Link building is perhaps the most difficult and time-consuming part of SEO marketing. Because of that, it’s also quite expensive. But you need a solid link portfolio to rank, so it’s also one of the most important facets of optimization.
Furthermore, Google and other search engines are always scrutinizing the quality and variety of your links. Anything that smells of deliberate link building is frowned upon by Google. So the best link building efforts look natural and organic. Never forced, never inauthentic.
This is perhaps the most important starting place for populating your link portfolio with high quality backlinks.
Moving forward from there, let’s go through some valuable techniques you can practice to be sure your efforts at link building will pay off.
Get Lean, Slim and Trim
Here’s a disruptive piece of news: you don’t need to get more links! Instead, you need more relevant links. Because it takes so much time and effort to build up your links, make absolutely sure that you’re putting the effort into links that are worthwhile!
Spammy and sub-par websites are easy to get links from. But those links end up being toxic when Google flags you for them.
Building a high quality backlink portfolio means being selective. So the first step in the process is to go through your existing portfolio and excommunicate the mediocre and potentially toxic links once and for all! Think of it like spring cleaning–some of that old junk may be hard to let go of, but once you do, you’ll feel better and more free.
Only keep the links that are gold–the ones you know you can be truly proud of. This will do more than just raise the caliber of your backlink portfolio. It will put you in the discerning mindset of a master link builder.
Once you’ve cleaned out all of the less-than-amazing links, it’s time to start rebuilding.
Zero In On the Relevant Sites
From now on, quality is always rule number one in your link building endeavors. Never quantity. In the time it takes to get three links on low DA content machines that nobody reads, you could be getting one link on an excellent, reputable website.
That one link is more valuable than the other three combined. So don’t worry if it’s a slower process. Target high authority websites that are specific to your industry. These websites have higher standards, so it’s not as easy to get links from them. That’s just the nature of the game. It’s worth it.
Choosing high DA sites will signal to Google that you’re an important figure in your industry. This gives you the leg up on the SERPs. But it also sends the same message to your users and readers.
If you’re getting traffic through links from high profile, industry-specific websites, you’ll automatically be attracting your target market. This means it will be easier to turn them into customers.
Traffic from random low DA websites that have little to do with your industry, by comparison, will send a bunch of laypeople to your landing pages. This will do little more than increase your bounce rate, which nobody needs.
One great way to do this is to get on some ‘Best Of’ lists. Let’s say you’re a design firm. You’re just starting up, and you’re facing a lot of competition. Get in touch with websites like BOOOOOOOM! and It’s Nice That to see if they have a ‘Best New Design Firms’ list you can get listed on.
Or ask them what you can do to be featured in a spotlight post! One link from a source like this will drive a tremendous amount of meaningful traffic to your site, and it will make your SEO reputation sparkle to the Googlebots.
Cold calling is a pain, but many bloggers and columnists will be happy to include you. Remember that you’re just a well-liked company that many people haven’t heard of yet.
Zeroing in on quality sites also means making sure that outbound links on your pages are high quality. You should only be directing users to excellent websites and trusted sources. Wikipedia is a valuable learning tool, but Pew research carries a lot more value when you’re linking out.
Users who see you as an authoritative source are more likely to give you organic backlinks. So keep the high quality content coming. Give them reasons to link to you.
When you’ve built relationships with authoritative websites (bloggers, magazines, competitors, etc.), be sure to maintain them. A backlink that sits there for years can go stale and stop working, or be taken down. Keep yourself alive in the minds the online community, and stay relevant.
Don’t be afraid to give link love to your competitors, either. It makes a statement. It shows that you consider yourself to be on the same level as the big dogs, and that you’re generous enough to acknowledge your competition in the spirit of community-mindedness.
This sends a great message to users who are browsing your site, and it boosts your reputation with the algorithms lurking on the other side of the screen.
Rethink Your Anchor Text
Here’s another bit of disruptive news: less than one percent of your anchor text should match your keywords exactly. Using your favorite SEO keywords as anchor text will attract a Penguin penalty. The lion’s share of your anchor text should be either branded, or simply naked links.
Keyword Anchor Text: Montreal Design Firm
Branded Anchor Text: MAPLEaf Design
Naked Link: www.mapleafdesign.com
Generic Anchor Text: Click here
Generic anchor text, by the way, is not going to incur the wrath of Google, but is a wasted opportunity and you should categorically avoid it.
The Penguin update was designed in part to target sites that were using keyword anchor text 100 percent of the time. Naked links and branded anchor text, on the other hand, are always reliable. It’s not worth the risk, so be smart.
Furthermore, branded anchor text and naked links have a secondary benifit: brand awareness. Any time a reader sees that highlighted text with your name or URL in it, you have a brand impression. That makes it doubly beneficial for your business.
Optimize Your Landing Pages
All of this effort in curating high quality links could collapse in an instant if people click through to a shoddy landing page that makes them want to bounce. Make sure that you’ve taken the time to do on-page optimization so that users are drawn into your carefully crafted UX.
The most important information should appear above the fold, on the landing page. This will usually be your homepage, but you should be getting links to a variety of pages on your site.
Let’s say an inbound link brings a user to a quality, informative blog post you’ve written about your niche. The blog post has internal links directing the user deeper into your website, and perhaps there’s a sidebar suggesting some helpful CTAs.
Make sure you have a strong site architecture in place so the pages are organized and easy to navigate.Then users can move effortlessly through your site. This will turn casual browsers into customers, and in the best cases, evangelists.
Remember, the ultimate goal of SEO is not ranking on SERPs. It’s to generate sales. A lot of SEO gurus get distracted away from the end goal. Don’t make that mistake. Ranking matters, traffic matters, reputation matters–all because they increase sales.
An optimized UX will give your link building efforts purpose and meaning. So don’t overlook this critical step! Review your site, browsing through as if you were a casual first time user. What do you want such a user to see when they first land? Where should they go next? What information do they need? The job of UX is to make it easy for them.
These are tried and true techniques for building a profile of high quality backlinks. There are many other approaches, some of them more flashy, gimmicky, or bordering on black hat. But if you want to take the solid approach to success, put in the effort and strive for excellence.
Remember, an excellent, top tier company will rank naturally and acquire links organically. Striving first for excellence and second for links will keep you in good standing with Google, but it will also boost your traffic and improve your reputation.
Check in with your link building team and see if they have any thoughts on the authority of the links you’ve been accumulating so far. Now might be a better time than ever to get down to fighting trim and take a new, more excellent approach!