Building links is arguably one of the most important elements of SEO. As well as being a massive ranking factor, Google is constantly doing all it can to prevent link-building from being manipulated.
In the beginning of SEO, no matter where links came from, how reliable they were, or what anchor text was being used; Google gave all links the same value. Sites with the most links pointing to them were effectively the winners in terms of rankings, it was that simple. No matter how good or how useful a site was to the user, if many links were pointing to the site it was likely to rank well in the SERPs.
Thankfully, that isn’t the case today.
Plenty of hard work and many algorithm changes later (some major); Google is now looking more at which links are pointing to which sites. Questions are being asked about the links, such as:
- Is the link from a reliable source?
- Is the link genuine/natural?
- Do the two sites relate to one another in terms of topic?
- Is it a paid link? (BIG no-no to Google)
Because of all the changes in Google’s requirements, we now need to find opportunities to build awesome links, and learn how to spot those opportunities when they arise.
An opportunity is a set of circumstances that make it possible to do something. Working as a Link Analyst here at Branded3, opportunities to build links crop up all day long; some more obvious than others. But how do we spot the not-so-obvious opportunities and effectively convert them into links?
After an inspiring speech by Achilles, he and the Myrmidons took over the Trojan beach. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the film Troy (it’s a classic!).
The opportunity was there and they took it. Thankfully, building links isn’t quite as intimidating as the thought of coming face-to-face with a Trojan army (although sometimes it might be!). When an opportunity to build a link arises, we need to do all we can to grasp it with both hands.
I link-build for several clients, and I have found that there are easy ways to spot whether or not to build a link to a client’s site.
Here’s a brief check-list I run through before placing a link on a site:
- Site metrics: Here at Branded3, we use the SEOmoz toolbar. The toolbar indicates to us the quality of the site and shows the linking domains it has pointing to it. As well as the site being genuine, it ideally needs to have metrics that indicate it will pass on ‘link juice’ to a client’s site. Both the Mozrank and Moztrust should be at least 3.5.
- Social outlets: Does the site have a Facebook or a Twitter page? Social media outlets suggest that the site is genuine and actually has a readership/following. Personally, I don’t build links on any sites which don’t have a social media outlet. To me, a site which doesn’t have a social following is simply there to make money, most likely by selling links.
- Would the blogger use my client’s services? I mentioned before that potential sites need to talk about or promote products which are in a similar niche to my client. It is no good building a link on a wildlife blog which points to a car dealership site. Where would the relevancy be in that? If a blogger has no interest in the services your client offers, there is no need to build links on their site.
- Comments on previous articles: Are there genuine comments on articles that the site has previously published? Comments on previous articles suggest that the site’s readers interact with the site regularly, and that the site is actually being read! This again confirms the authenticity of the site and gives potential link-building the green light.
- Does the blogger accept brands at all? Do all you can to find out whether the blogger would actually accept your brand on their site. Don’t waste your time sending a great outreach e-mail to find that the blogger doesn’t even accept articles from any other source but his/her own. If you can’t find anything on their site which answers this question, then e-mail the blogger anyway, at least you know for future reference.
If the site ticks all the above boxes, then there is definitely an opportunity there to build a link.
Seriously; it takes a lot of hard work to increase a site’s rankings and it’s something that shouldn’t be expected to happen overnight. SEO takes time and effort, and a whole lot of link-building. Trust me. Opportunities will arise all the time when link-building. Most of the time, it’s just a case of detecting those opportunities and actually doing something about them.
Take them. They’re yours.