Links have been an integral part of search engine rankings since Google created PageRank in 1996. In fact, using links as a measurement of a page’s importance was one of the major factors that allowed Google to come to dominate the search engine landscape. Despite the fact that links remain a core part of Google’s, and other search engines’, ranking algorithms, the idea of "link earning" has started to replace the concept of link building. This is partly due to the Penguin algorithm (why risk building bad links that will do more harm than good?), and partly due to the rise of content marketing and the focus on creating “link bait” content.
However, research has shown that hasn’t come to pass. Content that is highly shared on social media (a quick way to measure quality and value to an audience) does not really correlate to a lot of links. In fact, the vast majority of content published online never earns any links.
This means that simply creating quality content won’t be enough to garner the links needed to rank for your target keywords, particularly if you’re in a more competitive niche. An organized, strategic plan to manually promote your content to to the right audience is required.
The fact that Google incorporated Penguin 4.0 into its core algorithm is a strong indicator of the continued importance of links and link building.
Link audits are critical tasks for off page SEO for multiple reasons. They are necessary for link building because your campaign won’t be very successful, or won’t reach its full potential, if you haven’t identified what sort of audience finds your website, product or content valuable enough to link to.
Start with the WooRank Advanced Review. In the Backlinks section you’ll see how many backlinks your site has, the overall health of your link profile, the quality of your top backlinks and the number of sessions sent by each link.
Record a list of the sites that host your most valuable links - the ones with highest quality and most sessions, during your outreach phase. Then, do brief link audits of your major competitors to find more opportunities for link building.
While good (or even great) content on its own is not enough to earn substantive links, it’s still absolutely required. So you need to learn what sort of content in your subject area builds a lot of links. After your link audit, you should have a good idea of what pages on your own site get linked to. Next, investigate the sort of content on other sites that your target audience finds useful, accurate and unique.
Tools like Ahrefs, Buzzsumo and Majestic let you search by topic to find articles that are highly shared and linked. This shows that there’s a lot of demand for this content, which will make building links a little easier.
When you have a few ideas that you think people will want to link to, create content of your own. You can leverage ideas for the pages that already have a lot of links to grab some low hanging fruit. Don’t just rewrite the content (known as article spinning), since both people and search engines will be able to tell that you’re not adding anything of value to the topic. That means fewer links and lower search rankings.
A few ways you can add your own take on older content are:
Remodel it: The easiest way to improve on a list is to turn it into an infographic. Infographics are some of the most popular content on the web when it comes to linking and sharing, and the visual component has a large influence over user experience and content consumption. Even if the old article doesn’t lend itself well to becoming an infographic, changing the layout and adding new images to the post can go a long way to improving its usability and shareability.
Enhance it: Some of the most popular content online are listicles (look no further than BuzzFeed for an example of the success of listicles), such as "top 10 winter fashions this year" or “10 ways to declutter your desk.” These articles are great opportunities to be rewritten because you can add items to the list, flesh out explanations, add examples for any list and link to source. Article with more details, examples and links are much more useful to an audience and more likely to get links.
Refresh it: Posts that get a lot of links fall out of date, sometimes quickly depending on the industry. Update any out of date points with the correct new information to make it more useful. For example, Google’s Penguin 4.0 runs in real time, which is a change from previous incarnations of the algorithm. There’s a chance that some highly linked articles on link audits and link building contain out of date warnings about Penguin penalties taking months, or even years, to recover.
You don’t have to use one of the three methods mentioned above when creating your own link bait content. What’s important is that it’s well-written, covers the topic authoritatively and provides some sort of novelty or unique perspective on the subject.
Who you target for link building will has as much an impact on your success as the quality of your content. Hopefully the link audits for your site as well as your competitors’ sites will provide you with a robust list of websites and blogs you can pitch your content to.
So far, your list of publishers represents your best opportunities for link building: these are the websites most likely to link to your site. However, you don’t need to limit yourself to just these sites. Create another list, or expand your existing one, with other websites that are relevant to your industry, business and/or products. There are tools that can help you with this such as BlogDash, which is an outreach platform with a database of bloggers searchable by topic, Google PageRank and domain authority.
Think of this process almost like a PPC display campaign: The people who have linked to you previously is your retargeting audience, those who have linked to your competitors are your audience interest targets and targets you find via blogger outreach tools are your prospects.
The manual email outreach step of link building is possibly the most labor and time intensive step. This is because it absolutely must be done manually, no matter how many people you have on your list. Attempts to automate this step will likely end in disaster: recipients will easily tell they’ve received a form letter (and you’ll get almost no links), and many of your emails could wind up flagged as spam.
For best results, write each email yourself, using a general outline or template to streamline the process. Use these building blocks to increase your likelihood of success:
What You Bring to the Table: Lead off with what linking to your content will do for them or their users. This is why you need to create unique content; publishers aren’t going to link to something that doesn’t add value to their content. An easy way to add value (and maybe steal some links from a competitor) is to use the Check My Links extension to find broken links your site can replace.
Hyperlink Anchor Text: When linking in your emails, whether to your content or the bloggers’, don’t copy and paste URLs into the body. This gives your emails a polished look and using generic anchor text such as "click here" will make them look even less like spam. If you’re referencing a writer’s recent work, you don’t necessarily need to include a link to it - most writers will remember their most recent posts.
Unique Subject Lines: This likely goes without saying, but you’re likely competing with dozens, maybe hundreds, of people for bloggers’ attention. Bland or generic subject lines will get glossed over and probably ignored. Make your email subject lines specific enough that the recipient will be able to tell what topic you are contacting them about, but ambiguous enough that can’t tell it’s a link building email at first glance.
Personal Information: Make sure your business and/or personal contact information is in your email signature. Include your email address, website, relevant social media accounts and even your phone number. Providing ways someone can contact you will go a long ways to showing you’re a legitimate business rather than a spammer.
When sending emails, you might be tempted to start with those with the highest PageRank or widest reach. However, you should start with those most relevant to your business industry as this will give you the highest chances for success. This will also help you build a lasting relationship that will earn you valuable links, mentions and citations in the future.
Don’t worry too much about starting slow, especially if this is one of your first link building campaigns. The relationships you’re forging will turn out to be more valuable than any individual link. Plus, ideally you’re building high-value links, so just a few can have big returns.
When sending your emails, avoid generic copy void of personality. Not only will personal touches help your conversion rates, but they will help avoid hurting your connection going forward, making it harder for you to build links in the future.