If you search Google now, you will find millions of pages that tell you how to create a link building strategy. The catch is that these pages are often vague and tilled with out dated information, and the webmaster’s goal is to sell you their link-building services. Hiring an SEO to help you build links is beneficial, but it’s not always within a new webmaster’s budget. You can create a small link-building strategy yourself to get started, and once you have enough money, you can then look at hiring a third party. Here is how you build a plan of your own to get started.
1) Understand Link Building and Search Engine Guidelines
Before you start, you need to understand the purpose of backlinks and what they mean to search engines. Google uses over 200 ranking factors and at least one of them is backlinks. There are likely dozens of backlink factors from backlink location to the way the link mentions the brand.
You might think of a backlink as one component of a web page, but a backlink is made up of several components including:
- Anchor text
- The site page referencing the brand
- The number of backlinks to your site on the same domain
- Does the link point to an active page?
- Age of the backlink
- The PR of the site were the backlink is located
PageRank (PR) used to be the most important factor advertisers would look at when they built a strategy.
Google hasn’t updated PR since 2013, so the measurement is outdated. Any marketing agency that uses it is not providing you with relevant, current information. Google still uses PR internally, but it no longer publishes it for the public.
The most important components for you to identify is the site’s authority and the anchor text. The anchor text is the words used for the backlink. Most site owners go for their brand name, because then the backlink is associated with a brand, and it helps search engine understand and recognize the brand name.
The site’s authority is a mystery even though most marketing people will tell you to focus on Moz and their internal tools that calculate DA (domain authority) and PA (page authority). You can use these tools, but remember that these calculations are not Google’s and don’t necessarily reflect Google’s internal quality measurement for a site. You can usually identify what search engines consider quality authority by entering a query and taking note of what sites are on the first page.
The final consideration is reading Bing and Google’s search engine quality guidelines. At the surface, Google tells you not to build links or do anything to rank a website artificially. However, they also acknowledge that links are a factor in ranking. You must balance legitimate marketing and backlinking and avoid just outright spamming, which is a nuisance on the web.
2) Compile a List of Sites Relevant in Your Industry
You need to find a list of websites that might network with you. You can have some bloggers do a paid write-up of your service or product. Doing so requires no upfront money, but you provide them with a free account or send them your product for review.
If your industry is big enough, you can find content sites aid online magazines that will host editor approved content. Most of these sites have editors, and you need to pitch content to them The editor approves the content, and you get a free backlink to your site.
Another way to get your content on an online magazine is to contact one of the writers. You can offer to pay for a post or provide the author with free service or product in exchange for a review.
Don’t spam these sites with comments or requests for backlinks. Always stay professional, and avoid using any bots or automated services that site owners may consider a spam attack, as this can lead to negative PR for your site.
3) Analyze Your Competitors
If you haven’t already analyzed your competitors during your initial pre-launch stage, now is a good time to see how your competitors are doing in search engines. If you use sites such as AHREF or Majestic SEO, you can see a list of your competitor’s backlinks. You can pay as little as $5 for a report of your competitor’s links on sites such as Fiverr.
Your analysis also shows you who is dominating certain search phrases. You should eliminate search phrases that are dominated by authority sites. For instance, you wouldn’t want to spend time and money on the phrase “books” when Amazon dominates those phrases, but your competitor could have weak domination over long-tail phrases with smaller search volume.
Phrases for which your competitor has high-end backlinks from prominent brands are also too competitive at least in the beginning. Once you build some marketing dollars, you can spend money on more competitive phases.
4) Perform Keyword Research and Analysis
Identifying strong competitors eliminates competitive keywords, so what phrases should you target? Most marketing people use tools to find useful phrases with little competition but some search volume. Search volume is important and often overlooked by new keyword researchers.
For instance, “books” has millions of searchers looking for results, but you will find that search volume for a specific title is much smaller. You want to find and target more obscure phrases related to books. Your goal for keyword research should be finding phrases with at least 1,000 searches where big brand names aren’t already ranking.
One tool most keyword researchers use is SEM Rush. This tool does much of the analysis for you. You can also use Adwords to search for phrases, but remember the difiiculty scores and search volume numbers pertain to paid advertisers and not organic search ranking.
5) Diversify Your Backlinks
Google continuously tweaks its search engine to combat link spammers. One way Google can identify paid links is when you have dozens of links on just one site. Natural links are those where an author mentions your product, but it looks unnatural when an author spends 10, 20, 30 posts linking to your site. You need domain diversity.
Domain diversity is the theory that too many links on the game domain work against you instead you. You want to spread your links across multiple sites instead of just finding a dozen sites to talk about your brand. While 100 domains are a good start, more would be better. Always spread your content across multiple domains but make sure they are also related to your industry.
Backlink builders make the common mistake of finding any blogger that will take a few dollars in exchange for poor content posted to their site. You have to ask yourself why a blog mainly interested in vet medicine would post an article about car insurance (insurance companies are notorious for doing this). This practice too can send poor qualitylink signals to search engines.
6) Don’t Neglect Your on Site Content
Good content attracts natural backlinks, and these links are the inexpensive ones that cost you no money to obtain. Some webmasters spend hours building links but neglecting their own content. Authors won’t link to content that’s poorly written just for search engines.
While seeking websites that will link to you, you must also take the time to build good content on your own site. Your search engine rank will improve, and you want to attract links from readers who find your site through search engines and link back to it based on the information you bring. Don’t rehash the same content as your competitors. Instead, speak from your experience and show your expertise in a subject.
You’ll have several competitors that are in it just for search engine traffic and ad clicks. These competitors have little-to-no experience in the industry, so you can easily outrank them by providing content that only an expert can write. You can also hire writers within your field if you don’t have time to write the content.
7) Write Relevant Content for Each Site
Finding backlink opportunities requires a little content marketing strategy. Most sites will ask for you to write the content, and then their editors will review It. You can pitch ideas, but it’s better to write the content first and then ask the site owner to publish it on their site with a backlink to your own site.
You shouldn’t throw together any content and hope someone accepts it. Write content specifically for the websites you’re targeting. Most of these sites have their writing policies posted to the site. Reviewing them before you write content and pitch to the editors will improve your chance of acceptance, and you might wake up to a published article on a well-known site. You not only get a backlink from a high-authority site, but you also drive traffic to your site from being introduced to thousands of readers.
8) Create a Form Letter and Organize Responses
You might find hundreds of opportunities, so you need to organize the way you send and receive email. The first step is to create a form letter. Always ad dress the site and customize it, so it doesn’t sound like a bot sending a request. Pitch your idea with their writing guidelines in mind and wait for a response. If you get a response, store it in a folder. You might want to send another query in the future, and now you have the contact person’s email and name. You can then personalize the request more accurately, which will provide you with a better response rate.
Organizing responses will also facilitate your follow-up, let you determine which sites will publish your content, and help you keep track of your backlink strategy success. You can also identify where your traffic comes from, but this can also be done using analytics tools such as Google Analytics.
It’s a Marathon Not a Sprint
Backlink strategies are like dieting. You can’t expect to see results in a day. You must continue to improve your campaign and find new opportunities each week. Your traffic slowiy grows unless you are fortunate enough to have one of your articles go viral. Viral articles are rare, so expect to wait months to see results from your efforts. Don’t get discouraged and don’t quit after a week or two. It can take up to a year before you see a decent amount of revenue from your efforts.
Consider yourself in it for the long haul since you will always need to promote your site either through backlinking efforts, content marketing, or just networking with people in your industry. A successful business takes years to generate good traffic, and even then you can’t quiet. The marketing game is a long-term marathon and not just a short-term sprint.