Links are one of the most important factors of an SEO or Inbound Marketing campaign. Every link coming into a website is seen by the search engines as a mark of endorsement form the linking website. They thus improve rankings.
But not every link is created equally, and a link from a high quality website such as BBC News counts for a lot more than a poor quality, barely visited or Spammy website.
Here, we will examine the best means to chase good, high quality links.
The Courting Process
Link building is a process of courting. When courting a beautiful woman or ever so handsome man, there are a few loops that need to be jumped through before your first date, or before you even ask them on a date. The first stage is to look beautiful- to stand in front of a mirror for a few hours, grooming your hair or whatever else it is that you do to look good. You then pick out what clothes you are going to wear, picking the latest fashions with your own personal details thrown into the mix. After this, throw on some make up or cologne and adjust your demeanour to ooze confidence. Your next job is to seem intelligent, to prove that you are well read, interesting and relevant, filled with useful and intriguing information that is going to wow them and leave them gagging for more. Finally you must prove that you are not a burden- easily functional without too many skeletons in your closet. After you have perfected all of these areas, it is time to go on a date. Pick a great restaurant, and show up, looking your best and giving it your best. Only after this encounter will you know whether they are interested, willing to go on a second date and, more importantly, tell their friends and family about you.
In link building, you can look at every target linker as a potential mon-amour, and must prepare accordingly. Make your Website attractive, well versed, unique and interesting and you may stand a chance at getting some top-notch link-totty.
Follow the following steps and you will go far.
Good web design
Since the Google Panda Update (sometimes called the Google Farmer Update), a beautiful and highly functional Website Design is now absolutely crucial to a website’s SEO success.
But the design of a website has always been a key element in SEO. It enhances experience and, most importantly, influences your link building efforts.
The first step in acquiring links is to make your website look slick, sexy and worthy of a link. Think of it like ‘peacocking’. Your potential mate is going to be much more likely to go for you if you are attractive, clever, dressed in the latest fashions and ever so slightly mysterious. If you are messy, boring, dressed like a Muppet from the early 2000s and outright ugly then your chances of success are hampered from the start.
When someone links to your website from their website, they are telling their users that your website is amazing and well worth a visit. They are not going to link to you if your website looks like Stig-of-the Dump, as this will reflect badly on them.
Make your website stunning, unique and up-to-date. No one likes to go out with someone who wears clothes that went out of fashion in 2005 and no one likes to link to a website whose design looks tired and out of date.
For more information on building an optimal website architecture, please read our Information Architecture section.
Build witty, informative, useful and relevant content
So the kid looks good. But can he talk the talk? The next stage of any courting process is to show that you are an intelligent, witty, interesting and unique human being. Have you ever been on a date with the most beautiful woman in the world (or handsome man) only to find out that they are as thick as two short planks and have nothing to say for themselves? It’s a bit of a turn off.
Make your website interesting, filled with the most unique up to date content available that is going to be of genuine interest to the target linker. For details on how to create great content, please read our Content Creation section.
Pick your target wisely
So, this is where it takes a bit of research. There’s a reason why hippies don’t tend to date hedge-fund managers- because they have completely different objectives in life. When you are scouting for potential linkers, try to target ones who are most likely to like what you are doing. Not only will a relevant, associated business pass much higher Link Metrics to your website, they will be much more likely to link to you in the first place. If you are an investment bank specialising in gold and silver sales, and you are looking for links, try to identify websites from similar sectors. Perhaps there is a blog by a prominent financial analyst, or a website of a well-known stockbroker specialising in commodities. These would be prime pickings.
Make a list of 50 websites that you think are of a similar nature to yours.
Once you have identified websites that may fund your website informative and useful enough to warrant a link, do a but of background research on this site. Begin with a simple site sweep.
1) How well designed is the target website? If it looks slick and sexy, or corporate and informative, this is a good sign. If it looks ugly and sloppy then stay away.
