Many businesses have now realized the importance of SEO as a part of their digital marketing strategy, but more than 90% of web pages get no traffic from Google and other search engines.
Meaning, most businesses are simply not yet effective in implementing their SEO strategy, and many others haven’t implemented SEO at all because they don’t know where to start.
With that being said, one of the biggest challenges faced by many websites and businesses when executing their SEO strategy is link building.
Link building, the effort of acquiring more high-quality backlinks to a web page (content) is a very important part of SEO: backlinks remain one of the most prominent ranking factors, and getting more links will also translate into getting more referral traffic to your content.
Yet, with Google and the other search engines getting smarter at understanding the context of backlinks, now the quality, authenticity, and relevance of backlinks are just as, if not more important than quantity. This is why we can no longer rely on low-quality, spammy link-building schemes if you truly want to achieve long-term success in SEO.
Yet, we all know how getting backlinks from high-quality, authoritative sites can be easier said than done, and this is where this guide can help you.
In this guide, we will discuss all you need to know about the effective link-building strategy in 2022. While we won’t lie that there’s not a lot to discuss, here we’ve designed this guide to be as easy-to-digest as possible, even if you are a complete beginner in SEO.
Without further ado, let us begin.
What Actually Is Link Building?
Link building as briefly discussed above, is an effort of acquiring links (or to be exact, hyperlinks) from other websites to your website.
This is a link, and as you can see, it’s a navigation method for website visitors to move between different pages by clicking on it.
Google and the other search engines also use these links to ‘crawl’ the web and move between different websites. By doing so, Google also ‘learns’ about the relationships between different websites.
We can differentiate links into three different types:
- Internal links: links between different pages of the same website. They will tell Google about the structure of a website
- Outbound links: or outgoing links. Links from your website into another website. Google will analyze them to understand the context of your content and to determine whether your content is well-researched (by linking into relevant, authoritative pages).
- Inbound links: or backlinks, the focus of our discussion. The search engines treat backlinks as a vote of confidence: when a website links to your website, then it’s saying that this website trusts your site as a credible source. This is why the more backlinks you have, the higher you’ll rank on Google SERP.
Not all links are acquired through link-building efforts. For example, a blogger may review your product and link to your site on their own. This is actually our ultimate objective, for our site and our content to be able to generate links on their own.
While there are various link-building tactics that can be effective, we still need to have the right foundation. We still need to put the work to make our website link-worthy by:
- Selling a great product worth talking about (and people will link your site)
- Providing great service so they’ll talk about you
- By producing valuable, relevant content that is referenced by other websites
Without these, no amount of link-building strategies can help your site, and we’ll discuss more of this further below.
Why Link Building Is Important?
- Improved SERP Rankings
The most important and obvious benefit of performing link building is because backlinks are an important SEO ranking factor.
Once Google (or the other search engines) have crawled pages on your website, they’ll add the content to their indexes, and the search algorithm will decide whether a page is relevant and high-quality enough to be ranked for the search query (keyword).
As discussed, the search engines will look at your backlinks profile: the number of backlinks to that specific page, and the quality of the sources of these backlinks. Simply put, the more high-quality websites that link to your page, the more likely this page is to rank well in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
However, although the most important reason for performing link building is because it will help your SEO performance, there are also other advantages that can benefit your website and your business.
- Referral Traffic
Your backlinks are sustainable sources of referral traffic.
A link from an authoritative, popular site with a lot of visitors can be really valuable for your site, as it can lead to a massive increase in traffic. If it’s a relevant website, then chances are the traffic will also be highly qualified which can translate into a higher conversion rate.
Also, being linked by a reputable website in your niche can also improve brand awareness as you’ll get noticed by the visitors of websites that link to yours, as we will discuss in the next point.
- Building Brand Awareness
Good link building can help establish your position as a reputable brand and an expert in your niche. This is especially achieved if you are using content creation as your link-building tactic: by consistently publishing high-quality content, you’ll establish your position as a thought leader in your industry.
Also, when you are doing link-building outreach and building relationships with relevant sites, you’re elaborating your expertise to these brands, which may help promote your business to their audiences.
- Building Valuable Relationships
Link-building efforts shouldn’t be done solely to get links, but should also focus on building long-term relationships with key players and influencers in your niche. These relationships can become very valuable in the long run, not only as sustainable sources for backlinks, but you may also get valuable partnerships.
