Do Links to Other Websites Help Your SEO?

While link building is a very important part of SEO, does it help your website when you link to other quality websites?

Video Transcript

David: Here we go. All right, Onawa, you asked a question about link building from blog posts.

Onawa: Right. I had done some research on some competitors, and the blog post had primarily internal links. Like maybe one external link of the ten sites I looked at. So, I was wondering if it is useful to have external links to reputable sites for explanations, definitions, and things like that.

David: Yeah. Great question. Because for a long time, there was an SEO theory going on that Google was giving you a bonus for linking out to credible sites. That’s been long disproven. Now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t link out to credible sites. And it definitely means that Google does hold you accountable if you link out to poor-quality websites. But it doesn’t give you a bonus by linking out to credible websites. Otherwise, we would just link out to Wikipedia and rank all the time. Right? Because Wikipedia is consistently ranked as a high-quality website in Google’s eyes, or The New York Times, or whatever, Harvard, or whatever. So, there’s nothing wrong with linking out, except when you’re linking out to a low-quality website. And that’s why with user-generated content, you have to be very careful with, like, blog comments, forums, or stuff like that, making sure that you’re not allowing someone to spam their poor-quality website by adding user-generated content to your site like blog comments. But there’s no real reason from an SEO perspective to link out. Now, there could be a great reason from a human perspective. Maybe it’s citing sources. Right? Maybe it’s just being helpful. But you also know that you’ll be losing that traffic. As a good site. I kind of had a conflict with the client recently, who was like, can you go through our website and tell us all these credible websites we can link to? I’m like, well, I can, but it doesn’t help you. And they were pretty adamant. No, we need to do this. Anyway, there was this rumor for a long time that you should link out to websites for credibility. And that’s just not true. When we talk about link building, we’re primarily talking about two different kinds of link building. One is linking within our website to our core landing pages. This is kind of also called a hub and spoke strategy. And I make a distinction between two different pages on your website. One, I call a landing page which is more of a sales-oriented page, which is what we uncover during the keyword research process. We do keyword research, we identify what pages on our website customers are looking for, and we make sure we talk about the product and have a strong call to action on that page. We get the sale on that page. Well, then, we have blog posts. And those are all about, well, there’s a lot of reasons we have blog posts and a blog. But one of the main reasons is we have internal links from the blog posts to the landing pages. And we created a hub and spoke system. Google values internal links from within the content of things like blog posts to other pages. It doesn’t count for SEO purposes links from the navigation. It can follow links in the navigation, but it doesn’t give the SEO benefit. So, that’s why a blog post is really helpful to build that. Now, when we learn that sometimes people go a little bit crazy, and they’ll add a whole bunch of links in all their blog posts. No, no, no, no. Google only counts the first link it encounters within the text of a blog post. So, if you have five links to the same page within the text of a blog post, it only counts the first one. However, it does divide the authority passed by the number of links on that page. So, if you have five links to one page, the first link sends a fifth of the authority to that page, and the four other links don’t pass any authority to that same page. Now, if you have five links to five different pages, each gets a fifth of the authority of that page. So, that’s one thing of link building, the other part of link building, and the really hard part of link building is linking from other websites to your site. That’s the hard part. And this is kind of ironic because people believe that if you link to a credible website, it helps your website, but then they will link to your website. And it’s not like we’re building crappy, spammy Louis Vuitton handbag websites trying to trick people into whatever. No, we support legitimate businesses with incredible websites. But we have to be really creative and start to think about how we can earn a link. Part of earning a link is sometimes just frankly asking for the link. But there always has to be a reason why someone would link to us. And according to Google’s link schemes rules (and they have very explicit link schemes rules which, before you do any link building, you should read, and it’s documented in Curious Ants. So, you can get to it.), you can’t give money for links. Now some people say, well, how does Google know you’ve given money for links? And yeah, Google might have a hard time with it. But I’d say, of all the link-building I’ve done in my life, professionally, because I don’t do a lot personally, you can tell. I mean, you can look at that and be like, oh, that was a paid link. There’s no reason that link would exist except with money chain, chance. So, we want to avoid that. But that doesn’t mean link building doesn’t cost something. Right? Sometimes the cost is time. Hey, I’m going to take time and ask you for this. Sometimes I’m going to take time and write something for you to include on your website. Sometimes the cost is paying a writer to write something. Or a graphic designer to create something. Link building should be free, but it’s not. We just can’t pay someone for placement if we want Google to count the link and give us full credit. So, there’s this balance of, we don’t pay for the link, but it does take time and money to develop the link. That money. Because we’re either doing it ourselves or paying someone to take the time to do it is going to cost us time and effort, which is going to be money, ultimately. So, we’re not trying to pay for these links. Those don’t count in Google’s eyes. We do need to take time and effort to learn to earn that link. And part of that is simply asking for it. So, behind me is kind of, this has kind of been in the link-building plan for a long time. I don’t know. It’s reversed for me. Is it reversed for all of you?

