Today, we look into one of the toughest and most misunderstood areas of SEO - link building. While few might doubt the logistical importance that backlinks play, for some, merely uttering the words fills them with fear and the sense of impending doom. Indeed, for some, the topic of building links is considered taboo.
With so many mixed messages and opinion pieces circulating on the subject of backlink strategies, it has become increasingly confusing for many to differentiate what is fact and what is fiction.
Google has done a great job of ensuring that all website owners are aware of their responsibilities and clearly warns against participating in link schemes, creating thin content and low-quality guest posts or any plan intended to inflate your website position in the search results artificially. Although recommended reading, be forewarned that you might feel somewhat intimidated and confused about which direction you should proceed next.
Why is Link Building Important?
Singularly, link building delivers more leverage than any other SEO strategy, however, like most things, nothing is as simple as it may seem - not all link strategies provide the same results, implemented correctly inbound links are incredibly beneficial while links too and from bad neighbourhoods will do your website and brand more harm than good.
Regardless of the size of your business, neglecting link building diminishes your brands' competitive edge in the marketplace, as the under-representation of your websites domain authority directly translates to poor performance in the SERPs.
The Endless Sea of Competition
With the number of websites now numbering in the billions, competition is fierce. The daunting, yet somewhat undeniable fact is that link building is hard and without a content marketing strategy which naturally delivers inbound links the majority of businesses face the possibility of being lost to infinite obscurity. Unless of course, you are amongst those who are prepared to seek and grasp an understanding of what is it that the "search engines really want" and are ready to act upon it.
Link Building Challenges
At one-time link building was a straightforward process - a hyperlink from one website or page to another, the more links you built, the better your site ranked in the search results.
Today, link building is just one of the many components which falls under a much larger holistic approach to SEO and Content Marketing.
The marketing playbook has changed the manner forever how sites obtain backlinks, the success of a link building campaign the result of strategic industry analysis, planning, outreach, content creation and social engagement.
Preparation is the cornerstone of success for any venture. Planning to bolster your website backlinks is not something that you do alone, it requires interaction with others, an offer, a benefit and commitment.
Building links 'naturally' is not an easy process, and no doubt, one of the reasons why it's such a significant ranking factor.
Planning to build backlinks requires you to take a close look at your business and think about what it is you want to achieve, some questions that might come to mind are;
- What is your target market?
- What are you trying to achieve?
- Do you know your competitors?
- What are competitors doing that you are not?
- What makes your company or products different from your competitors?
- Have you completed keyword research based on your businesses products or services, industry and objectives?
- Do you have a budget?
- What is the life cycle of that budget?
- How are you going to measure your ROI?
- Do you have in-house resources to commence a content marketing and link building strategy?
Challenge: - Planning an approach to link building encompasses the skillsets of contributors, bloggers and strategic alliances to provide the best chance of the success of your campaign.
Today, outreach is the digital form of the old 'cold call'. More frequently now than ever before, people are bombarded with information daily in their business and personal lives. For your outreach to be effective, it needs to be purposeful, targeted and offer something in the way of value to the recipient to avoid your 'cold call' being cast aside.
Unlike cold calls, however, the outreach does give you an opportunity to refine your approach, thoroughly research your prospect, and think of an angle in which they can benefit from you that meets your needs.
If the latter seems to be the logical approach to any sales transaction you would be correct; however, the difference is that you are not selling a product or service, your offering an opportunity to like-minded individuals with the benefit of adding value to your outreaches website or audience. You are neither looking for payment nor offering one; your focus is a creative collaboration which benefits your audience.
Outreach is exceptionally effective in building the right business relationships; when done right it is incredibly beneficial, here are two commonly used methods;
- Searching for potential prospects using Google Search Operators and related industry keywords, for two great resources on how to use search operators; we recommend that you read this and this. This method although time-consuming delivers results. Keyword research and selecting the right search operators is the key to identifying the best prospects.
- Use an automatic prospect search and outreach tool; these tools are designed to identify potential prospects without the need for Search Operators and offer the ability to outreach to prospects directly from the results list.
