When SEO was in its infancy, the ranking of web pages depended on the keywords used within a page’s content, and almost nothing else.
Since then, the inception of PageRank and Google’s philosophy of ranking pages based on user engagement signals rather than raw content has led to a better customer experience, and given them the huge market share they enjoy today.
Among other things, PageRank revolutionised the way people search by using the number of links pointing to a given page to determine its SERP rank. Since then, these backlinks have been a huge determining factor in business’ online success, and link building has risen to become an essential pillar of SEO.
We’ll take a look at how SEO and link building work together to improve online visibility, and how you can map out an SEO link building strategy to super charge your own rankings.
Is link building in SEO still effective in 2023?
Digital marketing is constantly evolving, and with the feverish drive to stay ahead of developments, marketing thought leaders have a tendency to say “[Marketing Technique] is dead” year after year.
Rest assured, link building is still effective, and any successful, long-term SEO strategy needs to utilise it. Though Google has developed new ways of categorising backlinks and measuring their value over time, one core fact of link building has always remained a constant: high quality, relevant backlinks will help a page to rank.
The trick to making sure your link building efforts aren’t wasted (outside of focusing on pure quality), is keeping an eye on the latest algorithm changes. Understanding how algorithm updates might influence the way that Google views the links pointing to your site can inform future strategies, and make sure previous efforts aren’t going to hold you back. Techniques that used to be perfectly sound five or ten years ago aren’t going to have the same effect today, and by keeping your SEO efforts in-line with these trends, you’re likely to achieve better results.
Always focus your strategy on quality. Achieving natural links from topically relevant, authoritative websites will never do your website any harm, regardless of algorithm updates. Quality will always trump quantity. Quick fixes or black hat techniques might work for a while in some cases, however it’s only a matter of time before they’re discounted from your profile, or even worse – punished.
How SEO and link building work together
Link building has a number of marketing benefits in and of itself, such as its capacity to drive referral traffic to your site and improving the value of your brand in the eyes of the public. More importantly though, link building has an important effect on all other facets of your SEO, which can be measured through site metrics such as Domain Rating, Domain Authority and TrustFlow.
Domain authority metrics aren’t factored by Google (as far as we know!) but still act as an effective predictor to marketers of how well a website could rank for a given search query. When a new page is created with the same top-level domain, the existing ‘link juice’ which fortifies the authority of the pages within the same site will drive up the page’s authority by association, and help it rank higher in relevant SERPs.
This benefit of link building, working in tandem with on-site techniques such as basic keyword optimisation, CRO, site speed optimisation, and content marketing, will give your site’s SEO a solid foundation that will be a huge benefit in shooting for those top positions.
Onsite vs. offsite SEO: What’s the difference?
If you’re looking to execute a link building campaign for the first time, it’s important to understand the distinction of onsite and offsite SEO, and how various tactics from both columns work together to better your site’s rankings.
As the name suggests, onsite SEO covers anything that affects those aspects of your site that are within your control, with the aim of making sure your site elements are easily understood by search engine crawlers, and therefore doing their part to improve your rankings.
Some of the biggest onsite SEO techniques include:
- Title optimisation
- Meta description optimisation
- Internal linking
- On-page keyword optimisation
- Producing valuable, high authority content
- Site speed optimisation
- Image alt tag optimisation
Speak with Aaron about your off-page strategy
Offsite SEO, on the other hand, covers any efforts to help your SEO that take place outside of your own site. As we mentioned in the introduction, Google attained its lion’s share of the market by ranking sites based on external signals, and if you want to climb those SERPs, you’ll need to integrate this fact into your larger SEO strategy.
Some of the techniques covered in offsite SEO include:
- Producing shareable content that frames your business as an authority on platforms other than your site.
- Online reputation management
- Influencer outreach and marketing
- Guest blogging
- Activity on industry forums
- Link building
- Reviewing existing links and anchor text for quality and relevance
How to create an SEO link building strategy
Now that’s the preliminaries of link building’s role within SEO covered, here are the basic steps to creating an SEO link building strategy for your site:
Review your existing content
In order to build links with any kind of efficacy, you need to go in with a clear idea of what you want people to link to. If you funnel all of your resources into building links for your homepage, you’ll only rob yourself of engagement with some of your more authoritative content, and run the risk of appearing spammy.
Start off with a thorough audit of your site’s content, looking at the very best blog posts, evergreen content, or even product or service pages, that are going to hold the most value for your target market.
With a clear idea of what your best assets are, you’ll have a clear route towards improving and expanding on them, getting your content to the best state possible, and giving your link building campaign a strong foundation from the start.
Start off easy
Unless you’re a digital media mogul, the most valuable new links to your site are going to be built by other people and organisations. Having said that, most business owners will still have some capacity for DIY link building, and going for this low-hanging fruit is often the best way to start a link building campaign.
First off, make sure that all the social media profiles and external websites you have ownership of across the web have links pointing to your site.
Next, try to think of any quick wins where you’d be able to build links through the content on other people’s websites, for example comment sections and forums that allow dofollow links.
Obviously, these kinds of referring domains are super accessible, and tend to be rife with spam. You don’t want to be that account that’s known for shilling on every other thread in a certain subreddit.
Look for spaces and discussions where you know your target audience hangs out, and only post links where you know you’ll be providing genuine value to them.
Leverage data to find good link building opportunities
Like anything in marketing, you should approach your link building campaign with clear, measurable benchmarks in mind.
Domain Authority (Moz), Domain Rating (Ahrefs) and TrustFlow (Majestic) are a good place to start. Assess the competitor’s backlink profiles, looking for, above all else:
Relevancy and quality – is that a real backlink, or has it been paid for? Why is it there, does it look out of place?
Check the authority – is the website authoritative in the industry its in. It seems obvious, but the bigger the better in terms of the three aforementioned metrics you’ll check.
Competitor review – how does your backlink profile compare to your competitors, using these metrics? And for your specific page you’re trying to rank, if it has backlinks – how natural / authoritative are they?
Checking out the link profiles of content that’s in direct competition with the content you’re planning is another important step, as the quality of the individual links, as well as the referring domains themselves, will inform the benchmarks you should be aiming for to stay competitive.
If you have a lot of pre-existing content on your site, then checking out these pieces’ backlinks, separating the upper crust in terms of links, and identifying common themes in the referring domains and content, can also go a long way in identifying high-sharing audience segments which you should tailor your content around.
How to measure the success of an SEO link building campaign
As you carry out your link building efforts, be sure to keep a close eye on the results you’re gaining from them. This will help you learn more about how your link building efforts are benefiting your SEO profile, and where you can improve moving forward.
The three main things to look at are:
- Changes in the target page’s ranking: Though this can be caused by a variety of things, an immediate uptick in ranking after a new backlink has been published will signify a clear win for your link building efforts.
- Organic traffic growth: Whether it’s direct traffic from the links you’ve built, or traffic growth through SERPs, bringing in more organic traffic is another key indicator that your link building efforts are working.
- The trend in referring domains’ authority: Once a link is published and crawled, you’re likely to see an uptick in organic rankings and traffic, but the fun doesn’t stop there! As a referring domain’s authority trends upwards over time, the link’s value will develop on a similar trend, giving you greater returns for your link building efforts.
If you’ve investing in SEO and want to find out more about how a supportive link building strategy can help take your online presence to the next level we are happy to discuss anything you might have questions about. Get in touch for help developing your link building strategy and learn more about SEO and link building in our SEO hub.
Likewise, if you’re from a digital agency and are looking for a little help to push your clients into the next bracket of rankings, learn more about our agency partnerships.