When I started my adventure with off-page SEO, explaining to my friends and family what link building, outreach, and Digital PR campaigns were, was like selling a new cane to Dr. House. It was hard. Mainly because it sounded like make-believe. I needed help explaining how, what I did, translated into tangible results.
After a while, I realized that link earning for SEO was like working backstage where, as they say, "the magic happens."
You certainly see things changing, like a significant growth in organic traffic or high SERP positioning of your page, but you can't pinpoint exactly which of your doings led to the result, which might be frustrating or discouraging for some. The only thing you're sure of (after trying it out for a while) is that building links for a domain works. And there's really nothing left to say. Thank you for reading this article, the end.
There’s more 🙂
Whether you are considering a career in link building for SEO or looking for SEO advice on how to make your web page skyrocket, this article will equip you with both basics and some practical knowledge and inspiration on how to get started.
So scroll on to learn:
- What is SEO and why you need it
- What is link building for SEO
- Why building links is important
- What is the best link building strategy
- BONUS: Successful outreach communication
- How to measure link building
Why you need SEO in the first place
Imagine you own an e-commerce store that sells toys for dogs (hello, animal lovers!). Your typical customer, let’s call him Mike, to save himself a trip to a pet store, goes online and types “toys for dogs” into a search engine. Now, you know you have a perfect toy for Mike’s dog, so you want him to check out your store. The best chance to grab his attention is to land as high as possible in search engine positions. So that Mike can find your store quickly and trust it’s the best one, too.
Landing those high spots in SERPs will result in more people visiting your store. Whether that means more sales for you, building a bigger audience, or any other reason why you’d want others to visit your page, ranking in SERPs is a game worth playing. And this is where site content and SEO come to play a crucial role.
All the activities that include optimizing any content on your page for better ranking are considered SEO activities.
So, the steps are as follows: create brilliant content for your website, optimize it with on-page SEO (like keywords, interlinking, meta titles, etc.), and give it a rocket boost with authority links.
What is link building for SEO
Building backlinks is probably the most critical part of off-page SEO as they are a part of Google's original PageRank algorithm that considers backlink profiles when "deciding" over web page rankings.
A backlink (also known as an "inbound link" or an "incoming link") is a link from one web page to another. Each time a website links to a particular page - BAM! - that page gets a backlink. Like this one here:
Why is link building important?
Now, imagine those links are "votes". Each time a high-authority and trustworthy domain links to a page in a relevant way, Google gets a signal that this page is authoritative and trustworthy.
The more votes the web page gets, the easier it is for Google to decide whether or not your website (or its specific pages) deserve a higher position in search engine rankings.
Does it start to make more sense?
With a good backlink profile, a website's organic traffic will grow steadily as new domains refer to it, creating a nice correlation, like this one here:
But that’s not all. Links and brand mentions (along with killer content!) also play a crucial role in building a consistent brand image online, encouraging word-of-mouth marketing, or even shaping thought leadership around the topics they refer to.
As you can see, the power of backlinks is undeniable. But how do you actually build backlinks?
The superstar link building strategy
There are plenty of ways (right and wrong!) to earn backlinks from other websites. The smart and effective link building strategy though, will consider the quality and value of links over their quantity.
In fact, here is what Google’s John Mueller has to say about this:
“We try to understand what is relevant for a website, how much should we weigh these individual links, and the total number of links doesn’t matter at all.”
Link Building techniques
Outreach literally means “reaching out.” It includes activities that promote any content on your site to the websites out there. Outreach includes engaging in conversations with individuals that produce relevant content to yours and asking them to link to your page. Let it be bloggers, thought leaders, or academics collecting resources for students. But, for outreach to work, it must carry real value and show human-like approach, which brings us to:
Relationship building is the most gratifying of all link building techniques. It’s a thrill of an actual connection with someone that appreciates your work. An established relationship means that someone knows your content, trusts your brand, and treats you as an authoritative source of information. And, buddying up with a New York Times journalist or a recognized book author sounds pretty cool to me.
