Every once in a while we get a client asking us if it’s better to spend money buying links or publishing content. The answer is simple: effective content can generate more inbound links from external websites that any budget for link building.
For example, the client who asked us this question had just published one of our articles that gained 37 inbound links. Now not all of the links were from Fast Company, but there were a few good ones.
It would have cost him tens of thousands of dollars to buy that many links. However, if you have a solid company blog and frequently updated articles, then it might be time to invest in some good old fashioned link building to gain more high quality links.
Google’s ranking factors dictate whether or not your content shows up in search results, and if it doesn’t, you’ve got a big problem. One of those factors is link building.
In simple terms, link building is the process of implementing strategies that get other websites to link back to yours. It’s a long-game strategy — link building requires methodical time, effort, and consistency to pay off. But once it does, you can see results that improve your content performance.
In this article, we’ve put together 5 important things to keep in mind while link building to help you stay on track.
- It’s essential that you vet the sites you use in your link building strategy for quality and relevance.
- Anchor text matters to link building effectiveness
- Understand do follow and no follow links to maintain the right balance of both in your content.
- Researching competitors’ backlink profiles is an opportunity to find high-quality sources to reach out to.
- Backlink diversity is important; make sure your backlinks are not all concentrated to one place (like your homepage).
Backlinks To Avoid
Start your link building strategy by understanding first what not to do.
Not all backlinks are created equal. You want your website to be linked by brands and websites that are relevant and will drive the right traffic to your site. Steer clear of the following types of backlinks:
Poor Quality or Reputation
This one’s obvious, but we’ll mention it anyway. Always be aware of the sites you’re earning backlinks from. If your content is linked from a sketchy website it can do you more harm than good. You can’t always control which other brands link to your site, but you can vet the ones you reach out to in your link building efforts.
Links from websites that have no real relevance to your brand won’t help you much. Target your efforts to brands and websites that align with your industry and message.
Websites Overloaded With Links
You want your website to be linked in valuable ways that make sense to the user and drive high-quality organic traffic to your site. If you’re linked on webpages with tons of links and no real focused strategy, you’re likely to get lost in the mix or earn traffic that will never actually convert.
The best way to combat bad backlinks is being proactive about finding the right ones. Here’s some good advice for reaching out to your most-wanted link building partners:
Use Keyword-Rich Anchor Text
Anchor text matters.
Let me say it again: anchor text matters.
This is one of the most avoidable mistakes in the link building process! If you’ve got the right link, be sure you’re always using the right anchor text for internal links and external sites throughout your blog posts and other web content.
Here’s what we mean:
Avoid Junk Anchors
“Junk” anchor text like “here,” “there,” “read more,” “click here,” (you get the picture) are not very useful when it comes to link building for SEO. That doesn’t mean they’re totally bad. Sometimes these types of anchors just fit best in your sentence. They also drive conversions.
So, in short: use them sometimes when it serves the right purpose, but keep in mind that they aren’t helping your SEO ranking. When you can, use directly relevant keywords as your anchor text.
Anchor spam occurs when you use the same anchor text too often.
Say what?! You can link to a webpage too much?
Yep, you can — and doing so actually has some pretty adverse consequences like a drop in your rankings or even backlinking penalties from Google.
The fix? Make sure you aren’t linking to the same page or using the same keywords all the time. Just like with keyword stuffing, forcing links into your content not only looks bad but actually hurts the same rankings you’re trying to improve.
One way to assess how you’re doing with anchor text is by visiting Serpstat and doing a backlink analysis, then scrolling down to see your anchor profile. The analysis shows you tons of valuable information like anchor keywords, which domains are using which anchors, number of backlinks under a particular anchor and more.
Below is a screen capture from Serpstat’s backlink analysis guide that shows what your results will look like:
Do follow vs. no follow links
First, let’s talk about the difference between do follow vs. no follow links. In short, do follow links give SEO strength to the site that it links to. No follow links don’t.
In other words, people can use no follow links, but search engine crawlers ignore them, so they won’t count as a contributing backlink for page rankings.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t need them at all. When is it a good idea to use no follow links?
- When you’re promoting an affiliate link
- To avoid spam comments (many brands make their blog comments no follow)
- A brand paid you to share their link
- You’re referring to a low-quality site to make a point (i.e. “what not to do” guides)
Conversely, you should always use do follow links when you’re linking a reputable brand for a purpose that warrants the follow (like citing a great source in a blog post).
Let’s be honest: a big part of successful link building is beating out the competition, and there’s nothing wrong with doing a little detective work to accomplish that goal. By spying on your competitors’ backlinks, you can find out what domains are linking to their website and, when it makes sense, target some of these sources too.
You can use Serpstat’s referring domains analysis to check out your competitors’ backlinks. Here is Serpstat’s guide to conducting a referring domains analysis. Your results will look like this:
It will give you a list of domains that link to the site you’re analyzing, the number of referring pages to the domain, and a domain rank that indicates their domain authority.
Keep in mind that even reputable blogs can be wrong sometimes. Once you see some high-potential links to take from your competitors’ referring domain analyses, do your own research to make sure they meet quality standards.
Link building growth rate
While it might be tempting to try and build links as rapidly as possible, it’s actually a way to earn a Google penalty. Your link building growth should be steady and incremental. Don’t use all of your high-quality backlink sources all at once. Instead, spread them out over time to maintain a consistent strategy that yields appropriate growth results.
Here’s an example of a good link building growth rate looks like:
One primary goal of your link building strategy is to craft a backlinks profile that looks as natural as possible. Exerting all of your effort to earn backlinks for your homepage is definitely not the way to do that.
A better approach is to prioritize the content and web pages that you know can provide the most value to your audience. Then, focus on strategic ways you can earn backlinks specifically for those pages.
After all, the saying all traffic is good traffic is a myth. You want the people arriving on your website to know why they ended up there and receive the content that is most likely to meet their needs or solve their problems.
Backlink diversity also helps your search engine rankings by spreading the SEO power across several pages on your website rather than concentrating it in one place.
Don’t go it alone when it comes to link building
Link building is an ongoing and nuanced process. To execute it the right way, you need experts on your team who can give it the time and attention it needs to boost your content performance. The team at Marketing Insider Group can help you perform a content audit and deliver you consistent, ready-to-publish content that’s optimized for link building.
Check out our Content Builder Service or schedule a quick consultation to learn more!