Why a Link Building Strategy is Crucial Before You Start Link Development
Over the past couple of years, we’ve had dozens of prospects come to Vertical Measures interested in acquiring backlinks for their website. When we start the conversation with these businesses, my response is always, “Great! But what is the long-term goal?”
There’s often the misconception that the more links are pointed to your site, the better it will rank. While this is true to a certain extent, quality and relevancy will always be more important than the quantity of links associated with your backlink profile.
Furthermore, if you haven’t formed an organized strategy on the front end, you risk losing efficiency and hitting diminishing returns with your link development efforts sooner than you think.
Before we jump into the importance of a Link Development Strategy, let’s start with why sound SEO is equally important on the front end.
A Foundation of SEO
Part of the challenge we face at Vertical Measures is that many of our clients are in different stages of their marketing efforts for their website.
Because of this, our Link Development and SEO team often have a conversation about what, “The Perfect Process” is for our clients that come onboard that want to pursue link development.
Here is what a 6-month timeline looks like:
A well-done SEO audit should provide an overview of your website as well as actionable insights of what should be changed or improved. Often, our SEO team will recommend pages be removed, redirected or canonicalized to a different page.
Why is it important for link development? If the audit is completed after you have already started to build links to a page, you run the risk of losing all the link equity you have earned if a page is ultimately removed.
Competitive Keyword research should provide an overview of what the competition is ranking for and where the gaps are in your current keyword profile.
Why is it important for link development? There might be keywords that the competition is ranking, and your website is not. The outcome of this competitive research might be a piece of content that will help your site rank for a new keyword.
A Keyword map should provide an overview of what you’re the pages on your site are ranking for and what the keyword targets are for each of those pages.
Why is it important for link development? Often, a keyword map will uncover any instances of keyword cannibalization where multiple pages are ranking for the same keyword. When our SEO team identifies these pages, they will usually recommend that all but one of those pages is removed, redirected or canonicalized. If you’ve spent time building to the page that is ultimately removed, you will lose all your hard work and effort that went into building those links. Keyword maps also help with understanding what the highest ranking pages are on your site and where the opportunities lie to move closer to page 1.
Our team reviews all internal links to make sure they are working, targeting the right keywords and provide the best user experience for navigating through a site.
Why is it important for link development? A solid internal linking structure is not only a best practice for user experience (UX), but it also allows link equity to flow between pages. If you’re in a vertical that’s notoriously tough for acquiring links, this allows you to build links to a linkable asset that might not be directly tied to a target keyword, but it will share some of that link equity to another page through internal-linking.
- Link Strategy
- Local Link Development Opportunities
- Content Creation
- Link Development
- Re-assess Content Needs
Having this SEO information and plan at the start is critical for building links efficiently. This way, our link development team can make recommendations in the Link Development Strategy with confidence, knowing that all the pages are targeting a single keyword and there will not be any major changes in the future.
Why is a Link Development Strategy Important?
Now that we have a better understanding of the importance of SEO on the front-end, we can now focus on developing high-quality, relevant links from a diverse set of referring domains.
There are three main reasons why a link strategy is important for the long-term success of your link development campaign:
- It helps with understanding what existing linkable assets we can leverage to build links.
- It helps with understanding how the competition is earning links.
- It helps with understanding what content we can create to build links in the future.
What existing assets can we use to build links?
This is an extremely important part of the process, especially for businesses that don’t have the resources for content creation.
The easiest place to start is with the keyword map (provided by our outstanding SEO team). What pages rank for high-volume keywords that we can also use to build links? Odds are, if you have a page that’s ranking well for a high-volume keyword, there is a good reason for it. By continuing to build backlinks to this piece of content, we ensure that the page won’t slide down the rankings towards the cemetery that is page 2.
Aim to get an understanding of why the page might be performing well.
- Is it just because of low competition?
- Is it an outstanding content?
- Is it just because you have a well-known brand in your industry?
If you can identify why this piece is performing well, it will help immensely in future content creation efforts.
Another tool that works well for identifying existing assets that are performing well for backlinks is the “Pages” feature in Majestic. The function of this feature is very simple: what pages have the most links pointed towards them?
