Link building. How to rank extremely high on Google.
Why is link building so important?
The previous chapter described how to make your site visible to search engines and how to optimize keywords by using on page SEO. If you want to see your rankings improve by leaps and bounds, then your site needs links.
You may have wondered what makes link building so important, especially when there are so many factors Google use to rank sites.
The truth is, links are such a strong factor, it is unlikely you will rank high for a keyword if you are competing against sites with more backlinks.
When you think about it, links are the currency of the web. Each time a page links to another, it is a vote for the value of the page being linked to. If a page provides massive value to Internet users, it stands to reason it will be linked to from other sites. This is why links are such a strong factor in Google’s algorithm.
Link building is the key to ranking your site high in the search engine results.
The dirty little secret no-one wants to tell you about link building.
There are a lot of opinions circulating the Internet about the best kind of links to build to your site. So much so, they often escalate into heated discussions.
What is the best link? A link from a government site or from a high trafficked blog? Is it better to get a link from a highly relevant site or from a site with a lot of social media activity?
The dirty secret no-one wants to tell you about link building is there is no single best kind of link.
If this weren’t the case, Google wouldn’t work. Everyone would go out and find a way to spam their way to the top of the rankings very quickly. Having thousands of one type of link pointing to a page is suspicious and a clear sign the site owner is gaming the system.
That said, as a rule, you should try to build links on authoritative, relevant and high-quality sites. High-quality, relevant links are much stronger than links from low-quality, unrelated sites.
How to acquire links and what to avoid in link building.
There are many stories floating around about business owners being slammed by Google for no good reason. Don’t let the horror stories mislead you.
In most cases, what really happened is the webmaster was doing something clearly suspicious or out-dated, like building thousands of links to their site from link directories, and then their rankings suddenly dropped off from Google’s top-10 search results.
If you don’t exhibit overly spammy behavior in your link building, as a general rule you will be OK.
These best practices will ensure you acquire links correctly and don’t break Google’s terms of service:
1. Acquire links naturally and evenly over time. Your links should be attained consistently and organically. Don’t go out and buy one thousand links pointing to your site in one week.
3. As a rule, don’t purchase links. Buying links with the intention of boosting your rankings is against Google’s terms of service and you risk being penalized. These kinds of links may work, but are generally not worth the potential damage, unless you are confident you know what you are doing.
5. Forget about link-swapping or link-trading schemes. These are completely obvious to Google, and either no longer work or may even may harm your site. This goes against common knowledge, but I’ve achieved countless number one rankings for ridiculously competitive keywords without ever swapping links. Link-swapping is extremely time-consuming and completely unnecessary. Get by without it.
6. Don’t spam message boards or article sites with crappy content. This might work temporarily, but strategies like these are typically outdated very quickly.
7. There are paid networks out there offering to build new links to your site for a low monthly fee each month. Never use them. These networks are against Google’s terms of service and using them is a quick way to ensure you find yourself in hot water with Google.
Anchor text. What’s all the fuss?
There has been some controversy around anchor text, as touched on in a previous chapter. Anchor text was one of the strongest factors for achieving top rankings.
If you are wondering what anchor text is, anchor text is the text contained in a link.
If you had one thousand links to your site with ‘NFL football jerseys’ as the link text, and competitors only had a handful of links with the same anchor text, it was likely you would rank number one. That is, until Google’s Penguin update effectively put an end for SEOs using ‘exact match’ anchor text as their strategy. Now it is just simply too risky.
Not only is it no longer as effective as it once was, building hundreds of ‘exact match’ links to a site actually can prevent it from ranking for that keyword.
So then, you might wonder, what is the best way to build up anchor text?
It should be natural.
It is OK to have your targeted keyword in your anchor text, but it should not be the only keyword or the main keyword in all of your links, and there should be a mix of related keywords.
If you think about it, this is a pattern all legitimate sites naturally attract. It defies logic that a quality site would automatically be linked with the exact same text throughout the entire World Wide Web.
Look over the below examples to see a bad anchor text profile compared to a natural anchor text profile:
Bad anchor text – external links
NFL football jerseys – 200 links
Good anchor text
examplefootballbrand – 50 links
NFL football jersey store – 10 links
NFL football jerseys- 5 links
http://www.example.com – 25 links
football jersey store – 5 links
football jerseys online – 5 links
football jacket store – 15 links
click here – 7 links
website – 15 links
The above good anchor text example illustrates the natural way sites accumulate links over time. Your target keyword should not be the most linked phrase to the page.
