Let’s talk about link building. Link building is the process of intentionally creating or fostering the development of links on external sites pointing back to the individual pages of your site. At a glance, the strategy is simple, but there’s much to learn about the complexities of link building, and how it plays such a major role in your business’s success.
You could spend years studying how link building works and still not truly master the art, but for now, let’s focus on the basics—including the two main approaches you can use to help your business grow.
The Benefits of Link Building
There’s a reason why link building is frequently referenced as one of the most efficient and powerful marketing strategies available to entrepreneurs. It doesn’t cost much to build new links (though costs do vary depending on your approach and level of competition), but there are several benefits to be gained:
- Brand visibility. A link to your site in a high-profile article helps your brand become more visible, and reach new prospects. This is especially powerful if you can get a named brand reference in there as well.
- Search engine rankings. Perhaps most importantly, your inbound links are important for improving your pages’ rankings in search engines. Google relies on an algorithm called PageRank to determine the trustworthiness of different sites; essentially, Google determines how many links (and the value of those links) are pointing to a given page. The more links there are, and the stronger those links are, the higher that page will rank in search engines. Building more links on high-authority sources, in a responsible way, will make you more visible in search engines.
- Reputation benefits. If you’re building links on high-profile sites, like national news companies or well-known authorities in your field, you can gain reputation benefits by affiliation. For example, you can feature the logos of those media outlets on your site, showcasing where you’ve been featured in the past.
- Referral traffic. Clicking a link takes a reader from an offsite publisher to your site directly. This is what’s known as referral traffic. If you build links on prominent, high-traffic publishers, you could potentially rake in hundreds, or even thousands of new visitors for each link you build.
Of course, you can only see these benefits if you’re actively getting new links to your site, and there are two main approaches to accomplish that.
Approach 1: Link Attraction
The first strategy is passive and generally less consistent. The idea is to earn links as naturally as possible, without constructing them yourself. Ideally, you’ll create a piece of content on your site that has original information, such as data from original research or completely novel ideas; once it starts getting attention on its own, your contemporaries, competitors, and other authorities in your field will start linking to it, giving you all the benefits without requiring you to lift a finger—at least in theory.
To be successful here, you need to write extremely strong content, and make sure enough people see it for it to generate momentum on its own. The strength here is that Google will never be able to accuse you of participating in a link scheme (so you’ll never have to worry about penalties), but the strategy is an unreliable way to build links. Even if you write a true masterpiece, by every definition, there’s no guarantee that enough publishers will decide to link to it to justify its creation.
Approach 2: Manual Link Building
The second approach is much more active and consistent. Instead of waiting for links to pour in naturally, you’ll take charge of building them yourself. You can’t simply spam links to your site; this is bad for web users and could attract a ranking penalty for your domain.
Instead, you need to build links with contextual relevance, and make sure those links are valuable to the people encountering them. The best way to do that is to write high-quality articles that people want to read and embed your links in the body of those articles. As you’re starting out, you’ll be stuck publishing articles to low-quality or little-known media outlets, but as you build more authority, you can work your way to more authoritative and higher-traffic sources.
So which approach is best? Ideally, if link building is going to be one of your most important marketing strategies, you’ll use some combination of the two. Earning links requires you to create high-quality onsite content, which is beneficial for many reasons, and provides you with a degree of security and long-term potential. Manually building links gets you much more consistent results, and gives you more control over how your strategy develops. They work perfectly together if you’re willing to use both of them.