One of the most frequently asked questions I receive when I’m presenting a SEO training is, “How do I safely and effectively get links to my website?”
In this article, I’ll walk through 5 tactics any business can use to get more links, and in turn, improve their search engine rankings.
But first, let’s address why you need links in the first place…
Why You Need Links
To rank high in Google for a particular keyword, you need the following:
- A relevant webpage that includes the information a searcher would want when typing that keyword into Google. If you don’t have a relevant page, then there’s no way you’re going to rank high. That should be fairly obvious. However, there are likely hundreds or even millions of other webpages that are relevant online so how does Google know which one to rank #1? That brings us to the second criteria…
- A website with a strong reputation. Think about this from Google’s perspective. Google wants to provide the best information in their results. In order to do that, they need to determine which websites are trust worthy and authoritative, and which websites are lower quality. Obviously, the higher your website’s reputation in Google’s eyes, the higher your webpages will rank because Google will trust your information.
OK, but why do you need links?
Links are the main signal for how Google determines your website’s reputation. It’s essentially reputation by association. If lots of other trust worthy, authoritative websites are linking to your website, then Google has confidence that your website is also trust worthy and authoritative.
Of course, the reverse is true as well. If lots of spammy websites are linking to your website, then Google will determine that your website is also spammy.
That brings us to the next topic…
Why You Need to Be Careful Building Links
When I started working in the digital marketing industry in 2006, SEO was like the wild wild west. There weren’t many established “laws” and many of the #1 Google rankings were essentially yours for the taking.
Unfortunately, those days are long gone…
Google’s algorithm is now more sophisticated and every business must follow the rules, or risk the dreaded Google penalty. That begs the question, What are the rules you need to follow regarding link building?
Again, it’s helpful to look at this from Google’s perspective. For their algorithm to work and identify the most trust worthy websites, the links to those websites must have been created naturally by other websites. If the other websites only created the links because they were paid $1000, then that would throw off the algorithm.
That’s why Google doesn’t count paid links in their algorithm. That’s rule #1.
Rule #2 was mentioned above – Do not get links from spammy, low-quality, and/or irrelevant websites. The goal is reputation by association so it doesn’t make sense to get your website associated with those types of websites.
Lastly, rule #3 is to focus on the most natural links possible. The more natural the link, the more Google will factor it into their algorithm.
And that brings us to the 5 link building tactics that I recommend to every business..
#1. Create Something Awesome
What could you create and publish on your website that other businesses in your industry would want to link to? Maybe a complete, step-by-step guide to XYZ? Or how about a useful calculator? Or a browser plugin or tool to automate a tedious task?
If you can create something truly awesome, then you’ll naturally get links. This is exactly what Google wants so these are the most valuable links for your SEO.
However, this is also the hardest option as far as link building. Not only do you need to think of something unique and helpful, but then you need to create and publish it on your website, and then you need to promote it so other businesses know it exists. Even after all that hard work, there’s no guarantee you’ll get links. But if you do, then again, these will be the most valuable for your SEO.
#2. Do Something Awesome to Get PR
Along the same lines of creating something awesome, you can also do something awesome to get PR. What kind of publicity stunt can you pull off to get the attention of your local or even national media?
Again, this takes real work and creativity and there’s no guarantee you’ll get links. But if you do get online press mentions, then those links will give you a big competitive advantage.
Now, let’s take a look at a few tactics that are guaranteed to get you links…
#3. Write for a Column
If you can secure a column for an online publication, then you’ll be able to consistently publish articles with links back to your website. For example, I have a column on Target Marketing where I publish articles every month with tips about search marketing.
Google knows there is an editorial process for online publications so these types of links tend to have more SEO value than a standard guest blog article. And that brings us to tactic #4…
#4. Publish Guest Blog Articles
What other websites provide valuable information via blog articles in your industry? Do any accept guest articles? If they do, then there’s an opportunity for you to write and post a guest blog article that includes a link back to your website.
As mentioned above, standard guest blog articles are not as valuable as natural links, press mentions, or columns, but they are still worth the effort. In addition to helping your SEO, guest blog articles can also drive leads and sales that you would otherwise miss out on.
And it’s best to focus on guest blogging on websites in your industry that can actually generate relevant traffic. We don’t recommend publishing guest articles on irrelevant or low-quality blogs purely for links.
#5. Submit to Directories
Lastly, you can submit your business to relevant directories. This is by far the easiest tactic, but these links have the least value for your SEO. That’s not to say you should ignore directories.
We recommend focusing on high-quality directories, and one way to gauge quality is by reviewing the Moz Domain Authority of a directory using the Moz Open Site Explorer. For example, you may want to consider only submitting to directories with a Domain Authority of 20 or higher.
Some directory links will be “nofollow,” meaning that the links won’t pass SEO value to your website. However, we still recommend getting listed in relevant national, industry-specific and local directories – primarily for citations, which are critical for Local SEO.
A citation is simply a mention of your name, address, and phone number (NAP). Every business listing in a directory counts as a citation and they help boost your rankings when Google shows the map on the first page of the results.
Diversification Is Key
As you can see, there are many different ways to effectively and safely get links to your website. Like with investing, you want to diversify your “link portfolio.” Don’t put all your eggs into just one tactic. Instead, invest your budget across all the tactics to continuously build links from a diverse source of websites.
A good indicator of a healthy, diverse link profile is that the number of linking domains (the number of separate websites pointing to your website) is steadily increasing over time. You can measure this metric in Google’s Search Console or using a tool like Ahrefs. And if you focus on all 5 of these types of links, then you’ll likely see a steady upward trend in the growth of your linking domains.