You can learn a lot by looking at the search engine results ranking in Google, enter high-ranking sites into Open Site Explorer, and looking at their anchor text. You’ll notice almost every top-ranking page has natural anchor text, like the good example above.
Track your link-building efforts and keep them in a spreadsheet. This way you can monitor your anchor text and make sure it fits in with best practices.
Open Site Explorer
Simple link building strategies.
The link building strategies below will help you build up quality links pointing to your site, and give Google a nudge to rank your site higher.
Directory links are a tried and true form of link building that received some flack in recent years. This is due to Google penalizing spammers who built ridiculous amounts of low-quality directory links to their site.
Directory links shouldn’t be overlooked. In fact, directory links should be the first place to start with any link building project. There’s a solid amount of high-quality business directories where you can get powerful and strong backlinks built with a minimum of effort.
But just to be safe, your directory links should not make up much more than 10-20% of your total links. They must also be relevant and quality sites, i.e. not sites with web addresses like seolinksdirectory.com or freelinksdirectory.com. Sites like these just smell of spam! Before building a link on a directory, ask yourself: ‘Does this look like a legitimate and trustworthy website?’ If the answer is no, then move on and focus on legitimate, quality sites only.
If you work within these guidelines, you will not run afoul of any Google penalties.
To find relevant directories, use the below search terms in Google, replacing ‘keyword’ with your targeted keyword or industry, and you can find relevant directories for your niche:
keyword + submit
keyword + add url
keyword + add link
keyword + directory
keyword + resources
Here is a short list of business directories to get you started:
Stealing competitors’ links.
Stealing competitors’ links is an old-school tactic receiving a resurgence in recent times, due to Google’s increased focus on links from quality sites, making it more difficult to find easy link opportunities.
If your competitor has done all the heavy lifting, why not take advantage of their hard work. Use the below sites to export your competitors’ backlinks. By looking through their links you can often find link opportunities to build links pointing to your site. In most cases, you can be confident you are going after SEO-friendly link sources if the competitor is already ranking well in Google.
Ahrefs Backlink Checker – Free to try, then $79 per month.
Majestic SEO Backlink Checker – Free to try, then $49 per month.
Open Site Exporer – Free to try, then $99 per month
Video link building.
Google loves videos, and it especially loves videos from video powerhouse YouTube. If you want the opportunity to capture visitors from the world’s largest video search engine, posting videos will considerably help your SEO.
Post relevant how-to guides, industry news updates, and instructional videos for the best response from users. Then link to relevant pages on your site in the description.
The key to success in video link building is to ensure the video and your description are related. You should aim to have your targeted keyword or relevant keywords occurring on the page somewhere.
And don’t worry. Your video doesn’t have to be on par with the latest Martin Scorsese masterpiece. It can be a simple 5 or 10-minute video, educating visitors with useful knowledge about your topic. Just focus on making it contribute value for the viewer.
The tools below can help with quickly creating videos and uploading them to the web.
Screenr is a free video recording web app allowing you to record high-quality screencasts from the convenience of your own web browser. You can download the video files in high quality after you have finished, and it works on both Windows and Mac computers.
High-quality sites you can easily visit, upload videos and get backlinks from:
Link bait is a new and effective strategy for building high-quality and powerful links on a large scale. Link bait is great because you create content once, but you can have thousands of people over the Internet sharing and linking to your content, while you sit back and put your feet up.
But what is link bait exactly? Link bait is any kind of compelling content that naturally acquires links from other sites as a result.
While there is an art to creating link bait successfully, you would be surprised at how easy it is to earn links and social media activity with this strategy.
You need to make your content free and shareable. Your content must be so valuable it would almost be worth paying for.
To create this content, you should use your expertise or even hire researchers to put together juicy industry content that lends itself to being shared.
Wrap up this content into a whitepaper, top-10 list, an easy to understand infographic, or a downloadable resource and you have made it compelling for visitors to read and to share.
Once you have created your content, you have to promote your content to kick off.
