All links are created equal, right?
They’re not! Link building used to be simple: you would go out there, write a bunch of articles, submit them to an article submission site and get an external link back to your site.
That doesn’t work in the post-Penguin era where this could get you a high PR (page rank). While the right inbound website link can grow your Google rankings, revenue, and brand, the wrong ones can get your site penalized. And, you never know what Google will do next.
For example, many people relied on private blog networks to help boost and achieve high PR. Then, Google threw a bomb, known as the PBN deindexing update, which tanked rankings for sites that had used that technique.
Though a lot of people were surprised, I could see that one coming and I’m betting that Google will do it again the next time people try to game search results. So, what should you do?
To be on the safe side, most SEOs would advise you to stop doing anything for link acquisition. If you’re doing business online, I think that this is the worst advice that you could ever get. Instead, you need to learn how to build a high-quality backlink the right way.
Backlinks will remain a vital Google ranking factor. But, effective link building is now about trust and popularity. Only a high-quality backlink works in this model. According to Copyblogger, domain trust/authority represents 23.87% of Google’s ranking algorithm.
A recent survey by Moz reveals that about 37% of business owners who responded spend between $10,000 and $50,000 per month on external link building. If you’re making that kind of investment, you need to have accurate information on how to build links that Google will trust.
In this in-depth post, I will show you a strategic link building technique that works. It is scalable, and when you apply it to your site, your rankings will improve. You will even improve your conversion rate because you are working as the high authority on the topic to search engines.
In this post I’m going to cover:
- Understanding what Google wants
- How to scale your link building efforts
- Keyword research and targeting
- How to earn editorial links
Step #1: Understanding what Google wants
When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing, Google dictates the pace. That’s why it’s important to get to know Google’s mission. Not only does this shape Google’s strategy, but it can guide you in shaping yours. Here’s what Google says about its mission:
Google also believes that there’s always more information out there. With external link building, organizing information (to help your reader) becomes your mission, too. When you pay close attention to what your readers and ideal buyers want, you don’t have to use hype to sell your products.
If you want to build links without getting penalized, you must understand and work closely with Google’s mission statement. If you fail to do that, the technique won’t work.
Before you start building a website link to your web page, ask yourself these questions, relating to Google’s mission:
- Is my content well-organized?
- Do I provide useful information to the sites that will link to mine?
Let’s talk about the first question, because, for effective link building, site organization matters.
When people come to your site, do you leave them wondering what else to do (especially the first timers)? Make sure that your site is easy to navigate. Here’s a great example:
Getting the navigation right is the first step in organizing your content so that people and search engines can find information that’s useful and relevant. The second step is to build a foundation that will make other sites want to create an external link to yours.
How to develop a strong link building foundation: Let’s say that you have written and published a useful post and want to get it ranked in Google. Since you know that improved high PR results from links from quality sites, wouldn’t it make sense to build quality links as quickly as possible?
No. If you generate links to new content too quickly, it looks manipulative and that can be a red flag for Google.
The better solution is to help Google find and index your useful content. Once it’s indexed, you can go ahead and get real links that can improve your rankings.
How to help Google find and index your content: Some of the posts that I’ve written in the last month were indexed within six hours. To achieve this, I used a simple tool – Alexa.
Google’s spiders crawl Keyword Research, Competitor Analysis, & Website Ranking | Alexa all the time. When you input your site URL on Alexa and look up the metrics, Alexa adds a new, optimized page to the database:
When Google crawls the Alexa site again, your new content will be picked up by search engines as well.
There’s another way to get your content indexed. I published a data-driven infographic on how Google uses social signals to determine rankings. In essence, social media helps with faster indexing and visibility. The right content is like a Google press release.
Getting strong social signals suggests to Google that people find your content useful and choose to share it. That can help Google rate your high-quality content, which means that by the time you start building inbound links to it, any website link becomes natural.
To build social signals, I recommend that you share your post on Google+ (it’s a no-brainer since it’s Google’s own network).
