3 Steps To Create a Better Link-Building Campaign

Colored chain links displayed on laptop screen.

Ah, links. They can be friend or foe in an SEO campaign. Do them well, and improve your organic search rankings. Do them poorly, and have them devalued by Google, or worse, get a search engine penalty.

Even though Google says links have less impact now than they used to, we know they are still important to SEO. But they are not the end all be all.

Remember that for every keyword query, the algorithm itself will vary the weighting percentage of inbound links. So link-building campaigns (we like to call them link-earning campaigns) need to be focused on quality and not quantity.

That said, it’s important to get links right. But where to start? How do you actually create a framework for a link-building program, and what steps do you take? Here, I’ll discuss a three-step framework for a link-building, or rather, a link-earning campaign:

FAQ: How can I create a successful link-building campaign to enhance my website’s SEO?

1. Understand Your Current Link Profile

One of the first steps you are going to take is to understand the link profile that your website already has.

There are many reasons that you may already have a good or bad link profile. Link profiles are built up over time from many initiatives. Perhaps prior employees sought out links for the website or maybe a web design company that did not know better added links, or a prior SEO vendor had a link-building campaign.

Whatever the reason, you want to get a clear view of it. Google Search Console is a good place to start gathering link data. Choose “Links” on the navigation menu to get a view of the top linked pages and more.

Links Report, Google Search Console.
Links Report, Google Search Console

To get a fresher, more complete list to begin your link audit, add data gathered from several link-tracking sources: Bing Webmaster Tools, Majestic Site Explorer, Moz’s Link Explorer, Ahrefs, or our SEOToolSet.

Our SEOToolSet provides link reports to give you a better understanding of your link profile. The link report is integrated with Majestic, one of the leading link analysis providers.

Inbound Link Reports, SEOToolSet.
Inbound Link Reports, SEOToolSet

Next, you need to evaluate the links — are they good or bad? Check out our article on a step-by-step guide to link pruning for more information on how to do that.

2. Build the Program Step by Step

A link-building program can be quite involved; however, if you have a framework to follow, that’s half the battle.

Here are some important steps in a link-building program:

  1. Finalize keywords
  2. Analyze link opportunities
  3. Create quality content
  4. Attract links
  5. Using link attributes
  6. Ensure search engines are aware

Finalize SEO Campaign Keywords

You will want to establish which keywords to target in your SEO program. This will guide your link-building efforts. As you are securing links, you may ask for specific anchor text with your keyword in the link from the site that is linking to you.

Earning too many links with the same anchor text may be seen as spam. So variety is key. Once you have the keywords established, you will:

  1. Select the keyword.
  2. Select the webpage it will be associated with.
  3. Select the sites that you want a link from for that webpage.

Analyze Link Opportunities

First, you need to uncover potential linking opportunities. This requires research online and with SEO tools into the areas that are related to your business or services.

You will also want to know who your competitors are and who they link to or get links from. If a site links to your competition, consider getting that site to link to your site as well.

There are a few guidelines to keep in mind as you look for link partners:

  • Look for a relevant partner site and keep your links targeted.
  • Understand the link’s SEO value, the potential traffic and its contribution to experience, expertise, authority and trust. An SEO professional should be able to help you here.

Create Quality Content

Links do not exist without content. And quality links do not exist without quality content. This is a critical part of your link-building campaign. So before you begin the process of getting links, you need to have quality content that supports E-E-A-T.

Attract Links

While quality content is an important first step to getting the links you want, sometimes you need to be creative in getting that content in front of the right people.

There are several “old” approaches to obtaining links that are still used by many today. That includes the approach of begging for a link by email or paying for links (including guest posting — unless, of course, you are using a link attribute that indicates it’s a paid link, in which case it will not count).

Once you have done your research to analyze keywords and understand what target websites you’d like to gain links from, it’s time to get creative. If you spend a little time each week reaching out to the people who might benefit from your content, you can make good progress.

For ideas on how to do this, check out 50 ways to get quality links.

Use Link Attributes

It can be important to tell search engines what kind of links your website is obtaining. One reason is that if it is a paid link and it is not indicated as such, search engines might look at it as violating their guidelines.

You can qualify your links with Google by using certain technical attributes within the <a href …> HTML tag. These attributes tell search engines when a link may not be totally relevant to your site or other important things, like if the link is paid.

The attributes can hint to the search engines that you have a link but to not follow or count that link. That way, you can provide a useful link for your site visitors but steer clear of looking like spam.

