Hello everyone. I’ve done a couple of posts about links, highlighting my observations over the last year or so and they’ve been generally well-received. Here are some more. I received yet more questions on SEO/link building from business owners and link builders after my last post, below I touch on the most common ones.
I’ve been in the business for a while and have ranked some of the biggest corporates (S&P500, and FTSE100 companies) you can think of, right down to some small ecom brands. I’ve helped rank and scale multiple niches and business types with my link building. These are some more tips regarding some of the strategies that work, and some that don’t.
I’ve tried to write it in a way that the tips can be applied to both SEOs and business owners, and both newcomers and experienced link builders. I hope the content is useful. Some of the comments and posts on this sub, especially regarding links, have been full of unbelievably bad advice, so hopefully, these tips, along with the tips on my other posts, can help people on the sub out.
Floating Links Are Underpowered And There Are Better Alternatives
These are usually used on PBN’s but are also used on normal websites too. It’s where a link to your target page is placed (using a relevant keyword) in a menu, or at the bottom of a page…instead of being in relevant content. Hence, it’s just floating, like a website menu item would. Most good websites you’d want a link off aren’t going to let you have a menu link item which is why it’s easy to see the majority of them are on PBNs. Some people like to use them…I hate them. Their effectiveness is diminished because there’s no way to contextualise the paragraph around the link. It’s just floating. Put your efforts into placing links in unique, well-written content.
A lot of these are also found in directories. You can get good directories, and bad. Some are useful, some aren’t. Most aren’t. You’re always better off putting effort into content based links.
Always place links in unique content that has been written for the website it’s being placed on. You can then, in a nuanced way, contextualise the keyword (link placement) by talking about the industry or business type without being overly promotional. It sounds a bit technical, but it’s really easy when you get the hang of it. Just remember:
- The contextualisation cannot occur in a promotional way
- The content has to be relevant for the website AND the link (80% website, 20% link)
Context contextualisation is one of the most critical parts of link building. Links placed inside good, unique and relevant content will always do well, but if you can contextualise the content around the link it’ll do much better and you’ll get even more power from it. It’s why curating the content is so important.
No Follow: Is There Any Point?
Many powerful websites that used to offer do-follow links now only offer No Follow. They might also mark these posts as “sponsored”. These websites are the ones that will fastidiously follow Google’s rules. They’re usually powerful websites with nice traffic because they’re the ones that have the most to lose if anything bad happens to them (shadow penalty etc).
It’s led to a lot of businesses procuring No Follow links, thinking that the change often cited by these websites means No Follow now carries more value than they once used to, or that they carry equal value to do-follow.
Theoretically, yes, no-follow links have some power. However, Google have not, and probably will not stop putting emphasis on do-follow links because these are the links that Google think bloggers/website owners etc. find genuinely useful because (again theoretically) they’ve used these links without any external input while writing their article.
Do follow will always win.
In larger link campaigns, I’ll always use a few no-follow links to ensure variation and keep things realistic. In smaller, direct campaigns, I’ll just focus on do-follow.
If you’re a small business or just getting started procuring some links for your business, always go do-follow. If you’re not sure which they’ll be, ask the website owner first.
Also, if they’re going to mark the link placement as sponsored, think again too.
There’s nothing wrong with websites doing this, they’re just looking after themselves. But, there are still tons of epic websites out there who will agree to give you a do-follow, and they’ll be way more powerful.
So, be patient, don’t jump at the first site that agrees to place your link, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Most link builders will try and get you the best deals possible anyway (or they should), but if you’re doing it on your own, be patient and find the right websites.
Link Comments Do Not Work (again)
I absolutely cannot believe there are still “reputable” agencies and freelancers who place these types of links. If you’re a business owner looking to place your own links, these kinds of links are where a page has a “comment option”, and you simply write out a crappy comment and dump your link in there.
They don’t work. They haven’t worked for almost 10 years now (2013 is where their proper effectiveness waned utterly).
Don’t buy these kinds of links. Sure, they might be cheaper than proper, editorial content-based links, but you’d be better off saving up a little bit to grab the proper links rather than spending on these links. In my opinion, if that’s the only link-building option you have (for whatever reason), you’d be better off getting no links whatsoever.
The only links that work these days are links placed in content written for the website (not YOUR website) the content is going on. It’s all logical, which I know I’ve spoken about before. It has to appear like the website owner has written the content and dropped in a link to your site because they think it’ll be useful to their readership.
Link building is not something you should ever go cheap on. It’s a sensitive process.
Blanket Strategies Do Not Work
There are still so many people out there, SEOs, digital marketers, etc., who will use the same strategy for every single client. I’m not just talking about the small agencies either. Some of the biggest digital marketing and SEO firms out there use the same strategy for every single client. Links on the same websites, the same amount of links for each client, similar keyword strategy approaches…
Each client is different and they need a bespoke plan of attack. That’s why copying other case studies and trying to build links for your website (or your clients website) based on other people’s success won’t always work. It’s a shotgun approach. Sure, you might hit it right every now and then but by developing a bespoke approach, you can get it right every single time. Put a strategy together and work on it. Don’t do the same thing over and over again if you’re an agency, and if you’re building links for your own site…try not to copy other case studies. Do your own research and put your own strategy together. It’ll be far more effective.
Link Inserts: Are They As Good As Fresh Content
The benefit of link inserts is that the content you’re putting them into might have already developed a readership, gained authority online, or have been indexed by Google. The downside is that, as above, there’s less chance to contextualise the content.
