B2B Link Building Basics
In early 2016, Google definitively stated that links are one the three most important factors that help you rank better on Google.
When it comes to SEO success, links to your website are a huge part of the equation. But how do you get links to your website? Let us introduce you to “link building.”
What Is Link Building?
A backlink is a link from another website to your website. Link building describes the strategy of getting other websites to link to your website. Typically, link building follows this process:
- Choosing a page on your website you want to build more links to in order to increase traffic to the page
- Identifying websites that would be likely to link to that page
- Developing a pitch for those websites that encourages them to link to your page
- Finding contact information and performing email outreach to the target websites
- Getting a backlink!
Choosing your target page
When link building, it’s important to spend time building links to the pages that matter for your website – the “money pages,” so to speak. The more inbound links pointing to your site will improve your website rankings (or position in search) as a whole. However, you’ll be better served if you’re strategic and focus on building links to your highest-converting pages.
For most service businesses, you’ll get more value for building links to your home page or a product page than you would for a blog page (assuming your product pages convert well). However, blog pages are more likely to earn links, because they provide interesting content people want to read instead of a sales pitch. This is why it’s important to include calls-to-action (CTAs) within your content and link to relevant product page on your site when it makes sense.
Google Analytics is a helpful tool for determining your money pages. Look at which of your pages bring the most conversions, and see if you can develop link building programs for those pages.
Are all links created equal?
In a word, no. Google looks at a variety of factors when assessing your backlink profile and determining how those links affect your rank position.
1. The authority of the website
Links from more authoritative websites are more valuable. In Google’s mind, more authoritative can simply mean more popular (along the lines of the New York Times or Wikipedia) or inherently trustworthy, like a government (.gov) or educational (.edu) site.
Although Google doesn’t reveal exactly how they determine authority, leading SEO software developer Moz has designed an approximation for measuring Domain Authority (DA). Domain Authority is measured on a logarithmic scale from 1 to 100. More authoritative sites like Google are 100, whereas a brand new website will have a DA of 1. Moz’s Open Site Explorer (and the accompanying MozBar Chrome extension) allows you to enter a URL to assess the DA of a website. As you can see in the screenshot below, a nearly ubiquitous website like Facebook has a 100 DA, a very popular publication like Forbes has a slightly lower DA at 96, and forum for hopeful business school graduates has a DA of 48.
2. The relevancy of the website
Besides authority, relevancy is the next most important factor. Does it make sense that the website would link to your website? Local (the physical location of your business) and niche (the industry and interest category of your business) links are highly relevant for your business.
For example, an Austin-based CPA firm would do well to get local backlinks from the Austin Business Journal and the Central Texas Better Business Bureau, and niche backlinks from Investopedia or personal finance bloggers.
3. Other factors
Google also assesses the following:
- Which page is being linked to? Does it make sense? In the CPA firm example, it probably wouldn’t make sense for a food blogger from Australia to link to their website.
- How diverse is your backlink profile? Ideally, you have links from a variety of sources, of both high- and low-authority, local and niche. Everyone will have a few spam links, but it doesn’t look good when 90% of the links to your Austin-based CPA firm come from Singapore-based websites.
- What anchor text accompanies the backlink? Anchor text is the actual text that is hyperlinked. It’s usually a different color than the rest of the text and underlined, as in this link to our homepage. The anchor text, as well as the surrounding text on the page, helps Google understand what the link is about so it can rank it for relevant keywords.
- What’s the growth rate of your backlink profile? Google loves fresh links as much as it loves fresh content. Link building isn’t a one-and-done deal. You need to continue bringing in links on a steady basis over time. As with most things, there will be peaks and valleys, but Google will find it suspicious if you suddenly got 500 backlinks to your brand new business website within a week of launch.
- Are the links ‘dofollow’ or ‘nofollow’? Businesses can put a piece of code on their links (rel=”nofollow”) that tells Google not to pass any SEO value along with the link. Users can still click and follow the link, but Google won’t treat the link the same. If the nofollow link attribute is missing, the link will automatically default to ‘dofollow’, which passes all the SEO juice! Many publications such as HuffPost will put ‘nofollow’ on their links, so make sure when you are reaching out for links you they are followed.
Basically, Google is trying to determine if all these factors add up. If they do, Google will gain a better understanding of what your site, or the linked page, is all about. Then it can present your website for relevant search results.
Link Building Tactics for B2B
Ready to get started link building? Here are seven effective link building programs you can implement today.
Infographics are popular linkbait. Linkbait refers to content that is highly valuable and likely to earn links. Infographics are visually appealing, packed with info, and fun to share on social media – in other words, they’re prime linkbait.
When developing an infographic, it’s helpful to think about your company’s services, industry, and customer experiences. Do you have any proprietary data you can share about your industry? What expert guidance can you share and backup with visualizations? Transform this knowledge into an infographic that showcases your expertise and at the same time helps you earn backlinks. If possible, try to create something with wider consumer appeal – this will widen your range of targets and improve the probability of people picking it up.
