Since I started studying search engine optimization in 2004 “link building” has been a commonly practiced SEO strategy, but with today’s modern Internet and Google’s updates the old ways of executing a link building campaign have drastically changed. It is absolutely essential if you are going to spend time or money building links to your site that you focus on getting high quality, relevant, and actionable links across the web. Google has redefined the way it evaluates and values links over the last few years and if you don’t understand these changes you could make mistakes that negatively impact your website. Here is an overview of what has changed:
- Keyword anchor text links are very valuable but NEVER stuff them where they don’t belong.
- You don’t increase search engine rankings because you grow the number of back links (see below for an explanation if you do not know what back links are) you have, you increase rankings as you grow the number of high quality, relevant back links to your site.
- Do not pay for SEO-friendly keyword back links from press release sites, blogs, article publishing sites, or directories. If you have links on sites like these make sure the link uses your brand name or website address and not a keyword phrase.
- Always place links in your content where it makes the most sense for the reader or visitor to have a call to action.
- Do not focus any one page or blog post on any single keyword term or phrase. Google is looking for pages with authority on topics or themes that are often associated with multiple search phrases. When you have a back link on a website or blog it is best if the content is targeted towards keyword terms that have value for your website and business.
Combine In Depth Keyword Studies to Build High-Quality, Effective Links
Google Keyword Planner
The most important first step to building links on and to your website is doing comprehensive keyword research. The best tool available for completing this research is the Google Keyword Planner. This tool is part of Google Adwords and you do have to sign up using a credit card in order to have access. One you set up your account your can turn off the Google Adwords campaign and just have access to the research tool. This tool will allow you to see what keyword search terms are typed in and how many times they are searched per month. You can look at data for specific regions or the United States as a whole and other countries. You can collect data and export it into a spreadsheet that you can refer to in the future as you build links and create fresh content.
Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools)
In addition to doing the market research on keyword phrases related to your products and services you can also use your current website statistics to help you make important link building decisions. If you have Google Analytics then you should also verify the Google Search Console and add it to your Analytics account under Acquisition/Search Engine Optimization. The queries shown in the Search Console tell you what keyword terms you actually rank for on Google, what is the average ranking and how many of these returned results actually drive a click through to your website. Now you can see which keyword terms produce a conversion and which terms need to be focused on to increase your website’s authority and therefore rankings. You can now prioritize and choose terms that either you already have traction for or that you have never had results for to be the center of a content strategy or a link building campaign in order to attain targeted results.
What Kind of Links should You Build for Your Website?
Internal Keyword Anchor Text Links
Let’s begin by talking about the low-hanging fruit. These are links you can build between your own site pages easily whenever you have time. Once you have completed keyword research you want to think about each page of your website and what keyword terms will help build the page’s authority for a specific keyword topic or theme. This is an important first step because as you build links to those pages you want to use valuable keyword terms whenever possible. You can’t use keywords in every scenario, but if you can identify the places where you can use keyword terms as a link, whatever page you point to will be stronger if that link uses keyword phrase or term that is related to the topic or theme of that page. You also want to think about placing links between pages that are relevant to one another so the links prompt visitors to move between related topics.
If I have a website for my hair salon and I have one page about my hair styling services and one page about my manicure and pedicure services I can link form the hair styling page to the mani-pedi page because women who want to get their hair done, may also want their nails done. It is relevant. Internal links are not just for SEO, they are also to help the people visiting your site to move through the various pages intuitively and easily. They should be a simple compliment to your main navigation.
Here is a simple visual explanation of what I am talking about. Imagine the two pages below are on one site for a web designer. This designer offers web design services and classes. This explains how I would create a link exchange between both pages to increase keyword recognition.
Different Kinds of External Links or Back Links
External links or back links are very simply links on other websites that point to pages on your website. There are many opportunities to increase back links and as you do your search engine authority will begin to increase and over time you may see your rankings go up. The number of links you have on sites considered credible, high quality, and trustworthy the better you will do. You need to get these links on your own merit. Buying links in order to increase authority is a big Google no-no so avoid any SEO company attempting to sell you links. Here are some opportunities to look for:
Media Back Links
If you are covered in a magazine, newspaper, industry blog, or other well-known website ask for a link back to your website. Make sure ask! Just because someone has a website and is publishing a story does not mean they will think about how to benefit your business the most. They are worried about their business, their readers…you have to worry about yourself in many cases. Asking means reminding the journalist, blogger, etc to tell the person uploading the content to make sure your website link is live. In most cases related to media you will not get a keyword link. It will be your company or organization name or the web address. One important question people ask about is digital press releases. Are links from press release sites still valuable? If you are publishing press releases on a site like PRWeb or PitchEngine.com it is okay to have a link to your site. It will typically be your company or organization name or web address as well and you NEVER want to pay a press release distribution site to add SEO links. Digital press releases are only worthwhile is they are newsworthy, timely, and have value to the readers and the journalists. he days of publishing pointless press releases online just to build links are over. This is another Google no-no!
You can share link exchanges with anyone else you now that has a website and help each other. Instead of just having a page with a long list of resource links think about how that person can write a blog about you and link over with a good keyword phrase or possibly how they can list you on their website with more information than just a link so maybe a logo, paragraph with keywords about what you do and a keyword link over to a relevant page. Make sure this information is important to their visitors and listed on an appropriate page.
Social Media Back Links
Social media links are not as important as text links on websites since there is a lot of discussion about what can be followed and what is no-followed by Google. It is beneficial for people on social media to have the chance to visit your website so sharing links to relevant pages and blog posts on your site can help build the site’s authority overall. Links created by user generated sharing can also be very helpful in establishing authority. So make sure your site has social sharing options in strategic places so content people find useful can easily be sent to their friends, family, and colleagues.
Local SEO is a very important part of search engine optimization in today’s digital marketing world. The days of buying 10,000 directory links are over and with the increase in mobile users it is essential to have local listings that help you gain more exposure in local search results, which (according to local search expert Rich Owings) are approximately 20% of all searches online. Local citations can include listings on sites like Google+/Google Business Tools, Merchant Circle, Yelp, UrbanSpoon, etc.
Links from Your Blog Posts to Your Website Pages
In addition to creating internal links between your website pages you can also create keyword anchor text links from relevant blog posts over to website pages. For example, if I have a page about massage therapy service on my site and then I write one blog a month about various topics related to massage therapy a the end of each I can use a phrase like “massage therapy” or “massage therapy services” to link back to my main massage therapy page. As I blog more often and link each post back using a strong keyword phrase my page should increase authority on some level. Think carefully about what blog topics you choose! Are they related to keyword themes and topics you want higher rankings for? Then make your blog posts have more impact. Ask yourself, ideally what would the reader do at the end of this blog post? My guess is continue into the site and see if they want to buy what you re selling. If so then make sure you give them this opportunity in the text, as well as with other visual calls to action like sidebar widgets or buttons.
Well, that is a basic overview of the state of link building. I hope you enjoyed the topic and I look forward to sharing more content and ideas with you in the future.