Passive link building
Linkable assets are those value and quality-packed articles that, once they land on the internet, tend to attract attention. They consist of unique, sought-after data (like statistics) and custom visuals that other writers need, and so they link to them. Sharing these content pieces with writers provides them with real value. You no longer “ask” for a link. You supply something others are willing to link to. Linkable assets tend to collect a good amount of passive, organic links over time which just proves their value.
Digital PR campaigns
Digital PR campaigns also called “hero campaigns,” are brand awareness and link building campaigns that share exceptionally unique research, a ground-breaking thought, or a provoking idea that have the tendency to go viral. The content of such campaigns is often reactive to reality and ongoing events, has a strong emotional hook, and includes engaging visuals. In simple words, when releasing a Digital PR piece, you count on it being talked about and linked to. Have a look at this cool example of Tidio’s experiment-based article on Human vs. AI technology.
Sharing the expert POV
This method encourages experts in certain areas to become a source for journalists and their upcoming articles. So, while writers get to include a credible, expert point of view in their pieces, an expert gets good media coverage and, often - a backlink directing to his page. A win-win, right?
Guest posting means producing and posting unique content on another blog, and while it’s a good way to build brand exposure and in some way, authority for your page, using guest posting purely for backlinks, should not be a significant part of your link building strategy.
BONUS: How to nail your outreach communication
Are you still with me?
Good. As I am now going to let you in on a real secret. Getting the best links has everything to do with the right outreach communication.
In recent years, a trend of scammy, SEO link building practices has made journalists and bloggers become highly skeptical about what lands in their mailboxes and what they link to. They get snowed under badly-written, automated, and irrelevant emails.
So here are some outreach communication dos and don’ts that, once mastered, will help you cut across the bad apples and shine like a bright star:
- Be authentic and humble
- Customize your emails, avoid cold, faceless messages
- Appreciation and flattery will take you far
- Write inspiring pitches. Use your creative powers to make a real connection.
- You can do better than “I hope this email finds you well.”
- Be persistent but kind. Sending a follow-up is okay once done in a respectful way
- Come up with things that carry real value
- Think of what you can offer and not what you can get
- Build meaningful relations - this will bring real joy to your work
- Customize the tone of your communication to your audience
- Don’t send generic emails; remember there’s a human being behind each email, so why not make one’s day
- Don’t pretend you know somebody’s work if you don’t
- Don’t overly automate your email sequences. Highly automated emails can be sniffed from a mile
- Don’t make deals with blackhat SEO agencies - even if it might seem like a great idea
- Don’t use external SEO link building services if you can build links on your own
- Don’t get engaged in shady, black hat link exchanges or purchasing backlinks
- Don’t use tricky click-bite techniques.
A word on measuring
So you’ve done all the work. What results can you expect, and how can you measure them? Well, that’s the one thing I struggled with most throughout my SEO experience.
And here’s what I’ve learned.
There is not one real metric that will show you how each link or even the number of links translates into results for your page. You have Google algorithms to prove backlinks work and a bigger picture to look at.
When building backlinks for SEO, you are in it for the long run. SEO combines on-page and off-page activities that stimulate your SERP rankings. Then, you compete with other domains for those SERP positions. Being able to see tangible results from link building efforts might take a few months - depending on the number of links flowing in and their quality.
Be patient. Observe the correlation between your URLs moving up and down the SERPs and links earned for those pages. Watch the organic traffic on your page steadily growing and a clear correlation that is starting to build between traffic and the number of domains referring to your page. This phenomenon is especially visible for the new domains that start from scratch.
At this stage, you already understand how important implementing SEO in your growth strategy is.
With quality, well-optimized content on your page, you can increase and measure your search traffic and SERP positioning. Link building efforts cannot be specifically measured, but they will give your page the ignition and gasoline it needs to keep climbing up.
To me, link building is like climbing Mount Everest blindfolded. It’s hard, you don’t exactly see your footprints or get rewarded with breathtaking views, but you know you are making your way to the top.