Many search engine evangelists believe that it’s easier to build links for new websites rather than old ones. They’d rather commit time and effort coming from a clean slate rather than to do reverse engineering on an existing site, just to cater to its needs.
However, with the World Wide Web growing exponentially each day, it’s difficult to make a dent in the search engines. On the first quarter of 2012, about 240 million URLs were registered (roughly 60 million per month), a 14% increase from around the same time in 2011. This, along with the recent Google Panda and Penguin updates, makes for a very stressed link developer. With this staggering amount of websites and mind-twisting updates, how can you possibly keep up?
In order to help you jumpstart your campaign, we at SEO Visions decided to curate the top link building sources for you to sift through. This will be the ultimate link building guide for new websites.
But… Why build links in the first place?
SEOVisions believes that before you start anything, you must first align goals with all your team members. We can’t have the traditional marketing team going off in one direction, while your online marketing group decides to focus on something else. Find the purpose of your link building campaign in order for you to execute it well. Is it:
Maybe you find that your business has to develop its purpose. Consistency in the design and feel (tagline, writing style, logo, etc.) of your website will help in building your brand.
To drive more traffic into your site?
Your traditional/offline marketing can only do so much in terms of driving traffic into your business. Focusing on e-Commerce might boost the number of visitors to your site, creating a higher chance for them to become buyers and eventually, brand advocates.
To improve search results?
You’ve already established your business’ name, but maybe you feel that you want to do more. Targeted keywords and strong anchor texts will help in improving your rankings in the search engines.
For business expansion?
Connecting with thought leaders and the movers and shakers of the industry, and eventually being affiliated with them, could mean more business for you. You could easily get referrals or have possible ventures with other people through your contacts.
To increase your visibility online?
Building your online presence could secure you a foothold on the consciousness of your audiences. Your goal would be to become the top-of-mind brand in your industry.
All of the above?
Of course, all businesses would love to have all of these results in their online marketing campaigns. For some great link developers, a domino effect can be achieved. But not all are lucky. Hopefully, the tips below will help you land your purpose.
Plan your link building strategies.
Once you have defined your objectives for your link development campaign, it’s time to strategize. Campaigns do not just spawn overnight. Link builders will have you know that a lot of their time is eaten away just by sitting down and thinking.
1. Keyword Research
Any marketing professional, traditional or otherwise, would know that one key element in creating an awesome and sustainable marketing campaign is to study your audience. Your online audience, however, makes this a bit easier for us since we could easily delve into their heads by checking out what they’re searching for.
Doing keyword research will help you find out what your customers want. At the same time, you will see what you need to do in order to rank for those certain keywords and phrases. You may find that you need to develop a whole strategy for content in order to reach the needs of your clients. Maybe you need to restructure certain phrases on your site to optimize link building. Or maybe (but hopefully not), you might need to overhaul your website altogether!
So how do we do keyword research? Kristi Hines of Kikolani shared her tips on how to set it up on the blog, KISSmetrics:
a. Set up your spreadsheet.
There is no point in research if you don’t put your data on record. Kristi details in her article the parts which your spreadsheet should have. You need to have several details intact: the keyword, its competitions, its global and local monthly searches, and its approximate Cost Per Click (CPC). Aside from the keyword, you may get all the other details via the Google AdWords Keywords Tool.
b. Unearth your keywords.
Yes, we specifically mean “unearth”: During your research, you will find out that you will have to dig deep in order to determine which keywords work for you. Some ideas will come to you easily. However, there are some cases wherein you have to think laterally in order to find the correct ones for your business. Try to practice mind mapping so you can visualize your brand better.
c. Use tools to find extra keywords.
Kristi also shared several free and paid tools which can assist you in discovering additional keywords:
SEMRush – This helps you check keyword information from your competitors. It can track both organic and advertising keywords and has significant data on its movement on the web (backlinks, follows and nofollows, anchor texts, etc.). This tool is offered in both free and paid versions.
Google AdWords Keywords Tool (GAKT) – Google also offers its own tool. GAKT simplifies keyword research by showing you several keyword ideas spawned from lateral expansion.
For information on the terms used in the GAKT, go to Google AdWords Help.
Google Search Suggestions –Another great tool to use is the ever-popular Google Search Bar. With the auto-suggest function, it can show you popular searches for certain phrases. In the screenshot below you can see that the phrase “keyword research” is not even finished, yet Google is already showing several suggested and relevant phrases.
Other Search Engine Suggestions –Don’t discount the power of other search engines in doing keyword research. Yahoo! and Blekko have the same search suggestion box as Google. You may be able to get new ideas across the different platforms.
d. Analyze and choose your keywords.
Once you have your first list of keywords (we say ‘first list’ because there is a high chance that this set of keywords will change over the course of your campaign), you should now dissect each item and narrow down this set into (1) your keywords/phrases for the website and (2) the topic ideas to be used for your content strategy.
Again, Kristi shows us how to use tools in analyzing your keywords. She used SEOMoz’s tool which has Keyword Difficulty and SERP (Search Engine Results Page) Analysis. It helps in identifying the difficulty level of the keyword that you chose in terms of competitiveness in the market. Consider the domain authority and the number of root domains linking to the phrase when choosing your main keywords, then consider the information value of the others to pick the keywords for content topic ideas. The conclusion of Kristi’s article has more information on how to collate the data, jot it on the spreadsheet, and decide which keywords would work best for you.
2. Analysis of Competitors
When you’re done setting up the groundwork for your research, you should now check the other side of the fence. More often than not, you’ll find that there is a lot of good information stored in your competitor’s database.
a. Analyze your competitions’ content.
We cannot stress this enough: content is king. No matter how overly used it is, we refuse to subscribe to the idea that it is cliché simply because it has not, and never will, lose its meaning. That said, your first focus on competition analysis should be their content.
Begin by sifting through your keyword list and see which sites organically come up consistently. Chances are, they have a rock-solid pool of content that Google is enjoying crawling on.
Aside from their text content, look for rich media content as well. These include photos, videos, podcasts or infographics. These types of content are easily sharable via their social media profiles, and are thus boosting their online presence. Contents like these do not merely feed search engines. They are now considered as algorithmic factors, so don’t be a stranger to social media.
b. It’s not about the numbers.
Now that you’ve established which competitor sites have a lot of content, you must now find out which ones have the juicy content.
In the field of link development, it’s not always about the numbers. Maybe you’ve encountered a time when your content had a whole lot more shares and links than your competitors’. Yet, their contents continue to trump you in the SERPs. How does that happen?
Among the possible reasons for their continuous reign in the searches are their inbound links. Compare the domain authority and the page rank of the websites linking to you and to them. The last thing you should check is the number of links coming to the site and the number of unique linking domains.
These metrics move you to and fro the SERPs. Knowing where the snag is will help you make up any ground between you and your competitors.
c. Assess the structure of their site.
A quick on-site audit will show you the strengths and weaknesses of a website. Consider the following details when doing the audit:
- Keyword targeting
- Text or copy
- Alt tags
- Anchor texts
- Hierarchy of content
- Site map
- User interface and user experience
You can gauge how SEO savvy a company is just by looking at these parts. Consider tinkering with their robots.txt as well to see if there are certain types of content that they don’t want to be crawled.
3. Content Strategy
We’ve already mentioned how important content is. However, note that content is nothing without a proper execution strategy. You can’t just keep on creating content after content without considering external factors to your brand or website. This is just a recipe for disaster.
Your content strategy must be aligned with your link development strategy. While these are two separate entities, one cannot (and must not) live without the other. Content without links is just thin content no matter how awesome it is. Link building can only do so much to your online visibility if it is without great content.
Know that when you’re creating a strategy, there must be clear and definitive lines as to what should and should not be done. Many marketers fail to see the need for outlining how to get to the goal, and instead focus on what the goal is. To avoid this, do it like the journalists do: 5 Ws and 1 H:
Determine the main agenda of your strategy. Outline your objectives and know the purpose of your campaign.
Assign the tasks to people who will be accountable to the project. Make sure you specify their deliverables per day/week/month. Also, know who your target audience is. Your content should speak directly to a niche who will understand what you’re saying.
Determine the reason for pursuing the strategy in both business and user perspective. It should answer “So what?” clearly.
Build timelines and deadlines to execute each part of the plan. However, maintain that the timeline is fluid enough to accommodate changes, yet still rigid to follow deadlines.
Answer the question, “Where does this fit in?” Your content strategy and link development strategy should not veer away from the overall goals of the marketing strategy as a whole. Do not treat online marketing as an end point.
Solidify your plans in order for you to reach your goals. Make everything as concrete as possible to avoid fluff in your reports. Make sure that you track all efforts in your campaign.
Ready for more? Read Part 2 of our Ultimate Link Building Guide for New Websites!