The process of “building links” has long been touted as the key to ranking in search engines. After all, studies about the relationship between external links and rankings have shown it’s nearly impossible to rank without them.
In fact, a Moz study of over 15,000 keywords found that 99.2% of all websites at the top of the rankings had at least one external link.
But, while obtaining links is still crucial to SEO, the way in which those links are obtained has shifted.
Link-building tactics through spammy emails, article submissions, and trading links are strategies of the past. Today, if you want to generate links, you’ve got to put in the work to earn them.
How? Let’s dive in and find out.
What constitutes a quality backlink?
First, we need to identify exactly what a quality backlink is and is not. Because, as Neil Patel mentions about quality backlinks:
While the right inbound website link can grow your Google rankings, revenue, and brand, the wrong ones can get your site penalized.
Since we’re trying to avoid penalties at all costs, we want to focus on earning the RIGHT inbound links.
What makes a backlink high-quality?
SEO consultant Mark Walters lays it out in the easiest way possible. He says high-quality backlinks:
- Are from a relevant source
- Are from a trusted source
- Send traffic
- Are in the main content
- Are on a page with Google’s PageRank
- Are next to backlinks to authority websites
Mark also shares that high-quality backlinks are NOT:
- Earned through link exchange
- Included with dozens of other links within the content
- Acquired easily
- Paid to be included
Now that we know what constitutes a quality backlink, let’s check out a few strategies for earning them.
Why ‘earned’ links
If I haven’t made it clear, these strategies are all about earning links rather than building them.
By committing to earning instead of building, you no longer have to worry about Google’s constant algorithm updates affecting your ranking. Because, at the end of the day, attempting to outsmart Google’s engineers is a game you will lose.
Commit to earning links rather than building them. And do it using these four strategies.
1. Create the best content available on your topic
While this strategy is easier said than done, it’s by far the best way to earn a large number of links.
To do it, look at the content already ranking high for the topic you’re targeting.
For example, let’s say you want to create content on the topic of defining conversion copywriting. The first thing you would do is perform a Google search for “what is conversion copywriting?”
As you browse the results, you see that the opportunity is good to create more valuable content – a highly linkable piece of content – on the topic. And since most of the results don’t directly answer the question, you may even be able to create content that appears in Google’s answer box for this phrase.
Here’s how the process looks after conducting a Google search on your topic:
- Take notes on the content ranking highest – Open and skim each result on the first page of the rankings to detail what each piece of content does and doesn’t do well.
- Identify where and how your brand can do better content – With these notes, identify opportunities for besting them. Ask yourself questions like, “Can my content be more actionable?” or “Could I include more engaging visuals?” or “Could I include original research or a case study?”
- Create an outline – Now that you know what you’re up against, create a thorough outline that lays out the research, visuals, actionable advice, etc., that you’ll use.
- Develop content that’s better – With the outline, you can now create a post that provides a better result for searchers of your chosen topic.
And, since you’re attempting to cover the topic as thoroughly as possible, know that you likely need to create long-form content. Not only does it help ensure that your post is highly informative, but it also puts you in a better position to rank at the top of search engine results.
2. Perform exclusive interviews with industry experts and/or influencers
This influencer or expert content strategy is becoming more common. My team used it for an episode of our Write Podcast by interviewing conversion copywriting expert Joanna Wiebe. One of the quotes from the transcribed interview was featured as a backlink in Crazy Egg’s Guide to Conversion Copywriting.
The best part? The phrase for the backlink was “describe conversion copywriting.” As a result, when searchers use the phrase “describe conversion copywriting,” our podcast interview ranks third and the content that incorporates its backlink ranks first.
In addition to that high-authority link, the interview generated 12 other links. That’s the power of an industry expert interview.
3. Create custom infographics
Visuals have long been an important component of creating engaging content. But you may not know their power in earning links. For example, look at this infographic from Search Engine Land outlining SEO success factors:
This visual, which has its own page on the Search Engine Land site, has earned over 4,000 links and generated over 30,000 social shares.
What do you think is at the top of search engines for the high-value keyword “SEO success factors”?
That’s an easy answer. Search Land Engine’s periodic table appears in the Google Answer Box.
4. Participate in collaborative content marketing
Collaborative content is a way to combine the expertise of other influencers in your field to create an amazing piece of content. Not only does collaborating save time and resources, it has significantly more potential for earning links and social shares because your collaborators have their own audiences and platforms.
Let’s look at Robbie Richards’ post in which he asks 143 experts to list their top three SEO tools.
The post has generated over 10,000 social shares and earned 250 links. It ranks on the first page of search results for the phrase “best SEO tools.”
Start earning links
With the four strategies outlined, you now have what you need to start generating links the right way.
Use these tactics to start earning links and move your way up the SERPs without having to worry about being affected by Google’s algorithm updates.
It’ll be worth it. I promise.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
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