Promote this content heavily through your site and social media accounts. Prompt readers to share the post at the bottom of the content. Make sharing the content as easy as possible and you will maximize results.
Next up, find popular link bait in your industry or niche.
Then use a link analysis tool such as Ahrefs or Open Site Explorer to pull a list of sites linking to popular content in your niche. Send out a quick email blast to site owners and bloggers to let them know about your bigger and better resource.
If you really want to take link baiting to the next level, write and publish a compelling press release about your link bait content. With a press release, it can be exposed to thousands of journalists and potentially has a chance of attracting media coverage.
You might be wondering what a successful link baiting campaign looks like. I’ve listed examples below:
WordPress SEO Guide
Joost de Valk is well known in the SEO industry, largely due to his one page guide to WordPress SEO that is updated every month or so. This guide has earned many links and shares over many years.
101 Motivational Business Quotes
Excellent example of a great link bait article that went viral, and could be outsourced for pennies on the dollar.
Types of link bait:
– How-to guides
– Beginner guides
– Breaking news
– Top 10 lists
– Industry reports
Pictochart. Free to start.
Great service for infographic generation, has an easy drag and drop interface to put infographics together in minutes.
Prlog offers entry-level free press release syndication services, with additional coverage for an added fee.
Many PR firms will simply write a press release and then release it to PRNewswire and charge a premium for doing so. Cut out the middleman, write up your press release yourself, and you can get massive PR for a fraction of the cost of hiring a PR agent. Packages start at $425 USD and scale up for increased syndication.
Broken link building/link outreach.
Broken link building is a new, but effective strategy. With this new strategy, you can reach out to quality sites with broken links on their pages, and use this as an opportunity to convince the site administrator to provide an updated link to your site.
When you find a broken link, let them know the broken link exists and you have an alternative resource on your site that will benefit their readers. With this strategy you should create a linkable resource on your site. This makes it very easy for the webmaster to point the link to your replacement.
Use the formulas below to find potential pages with broken links, replacing ‘keyword’ with the keyword you are targeting:
keyword useful links
keyword useful resources
keyword useful sites
keyword recommended links
keyword recommended resources
keyword recommended sites
keyword suggested links
keyword suggested resources
keyword suggested sites
keyword more links
keyword more resources
keyword more sites
keyword related links
keyword related resources
keyword related sites
If you want to automate this process, the service below will do the heavy lifting, and give you a list of sites with broken links and contact details so you can quickly reach out to the webmaster.
Broken linkbuilding. $67 monthly.
This tool is comprehensive, but comes at a price. By typing in keywords you are targeting, the broken link building tool will find a solid amount of broken link opportunities. Saves time and finds quality opportunities.
Broken brand mentions.
Broken brand mentions is a fast, simple and reliable form of link building you can use for almost every SEO project. It goes like this: in some cases, when someone mentions your brand they forget to post a link. Track mentions of your brand, and where suitable, reach out and ask for a link back to your site. Use the below tools to track mentions of your brand. If you see a mention of your brand without a link, send a quick email to the author, and they will often be happy to link to your site.
Brand monitoring sites I’ve found useful:
Social Mention. Free to try.
Social Mention is a very powerful brand monitoring tool. At the writing of this book, you cannot receive email alerts. Social Mention is completely free and powerful, so it’s worth checking out.
Mention. Free to try, pricing starts at £29 per month.
Mention is a powerful brand-monitoring tool that will send an email alert when your brand is mentioned online, so you can respond quickly.
While Google ‘paid’ links are against their terms-of-service, these below link building tactics do work and can fly under the radar. Needless to say, if you’re feeling daring, you’ve been warned and I take no responsibility for what happens as a result of paid link strategies.
Donate to charities & non-profits.
Charities and non-profits sites often have a donors page. Search for “site:.org + donors” or “site:.org + sponsors” in Google for a list of organizations that have these pages, offer a donation, and request a listing on the page.
Better Business Bureau.
Links from the Better Business Bureau are among the best links you can receive. Better Business Bureau links will pass authority and trust. Check your listing to see if you are already linking back to your site, and if you’re not already a member, then consider signing up.
Advanced link building.
The aforementioned link building techniques are enough for about 90% of readers to push rankings higher than competitors. For link building junkies who’ve exhausted the above options, here’s a handful of strategies listed quickly in rapid-fire fashion. These are intended for advanced SEO users, who are actively blogging or have an established social media presence.
