Link Building Trainingby Kieron Hughes Monday, 16 August 2010
What is Link Building? The process of improving the number of external links to a given website, from relevant and authoritative domains. Links are seen in the eyes of the search engines as ‘votes’ – the better the links you have, the bigger the opportunity for a website to gain increased search engine visibility (dependant on other factors). Link building usually accounts for the majority of work carried out on an on-going search marketing campaign (along with CRO, reporting/analysis and on-page optimisation). Links represent around 67% of what drives search engine rankings. (2010 SEOmoz survey)
An Analogy Jeff owns a Jamaican restaurant in Johnstone, and needs an accountant. While on a night out, Jeff asks a number of his business-owning friends whether they could recommend an accountant to him – to which many of them say ‘Thomson Accountancy’. Later on, after overhearing the conversation, a stranger approaches Jeff and tells him about a great accountancy firm called ‘Williamson Accountancy’. Which firm is he most likely to use? This is similar to how the search engines assign ‘trust’ to websites. If a site has many authoritative inbound links, it is more likely to be ranked highly within the search results, and thus visited by more people.
Why Links Matter Although not ideal, it is one of the many contributing factors that is difficult for people to exploit (effectively) – bar some time-consuming exceptions such as content networks. Establishing a link on a relevant and popular page could mean more than just search engine benefit, as it is likely to send potentially converting traffic to your website. Having great content is useless if it isn’t being found in search, so external links can be an effective means of improving indexation and visibility for pages which may struggle to perform without.
Metrics – What Makes a ‘Good’ Link? Non-Existance of Nofollow Attribute Relevance of Linking Domain/Page Age of Linking Domain TLD of Linking Domain(.ac.uk <> .tk) Authority of Linking Page Destination URL (canonicalisation, etc) Anchor Text Link Positioning (on page) Google PageRank Potential Traffic Gained
Baseline Link Profile (Part 1) Understand your link profile – where do you currently stand? Via Open Site Explorer – further tools will be listed at the end.
Baseline Link Profile (Part 2) Analysing the data – where are improvements needed? DOMAINS ANCHOR TEXT TOP PAGES EXPORT LINKS
Competitor Benchmarking Use the available data to understand positioning vs. competition. Compare key metrics with competition for top-level view of positioning. Use the data to visualise metrics (both good and bad) – which can form the basis of a link building strategy.
Competitor Opportunities Having analysed key competitors’ backlinks, data in the profiles can be used to your advantage.
Are the competition ranking well in search without many external backlinks? (understand the competitiveness of an industry or specific keyword)
Are the competition relying heavily on one method of link building primarily? (ie. are there a lot of niche directories in the industry you are working with?)
Are the competition distributing their link equity to lots of key pages on-site? (ie. do you need a content strategy or further targeted pages?)
Is the main authority in the industry using a specific tactic to dominate search? (ie. should you be doing anything specific to get to their level initially?)
Types of Links The many types of links can be categorised, in order to understand how a link profile can be improved. Links aimed specifically at improving visibility – keyword targeted links via anchor text, and deep links. Brand-targeted links – high authority branded links, either with URL or brand as anchor text. Traffic generating links – links on social domains or highly popular websites. Links for local benefit – local business listings, review websites or web profiles.
External Opportunities (Setting up Micro-Websites, etc)
Link Building Tools
Tools Open Site Explorer: Backlink & Competitor Analysis Yahoo! Site Explorer: Benchmarking/Backlink Overview Majestic SEO: Link Discovery Over Time & Visualisation SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty: Competitor Data Raven SEO Tools: Link/Relationship Register SEOmoz Labs: Various Usage
Take-Away Points Building links isn’t just a process of acquiring any types of links, it’s about understanding the links that will help. Before trying to acquire a link, think “why should this person link to me?”, and if you can’t answer that, on-site changes may be needed. Effective and high-yielding link acquisition takes time and commitment – and shouldn’t be done without being fully embedded within the campaign or without strategy. Use all of the data available to save going in to a campaign blindly. Baseline, analyse and understand the opportunities available.
Remember Link building is about quality not quantity.