With so many SEO avenues out there now – PPC, ORM, social media ads, optimized content – it’s not uncommon to hear people wondering if building links is still going to bear any relevance in 2020.
Granted, people asking that betray how little they actually know about SEO. However, the fact remains that not everyone knows how vital a healthy backlink strategy is, let alone how to establish one that works.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s tackle the dumb question first.
Is link building still a big deal, SEO-wise? YES! How much of a big deal? Let’s put it like this:
There are well over two hundred ranking factors that Big-daddy Google accounts for to position a site on its results pages. Out of all of them, they have only been completely straightforward about the three biggest – Content, links pointing to a site, and their machine-learning algorithm.
So, let’s talk a bit about a few things that go into building a healthy and effective backlink strategy.
Yes, There’s a Wrong Way to Do It
One important thing to understand right from the get-go is that, for a link building strategy to work and be sustainable in the long run, it has to be done right. And when it comes to link building, there’s plenty of ways to do it wrong.
Google identifies these as “link building schemes,” and the long and short of them is to try and use black-hat SEO techniques to create links with the specific intent to manipulate SERPs.
A few common examples of practices that fall under this classification:
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank.
- Excessive link exchanges, or partnerships exclusively for the sake of cross-linking.
- Using automated programs to create backlinks to a site.
- Requiring links as part of ToS.
Stuff like that will end up hurting a site more than helping it, and end up costing a lot of money, even if you thought you were getting ahead of the curve. No, a truly efficient link building strategy has to be nurtured from the ground up, earning backlinks organically.
It takes time, effort, and a lot of know-how on the types of content needed to get attention from other sites – Especially those high-authority sites that will have the most impact.
Strategies to Build High-Quality Backlinks
When it’s all said and done, a link to your site acts as a unit of value to Google – It basically means that others have found your content valuable enough to redirect people to it. The more important or relevant the site, the more valuable it seems.
That’s the basic premise of why we want sites linking to our content. And once you understand that, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that valuable, engaging, and appealing content should be at the core of every link-building strategy.
Create Quick-value Articles
While in-depth discourses and interesting, lengthy opinion pieces are a big part of any inbound marketing strategy – and will generate links on their own – their main objective is not to create backlinks.
These pieces are there to showcase expertise and give visitors truly engaging and interesting content to sink their teeth into. When the focus shifts into generating backlinks, leaner, more punchy articles tend to perform better.
Of those, well-made listicles and stats breakdowns usually deliver an above-average amount of backlinks.
Listicles (list posts) are ubiquitous on the internet. They are articles that list any assortment of elements that convey immediate value to the reader. Top Tens, Tips lists, Example, Media selections, are all fairly popular types of listicles that can be quickly put together.
Stats Breakdowns take a similar approach, providing an analysis or breakdown of a topic by compiling statistics around it and discussing their possible implications.
The key to quick-value articles lies in relevance. They need to tackle topics that are in the current public consciousness, or might be highly interesting to the broad audiences.
Leverage Visually Interesting Content
While usually more time-consuming to produce than regular content, visually interesting content can be a fantastic source of backlinks for a long time after it goes live. It can also be a colossal waste of resources if you don’t know what you are doing.
Don’t produce visual content without having strong indicators that it will perform well in some manner. They should be relevant and valuable to its target audience, and actually appeal to their sensitivities.
As for the types of visual content that perform the best for generating backlinks, both infographics and video content stand out.
Infographics are great to condense a lot of information in a visually appealing way. What’s better, there are plenty of sites out there dedicated almost exclusively to curating and linking to great infographic content.
Videos are some of the best tools to grab people’s interest and have them paying attention. Quality video content is highly sought after and often linked back to by most sites. Its only drawback is that they are more difficult to produce.
Perform Broken Link Campaigns
Here’s another effective link building strategy that revolves around delivering value to site admins and owners.
The premise is simple, reaching out to other sites and notifying them of broken links on their website while providing a suitable replacement link from the site that’s trying to generate the backlink.
Broken links are detrimental to a site’s ranking, so there’s immediate value on letting someone know of them, and an immediate motivation to get them fixed.
The easiest way to do this is by using a tool to detect a website’s broken links and compiling a list. Then, contact the site with a tailored email letting them know of their problem and proposed solution. It is one of those great strategies that, although seemingly simple, can provide great results.
Monitor Mentions and Follow Through
Similar in application as broken link campaigns, constantly monitoring a site or brand’s mentions can provide a consistent way to generate backlinks.
When a site (or its associated company/brand) is doing a good job, it will eventually capture the attention of third parties – Bloggers, users, other websites – who might mention or reference back to it without a link.
Platforms like the aptly named Mention can track these instances. Once you identify the ones that are worth contacting, ask them for a link. More often than not they will be willing to do it.
Guest blogging has been for years one of the most reliable ways to build high-quality backlinks to any given site.
The idea is that once a website has a reliable content generation setup, you reach out to other sites with content pitches covering topics relevant to their audiences. Once approved, the piece containing useful links back to the original website will be published on the target site. Pretty straightforward.
The best way to go about it is to do a bit of research for target sites publishing content on topics related to the original site’s niche. Then prioritize them by Page Rank or Domain Authority, and contact them with tailored pitches for articles that they might be interested in publishing.
As more target websites accept and publish your content, it can be used as a good reference to get other sites to accept and publish your site’s content, building credibility and, of course, backlinks.
The Golden Rule of Building Links
While all these methods bring something to the table in terms of building backlinks for a site, there’s an underlying task through all of them that also doubles as a golden rule for the practice: Outreach is essential.
The world’s most amazing site (content-wise) will consistently fail to generate backlinks if it doesn’t have an effective outreach program behind its link building efforts.
As important as creating an optimized piece of quality content, it is equally important to reach out strategically and let the right people know it exists.
If you consistently and efficiently apply an outreach campaign, the results will be swift and thoroughly impact your site’s rank and exposure.