The CMO’s Guide to the ‘New’ Link Building Strategy in Less Than 5 Minutes
The more things change, the more things stay the same. Even though the Google ranking algorithm has significantly progressed over the years, links still matter for a website to rank.
But the way Google looks at links has changed. And the way businesses should approach link building must also change. We are in the era of link earning, not link building.
To protect your website from links that could harm your ability to rank and go after the links that matter, you need to know how to earn them. We go in depth on this topic in our newly released guide “The New Link Building Manifesto: How To Earn Links That Count,” which you can download instantly here.
In this article:
- Links: The good, the bad and the ugly
- Backlink strategies to avoid
- How to start a link-earning program
- How to create content that gets relevant links
- Moving from link building to link earning
Links: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Link popularity is not a numbers game anymore. More important than the quantity of your backlinks are the quality and relevance of the links and the sites where those links are coming from.
Google’s John Mueller confirmed this:
We try to understand what is relevant for a website, how much should we weigh these individual links, and the total number of links doesn’t matter at all. Because you could go off and create millions of links across millions of websites if you wanted to, and we could just ignore them all.
If relevant, quality sites with favorable comments link to you, then your site becomes a more trusted authority by association. So you want the best sites, not the most, linking back to you.
Before you engage in any link building program, be sure you know what types of links to look for and which to avoid:
- Good backlinks: Links from authority websites in your field, experts who write about your topic, or non-spammy sites that have content related to your website’s theme or webpage’s subject.
- Bad backlinks: Links from unrelated websites (for instance, a dog information website linking to an insurance site) don’t do you any good and could look unnatural.
- Ugly backlinks: Links coming from link farms, spam sites, sites known to sell links, guest posts or low-quality content (such as pages with lists of random links and no text).
Backlink Strategies to Avoid
As the CMO, you probably get tons of emails offering you links for a price. Steer clear of those! Unnatural linking schemes can only hurt your brand and your website rankings. So avoid the following tactics for obtaining backlinks:
- Sending mass email requests
- Participating in link farms
- Purchasing links
- Getting links by guest posting in most cases
- Getting site-wide links (such as from a footer link on an external website)
- Having links from irrelevant or disreputable websites
How to Start a Link-Earning Program
Today, the right way to obtain backlinks is by earning them naturally. Here are three steps to get started with a link earning program:
- Benchmark your website’s link profile.
- Build the link-earning program.
- Monitor backlinks and prune as needed.
1. Benchmark the Link Profile
Begin with a benchmark of how your website is currently doing. I suggest you use two or more tools to gather your backlink data into a spreadsheet you can then look at. You can use tools like Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, Majestic Site Explorer, Moz’s Link Explorer, Ahrefs and/or SEOToolSet. You’ll know what you are currently dealing with and if you need to prune any links (see Step 3).
2. Build the Link Earning Program
A link-earning strategy should involve several tasks. At a high level, these include:
- Analyzing links
- Finalizing keywords
- Creating content
- Making search engines aware
- Publicizing and sharing content
- Using link attributes properly
- Attracting links
Creating quality content is arguably the most important step in this process, followed by getting that content in front of the right audience. This is something we go into more detail on in the e-book linked above and below.
3. Monitor Backlinks and Prune as Needed
Once you’ve started earning links, you’ll want to maintain your link profile. The general process for this includes:
- Monitor backlinks to your site – Who’s linking to me?
- Evaluate your link profile – What makes a bad backlink?
- Remove unwanted backlinks by “link pruning” – How do I get rid of bad links?
- Use Google’s Disavow tool – What’s my last resort if they won’t cooperate?
How to Create Content That Gets Relevant Links
As a rule, you want to create quality, valuable content for users. This type of link-worthy content fuels your link earning program.
Keep in mind that expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T) are three principles upon which quality content is created, according to Google.
E-A-T is important for most websites, but for “Your Money or Your Life” topics (those that Google says “could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety”), it is critical. You can learn more about that here: Complete Guide to the Fundamentals of Google’s E-A-T
When you have great content people want to share, earning links comes more easily. Of course, there are a lot of ways you can get that content in front of the right audience. And we have 50 ideas for you in the e-book that you can download above or below.
Moving from Link Building to Link Earning
Modern SEO ditches the old link building tactics that merely collect a mass of irrelevant links.
Today, we must focus on quality over quantity. So center your link-earning program on great content and creative marketing.
For more on linking, get our comprehensive guide: The New Link Building Manifesto: How To Earn Links That Count