As we discussed in Chapter 1, there are types of link building strategies that aren’t effective anymore since they go against Google’s guidelines. In this chapter, we’ll discuss the dos and don’ts of link building, so that whether you or an agency you hire is doing your link building, you know that it will get you results. We’ll cover some of the tactics that are no longer valid as well as explain how to get backlinks that will stand the test of time.
Building backlinks within comments was one of the first ways that shady SEO’s tried to game Google’s algorithm. Because of this, Google came out with the link attribute “nofollow” so that webmasters could make sure that they weren’t endorsing these irrelevant links in their comments. However, not all comments are bad and in fact, February of 2020 Google made a change to their algorithm and are starting to use nofollow links as “hints.” According to Moz, Google is now deciding based on its algorithm whether or not to use a nofollow link as a ranking factor.
Remember, Google’s goal is always to give users the best results possible, so posting thousands of irrelevant links in comment sections of random websites won’t fly. However, if you are providing value to users that will be reading the comments you post and it is relevant to the article that you’re commenting on don’t hesitate to include a link in your comment.
We have already established that link building is an important component in Google ranking, however, you have to be careful about which pages your backlinks come from. Building links from low quality or non-relevant websites will not build your site’s authority. And remember, link building is all about building authority. Ideally, each link built toward your site will increase your site’s authority, but the caveat is that they must be good quality links. If Google sees that low-quality sites are linking to your site, it will reflect on your authority negatively rather than positively. Read Ahrefs article on high-quality vs. low-quality links for more information.
The reason people resort to building links from low-quality sites is that it’s easier to get permission to post on low-quality sites than authoritative sites. We’ll dive deeper into this later but just know: it’s absolutely worth the extra effort to build high-quality links. You need to be sure that your backlinks will add to your authority, not take it away.
Paying for backlinks is a very risky gamble. Google explicitly states in their guidelines, that site owners are not allowed to pay other sites to link back to them. Now keep in mind, this is different from paying an agency to handle your link building. Paying a link building agency is fine. You just need to make sure you or your agency are not paying other sites to post your links. This is another way that they know SEO’s could try to take advantage of the algorithm. While some companies and agencies have gotten away with paying for links, as Google’s algorithms become increasingly more sophisticated they will crack down more and more on this practice. As Google finds websites using paid links, they will penalize those sites.
Google cannot let their organic search results be based on who can afford the most paid backlinks. For this reason, they investigate when things look fishy, and they are likely to know if you buy backlinks from other sites. Your site would then be at risk of being de-indexed and no longer ranking on Google, which would be devastating to your business. It’s in your long-term interest to build backlinks the correct way or find an agency that will build links the right way.
Broken link building is the process of backlinking by replacing links to a broken page. To run a broken link building campaign, you should use a tool like ahrefs.com. So how do you start?
Let’s say we are robinhood.com and we are targeting commission-free investing keywords. In this example, vanguard.com is one of our competitors and they also talk about commission-free investing. Broken link building starts by diving into our competitors’ site using a tool like ahrefs.com to look for broken pages. Once we find a broken page about the keyword we’re targeting (commission-free investing), we will check to see if other sites are linking to Vanguard’s broken page. If there are, the next step is seeing how closely our content matches the content that was on the broken page. The Wayback Machine is a great way to go back and look at the content on that page before it was taken down. If our content is very similar to the broken page, the next step is to reach out to the sites linking to our competitors’ broken page. However, if our content doesn’t match well, we can create a new landing page that is similar to what the competitor was talking about in the now broken page.
As always, before you reach out to any site and ask them to link back to you, check and make sure it is a high-quality, authoritative site. Once you have found a list of authoritative sites linking to your competitors’ broken page, start emailing them. Your email should say something along the lines of, “Hey I noticed you were linking to this broken page (www.vanguard.com/broken-page). If you’re still updating this article, you could link it to (www.robinhood.com/comission-free-investing) as a replacement source. Let me know your thoughts.”
Why might you want to try broken link building? Well, it is taking authority away from your competitors and giving it to your site instead. Also, because these are older articles, they likely have a higher page authority and will, in turn, pass more authority to your website than a brand new article that links back to your site. But be warned, very few sites will take the time to replace the broken link with your replacement link and this tactic is very time-consuming.
Another form of link building is to look for authoritative sites that are talking about your company organically but not linking to your site. Once you find these mentions, you would reach out to the sites via email and ask them to include a link to your website where they have already organically mentioned your company. Finding brand mentions will be most successful if done using a tool like ahrefs.com.
Scholarship link building is a great way to get authoritative .edu type backlinks to your site. The process is simple, you start by creating a real scholarship. You then reach out to colleges and universities and submit your scholarship to their website. Most universities will have a dedicated landing page for all of their scholarship opportunities. If yours is accepted, they will post it on their site and you will have a very high-authority website linking back to yours.
Guest posting is the most effective of all the link building strategies. To guest post is to post an article on a website that allows you to be a guest author. As a guest author, you have been invited to write for the site by the site owner. This contrasts the unethical approach of paying site owners for links from their site. Guest posting requires the most effort of all the strategies, but the results are always worth it.
You should guest post if you want to see results from your link building strategy. It’s that simple. It is the absolute most effective way to build backlinks. It can seem tedious or difficult at first, but it is worth the investment of time and effort. So, whether you’re conducting your own link building efforts or hiring an agency, make sure that guest posts are a part of your link building strategy.
Finding websites for guest posting can be the most intimidating step of the process. This requires a lot of outreach, follow-up, networking, and relationship building. For each site, you have to find out how to apply for guest authorship, complete the application or contact a site administrator, discuss the details of your guest authorship with the site administrator, and write and submit your article. This is a long process that can delay a link building strategy for months.
This intimidating step is why many site owners choose to hire a link building agency. Finding an agency that already has a guest posting network of authoritative sites is easier than building your own network from scratch. Here at BASE, we have guest posting relationships with a large and always-growing network of sites.
Once you have been invited to be a guest author on a site, you have to write your link building article. To write a successful link building article, remember three things:
The most effective guest post articles are relevant and valuable and link back to your site with keyword-optimized anchor text. Writing a large number of these articles can be time-consuming, but the quality is much more important than quantity when it comes to link building. And remember, if you hire a link building agency to guest post for you, this is something they’ll take care of.