On most link-building campaigns, whether for large corporate clients or smaller startups, I do a mixture of link inserts and links with fresh content, usually leaning towards fresh content. Remember, all of the content has to be unique. So if you’re inserting a link into content, run that content through a plagiarism checker first (like copyscape etc.) to make sure it’s unique. If you’re writing the content it obviously will be.
Doing both is beneficial because you get the immediate(ish) impact from link inserts and the flexibility and freedom to curate contextual content when you’re writing the whole thing.
I know some of you might just say that if you’re inserting a link, you need to wait for it to index again before it works anyway, but in my experience, they often work a lot faster. Sometimes way faster, sometimes only a little. It’s just a good tactic to vary the links and logically, a web owner would go back over the content and update it and if you’re adding good, relevant paragraphs it’ll look super natural.
What I’m saying is that not all link placements on the internet are in fresh content, a lot of updates are to existing content. Doing both ensures your campaign stays logical in Google’s eyes.
Get Good Links First, Not Second
So many startups and new businesses will look into buying poor links because they’re cheaper. I get it, looking after the bottom line is important. But take this case study as an example. I had a mid-sized business approach me (SaaS) recently to undergo a link-building campaign. They’d gotten up to over a million traffic monthly, before being completely wiped off the SERPs, with their traffic now in the 10k range.
Why? They didn’t know and wanted me to fix it. I ran a backlink audit and there it was. Over a million PBN links were bought at the start of the company’s life. They’re the only reason I can see why they were totally wiped off the serps. These are some of the worst PBN links I’ve ever seen. Content didn’t even make sense; it was all garbled up as they’d used the same content literally hundreds of thousands of times but put through a content spinner.
Links like this can give you a quick boost…but they aren’t worth it long term.
I’ve seen it another time on a law firms website too. She (the boss of the firm) ended up deleting the website and starting afresh (traffic had gone down to 0). Her new website is now doing really well. In this case, it was been quicker to start a new site than build enough
You hear these horror stories all the time. Some people get away with it too.
Point being, focus on getting good links first so your business has a good foundation. If you get good links after buying a tone of crap links, things won’t be as smooth. It’ll still work, but it’s just a lot harder.
The Days of Skyscraper Are Over
It’s the same everywhere. People repeat the same advice they’ve read ad infinitum. Skyscraper might have worked for a short period, but it doesn’t anymore. People still pull together vast lists of content they want to scrape, and will offer genuinely better content than what the article in question already links to…then they’ll ask the content creator to change the link so that it’s pointing to their website (and to better content). It won’t happen for a number of reasons:
- The website owner won’t have the time to do it
- They’ll ignore the email
- The initial link was a paid placement and they won’t move it
- They won’t want to change up any of the content because it’s already ranking well on Google, messing with the content may inadvertently change what made it rank in the first place.
- You’re not offering money, or enough money (webmasters now know how valuable these kinds of links are).
…to name but a few. Of course, it can still work. It does still work for some and you can get lucky. But…the time-intensity involved just isn’t worth it. You’re better off building your own backlink profile than messing around with this old strategy. It was old a year or two after its inception…but as we see often, the internet is an echo chamber and it’s been repeated all over the place on a tonne of blogs and SEO websites. Remember, if you build quality, keyword researched content, you can end up getting natural links anyway.
Where Are You Pointing The Links?
Be consistent here. Different strategies work and it depends what your industry and marketing plan is. It’s not just a case of picking a keyword you want to use in your link-building efforts. It’s a case of picking where you’re pointing the link to.
Some point every link to the homepage, as that’s the main page they want to ran. Others will point links to a product page (especially if they run a one-product website).
Others will point links to content. If you’re pointing links to content, it has to be incredibly well-written content (no one is logically going to link to crap content. Keep it logical). If your content is where you’re going to get your sales from, then you focus on ranking it.
At the same time, try to vary it a little. Especially if you’re a start up. Blasting links to exactly the same page might not look natural.
Think about where you want the links to go. This is a really deep subject and I might write a post about just this alone.
Think about what page you think will convert, and make sure you’re targeting the same keyword on that page that you’re using as the anchor in your link building!
It Needs To Look Like The Website Owner Wrote The Content
You see on a lot of websites that there is an author picture at the end of the content and it’ll have a small bio. You want to avoid sides like this. Much like you’d usually avoid your content being listed as sponsored.
Remove anything that could come across as artificial in the eyes on Google.
If you’ve got a bio stating you’re the CEO or owner of X or Y business then you’ve linked back to your website in the content you’ve written, it’s obviously promotional isn’t it. Google would expect a no follow link in an article like this.
It needs to look like the website owner wrote and published the content of their own volition. Like I said, some have turned away from this. Most will still do it. Especially if you’re paying and/or offering good content. I know I’ve touched on this above but it deserves its own paragraph because in my opinion it’s important. These are the only links I generally build and with patience they work every time.
Don’t Overthink Link Building
A lot of people can get worried when building links, and for obvious reasons (see poor lawyer and SaaS co. above).
If you do it right, there’s nothing to worry about. For all Google’s bluster, for all that they say links should be natural and not artificial, they can’t police good links. They can police crappy links and PBNs.
They can’t police them because if you build links logically, and if they look like the website owner has written the content and placed the link, there’s technically nothing wrong with it. They’re just writing an article and placing it on their site…like every site owner does. That’s why it’s so important the content is unique!
Do things logically and you’ll be fine with no cause to worry!
Hope this has been useful. I’ll be happy to answer any further questions on the current state of links building process in the comments or if you’re not comfortable, ping me an inbox message.