As the CEO of a full-service digital marketing agency, I see far too many marketers and website owners subscribing to outdated link-building practices in an effort to improve their SEO. Unless these practices are nipped in the bud early, they can actually have the opposite effect.
The truth is that many link-building tactics are either unhelpful or outright harmful to your SEO performance. While most marketing professionals know better than to employ black hat SEO tactics, not everyone understands how backlinks differ in value.
While one backlink can do wonders for your ranking performance, a dozen other links may barely budge the dial. That’s why I put together this brief guide to improving your SEO link-building strategy while staying compliant with Google’s updated Webmaster Guidelines for 2020.
Below, I’ve made a list of the top link-building tactics for 2020 that will make a noticeable impact on your ranking performance and won’t get your website penalized.
Local SEO should be the starting point of any successful link-building strategy. Mentions from local businesses (or “citations”) tend to perform very well with Google’s PageRank algorithm. They also go a long way toward improving your bottom line, with 18% of local searches (download required) on mobile devices leading to a sale within 24 hours, according to 2014 Google data.
A local citation is any mention of your company’s details on the web, including name, phone number, website URL, address or zip code. If your website is associated with a physical address or brick-and-mortar storefront, racking up local citations helps Google understand who your website or store serves. In other words, citations help search engines build trust in your business’s physical presence.
Building local SEO backlinks is easy because there are a host of registries and directories where business owners can input their business information. Here are a few excellent places to start creating local citations:
• Google My Business.
• Apple Maps.
• Better Business Bureau.
• Yellow Pages.
Invest in value-driven content.
Driving links to your website’s landing page can help boost your page’s domain authority, but it won’t make as big of an impact on your bottom line compared to blog posts within your marketing funnel. Before building out links or guest posting, invest in sound SEO content creation where you have at least 30-50 search engine optimized blog posts on your website that provide real original value to readers in your niche.
Having a solid foundation of blog posts on your website allows you to create backlinks to articles that direct readers toward a money page. For example, if you’re an e-commerce vendor selling fitness equipment, creating backlinks to a review of treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bicycles hosted on your site can help drive sales. However, the blogs you link to should always match the user intent of the searcher — in other words, don’t link to a sales-oriented page if the reader simply wants to learn more about a given product.
Start guest posting.
Contact the hosts or administrators of high-authority domains within your website’s niche about writing a guest post for their website. In the bio section of the article, be sure to include a link to your website’s landing page, and provide a link to a relevant, informative blog on your site. These links will pass on more “link juice” to your website depending on how authoritative the host platform is.
Guest posts are an effective part of a link-building strategy because they’re mutually beneficial. On one hand, they benefit the website host by adding free content on their website. On the other hand, the guest poster gets a free backlink or two to their domain, which will help bolster their SEO performance by transferring domain authority.
Fix broken links.
If you’ve deleted a page on your website, any of the inbound links that directed to it will now generate a 404 error. You can find these broken links easily by running a link audit with third-party SEO software such as Ahrefs or SEMrush.
Once you have identified any broken links to your site, you can redirect (“301”) the destination of each broken link to a new, relevant location on your site. Never leave an error-404 link on your website — instead, pass the PageRank to a different property on your site.
Use HARO or Qwoted.
Help a Reporter Out (HARO) and Qwoted are services that put journalists in touch with industry experts. They’re also one of the simplest ways to accrue high-quality backlinks from major publications such as the New York Times, Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal.
Reporters working with tight deadlines write questions (“source pitch”) on these platforms, and users can share their expertise in their response. Experts whose answers are used in the final article are often rewarded with a backlink to their web property. This is a technique we’ve used successfully for years at my agency.
Don’t forget to keep it real.
The key to a successful backlinking strategy is to create original, value-driven content that your readers can’t help but share with their networks. Without amazing content, it’s unlikely that domains with significant PageRank will be willing to link to your website.
It’s equally important that you remember to always keep your backlinking strategy authentic. If you purchase backlinks or use a private blog network (PBN), you’re almost certainly going to receive a Google penalty for violating its Webmaster Guidelines.
The truth is that there are no shortcuts to successful SEO. Instead, you need to be willing to create content worthy of being shared, and not be intimidated by the prospect of pitching your content to high-authority domains or thought leaders within your niche. In time, they will pass PageRank to your domain. The next thing you know, you’ll be the thought leader.
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