A healthy website link profile is one of the most valuable search engine ranking factors. One of the benefits of ranking organically, for many businesses, is that you can show up in search without the added cost of advertising.
A link is a signal between two sites that acts as a vote of confidence and relationship between the two. A strong link comes from a topically relevant website that has high authority and value as a result of content, popularity, traffic, and literally hundreds of other factors. A weak link comes from an unrelated website or one with low authority and value as a result of poor SEO practices, lack of visitor activity, or has spam/malware.
This guide is designed to help a business of any size work from the ground up to attract strong links. We start with things that can be done immediately, and work our way up to strategies that can pay off months, if not years down the road.
Let’s get started.
1: Set up a page for your business on the top directories
Directories are websites like Yelp, Angies list, the BBB and your local chamber of commerce. Search engines reference local directories to verify location details. These are often referred to as citations. Citations are mentions of your business name and address online, even if those outside websites don’t link to you.
- Set up a business profile page on popular and reputable Local Business Directories.
- If your company is location-specific, for example, having a store where people shop, set up a page for your business on the Top Local Citation Sources by Country and by Category.
2: If location-specific, create a Google My Business account
Create a Google My Business Page, which is like a Google+ page for local businesses. This will help tie your website to a specific location, which Google uses in its search results.
- If your business is in a single location, link to your homepage.
- If your business has multiple locations, link to dedicated location page for each (ie – yourwebsite.com/calgary).
- If you don’t have a physical location where you serve clients, then you cannot set up a local page.
TIP: Embed a map (or map image) into your contact page as another sign to visitors and Google where exactly you are located.
3: Build relationships (social networking)
While it takes some time, building relationships is one of the most effective ways to keep your company top-of-mind for people who might be interested in linking to your site or connecting with you.
- Engage with the people on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc who you’re monitoring. Follow them, retweet them, respond to them, reach out to them, or network with them!
- If someone has mentioned you but not linked to you, look for an opportunity to politely ask them for a link – give them a reason (politely!)
- Make connections at local meetups, events, conferences and in your day-to-day activities.
Officially partner with companies in related industries.
Make use of your preferred Social Monitoring tool or set up social monitoring (HubSpot, Hootsuite, Slack, etc…).
Create separate monitoring streams for your business, your content, and your target keywords (think long-tail).
TIP: Be a good neighbour by linking to others. This helps them gain a link as well as improves your chances of getting recognized and linked back to in the future.
4: Find authoritative sites and industry leaders and engage with them
Not all links are created equal. Make sure that you’re earning high-quality links, and not focusing on quantity. High-quality links come from authoritative and relevant websites.
Open your preferred Page Performance tool:
- View the websites who are linking to you.
- Filter by Authority and make a list of the most authoritative sites.
- Filter by your competitors to see which sites are linking to them.
- Make sure you’ve added your competitors to the monitoring.
- Make a list of industry thought leaders (this can include thought leaders in related industries too!).
- Look through your Chamber of Commerce website for potential allies and competitors.
- Search for industry conferences, certifications, agencies, laws, publications, etc.
- Find the top bloggers for your industry.
TIP: Looking at top contributors to industry websites and magazines is a great way to spot thought leaders.
5: Create content with input from industry leaders
Create a “best-of” list or a resources list. Give credit to sources and authors.
- Conduct an interview with an industry thought leader and publish it as a blog post.
- Create crowdsourced content.
- Solicit information, answers or opinions on a particular topic from industry thought leaders.
- Keep track of who responded and who did not for future use.
- Ask an industry thought leader to write the foreword for an eBook. Or simply ask them for a quotation.
TIP: Not only might these thought leaders help you write your content, but they’ll typically help you promote it! You’ll gain new visitors and a new link to your content.
6: Blog consistently and frequently (think quality)
Create a blog editorial Calendar or download ours.
Assign someone to write the post, and choose the topic of the blog post. If you maintain a steady blog with quality content, people will naturally link to your articles. We recommend blogging 1-2x per week. It’s a great way to keep your site and your message fresh. (Don’t be self- promotional.)
TIP: Keeping each blog targeted on a single topic and specific will make it easier to follow for your readers as well as create stronger SEO value.
7: Be the first one to cover the news on a topic related to what you do
Search engines love to see fresh content. Be the first one (or one of the first) to blog about the news, and you’ll have the potential to be on the top of searches on the topic! Set up a Google Alert to follow the news of your industry.