Tricia: No.

David: Okay, good. So, the basic link-building process I use I like to think about in three ways. One is seeing if anybody is talking about my brand. Second, is anybody talking about a competitor to my brand? And third, is, is anybody talking about the topic about which my website is also talking? And so I have my little chart down here, which kind of helps you work through that. So, if you want to look for mentions of your brand, you go to Google and type your brand name. But I also like to do a -site: with my domain name to make sure Google doesn’t return my own website. So, in other words,  the -site: with my domain name says to Google, don’t give me results from my own domain name. And you start to find other people talking about your company. Okay. Those can become… Well, that’s a starting point. You can do a similar thing with your competitors. Type your competitor name in and then -site: and your competitor’s domain name and see who’s talking about your competitors. When it comes to topics, it’s a little different. You’re kind of Googling your topic and just seeing who is talking about your topic. And then, there’s kind of a process I like to think about. If someone’s talking about one of these things, my brand, a competitor, or a topic, could that mention become a link to my website? And you have to ask yourself, put your cynical hat on, why would somebody take the time to go change their website for you? That’s hard. But that’s why we call it link-earning, too, right? So, is there something on your website that’s uniquely helpful to them? Or sometimes it can be as simple as, hey, you’re talking about my company, but you don’t link to it. Would you mind adding a link? Because I think your users would like to find my company. That actually works better than you realize. Now, when it comes to your competitors, the question isn’t, hey, you’re linking to my competitor. Would you link to me, too? But the question is, if that website is willing to link to my competitor, would they be willing also to link to me? So, we have to wonder, why are they linking to my competitor? Is it an interview with a company in my town? Well, if I’m in the same town, wouldn’t they like to interview my client, too? Is it to offer input on a particular topic that’s relevant that you and your competitor share? Maybe they would like your perspective, too. So, you kind of have to think about why they would link to me by using these competitors. Another question is, maybe by looking at these websites, you ask yourself, does this website even have a blog? If they have a blog, maybe they would like an article from you, and it could become a guest blogging opportunity. Again, we don’t pay people for this. But if they have a blog, they’re going, crap, what have I got to write about today? I’ve got to think of something to write about. If you can come in and help them with a high-quality, well-written, unique article, never published anywhere else, they might be willing to add it to their website. And guess what? They’re going to cite you as the source and link to your website because you ask them nicely. Right? Same with topics. If someone has a website-dedicated topic that is in your industry, and they have a blog, what if you were to write something for their blog? Would they be interested in that? Well, you have to ask. Another thing, down lower, is what I call profiles. And this kind of gets into the whole local thing, local citations thing. And not every local citation offers a link-building opportunity, and not every link-building opportunity from local citations counts because they will now follow the links frequently, or if it’s an app, like Apple Maps, well, that’s on a website, so it can’t count as a link. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. There’s a lot of value in that. But there are also other kinds of profiles. For example, what if there were some sort of Association in your industry? The National Tarp Builders Association. Hey, that’s pretty boring to me, but there are people who need tarps and manufacture tarps and need to hang together for legislative reasons to regulate and mandate tarp usage on pickup trucks. And maybe they have a blog. Or maybe they have a list of members. And link to your website. Kind of asking these questions. And so they can then follow the whole idea. Are there profile websites listing your brand? Are there profile websites listing your competitors? If there are profile websites, well, great. You should be listed there too. And if there are profile websites based on your topic, well, shoot, you should be on that profile website almost whether or not you get a link. Right? Yeah. And then below, here is the blogging idea. So going after and proactively looking for blogs that are willing to talk about you. Maybe there are blogs already talking about your brand. That’s an easy pitch. Someone’s already talking about you. Hey, would you like us to give you an update? Hey, we’d like to write for you again. As long as you take time to write new and unique content, people are going to be very responsive, especially in a world of AI, where they’re getting a ton of AI-generated crap. If you actually take time to write something, they will be grateful. And possibly willing to accept it. If your competitors write in a blog, as long as they don’t control the blog, your competitor is never going to allow you to write in their blog, but maybe they like a different perspective. And then, if there’s a blog on your topic, yes, please. I would like to write in your tarp-oriented blog. Again, even if you didn’t get a link, which is the whole goal of this, being present in a tarp-oriented blog and mentioning your brand name, would be a win. And so, this is just kind of the thing. And then there’s one thing I kind of added here, which is that sometimes our clients, our customers, or even ourselves are not getting out there, and there are no brand mentions. And so, what we have to do is find ways to get people to talk about us. And as for things like press releases, they can help us create mentions. Now the links off press releases should not count for SEO. Technically, they should be no-follow. That means they don’t count for link-building. So we don’t want to spam press releases, thinking it somehow helps us. That’s old-school SEO. It doesn’t work anymore. It’s just a waste of your time and money. But if you can think of reasons why anybody in the press would be interested in your company, then you could potentially create mentions and hit them up for brand links or create mentions. If someone’s covering your press release, well, maybe they’d like a unique article rather than some generic press release. And you can begin to use that. And that’s where systems like HARO, or Help A Reporter Out, can be really helpful to create those mentions. And also, HARO does a really great job of generating links. That’s how this all fits together as part of the (we shouldn’t call it link building, we should call it link-earning) strategy. Because that’s one of the underrated aspects of SEO that is hard, but it’s hard for everybody. So if we can be the ones to do it, we’re going to show up in search results for our customers. And that’s a huge win for us.

