What you need to know about link building for your small business website in 2017
Chapter 7 of the digital marketing strategy guide
Have you ever thought how Google decides your search results?
I cannot give you a straight answer to that, for there are hundreds of factors Google takes into consideration. Also, Google ever becomes more sophisticated in processing those factors, but the single most important ranking factor remains the quality and quantity of the links other websites have to your website. In other words, your backlinks. Google is a socialite, it assesses your level of authority based on who is referring to your website naturally. That is, its’ not what you know but who knows you.
This means your website will not rank for anything unless you show Google that you are ‘someone’ through quality backlinks.
If you have no backlinks, or the ones you have are of little ‘authority’, your website will not be visible for other than people searching directly for your brand, and almost no one will find you through other websites. You might have lots of friends and followers on social media, but in the eyes of Google, you will be just one of the crowd.
But wait, don’t run to build backlinks like there is no tomorrow yet, because in that quest you will very quickly find a charlatan offering you lots of unnatural backlinks that will only make Google penalise your website and have you dive even lower in the rankings. Because Google is now much better than it was at knowing whether a backlink is genuine and adds value to the internet, you need to be very careful and know how to do it properly. This is also what makes link building so hard.
In fact, if you are any similar to most small business people I know, you will at first be reluctant to play the link building game, because it takes time, and Amazon and eBay might already be ranking on the first page for your main keywords. Instead, you will focalise your online marketing on paid ads or simply getting an intern to post photos of your mouse mats on Facebook. Because that won’t work, you will still be spending your evenings and lunch breaks going to networking events and generating all your leads that way.
By refusing to play the long-term SEO/link building game you are rejecting the opportunity to meet amazing people all over the world who are, like you, experts in their field and will help you exponentially increase traffic to your website. And you will actually never pay for this traffic!
Some of these users will consume your content and fall in love with you, then they will buy from you because they won’t be able to find anybody else they can trust.
This is how it works.
You get more than rankings
A plus perk of link building is that if done right, it will also make you build relationships with people in the industry, which can turn into interesting collaboration opportunities in the future. After the aforementioned Google Penguin update, link building has turned into something akin to PR. One of the reasons I love modern link building is that I have met many people eager to do cool things with other proactive and honest industry players, and the lines between competition and cooperation eventually blur. In fact, thanks to link building I have made great connections with people who are even targeting the same keywords as me!
In this context, your motivation is to gain backlinks but what you get is mightier than that. This is contributing to the big dream of online marketing, which I argue is to stop considering online marketing as a separate marketing ‘hack’ and blur the lines between online and offline marketing.
What do you need to know about link building?
Link building must be tied to your content marketing strategy.
If you commit yourself to your content marketing strategy and you pursue backlinks in the process, you will make your traffic grow exponentially.
As explained on this article, your content will target not only your transactional keywords but a huge variety of keywords related to your topic. Then, because your backlinks will increase your ‘Google authority’, your website will rank for a huge variety of ‘long tail’ keywords and your traffic will soar.
Follow and ‘nofollow’
In the SEO community, the ‘ranking boost’ that backlinks contain is called ‘link juice’. Because people used to manipulate link juice through unnatural backlinks, Google allowed adding a ‘nofollow’ tag to the links to make clear that those links were not made for ranking purposes. And these ‘nofollow’ links would not ‘pass’ link juice from one website to the other.
There is a huge controversy of whether ‘nofollow’ links carry any link juice at all or not. In any case, I do advocate to only seek ‘follow’ links now that it seems to be a bit easier than when Google started penalising the heck of everyone.
You want to diversify the number of pages that have backlinks from other websites as much as possible. This is, in the eyes of Google, a sign that many people find your content (and not just you as a brand) useful. The most effective way of doing this is by having a blog and heavily promoting every single article you put out.
Domain Authority or 'DA' is an industry-standard metric that was originated by Moz, a very popular SEO tool.
Although it has no direct connection with Google algorithm, it is a good prediction of how high a website will rank. So, in principle, the higher the DA of a website who is linking to you, the better your backlinks will be.
Do not make the mistake of thinking DA is the ultimate truth, it is not. I had a client who was checking his DA every 5 minutes. Not the best way to spend your digital marketing time!
A link must make sense and add value to the user. It must be ‘natural. Whenever you create a backlink, this must have some relevancy, so you could tell a story.
For example, if I add a link to a UFO web page on this article, what story can I tell?
…hmmm, people who are interested in link building might also want to know how UFOs do their SEO?
Google is very good at knowing whether a link is natural or not.
Making a habit out of your link building
For many of my clients, it has taken some time to understand the concept of link building, but when they embrace the habit of thinking about backlinks in anything they do with their business, they become relentless at building backlinks and their rankings soar.
For instance, if your company is going to any networking event, you might want to write a review of that networking event and send it to the organisers for them to add to their blog with a link to your website.
Through this article, I want to encourage you to embrace that habit and start winning.
4 Link building tactics that work in 2017
Let me introduce you the accidental mother of link building in 2017. We use this tactic consistently and it is bringing great results across all our projects.
Guest blogging involves writing an article or any other piece of content and publishing it on a high authority website or blog. The ‘host’ website gets free content, and you get a backlink, exposure to their audience and new relationships with influencers and bloggers.
For example, we managed to get Dan Warburton the transformational coach to publish his content on lifehack.org
Recommendations for guest blogging:
Find relevant websites or blogs that accept guest blogging.
Read their guidelines carefully
- Promote your collaboration on your social media and send it to your email list.
Here is a great guest blogging guide by Backlinko.
And here there is a wonderful list of 1500 quality blogs that accept guest posting.
When you are starting out building domain authority, it might be worth taking some shortcuts. This is a service that creates some quality and natural backlinks for you. It is not cheap though, so make sure you use it along with other natural link building tactics such as guest blogging.
Reach out to the companies you use as vendors and tell them you would love to add a testimonial to their site with your name linking to your website. Nice, simple and makes everyone happy.
Take advantage of your already existing association with local chambers of commerce and industry bodies. Do not waste time on free directories apart from the main ones in your country.
If you have a physical product, you can reach out to relevant bloggers to review your product and get a link back to your site.
Google your brand and find all the websites that you don’t control. Are they talking about your brand and not including a link? then reach out to them and request your link!
Link building is hard, but It will give you a massive advantage over your SEO competitors. Once you get the habit of building links, your organic traffic is going to soar, and way more people will find your website and your content.
Don’t look at it as just a way of ranking for your commercial keywords, it is all about increasing visibility, as long as you tie it to a powerful content strategy.
If you need help with your link building, get in touch and apply for our complimentary 2-hour consultation.