Ensure Search Engines Are Aware of Your Links

As time goes on and you get more links, you want all the pages of your site and those linking to you to be crawled and indexed by the search engines. Search engines can find and crawl these links naturally and eventually, but encouraging a manual process can speed it up and get results faster.

To submit your own webpages to Google, go to the “URL Inspection tool” in Search Console, enter a URL, and click “Request Indexing.” For more details, see our article on How to Submit a Website to Search Engines.

URL Inspection Tool, Google Search Console.
URL Inspection Tool, Google Search Console

3. Monitor Backlinks and Prune as Needed

A key part of the link program is to monitor your website’s link profile. Once you know how to find backlinks and evaluate them (see Step 1), you can remove the lowest quality links from your link profile as needed.

This is a proactive approach and complements Google’s Penguin signal (which is now part of the core algorithm). This particular signal analyzes a site’s link profile and devalues any links that look suspicious.

Once you have found links you don’t want, you can begin the process of removing them. See our step-by-step guide on link pruning for how to do that.

Get Started

With the link-building campaign framework outlined in this article, you have the necessary steps needed to start earning quality, relevant links the right way and to maintain your link profile for years to come.

For expert tips and strategies on how to build a quality link campaign, get our free e-book The New Link Building Manifesto: How To Earn Links That Count.

Looking for help with your link-building campaign? Let’s work together.

FAQ: How can I create a successful link-building campaign to enhance my website’s SEO?

A well-crafted link-building campaign is the cornerstone of effective SEO. Understanding the nuances of this process is crucial for enhancing your website’s visibility and authority in search engine rankings.

To commence, it’s imperative to comprehend your current link profile. Leveraging tools like Google Search Console and SEO analysis providers like Majestic and Moz can provide a comprehensive view. Evaluate the quality of existing links, distinguishing between assets and liabilities, laying the foundation for a robust strategy.

Building the program step by step is the next critical phase. Keyword finalization is pivotal in guiding your link-building efforts. Opt for variety to avoid the spam tag; choose specific anchor text for links, aligning with your overall SEO program. Analyzing link opportunities involves meticulous research into your business niche, competitors and potential partners. Identify and target relevant sites, ensuring each link contributes to experience, expertise, authority and trust.

Quality content is the linchpin of successful link-building. Without valuable content, acquiring quality links becomes a formidable challenge.

Ensure your content resonates with your target audience, establishing your website as an authoritative source in your industry. Creative promotion strategies, such as personalized outreach, can amplify the impact of your content, attracting the correct links organically.

Utilizing link attributes is a subtle yet essential aspect of the process. By qualifying links with Google through technical attributes in HTML tags, you signal transparency to search engines. This step prevents potential penalties for violating guidelines, adding a layer of trust to your link profile.

Lastly, continuous monitoring of backlinks is paramount. Embrace a proactive approach, regularly evaluating your link profile. Prune low-quality links to align with Google’s algorithm updates, ensuring sustained improvement in your SEO performance.

Mastering the art of link-building is an ongoing journey. By comprehensively understanding your link profile, strategically building your program, and continuously monitoring and adapting, you pave the way for sustained SEO success.

Step-by-Step Procedure:

  1. Analyze your current link profile using tools like Google Search Console.
  2. Evaluate the quality of existing links, distinguishing between valuable and potentially harmful ones.
  3. Finalize keywords that align with your overall SEO program.
  4. Choose specific anchor text for links, ensuring variety to avoid being flagged as spam.
  5. Research and analyze potential linking opportunities in your business niche.
  6. Identify competitors and analyze their link profiles for inspiration.
  7. Create high-quality, valuable content that aligns with your SEO goals.
  8. Promote your content creatively, using personalized outreach to attract organic links.
  9. Use link attributes in HTML tags to qualify your links and signal transparency to search engines.
  10. Regularly monitor your backlinks, proactively identifying and removing low-quality links.
  11. Stay informed about Google’s algorithm updates and adapt your link-building strategy accordingly.
  12. Continuously refine and adapt your link-building program for sustained SEO success.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the BruceClay.com website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

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2 Replies to “3 Steps To Create a Better Link-Building Campaign”

Thanks for sharing this useful information with us.

Insightful read! This article beautifully breaks down the intricate process of crafting an effective link-building campaign into three actionable steps. The emphasis on strategy, relevance, and relationship-building resonates strongly, highlighting the importance of quality over quantity in acquiring valuable backlinks.

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