While the internet makes our small business websites and blogs easier to find, and potentially visible to millions, operating a web-based business also comes with a major downside, and that is – how exactly to be found? Although there is certainly more than enough traffic out there, that same volume of people and the ranks of competing blogs mean that gaining visibility can be a tough challenge. Growing organically in 2017 is all about a process known as link building. Here’s how to get your head around what you need to know…
The internet is full of roaming search engine bots, indexing each corner of the surface web on a continual basis. They use sophisticated algorithms to determine the importance of each website and rank them accordingly.
Creating quality pathways through link building and social media is the way forward, but it’s something that many people find mystifying. If you are a blogger or a small business owner though, it can take you from zero to hero and help you to gain followers and customers.
There are lots of different Search Engine Ranking Factors, but quality links feature highly on the agenda. Using links, search engine bots determine not only the popularity of a site but its trust levels, authority, and many more factors.
Cracking the SEO Code with Link Building
What are Link Signals?
Put simply; these are the elements of a link that tell search engines what they need to know. No one is sure of the exact composition of their algorithms, but a base of knowledge provides us with some informed assumptions through analysis and testing.
The first factor is ‘global popularity’, whereby the more important a site is seen to be, the more weighting links from that site carry. So attempting to partner with trusted sites and gain links from them can be critical. This is balanced by the importance of links that are topic-specific and relevant to your own area of specialism.
There is also anchor text, where if dozens of links point to a page with the right keywords, that page is highly likely to rank well for the targeted phrase in that text – so the phrasing people use to link to your site is paramount. With the web being pretty much like the wild west, ‘trust rank’ is also another huge factor in the search engine success of your site.
To weed out all the spam floating around, a trusted measurement is taken. Universities, government organizations, and charities generally benefit from high trust scores, so a link from them has massive sway. Links also have to be ‘fresh’ as they are given less importance over time, so link building is an ongoing process.
Does Social Media Count?
For a lot of bloggers and small business owners, social media can be their main channel, and over the last few years, content sharing on Facebook, Twitter, and services like Google+ have exploded. There is a bit of debate among SEO professionals as to how much social links factor into an overall score, but we know that their importance is growing.
How Can I Build My Links?
Enhancing your online visibility centers around two things – firstly, getting rid of bad links, and secondly, increasing the number of good ones.
This will improve the Domain Authority of your site, and boost you up the rankings. There are really only two options when it comes to building good links – one is working with a specialist SEO agency that has formed relationships that mean they can secure quality backlinks – but the cost of this is often prohibitive for small businesses and bloggers.
The second route is to focus on creating high-quality content that will benefit your customers.
The Technical Side
Learning how to optimise your robots.txt or plan out a suitable URL structure is the key to the technical side of SEO. There are lots of helpful guides out there that can help you understand the process and get your site in order. Understanding how to use meta tags, keywords, and alt tags are all part of this area, and this SEO housekeeping on your blog or site is essential before you go searching for additional links.
Creating Linkable Content
Put a plan in place to create high-quality articles and infographics each week, and you will see the payoff in your traffic. Things that people genuinely find useful and informative work well and also draw potential customers to your site.
There are lots of free resources out there, tools like Canva that you can use for free to create engaging graphics for social media that will look beautiful and get shared. Also, don’t forget the power of internal links. Each article on our site should contain links back to other related articles.
In this way, you are continually creating a powerful network within your site that is both useful to visitors and to search engines. So focus on improving the density of links and you’ll build a secure site.
Remove Bad Links
As mentioned above, removing toxic links is just as important as gaining good ones, and will count just as much towards your overall site ranking. So the hygiene of your site’s link profile requires regular maintenance. Don’t wait until you see a terrible effect on your site – make sure that you’re taking care of it. Find articles on penalty recovering that will let you know exactly what you need to do to clean up your site profile.
Your Strategy for Success
A link-building strategy for your site doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, a few simple steps can help enormously. First of all, leverage the business relationships that you have – partners, loyal customers, good suppliers. Use an incentive to ask them to link to you on their homepage, perhaps by sending out a badge or graphic icon.
If your site is mainly focused around e-commerce or bookings for a service, consider creating a blog — a place that can be full of rich and useful content, that will provide a constant source of fresh material for your site and earn listings and therefore links from blog directory sites.
When thinking about content, consider specific steps you can take to make it shareable – you can even follow a guide on how to embed social sharing buttons onto your posts.
Choose an angle, whether is its using humor or being informative, that provides a unique perspective on a topic. This will encourage people to share it naturally. Also, it’s easy to forget the power of the traditional media, but gaining PR coverage can also be hugely powerful in the world of site optimisation.
Getting the attention of the press and other bloggers are difficult but can pay dividends. Think about opinions you can give or prizes to generate interest in your site.
Can I just buy links?
In a word, no. Although there are shady sites out there offering paid for links, these things rarely pay off and can even lead to your site being blacklisted, and therefore all but invisible. Search engines put a lot of time and effort into parsing out these dodgy links, so sooner or later, this strategy will fall apart.
It seems too good to be true because it is. In content marketing, there are no shortcuts. You need to focus on creating a long-term link building strategy that is maintainable for your small business. This may seem like a harder approach, but its really the only way, and will pay dividends if you have a little patience.
Patience Wins The Day
The road to a quality site with a high domain ranking is paved by good content and link building strategies. Getting comfortable with SEO practices takes practice and experience, but it is possible, even for small businesses and can help to grow your operations massively.
Website analytics are the tools that will really help you to understand what is performing well for you and how you can improve and build on small successes incrementally. Seeing an increase in search traffic to your site is a sure indication that you’re heading in the right direction, but there’s always more you can do to improve the health of your site.
Band together with other bloggers or small businesses to create an online link sharing party or request to be added to the blogroll of a contact or an indexing site.
With link-building, small actions quickly add up, so keep going and be sure to return the linking love to others. High quality, editorially produced links are worth their weight in gold, so leverage those quality contacts and approach it all as the ultimate service to customers and to yourself.
Spending a little time and effort on a regular basis can blossom into something wonderful, so just make sure that you understand the basics, use your ethical compass, brainstorm brilliant content that’s relevant to your area and go for it.
Soon you’ll find yourself with a boost in DA and a massive sense of accomplishment that you’ve cracked the SEO code with link building.