The Complete Guide to a Successful Link Building Strategy
Building the authority of a website is an essential pillar of a complete and effective seo strategy.
In my opinion, it is the most challenging part of an SEO strategy (when there is no link building budget available) and creates a barrier to entry for many niches. In a SERP dominated by giant brands and high authority websites, a site can offer better content than the competition and not rank as well as it should.
Once you have fixed the main technical aspects of a website, and your content strategy has been in place for a while, you may need to start thinking about a linkbuilding strategy to reinforce the popularity of your site.
Here are the main factors to take into account!
What is link building?
In a nutshell, Link building is a key factor in off page SEO positioning that consists in getting external links to our website in order to increase its authority.
Since the first versions of Google’s algorithm, external links have been an essential factor in determining search engine ranking. Google considers an outbound link as a vote of confidence towards the linked website. The more good quality links we receive to our website, the more relevant Google will consider us and our SERP ranking will improve.
What to take into account in your SEO Link building strategy?
The theme of the referring site
The referring domain that links to us should have a similar theme to that of the destination page. For example, if you are a restaurant, a link from a food blog would be relevant, but not one from a cell phone e-commerce. This way we will be indicating to Google that our website is relevant to that topic, and that we are therefore relevant for any search related to that topic.
This is one of the most important issues to consider when working on increasing the website’s popularity, as it will be a key factor to develop topical authority over a subject.
The domain of the page will influence the country in which we are getting relevance. We must prioritize in our link building strategy the domains that have a country code top level domain (.es, .ar, .us…) of the country in which we want to aim. It is also important that the language of the source website is the same as ours.
This aspect of a link building strategy should be emphasized when we are applying an international SEO strategy.
PageRank is a score between 1 and 10 taken into account by Google’s algorithm that indicates how much popularity a website has. PageRank is transferred through links, so that means that getting a link from a high authority website will transfer more PageRank and therefore increase more your website’s popularity than getting the same link from a low authority website.
We are not able to identify the exact PageRank of a website, but there are certain tools such as Ahrefs that allow us to estimate it.
There are basically 3 things I look at to know how much PageRank a page transfers to us:
- How many external links does it have ?
- How many internal links does it have ?
- How many outbound links does it have ?
The html tag of the link and its attributes is of utmost importance. If the link has the attribute rel=”nofollow”, it is indicating to the search engine not to follow the link and therefore it will not transfer authority to us.
Other link attributes such as rel=”ugc”, or rel=”sponsored” exist to indicate to the search engine that a link was user-generated or purchased, and therefore will not convey popularity either.
The dofollow indication is the one that any link has by default, and is the attribute that will pass authority from the referring domains. If you do not indicate otherwise by using nofollow, sponsored or ugc attributes, Google will follow the link.
Does that mean that all your links should be dofollow? The answer is NO. You should get any link that is relevant to your website even if they have the nofollow attribute. If the link gets you traffic or if it helps your branding strategy, for example, it’s a great link.
The anchor text is the clickable part of a link that users see. It is extremely important for link building because it gives search engines a big clue about the content of the linked page.
Basically, there are two types of anchor texts: optimized and non-optimized.
An optimized anchor text contains the keyword for which the linked page wants to rank, a synonym or secondary keyword. An optimized anchor text will transfer semantics to the target page and will indicate relevance for the term included in the anchor.
A non-optimized anchor text links to the target page in a more natural way, with texts such as “click here”, the url of the page or the company name, for example.
The ideal is to have a combination of both. The ideal percentage of links with optimized/non-optimized anchor text will depend a lot on the industry. Niches such as CBD or gambling tend to have a high percentage of exact anchor texts, contrary to other sectors such as clothing.
The technique that is usually used to dilute the percentage is to use non-optimized anchor texts in the links that are of lower quality, and optimized anchor texts in the most powerful links. Obviously, this can only be done when we control who links to us, which is not always the case.
We must carefully analyze the sites that link or will link to us.
Avoid being linked from link farms, sites with penalties, or sites that practice dangerous black hat SEO strategies, sites that sell links in all their publications. Also, avoid repeatedly exchanging links with other websites with the unique goal of increasing popularity.
Remember, link building for the sole purpose of increasing a website ranking is a practice prohibited by Google’s guidelines. Although there are certain strategies that are more dangerous and others that are totally tolerated by Google, we should try to disguise our link profile in the most natural way possible.
If you suffer a penalty, your SEO ranking can drop sharply all at once. To fix it, you will have to work hard to show Google that you have solved the problem and that your backlinks are natural.
What to do before you start link building?
Before starting a linkbuilding campaign, it is very important to understand the current link profile of the website, to understand the history of the domain in terms of external linking and to analyze the competitors’ strategies.
Therefore, the first thing I recommend to do before starting a link building campaign is to do a link building audit.
When we audit a website, we will use different tools to find all the external links that point to the different landing pages of our website. Personally, I use Ahrefs.
Audit your link profile
These are the main aspects I look at when I’m auditing a site’s link profile.
- Analyze the existing and historical links in terms of quantity and volume: What links have we lost? Why? Should we concentrate our efforts on winning them back?
