By: Liam Barnes
It is no secret that link building is one of the most challenging, yet most vital tactics in search engine optimization. Google holds such high regard for high-quality backlinks, because they are the best indicators of whether or not your website is authoritative in the space.
Through basic crowdsourcing, Google can use website data (number of links pointing toward your website) to determine the viability and relevance of your website on certain topics.
So why is link building so difficult?
Over the years, SEOs from all over the world have been able to manipulate Google’s algorithm through black-hat link building tactics like link farms and link buying. In response, Google has determined what patterns are a result of such tactics and severely punish websites who continue to use these methods.
As a result, websites must now be creative with how they utilize different strategies that result in a higher volume of backlinks naturally. There are several things to consider, however, when executing link building strategies, including:
The difference between unique referring domains and backlinks
The importance of link flow
The influence of digital PR
Focus on unique referring domains
When you are approaching link building, it can be tempting for your team to chase after as many backlinks as possible, regardless of where they come from. That may be beneficial for the first few links; however, after a while, you will start to see diminishing returns.
The reason why the crowdsourcing analogy is so helpful to explain this is simple: the more that authoritative websites approve of your website’s content, the more Google will recognize your website as authoritative as well.
If you continue to receive backlinks from the same website over and over, Google may think that you are participating in questionable techniques, and you may be impacted negatively.
By having a goal of increasing unique referring domains, you naturally go after links from a variety of websites rather, minimizing your risk in getting negatively affected by Google’s algorithm.
With that being said, there are plenty of websites that use content aggregation methods, like Databox, where you can easily obtain a link. You will not ruin your authority by submitting content through their website because:
Databox is an extremely reputable source of content.
The number of links that you get in return from them are not high enough for Google to flag them as an issue.
The best advice I can give is to additionally seek other unique link building partners to improve your overall authority even further.
Why link flow is critical
Link flow is defined as the rate at which new backlinks are flowing into your website. To understand why link flow is important, you must grasp Google’s E-A-T guidelines. E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
To determine authoritativeness and trustworthiness in your industry, create new content that gains high volumes of quality links. This continuous flow of content and links shows Google that:
You are active in your industry and community.
Other authoritative websites are still cosigning your authority.
A slow link flow can indicate lost relevance or trustworthiness in your industry or on the internet as a whole. Continue to create relevant content and actively engage your audience in an ongoing attempt to gain quality backlinks. Quality over quantity is the key.
Influence of digital PR
Digital PR (public relations) is a pillar of digital marketing that focuses on media relations, thought leadership, and relationship marketing. While link building is not the primary (or even secondary) goal of digital PR, it can be a pivotal link building tool.
One of the main focuses of digital PR is brand awareness, which can include outreach to relevant podcasts for a company representative to be a guest or pitching the digital media to cover a new company story. Most of the time, when you, your company, or a subject matter expert at your company is featured on a podcast, is at an event, or is in the media, the website will link back to your website.
These tactics do not directly affect your SEO goals, but if your website starts gaining backlinks from highly authoritative websites, your ability to rank for more challenging keywords will improve significantly.
It is crucial to have your PR team and web strategy team work hand-in-hand on digital initiatives. For an effective digital PR strategy, you need:
A designer to create infographics or other marketing materials
A dedicated outreach strategist who is the face of the PR team
A web strategist who works hand-in-hand with a link building lens
3 tactics to try on
Because link building can take a large portion of your time, think of creative ideas that are simple to execute on and powerful enough that your return will be worth it.
I have broken down three data-backed link building tactics that have proven continuously to grow brand authority.
Think about all of the blogs, newsletters, or podcasts that you consistently read, listen to, and refer to on a daily basis. For marketing blogs, it’s Marketo, G2, and SEMrush. For general business blogs, it’s Mashable, Business Insider, and Forbes. In tech, it’s TechCrunch, Gizmodo, and ReadWrite.
There is a reason as to why you keep returning to these blogs. Why? They are known to publish content representing high-quality, their content is data-driven, and their pieces are written by experts in their respective industries.
Not only do people constantly refer to them verbally; they backlink to these sites as well.
Business Insider ranks with an Ahrefs rank of 242 (out of the entire Ahrefs database), with over 114M backlinks from over 458K websites.
TechCrunch ranks with an Ahrefs rank of 294, with other 73.1M backlinks from over 319K websites.
Depending on the industry your company is in, these thought leaders differ vastly. However, one feature is very much consistent: good authoritative content generates a high volume of backlinks with the right audience. It’s not rocket science.
Some companies create reports that cover multiple verticals or sub-verticals. For example, for digital marketing that would be content, social media, SEO, email, advertising, web strategy, and market research. They create unique infographics for each research report and make them highly shareable, with little to no friction.
By putting out the annual report, they generate thousands of backlinks from many websites, in addition to generating unique referring domains.
By creating a report that is widely respected and referenced in your industry, you can generate a large amount of SEO value, in the form of authority, to your website.
Guest posting (or guest blogging) is the process of sharing content with or writing content for another website, with the hopes of gaining a backlink in return. Companies utilize guest posting strategies to produce high-quality content on authoritative publications throughout their industry. Guest posting can also improve companies’ organic reach through SEO, social media, and more. Overall, it helps your brand be more visible and shows that other companies trust you to share your expertise as well. Think about it, they trust you enough to share content on their own website.
In return, the writer typically includes a useful link back to their website to further authoritative value. Depending on the company you write for, they may reserve the right to remove that link whenever they please. If you haven’t already written the content for them, you might have to burden that risk.
Regardless, guest posting can be helpful in your digital PR efforts and improve brand awareness to audiences that you previously have not had access to. You may gain a link directly from that website, and you also might indirectly gain backlinks from the subsequent readers of their website and blog.
Directive utilizes guest posting as one of their main drivers of referring domain growth (as seen below).
Link building is, and always will be, one of the more influential ranking factors in search marketing. Google continues to view quality backlinks in high regard and will continue to crack down on inorganic link building schemes that “trick” their algorithm.
Building audiences who continuously consume your content will, at the least, slowly link back to your website. Creating relevant and unique content will organically build links to your website. Creating professional relationships with other websites in the same space and sharing content will continue to build links for your website.
Understanding the power of the basics of relationship and content marketing will prove to help you out more than anything else. Take advantage of the relationships you have set, and focus on creating more down the road. Continue to provide value to your target audience and to partners you work with, and link building will be smooth sailing from here on out.