If you haven’t heard already, external links are considered one of the most influential SEO ranking factors. In fact, almost 30% of a page rank stems from link signals that the search engine analyzes.
Does your content creation workflow have a link building step? If not, you’re only 70% of the way to an optimized asset.
Link building strategies get a lot of flack, primarily because they take a lot of work. Fortunately, if you set clear goals and work smarter, not harder, you’ll see the advantages of link building.
Fundamentally, an optimized piece of content provides easily digestible value for the target audience. A link building strategy is no different. Links will come if you’re consistently producing amazing content that provides solutions. No matter what strategy you use to generate links, you must start with a foundation of solid content that deserves links.
Related content: Does your content align to your business objectives?
But as most content marketers know, the “build it, and they will come” mentality isn’t reliable. Providing value is just the beginning of creating successful content.
Writing for Another Site
Guest posting is an apt opportunity not only to feature a homepage link in your bio, but also to drop in links to your favorite content assets. Whether those links are blogs that didn’t perform quite as well as you’d expected, posts that lead to the best click-through rates, or gated content to gather some data, make sure the linked content is relevant, or it might look spammy.
Wondering how to find the best sites for you?
A good place to start is with your established network—marketers with whom you’ve worked in the past, your LinkedIn followers, and the like. Sending out cold emails to strangers might be worthwhile if you score a huge win, such as Content Marketing Institute. But to start, stick to who you know.
Note that, as a rule, you should limit the number of homepage links you promote because it’s probably the most common page that receives links. Reserve it for your writer bio. For any other location, provide links to content assets that directly relate to the topic at hand.
Pro: You’re assured to get links consistently. Not to mention, you offer value to increase awareness with a new audience. It can even lead to an ongoing guest post exchange.
Con: Producing content is time-consuming. Plus, your post might get sidelined if the publisher has company-centric content they decide to push first.
Wikipedia and Quora
With so much user-generated content, Wikipedia and Quora are two (theoretically) great places for your links to live. Getting them there to stay is another thing.
First of all, understand that both of these sites render all outbound links with a “nofollow” attribute. It’s debatable whether Google still pays attention to important nofollow links. But, these links can still be valuable when they generate a ton of targeted traffic.
Unfortunately, both sites have been used and abused for link building and now are strictly monitored. Self-promotion is frowned upon and often reported. So, instead of simply answering a Quora question with a link to your blog, do the site a favor by cleaning up broken links. If it happens to be easily replaced with the blog you just wrote, it’s a win-win! 😉
Fittingly, here’s a Quora article on how to find broken links in Wikipedia. You can follow a similar process to do the same in Quora.
Pro: Since both sites have a large amount of traffic and are considered suitable sources for information, readers are very likely to click through to your site.
Con: It’s unclear if nofollow links have an impact on your SEO, so you might not gain as much of an SEO boost as you would from a regular link.
There’re a few ways to approach creating shareable content. First, let’s talk about what kinds of content best serve this link strategy:
- Infographics: Short and sweet, an informative and well-designed infographic easily attaches to a blog post or grabs attention on social media.
- Comprehensive guides: Creating a huge piece of content packed with value for potential customers is a lot of work. Can we say that again? It’s A LOT OF WORK. So when someone hands you a completed asset, pushing it out to your network provides value that would have otherwise taken weeks.
- Tailored content: To really catch the eye of desired readers, try giving your content a special spin for that audience. Think about the pain points of your target audience, and either make a variation of your content that directly appeals to them or explain how the asset applies to their individual needs.
If you’re asking someone to share something, here’s the bottom line: it has to be worth sharing. It must knock the influencer off their feet in at least one category: thought leadership, design, relevance, etc.
Speaking of influencers, once the content’s created, where should you send it?
Of course, you want to reach out to all relevant individuals in your personal network. These contacts are most likely to convert; plus you already have their contact information. No brainer.
Aside from your established connections, though, how do you find quality influencers?
An easy search on Twitter for hashtags integral to your niche is a great start, but don’t stop there. To identify industry leaders on social media, do some digging. Go to your followers and see who they’re @ mentioning. While there may be a lot of familiar handles, you’ll also find new influencers who can serve as valuable resources. Ask for a share on social, link in a blog, or both, depending on how you expect them to react to your piece of content.
