Earlier this month, Jenny covered some excellent techniques for link building- on this post I’d like to expand upon that with some of our team’s notes on exactly why link building matters, as well as explore some of the tools that can be used for link building and examine some ways to think outside of the traditional link building mentality to develop a more robust interactive strategy.
To help simplify link building efforts, we use some templates to track our activities, so I have included those here as well for your reference- specialize to your needs as necessary! Many thanks to my co-bloggers, Jenny, Caleb, Rob, and Bethany for sharing their knowledge on these subjects.
Why is link building important?
Link building is important on two levels.
- It increases (when done correctly) your websites page rank.
- It increases your websites reach, user-base, and customer knowledge/confidence.
The first point goes hand-in-hand with our goals for our SEO clients. Good links help our sites rank higher in search engines. Google’s stance on links and their results:
Google and most other search engines use links to determine reputation. A site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to it. Link-based analysis is an extremely useful way of measuring a site’s value, and has greatly improved the quality of web search. Both the quantity and, more importantly, the quality of links count towards this rating.
It’s important to not forget the second point however as a site’s users should be the most important aspect of any site. Although as SEOs, we often only think about how our link building strategy is going to increase our rankings, Google recommends thinking about the customer first:
Our general advice is: Always focus on the users and not on search engines when developing your optimization strategy. Ask yourself what creates value for your users. Investing in the quality of your content and thereby earning natural backlinks benefits both the users and drives more qualified traffic to your site.
What types of sites are most helpful in improving your page rank?
The most important thing to remember when building links is that you want every link to be relevant to your site and you want to avoid link-building scams. Some sites do have more weight than others. Finding a few well targeted links to your site can be more effective than having several average links and is certainly more effective than have LOTS of terrible links. Here is a list of generalized high quality links:
- Sites with .edu
- Sites with .gov
- Sites with .org
- Directories – the more specific the better
- Informative .com’s that are topic specific (blogs and Forums)
- Any site that is an authority on your subject (high PageRank)
Keep in mind that some of these sites might not directly improve your page rank but the overall effect could be tremendous. Blogs and Forums are a good example of this. While you might not gain a lot from a link on a forum, the effect of that link spreading through the forum users is the real payoff.
What tools can you use for link building?
- SEOmoz – the mozBar
- SEOmoz Linkscape: In the full version, users cannot only judge the quality and quantity of links to their own web pages, but to their competitors as well. Users can compare number of links, number of domains and domain ranking side-by-side against competitor sites. Users can also determine the keywords competitor sites are targeting in their anchor text and identify competitors’ most powerful links.
- Competitive Link Finder: This tool will tell identify all of the websites where multiple competitors are being linked to and identify whether or not your website is being linked to also, clearly identifying which websites to reach out to. Not only are these sites also likely to be relevant to an industry, but they also have a much greater chance of being willing to add additional links to other relevant pages, i.e. your client.
- Open Site Explorer: Not only can you break down this information by internal or external links, nofollow, 301s etc., but it also displays the authority of the page, and the anchor text, used to save you from even having to load each individual page and see for yourself. You can save hours scanning down this list to get a quick idea of how various competitors are ranking for certain keywords and then check out those sites that seem to offer the best quality links, in more detail and directly contact each webmaster to recommend my client’s websites for inclusion.
- Juicy Link Finder: The Juicy Link Finder is intended to find links that have authority – old domains with a high PageRank that rank well for the keyword you enter. It returns a list of the top 50, 100, 150, or 200 pages ranked at Google for your target keyword and allows you to sort them according to age (when the domain was first spidered), position, and PageRank. You can also download the list of juicy links in CSV format.
- Link Acquisition Assistant
Find high value link opportunity queries automatically by entering details about your site.
- Xenu Link Sleuth – Downloadable software which makes it fast and easy to find broken links on your site. Link Valet does the same but doesn’t require download. Both are very fast and run an easy to read report.
- Template that can be used to track link building efforts
- What creative avenues should you think about using to make sure you expand your reach?
- Blogger Outreach (Thought Leaders, Industry blogs, niche blogs)
- PR Directories (if appropriate)
- Blogger, Twitter & Facebook Influencers
- Niche social media
- Local Links
- Link bait (budget, time, reward)
- Guest blogging
- Commenting (blogs, Social Networks)
- Are reciprocal links good or bad? Why were they considered bad to begin with? Do they carry any weight?
There are two main advantages to non-reciprocal links as opposed to reciprocal links. The first is that these links will hold more weight, as they aren’t reciprocated (the search engines can detect whether links are reciprocal). The second advantage is that they don’t have to be monitored as closely as reciprocal links. With reciprocal links one has to be aware of unethical webmasters who will take links down or use other tactics to insure that the search engines don’t see the links pages. You have to be aware of these events so that you can remove their links from your site if warranted however with non-reciprocal links you don’t have to be as concerned as you’re not linking to them.
In addition to the basics, think outside the box! What tools can you use to find influencers, blog writers, etc.?
Goals to establish and Questions to ask:
What do they blog about? How many readers? How many followers? How many fans? Do they allow promotions? How should you approach them?
Build a large list and narrow down
Build the right list – Check to make sure they are still blogging, blog frequently, and they still accept marketing/pr pitches
Go for smaller niche blogs, and follow their blogrolls
TOOLS: Search for individual blogs/bloggers or keyword categories
Google Blog Search
Technorati – Find Blogger authority (influence), link count
We Follow – Twitter Followers
Klout – Twitter influence
Google Page Rank
Start the Relationship
Set up Google Reader, Google Alerts
Follow on Twitter
Reach out via social media first
Then contact through email or Twitter DM
Personalize the email in a 5 Sentence Pitch = Compliment, Who you are, what you are promoting, Do they want to review
Be up front
Reminder Email (a few days before the launch)
We all know link building is important, but we also all know that it can be both time-consuming and sometimes a challenge in terms of actual valuable link acquisition. With some creativity and foresight as discussed, you can make the job a bit more interesting for yourself (and increase your likelihood of success), and track your results more accurately.
Jessica is an Account Supervisor at Hanapin Marketing, a search engine marketing firm focused on generating results through PPC and SEO.