Search engine optimization (SEO) depends on backlinks to be successful. When Google (and other search engines) determine what sites to rank—and what order to rank them—they consider the relevance of each page, as well as its “authority” or trustworthiness. This authority measure is determined by the number and quality of links you have pointing to your site.
However, you can’t just spam backlinks pointing to your domain and expect to rank higher. In fact, thanks to Google’s high standards for content quality and low threshold for spam, that behavior will likely get your penalized. Fortunately, link building isn’t quite as complex as it seems on the surface, and you can get started with your own campaign in just a few steps.
Step 1: Audit Your Current Link Profile
Before you start making a plan to grow your reputation, you should figure out where you currently stand. Use a link search tool like Majestic to examine your domain’s current backlink profile. You should be able to figure out your domain’s relative authority score, some of your top backlink sources, and the number of links you have pointing to various internal pages. If you already have a strong authority, you may be able to skip or quickly push through a few of the next steps.
Step 2: Create Personal Brands
Next, if you haven’t already, create some personal brands to use on behalf of your business. The best way to build links is by embedding them in highly relevant offsite content—and the best way to get offsite content published is through personal brands, rather than corporate brands. Make sure your top writers, or company leaders, are set up with personal profiles detailing their expertise on social media as well as on your company blog.
Step 3: Develop an Onsite Blog
If you want to build backlinks, you need valuable content on your site to link to. If you don’t already, you need to develop your onsite company blog (preferably using your personal brands). You’ll need these posts as citable material, so make sure they’re loaded with data points, facts, and quotable sections. Plus, you may need these posts to prove your writing ability and expertise, so make sure they’re polished and ready for outside review.
Step 4: Identify Low- to Mid-Authority Targets
The higher the quality of the source, the more authority the link is going to pass. However, if you jump straight to the highest authority sources, you’ll likely face rejection (since you won’t have much authority to go on). Instead, set your sites on low- to mid-authority publishers. Scout for guest blogging opportunities by searching for blogs related to your niche, publishers active in your specific location, or mid-level authorities in your industry.
Step 5: Build Your First Links
Once you have an entry-level list, you can build your first links. Link building is an art that takes experience to perfect, but here are some fast tips to get you started:
- Write for the publisher’s audience. First and foremost, your piece needs to be accepted by a publisher. That means, if you want to be accepted, you need to write a piece that their audience is going to love. Do your research, and polish the piece to perfection.
- Cite something specific. When you build the actual link, make sure you cite something specific, like a statistic or a quote.
- Never sound promotional. Don’t try to advertise your brand. If you do, you’ll likely lose the link opportunity or seem spammy to Google and other search engines.
- Include links to other authorities. Don’t make your site the only link in the article. Link to multiple high-authority offsite publications.
- Avoid linking too heavily to one source. Don’t funnel all your links to one blog post. Include links to multiple posts on your site.
- Diversify your publishers. Instead of building many links on one publisher, build links across multiple different publishers.
Step 6: Begin Scaling Your Operation
Once you’ve been published a few times, start promoting your personal brands and building your social followings there. After a while, it should be easy for you to take the next steps and land a regular publishing spot on higher-authority sources. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to cultivate this authority; keep diversifying your publishers and building your reputation until you’re seen as an industry leader.
With this strategy, you aren’t going to skyrocket in ranks. You’ll build your authority slowly but surely as you build your reputation and expand into new territory. You may be tempted to speed up the process, but understand that cutting corners and engaging impatiently will likely lead you to black hat tactics and could end up crashing your entire campaign. Instead, focus on the fundamentals, and remain committed to slow, steady, and high-quality strategies.