Can You Pass the Link Building Test?
Link building has been something of a taboo amongst webmasters since 2012 when Google first introduced its Penguin Update. Today there have been many changes to its algorithms, and new tools that have made its search algorithm more sophisticated than ever before. How, then, can you go about improving your ranking on such a powerful system, and not get penalised?
There are many steps to building a search engine friendly presence online. To start, you need to know what criteria Google is looking for. The short answer to this is a great site and high-quality backlinks.
It is worthwhile to cater to Google’s search engine, as it is the tool that 72% of desktop users and 84% of mobile users use to search the internet. In comparison, Baidu sees 14.11%, Bing 7.76% and Yahoo 4.27 % of desktop users. In the mobile world, Baidu receives 13% and Yahoo 0.9%. (source).
To put it simply, focusing on Google will help you appeal to the mammoth’s share of internet users. As a bonus, SEO efforts to appeal to Google’s algorithm will appeal to the others’ as well.
What Is Link Building
As stated, great content and link building have been referred too as the two main components that Google uses to rank sites. The purpose behind high-quality content is to gain backlinks and shares through merit.
Backlinks matter, but not every backlink will work in your favour. You need to be very careful about where your backlinks show up. Quality is the name of the game, which is why you need:
- A quality site for users to engage with
- Quality content for users to engage with
- Quality guest posts for your links to be nested in
- Quality sites for your guest posts to be published on
This emphasis on quality has many SEO experts avoiding link building. Link building is far more difficult now than it was in the past. Not only do you need to provide quality content for both your website and where you guest post, but you also need to adhere to Google’s guidelines.
How Link Building Has Changed
The reason why you need to be careful when link building is because tactics have changed as Google’s algorithms have become more sophisticated. Before its Penguin Update in 2012, link building efforts were done with an emphasis on quantity. This birthed many spam tactics that cluttered the internet and reduced user experience. From keyword stuffing to automatically generated content, the internet was suffering. Skip to today, and it is cleaned up. The top results offer quality content that is, on average, over 1000 words and offers real answers to search queries.
How Google processes its search queries has also improved. The average search query is 4 words long and is often directed in the form of a question or a “near me” search for local stores. Users rarely go past the first page, much less the first result for their answers.
Can You Pass the Link Building Test?
Now that you understand what link building is and why it is important, it is time to determine whether you can pass the link building test.
If you don’t know how to provide the quality that Google is looking for, you will very likely be penalised for breaching its code of conduct. You need to link build to boost your ranking, but you need to be able to pass this test in order to get there.
Has Your Website Been Audited Within the Last Year?
The first step to any link building campaign starts with your own website. Your content needs to be able to hold its own because the goal of any backlinking campaign is to boost your organic reach and engagement. If your site is difficult to use, is broken, or simply ugly, it won’t provide the same engagement.
Similarly, Google does consider the state of your website when ranking your site. If it hasn’t been audited, then broken links, outdated or duplicated content, and even things like site security and site speed could be holding you back.
Your site must be optimised to gain the full benefit from a link building campaign.
Are You Committed to a Content Marketing Campaign?
Content is the second most significant factor that Google uses when ranking your site. The better the content, the better the ranking, and the more you can gain backlinks based on merit. Content is also critical to boosting organic engagement and shares, so never miss out on it.
The anatomy of the perfect post is relatively simple, it:
- Needs to be topic relevant
- Contain interesting or important information
- Be easy to read
- Have at least 1000 words (1st result posts are typically 1800 words long)
- Have at least 1 image
To really benefit from your content marketing include your posts in your backlink campaign. Getting users to your home page is great, but posts are where the engagement is.
Have You Invested in Infographics?
Posts with infographics are also very useful for gaining shares and backlinks, as they are easy to read and engage with as a user.
Is There Content You Can Update?
New content isn’t the only way you can benefit from what is already on your site. Update old content so that it is relevant and contains up-to-date statistics to gain more reach, engagement, and so that it can appeal to search engines.
Never duplicate posts. Update them instead.
Have You Optimised Your Post Format?
The last consideration for the content on your site is the post format. The easier it is for users to read, the easier it is for them to engage with it. Small paragraphs, plenty of sub-headers, and pull out statistics or quotations can go a long way.
Do You Know Where Your Backlinks Are?
Now that your site and content are optimised, it is time to turn your focus to the backlinks themselves. The first step to this is to use tools like Ahrefs or Majestic to find the backlinks you already have. This step is important regardless of whether you are a new or established company.
Perhaps you invested in a link building campaign before Penguin, and it has been penalising you ever since. Or perhaps you have adopted a domain name that similarly used black hat link building tactics to boost its ranking, and then abandoned the site after the Penguin update. Either way, locating your backlinks is the first step.
Do You Know What Publishers Need to Be Reputable?
Who has published your backlink is critical. The more reputable they are, the better Google and other search engines will weigh the link in your favour. Many factors determine the quality of your backlink, including:
- Domain Authority
- Page Rank
- Trust Flow
- Quality of Content
Only when the publisher themselves are to a certain standard can you be happy with the link placement. Of course, you also need to be wary of you link being located on a site that is part of a Private Blog Network (PBN). If one of the sites in the network is penalised, they all suffer.
Have Your Audited Your Backlink Profile?
Once you have a list of your backlinks and know which links are good, and which are bad, it is time to go through and remove the bad eggs from the bunch. You will do this in one of two ways:
- Contact the webmaster directly to have the link removed
- If that doesn’t work, use Google’s Disavowal Tool
Once your backlink profile is fixed, you can start to scale your link building.
Do You Know Where Your Brand Mentions Are?
Sites that already reference you are a great place to start. Use SEO tools or even just Google search to find sites that mention your brand and ask them if they wouldn’t mind linking to your site.
Have You Searched for Broken Links Within Your Niche?
Another great way to boost links is to fill in the gaps of content. By searching for broken or “rotting links,” you can help webmasters improve their content and get a backlink out of the deal.
Do You Know How to Use Help a Reporter Out (HARO)?
Help a Reporter Out can be a great tool to get links on top news sites, but it can be tricky. Try to hire specialists through freelancing sites to either gain the insight you need for a quality article or to write the content for you. This isn’t a guarantee, but it can pay off.
Do You Know What Tools To Use to Link Build?
Link building is a full-time job and requires you to monitor many different aspects of your digital presence. You need to know what the top link building tools are and choose the right ones for your needs and budget to get the job done right.
Have You Built a Keyword Strategy for Yourself?
Before you can get started with guest posting, it is important to build a keyword strategy. Without one, your efforts towards ranking on search queries will be minimal. A keyword strategy for a link building campaign is as important as one for PPC advertising.
Do You Have A Writer to Create Custom Content For You?
Quality is king, which is why all content must be bespoke, well-written, unique, and created with the publisher in mind. If it deviates from the publisher in any way, Google could pick up on it and penalise you.
Can You Monitor Your Backlink Profile?
Your backlink profile is not static. It will constantly change and update, which is why monitoring your profile is critical. Keep an eye on the status of your links and the publishers to maintain quality control now and into the future.
Being able to pass the link building test will help you determine whether your link building efforts are moving forward in the right direction. If you do not pass or are otherwise unsure about proceeding, don’t worry! Use our SEO services to improve your site, content, and backlink profile.
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