Getting Started with Link Building

Link building is an important way to enhance SEO campaigns. Here’s an introduction to how to get started with link building.

Video Transcript

Stephanie: Basically, my kind of niche for the past, however long, has been focusing on page optimizations, and I’ve had a client ask if we could start doing some backlinking.

David: Okay.

Stephanie: Part of why I haven’t done the whole backlink strategy is because my experience with it has been very spammy. And the folks reaching out, saying, “Hey, will you add my link to your site?” and it’s just kind of jacked-up requests, and I don’t want to be that jacked-up requester. So basically, I’m just kind of looking for ideas on non-spammy ways to get backlinks. I know they’re important. I don’t want to discount that. But kind of in the hierarchy of ranking factors, is it worth putting a whole lot of time and effort into a strategy?

David: Yeah. Great question. So, I’m going to share my screen again. So, within Curious Ants, if we go to the Big How To Do page, which lists all the things, links are one of the four basic pieces of any true SEO campaign. We always start by measuring because we want to be able to show we’re providing value. We always make sure measurement is set up to track the conversions because we want customers, or our clients, to know that they’re making money for paying us. And so, we have to measure everything. Then comes the technical SEO, which, for the most part, because most of us use WordPress, is really very good. But there are things we want to check now and then just to make sure something’s not happened. Maybe we want to make the website go a little faster. So, we’re going to do the technical. Then there’s the on-page, which I call content. And there’s a lot involved with that. But you’ll notice we’re getting to this third. Right?

Stephanie: Yes.

David: But then we get to the links, right? So, if we stopped here, we could make it so far. But we do need to pursue link-building strategies. So, there are lots of things you can do. But the first thing to do is go to START HERE: Everything You Need to Know about Link Building. Right? Why It’s important. What Are the Rules? Before anybody begins a link-building campaign or effort, please review Google’s Rules about link spam so that you know what is allowed and what is not. The reason I want to start here is, as Stephanie said, there are so many people out there who make all these grandiose promises to do it quickly and easily, but if you look at link spam, there are actually links that are in violation with what Google says is allowed. Now, why does Google set rules for links? The answer is that they really significantly impact SEO. Right? So, here’s an outdated example, but it gives a little bit of perspective. So, regardless of where your personal politics might be, I offer this as an example. When George W. Bush was President of the United States, his White House profile page ranked number one for the phrase “miserable failure.”

Stephanie: I remember that.

David: Right: The words miserable nor failure were even on the page. How did that page, of all the pages of the entire universe that could rank for that phrase, show up for that? People built links to the page using the anchor text of “miserable failure.” This is called the Google bomb. Google has since corrected the algorithm, so you can’t do that as easily anymore. But it was so powerful that when George W. Bush left office, Barack Obama’s personal page on the White House website ranked for “miserable failure.” Okay. That tells you that links are very powerful. Okay? Now, on Everything You Need to Know, I have a little video that’s worth watching on YouTube on how links are used in Google’s algorithm. It’s one of the things that made the Google algorithm better than the AltaVista if you used the internet that long ago. This is what made Google work. It’s links. And this little video here will explain to you what that has to do with everything. So, read the spam guidelines to what’s allowed before you do anything, understand what this is, and then understand that not all links are equally helpful. We need to understand that things like if the page can’t be indexed by Google, whether it’s a technical problem or it’s no indexed in the robots, well, then that link doesn’t count. If you can’t crawl through that page and it’s orphaned, that link won’t help. If the link is a JavaScript link or has the no-follow attribute attached to it, it doesn’t help. If it’s sponsored or UGC link attributes, it doesn’t help. This is why social media links don’t count for Google’s algorithm because they’re almost all either no followed or Google can’t crawl Facebook. Right? Those links don’t help us with this. So, we’re in this balance of finding ways to link to our client’s website because it really matters and still complying with Google’s rules because they matter so much that Google had to set up rules. Right? The fact that there are still rules should tell us this probably matters a lot more than we realize. Okay? Now, here’s the good news. When I got started doing SEO, I’m embarrassed to say this, sometimes we built hundreds of links to a web page because that’s what you needed to succeed. That is no longer the climate. Right now, there are a couple of things. There were big penalties that Google issued. In fact, people who have been doing SEO for a while pride themselves on getting a website banned by Google because they knew they were doing the right thing if they did. I got clients banned by Google. I’ve learned my ways, and I’m trying to teach you how not to do it that way. But Google doesn’t usually, except in the most egregious examples, give out penalties anymore. Basically, they just ignore links that shouldn’t count. So, in one way, that’s almost the sadder situation because you could go and buy 100 links to your website and just waste money because Google is just going to ignore them. They’ve moved the penalty into the algorithm so that Google just ignores any link that they think is manipulative. But that does mean we still need to get some links. We just don’t have to get as many. But we need to look at some opportunities to find links. So, I would say there are three basic ways to get links.