- Link anchoring: What is the ratio of optimized and non-optimized anchor text? From which links do they come from?Are the anchor texts consistent with the landing page? Can they be improved?
- Editorial analysis: In what context are the links found? What is the quality of the content from where they link to our website? Is the link relevant in that context? Is the semantics of the link coherent with the positioning objective of the destination page?
- Link sustainability: Are the links long-lasting?
- Inlink strategy analysis: How is the internal linking of the site structured? Which pages are receiving authority and which are not? How does it align with the company’s objectives?
- Study of your weak links: Are there useless, toxic, dangerous, irrelevant links? Is it necessary to spend time to get rid of these links or can they be ignored?
Analyzing your competitors links
Once we have analyzed the health of the links that our website has, we must detect the links that our competitors receive.
Basically, I look at the same aspects as with my client’s website and dig deeper into the aspects that catch my attention. The data that I find essential to record are:
- The structure of links they receive (anchor text, domain extensions, authority, theme…).
- The domains that currently link to your competitors and that could link to you. If all your competitors receive links from the same domain, it is likely that you can also recover that link (shoutout to the ahrefs link intersect tool).
- Your competitor’s missing/lost links that you could recover for your site.
In summary, I try to replicate everything that the competition does well and take advantage of the spaces they leave to take advantage of them.
It is often complicated to know exactly what links to buy and which ones to give priority to, but a great place to start could be replicating the competitor’s links that you are missing.
The most common ways to get backlinks
There is not only one way to get links from the pages we decide in our link building strategy. Below, we will look at the main ways to get links to our website.
An effective way to get links is to look for collaborations with blogs of our topic.
The agreement consists of writing a guest post on someone else’s blog in exchange for a dofollow link to our website. You get a “free” link and the blog owner gets a quality article without any effort.
On certain blogs, they may ask you to pay to publish on them, but in any case it will be cheaper than buying a post since you save them the cost of writing it.
In my experience, I have gotten very good free links for my link building strategy by guest blogging with universities and medium authority blogs.
- Advantages: we don’t pay for the link
- Disadvantages: Time consuming, so it is difficult to implement at scale.
Ask for the link
In most cases we can find pages that talk about a topic related to some content of our website. If you feel that your content can complement and add value to the other website’s content, don’t hesitate to ask if you can be linked to.
However, it is difficult to find high authority websites that agree to link to you for free, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
If you see that there are other websites that have cited you, used you as a source, or stolen content from you and not linked to you, ask them to include a link to your page. This type of target audience is usually more willing to do it for free.
- Advantages: We get the link for free
- Disadvantages: It is time-consuming to contact websites and the positive response rate is usually quite low.
Create quality content
While easier said than done, creating quality content is the only way Google gives us permission to get links to our website.
With useful, original and informative content, other websites will naturally link to you. Infographics are often a great idea.
- Advantages: free and quickly scalable.
- Disadvantages: Creating amazing content is expensive. Must be accompanied by outreach strategies.
Buying links through marketplaces
Link buying platforms are usually the most used option by agencies. Prices can vary widely, usually depending on the authority and traffic of the website. They usually range from 20 euros to 500 euros normally, but it is not difficult to find much more expensive links.
- Advantage: You get links quickly, and it is very easily scalable.
- Disadvantage: They are often more expensive than they are really worth. Some platforms offer many poor quality sites, so you should spend some time filtering them.
Buy the link directly to the owner
We can contact each site one by one and ask if it is possible to buy an article + a link on their website. This type of proposal usually has a higher response rate, but sending emails is also time consuming.
- Advantages: We do not pay the cost of the intermediary, so the link is cheaper than through platforms.
- Disadvantages: It takes time to contact each site, follow-up is more difficult than through platforms and invoicing has to be managed.
Manually manufacturing the link
Another common practice is to build the link yourself on other websites.
Many times we can leave comments on articles on other websites and include a link in the comment. Also, we can create accounts in directories or forums and create links to our website.
It is important to know that many of these websites determine that all links written in the comments are “nofollow”. In addition, in most cases there are usually moderators who must approve your comment before it is published.
- Advantages: Free and not so time-consuming
- Disadvantages: They usually pass little pageRank since directories and forums are full of links. Moderators can delete your link at any time.
This is usually a black hat practice with high chances of penalization, that is why you do not usually link to the money site with this type of links, but to lower tiers (for example to sites that link to the sites that link to you). Certain tools such as Money Robots for example, can create automated pyramid link building scenarios.
- Advantages: Free (not counting the tool fee) and fast
- Disadvantages: Low authority links, penalizable practice and not so nice for the blog to which we spam the article that links to us.
In conclusion, I think the best strategy combines all these elements.
When a website is new, we can take the opportunity to ask for links to partner sites and manually build links in directories and forums.
When we work with low budgets, guestposting is my preferred option. The cost/benefit can be very high when we find the right website.
When we need a scalable and frequent strategy, buying links is usually the way to go.
Link building strategies require ingenuity, strategy and a high capacity for analysis. If you need help in your link building strategy, do not hesitate to contact me.