Most likely, the pages that have received links from the most referring domains, are the highest quality linkable assets on your site.
Can’t find any, “Linkable Assets” on your site? That’s fine! There are still other strategies you can use to build high-quality links to your website without the need for in-depth content.
Read, 7 ways to Build Your Local Link Development Portfolio to find out how to get your link development campaign off the ground.
How is the competition earning links?
This is my favorite part of the link development strategy because of the amount of useful information we can analyze. We use tools that provide in-depth insights into where the competition is earning links, as well as what content is working best for them.
The first step of this process is to identify the competition. Always be sure to include whoever you consider a direct competitor, but also look to see who is ranking for keywords that you want to target.
Take your keyword map and/or competitive keyword research and enter some of those highly competitive keywords into Google. Even if you wouldn’t classify an organization as a direct competitor, if they’re ranking well for a term that you want to target, include them on the list as well.
In some instances, our team will analyze dozens of competitors at once to identify the top few pieces of content across the board. This can often be time-consuming because of the amount of data pulls that are required. The payoff, however, is well worth it.
Once a list of competitors has been established, our team then uses the Backlinks feature of majestic to pull each set of backlink data. This feature is helpful because it will show us where these specific backlinks are coming from.
After you’ve compiled all the backlink data from all competitors into one sheet, create a filter and sort high to low with either Trust Flow or Citation Flow. This will help organize the data with the highest quality opportunities sitting at the top of the spreadsheet.
From there, make your way from top to bottom to determine if there are any opportunities that we can go after where the competition is listed.
Some opportunities might be from a piece of content, others might be on a list or local website. By pulling this data, you will start to have a much better understanding of where each opportunity lies.
PRO TIP: Don’t deduplicate your list of backlinks that you pull and compile. Instead, highlight for duplicates in the SourceURL column. If you have more than one competitor listed on the page, it is a strong signal that your website has a very good chance of being listed as well.
What content can we create to build links in the future?
This can often be most challenging part of creating a strategy because you will never know what’s going to be successful until you try it.
Don’t create a copycat piece of content that the competition has already created, or on a similar topic that we have created in the past. Determine if your content team can make an existing piece ten times better than the competition. If they can’t, webmasters will be less likely to link to it if it doesn’t outperform the existing piece they have on their site.
Learn more about 10x content and how it can impact your website’s organic performance.
Survey the landscape to determine if there is an abundance of opportunities outside of where the competition is already listed. You might find ideas for this from the competitive keyword research that your SEO team supplied, or there might also be organizations in your industry that have created forms of content that your direct competitors have not. Either way, if it is a popular topic, and your direct competitors have not yet created it, it is most likely a good piece of content to create.
In our link development strategies, we provide a checklist (below) that includes various forms of content might work best for acquiring links. This is a great place to start when determining what style of content we are going to move forward with. Often, that is half the battle when creating a new linkable asset.
Finally, pick the type of content and topic and go with it. You should know within your first couple weeks whether the idea is a hit. If you are measuring your results compared to other content, you can adjust your strategy based on what seems to be the most popular topic.
Link Building Must Be Strategic
Don’t – I repeat – do not start a link development campaign without a strategic vision. While link development seems like a simple concept, there is so much that goes into the process that doesn’t meet the eye.
Having an SEO team that shares the same strategy before you start building links could save you hundreds of hours of work for your team. Make sure that you have an SEO audit, keyword map, competitive keyword research and internal link audit finished before you start strategically planning your link acquisition efforts.
Start Your Strategic Link Building Strategy Today!
Don’t have an SEO team that can help before you start developing links? We can help! Whether it is SEO, content creation, and/or link development, we can help build your audience for real revenue growth.
About Billy Adams
Billy Adams started his career in 2011 working for a marketing agency in Boston, MA where he worked closely with clients such as Toyota, Verizon and UMASS Football. Since joining the Vertical Measures team in 2015, Billy has moved from a Link Development Specialist to SEO Specialist and now heads up the entire Link Development side of the business.
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