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May 2017
9 MIN READ

A link-building guide for beginners (part one)

simon ensor

Link-building is one of the most infamous aspects of SEO and can be a bit of a minefield if you don’t know where to start. Often the most challenging aspect of an SEO campaign, generating high quality links can be time-consuming and frustrating. Despite the struggles, building a strong backlink profile is one of the most influential ways of climbing up the search engine results pages (SERPs) so trust that if you invest the time properly it will provide results.To use an analogy, think of the web as a giant map, on which all the place names are websites and the streets are the links. A site that has no links is like a house with no roads to it – difficult to find when the bots are crawling the web. In addition to this, links act as votes of endorsement in the eyes of Google or a digital thumbs up. If a website has lots of inbound links from other high quality websites then it is a sign of trust and is therefore more likely to be favoured by Google in the SERPs. As always, relevance and value are primary factors in making the distinction between great links and spammy links.There are numerous link-building techniques and the approach you take will depend on your industry. If your business operates in a highly competitive marketplace then you may find it harder to gain links (but then so will your competitors). Whereas if you occupy a more niche industry then it may be a little easier, as information is probably harder to come by and therefore more sought after. In this post, we will explain a couple of basic link-building techniques to get you started.

Directories

Let us be very clear here. When directories are mentioned as part of link building, it often conjures images of spammy, low value directories. We would never advise pursuing spammy link directories. However a very select group of high quality directories is a great place to start as it is relatively quick and simple to do.Ensure that your business is listed in all reputable directories and be sure to check that your details are consistent across all listings. This is called NAP Consistency and is important in ensuring a professional and trustworthy presence online, both in the eyes of the search engines and potential customers. NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone but it should also extend to include your website. It goes further than just checking accurate information; the format is important too. For example, here at Yellowball our address could be written in any number of ways:Yellowball Unit B. 102, Biscuit Factory, London, SE16 4DG 02031767662Yellowball Limited B.102, The Biscuit Factory, Bermondsey, London, SE164DG 0203 1767662However, we take care to ensure that it is consistently written across all listings as follows:Yellowball B102, The Biscuit Factory, 100 Drummond Road, Bermondsey, London, SE16 4DG 0203 176 7662There are a number of well-known directories and these are good places to start: As well as the more general directories, you will also find a number that are more specific to your industry and it is important to target these too. However, without repeating ourselves, a word of warning in that not all directories are good. An irritatingly high number of directories exist purely for the purpose of links; it is crucial to avoid these spammy directories at all costs as it could be damaging to your rankings. Some are easier to spot than others. To help you weed out the bad from the good, the SEO experts over at Moz suggest asking yourself three questions:
  • Would I pay money for a listing here?
  • Are the majority of current listings quality sites?
  • Do listings link with the business or site name?
If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’ then it is probably best not to bother with a listing or link.

Guest posting

Once you have refined all of your business directory listings, it’s time to start ramping up your link-building efforts. Guest posting is arguably one of the best ways to earn genuine, high quality links. You can select the sites you target, you can make the content as relevant as possible and you can leverage immense brand awareness and exposure. So what’s the catch? Unfortunately lots of other people have the same idea. Making sure that your article is the one to get published from the plethora of proposed guests posts received by websites on a daily basis is hard.Nevertheless, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t be that person, but you do need to have original ideas and excellent content writing skills. If putting pen to paper has never been your bag then you may need to consider hiring a copywriter if you want your posts to get published. Many of the best online publications will have very high editorial standards and it is important that you pay close attention to these. If a website accepting guest articles doesn’t seem to have these high standards, then you may need to question whether a guest post will be worth it.

Building a media list

The best place to start with guest posting is to build a media list. Here you can make a note of all potential websites that may be willing to accept a guest post. Find out the domain authority (DA) and spam score of a site using Moz’s open site explorer. There is no right or wrong but we tend to only contact sites with a DA of over 40 (the higher the better) and a spam score of less than 3 (the lower the better).It is also worth noting that some sites make sure that all of their outbound links are no follow. If they are no follow then you need to consider whether a guest post is worth it for the content and brand exposure alone, as it will not have as much impact on your rankings as a link without no follow (therefore by default a ‘followed’ link).Your media list can be an evolving document that you grow and develop over time. Gradually work your way through each contact and pitch your idea. Often we find that sending over an already-written blog post can be more effective than pitching different ideas (although make sure that it is only posted on one site to avoid duplicate content). It makes sense because it shows more effort and a more established article rather than a more embryonic title idea!Whichever approach you choose be sure to only send content that is 100% relevant to their site, thoroughly spell-checked and in line with any editorial guidelines. Pitching guest posts is an art in itself and there is a lot more to be said on this topic – keep your eye out for an upcoming post that delves into the ‘how-tos’ of this tactic in greater detail.

Conclusion

Here we have touched on just two of the many tactics used for link-building. It can be a very frustrating process but it is important to persevere and constantly reassess your strategy. Whichever tactic you deploy, always review what has and hasn’t worked. Adapt your approach and you’ll be a link-generating wizard in no time!In part two, we will cover further link-building tactics that you can take advantage of. We’ll cover the more traditional editorial / PR tactics, from generating news hooks to creating highly shareable content, such as whitepapers and infographics. Furthermore, we will explain how to revisit old links that may be broken or no longer in existence. Stay tuned!
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