Don’t forget: Keep all share requests short. People are busy, and even a short introduction can lose them. Get to the point quickly and drop your link so they can see for themselves the great value you’re providing.
Pro: Shared content can send a ton of traffic to your site, build credibility, and create relationships with thought leaders.
Con: Using a content sharing strategy, like most link building, can take some time and requires finding the right individuals who are willing and able to share your content with a large enough following.
Searching out Broken Links
The broken link strategy mentioned for Wikipedia and Quora isn’t reserved to those two sites. Always be on the lookout for a broken link that you could point out to the blog writer—and kindly mention your blog that fits even better. This is an effective way to build links without dedicating too much time; you probably already read these kinds of blogs weekly.
If you want to get more serious about your search for broken links, here’s how:
First, start with a specific website. Finding a site that aggregates industry news and trends is key, as the authors are typically easier to contact.
Next, enter their URL into a free broken link checker. It will pull up all of the links that are broken, as well as the URL for the page. You’ll have to sort through to find the relevant pages, but this is a smart way to target high profile sites and get links from authoritative domains.
Pro: Choose how much you’d like to invest, and even read some interesting blogs while you’re at it!
Con: There’s no painless way to pull easy-to-fill broken links, so you’ll have to exert some effort to reap the rewards.
Building Link Relationships
The first step to developing a link relationship with another organization is not fearing external links. Yes, you might send someone away from your page. It might even be to a competitor’s page (gasp!). Of course, you don’t want to make it a habit to send your traffic elsewhere, but don’t discount the best link for the situation just because you don’t want to promote another organization. Your readers have access to it anyway, so you’ll just be missing out on a valuable link.
Not to mention, sending out links is the start to a beautiful, reciprocal-linking relationship! Cultivating relationships with other B2B marketers close to your niche is key. Ideally, you want to pick an adjacent niche company whose customer base doesn’t cross over with yours.
One simple way to build a relationship is to monitor the backlinks your website already receives. Google Webmaster Tools show you who’s linking to which of your pages, so take note. Sending a quick email with thanks and a link to the blog you just published with a reciprocal link goes a long way.
Pro: Building relationships with other marketers can only help build your knowledge and resources.
Con: You might find others less willing to link to a site where they might lose customers. Remember, with so much bias in the research of the customer journey, you don’t need to shield buyers from your competition. Instead, prove why you’re the best option by providing value, even if that value is a link to a competitor.
Spotlight Customers or Thought Leaders
Capitalize on the prevalent desire to self-promote. Depending on who you want linking to you, this strategy can take two directions.
First, consider creating an asset in which you highlight how a specific customer uses your product to do exciting things. This project not only provides value through a “lite” case study asset, but it also shows the potential of what your organization offers. Your customer will love you for it and undoubtedly share it as a very tactful, humble brag about their successes.
(Psst…this is a great thing to do if your customer’s renewal period is coming up. Build customer retention and provide value to all! A content win-win-win!)
Another great tactic is to compile a list of thought leaders and industry experts. Gather opinions on a particular topic, create a stellar infographic to synthesize, and send it out to all involved.
Those who are mentioned will very likely share the post. Our Kapost 50 (check out the 2016 version) highlights the top 50 B2B marketers and has been a great way to provide value and prestige to fellow marketers. Their excitement to be featured often leads to sharing and linking—plus building those relationships marketers so love.
Pro: It really is a win for everyone. Promote others as you would have them promote you.
Con: Again, time is a factor. Putting effort into promoting others might feel counterintuitive, but it’ll pay off in the long run.
Find the Perfect Combination for You
Link building can seem like a headache, especially when you’re not seeing results. Stay focused on providing as much value as possible in every asset, implement the strategies that resonate with your organization, and you can be sure links will come back to you.
Most importantly, make sure the assets you’re providing aren’t only for the benefit of those linking to them. If your content doesn’t align to your overall marketing strategy, it’s floating in space and, even if it drives traffic, won’t lead to conversions. Keeping your assets tailored to your business objectives is foundational for any content strategy. If you’re still creating ad hoc content, check out these ten templates that get your content marketing strategy back on track.