A relevant, diverse, and extensive backlink portfolio is an essential cornerstone of not just an SEO campaign, but the overall health of a website. If you’re starting from square one, there are several online resources that can help get you started in your link building crusade. However, while there is no shortage of information on how you can build links, there are few that discuss what you should actually do with them once they’re yours. Loading the canon is only getting you halfway there… how should you aim it?
How Do Links Help My SEO?
Each link that points to your site from a reputable source is a symbol of trust, telling the search engines and users alike that the content of your site is of high quality and worth being shared. To stress the importance of this, every link contains a small amount of its originating site’s SEO prowess, which is then transferred to its new destination, making the receiving site stronger. This is why links can raise your online visibility, gain additional ranking traction, and accelerate your inbound Organic traffic… we’re actually stealing a little SEO superpower, or “Google Juice”, from each site that links to you.
However, Google Juice doesn’t like to stay in one place for long, and looks for any opportunity to move to a different location. If your site is not prepared to receive links properly, you can inadvertently leak all of the strength these links should be providing to other pages or, worst of all, off your site. So what can you do to best leverage the links you already have coming to your site and keep that delicious Google Juice for yourself?
Remember the Basics
You can stumble out of the gate if your links aren’t built correctly or are pointing towards the proper destination. As a refresher, here are some basics you should already be following:
- Send your links to their most relevant page on your site, not just the homepage
- If you sell greeting cards, for example, and get recognized as “Best Christmas Cards” by a blog, don’t request a link to your homepage, but to your Christmas Card page
- Ensure the anchor text of your link (the text itself that is linked) matches the primary Keyword of its destination page on your site
- Send links to their properly canonicalized page
- Not sure what we mean? Read this.
Limit Links Off Your Destination Page
As we mentioned before, just because you have a link pointing to your site doesn’t mean you necessarily have the Google Juice that comes with it. In fact, in the same way that Google Juice arrived to your site from a link, it can also leave through a link. Thus, he more links on a page, the more leakage.
Keep in mind that this applies to all links on a page, not just those in your content. Navigation options, privacy policies within your footer, call-to-action prompts… these are all cracks Google Juice can get through. Before you go scrapping your site for parts in attempting to remove all links, there’s a simpler solution. You can plug these leaks with a nofollow value within your link, snippet of code that tells Google you want to keep your Juice for yourself. While some benefit will get passed on, this designation severely limits the amount. An example of a nofollow is below:
<a href=”http://www.example.com” rel=”nofollow”>link to a page</a>
Now, don’t go nofollow’ing every link on a given page, as this can have negative consequences if done incorrectly including cutting the Juice flow off otherwise “dry” pages that rely on those links. Instead, nofollow sure things, such as:
- Links pointing off your site
- Phone numbers, privacy policies, other links that don’t lead to customer facing content
- Redundant links (try to limit one link per destination, per page)
You can find additional details here. Keep in mind that these changes are best rolled out slowly so that you can monitor their impacts. Do everything in one fell swoop, and you won’t be able to identify what alteration you need to undo if rankings or traffic goes south.
Build Links for Your Links
Quality is always better than quantity for links, but sometimes, quantity is all you have to work with. In this case, you have to create some quality elsewhere. In the same fashion that you aim to make your site stronger through links, so too can you utilize your links to further augment the strength of other links. Getting too Inception for you? Refer to the picture below.
This is something called Link Reinforcement or Tiered Linkbuilding, a way to make our primary links stronger by developing a secondary set of backlinks designed to support them. By having an equally tailored and reputable backlink profile for some of your most authoritative Tier I links, you can make those primary backlinks even more powerful, providing increased benefit to your site. While it may sound convoluted to build links on top of your links, the process is simpler than you may believe. Below are some examples of what this can look like in action:
- Link online profiles and citations (Yelp, ShowMeLocal, Foursqaure, etc) to your company Facebook page, which links to your site
- Did a customer or guest writer link to you in a blog? Point links with accurate anchor text to that piece
- Encourage employees to share a company post on LinkedIn that links to a recent press release, which, in turn, links to your site
Building high-quality links is already a time-consuming and often frustrating manual process. If your site is not fully prepared to utilize the strength those links should bring, you’ll have suffered for nothing. By following these oft-forgotten tips, you can ensure that your links work for you, not the other way around.