Then, find websites who would be interested in such an infographic. Reach out to bloggers and influencers in your industry. Are there news sites or online publications who have reported on similar findings in the past? In your outreach email, link to your blog hosting the infographic and present it as something their readers would find interesting. You can even provide an embed code in the email so it’s simple for them to upload with a link back to your site.
There are also a few infographic directory sites you can submit infographics to for an easy link.
2. Unlinked Mentions
Unlinked mentions are mentions of your brand, or use of images or logos from your website, without a link back to your website. The great thing about unlinked mentions is that they are one of the easiest link building sites. Sometimes known as “link reclamation,” you are reaching out to a website that already used your resource or mentioned your brand and asking them to provide credit by linking back to your site. Because the site already views you as relevant or useful, they’re typically happy to link back if you ask nicely.
There are many specific tools that help you find unlinked mentions.
- Google Alerts take a minute to set up and will email you every time your brand is mentioned. Then, it’s as simple as clicking through to the website to see if they linked to your site, and reaching out to the webmaster or content author to ask for a backlink.
- You can also do a reverse image search in Google. Upload your logo or any popular infographic content. Then reach out to the sites that didn’t provide credit via a backlink.
- Much like Google Alerts, Buzzsumo is another mention monitoring tool that will email you when your brand or website is mentioned. However, because it’s paid, it also offers additional functionality. For instance, the alert will tell you if the referring site didn’t link back to you, saving you the trouble of manually checking each site yourself.
3. Scholarship Programs
Scholarship programs are excellent for several reasons:
- You get backlinks from high-authority .edu websites;
- You can get a LOT of high-authority .edu backlinks, depending on the scope of your scholarship; and
- You get to give back to your community, which feels great and also creates a PR opportunity for your business.
Create a scholarship program that makes sense for your company. For example, if you’re a software company, your scholarship requirements might be exclusive to Computer Science majors and require students to write an essay around the future of technology, create a small video pitching their startup idea, or code a website.
How large will your applicant pool be? You can choose to offer a regional scholarship based on your office locations, or, better yet, open it up nationally and center it around a topic relevant to your industry. The national option will allow you to reach out to more universities.
Whichever you choose, make your requirements clear and find a way to fairly judge participants. You will need to create a page on your website dedicated to the scholarship that lists entry requirements, deadlines, and how entrants will be judged and announced.
Then, it’s time to reach out to the Financial Aid offices at universities and ask them to list your scholarship for students. This website lists out all the U.S.-based universities. Include a link to your entry requirements and a few bullet points that clearly define what is required for entry. Make your job easier by collecting submissions via a Google form.
Once the deadline occurs, select a winner (or a few). Feature the winner on your blog and in a press release targeting your local markets and the student’s hometown.
4. Guest Blogging
Guest blogging has gotten a bad rap in recent years, but it’s still a tried and true link building tactic, as long as it’s done right. The right way to do guest posting is to create original, well-written content that’s tailored to the audience of the website you’re writing for. The wrong way to do guest blogging is to write one generic blog and submit it to tons of websites. Google hates that, and it’s a good way to get your site penalized.
However, thoughtfully finding websites with audiences that share interests with your own and writing a topic just for them is an excellent way to get your brand in front of potential customers and earn yourself a backlink.
A good way to find potential guest blogging targets is through competitive research. Research the backlinks of your competitors and reach out to the editors at those sites. Explain the background and expertise you bring (perhaps by highlighting press coverage or other sites that have published your content), and then suggest topics for their blog. Include one or two strategic backlinks within your content.
5. Sponsorship Opportunities
In most cases, buying links is an expensive way to hurt your SEO. Many spammy directory sites still offer links for purchase, despite Google explicitly stating that this is against the rules and could negatively impact your site’s rankings.
However, there is still one way to buy links that Google views as legitimate, and that’s through sponsorship opportunities.
- Are there industry conferences you can sponsor? Many basic sponsorship tiers include a link on the conference website.
- Seek out local community organizations where your office(s) are located. Do they recognize sponsors on their website?
- Are there charitable causes your board cares about? Sponsor them on a national or local level.
Like scholarship programs, sponsorships are an excellent way to build goodwill for your brand among your local community. They also increase your visibility and boost brand awareness with potential customers.
One drawback to this strategy is that you’ll have to renew your sponsorship on at least a seasonal or yearly basis, so keep that in mind when budgeting.
6. Case Studies and Testimonials
You probably already create case studies and gather testimonials to use as social proof on your own website. But have you ever considered providing one in return? Think about vendors you use and offer to be a subject for a case study or provide a testimonial on their website. They’ll be so grateful, they’ll have no problem giving you a backlink for your kind words.
You might even create a Trusted Partners section on your website, where you link to recommended vendors or client referrals. For example, if you provide UX consulting, you could link to marketing agencies, advertising firms, and copywriters you refer clients to. Then you can reach out to the highlighted partners and let them know to expect new customer traffic headed their way from your website. Many will return the favor with a link back to you.
When it comes to link building, the sooner you start, the better. More businesses are catching on to the value of link building, and you don’t want your competitors to steal your rankings out from under you. Get started with one of the tactics described above, and enjoy SEO success!