As we’ve discussed rather extensively on our online marketing and link building blog, link building is an integral component of modern SEO. If you want to grow your impressions, increase traffic, and drive conversions, solid links are catalysts for success. But not all links are created equal – and how you achieve these links will, to an extent, dictate your results.
In the world of link building, there are a couple of basic categories. In the industry, we refer to links as either being paid or earned. (Purchased vs. organic would be another way to categorize these links.) Here’s a breakdown of what these categories mean:
- Paid Links. As the name suggests, marketers pay for these links to be placed in articles, blog posts, news stories, and social media posts. It’s essentially a form of advertising. You find valuable online real estate and offer to pay a price in order to paste a backlink into an article in the form of a hyperlink, citation, or reference. Unfortunately, paid links are frowned upon by the search engines and often end up looking unnatural.
- Earned Links. Organic – or earned – links involve no exchange of money or pressure from the brand that’s being linked. The content writer, blogger, or brand places these links by their own accord. Usually, earned links are placed because they’re seen as valuable resources to supplement the surrounding content. Google loves earned links and views them as signals of quality and authority.
While there’s a time and place for both paid and earned links, the latter is accompanied by fewer risks and more long-term opportunities for value. In particular, you’ll find that earned links yield the following benefits:
- Larger audience. Any time you earn a backlink on another website or blog, you’re putting your brand in front of a totally new audience of people that otherwise wouldn’t have interacted with you. This has the potential to expand your own audience.
- Traffic growth. With each new backlink, you’re essentially paving a new road to your website. Naturally, more roads equal more opportunity for traffic. Assuming there’s some relevancy in the linking, traffic numbers should go up.
- SEO authority. As mentioned, search engines love backlinks. It sends a signal to the algorithm that your link is valuable and trusted. The more backlinks you have pointing to a URL, the more it moves up in the search rankings.
The beauty of earned links is that they grow on an exponential curve. The first few earned links can take time to accumulate. But as you earn more backlinks, your search rankings improve and your visibility grows. This further enhances your chances of being linked to in the future. So while it can be tough sledding in the early days, the long-term ROI is well worth the effort.
It’s one thing to recognize the value of organic backlinks – but how do you actually begin earning them? Well, let’s take a look:
You aren’t going to get many backlinks – earned or otherwise – if you don’t have link-worthy content attached to your brand. So it’s only natural to start by revamping your content strategy and creating content that others will find appealing enough to cite or reference.
Link-worthy content typically comes in four forms: informational, inspirational, educational, or entertaining. In order to attract links to your content – as opposed to someone else’s – you’ll need to offer something that’s unique. Original data and research is one of the best options. Interviews with leading experts can also help you gain some traction. Compelling visuals like infographics tend to be effective as well.
It can be helpful to tap your own professional network. If you know any influencers who’ve had success with link building and have large audiences of their own, this is a natural starting point. You could produce a piece of content in tandem with them – leveraging their audience to your advantage – or interview them to create your own piece of original content.
While there’s something to be said for creating quality content and sitting back and waiting for links, patience will only get you so far in this industry. You’re much better off going on the offensive and proactively tracking down opportunities.
One option is to contact bloggers that have audiences that intersect with your own. Offer to write a guest blog post and provide an accompanying pitch that’s a natural fit for their site. In return, you can usually slip in a couple of your own links.
Sometimes the best strategy is to work in reverse. Instead of trying to get others to directly feature your brand, you can feature them on your site or blog. This could look like writing an endorsement post of their products and services, or mentioning the company’s founder in a positive light.
Most brands have alerts set up that tip them off when they’ve been mentioned elsewhere. And it’s only smart business practice for them to acknowledge or link back to the endorsement you’ve provided. Thus, in a sense, you cleverly coax them into giving you an earned backlink without coming across as aggressive or pushy.
Visibility is obviously important in the realm of digital marketing. If you want to consistently earn backlinks from reputable bloggers and brands, it’s important that you make yourself known. One way to do this is by regularly interacting with them online. This can happen in the comment section of a blog post, as well as on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
At first, you’ll want to be very casual. You can just comment and mention that you like the article, or highlight something that you found useful. But after you’ve initially made yourself known and earned a bit of respect, you can then start to reference your own posts (assuming relevancy) and encourage backlinking.
Link building takes time, effort, and a certain level of skill and familiarity with the technical aspects of the process. If you’re looking for a way to earn links for your business, Audience Bloom can help.
For nearly a decade, Audience Bloom has been helping everyone from Fortune 500 brands and to small businesses in their pursuit of acquiring links through high-authority content publishers and platforms. We begin by identifying exceptional content on your website and then leveraging pre-existing relationships with publishers that align with your campaign goals to drive powerful backlinks to your site.
At Audience Bloom, our focus is on creating high-quality, original content that’s resourceful and link-worthy. We help brands facilitate growth and build their brands using sustainable and proven methods. Please contact us today to learn more about our time-tested strategies and how they can work for you!
He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building.