Develop a successful link building campaign: part 1
Website link building fundamentals
This blog is part one of our three-part series, Develop a successful link building campaign. The goals of this series are to help expand your link building knowledge and to cover the basics of creating a robust link building campaign.
In part one of this series, we’ll help you understand what link building is, how it works, and the purpose and benefits of link building.
What Is link building?
Link building is the practice of promoting certain parts of your website to other webmasters, journalists, and bloggers with the primary goal of securing a “link” (also called a hyperlink or backlink) on a certain page of their website that connects to your webpage (also called a linkable asset).
Link building is not intended to be a way to spam the internet with irrelevant backlinks. The purpose of link building is to promote your website to demonstrate, for search engines, that your piece of content is relevant, authoritative, and trustworthy. By building links to your content on other authoritative websites, you’re showing search engines that these third-party experts agree that your content is a linkable asset and adds value to their website.
Before reaching out to a website to request a backlink to your site, you need to ask the following questions:
- What value would our content bring to this web article?
- Is this website a domain that I would want to earn a link on? (i.e., Is this website trustworthy, relevant, and/or authoritative?)
- Does this article make sense to pitch our piece of content on?
If you can prove that their website/webpage is relevant and hits the necessary “E-A-T” signals, then it would be a great place to pursue link building.
E-A-T is an acronym that stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness.
These considerations were rolled out in Google’s 2018 “medic” algorithm update and essentially indicate how credible your company and website are and if you should be considered an authoritative and trusted expert in your space.
Learn more about E-A-T, how it influences SEO, and Google’s algorithm in Search Engine Journal’s article, “What Exactly Is E-A-T & Why Does It Matter to Google?”
How does link building work?
Link building works by obtaining external links back to your website. The process requires a two-part approach. Part one is creating useful content on your website that incentivizes people to share it and link back to it from their website. Part two is conducting outreach to third-party websites requesting that they share your content on their site via a backlink. Part two is essentially asking strangers for a favor. As such, it’s important to set up your link building campaigns in a way that shows the webmaster the value add they can expect from hyperlinking to your webpage.
What is the purpose of link building?
The goal of link building is to build high-quality backlinks that pass “link juice” (also called link equity or authority) to your site. These links will ultimately help your website rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). There are dozens of rankings signals that can lead to your website ranking well on the SERPs, but links are widely considered to be one of the top rankings signals. Other major ranking signals include:
Publish great high-quality content that people actually want to read. This content should be optimized for SEO with the right keywords and page structure so Google (and other search engines) can easily digest and understand the page (and the site as a whole).
Mobile-Friendliness and User Experience (UX)
With more people using mobile than desktop to search, it’s important to ensure that your website is mobile friendly (i.e., compatible with smartphones). If your website is not mobile friendly, users may be unable to properly view your content on their phones. According to Google, 94% of people with smartphones search for local information on their smartphones, and 77% of these searches occur while people are at home or at work – meaning that while they may have access to desktop computers, they still prefer to search on mobile devices.
Google suggests that the top three things to be aware of when optimizing a site for mobile is to:
- Make it easy for customers to complete their objectives, whether it’s reading a blog article, looking at directions, or online shopping.
- Measure how effective your website is by how easy it is for mobile users to complete tasks.
- Use responsive web design so that the page uses the same URL and code whether on desktop or mobile.
In order to remain competitive on the SERPs, it’s important for websites to be mobile friendly and prioritize users’ mobile experience.
The main objective of technical SEO is to ensure your website is crawlable. This means it is set up so that nothing hinders the search engine crawl bots’ ability to navigate your site and index the appropriate URLs (i.e., make them eligible to rank for relevant queries within the SERPs).
Why is it important to be deliberate with your link building?
The general rule of thumb when it comes to link building is that links are like votes. Whoever has the strongest votes has the potential to rank first. We say strongest because it relates back to the idea of quality over quantity. If you create a website with zero rankings and traffic and then add 1,000 links to your domain from that website, you’re going to see little to no movement on the SERPs from your linking “efforts.” That is because Google sees this as spammy link building.
Think about the rate of diminishing returns – one link on a blogger site with a domain authority (DA) of 30 is great, two links are good, but as you get to links three, four, five, and higher, Google begins to devalue these backlinks.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we would not want five or more backlinks from a website like the New York Times because there is the quality factor at play. The New York Times is a highly authoritative and trustworthy website, so each time they choose to link to our relevant pieces of content shows Google that, while we are receiving quite a few links from this domain, they are all relevant to the article, thus hitting the necessary E-A-T signals.
In short, if you can consistently continue to meet the E-A-T criteria, you will build a more trustworthy and authoritative website over time.
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