Did you know that inbound links are one of the most important factors contributing to how your business gets ranked in search results?
Links to your business can be thought of as votes of confidence for your business. The use of links as an SEO tool has been a strategy for many years, and they continue to be a major ranking signal influencing search results.
That means that when another website links to your website (as long as it's a trustworthy site) that link contributes, in a pretty big way, to helping establish your expertise, authority and trust with the search engines. The simple truth is, the higher you rank, the more website traffic you are likely to see, and building quality links to your website will make a difference.
Let's talk about how this works and what you can do about it.
What Is Link Building?
Link building is the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) process of acquiring inbound links that point to your business's website from other websites.
Building quality links, also referred to as backlinks, is essential to any SEO strategy. The links are like a “vote of confidence” from one website to another. It’s a signal to Google that other people can vouch for and recommend your products and services.
As an example, if a someone visits your website or your business location and writes a blog post about their experience with a link to your website, that link is adding value to your ranking. It is all part of the process and takes time and effort.
How Does It Work?
There are many ways to acquire backlinks as well as various places they can be added including industry sites, blogs, new articles, business directories, social posts, etc.
We have found that well-placed links that are relevant to your services and products are far more impactful than links focused on websites with high “domain authority”. Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score that predicts how likely a website is to rank in search engine result pages (SERPs). It is often used as a measurement by SEO Experts to determine the “quality” of a website.
As long as the links to your website or webpage are relevant, and the other site is of pretty good quality, you should consider it a good backlink.
Why Should You Care About Link Building?
Links are useful for both organic SEO and local SEO, and inbound links are one of the top ten organic ranking factors.
A great place to start is with your website content. If your website has a blog, your content can earn you backlinks! We'll talk about that later though.
So, now we’ve established that the number of backlinks pointing to your website is one of the most important factors in how Google will rank your site. It is also important to not just focus on quantity and quality, you have to think about diversity as well.
Look for links from a variety of relevant sources, maintaining a link portfolio that is more natural and organic. Small businesses don’t need hundreds of links to gain trust, and too many links can look suspicious and unnatural. Creating different kinds of content to accompany your links will help diversify your backlinks. You can create blog posts, write local articles, engage in local forums, publish infographics, and other web content to help with this.
According to Neil Patel, links are still the most essential components of search algorithms for organic searches. So, if you want your business to be found in organic searches, link building is an absolute must.
A common question is “How long does it take for these backlinks to have a positive effect on rankings and traffic?” Most SEO Experts agree that it can take 1-3 months before you see results.
So, if you want your business to be found in local searches (and we know you do), you should be looking for opportunities to build inbound links to your website. Let's talk about how search engines find backlinks.
How Do Search Engines Find Backlinks?
Search engines send out “web crawlers” to review, evaluate and index website content and links. Crawlers are pretty sophisticated and important, so they are even given names like Googlebot and Bingbot.
Here’s what Google has to say about crawlers:
“Crawlers look at web pages and follow links on those pages, much like you would if you were browsing content on the web. They go from link to link and bring data about those web pages back to Google’s servers.”
When crawlers find new inbound links to your site, they see those fresh links as a sign that other websites find your site important and relevant.
And they aren’t just good for search engines. Backlinks are good for business.
Think about it: Imagine scrolling through Facebook when you see a friend posted a link from a blog talking about their favorite things to do in your town. You open the blog post, and the list probably contains links (backlinks) to the websites of the places the blogger listed.
If your website is listed (and linked to) in that post, the backlink isn’t just helping your website rank higher in search results. It’s also possible that some of the people who follow that blog are going to click the link to check out your business.
How to Get Started With Link Building
Successful link building campaigns are a hands-on activity. Get out there and start connecting with websites, content writers, editors, and local community contacts. I mean, sure you could sit around and wait for those links to come to you, but we don’t recommend it.
Now that you’ve got the basics down, let’s talk about what you should and shouldn’t do in link building.
Do This to Build Links the Right Way:
- Create Content
Remember how we mentioned that your content could help you build links?