For example, during your link-building outreach, you may build relationships with relevant bloggers who may end up as valuable advocates for your business.
Planning a Link Building Strategy: Step-By-Step
There are certainly various approaches you can use in a link building strategy depending on your available resources and your objectives.
Yet, here we will discuss the key steps you’ll need to take to create a basic link building strategy. You can use the strategy as a foundation for your actual strategy as you add unique tactics and tweaks depending on your business objectives.
Step 1: Defining Your Objectives
While link building, as we know, is a part of SEO, we should treat it as an independent form of digital marketing. Thus, we have to define independent goals/objectives of the link building campaign.
By defining the objectives of the campaign as soon as possible, you’ll be able to narrow down your choices of tactics and campaigns with the best possible chances of achieving these objectives.
While at the surface the objective of a link building campaign is obvious: build more links, you’ll have to define smarter, more specific objectives that align with your marketing and business objectives so each link can have a positive impact on the business.
We build links not solely for our site’s SEO performance, but to grow the website’s reach and visibility so it can ultimately generate relevant and targeted traffic.
With that being said, your objectives should follow the SMART framework: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
- Generating 50 links from high-quality sources over 6 months
- Building relationships with 10 businesses with future marketing opportunities in a year
- Increase referral traffic by 100/month in 6 months time
Step 2: Identifying Your Assets
The next step is to identify your resources and assets that you can use to attract more links.
Simply put, what’s the reason for people to link to your pages? The answer might vary depending on your business and what you sell, and the more accurately you can identify these assets, the easier it will be to leverage them to get more links.
These assets and resources can be:
- Relevant, valuable content that is interesting/useful for others
- Unique data and information, for example, an original research report
- Your product or service (people will link to your page when reviewing/mentioning your product or service)
- People, for example, if your CEO is a famous influencer in your industry
Identify what’s currently in your possession, and which of these you can develop as your means to get more links. For example, if someone on your team is considered as a thought leader in your niche, then you can outreach for opportunities for this person to be interviewed by journalists, featured in podcasts, etc. that can drive backlinks to your website and social media profile.
If you don’t have anything already, then the most viable option is to start developing more high-quality and valuable content.
A good, useful, and informative content will always get linked to sooner or later when promoted correctly. On the other hand, no amount of promotions can help low-quality, spammy content to get more backlinks.
However, we can enhance the chance of our content getting linked by adding “link hooks” to attract more link sources. A link hook in a piece of content, simply put, is something attractive that can be a reason for people to link your content, and you’ll need to incorporate this hook into your content right from the development process.
These link hooks can be:
- Unique data or information not available anywhere else
- News or gossip
- Controversial point of view
- Visual assets like infographics, photos, or videos
- Ego-bait content like interviews, round-up posts, etc.
In short, when developing your content you should decide what you can offer to people that will make them link to this content.
Step 3: Identifying Your Targets
Now that you’ve figured out what’s your selling point in attracting more links, the next step is to identify what types of people you will attract.
You want to make sure you are contacting the right people who are likely to be interested in your asset (i.e. content). While we can certainly contact as many websites and people randomly, we will end up with a lower response rate and may give our website a bad reputation.
There are various different techniques you can use to identify your link targets, but here are some simple methods you can use:
- Competitive analysis
A great way to find link targets is to check who links to your competitors’ pages. Chances are, they are also viable link sources for your content and website.
You can use tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs to check your competitor’s link profile, where you’ll get a list of websites that link to them.
How can you identify who your competitors are? If your competitors aren’t already obvious to you, then a simple way is to Google your target keywords and check the top-ranking pages. These are your competitors for the target keyword.
- Find lists of bloggers
If, for example, you are a company selling clothing for toddlers, then parenting blogs are obvious targets for your link-building campaign.
In that case, you can simply go to Google and search “list of parenting bloggers”. You should get various websites offering lists of parenting bloggers, and you can use these lists as your point of reference.
- Social monitoring
Another method is to go to major social media profiles and check which influencers and brands your target audience is interacting with. These can be potential targets for your link-building scheme.
However, for this technique, you should first identify your content’s target audience by developing a buyer persona.
Step 4: Analyzing and Prioritizing Your Targets
The next step is about finding out more information about your targets to validate whether they are indeed viable targets, and prioritizing your efforts.
Considering your resources and time are limited, prioritizing which targets to pursue first is very important to ensure a high response rate so you can maintain the cost-efficiency of your link building campaign.
