10 Simple Steps to Getting it Right and Implementing an Effective Link Building Campaign
First Step: Commercial Objectives
A good starting point is with a cost benefit analysis. Why are you undertaking a link building campaign? How are you going to resource the project? Do you have the requisite in-house skills and knowledge?
Link building is a skill that is learned and earned with experience. It also requires a consistent commitment over many months to do it properly. This is why most website owners outsource this task to link building specialists.
If the link building company knows what they are doing, they will take you down a route pretty similar to the one laid out below.
Second Step: Content Strategy
Do you actually have any content or site features that decent quality sites might want to link to?
If not what content could you produce? For example, could you write some expert articles or blog posts, or produce some expert videos?
What creative ideas can you come up with to help spread your message faster? What content is link worthy? What link bait can you write?
Could you devise new site features or free online tools that people would like and would link to; e.g. An online calculator or widget.
It’s no coincidence that websites with great and unique content seem to fare really well in the search engine rankings.
Third Step: Competitive Benchmarking
Assess the performance of your website against your competitors. Undertake a competitive SEO benchmarking exercise and keep the results so you can track your progress as your campaign progresses.
Such an exercise should look at as many competitive indicators as is practical. For example, how many pages your site has indexed in each search engine versus the competition; how many inbound links your site has compared to your competitors and the quality of those links.
By keeping a close eye on your competition, you can start a systematic process of going after their links to gain a competitive edge.
Fourth Step: Link Quality & Link Quantity
How many links do you need? What type of links? And from what types of sites? Do you need to, and can you, get good quality links from government sites, education or academic institutions, or respected trade bodies?
Assessing your current link profile; what percentage of your links are inbound 1 way links, reciprocal links and outbound links?
Be natural. Most sites on the Internet link out to other quality sites.
You cannot control who links to you; so do not worry about spammers linking to you, unless of course they’re the only inbound links you have!
You can of course control who you link too. Do not link to bad or dodgy websites, no matter what claims they make about the page rank or number of visitors the page on which they will place your reciprocal link will go.
Consider how and where you will link to other sites? You probably don’t want to link from your home page or your strongest site pages; and a ‘links’ page rarely seem to carry much weight these days.
A good way to trade links is by including them in your blog. This can be on your main site in a sub-folder or sub-domain; or it could be an entirely separate site.
If you do not have a blog yet, then consider creating one. Using one of the major blogging platforms like Blogger or WordPress also carries the advantage that your blog will get indexed pretty quickly and regularly; and some of the domain’s page rank will soon rub-off on your blog – this makes your blog seem more attractive to potential link partners; and certainly a viable alternative to a straight link from your site.
Fifth Step: Link Purchasing
Will I engage in link purchasing to aid my efforts? Do I have the budget to do it? Do I have the balls to do it? Search engines do not like sites that buy links to try and manipulate the rankings – so you undertake this activity at your own risk and really you should only consider this as a last resort once you have exhausted all other potential link sources. We never recommend it to people we work with, nor do we do this for our own sites.
The only exception is for paid human edited web directories like the Yahoo Directory and Best of the Web; as well as local yellow page business directories like Thomson Local.com. As these directories do not take on all sites that submit themselves, it seems that the search engines are happy to tolerate this type of paid links.
Sixth Step: Improve Current Links
Analyse your existing links and try and improve on the relevance and ‘anchor text’ for these links. i.e. It is better to have a link using your keywords as the link text than something like “click here”.
Analytics SEO monitors new links to ensure they are implemented in the best fashion.
You can also check ‘non-linking references’ to your site online. Analytics SEO automates this process for you to try and identify sites where your brand or website is mentioned but there is no link.
You can then contact the site owner to try and secure the link. This is not always possible but is worth a go. Similarly, this process also works with links that are “no follow”.
Seventh Step: Competitors’ Links and Competitors’ SEO Campaigns
Why not start with websites that already have relevant and topical links in your market? Yes your competitors!
Piggyback off the competition. Jump on the back of their SEO and marketing campaigns and ride them for as long as you can!
Identify and watch as many of your online competitors as you can. How fast are links to their site growing compared to yours? Which content on their sites is attracting inbound links?
Which sites are linking to one or more of your competitors? Sites that already are linking to sites in your niche usually prove to be a good and quick source of a link.
By using a tool such as Analytics SEO; you can try and get a large portion of each of your competitors’ links. Usually, the sum of all these parts (links) is greater than a single leading competitive player (unless they are such a big brand in your space that shifting them is going to be impossible).
Eighth Step: Build Exhaustive Volume of Link Sources
After you have checked and improved your existing links, and have targeted all the links the competition already has; now is a good time to start trying all other available link sources.
This is a list of possible link sources (we’re sure there are lots more) but a few advanced searches on Google should net you a few thousand possible link sources to get started with.
You can manually try and query search engines to produce a list of possible partners; or you could click a few buttons and have Analytics SEO do almost all of this for you.
Here are a dozen sources you could try – for the full details of each link source, read this article; Starting a Link Campaign: 12 Lovely Sources of Links.
1. Existing Links
2. Competitors’ Links
3. Business partners and suppliers
4. Staff, Family and Friends
5. Generic Directories
6. Niche Websites & Directories
7. Sites that Rank for your Targeted Keywords
8. Relevant Blogs
9. Social Media
10. Niche Forums
11. Article Creation
12. Press Releases
Ninth Step: Manage the Link Campaign
Use a contact management tool or at the very least an Excel spreadsheet so you can keep track of your SEO campaign.
You will need to track which sites you requested links from and when; how you contacted them; who you contacted; and what the response was and the end result.
This can all get a little complicated; Analytics SEO has an in-built SEO Project Management tool which makes doing all this straightforward, quick and easy.
Tenth Step: Monitor and Track Links
Set up a method for measuring the competitive scenario.
If you have an effective system you should be able to get clear visibility of the current status and answers to the following questions:
• How many links do you have compared to your competitors?
• What is the rate of growth?
• Am I getting all my new competitors’ links as they happen?
• What is my rate of “Link Churn”?
• Am I managing to recover links that I lost?
• Has everyone who promised me a link put it live?
• How are you rankings changing?
• What impact has my link campaign (and my other on-site efforts) had, if any yet, on my rankings?
• What should I do next?
• How do I refine my approach?
Analytics SEO asks you the tough questions, but guides you through the decision making process to help you find all the answers.
From devising your outbound link strategy to helping you get the links, Analytics SEO helps you every step of the way.
By: Laurie OToole
CEO and founder of Authoritas. Entrepreneur, SEO and golfing enthusiast!