Link building remains one of the most powerful weapons in the search engine optimisation arsenal.
Unfortunately link building is not easy, and to do it well requires meticulous planning, with methodical and structured execution. The other downside of link building is that it is much more effective if performed by you or someone in your organisation. It requires much time and energy, but the rewards can be massive.
This article provides an introduction to link building , why you should do it, some do’s and dont’s, what to look for in a linking site and a rough guide to starting a link building campaign.
Why embark upon a link building campaign?
Inbound links to your website provide some massive benefits:
- You get qualified traffic. Link traffic comes with an implied recommendation from the linking site.
- Links provide a huge factor in your search engine ranking. This is the measure of the importance the search engines give to your site. It determines the order in which results will be displayed.
- Quality one way link building grants users’ trust in your web site.
- The act of executing a link building campaign builds invaluable market knowledge
- Link building is self-fulfilling. When you get to a critical mass of links, you will find that you will generate more without asking.
- Links establish market position.
Do’s and Dont’s of Link Building
- Do go for high value links. The higher the rank of a site that links to you, the more rank you will gain from this link. A link from the BBC is worth a fortune, but is hard to get.
- Do create good content. This will attract links. This is one of the most important and yet most expensive parts of link building. You need someone in your company with specialist knowledge to give away some of that knowledge on your website. Without good content you will not attract links.
- Do look for user-value in a link. Imagine a user of the linking website and a user of your website. What are their needs and are they really interested in your products, services or content. Build a good experience for them. The site will not agree to a link unless the link provides value to the site. The link is of no use to you unless it provides value to your business.
- Don’t simply swap links. Reciprocal link swaps are low value and will not significantly increase your ranking.
- Do use keyword in link text. If you are selling widgets, try to ensure that the site linking to you uses the word ‘widgets’ or any other keywords in the text that forms the hyperlink.
- Do keep adding new content. If you get into the habit of creating, or demanding the creation of new good content, your site links will flourish.
- Do track the number of links at any time.
- Do record every piece of activity. Assume that you will be replaced tomorrow and someone else must take over you link building campaign. You need to log what you plan to do, what you have done so far, which sites have been approached with which correspondence. The logging should be taking as long as the actual work.
- Do use your contacts. Use friendly contacts to try to get links or to recommend links. These can include suppliers or customers.
- Do research. Research your competition, the market, different countries, different search engines.
- Do create content for keywords. Pick you keywords and create content that uses these keywords heavily.
What to look for in a linking site
Below are some guidelines for what to look for in a site before you consider asking for a link:
The site should be relevant to your market and your keywords. Don’t just pick any high traffic site.
- Links to our competition
If many of your competitor sites, especially those that you think are performing well online, have links from a site, it would be worth you getting one.
The site should receive a lot of traffic. This is hard to gauge externally.
- Search engine friendly
Pick sites that are well spidered and appear high in the search engine rankings.
- Well linked
Pick sites that have good inbound links themselves.
- Good content Sites with good content will always do well. These sites are worth approaching for links.
Tips on running a link building campaign
The following are some general tips that will get you started on building good quality links to your web site. A key ingredient to the mix below is knowledge of your industry on line. You need to actively gain this knowledge in order to succeed.
A. Set Expectations
Link building is a time consuming process. The business should be aware that:
- It will require a lot of your time over a long period. At least 2 days a week for the first six months is a reasonable estimate.
- It requires buy-in from the business as a whole. You need to be given the time to make it succeed. Results will initially be slow in coming.
- It requires input from the business as a whole, specifically the most expensive resources in the business: the experts. Underpinning a link building campaign is good content. You may be able to write some of this yourself, but more often than not you will be reliant on experts in your business. You do not want to be chasing them for articles that never materialise. A link building campaign needs a mandate from the top.
B. Plan Thoroughly
- Enter your search terms in Google to see which sites do well.
- See what other keywords they are aiming at by viewing their Meta tags to see if you should be considering other keywords.
- Search under these keywords also to see who appears.
- Note the sites that appear. Put them in a spreadsheet in groups such as ‘competitors’, ‘industry information’, etc. (Tip: A tool such as Links Suite 4 allows you to extract all the URLs on a page into an Access database. This can save you much time when building the lists of links).
- See who is linking to these sites (Tip: use Google’s ‘link:’ function to see who is linking to a site by typing ‘link:www.yoursite.com’ into the Google search box).
- Note the sites that are linking to the popular sites (Tip: Software such as Optilink will extract all the linked URLs very quickly, as well as providing other useful information).
C. Research Target Links
You should now have a good indication of the competition you face as well as some of your targets for links. How good is the competition and how good are the targets. It is worth getting the Google toolbar so that you can see the page rank of each site, but also:
- Use Google’s ‘site:’ function to see how well your keywords are indexed on a competitor’s or a link target’s site. Type ‘site:www.yoursite.com “mykeyword”‘ into Google’s search box.
- Use Google’s ‘inanchor:’ function to assess how clever the competition is. This will tell you how many times your keyword appears in linking text. Remember that when you achieve a link from a site, you really need your keywords in the link text from that site.
- Subscribe to relevant industry blogs, message boards, ezines and any other resources. You need to become a voice of your industry for your company.
D. Start Linking
- Contact the site owners by email or preferably by phone and ask for a link.
- Note when you attempted contact, the email template you used, and mark any response in your spreadsheet. You are embarking on a telesales campaign and you need to log your efforts with the same diligence.
- Have a good sales pitch. Why would your target want to link to you? Make it easy for them to say yes.
- Review your content and make sure it is sellable in return for links.
- Submit your site to on line PR sites.
- Publish time-based content such as content about up coming industry events and then post relevant articles about your content on sites.
- Create more good content.
- Make it clear on your site that you want links. Provide some link text that can easily be pasted into a web site (I surely don’t have to remind you to include your keywords in the link text).
- Create a useful interactive tool.
- Think link. When you meet people, assess whether they would be relevant for links. Weave it into everything you do.
E. Measure Your Success
- Measure your traffic
- Measure how many sites link to you and put it on a graph.
- Measure the traffic specifically from the sites that link to you.
- Measure how high you appear in Google’s listings for your keywords.
- Use PPC click prices to quantify the value of these visits.
- If your analytics tool supports it, track the conversions from your links.
Make sure you can put a value on your efforts, then ask for a pay rise.
The Multilingual Perspective
If you have a high ranking English site and you have it translated, the bad news is that your language pages will not necessarily get good page ranks just because your English pages do. Following professional localization of your web site (see the article on Pay Per Click Advertising and Search Engine Optimisation For Multilingual Web Sites) you have three options:
- Use your in-country team to follow the steps above in their language.
- You may not have an in-country team so you can commission Search Laboratory to perform the link building for you in country.
- Do not embark upon an in-country link building campaign and instead opt for paid listings on the search engines. This is often the best option. Link building is an expensive exercise, but multilingual link building is even more expensive. Paid search can be highly effective in other languages and is immediately effective and measurable. Search Laboratory specializes in the management of multilingual PPC campaigns.
About The Author
Ian Harris is the co founder of Search Laboratory. Ian has been programming for the internet since 1995 and has an MSc in internet technologies from the University of Leeds. Prior to starting Search Laboratory he was the C.T.O. at one of the world’s largest translation companies for five years where his focus was web site and software localisation. He has helped many companies with their global content including IBM, Novell and HSBC. Through Search Laboratory he is now applying his experience of web technologies and web site localization to help clients reach their global audience quickly and effectively.