You can start by visiting their websites and checking their content. You can use various tools (like SEMRush or Ahrefs) to check how frequently they link to other websites and when’s the last time they link to external websites. Analyze what might interest them to give a link, and identify whether you can offer something of value to them.
Once you’ve validated that a website or blog is a good fit, then you should find their contact information. Nowadays this should be pretty simple, and you can check the website’s header/footer or “contact us” page, as well as their social media accounts. Put them into a list, for example, a spreadsheet.
By this point, your list of link targets is probably already big enough, so it’s time to prioritize them to focus your efforts (as well as for personalization purposes). While there are various approaches you can use in prioritizing your targets, you should consider:
- Prioritizing by how likely they are going to link your content to maximize your efforts
- Prioritizing by the quality of the site, for example by checking the site’s domain authority metrics
- Prioritizing by influence, like the number of social media followers
Step 5: Planning Your Link Building Campaigns
Based on the information you’ve gathered on the previous steps, we can now create the link-building campaigns to actually get these backlinks.
Here are some effective link building methods you can use:
The most common (and effective) form of link building campaign is outreach, which is, essentially reaching out to your targets and introducing them to your asset, whether it’s your content (with link hook) or even your product/service.
The main method of performing a link building outreach is via email (this is why figuring out your target’s email address is important), although you can also use various other channels including social media.
Here are some tips you can use when crafting your outreach message:
- Be concise and to the point, your message should clearly tell them:
- Who you are and why they should care about you (your product/service, your content, etc.)
- What action you’d like them to take, be as concise as possible
- Prove that you are a genuine business worth linking to
- Personalization does matter. Use their personal name if possible, and be as friendly but respectful as possible
- Use an attractive subject line, they might receive hundreds of emails per day, so:
- Mention the name of your website if you can
- Mention something specific about their site (like their individual name)
- Keep it short and to the point
- Use proper email signature
- Make sure you are using a genuine email address (business email address if possible)
If you don’t get a reply the first time around, it’s okay to send a follow-up email. This is why you should keep your outreach campaign organized and record the replies that you get. While you can use a basic Excel spreadsheet for this purpose, there are also various CRM tools that can help you in this purpose.
- Guest Post
Guest posting is when you write content for another website (the target website) as a guest author. When the content is published, you link to your website from that article, netting you the backlink.
Guest posting is probably the oldest link building tactic available, as old as the SEO concept itself. However, it is still effective when done right.
When guest posting, as with many other things we’ve discussed above, it’s important not to solely focus on quantity as Google themselves admitted that spammy guest blogging simply won’t cut it.
Instead, focus on providing value to the website visitors, which will also help you in building brand awareness and establishing your credibility.
- Broken Link Building
Broken link building campaign involves:
- Finding broken links on your target website
- Create a similar content to the originally linked page
- Reaching out to the website owner and offer your content to replace the dead link
There are various tools available that can help you find link building opportunities, and major SEO tools like Ahrefs, Moz, or SEMRush also have this feature.
There are obviously other tactics you can use, but the basic idea remains the same: find your target websites, prioritize your targets, and find a way to provide value to them in one way or another.
Step 6: Establishing a System to Monitor Your Performance
Last but not least, since link building is a long-term game, it’s important to devise a system where you can measure your link building campaigns’ performances and make adjustments when required.
You should monitor these link-related metrics:
- Quantity of links built
- Date the links are live
- Niche/industry of the source
- Link quality:
- Domain authority
- Page authority
- Link placement
- Anchor text
- Unique referring domain
- Other links on the page
- Cost of getting the link
And you should also measure your site’s traffic performance like:
- Overall traffic increase
- Organic traffic
- Referral traffic
- SERP rankings
- Conversion rate
- Conversion rate
Basically, all kinds of SEO link building strategy are about meeting the target website’s unstated “price” for reaching their audience, so your focus should be on how you can produce more valuable assets that can meet these prices: better content, better product/service, useful data, articles that can specifically help them, and so on.
Above all, the secret to an effective link building strategy is to consistently publish relevant, high-quality, and valuable content. If one content from your site has a lot of high-quality backlinks, the process of getting backlinks for future content will also be easier as your reputation and thought leadership grows.
It’s also important to remember that SEO link building is a long term game, and consistency is very important. We should devise a system to monitor the performance of our link building campaign, evaluate its performance, and make adjustments when required.