Link building practices used to be simple and straightforward in the past: webmasters would research popular keywords, create pages and posts that contained those keywords, then create links that pointed to those pages with the same keywords used as anchor texts. A few years later, writing content to attract backlinks became a horrid but widely popular link building practice. But as search engines have refined their ranking algorithms, they became fully capable of identifying websites trying to manipulate their ranking by buying or exchanging links.
Yet, link building is imperative for every brand that wants to rank higher in search engines, and doing it ethically can actually provide satisfying results as long as you employ the right practices. Google’s webmaster trends analyst, John Mueller, has stated that while backlinks are still an important ranking factor, webmasters should focus on creating quality, response-oriented content instead – in other words, content that ultimately results in a favorable action from the reader, usually a backlink.
If you’re concerned about your company not using the best link building practices, check out the guide below to see what you can do to improve your SEO strategy and see a better return on investment.
1. Start Linking Out
A huge number of companies avoid linking out to other websites in the same niche due to fearing that this practice will help increase the other websites’ popularity instead of their own. But to gradually find your way to the top position of SERPs, you need to start placing at least one or two relevant outbound links in the body of your articles. In theory, an outbound link should provide customers with more information on the topic that you’re writing about. In addition to conveying your dedication to providing an outstanding online experience to users, linking out clearly shows that you have researched the topic and included references for readers to verify the authenticity of the information provided.
But don’t start linking out for the sake of just doing it. For this link building strategy to work, you must be smart about how you introduce these outbound links to your readers. They can either be integrated as part of your content, with relevant keywords used as anchor texts, or be included at the bottom of the content as part of a Reference Box. In most cases, they will return the favor and link back to you.
2. Guest Posting
Guest posting has been long believed to help brands rank higher by giving them the opportunity to publish guest posts on other websites, and incorporate relevant links pointing to their own into the content. Approaching very popular websites in your niche for a guest posting opportunity is the first step of the process – the rest is focused on creating content that delivers value and reflects well on you. Your guest posts should be well researched, offer an interesting approach to a common topic, provide one or two references to verifiable facts, cite industry experts, and engage readers. And when it’s created for the benefit of someone else, quality content can open doors.
Usually, guest posts allow you to incorporate links pointing to your website either in the body of your content, or in a byline. While the first option is desirable given that readers are more likely to click through a link that’s part of an article approaching a topic they’re specifically interested in, the latter option is just as good.
If including the link in your byline, turn it around by focusing on the reader instead of your own interest. If your guest post focuses on, say, the importance and benefits of local SEO, link to an article talking about questions to ask when looking for SEO services in Sydney.
GOOD: Check out Alex Pierce’s post on how to choose the right SEO company (link here) for your website, which talks about the burdens of selecting a reliable and highly experienced agency from a sea of available options.
BAD: Alex Pierce is a writer at [website name].
3. Social Media Platforms
In addition to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest, taking advantage of other social media platforms (social bookmarking platforms, to be more specific) offers webmasters the opportunity to drive traffic and earn links. To get the attention of your audience or other fellow entrepreneurs in your niche, you must make the home page of Digg or Delicious Popular. Other platforms to consider are Reddit, PopURLS, Magnolia, Fark and TechMeme. The more popular your links are, the better chance you stand at receiving secondary links from users.
Headlines should magnetically attract users to access your links, but you must craft them in different ways for each individual social bookmarking site to drive traffic. Each platform has different users that interact with your content differently – what works for Reddit won’t work as well for Digg or Delicious.
Instead of submitting your own content to these sites, consider asking a friend to do it for you, otherwise other users may look down at the initiative. Make sure to create a new summary that’s more engaging and enticing for users instead of using your posts’ first paragraph to increase the likelihood of receiving more links.
4. Submit Content to Article Directories
Article directories such as Ezine Articles can go a long way toward building reputation and generating traffic. While having just one article published on these directories won’t make a difference in how your website ranks, having 10 or 20 articles will certainly do. It’s important to avoid posting the exact same content across multiple article directories to avoid duplicate content, which may actually result in search engines becoming wary of potentially manipulative link building practices.
As with guest posting, you want to include a link to an article or page that can further benefit the reader instead of yourself. The article or page should be highly relevant to the topic that you’re writing about, and should further expand on the information comprised in the content published on those directories.
Once you’ve implemented these tactics and you’ve started seeing results, you could also try acquiring expired domains with great authority and high PageRank and redirecting them to your main website to transfer residual traffic and ranking as well. If done correctly, you could land hundreds of new visitors every month, and all those backlinks pointing to the expired domains will br actually pointing to your main website.