If you care about content marketing and SEO, you can’t ignore link building.
Google executives acknowledge that backlinks are among top three ranking factors along with content and RankBrain (Google’s artificial intelligence technology that handles search queries).Backlinks are among top 3 ranking factors along with content and RankBrain, says @mikeonlinecoach. #SEO Click To Tweet
When you get more links, your search engine rankings can improve and website traffic will increase to help you with branding, leads, and sales.
However, it also involves considerable time, patience, and potential disappointments. Like any marketing, it’s trial and error.
For instance, let’s say you create an infographic or video, and ask people to link to it. Even if the content is exceptional, you may be rejected or ignored.
To help, use some of these 34-plus link building tips, tools, and examples to help your business reach the right audiences:
1.Know your talent
Decide early on who is going to do the work. Do you have the expertise? Who can support you internally? Do you need to hire an outside resource? A blend may be best.
2. Prioritize effectively
Link-building strategies often involve concurrent tactics and tasks. Weigh your options and my suggestions. Determine what’s worth your time. Every tactic may not be for you.
Shares Are Not Enough: How to Amplify Your Content and Build Links
3. Track your keyword rankings
Create a baseline of some strategic keywords so you can chart how they improve in light of your link-building efforts. Be sure to add to the list based on new content you promote. You can’t begin to track everything so monitor the most relevant keyword phrases.
A Nutshell Guide to Proper Keyword Research
4. Use link-building tools
The following link-building tools help you find, sort, and manage potential link sources, including influencer and competitor research. For each link, learn about authority and trust scores that are influenced by the type, quality, and number of backlinks. You may even discover that you’re failing to link well among the websites that your company owns. Here are some tools to consider:
- Ahrefs – here is an example of a report (other tools also offer many data options and types of reports)
- Common Backlinks Tool
- Bulk URL Analyzer
- Moz Pro
5. Research competitors
I call them “me-too” links. You can find directories, blogs, newsletters, media, and other websites that may be open to linking to your website. Clearly, many will be based on relationships those media have cultivated. But you can usually find some gems and reach out to the same publishers.
6. Clean up your inbound links
One of the worst things about online marketing is that you can be penalized even when you’re not at fault. Unfortunately, some disreputable, spammy, irrelevant, waste-of-digital-space websites may link to you even if you don’t want the link.
You get the “honor” of tapping into your limited time to deal with them. And you can use disavow tools with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster tools – and hope for the best. Basically, you let search engines know which websites you despise. Along the way, you’re expected to beg the websites to stop linking to you (if they will listen). You simply trust that Google will agree that they’re awful links and you didn’t request them.
You can also minimize or avoid the Google Penguin penalty for spammy backlinks by avoiding as many as possible in the first place. Use the tools to size up link prospects, including authority scores.Minimize Google penalty for spammy backlinks by avoiding them in the first place, says @mikeonelinecoach. Click To Tweet
7. Buy websites and domains (but be careful)
If you find the right website (with content) or domain name that used to be tied to content, you can inherit backlinks. But you’ll need to size up those backlinks before pointing the websites and/or domain names to yours. Assess the actual links to ensure that they seem to be legitimate (look at the authority scores, number of links, etc.)
8. Create a study
Survey managers and top executives for their opinions on best practices, trends, and industry forecasts. Create a landing page with an executive summary. You’ll feel some pressure to add a response form so you can get key data from prospects. Resist it. Why not just make the results available? Leverage the free resource for awareness and link building.
Go with that executive summary. Beginning with the initial landing page, divide the study into multiple pages on your website so you can get some added SEO value. Reference the full PDF on every page. Block search engines from indexing the PDF so they can focus on crawling each of the pages.
Although it doesn’t cover multiple pages, I like how Spiceworks presents its study, STATE OF IT: The annual report on IT budgets and tech trends. It’s well designed and full of data worth sharing.
9. Publish examples of great content
If you take the time to make useful collections, they can attract links. Here are a couple that caught my attention:
- 150+ of the Best Case Study Examples for B2B Product Marketers
- 5 Examples of Awesome B2B Video Marketing
10. Roll out how-to guides
Educational guides won’t always attract many links. It depends on the topic and the quality of your content. If you develop How to Choose a Metallurgy Company, it may not prompt marketers to drop everything and dish out link love. But there is hope – if you ask (more on that later).Educational guides won’t always attract many links, says @mikeonlinecoach. #SEO Click To Tweet
I like how Gorilla 76 offers The Hardworking Inbound Marketing Guide for B2B Industrial Companies. The agency wraps it with a separate, free resource: Industrial Marketing: The Definitive Guide.
Content Marketing Institute routinely offers free guides like the Content Marketing Survival Guide: How to Navigate the Wilds of Social Media. You don’t need to share your name or email.
11. Go natural
Your best bet is to go the natural route, allowing countless websites to link to yours because of your great content. Although they won’t always be high-profile places, search engines will value the diverse sources and the diverse ways they link (anchor text will vary).
Other websites frequently reference CMI content, such as The Next Web’s 5 Ways to Skyrocket Your Content Marketing in 2017 (it links to CMI’s Skyscraper Content the Right Way: How to Truly Help Your Readers).
TODAY gave Briggs & Stratton a link for supporting a good cause: Raising Men Lawncare Service.