Link building experts say creating high-quality content on a regular basis is one of the best tactics to use for link building. However, writing a blog post, making a video or creating an infographic just for the links isn't going to get you anywhere.
If you are creating content that potential customers will be reading, then you'll need to have something interesting or helpful to tell them. Don't write a blog post just because you think someone will link to it. Write something that is valuable to your readers.
What kind of blog content should you create?
Long-form blog content is the most shared type of content across email and social media, so that's a good place to start. Not sure what to write?
Industry-relevant content is the way to go, and you can use Google Analytics to help you figure out what to write. Ask yourself, does this help position my business as an expert and help promote depth of experience on a particular subject?
Here are a couple more ways to find blog post ideas:
If your business is a spa, you can write about the benefits of the various types of massages. If you own a car dealership, you could write about how often to get your tires rotated.
Lists are also popular forms of content, so something like “5 Ways to Prepare Your Vehicle for X” works. X could be anything from winter to road trips, depending on the season.
Here are a couple of resources for blog topic ideas/tools:
- Think Local
For local link building, other local websites are a great place to start. Small businesses in your area might not receive a ton of website traffic or even have a great website, but they will be targeting a local audience.
When you’re trying to build local relevance for your website, look around your community for relevant sites that focus on local businesses.
While they might not have the most authority, they are focused on a specific geographical area, and those local websites are great for diversifying your backlink profile.
If a blogger has a website about places to eat, things to do, or their favorite businesses in Columbus, and they link to your website, search engines are smart enough to see that the link from the blogger’s website is relevant which will help you on your journey to improving your website rankings in local search results.
- Consider Going Offline
Although link building is good for SEO, it’s important to think about actual human beings as well.
Your customers are human, so where might they go to find local resources? Local bloggers, news websites, local directories, and Chambers of Commerce are resources for real people.
Don’t forget to claim your pages on listing directories such as Yelp, LinkedIn, Facebook Business Page and your Google Business Profile too. Once you’ve claimed these, you can add links to your website from there.
- Be Natural
Now, before you go out and add a link to your business from every listing directory you can find, remember that these links are sometimes considered “unnatural” by search engines. Unnatural links are easy to get, often from less trustworthy sources.
Link signals are important for local search marketing, but search engines put less importance on some links (certain low-quality directory links) than others (links to content).
Links to content that you have created are considered “natural” links. Search engines put a lot of importance on natural links, especially if those links are from websites that are relevant to your industry or location.
And content is more likely to be shared than a directory listing, generating even more backlinks to your website.
Having a consistent profile across directory listings is important as they are considered ranking signals, however, industry experts agree that quality backlinks to your content are more valuable in building trust with search engines.
Think about it this way: the easier it is to acquire a link, the less importance search engines place on it.
The Link Building Tactics That Will Get You Into Trouble
According to the Local Search Association, link building is one of the most abused ranking factors. In the past, companies have used black hat (shady) tactics to acquire many (spammy) inbound links quickly.
But companies that use black hat link building tactics are often penalized. Google launched its Penguin update in 2012 to penalize websites that try to spam the search results.
I know you want a better search ranking right now, but get-links-quick schemes will only bring you trouble in the end.
Google has an extensive list of guidelines for links and link building. Here are just a few:
- Don’t buy or sell links
- Don’t try to acquire a huge amount of links at a time by exchanging links (offering to link to other sites if they’ll link to yours)
- Don’t be deceptive with links by asking others to use HTML and CSS to hide links to your site
And Google isn’t the only one. Bing also penalizes websites that use black hat link building tactics.
Link building isn't something you do once and then forget. Search engines like fresh content. There will always be new places you can look (think new content you can create and share, local bloggers who are just getting started, or new businesses that pop up in your neighborhood) for link building opportunities.
If this seems like information overload, we don’t blame you. It is a lot to take in. The key is to take it one step at a time and if you find you need help, search for it on Google, there are plenty of resources at your fingertips. You can also visit our website or give us a call for a free consultation, we can handle all of these steps for you!