Website links in 2015: science and strategy, not magic

Date: Tuesday, 06th Oct 2015 | Category: Consultancy, Digital Marketing, How to, Search Engine Optimisation, Strategy & Analysis

The business of link-building (or as we like to call it, link acquisition) is part of the SEO and wider online marketing mix.  It’s generated some pretty negative press over recent years until Google’s algorithm and checks became even more sophisticated.  Individuals and brands were engaging in legitimate, but not very useful practices on a mass scale, in order to build awareness and referrals back to their site, month in and month out.  Luckily as Google has matured and become even more complex, this kind of activity is much less prevalent – and you certainly shouldn’t find any reputable professional marketers, agency or in-house, engaging in it any more.

But first, what is link acquisition?  It’s basically a way to create relevant and quality links from other websites which lead back to yours.  In the wider context of the way Google works and online marketing activities, authentic links which add value to the web user are important for both visitors and your business to increase brand awareness, traffic and potentially conversion levels.

A link tells Google your site is relevant, interesting and helpful to visitors.  It’s like having a virtual salesforce working for you – it’s then up to your website to demonstrate what you offer and close the deal.

Here’s our advice

Link acquisition should now be viewed in the same way as other forms of third-party marketing, like PR, affiliate marketing and social media.  It should be planned, allocated budget and be within a wider online marketing strategy.  We recommend that you:

  • Invest in training a team or working with a trusted agency to make sure you’re doing everything ‘right and relevant’.
  • Your content strategy transcends all the communications channels available. By that I mean it comes first – it takes time, research and some writing skills, but once it’s started, you’ll have a breadth and depth of relevant content to share with prospects, customers and interested parties. Which you share via a marketing channel or channels, leading me onto…
  • Move SEO, social media and PR activities closer together if you can. The forms of marketing can complement and feed each other.
  • Use your existing business partnerships, relationships and contacts and ask for links – whether it be where you are a recommended resource, or where your organisation is used as a reference. Make sure you explain the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ and think whether the links are going to add value to web visitors and customers on both sides.
  • As I said earlier, PR and SEO can work together. One basic example is if you can, provide a business spokesperson for media comment to B2B, local (and hopefully national) media outlets.  If you’re featured in an online article, chances are the mention of your business name will hyperlink to your site.
  • By its very nature, being active on one or more social media sites will produce links back to your site – either from your own feed where you link to a certain page on your site or from consumers talking about your brand and businesses you may partner with.
  • Any groups and associations that your business is a member of or any charities that you support will have a website, so you could ask for your business to be listed and include a hyperlink back to you.

A couple of other thoughts – Google Map listings are a great way to boost your search ranking through that link, as the page content often appears after someone carries out a ‘general’ Google search. Lastly, sometimes the organisation you’re asking for a link from may not know how to create it. If that’s the case, or you need help with link acquisition, just ask and we’ll see how we can help.