We started ranking in the top 3 organic results on Google for “seo madison” after launching our website last July, and we believe links played a deciding role in this ranking.
The paid SEO tool Ahrefs shows we’ve earned at least 184 backlinks.
That number of links would probably be overkill for most local businesses, but we needed to be aggressive in our link building to compete with six pages of competitors who also do this professionally. We knew links would be important, so we took earning them seriously. If you want lots more visitors to your website, you should take links seriously, too.
How important is an inbound link strategy to your SEO?
Link building is nothing short of indispensable in an online marketing strategy.
The 2 million keyword study from Ahrefs
factors like inbound links
factors, including exact match keywords in header tags.
See how much stronger the link-related correlations with higher SEO are below?
When we think about how much time and money go into creating websites versus how much time is spent working on building links, most businesses have it completely backwards. Good content marketers know content creation should take a fraction of the time compared to content outreach, and the same goes for a business website more broadly.
Not all links are created equal
All else equal more links are definitely better. That’s part of what Brian Dean found in his study of 1 million search results
That said, it’s not just a sheer numbers game. Google weighs links from high authority sites more heavily than from minor websites. So one link from a major news outlet could be more valuable than dozens of links from minor blogs.
Likewise, we don’t just want links from the same websites over and over again. Diversity of backlinks is also important.
What are some ways to earn links from other websites?
Business Directory Listings
Directories are still important for Local SEO. When we work with local businesses, we use Whitespark Local Citation finder to search for directories competitors are listed on but the client isn’t.
Then we prioritize by sorting those business listing directories by domain authority.
Last, we build
out those listings (with precise Name, Address Phone Number), sometimes by hiring a freelancer through Upwork
Other Backlinks to go after
We also have a questionnaire we go through with clients to determine any possible low-hanging fruit in terms of links:
- Do they give to charities or sponsor events?
- Are they in Chamber of Commerce or networking groups?
- What media mentions have they already received?
- Could they create a scholarship and/or internship to earn .edu links?
- Have they guest posted anywhere?
- Where did they go to college and could their alma mater’s alumni section include a link to their business website to show what they’re up to?
This is by no means a complete list, but it should be enough to get the brainstorming juices flowing. Think of reasons other people should want to link to your site.
Help a Reporter Out
is a great way to earn linked mentions in news stories and other high domain authority publications. Through this service, journalists request input from experts on a variety of topics.
The digest goes to your inbox multiple times per day based on broad category, and you can respond directly. We recommend crafting detailed answers and following the requesting journalists instructions to a ‘t.’ They often ask for links to head shots, website URLs and Twitter handles. We’ve built many of our strongest inbound links this way, so we watch the daily digest closely both for our own site and for our clients.
Crafting Content with Outreach in Mind
The true long game is creating lengthy blog content that answers specific industry questions better than any other page on the internet.
This is called the skyscraper technique
, a la Brian Dean from Backlinko again.
So don’t just blog to blog, write the very best resource out there on your topic. If that means fewer blog posts total per month, so be it!
We work on this strategy with our e-commerce clients, emphasizing that it’s not enough to have a great-looking online store when what people really want is some free value up front. We set Google alerts when our phrases are mentioned around the web so we can manually reach out to those web publishers and offer value to their readers by linking to an additional resource, not just a product page.
As always, we love to plug answerthepublic.com
a s a great resource for finding questions people are asking online.
Never Stop Building ‘Link Equity’
As with SEO generally, link building is not a one-time event, but an ongoing process. You need more valuable links than your competitors, and you need to continue building them faster than they can.
And the bonus? You’ll earn more referral traffic as real humans click those links from other pages and come to your site.
If you just want to jump to page 1 of Google without all the work, run Google AdWords. SEO is how you earn your way to page 1 for the long-term, SEM/PPC is the pay-to-play cousin for the short-term.
If something in business is hard work, that’s a good thing, because most other people won’t do it!