Regardless of what method you use to narrow down your outreach prospect, creating the right hook for your outreach is crucial, without a targeted value proposition your message will end up in the trash. The outreach is just the first step, so be prepared to go that extra mile to achieve your objectives.
Challenge: - Identifying your prospect, every potential candidate needs to vetted, finding the right candidate with aligned values can be very time-consuming.
3. Low Domain Authority
Probably one of the most significant issues associated with new websites is the lack of domain authority, limiting the ability to leverage your campaign efforts. However, a low domain authority doesn't necessarily need to hamper your content marketing efforts, use a slow and steady approach, work towards improving the authoritative strength of your inbound links as your websites authority increases.
Another great way to offset low domain authority is producing quality content as it is always in demand, with the right strategy it is possible to obtain links from high authoritative sources naturally, a great place to start is refining your outreach and value proposition.
Challenge:- Leveraging your content efforts on websites with low domain authority can be difficult.
4. Content Strategy
All too often, the mistake most common amongst inexperienced marketers is making their articles too sales orientated, focusing overly on advertising their products or services. When creating content, focus on the needs of your target audience. Your audience alone will determine the usefulness of the information you provide, such as timely insights or solutions which resolve a problem rather than a direct sales approach.
Creating insightful content is rewarding for both your readers and your business's bottom line. Before you start creating content, do the necessary research to ensure that the topic you are discussing is something your audience will benefit from and enjoy. Write conversationally, just as you would if you were talking to a friend - appearing authentic in your approach is the key.
Think about the purpose of the links you place within your articles, before embedding any links ask yourself, would I recommend this website to a friend and how will it benefit my audience? Is the link relevant to the page topic? Link out sparingly and remember that great content translates to great SEO.
Challenge:- Creating purposeful content requires a considerable amount of time and effort, ensure that all on-page elements, such as optimum page length, keywords, latent semantic indexing (LSI), accuracy and links out to resources are all considered.
5. Budget & Time
Funding and time is a limiting factor in many businesses and understandably. It is essential that your goals realistically match your marketing objectives and expectations.
The size of your business and how it chooses to split their marketing budget will vary significantly dependant on the age of the company, current search visibility, marketing channels and future growth path.
Furthermore, outreach and collaboration efforts require significant time investment based on the size of your business and future market expectations.
Some businesses overlook content marketing because of its inability to produce immediate results; however, it is essential to consider the long-term financial benefits of a well-thought-out content marketing strategy when compared to short-term pay-per-click strategy.
If you would like to gain more insight and weigh up the benefits of content marketing vs pay per click strategies, Neil Patel wrote an article on Comparing the ROI of Content Marketing and Paid Advertising - which we recommend reading.
The planning and implementation of a link building strategy regardless of the size of your business require the cumulative efforts on a variety of marketing fronts with consideration to budgetary limitations, ROI and staffing resources. Outsourcing may be needed if your company does not have the necessary in-house expertise.
Link building is not a sprint, results are seen over time, measured not in mere days, but months. By focusing on what benefits your audience and building the right business relationships, you will find your link building efforts will prove to be a wise investment in the long run.
On a related note, just recently, I was fortunate enough to have an insider peek of a solution which promises to address the issues associated with the link building process, and it looks very promising.
The platform built by an Aussie firm Increaseo is called Engado. Being naturally inquisitive and wanting to know more about how this platform came about, we spoke with a chap by the name of Sean Williams who said that Engado was designed to provide a more natural way for businesses to improve their online visibility.
Sean believes the most challenging aspect of link building is the outreach process citing difficulties that most have in finding the right prospect who understands the benefits of the value proposition offered.
Even though the platform is not due for release for several months, Sean was able to provide us with some insights. Expanding on how Engado differs from other platforms by connecting businesses at the business level, making it quicker and easier to see if an outreach prospect is a right fit for your website while providing targeted insights and simplifying the collaboration process, something which automated solutions fail to deliver.
We hope the information has proved to be useful if you have any feedback we would like to hear any comments, suggestions or opinions you have.