Link building and backlinking are two important ways for search engines to find your business online.
Link building is the process of building up a “portfolio” of links to other places on your own website. When you have more links in your content, your site becomes more relevant to Google—which means you’ll show up more often in search results.
Backlinking, on the other hand, refers to sites that link to your website. The more places your site is linked from, the more important you seem to search engines and potential customers alike.
Link Building Basics
You might think link building is simply the process of putting links to other sites in your content, but it’s a bit more complex than that. In order to make those links beneficial to you, the key is to focus on your audience, not on improving your ranking.
“When you build links just for the sake of links…this often leads to pursuing less relevant and authoritative sites where your audience isn’t truly active,” says Andrew Dennis, a content marketing specialist at Page One Power (and a writer for its blog, Linkerati). “When you focus on your audience, the links you get will have a higher likelihood of being valuable, regardless of SEO.”
When you concentrate on simply gathering a plethora of links, it shows—and it can potentially make Google think you’re spamming. First and foremost, you need to make sure the links you’re gathering are helpful to your audience.
Irrelevant links to your industry don’t add anything to your customers’ experience, and they certainly don’t do anything to establish yourself as a leader in your area. So why bother adding them to your site? Once you start focusing on what will benefit your readers, you’re more in tune with what search engines find important: relevancy.
It’s not enough just to link to places that could be helpful to your audience. You need to make sure your audience is actually engaging with the content you link to.
Think of it this way: if you’re reading an article about one of your hobbies, would you rather follow a link to a Wikipedia page that spews facts about something you already know…or would you rather discover a new blog that offers a hot take on something about your hobby that you hadn’t considered?
If it’s an article, check out the number of shares it has on Facebook, Twitter, or even LinkedIn. If it’s a blog post, take a look at its comments. The more activity you see on a webpage you want to link to, the better: it tells your audience that you know where all the good conversations about your industry are happening.
What to watch out for
It’s what every online content creator knows: complacency kills.
“In order to remain relevant to both search engines and human beings alike, you need to regularly acquire fresh links for your website,” explains Dennis. “Fresh links create exposure to new audiences and signal continuing engagement to search engines.”
In addition to continuously finding new links, you’ll have to watch out for “link rot,” too: links that become irrelevant or break over time. You never know when a reader is going to come across something you posted years ago, only to be disappointed that the helpful site you linked to no longer exists.
That’s why it’s important to spend time going over your old links: to keep reaping the benefits of the links you’ve built in the past, you need to make sure they’re still capable of giving your customers a good experience.
Just like with link building, good backlinking heavily depends on relevancy: sites that link to you should be as relevant to your interests as possible. This helps your search ranking because it means you “pop up” in more places around the net that are important in your industry. And the more sites you’re on, the more important you seem to Google (and to customers!).
You can use Google search alerts to be notified when someone’s talking about your business. This lets you know when someone’s mentioned you, giving you the opportunity to ask them to link to your site if they haven’t already.
Yes, you’re going to have to ask: since you don’t exactly have control over who links to you, it’s in your best interest to ask for people to do it when they talk about you.
It’s beneficial for them, too, because it helps build their link portfolio, and it gives their viewers a better experience—just like when you build links.
“While you should absolutely be tracking brand mentions, don’t forget to look for other unbranded mentions related to your company as well,” Dennis notes.
If you have employees that are active in various communities—even if they’re not 100% related to your industry—keep an eye out. When your company is mentioned in articles or blog posts about them, you should definitely reach out and make sure that you’re being linked to.
Since these links are informative, giving readers resources to learn about the subject of the article, Google typically won’t penalize them for irrelevancy. (It only becomes a problem, for example, if your daycare is linked to from a movie review with no discernible reason.)
Other things to look out for online include popular products, affiliations, upcoming events, etc. Basically, if something’s going on that has to do with your company, keep it in mind as a potential backlinking opportunity!
What to watch out for
Don’t get too carried away with emailing all those siterunners or writers who have mentioned you. Some of them can’t edit what they’ve published—even to simply add a hyperlink—so asking is a waste of your time (and theirs). For example, press releases from places like PRWeb can’t be edited once they’ve been published, so you’re likely to just get an annoyed email back from whoever wrote it.
Now that you know how to get a little creative with link building and backlinking, you can start to improve your search rankings and your brand’s presence online. All it takes is a little research and some knowledge about your audience.
Need more help developing your online marketing strategy? Contact Kirkpatrick Creative today. Just make sure you link to us when you tell people how great we are.