Let’s see if I can find this. So, there’s a bunch of documentation here in Curious Ants about link building. The first way I would start is with links from brand mentions. Okay? This is simply the idea that if people are talking about your business, why aren’t they linking to your business? Right? This can be done spammy, or it can be done friendly and helpful. So, I have an example. We follow this process, and we find links that end up being really good links just by using brand mentions and making a couple of updates to websites. Now, what you need to do is have a bigger picture. So, let’s say the idea here is we’re going to Google our company’s name, find people who are talking about us, and ask ourselves, why would this website link to us? Maybe it would just be, “Hey, would you like to help your visitors out? You talk about us, but would you like to help your people out by making it easy for them to find us? Okay. Would you please add a link? You’d be surprised how effective that is.

Another way of saying this is maybe it would be harder for them to change their web page to add a link. But maybe if they’ve talked about you in the past, they’d be willing to talk about you now. What if it was a profile about your business when you got started, and you can pitch them, “Hey, how about an update? I’ve been in business for ten years now.” A where are they now kind of update. And as you negotiate that, make sure there’s a link in that one, right? There are all kinds of ways to do it like that. There are some other things I’m recommending, like setting up a Google Alert for every time your business is mentioned. Right? It’s an easy way to let Google do your link-building for you. Hey, your business is mentioned. Go hit them up. Now, sometimes, however, our businesses are small, and no one’s talking about them. Right? So, what we have to do is go and try to get more positive brand mentions. That’s where the local listing process could potentially help us. That’s going out to websites that are credible and submitting our business listing. Not all of those count from a link-building perspective, but some of them do. But even if they don’t count, if you’re on Yelp or Apple Maps, that’s going to help your business. Even if the link doesn’t count, you’d still take it, right? Guest blogging has kind of fallen out of favor, but if you do it right, it’s still a very legitimate tactic. That’s the idea of finding a relevant website for your client and saying, “Hey, would you like us to write an article for you?” I literally did this today. I have a client that’s in the engineering space. And there are some periodicals in their industry that are just begging for content from experts. Well, guess what? My client is full of experts, and we can write an article and submit it. Now, the industry website is grateful for a really in-depth, really interesting, and totally unique piece of content. And by the way, they’re going to link to us just because they’re going to say this came from these people. Right? Now, there’s a spammy way to do that. Let’s use AI to write something that everyone else says, and it doesn’t really add anything to the contribution. And we’re going to publish it on any website that would be willing to take it. How good is that link going to be? But if we’re writing for industry periodicals, boy, that’s going to be really good. Another underrated tactic is the Help A Reporter Out service. There are several services like that where reporters are looking for a source of information for an article they’re writing. And they say, oh, no, I don’t know anybody who’s an expert in, thinking about your client that we talked about recently, Lidija, an expert in hair color and the top trends in hair color this year. Okay. So, they’ll put a query on HARO, Help A Reporter Out, saying, do you know any experts who can comment on trends within hair color this season? And if you find it, you can say yes. As a matter of fact, I do. My client. Here’s what my client says about this. You can get a link from some very credible websites that way. Because, again, you’ve contributed something of value, an expert opinion, and they’re more than happy to link to you because they’re citing their sources. These are things that are never going to get you in trouble with Google because it’s a legitimate best practice. Now, with HARO, you don’t always get opportunities that are relevant to every client, but it’s the primary way I build links to my websites. I just watch them, and every once in a while, they say, hey, what’s the latest on link building? Okay, write up a little paragraph and send it their way. They quote me and link to me. Right? Great. That was easy. But there are a whole bunch of ways I list here to get possible brand mentions. You just have to think about it in terms of Google’s guidelines. In other words, we can’t pass money back and forth for links. The link has to be indexable and crawlable by Google. But as long as we’re following that, great. So, that’s one way. Another way to do this, besides what I call brand mentions, is competitor link building, which is basically the same process but doing it for your competitors. So, someone’s talking about your competitor. Why? And why wouldn’t they talk about you, too? It’s a great way to find that industry a periodical that you can write on. Some of my clients’ industries are so niche that I barely understand what they do. They have a hard time describing what they do. But if they can say, oh, this competitor, we hate them, they’re our biggest competitor. I can go and look for who’s talking about their competitors. Oh, here’s a boring industrial side I’ve never heard of before. I bet you they’d like content from my client, too. Right? So, there’s a whole bunch in Curious Ants. And if you go back to the SEO process, it’s built into it here. So, not every client needs local listings, but if you get to step number nine, the local listings are going to help with a little bit of that. Right? Step ten is branded link building, basically setting up the process to get you those automated emails. And then step 13 is to apply that to competitors. So, link building is important, but link building is still hard to do. Right? But we don’t need as many as we used to. We just need some good ones that are relevant. And that might be all we really need. And so, hopefully, this can kind of give you some ideas of how to do some better link-building.

Stephanie: Yeah. Basically, everything you just said was what I’ve already told the client it would be like when we get to that point. Because he just signed on today, so we haven’t even gotten there. So, I feel good about that, at least. I didn’t give them bad information. The whole not being spammy and the request is where I was doubting myself. So, thank you so much for pointing out that the steps were already available to me.

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