Link building is one of the most effective ways to improve your rankings in search engines, passing authority to your domain and making your site seem more trustworthy to Google. But link building isn't nearly as simple as it used to be, and if you want any hope of earning top rankings in search engines, you'll need a solid strategy directing your efforts.Why Link Building Matters
The first step is to create an interesting and profitable blog--if you haven't done that, be sure to check out Neil Patel's guide on the subject
. But simply having a profitable blog isn't enough to generate revenue; you'll need to drive traffic to that blog and raise awareness that it exists. It's almost impossible to build authority online without association with other authorities--and that goes for search rankings as well as earning followers and a generally bigger reputation. Link building is indispensable
for establishing those associations.Strategic Decisions to Make
Before you go posting links indiscriminately, take some time to sit down and go over the strategic direction you want for your campaign. These are some of the most important areas to address:
1. Guest posting, link attraction, or both?
If you want to avoid any possible penalties for link building
, you'll need to ensure your links are "natural." The main ways to do this are to use guest posts to embed your links in highly valuable, relevant content, or work on promoting great content on your own blog in the hopes that other people eventually link to it on their own. There are advantages and disadvantages to each; guest posts take more time and scale more slowly, but they're also more predictable and easier to control. Viral content is wholly unpredictable, but could net an explosion of links for your site.2. How to approach your niche.
Your site should belong to a specific niche
, and the first round of link building you pursue should be based on establishing your authority in that niche. There are many ways to do this, so you need to have a solid idea behind your approach. For example, will you try to get yourself featured on an industry site, like an association for businesses like yours, or will you partner up with influencers--or even competitors--in your space to create impressive collaborative content? You can choose multiple routes, but you need to know what each one has in store for you.3. Page targeting.
When you build a link to a page on your site, you'll be passing authority both to your overall domain and to the individual page you've chosen (donned "page authority" by Moz
). This allows you to selectively target pages of your site with specific links, building up the rankings for the most important or impressive pages of your site in addition to improving your domain. Think carefully about which pages you'll want to specifically promote, and how those might change over time--you also don't want to spam links to only one page, so diversify your strategy here.4. Pacing and frequency.
You'll need to figure out how fast you want to build your link profile, but remember--building links too quickly can appear unnatural. Instead, it's better to think about how often you'll want to guest post to various outlets. This is less about how fast you can see results from your link building campaign and more about how much time and money you're willing to invest in your campaign to see it grow.5. How to scale.
Next, you'll need to think about how your campaign is going to scale. A single link on a high-authority source is worth more than several months' worth on low-authority sites, so how are you going to work your way to higher and higher authority sources? Will you do so gradually? Through internal connections? Are there specific sources you have your eye on?6. When to analyze.
It's important to analyze the effectiveness of your efforts, both from a high-level perspective (such as referral traffic and organic search ranking metrics) and from a closer inspection (such as examining your backlink profile using Open Site Explorer
or a similar tool). But how often are you going to measure your results? Monthly? Bi-weekly? This will depend on the intensity of your campaign.7. What to analyze.
You'll also need to decide what the most important metrics for your "success" are going to be. For example, some businesses will primarily focus on earning higher rankings for long-tail keyword phrases, while others will focus on earning as much referral traffic as possible. What are you going to define as "success"?
Once you can confidently answer these prompts and assert the main goals of your campaign, you'll be ready to start building links. It's a slow and compounding process
, so don't expect to see results all at once. But as long as you keep a critical focus on your long-term vision, you'll gradually make progress toward achieving higher rankings and greater traffic for your site.
Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.