1. Create a Twitter profile.
Adding a link in a Twitter profile is a big opportunity disguised as a small opportunity. Simply by creating a Twitter profile, and listing your website in both the ‘website’ and ‘bio’ fields, you will get a handful of links from high domain authority aggregators that scrape your information from Twitter. Sites that do this include Klout, Twellow, Twitter Counter, and many others. To make these links more powerful, you can make your profile active without a large overhead of time. Use a service such as Hootsuite to auto-post blog posts from RSS feeds relevant to your niche, to make your profile active. Build up a base level of followers to your account with a small budget with a service like Twitter Ads or Twitter Counter – Featured Users.
Twitter Counter – Featured Users
2. Pingback & trackback link building targeting authority sites.
You can get a handful of easy-win authority links, including .edu and .gov links, by linking out to blogs in your industry with pingbacks enabled. Pingbacks are notifications from your blog sent to other blogs when you mention an external post. Blogs with pingbacks enabled will show a link back to your website in their comment section when this happens.
Here’s how a comment will look if it is a trackback or pingback:
Digital nomad blog
[…]read the latest tips on how to travel with only your carry on luggage[…]
Pingbacks build up valuable relevant links back to your website. They can also be a traffic source, picking up engaged readers from other sites and sending them to your site.
Run a quick search on Google to find the top-50 or top-100 blogs in your industry, then go through and find the ones with trackbacks enabled. For example, to find digital nomad blogs, you might type into Google:
intitle:”digital nomad” “comment”
Next up, in your upcoming blog posts, link out to blogs with pingbacks enabled. For this to work successfully, keep in mind you need to link out to actual posts, not the home page.
3. Create your own authority links.
The most powerful link building strategy is to simply go out and make your own authority links. By buying a previously owned website or domain, you can turn it into a blog and unlimited source for powerful, highly relevant links back to your site.
There are readers out there who will scoff at this strategy and there are readers out there nodding their heads—it’s the readers nodding their heads that know how powerful this strategy is. Links from authority sources in your market are much more powerful than any other kind of link, and the easiest way to get authority links is to create your own authority site. Consider buying a website more than three or four years old with a relevant domain, for a more powerful effect.
Market place for buying and selling websites.
Buy and sell domains.
4. Relationship link building.
If you’ve been following the online advice on blogging and link building in the past couple of years you will have noticed a recurring theme: building relationships with other bloggers in your industry is a powerful way to earn strong backlinks to your site.
While this strategy is only relevant for users with active blogs on their site, fortunately, creating these relationships and getting the links is easier than it sounds. Other bloggers in your industry are just as dependent on links as you are. By linking out in your blog posts to other bloggers you 1) give a valuable backlink to the blogger, and 2) give recognition to the blogger for being an authority in the industry. Everyone likes recognition, and the law of reciprocity comes into play here, you will find most bloggers are grateful for being mentioned and happy to link back in a social media post or future blog post.
Try creating or curating popular blog posts into a top-level summary, then send a quick email to the bloggers mentioned, let them know, and very politely ask for a mention or linkback. The best part of this strategy is curating blog posts; it is often easier than creating content from scratch.
‘Hey [expert blogger]
Just thought I’d give you a heads up. I’ve just featured you in my post [xyz]…
Hope you don’t mind. If you’re happy with the article, would really love a mention on social media or perhaps a link back. Or if you want anything changed, feel free to let me know.
Really enjoyed your post on [xyz].
Example expert round-up post:
Experienced business travellers reveal their favorite travel tips
5. Testimonial link building.
An awesome way to get high quality, relevant links back to your site is to give out testimonials. Sometimes you can actually earn a link back to your site from somebody else’s homepage, possibly one of the strongest types of links to get! I will sometimes so far as purchasing a product just to get a testimonial link. Give this strategy a try by finding a few sites with testimonials and offering your own. Of course make it easy for the webmaster by including all the information they need, such as a photo, your name, job title, testimonial and link back to your site. The key is to look for businesses or services already with a testimonials page, or a testimonials carousel or widget on their homepage. Speed up your search with a couple of Google search queries:
“keyword” +”client testimonials”
“keyword” +”what customers say”
“keyword” +”what our customers say”