Link Building - How to Build Links for Free
Link building (alternative spellings include linkbuilding and link-building) refers to the process of getting external pages to link to a page on your website. It is one of the many tactics used in search engine optimization (SEO). Building links is a difficult, time-consuming process as not all links are created equal. A link from an authoratative website like the Wall Street Journal will make a greater impact on a SERP than a link from a newly built website, but high quality links are hard to come by. This guide will teach you how to build quality links.
Remember, link building is imperative in achieving high organic search rankings.
How to Build Links
To implement effective link building, it's important to understand why link building is important and how it works.
With this link building guide, you will learn:
- The definition of link building
- Why link building is an important part of SEO
- How to build reliable and trustworthy links efficiently and with minimal or zero cost
- Link Building tool, tips, and additional resources
Link building is important because it is a major factor in how Google ranks Web pages. Google notes on their site that:
"In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages."
Imagine that we own a site promoting wind turbine equipment that we sell. We're competing with another wind turbine equipment manufacturer. One of the ranking factors Google will look at in determining how to rank our respective pages is link popularity.
While the above example provides a general visual understanding of how page rank works and why link building is important, it's very basic. It omits key factors such as:
- The trust and authority of the linking pages.
- The SEO and content optimization of the respective sites.
- The anchor text of the incoming links.
For a more in-depth explanation of how PageRank is calculated, read through these resources:
- The original Google PageRank paper
- The Future of PageRank: 13 Experts on the Evolving PageRank Algorithm
- An in-depth discussion of the formula behind PageRank
- The Wikipedia page on the subject
The most important concept to understand is that, as Google says, you're more likely to have your content rank higher for keywords you're targeting if you can get external websites to link to you.
Link Building Strategies: How To Get Other Sites Linking to You
There are a number of link building strategies used to get external websites to link to yours:
- Content Creation & Promotion - Create compelling content that people will want to reference and link to, and tell people about it.
- Submissions - Submit your news to press releases, submit your site to directories, etc.
- Reviews & Mentions - Put your product, service, or site in front of influential bloggers.
- Links from Friends & Partners - Get people you know and people you work with to link to your site.
There are several other resources that will offer you more extensive and granular lists of ways to get links, but there are two main issues with all of these tips and tricks for developing inbound links to your website:
- They take a lot of time - Building out quality content and developing links from parties who may be interested takes a long time. It also requires certain resources: good copywriters, man hours to dedicate to the promotion of your goods or services, etc.
- They're dependant on external forces - You're reliant upon sites you don't control. This means you're unable to have a say in the quality of the linking page, the words they use to talk about your product, or the specific pages on your site they link to.
There's a better (free) link building strategy to build links to the pages you're attempting to improve search engine rankings for. In attempting to get a Web page to rank, there are a few key factors to consider:
- Anchor Text - One of the most important things search engines take into account in ranking a page is the actual text a linking page uses to talk about your content. So if someone links to our Good Guys Wind Turbine Parts site with the text "wind turbine parts", that will help us to rank highly for that keyword phrase, whereas if they had simply used text like "Good Guys LLC" to link to our site, we wouldn't enjoy the same ranking advantage for the phrase "wind turbine parts".
- Quality of the Linking Page - Another factor taken into account is the quality of the page that is sending the link; search engines allow links from high-quality, trusted pages to count more in boosting rankings than questionable pages and sites.
- Page the Link is Aimed At - Many times, when people talk about your site they'll link to the home page. This makes it difficult for individual pages to achieve high rankings (because it's so difficult for them to generate their own link equity).
These are all elements we can't control in attempting to get other sites to link to us. We can, however, control all of these elements in linking to our own pages from our own content.
- Determine what anchor text to use.
- Decide which page to point that anchor text at.
- Ensure that the quality and content of the linking page is high (since it's our page!).
Building external links to your site is important, but in focusing more of your efforts on the optimization of these internal links you can build quality in-bound links with rich anchor text to the proper pages, which will provide you with an unparalelled ranking boost (for free!).
So how do you go about building these great internal links? Well, you can set up a system for interlinking your pages in a few easy steps:
- Keyword Research for Link Building - First, you need to utilize a keyword research tool to have numerous keywords suggested to you that are both relevant and popular.
- Assign Keywords to Content - Next, you have to group your keywords strategically, creating a search-friendly information architecture.
- Link Pages Using Targeted Anchor Text - The final step is to apply your keyword research to intelligent inter-linking; you do this by linking to content using the keywords you've discovered.
The execution of the third bullet is key. You need to be sure that you're linking to the right pages with the right anchor text. Here are a couple quick tips for carrying that out effectively:
Use Your Site Search
This one's pretty simple, and can be used for multiple purposes:
- Finding pages on your site to link to a new page - When you create new content, you want to make sure you can search your site for mentions of similar keyword variations you might want to link to that page.
- Finding a page that's been created to link to - Your site may have multiple content authors. In this case, you may have a vague idea that a page about "wind turbine rotors" has been created, but you don't know the page title or URL. In this case, you can either type the keyword into your site search to find the corresponding page, or use Google itself. To do this we'd simply type: "site:http://www.goodguyswindturbineparts.com intitle:wind turbine rotors" into Google. This would return all of the pages containing that phrase that Google has indexed.
Create an Internal SEO Link Building Wire Frame
To do this, you simply need to map the keywords you'd like to target to the most logical pages. So, let's say we have three pages to choose from:
Since the turbine rotors page definitely seems to be the best fit for our "wind turbine rotors" keyword, we'll align that keyword with that page.
We can similarly match "wind turbine parts" and "wind turbine shaft" with the corresponding pages. In a spreadsheet, this might look something like this:
As you can see, each page is associated with mutiple keywords. By making this document available to all of your content writers, they can quickly see which pages are targeting which keywords; they can also instantly check your SEO wireframe to see which keywords have been targeted (with a simple ctrl F!).