A Guide to Understand Links Pt. 3: What Makes a Great Backlink & How to Build Them

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August 18 2014

guide to links 3

In my last posts, I discussed why backlinks are important and how to evaluate the links you already have to your website. I’ve saved the best for last and coincidentally my favorite topic on links — ways to build awesome ones for your site.

What makes a great backlink? In short, effort.

We learned in Part 1 of this series that a good link to your site means it comes from a trustworthy source. The more trustworthy, the better. Again, it needs to be relevant and there are lots of angles to make your link profile diverse and relevant at the same time.

I love the way Matt Cutts describes the link building process in his You&A Keynote session at this year’s SMX Advanced:

“It’s certainly possible to do white hat link building. Usually it’s called being excellent.” – Matt Cutts

And to be excellent, Cutts says that you have to earn it with sweat and creativity.

To build good links, you have to put in the effort. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Great Ways to Build Links

Content

Most information on good link building talks about building great, compelling content on your site and for your brand. Create unique, relevant content and the links will build themselves, they say.

While that can certainly work, interesting content can be tough and really subjective especially if you are in the B2B space. Not everyone wants to link to a B2B widget manufacturer. However, there are still some great ways to use your content for link building.

  • Be THE resource in your field and display that through your content.
  • Create the content that’s missing from the Internet on your subject.
  • Create visuals for your processes that may be useful for others.
  • Be passionate about what you do and share why through your content.

This last point is something I really believe in not just for potential links but for communicating your unique selling points. If you manufacture widgets, share your process, share why you love what you do, and share why those widgets are awesome through photos, videos, testimonials, etc. The options for what you share are limitless and you can get really creative. This can generate attention to your company or products and make you stand out if it’s done in an interesting way. The next question is where you should share things, to which I would suggest your website and the social platforms that are right for your business and audience

Google Alerts

Setup your company name and other important phrases like your Trademarked product or the CEO of your company in Google Alerts. Google will send you email updates when the phrases you’ve identified for them are mentioned on the Internet. Did a news outlet talk about your company in a feature and not link to you? Contact the writer and see if you can be linked to. Remember to be nice and offer something beneficial to the writer like sharing their article on your social platforms. Google Alerts is also a great way to keep tabs on competitors.

Help a Reporter Out (HARO)

Help a Reporter Out is a service that aims to connect reporters with sources of expertise. When you sign up, you’ll receive emails (based on your settings) that detail topics and queries that reporters need help with — either information, opinions, quotes or interviews. If relevant, these are great to respond to for publicity and hopefully a link to a reputable news source or blog.

Not sure where to start on contacting a writer based on a HARO? Start with this video:

Press Releases

While we’re on the topic of reporters, let’s talk about press releases and the role they play in link building. It’s important to remember the purpose of a press release, which is to disseminate newsworthy information to relevant publications for the potential of a news story or feature.

Just because you send out a press release with links to your website does not mean you have built yourself quality backlinks. This is an area that could easily be manipulated and shouldn’t be a strategy for link building, as these links are of a relatively no value even when news outlets rerun the same press release on their site. It’s certainly fine to link to your website from a press release, but it’s important to remember a few things:

  • Keep your anchor text natural meaning link your company name or domain name.
  • Make your links nofollowed, meaning search engines won’t follow the link but people can to find out more.

So how do press releases have anything to do with link building? If your press release is announcing something news worthy that’s timely or has a human interest element, you may be contacted by a writer to give more information for a news story or feature on the subject of your press release. If said news story or feature has a link to your website, you’ve earned a good link.

Things You May Already Be Doing

Content and writer outreach aren’t the only ways to earn strong backlinks. There may be things that your business is currently doing in your industry or your community that could result in a backlink if you just ask. Below are a few examples:

  • Associations & Organizations: Are you or your company part of any industry associations or organizations?
  • Awards: Have you won any awards recently? If not, consider applying for relevant awards as there are other benefits aside from potential links to your website.
  • Community Service: Does your company participate in any charitable or community service efforts? Maybe the organization website will link to you.
  • Sponsorships: Do you sponsor a Little League Association every year? Maybe you speak at your alma mater every so often? (.edu links are super valuable for your site!)
  • Tradeshows: Visiting an industry trade show this year? Is your business featured as an exhibitor with a link?

When it comes to link building, there’s no secret formula and there are definitely not any shortcuts. It all boils down to the effort you put into creating great content and great relationships.