In “What is SEO? Part 1” I talked about on-site and off-site SEO; what they are, how they’re different, and which is more important (spoiler alert: they’re equal!). Here we’ll jump into the nitty-gritty of off-site SEO tactics because it’s easier to get this out of the way first since it’s really all about building backlinks and maintaining reputation both locally and online.
While Local SEO isn’t particularly on-page or off-page specifically, I’m going to classify it under off-page since it’s definitely not on-page, however, there is an on-page feature called Schema, or structured data markup (I’ll discuss this in more depth in a later blog), that you can add to your company address information and doing so will help your site rank better locally in SERPs.
If you offer a product or service at a brick and mortar location, getting in front of the eyes of potential buyers online is imperative for business success. This is more than just creating a “My Business” page on Google, this is ranking for “near me” searches and creating localized content that will build interest around your brand in your community. It’s also about ranking in the “local 3-pack” in search results. That’s a massive bonus of being optimized with local SEO.
*Local 3 Pack Results
First of all, I want to mention that link building is my absolute LEAST favorite aspect of SEO.
Honestly, you could probably ask any person who works or who has worked in SEO what task they were the least excited about and almost all of them will tell you link building. It was my dedicated responsibility from when I started as an intern through the two years I worked for that first company. I became pretty good at it but also somewhat resentful at how arduous the work was compared to its ROI. Regardless of how I feel about link building though, it’s a super important part of any SEO strategy. It’s one of the top factors Google considers when ranking your website and the more high-quality, relevant links your site receives, the better your odds are for increasing your position in search results.
Link building has come a long way over the years. In the beginning, it was really easy because Google didn’t care where your links were coming from, just that you had them and the more you had the more credible your page was in SERPs. Early marketers realized this and would create auxiliary domains just so they could link to themselves to boost their rankings. Then came the link-farming era of the internet where you could ask third-party websites to add a link to your site from a page that had no relevance to your business. You could be reading articles about autobody detailing and all of a sudden link off to a page about how fabulous Beyoncé is.
As the Googs became smarter after the 2012 introduction of the Penguin algorithm update, the earliest tactics of link building dissipated and a new age of crappy, low-quality tactics was born. These tactics relied heavily on paid directory listings and article submissions. In the last seven years, several updates have been made to Penguin that will penalize sites that participate in such low-quality techniques.
But what link building techniques SHOULD you focus on?
Types of link building
There are a lot of shitty ways to build links that will get you nowhere in the grand scheme of the interwebz but there are a few areas in which to place all your efforts for the best possible results. If you want to truly establish yourself as an authority in your industry you’ll need high-quality, natural links from industry relevant websites.
Manual link building
Manual link building is the most common way for SEOs to obtain links. This is a process where you reach out to other website owners, bloggers, and businesses asking them to link to your website. In order to get a yes from this strategy, you’d need to provide a solid reason as to why this other business should link to you, especially if you’re not going to return the favor. It’s important in this method (and really all methods) of link building that the link you’re trying to obtain is from a site that’s relevant to your business.
Editorial links are natural links that you didn’t have to ask for. In order to obtain a natural, editorial link or brand mention, you must have created a piece of extremely valuable information or launched a revolutionary new product or service that other influencers want to discuss. These are the most challenging links to obtain for most businesses which is why they are also the most valuable.
Self-created links are links you create yourself (duh.). They can be press releases, blog comments, guest post signatures or other non-editorial pieces where you publicly discuss your business and link to your own website. They can be embedded infographics or widgets that your company created that link back to your website. They can also be paid listings on directories that are not moderated for quality. As mentioned above, this is not ideal and self-created links carry significantly less value than manual or editorial links. This tactic can work for SOME businesses, but should definitely be used lightly in your link building strategy.
Ways to maintain existing backlinks and acquire new ones
Now that you know where you should be focusing your link building efforts you may be wondering how you achieve success. Over the years I’ve found a few useful ways to acquire new links or manage the ones you already have.
A broken backlink happens when a site is linking to an old version of your content that now results in a 404 page. In the best case scenario, you ask that site to replace the link on their site with your updated or most relevant existing content and they say yes, but if that fails, a good solution is to always 301 redirect your old or broken pages to their most relevant functioning match.
Stealing competitor backlinks
If I HAVE to be working on a link building assignment, this is one of my favorites! In this scenario, your competitor wrote an article and some website linked to it. At some point, after that initial link exchange your competitor took the article down or for some reason, the page is resulting in a 404 error. This enables you to swoop in like the link building hero that you are explaining that their site is linking to dead content and that your site has similar, newer content that IS working…most of the time, in this case, you would create that content after you ask for and get acceptance for the link to be updated with your article.
If you’re able to find a good directory that is moderated, well maintained, and has good trust and authority of its own it may be a good idea to list your business.
Link building is never done. There’s a freshness score that applies to links so you’ll want to be getting them as often as you can, which in turn means you can never stop creating new content about your brand, product or service.
Speaking of the need to constantly create content, that’ll bring me to my next “thing” in part three of the “What is SEO” series. Stay tuned!