Link building could be the most daunting search engine optimization task. It requires near equal portions of research, creativity, and outreach resembling cold calls. It’s also critical for prominent organic search rankings.
If your company struggles with link building, focus on steps or processes versus a daunting blob.
Having a clear goal is often overlooked. The key is knowing what your link-building efforts should do at a strategic level, beyond “we want more traffic” or “we want more sales.”
“We have a lot of [link-building] tactics, and really it comes down to the objective of the campaign,” said James Wirth, senior director of strategy and growth marketing at Citation Labs, a leading link-building agency.
For Wirth, link-building objectives often fall into two categories:
- Increase domain authority score,
- Increase page authority score.
The former — increasing the domain authority score — is a brand-building goal. It is like boiling “the ocean to try to heat an alpine lake to swimmable levels.”
Increasing page authority should increase traffic to a target URL. It is like turning “on the electric kettle to heat water for a nice cup of afternoon revenue.”
If you need to increase your business’s brand visibility, boosting your site’s domain authority score may make the most sense. And it will likely drive your company to link-building tactics such as media relations.
An ironic example of this goal and a media relations-like tactic comes from Wirth himself. On two occasions, Wirth has participated in a live interview for the CommerceCo by Practical Ecommerce community.
In each case, I introduced Wirth to this community of commerce professionals. Plus, in each case, a recap article appeared here, linking back to Citation Labs.
For topical relevance, site traffic, and conversions, Wirth suggests building landing page authority scores. This is the act of building links to sales and campaign pages. Targeting these sorts of links will require a different set of tactics that, according to Wirth, includes:
- Guest posting,
- How-to articles,
- Commentary posts,
- Relevant content.
Thus the goal defines the tactics. This makes link-building more achievable.
Once you have a goal, develop a process for link-building research. It demystifies the art of link-building, making it more achievable.
“Our internal process is focused on linking context,” Wirth said as he shared a slide showing Citation Lab’s six steps.
- Set targets. Select your pages and identify the top one to three keywords for each.
- Develop research methods for the rest of the analysis.
- Identify research areas. This step builds on the research approach.
- Research items. Drill into the contextual facets to develop a topic-based linking plan — why a publisher would benefit from a guest post or a link.
- Topical link context. Know how you will approach publishers.
- Topics and publishers. Armed with your research and plan, reach out to publishers.
Wirth’s approach makes it possible to scale link-building for larger sites and tends to produce helpful outcomes, such as a list of publishers to contact, a clear plan for contacting publishers, an “angle” to pitch them, and specific topics for guest posts or your own site. The links your business earns with this approach are likely to be contextually relevant, useful for the publisher, valuable to the audience, justifiable, and natural. Everyone wins.
What had seemed like the daunting act of randomly cold calling publishers to ask for links or offer guest posts has become a repeatable, natural process.
The process also informs content topics. “A content strategy that is void of this process is going to have challenges when it comes to link building,” stated Wirth. “But if we can build this [approach] into content development, the resulting page is going to be ready to earn links.”