A-Z Guide to Link-Building in 2015
(the best-working techniques and the exact steps to follow)
It's no secret Google uses hundreds of ranking factors to pick up relevant pages in response to user queries. And while the list of these factors is quite wide (with new ones being added constantly, like https or mobile-friendliness), all SEO experts agree that links remain the strongest quality signal to search engines, outweighing most other ranking factors.
However, with Google's Penguin update and manual link spam actions in play, building link for your website has become a "skating on thin ice" practice, unless... you know the rules of safe and effective link-building to follow in 2015.
In this guide, our SEO team threw together key steps to effective, Google-friendly link-building to give you an actionable manual to follow and show you how LinkAssistant software can help you maximize the results of your link-building efforts.
Ready to get some high-quality baclinks for your site? Then let's move on to the link-building process.
Effective link-building for top rankings in 5 steps
1 Determine the as-is state and analyze competitors
Unless you're about to build links for a brand new website, it is critical that you first analyze the current backlink profile of the site. You will also need to take a close look at link profiles of your high-ranking competitors – this will reveal the link-building practices that work best for them (and will most probably work for you too). You will need a backlink checker app at this stage. SEO SpyGlass can dig up all the data you need.
1. Create a project for your site in SEO SpyGlass to collect all backlinks to it.
2. Update Page Info and Anchor Text for the links. This will let you see whether the links are Dofollow or Nofollow and identify the anchors.
3. Click and navigate to Anchor Text to see the distribution of each anchor in your link profile.
4. Copy the anchors and percentages to clipboard, and paste them into a spreadsheet.
5. Repeat the whole process for a couple of your top-ranking competitors.
6. Bring the percentages to one common spreadsheet, identifying the most commonly used anchors for all analyzed sites (these will probably include your target keywords). Compare your site with competitors and determine the benchmarks.
You might want to calculate competitors' average percentages of target keyword phrases used as link anchors. These are the thresholds that you don't want to exceed — going beyond them may make your link profile unnatural-looking.
Anchor text 1
Anchor text 2
Anchor text 3
Anchor text 50
2 Research link-building techniques
There's a bunch of directions you could go in when it comes to link-building — here's a list of the most common link-building methods used by SEOs.
There may be pages on the web that mention your company or brand name, but do not link to your website. It would make sense to contact the webmasters of such pages and ask them to add links to the posts.
Similarly, you can look for mentions of your competitors (either with or without links). Websites that mention them may very well mention you, too.
Yellow pages, business associations and more
Local business directories, chamber of commerce listings, and business association websites are good places to have a link from. This method is more applicable to brick-and-mortar businesses. If you are one, do not miss out on this opportunity.
Product or service reviews
It is most likely that there are hundreds of blog posts written about things related to your business. Oftentimes, reviewing your product or service is a win-win — the blogger gets the idea for a new post, and you get the exposure, additional traffic, and quality links. Make sure you have the time to help the blogger with visuals and design, and are able to provide product samples if needed.
Tip 1: Bloggers often publish comparison reviews. A comparison that you feel could include your brand, product, or service can be a good spot for a potential link.
Tip 2: An outdated review of a product or service that is similar to yours can also be a great place for a backlink, as the post author may be willing to update the copy with a description of your product and a link to your site.
Google officially outlawed large-scale guest blogging, so as a rule of thumb, it's recommended that guest posts should only be published on relevant websites. Avoid guest blogging networks or websites created purely for posting articles. Detecting such websites may be tricky; here are the common qualities you can recognize them by:
A standard or free design template;
Articles and posts are not centered around any particular topic;
No signs of user engagement (no comments or social shares);
No real author bios;
No contact details.
Tip 1: Don't forget to check the guest blogging websites against the 10 quality guidelines mentioned at the end of this post.
Press release distribution
There are dozens of press-release syndication services (eg. PRweb, PR Newswire, Market Wired) that let you freely submit your copy. This technique allows you to get lots of links quickly. However, use it with caution; its mass usage is against Google's guidelines.
Tip 1: Mind that real journalists or bloggers are unlikely to pick up your story from a press release feed. If you want to get real press coverage, you'll need to approach journalists directly.
Broken link-building is a technique where you search niche-relevant websites for broken links, and suggest alternative URLs to link to (that lead to pages of your site). Typically, broken link-building involves these steps:
Find resource pages using keywords like suggested resources, recommended websites, etc. plus keywords related to your niche, e.g. pet care "recommended websites" (see Step 3 for a how-to).
Check the HTTP response for outbound links from such pages.
Contact the webmaster asking to replace any 404 links with a relevant link to your page.
To a large extent, the success of broken link-building depends on the kind of content you are offering in return for the broken links. It should be relevant, and preferably an improvement above the original link in terms of quality.
3 Find potential link partners
Now that you've selected the link-building techniques that suit your site and niche best, it's time to run an actual search for potential backlinks. Since a manual search could take days, most SEOs use apps like LinkAssistant to automate and speed up the process.
1. Launch LinkAssistant and create a project for your site.
2. Click . Select Find sites by keyword search as the search method, tick Enable expert options, and click Next.
3. Depending on the link-building method you're using, enter the keywords...
Say, you own PetCare, a pet care products store in Jacksonville, and your fiercest competitor is CarePet. See table below for keywords you might want to use.
