For decades now SEO experts have been link building in the constant pursuit of backlinks for their client’s websites. For many years this was fairly easy and just about any backlink gave a boost in search engine results pages (SERPs) rankings.
Today, link building is still very important for SEO however the links that are worth having are very hard to get.
I’m not going to go over all of the old fashioned (and useless) ways for building links below. You can Google for the history of link building if that’s of interest to you. Below however we will look at the newer, smarter ways for developing high-value backlinks.
Backlinks that matter have changed
If you or your SEO consultant are still spending time getting links from everywhere and anywhere, stop. It’s a waste of time and possibly harmful.
The links that will really help are almost impossible to acquire through payment or link seeding. Instead, you need to work on attracting them. How? By building relationships and by providing content that is so good that people who write on reputable websites will feel compelled to link to your content.
Unfortunately there are still a lot of people working in SEO agencies that believe they can outsmart the data scientists that formulate the search engine algorithms for companies like Google. To assume that these data scientists aren’t capable of discovering your deliberate backlink building attempts is a mistake. Just ask someone who has been penalised!
But all this is old news. Let’s look at some new ways of getting links to your website that are natural and great for SEO.
Start building strong relationships
Instead of trying to convince strangers to link to your website you first need to build relationships with those who have influence over, or even own, the websites where you’d like your backlinks to be placed. Here are a few ways to go about it:
- Start following them on social media. Follow, engage, retweet, share – let them know you are there and interested. They will become familiar with you.
- Reply to comments they have made.
- Comment on their blog. Not just silly little “great post” comments. Instead, write considered comments that show you have read and thought about what they have written.
- Don’t ever ask for anything! The idea is to get them to notice you and what you do.
One of the smart ways to go about building relationships online is to engage in content marketing. With content marketing you provide useful information to your readers for free, demonstrating your willingness to share and help others without compensation. Content marketing is good for SEO too.
While working on relationship building it is wise to also spend some time each day on social listening. This is where you monitor social media channels and listen out for mentions of your brand. If you don’t, how will you know when someone mentions you or your content?!
Don’t be insecure
Because of old fashioned SEO ideology many people feel uneasy linking to other websites. It’s as though they fear that all their traffic, and link juice, will magically be redirected to the other website. This is clearly not the case.
By linking to other resources you enrich your reader’s experience. You should only link to good quality websites of course, but don’t be afraid to link to pages that extend or enhance the content you have provided. Pages that provide content with links to additional resources are often bookmarked, shared – and linked to!
There is also no need to add the rel=”nofollow” attribute to all of your outbound links. Doing so will not endear you to your community of content producers and it certainly won’t encourage links back to your website.
Keep key relationships well informed
When you publish a piece of content that you feel some of the people you have fostered relationships with will appreciate, let them know. People love to be recognised as being amongst the first-to-know, and are more likely to post links to your content if they feel they ‘discovered’ it first.
If you mention or quote somebody in your content then direct contact may be warranted. Who doesn’t like to hear that they have been quoted in an article! This is a great way to appear on someone’s radar, and hopefully win some backlinks later on.
Bonus tip: if you notice some ‘bad press’ aimed at someone you are building a relationship with then let them know. They will respect you for bringing it to their attention, boosting your reputation in the process. The decision to link to your content will be almost automatic after that. Free tools such as Social Mention can help you find bad PR.
Be patient when link building
The relationship building approach to link building described above will not please the impatient. But if you are patient, the SEO benefits that flow from the links you begin to accumulate will be well worth it.
Remember, a handful of quality backlinks is far better than hundreds, if not thousands, of low-end backlinks. And, they won’t get you penalised!
Link building to one of the mainstays of SEO that continues to evolve while also facing increasing scrutiny. You have to be smart about it and take the time needed to build relationships that will provide backlinks of high value.
Start building relationships with the people who already link to you or who follow you on social media. From there you can discover other influencers near-by who may be suited to working with you.