR sites have been over used and over spammed, so make sure the releases are legitimately informative and only include one or two links. There is also the chance that if the piece is meaty enough, it could get picked up by journalists which is a great way of increasing brand recognition and publicity.
For more advanced tips and techniques, featuring the likes of broken backlinking, reverse engineering and in depth competitor backlink analysis, look out for the final part of our essential guide to link building which will be coming soon.
*Domain Authority is a measure of the power of a domain name and is one of many search engine ranking factors. It is based on a wide variety of elements, combining both onsite and offsite facets, ranging from the age of your site to the quality of backlinks you have.
Domain Authority (DA) is based on a 100-point scale, which predicts how a site will rank on search engines. A brand new site will have a score of zero, whereas a well-established, successful site will have a score somewhere between 70-90. Very few sites achieve a score above 90, however the BBC news website and Facebook are both examples of ones with a DA of 100. An achievable score that SME’s should be aiming to attain is around the 30-40 mark, but that is depending on their industry average.
SEO company/gurus Moz can be credited with founding the term, which has since become synonymous with the industry and is widely thought to be a great indicator when considering the quality of a site. Domain Authority is often used by webmasters and search engine marketers as a yardstick, of which the success or failure of a strategy can be marked up against. An increase in DA for example, can indicate your SEO is working and in general, the higher the Domain Authority, the more likely you are to have strong website traffic and ranking positions.
Stay tuned for Link Building: The Essential Guide Part Two...coming shortly.
Need help link building? Or need more clarification on this guide? Reach out to Technical SEO Executive, Matthew Finch, firstname.lastname@example.org
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