A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating a Link Building Strategy
When you’ve put a lot of time and energy into search engine optimization, it can feel frustrating when your website doesn’t rank well on the search engine results page (SERP). Although it can take three to six months for a site to reach its top position, and even longer for highly competitive industries, there are other elements that factor into outranking the competition. That’s why you need to establish credibility for your brand by earning links from other authoritative websites and amplifying your content by writing for audience engagement.
According to Google, quality content and website links are some of the most important ranking factors for SEO. When it comes to creating a link building strategy, it’s all about which sites you choose to link to and perhaps more importantly those you receive links from. As a general rule of thumb, spammy sites usually link to other spammy sites, while trustworthy sites link to other trustworthy sites. In other words, your reputation matters!
Inbound versus Internal Links
Before we dig into link building, it’s important to understand exactly what a link is. When we talk about link building, we’re referring to inbound links (also known as backlinks) — hyperlinks that direct users from one website to another website. For example, if the New York Times links to your website this would be considered an inbound link. Given the high domain authority and trustworthiness of the NYT site, this would be considered a high-value or high-quality backlink.
Alternatively, an internal link is a link from one page on your website to another page on your website. If a page on your website has many authoritative internal links pointing to it, it signals to Google that the page is important. You would include an internal link to direct people to further resources or information on a specific topic that lives on a different page on your site.
Curating links to your own content and directing your viewers to high-value content on other websites establish your website as an authoritative one, and aids in boosting your ranking on the SERP.
For more information on link building basics, check out this helpful Moz guide. In the meantime, let’s jump into our step-by-step guide on how to create a successful link building strategy for your website.
Step 1: Understand Your Audience
Just like other aspects of your SEO strategy, link building is all about identifying and understanding your target audience – the people who will be interacting with your content. In order to grow your audience (we all want more eyes on our websites!) you must consider both who your audience is right now and what your ideal audience looks like. You should also keep in mind which segments of your potential audience pool you do not want to focus on. Considering who your ideal audience is, and who it is not, will help inform your content creation strategy and allow you to refine your message.
For example, let’s say your company runs white water rafting tours on a Class IV – V river. Due to the nature of the river, your tours are not very family-friendly; however, your current audience includes parents looking for fun vacation activities to do with their children, since white water rafting can be a popular family activity. You’ve encountered issues in the past with parents looking to book your tours with young children. This would be an audience you wouldn’t want to target since these types of groups cannot book your tours. To help solve this problem, you must create content geared toward adult adventure travelers and seasoned rafters (your ideal audience), and you’d strive to get backlinks from websites with similar demographics.
Wondering exactly who your audience is? Use Google Analytics demographic data to get a better understanding of who typically visits your website.
Step 2: Find Online Competitors
Now that you have an idea of your ideal audience and the people you are going to target with your content and tours, it’s time to find your online competitors, other businesses who are trying to reach a similar demographic.
You probably already know who many of your local competitors are but for your link building strategy to truly be effective, you have to look beyond your day-to-day competition. By entering your main keyword(s) into Google, you can see the other websites that rank and deliver content similar to your own. You might be in for a surprise — your competition isn’t necessarily made up of tour and activity operators exclusively. Other sites include travel blogs, city websites, and any websites that publish content about your local area or make activity recommendations in general.
It’s important to gain an understanding of the kind of content your competitors are producing in order to optimize your own link building strategy. Browse their websites and take a look at the websites they link out to. This will give you a sense of the type of content you should be creating and other websites to reach out to (more on this next).
Step 3: Reach Out!
You can certainly acquire backlinks organically, but sometimes getting quality backlinks to your website comes down to simply asking for them! Reach out to local directories, websites, and travel bloggers and ask them to share your content.
If you have high-level targets in mind, such as your city’s online guide or a popular influencer in your area, go ahead and contact them directly first. If they respond favorably and agree to give you a link, you’ve got a leg up when you reach out to smaller websites, who should be happy to share your content when they see that an influencer has already liked and shared it. Explore more tips and tricks for successful outreach in our follow-up guide.
Reaching out to bloggers or large organizations can feel a little intimidating, but if your content is thorough and valuable to readers, other businesses will feel good about sharing it. When you email the blogger, website, or city guide, make it personal – tell them why they should care about the content you offer, what action you’d like them to take (linking to your website from theirs, sharing your blog post on social media, etc.), and show that you’re not a spammer trolling for links. For more tips on how to reach out for backlinks and an email template you can easily personalize, view the email outreach guide.
Step 4: Get Social!
While you’re waiting for responses to your link building outreach, take matters into your own hands by sharing your content on social media. (If you’re new to social media and want to make the most of your business profiles, head on over to check out all of our social media guides).
Share content to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or any other social media networks you use. When thinking about where to post, be sure that your target audience actually uses those platforms. You can get more insights into social media demographics in our social media guides, but here are a couple of points to keep in mind: If you’re targeting a younger audience, don’t focus on Facebook, which is popular with an older crowd. Instead, use Snapchat and Instagram. On the other hand, if your target audience is older, Facebook is a great platform to use, and Snapchat is one to avoid.
You should also share your content as Posts on your Google My Business profile to generate more views and visits to your website.
Some Ideas to Get You Started
Ready to start creating amazing content to share with your target audience? For a full list of ideas, check out our content marketing and blogging guides. In the meantime, give these tips a try!
Crowd-Sourced Content: If you’re looking for a fun blog post idea, try reaching out to 10 – 20 travel bloggers and ask them all the same questions, such as:
- What is your #1 travel tip?
- What is your craziest travel story?
- What is your favorite place to travel and why?
Then, share all of their answers in one article. Link to their blog and encourage them to link to yours.
Guest Posting: Reach out to local websites, resellers, partners, etc. and ask them to write a guest post that you would feature on your website, linking to theirs. On the flip side, you could also ask to write a guest post on their site, which would link back to your website.
Follow these steps to craft your very own link building strategy today! Don’t be afraid to reach out to as many reputable websites as possible to gain exposure for your business. Remember, other business owners are likely eager to form the same relationships, and you could all help each other out by sharing content. Draft your first outreach email with the template in this guide.