By Corey Morris, VP Marketing at Voltage

In my recent presentation at the March KCDMA Lunch on the topic of the “things that owners and executives need to know about SEO” we walked through 13 specific aspects. The Q&A was great and it was fun (as always) sharing with the group. If you missed the lunch or want to dig deeper, you can find my article on Search Engine Journal for full details on the topic.

One aspect that I didn’t get too much into and wanted to expand on in this post is the influence of links. We talked briefly about off-page or external factors for SEO and how they need to be planned for and considered alongside the on-page and technical layers. The influence of links to a website is a commonly misunderstood or overlooked topic and is an important one to at least have a basic understanding of if your company is engaged in SEO.

While your website content and on-page factors make the case for your website being relevant for the subject matter of your business and expertise, Google goes beyond that to try to determine authority status. Links to your website serve as weighted votes of confidence or authority.

There’s an SEO practice or discipline known as “link building.” It is often relegated to a later part of the SEO process or not fully engaged as for most SEOs, it is one of the least fun activities. Plus, it gets into some gray areas with Google’s webmaster guidelines when it comes to paying for directory listings for the purpose of getting the link. Google prohibits paying for links and has guidelines for how to operate.

Of course, having great content is the easiest way to build links. Supplying your audience with content they can’t help sharing and linking to naturally builds links for you. However, if you dig deeper or if your SEO team is talking to you about link building, they are likely supplementing great content with a strategy to also ensure you take advantage of link opportunities in front of you.

Link Building Strategy

There are a couple of specific ways that I love to go about link building. I start with collaborating with clients to brainstorm the relationships they already have. This includes charitable causes, industry or trade associations, professional memberships, media mentions, and other areas on the web where someone could or should be linking back to your website. Getting this list documented and tracking down these mentions to ensure all of these relational link opportunities are leveraged is step one.

Going deeper, the next phase I go into is researching the links pointing to competitor or comparable websites. There is a wide range of SEO tools that mine this data and show you the known links pointing to sites that you choose to profile including details of where the specific link is on the linking site, where it links to on the site you profiles and specific quality metrics associated with it. This data provides some great insight into how you compare and from here you can identify potential link targets shared by your competitors and craft a plan to move forward.

Quick Tips on Links

If you’re now interested and are considering a link building strategy, here are the quick things to know about inbound links (aka backlinks):

  • One-way links from other websites transfer the authority or “link juice”. Reciprocal links or trading links with another site essentially negates the value.
  • Not all links are equal. There’s a weighted scale or score of authority. Corey’s personal blog has much less weight and authority status linking to your site than a link from the New York Times.
  • Topical relevance matters. Building links aimlessly or on sites that have no connection to your subject matter will have less impact than those that are adjacent or aligned.
  • Link diversity is important as you need links from a range of websites and tons of links from a single site won’t help as much.
  • Understand Google’s guidelines and know what you’re getting into with paid links and things that could look spammy and incur penalties. Link building services might seem attractive, but beware the risks and dangers of using them as most have been penalized and that penalty can impact you directly. Chances are, if you have thought up a new way to get links, it has probably been schemed and spammed (doorway pages, link farms, etc.).
  • Build links over time and take care to not have spikes in how many links you get in short periods of time. These don’t look natural and can trigger some issues.

Next Steps

I also suggest that you check out some great additional resources and or hit me up with any specific questions as I’m happy to help!

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