Long gone are the days where webmasters could point links from any domain to their site and see overnight boosts in their Domain Authority and organic rankings. With the addition of the Penguin update back in April of 2012 where backlink analysis was added as a key component to Google’s core search algorithm, monitoring the quality and relevance of all links pointed to a domain in real time, SEOs have had to refine their approach to link building.
It’s important to firstly understand why link building activity is essential for a strategic SEO roadmap. Think of links as votes – the more votes (links) you receive from relevant, authoritative websites, the more likely it is that Google will trust your site’s content and display it within organic search results. This article will explore the tactics that should be used in modern day link building to help build authority and improve organic visibility.
1. Seasonality Research
One important aspect of link building that is often overlooked is seasonality. Taking seasonality into consideration when performing content partnership activity to build links is crucial as it allows you to understand user search behavior and target a particular audience when search demand is at its highest.
As an example, let’s say you are an ecommerce website that is trying to strengthen your “Women’s Dresses” subcategory page by acquiring new links. To better understand seasonality, plug all keywords related to women’s dresses into Google’s keyword planner to gain visibility around the peaks and troughs in search volumes.
Referencing the graph above, it’s clear that there’s a spike in search volume around keywords related to women’s dresses in March and October. Utilizing this data you should focus your link building activity in these months with higher search volume to maximize exposure and potential impact. You could also activate your paid channels by running PPC in conjunction with your sponsored content post to drive through additional qualified traffic.
2. Choosing Your Partner
After you’ve completed your seasonality research and understand the timeline of when you would like to go live with your link building activity, the second and most important step is choosing a partner to collaborate with.
The following should be considered when choosing a website to partner with:
The first thing you should consider is the potential partner’s relevance to your website or core product offering. Going back to the “women’s dresses” example, you would want to partner with a website or blogger that is in line with the fashion industry.
Relevancy is important because when Google crawls and analyses this link, it’ll be able to easily understand the connection between the two sites, allowing authority to be passed along to your domain. Using the same example let’s say you partner with a used car website that links back to your Women’s Dresses subcategory page – the correlation between these two sites is low, therefore when Google crawls this link they may scrutinize it and not allow authority to be passed along to your domain, or even worse, hit your site with a penalty.
• Domain Authority (DA)
It’s also important to take into consideration your potential partners’ website Domain Authority (DA). You can do this by using a number of free tools online, including the MOZ SEO toolbar.
Websites with a higher DA are seen as more trusted or authoritative. By partnering with websites with higher Das, more of this authority will be passed along to your website thus increasing your ability to rank well. It’s also important to note that too many low-DA links pointing to your domain could potentially result in Google ranking your organic listing further down on the page, and in some cases may even result in a penalty, reducing your chance to rank at all.
• Audience and Reach
Another important focus should be around the audience base of your partner’s website. When contacting your list of potential partners, ask them to provide you with some demographic data to understand the distribution between male/female, age groups and location – make sure this is in line with the audience you’re trying to target for this campaign.
In addition to their audience data, it’s also important to understand their potential reach: request data around how much traffic their site receives on a monthly basis. If you’re working with a blogger, ask them how many followers they have on their social media profiles, and how heavily these users engage with the content they share.
Now that you’ve done your due diligence and researched your potential partners, it’s time to take all of the above into consideration and choose the best option for your link building campaign.
1. Creating engaging and well-optimized content
• Topic Selection
To maximize the potential performance of your link building campaign it’s important to select a topic that your audience will engage with. If your content performs well, you’ll receive additional benefits beyond building DA and acquiring a new strong link – you’ll be driving qualified referral traffic back to your website, which is likely to have stronger conversion rates than unqualified traffic.
• Link opportunities
Ensure that the content hosted on your partner’s website has links pointing to the page you want to drive traffic to. Also make sure that the anchor text is optimized with a keyword relevant to the page the user will be directed to.
• Call to action
The content should also include a strong call to action that prompts visitors to follow the link through to your website – this could also have a positive impact on your conversation rate for this campaign.
• Cross-channel opportunities
To supplement performance of your content, you could also increase your visibility and click-through rate by including banner advertisements that surround the content hosted on your partner’s website. You could also see if there is an opportunity to have your partner amplify the content through boosting it on their social media channels.
2. Measuring Success
In order to see how your partnership has performed, it’s essential to analyse the data to determine whether you should proceed with similar activity in the future.
Metrics to measure when gauging performance:
• Domain & page authority
Take a benchmark of your domain and page authority prior to the partnership going live and measure the subsequent increase.
• Referral traffic
Set a benchmark for expected referral traffic you expect to receive from your partner’s website after one month of being live – using Google Analytics set the reporting date range for 1 month and compare against your benchmark figure.
Working with your partner, agree on a benchmark for the amount of visits the campaign is likely to receive – request the data to be provided from your partner’s website analytics to compare against his benchmark.
• Click-through rate
Again, working with your partner, agree on a CTR that is likely to be achieved and then compare against the benchmark after go-live.
• Leads & sales
Lastly, set a benchmark figure for the amount of leads or expected sales that are likely to be achieved through this campaign and then compare with actual figures.
Following the above guidelines when conducting modern-day link building activity will enable you to produce quality results that will help strengthen your backlink profile, drive qualified traffic back to your site, and hopefully result in additional leads or sales.