2) What are the link metrics of the target website? A website with high Link Metrics will pass on much higher Link Metrics than one with low link metrics. Use our software, Otaku SEO or Alexa to help you gage the quality of a target website’s incoming links as well as its overall domain rank. If a website has few incoming links and a low domain rank, then you have to question whether pursuing a link from it is worth the effort. That is not to say that you should pass by low quality links. So long as the link is not spammy, it is still a link, and will still go some way to increasing your rankings.
There are many reasons why a website may be easy to get a link from. In life, the more beautiful and sought after the woman (or man), the harder it is to get onto that persons radar, let alone take them out to supper! Similarly, in link building, if you are going to be able to easily get in contact with the web-publisher, and open communications with that person, then the difficulty in acquiring the link will be relatively low (so long as you have good enough content to link to). On the other hand, if a website’s publisher is elusive or exceptionally busy and inundated with link requests, then the difficulty of obtaining a link will be higher.
Weigh up the quality of the link against the expected difficulty in obtaining the link. Naturally, the best links to go for are the ones that are high quality and easily pursuable and the worst are low quality links that are going to be hard to nail down. It is worth noting that ignoring low quality links that are easy to obtain is not a clever strategy. You will be missing a good, easy opportunity to increase your website rankings. Just as in life, it is always a good idea to up your confidence by going out with a few ugly ducklings before chasing the swan. Just make sure that the ugly duckling is not spammy and going to get you penalised by Google.
There are websites that are worth going for regardless of your type of business or the difficulty of acquiring a link. Links from news Websites are always a winner, and they are not all that difficult to get. Is your business up to something particularly interesting or relevant? Write a press release, send it out to the web teams of all of the news outlets you can find, and, if they decide to write a story on you, make sure that they include a link. These are some of the highest quality links available, and they are often not too difficult to get.
3) Target bloggers. Bloggers can be extremely influential, especially bloggers with large followings who are considered experts in their fields. A link from an influential blogger not only passes you the link juice from their site; it will also promote their followers to investigate and link to your website. Blogs with a large following can have extremely high link juice, many followers, and can be easily contacted.
Once you have sorted the wheat from the chaff, it is time to begin the courting stage.
Begin a Dialogue
You have spruced up your looks, become a walking encyclopaedia of interesting, unique and topically relevant information and found your target linker. Now it’s time to go in for the kill- let the courting begin.
Like in real life, courting for a link is best done in stages. In real life one wouldn’t introduce oneself to a beautiful woman and then, seconds later, invite her back to your place. She’ll say no and give you a slap around the face.
Building up a relationship with a web publisher with the intent of earning a link takes time and charm. First, shoot them an email introducing yourself, or, better yet, a Facebook or LinkedIn message. Be polite, flattering and intelligent. You may wish to complement them on a particular feature that you like on their Website or ask for their opinion on a topically related question. If they are a blogger, shoot them a message introducing yourself, and then spend a month or so actively engaging in their blog, posting insightful and useful commentary. After some time of continuous interaction a degree of familiarity, even friendship will be created. This is when you can pop the question and request a link- when they like you.
Have the link point to relevant piece of content in your website
When you ask for a link, make sure to target the exact area of your website that both needs some link juice and will be of interest to the linker. If they are a cobbler, and you have a particularly refreshing article about 16th Century shoe making on your website, show this to them and request a link to it. In general, the deeper and more relevant the link, the better. Too many websites have links pointing only to their home page. This not only fails to promote an even distribution of link juice throughout the website- it also looks incredibly suspicious to the search engines and is subject to penalties for spammy link-building tactics
If they agree to link to you, you may wish to ask them for specific anchor text to be used. Read our Anchor Text section for more details
Link building is an ongoing process with no end. It is never ‘finished’. Encourage a link-building atmosphere in your office or work place. Everyone should always have links on the mind. Once you have acquired one link, begin strategising way to get the next, always pursuing the top link totty in town.
If you decide to stop link building, you may well find that those competitors who once trailed you in the rankings, but who have been actively engaging in an ongoing link campaign, quickly catch up and overtake you. If they continue in their link building efforts, this can be very tricky to reverse, even when you restart your campaign. Never stop building and, so long as you play by the rules and respect the search engines, you will never stop ranking.