About 32% of your Google ranking is based upon backlinks to your site. That’s just about a third! The reason Google considers these so important is this: When you have other quality sources linking back to you, you gain authority in Google’s eyes. And when you gain authority, your rankings go up. When page rank improves, so does traffic. And when traffic improves? You get more conversions and leave less money on the table. Obviously, you need to figure out how to build lots of high-quality backlinks.
Link building is hard work. It takes lots of time and, if done quickly without regard to where those links come from, it can actually harm rather than help. Your job is to first make a plan to get quality backlinks, using several strategies, and then to analyze whether each specific strategy is getting you results. Then, you will know which strategies to continue and which to dump.
First, let’s look at the strategies that you can choose. There is already some research that shows which ones are most often effective, so that is where your selections should begin. Choose from among those that are proven effective.
- Skyscraper Strategy: This is a more long-term strategy, but one that will payoff well. You will not get backlinks from good places unless your content is exceptional. No site wants to send its visitors/customers to someplace else unless there is a huge value to be had. And this strategy is all about producing valuable content. Basically, it means that you search out content related to your niche, often from competitors, study it, research it some more, and see how you can take that great topic idea and improve upon it is meaningful ways. Write that new content, put what’s new and/or different in your headline/title, and then start promoting it everywhere.
- Broken-Link Building: Lots of big-name sites have broken links – links that go to places that no longer exist. When visitors click on them, there are either 404 or 401 messages that say that link is no longer available. Your job is to find broken links on reputable sites that are related to your niche. You don’t have to do this manually. You can use a broken link finder tool for any website. So, go to those large reputable sites that are related to your niche, use the tool to find the broken links that directly relate to your business, and then contact the webmaster with a personal message. Identify the broken link and explain that your site is active and could be a great replacement for that link. Chances are, the webmaster will be happy that you found the link and be more willing to replace it with yours.
- Linking Out: Google does actually look at who you link out to. And when you link out to reputable, high-quality sites, you have a perfect “in” to contact that site owner. Tell him/her that you have found the site content really valuable to your customers/followers and that you have linked to them in your posts. Provide a copy of your posts that have linked to them. Chances are, if the post has rich content, they will post it too. After all, it is one more post they don’t have to produce that can be of value to their target audience too. This is how reciprocal arrangements begin and how you get backlinks from a site that Google likes.
- Reclamations: There is the very real chance that your company is being mentioned and you don’t even know it. If you don’t monitor this, you are missing out on the chance to get some great backlinks to your site. You need to use a monitoring tool that will tell you whenever your company is mentioned on the web or on social media. Those mentions may not include a backlink to your site, and you need to take care of that. Contact the webmaster and request to add the link. You will probably get a “yes,” because everyone wants to make it as easy as possible for their readers/followers to get to valuable information efficiently.
- Guest Blogging: This is especially important for startups. You are unknown. You can do a lot of things to make yourself known, but one of the most important methods is to get links from influencers in your niche. Again, this can be a more long-term strategy, but the sooner you begin the better. Start following influencers in your niche and participating in discussions. You have to get your name in front of them often so that they remember you. After a time, you can send that influencer a great post you have written, perhaps one in which you have mentioned them. Ask if they would be willing to post it on their blog. If they see it as valuable, chances are they will say “yes.” You get a backlink from a source that Google thinks is an authority in your niche.
- Think about .edu Sites: Most marketers don’t think to use .edu sites, and they should. They have amazing credibility with Google, and if you can get a backlink from them, you become credible and authoritative too. You can do a search for blog posts on .edu sites in your niche pretty easily. Then access some of the posts and use your tools to check for dead links. Follow the same procedure. If the site allows guest bloggers, all the better.
- Social Media: There has been a lot of thought out there that backlinks from social media are not really considered quality by Google. Not true. Especially if those backlinks come from Facebook pages or Tweets of reputable and authoritative businesses and/or influences. Use a social media cheat sheet to find businesses and brands that relate to yours on social media. You can participate in conversations on these posts and leave your link or you can pay for links.
Once You Get Those Backlinks – Which Ones are Worth Your Time?
The list of strategies to get backlinks goes on and on. Once you are getting them, however, you need to determine which high-quality sources are getting you the “biggest bang for the buck.” For example, if finding dead links is really working and bringing traffic and conversions to you, then that is a strategy you need to continue. If guest blogging on authority sites is working well, then step up those efforts. It’s hard to do it all, so you need to limit your tactics to those that are getting results. Here are methods to determine which strategies are working best for you.
- Yes, there are tools to determine where your backlinks are coming from. Use these to analyze the amount of traffic you are getting from both types of backlinks and more specific businesses/blogs/mentions within each type. Then analyze how many of those “hits” have resulted in actual conversions. Remember the goal of backlinks is not just traffic – it is conversions. Lots of traffic without those conversions is meaningless. Many of these tools, such as open site explorer by Moz, will dig pretty deeply for you and even isolate the blog post from which a backlink came. The additional benefit is that you can check out the backlinks your competitors are getting, and consider those for your own backlink tactics.
- You can also simply ask your customers who get into your sales funnel where they came from. You don’t have to ask them to write anything – just check a box. Devise a simple form, just asking where they found you, from a set of options – an ad (if you place ads), a blog post, Twitter, Facebook (those social media platforms you are using to place backlinks), an .edu site, etc. Most of your target customers who are in your funnel will take the time to mark a box, and you will have great information about which strategies work well. And, if you are not getting backlinks from a certain type (e.g., .edu sites), then dump that strategy.
- As you use a backlink analysis tool, be sure to look at which pages on your site are getting the most traffic and staying power. Some pages may be getting good traffic but not the conversions you are looking for. When you find such a page, then you can work to improve it, so that backlinks are actually getting results.
Remember, you have to work smarter, not harder, and that means putting effort into what is working. SEO is important, of course, and getting backlinks from good quality sources will certainly improve your rankings.
But the other side of all of this is critical: Getting those high-quality backlinks involves you creating great content in the first place. If you focus on the content first and then on the backlinks, you will be in a much better position in the long run.