TIP: If you’re not one of the first to write about the news, you can still analyze the news or do a recap of it.
8: Include external links in your blog posts
Include one relevant link per article to useful outside content, especially content from industry thought leaders. While people may leave your site, they’ll also remember you provided them with the good info. Be sure to link text that contains relevant keywords (in a phrase) that you’d like to rank for.
TIP: Be sure you include all on-page SEO components to fully optimize your page for search engines.
9: Create strong visual content
Infographics, videos and interesting image. If you can create a visually appealing, informative, data-driven infographic, and get it in front of enough people, it can go far. Use tools such as slideshare.com to publish infographics and slide presentations.
TIP: Videos are a valuable addition to your content. How-to’s, demonstrations, and even well made company promotional videos can attract interesting links and return visits.
10: Optimize for social media and SEO
Include social sharing buttons on your blog posts. If your blog does not have sharing tools, add them. Include a link to your website on your social tools and in the profiles. Encourage readers to share the post to their personal social networks. This will help you get new visitors to your blog, and will also help increase the number of links to your website.
TIP: Social sharing buttons should be at the top of the blog post. This will encourage more visitors to share the content as many people share based on headline or image, regardless if they read the whole article.
11: Set up an RSS feed for your blog
An RSS feed provides a simple summary of your blog posts for readers that is constantly updating. If your customers have a “RSS Reader” installed in their browser they can receive updates to your blog by subscribing (clicking the RSS icon on your blog). If you don’t have an RSS feed, add it.
TIP: We strongly recommend choosing a full text RSS feed instead of a snippet RSS feed so readers can view the full article.
12: Promote your content in social and use it in sales meetings
Share your content with industry thought leaders and those you’ve formed relationships with. Promote your content in social media. Write your message and include a link to your content.
- Including an image in the post can dramatically improve its success on social media – because people are visual creatures. We like the bling.
- Schedule out a couple of additional messages you can publish over a few days to promote your content on social, making sure to change the language each time.
- Don’t stop at just one tweet, but don’t spam either. Social is meant to be sociable, not broadcasting. Include a “Click to Tweet” link or button in your emails and in content if possible. And join the conversation on websites such as inbound.org and quora.com.
TIP: Don’t just share the link, introduce it.
13: Engage on other people’s content
Spend time reading articles and blogs written by industry leaders, competitors, news sources and industry journals. If you have something intelligent to add to what they have to say, leave a comment. The best comments add to the conversation and show other readers and people leaving comments that you have valuable information to share.
If the blog or article’s comment section allows you to post a link to your website along with your name or email, use it – but make sure you link to a relevant content page on your website instead of your homepage. And always use your real name when commenting.
TIP: Don’t just drop in a link in without joining the conversation! If you “link-drop”, most platforms will give you the boot.
14: Do some PR (get in the news)
Do outreach to journalists when you have news or a big piece of content. Write a press release about interesting company news. Publish it to your website (not on your blog – if you have several – set up a separate blog just for press releases) and send it to news sources.
If you can, do a joint press release with another company. Throw an event, like a meet-up, a dinner, a lunch-n-learn, etc. Invite local thought leaders and journalists.
TIP: Put the time and effort into building relationships with journalists and news companies, your focus can result in major media coverage and exposure. Get a sense of what so “news worthy”
TIP: Note: Press releases are considered advertising content. As such, it is unlikely to rank without serious support in the form of sharing and engagement. Seriously!
15: Write guest blog posts (a series is better than a single)
Look for quality sites to guest blog for. You should know the site well and be able to vouch for their legitimacy. Those relationships you’ve built will go a long way here. Include links in the text (as hyperlinked words) that direct readers back to your pages. Partner with another blog to trade writing guest posts. You’ll both get the benefit of reaching a new audience and sending links back to your website.
TIP: When looking for a site to guest blog for, weed out sites that have too many blog posts (they might be spammy or low-quality) and sites that never have guest blog posts (they probably won’t accept your offer of a guest post, so don’t waste your time). And the biggest tell of all, no engagement = no fun.
TIP: There’s a fine line between mutually contributing and swapping blogs with other businesses. Avoid swapping blog posts as it’s considered black hat SEO that may affect your Google rankings. best practice to simply contribute for the content and knowledge sharing and let SEO come naturally.
16. Create profiles on these domains to generate high quality links to your site:
Congrats! Do even half of the things shared here, and you’ll be in a great position to dominate search results.
Interested in an assist? We’re more than happy to help you dig through tougher sites.