12. Support charities
It’s an easy way to build links. You might question the value of the links if they’re not relevant to your industry. But search engines look at the number and quality of links, not only relevancy.
Burlington is a major sponsor of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
13. Distribute news releases
Years ago, search engines frowned when companies loaded news release text with backlinks. But you shouldn’t avoid using news releases to get the word out about your latest research or products. A news release service may include the “no follow” tag, which basically means your website won’t benefit from the website’s authority. You’ll still get traffic. And who knows? Others may see the news release and link directly to your website.
14. Write testimonials
If you need a product or service for your business, offer some praise for their websites (if you notice they offer backlinks to customers).
15. Nurture relationships with influencers
It’s a long-term tactic, but it can pay off. If you support the influential people in your industry, they will likely link to your content. Start by promoting their content and commenting on it.
An 8-Step Process to Use Influencers to Elevate Your Brand
16. Leverage social media
It may seem obvious, but some companies fall short with their efforts because they didn’t try hard enough. On Twitter, you can promote good content – or portions of it – several times. It’s not overkill either, not when you’ve made the effort to share other publishers’ content and engage with followers (far more often than you call attention to content you create). Tweet about portions of your latest survey.
17. Create useful things
Interactive Content: The Good, Bad, and Wicked Cool Quizzes and Games
18. Consider guest blogging
It still works if you write something original for an online publication. You can get a link to your website in the article and your bio. Check out The Ultimate Guide to Guest Blogging from Kissmetrics for tips, including ways to find blogs that want guest contributors.
How Guest Blogging Solved My SEO Problem
19. Leverage corporate leadership
Identify leaders in your company who have name recognition. Get all sorts of links when they’re listed as conference speakers or featured as regular contributors to online magazines and blogs. Make a list of their key contacts and connections.
20. Research websites with edu domain extensions
Over the years, marketers have suggested that edu-extension links have extra value. Maybe it’s because of the eligibility requirements (a .edu domain name isn’t available to everyone). Even if search engines don’t view them differently, they’re often still worth targeting because of their age and authority. Look for individual faculty, school, or program pages that link to companies and resources. Get more insights from How to Find and Build Powerful EDU Backlinks.Seek links from .edu domains because of their age and authority, says @mikeonlinecoach. #SEO Click To Tweet
21. Join business groups
Whether it’s a local chamber or a national association, you can get links to your business.
22. Be active in local communities
From churches to civic organizations, you have ample opportunities to support people and places that may link to your website.
23. Promote links through email
Yes, you want people to open the email and click the links. But if they like the content, they may highlight it on their websites as well.
24. Look for general industry and niche directories
Evaluate them by looking at their authority score and see whether they feature competitors. Pay attention to the number of listings. For example, manufacturers may want to consider the IQS Directory from Industrial Quick Search.
25. Include ego bait
You can mention one or more experts in your content and promote it socially. Will they link to your content just because you cited insights? Maybe. But if you don’t have a relationship, they may not link back even if they come across it or if you contact them directly.
26. Develop expert roundups
Your relationship odds could be enhanced if you ask experts to contribute to an article – like when they each provide some tools and best practices.
A Proven Process to Curate and Publish a Roundup of Industry Influencers
27. Publish a Q&A
You might arrange an interview with an industry expert and include his or her perspectives on a key topic. Maybe the expert will link back because you reached out, respected the ideas, and took the time to develop a piece.
28. Claim broken links
Hunt down broken links on websites and reach out to website owners and managers. Point out a link to a page that’s missing or a website that shut down. Offer your content as a substitute. Broken Link Building: How to Build Quality Backlinks by Fixing the Web and Broken Link Building Made Easy both offer numerous tips about this tactic.
29. Get more inbound links from existing sources
Who is linking to you that could be linking in more than one place? It never hurts to have multiple links from one source. You just don’t want to “game” search engines by getting a ton of links from one website in most situations. In other words, don’t seek a backlink from their footers.Don’t “game” search engines by getting a ton of links from one website, says @mikeonelinecoach. #SEO Click To Tweet
30. Find product and brand mentions
Search for your products and brand, and inventory some websites that may be willing to link to your website. Many won’t as a matter of policy, but some will if you ask.
31. Be careful with self-created links
I’m not saying these types of links (also referred to as non-editorial links) are useless. Their value may be limited and they could be viewed as spammy (e.g., blog comments and forum profiles). You should be cautious and avoid going overboard.
32. Assess blog networks
If you create blog networks, you can control the content and build their authority over time. Other options may provide results sooner. If you tap into an existing blog network, you could be vulnerable if the network falls out of favor with search engines.
33. Use Help a Reporter Out (HARO)
With HARO, journalists share what stories they’re working on. Industry experts agree to be sources. It’s one way to earn backlinks when stories are published. Some participating media have more credibility than others.
34. Anchor text
When you request links or place links on directories, you should vary the anchor text. Don’t always use the same keywords. Link to a company, product name, or a variation of a keyword phrase you’ve used.
At the end of the day, good content will attract links. But the degree of your visibility will depend on your link-building efforts. What’s your experience? What approaches work best for your business?
Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).
If you follow no other tip to improving your SEO, do this: Create great content. Want help in making it great? Subscribe to the daily CMI newsletter.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute