Link building. They say it’s important for SEO, but is it really? Despite constant search engine algorithm updates, the answer is still … yes.
And since big search engines – such as Google – frown on “link building” strategies, we like to focus on link earning.
What’s the difference?
Link building is typically associated with shady practices. Examples include working with so-called experts to include your website in directories or similar strategies designed to game the system and get ranked higher. Link earning focuses on creating quality content that earns backlinks from high-authority websites.
Not sure where to start? No worries! We’re here to share our three favorite strategies to help you earn links and stay on the good side of Google.
1. Earn links: Spy on competitors
A great place to start is to uncover how your biggest competitors earn links. The Moz backlink checker is a great option for pulling backlinks. Or you can use the free version of the ahrefs.com tool.
Simply plug in a competitor’s website and see what comes back. For example, if you type our website into the ahrefs tool, you can see our top backlinks and their domain rating (DR). The DR gives you a quick backlinks quality check (the higher the DR rating, the higher the link quality).
Here are a few tips for getting started:
Organize your list and attack the best opportunities first. Focus on backlinks quality. List your competitors’ highest-quality backlinks so you can focus on those opportunities first.
Review links from domain names ending in .edu and .gov. These sites have high credibility with search engines. Evaluate the competitor content earning these types of links. What types of content are they creating? Do any opportunities exist for your brand?
Review the most linked-to content. Evaluate the competitor’s content that is being linked to the most. What makes the content “link-worthy”? Is it content that you can develop?
Search for pages that have the word “links” or “resource” in the URL. These pages often list resources, and if your site isn’t listed, it’s a great opportunity to pitch inclusion. And here’s a pro tip: Consider creating a resource section on your website. Link to relevant resources that have a high domain rating, and then reach out and let them know what you’ve done. When you do this, share a resource on your website that might fit nicely on their resources page.
2. Earn links: Hang out with the experts
Landing niche-relevant backlinks is important to improving SEO. A great strategy for landing these links is pitching related blogs and podcasts. When you write a guest post or appear as a podcast guest, you typically get a link to your website.
But how do you do it? Here’s a three-step process:
Research trending content. Blogs and podcasts with high domain authority get many pitches. As a result, you’ll need to stand out. A smart way to do this is to research what already works well for a company. You can use a tool like BuzzSumo (they have a free version) and enter the company’s URL. It will show you the content with the highest social media engagement. On a side note, it also shows who shared the content, which you can keep track of for future use (influencer marketing, anyone?).
Create your angle. Did you uncover a company’s most successful content? Great! Use this information to pitch a new angle on a high-performing topic. For example, you might learn that a topic related to AI performed well, so you pitch your SME as a podcast guest, discussing how companies use AI in email campaigns to increase response rates by 20%.
Write your pitch. Your pitch should be short and straightforward. Consider including the working headline of the guest post or podcast episode in your email subject line. Then, include the following:
- A short sentence about what you love about the blog or podcast. Make it complimentary, but be authentic and honest.
- An intro to the topic you’d like to pitch and why you think it works well for their audience.
- The working headline and a 3-4-sentence summary.
- A CTA that asks the reader to reach out if they’d like to discuss the idea more.
If you don’t hear back, follow up in a week. Ask for a response by a specific date; otherwise, explain that you’ll assume they aren’t interested, and you’ll send them future pitches.
3. Earn links: Feature influencers in your content
Are you overwhelmed by sending pitches? No worries, there’s another strategy that is a little easier and can help you grab some quick wins: Feature influencers in your content.
For example, let’s say that you’re a software company and your target market is B2B content marketers. What publications do they read? Which influencers do they follow? After a little research, you learn that many read MarketingProfs, and Ann Handley is the company’s Chief Content Officer and an influencer. She also wrote a book.
So you write a blog post titled “7 Lessons from Ann Handley’s ‘Everybody Writes’ That Grew Our Email Subscribers by 30%.”
But you don’t stop there. Nope. You reach out to Ann (perhaps on LinkedIn) and tell her you were so inspired by her book that you wrote a post about it.
Now, I’ll stop here because there is an important caveat with this strategy. You must be authentic. If you don’t love an influencer’s work, pick a different one. We used this example because we happen to love Ann’s work!
With any luck, the influencer will share the link. This strategy lets you double dip because you can also share the post on social media, tagging MarketingProfs in hope that they, too, will share the content.
And here’s one more idea: Check whether the influencer has a resources page. If they do, and you feel your content is worth inclusion, pitch it.
Bonus tip: Get your SMEs featured
Journalists and writers create a continuous stream of content, and they need sources to bring that content to life. As a result, they’ll put out a call on Help a Reporter Out requesting a specific type of subject-matter expert.
You can respond to those requests, putting your SME forward to be interviewed for that publication. And when they are interviewed, you will typically get a backlink. Also, if your audience is B2B, you can check out Help a B2B Writer. Calls for SMEs come from writers working on B2B stories that need sources.
Remember, before responding to a request, check the DA of the publication to ensure that it aligns with your earned link strategy.
Earned links: It’s a long game
Link building isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it task. It’s a continuous and ongoing process. But if you’re deliberate and consistent, then over time, your SEO rankings should improve, and you’ll receive more website traffic and greater results.
Do you have questions about SEO? If so, we’ve got you covered with our SEO FAQ resource, which takes a deep dive into the most common and confusing aspects of SEO.