This is simple. To share your post, log into your Google account and click the + tab at the top:
When the share box pops up, paste the URL of your post, choose the visibility (I recommend “public” for widest reach) and click share:
Follow the simple tips above and your content will be indexed within six hours. Then, you’re ready to start building trustworthy links to the page.
Note: Make sure that you write and share high-quality content and useful information. Every piece of content and link (including anchor text) should provide additional value for your audience.
Traditional website link building often ignores the end-user. The Google Penguin 3.0 update reminded us that focusing on what people want, why they should click a link, and the value that they will get when they land on the referred page is what truly counts in today’s SEO.
Step #2: How to Scale Your Link Building Efforts
Many people find link building and link acquisition stressful. One reason is because they are not producing great content that people will gladly share.
In Moz’s classic book, “How to Rank,” Cyrus Shepard recommends that “90% of your effort should go into creating great content, and 10% into link building.” This is the 90/10 rule of link building.
As harsh as it sounds, Shepard says that if you are struggling to generate a high-quality backlink to your site, it’s likely that you have reversed the rule.
If you want to succeed with scalable link building, you need quality content that will warrant the high PR.
Link building is all about positioning your content and getting more people to link to you. In other words, a single post can be used to gain many quality links to your site.
A high-quality external link has two key advantages over traditional links: relevance and trust. Here’s the difference:
Let’s say that you have a dog training site and you get an inbound link from an article directory. Google won’t see that website link as relevant to the subject of your site.
But, if that link acquisition is from a site that’s related to dog training, like a dog food store or a discussion board that’s centered around dogs, you will not only improve your rankings, but your site will be relevant and valuable to those who visit it. And, that will help you get with more link acquisition and achieve a high PR.
How do you find authority sites where you can build relationships and start the process of gaining relevant links? One useful tool is Similar Site Search.
Type in your site URL (I’m using Quick Sprout in this example) and hit the “Search” button.
The result is a list of sites covering topics related to mine. This is only a first step, as I still need to build relationships with site owners, so they’ll want to link to my content.
Once you have identified some sites, then you need to research them further to figure out which ones will help most in your link building efforts. Here are some of the key metrics to look at:
Domain Authority: It’s important to know the domain authority of the sites that you consider for link acquisition. A great tool for this is the Moz Bar, which shows the authority status of any domain or keyword in the search results.
Domain relevancy: As I said above, getting links from relevant domains is a key part of scalable link building. Domain relevancy is also a key Google ranking factor and is especially important if you want to escape the impact of Google Penguin on your search engine rank.
Microsite Masters found that “every single site that they looked at that got negatively hit by the Penguin Update had a “money” keyword as its anchor text for over 60% of its incoming links.”
That tells you that if you want to scale your external link building efforts, you must combine domain relevancy with the right anchor text.
Trust flow: This is a metric, analyzed by Majestic, that provides a much better measurement of perceived quality. Trust flow was specially designed to determine the quality of links pointing to a site. It ranges from 0 to 100. The higher the number, the better. In this example, Bing has a trust flow of 86, which is excellent.
If most of your backlinks come from sites with high trust flow metrics, your SEO rankings will improve, you will have a high PR, and link acquisition will become easier.
Use Majestic to analyze the links that currently point to your site. Input the root domain into the box and click the search icon.
Scroll down and look at the backlinks. In addition to the URL and the trust flow, Majestic also shows citation flow, which I’ll discuss in a minute.
Citation flow: This metric from Majestic is designed to predict how influential a website link in a site might be.
The downside of using citation flow as your benchmark is that it doesn’t measure the quality of inbound links, but their quantity. The more inbound links a site has, the better their citation flow. But this doesn’t necessarily mean a high PR. On its own, citation flow isn’t very useful, because quality is more important than quantity with link building.
However, when you use citation flow with trust flow, it works well to help you identify sites that are both trusted and influential.
Target sites with a high trust flow then focus on link acquisition in that group that also have a high perceived influence or citation flow.
In the example above, Nerd Fitness is a fitness site that helps you level up your life and feel better about yourself. Since Art of Manliness deals with men’s fitness and health, it is definitely related to content and target audience.