Yellow pages & biz directories
Florida business directories
Pet stores yellow pages
Jacksonville business association
Pet stores review
Compare pet stores in Jacksonville
Blog about pets
Pets useful resources
Pet care recommended sites
Pet shops suggested links
4. Select the search engines you'd like to search for link opportunities in.
5. Set the number of potential link partners to find. If you're not sure how many you're looking for, start with around a hundred.
6. Skip Step 5. Just press Next.
7. At Step 6, check the first, third, and last box and uncheck the rest — you won't need this info for now.
8. Hang on for a few minutes until LinkAssistant returns a list of pages that mention your brand.
9. At Step 8, select all URLs the software found and click Finish.
Your workspace should now be populated with URLs of potential link partners. Next, you'll need to sieve out pages that already link back to you (if applicable). Select all the links and click . Select Scan only current page and hit Next.
Now it's time to check the value of your potential link:
10. Select all URLs with the verification status No (link missing).
12. Select the factors you want to update and hit Next.
Repeat the process for every link-building technique you'd like to use, changing around the keywords to find partners by. For yellow pages, you could use 'Florida business directory' as your keyword; if you're looking for reviews, think 'Compare pet stores in Jacksonville' or 'best pet store in Jacksonville'.
Tip 1: Right-click the header of any column in your LinkAssistant workspace to sort and filter your potential backlink pages to find the ones that meet your quality requirements.
4 Do link outreach
Now that you have a list of potential spots for your links ready, it's high time you contacted all those link partner prospects.
Add partners you found manually into your LinkAssistant project.
If you did any part of the search for partners manually, click in your LinkAssistant wokspace, and fill out the required details. Don't forget to tag each partner group using tags like mentions, Guest posts, Reviews, etc. — this will let you easily send out relevant emails to each group later.
If there are partners with missing contact details in your project, select them, click and choose Get contact email. The software will now populate the Partner Email column. In some cases, it may be unable to find the contact information — then you will need to look it up manually.
Create email templates.
In Preferences -> Email Management -> Edit Mail Templates, click to create relevant, engaging text to be used in emails to each partner group. Make sure you create a separate template for each partner group, depending on the nature of your request.
Now you are all set to communicate with your potential partners.
Select partners of the same group you'd like to contact.
Select the email template you'll send out to this group, and click OK.
Voila, you've set your link-building campaign in motion! Remember to regularly check your inbox and quickly respond to partners' emails — and get ready to see your links (and rankings) grow.
5 Report progress
With Link-Assistant's new custom reports (just out today!), you can easily track the progress of your link-building campaign if you're building links for your own site, or report on every aspect of the work you've done if you're doing SEO for clients.
The new reports provide valuable insight into your overall link-building stats, i.e. the distribution of anchors in your link profile (remember the percentages mentioned in the very beginning of this tutorial?) and partner verification stats. You can use one of the 3 ready-made report templates (both totally editable), or create your own templates from scratch. For a complete guide on customizing SEO PowerSuite's new drag-n-drop reports, jump here.
10 quality guidelines or link-building in 2015
1. Do not acquire links of the same type (and with the same anchor text) too quickly.
Although no one can tell you how many links per month is over the limits, make sure you take it slow with a few links per anchor text — and watch how the rankings respond.
2. Minimize the number of easy-to-get links.
Try to keep the number of links from blog and forum comments, link directories, bookmarking websites, etc. as low as you can.
3. Avoid link placements within spots not intended for editorial links.
Such spots include a page's header, footer, sidebar, and navigation elements.
4. Double-check the backlink page's accessibility to search engines.
The linking page should not be restricted in robots.txt or by noindex/nofollow.
5. Make sure the backlink page is indexed and cached.
If a page has not been cached in over 3 months, this may indicate that search engines do not consider it important.
6. Don't engage in guest blogging or article marketing unless you know what you're doing.
Do not obtain links from guest posts, article directories, or similar networks if you're not 100% sure about their quality.
7. The backlink page and website must be related to your niche.
A website about aquarium fish is not a good spot for the review of a pizza restaurant.
8. Check if the backlink page (or at least the domain) ranks in top 100.
If the page doesn't rank in top 100 for keywords listed in its title tag, chances are search engines do not think very highly of it.
9. Pay attention to the social media metrics.
If the domain has no likes or shares, it may indicate that it is not intended for real people, or has low traffic and little value.
10. Do multi-level link building.
Take the effort to promote the page that stores your content and backlinks. Syndicate it through social media or include links to it in other publications.
Before we go…
As you continue to gain more links (and hopefully higher rankings), it is important that you keep monitoring your backlinks. So before we call it a day, here are the major tips on monitoring your link-building campaign and its effect on your ranks.
Make sure your Google Webmaster Tools account is set up well. Check it from time to time for manual actions or abnormal growth of backlinks.
Monitor the organic traffic via Google Analytics. Watch out for any unusual growth or decrease.
Track keyword rankings regularly and watch how they respond to newly built links. A sharp drop may indicate a search engine penalty — in this case, you'll need to take a closer look at your links and eliminate the potentially dangerous ones.
And, perhaps most importantly, remember to consistently create valuable content, as links tend to (literally!) build themselves for content of quality and value. Research the questions and problems your potential customers have, and create posts that offer answers and solutions. Don't forget to syndicate through social media, making it easy for visitors to discuss and share your content in social networks. For starters, consider try using Facebook plugins and Click to Tweet – these services make promoting your content a ton easier!
Set your killer link-building campaign in motion with LinkAssistant:
LinkAssistant Free: Test the app's link-building mechanisms