Dave: I have two thoughts. One is, what about going to people that you buy stuff from, that you naturally would anyway, and ask them if you could either do a testimonial or they could do a customer profile on you.

David: Yeah, as long as you’re not trading links.

Dave: Yeah, it wouldn’t be trading links. And there has to be integrity there.

David: Yeah, because trading links is explicitly against Google’s link-building schemes. When you do that, Dave, I have found problems where they say, “Hey, thank you. Can we do one for you?” And you’re like…no.

Dave: Yeah, it seems like a decent way that might work would be to get interviewed on podcasts.

David: Yes. Yes. Podcasts are more than happy to link to you.

Dave: Because it seems like that’s almost easier than saying, “Hey, I’ll write a blog and put it on your site and all that.” And because there are a lot of people looking for content. Looking for interviews. That’s actually very good for your brand building, too. I would think.

David: Yes. This kind of creative thinking is the requirement of link-building. You have to think creatively. Not every industry has a podcast series about it.

Dave: That’s true.

David: My wife, who works in a very different form of marketing, has her company on podcasts all the time.

Dave: Yeah. I have to go. I have a meeting in a minute

Tricia: I have a question.

David: Cool. Thanks, Dave.

Tricia: Quick question on the board, when you talk about the mention, and you have the -site: and then you’re supposed to put your URL or your business there. Can you show me where I’m not putting that in right? Because none is coming up.

David: So, let me just pull up here.

Tricia: Because I’m taking it that dash means not to include it.

David: Right. I could go, and I could do Reliable Acorn. Right? And I do -site: So, what that’s going to give me is websites that mention Reliable Acorn.

Tricia: I got it.

David: One of the tricks to doing this is doing a few Google searches with this until you get the right results. Sometimes, you have to do quotation marks around it.

Tricia: Okay.

David: And so, it’s giving all my business profiles – Inc., .com, etc. You can see I’ve done this process for Reliable Acorn.

Tricia: Yes. Okay. Perfect. That’s what I needed.

David: Great. See you next week.

Tricia: See you, bye.

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