What is link building?
According to Moz, one of the best references on SEO and link building, the basic definition is a “process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own”. These links allow users to pass from one website to another through typically relevant content. Search engines will use these links to ‘crawl’ the internet, including the internal and external links to and from your page. When considering a well-rounded approach to SEO, many working in the field of SEO agree that this part of the service is one of the hardest and most time-consuming.
Why do you need link building?
If anyone is seriously considering creating a solid online platform from which to promote and run their business, getting noticed and being ranked highly on search engines such as Google is vital. In the midst of all this is link building which is an element to how Google ranks web pages. Google themselves note that:
“In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.”
When trying to improve your Google ranking, you need to understand the ranking factors – with a good understanding of these comes a natural ability to understand the best approach to link building. The odds are that, as someone reading this article, you have dabbled with the idea of starting link building and have seen the propositions that certain shady companies offer. That is because there are two commonly seen approaches to general SEO. As a company, we work under White Hat SEO which is used by those who intend to make a long-term investment on their website. This can also be referred to as Ethical SEO – this is a term used to represent the usage of strategies and techniques of optimisation that focus on a human audience instead of on simply ticking technical boxes for search engines as well as following rules and policies.
It is important to note the legitimate approaches available as there are also strategies known as Black Hat SEO (cue stormy clouds and frightening music). These are the common approaches taken by all those offering low-quality links for £5 on Fiverr or similar sites. This approach focuses purely on gaining the technical requirements for Google to rank you higher in a short space of time, without obeying guidelines or focusing on and trying to better human interactions. This approach can end with a search engine (Google, Bing, etc.) banning/blacklisting your site from their results.
If you are just starting a link building strategy, then it can be difficult to find websites that you feel would be beneficial to target and approach to obtain these links. One of the tools we use when refining any possible targets is called Majestic. It hosts a web-scale link map, detailing the information infrastructure of the web, showing how pages and websites link together. It also provides us with specific metrics upon which we can build our knowledge of certain sites and better understand the benefit of individual websites to our strategy. Majestic also provides a parameter known as Trust Flow (TF), which is similar to Domain Authority (DA) and the preference of use can be different depending on individual users. Here at 90 Digital, we prefer TF due to its ability to provide industry information alongside rankings, but this article on Domain Authority vs Trust Flow will give you a good understanding of how the two work together.
Below, our link building geniuses note down a few of their ideas and approaches, as well as information on important tools, that can help those considering starting a link building strategy.
The outreach process
I’ve been doing this for quite some time now, and in all of these years, I’ve found that certain things will get me closer to a ‘yes’ from an editor, journalist or webmaster.
It has to do with being brief, blunt and basic. However, most importantly, it’s about how you get around to do that without just saying ‘hello you, I’ve got this thing, will you link to it? Thanks!’
A good pitch
When it comes to writing successful pitches, everyone agrees:
1. You should never use templates
2. You’ve got to personalise every single email
What works for me is a mix of both points. Writing templates that feel personal to whoever is reading them, by tailoring each one of the story ideas to the website’s readers. We have a high response rate through this approach. We also work directly with an awesome team of writers that give me confidence that we are going to deliver what we are promising.
Brief, Blunt & Basic
When receiving an unexpected email, most people will want to know:
– ‘Who is contacting me?’
– ‘What do you want?’
– ‘Why are you reaching out to me?’
If possible, state exactly what the email is about in the subject line.
You’ve got one chance to get your message and intentions across:
– Keep it simple! Most of us read our emails while on our phones. Nothing that takes more than one scroll down to read it should be fine.
– One email, one desired outcome.
One of the issues that some of our clients have is link reclamation and especially how to fix those broken links, leading to old pages or 404s. Content is crucial when it comes to link building, but some in-depth technical knowledge can also get you a long way. Make sure that you are always aware of your full backlink profile. Are there missed opportunities there in the form of outdated or broken links? There are two ways to go, first, try to outreach to the webmasters and offer fresh content. If that is not possible and the link juice passed is essential, make sure that you recreate the broken URL in your domain.
The key takeaway from the above? Make sure that your domain’s URL structure is in excellent condition and future proof by running a full SEO Technical Audit.
Our all-time favourite tool to crawl for a complete backlink profile is Majestic SEO, but another option is our proprietary tool Datagrabber that you can download here.
When I approach potential new sites, I am always trying to think of how I can grab their attention and provide concise details to help our chances of connecting. However, it does heavily depend on the content you have at your disposal. To stand a good chance, it has to be tailored for each target, no matter how time-consuming you feel this might be. The same basic story can, of course, be used for two different sites, but by putting a different angle/viewpoint on the topic, it will help your contacts see that you’ve spent time reviewing their audience. It is a time-consuming task that needs a little bit of luck and good timing to pull off successfully, so prepare for more than a few rejections.
Beyond these initial approaches there are many individual ways to analyse, approach, discover, and complete backlinking opportunities. For many small businesses without the time to devote to this task, they are unfortunately without the technical know-how and available time to include these in their approaches. A way to help save time is to use tools that can help browse through vast volumes of websites to stop you trawling through thousands of irrelevant sites and potentially getting a bad ‘reputation’ for yourself. One option is Citation Labs Link Prospector, it does still leave you with a lot of the decision making for yourself, but it can certainly give you that helping in hand in knowing where to start.
If there has been anything that you can take away from this article, it is hoped that there is much more of an art to this process than you might initially think and that to see improvements, a strategy is vitally important for your link building efforts. For any further advice, please browse through our blog or visit our link building page.