There are many ways to improve the findability of your business’ website or content, but link building campaigns may be the simplest. Link building is a fairly self-explanatory way to increase the amount of external links to your site or blog. Whether these links are from media outlets, similar businesses, or even from a friend’s blog, they matter and will boost your Google search ranking. Link building is the place to exercise some traditional public relations skills for the good of your SEO strategy.
For the sake of consistency, let us say that you are the owner of a small, neighborhood fitness center. Your website is mostly informational, but visitors can convert by signing up for your healthy living newsletter and buying memberships online, so it is important that people can find you online. Your referral traffic (traffic to your website coming from external links) is low, and you want to give it a boost. Here is a go-to guide for your fitness center (or any small business) that needs to build some link:
Step 1: Evaluate your external linkers
Who are the people who could possibly link to your gym’s website? They are stakeholders, customers, partners, fans, neighbors, etc. Linkers are people who truly enjoy your business and want to tell the world about it. They are also people who will benefit from a friendly relationship with your business. Below is a list of outside sources (people) that could link to your fitness center website:
- Community leadership—Your gym is important to your neighborhood, so why not let people know about it? If your village/city/town website has a travel guide page or “things to do” section, your gym should be on it.
- Customers—Joe comes into the gym every morning at 5 a.m. and then writes about his workout, and his protein shake, afterward on his blog, which is all about lifting. Joe is a fitness freak and it couldn’t hurt for him to mention where he is doing all of the heavy-lifting.
- Neighbors—When someone asks you where to get a post-workout smoothie, you always point them toward the small grocery store down the street. Make that mutually beneficial relationship permanent with a link.
- Past acquaintances— Do you remember last year when you were mentioned in your city’s newspaper for that article on New Year’s resolutions? Do you remember how the journalist didn’t link to your site, but just mentioned the gym’s name? If that story is still live somewhere, there is time to change that.
Step 2: Reach out
It’s not enough to just keep pointing those yoga instructors toward the smoothies down the street. It’s time to initiate a working relationship. Make a visit to the shop down the street and ask them if mutual linking would be okay. Email the writer of that story from a few years back and ask them to make the simple edit of adding a hyperlink, especially if that story did or still does receive a lot of views. The next time you read one of Joe’s blog posts, tell him you think he should link to your site, so more people can be aware of the space in which he works out. Ask him more than once. There is no harm in following up. As you can see in Moz’s figure below, following up is an essential step in link-building and can lead to real results (i.e. more links!).
In short, make friends. Your neighborhood could consist of the residents and businesses around you or your “neighbors” may be completely virtual. Either way, they are your community and it doesn’t hurt to help each other out by linking. Linking is like caring, except caring does not have a high probability of boosting your referral traffic.
Step 3: Keep track of your links
Once more external sites begin to link to your own, make sure that you are tracking those links. Use your analytics platform (most likely, Google) to see where your referral traffic is coming from and to what pages it is linking. Referral traffic, according to Avinash Kaushik, should account for about 20-30 percent of your total website traffic.
Make sure you note which pages receive the most links and which pages are more bare. It will help you better understand your own content based on what others find most useful. You’ll want to try to imitate and improve upon your content that is popular among referrals.
Step 4: Spread the love
Not only does having external links to your own content help your search engine ranking, but linking to those external sources also help you. The more you link to reputable websites, the more reputable your website will appear.
When linking out, don’t just copy and paste a URL. Use descriptive anchor text for linking to other websites. See what I did there? This will offer Google more keywords to be associated with a link and will help boost your ranking.
Overall, the opportunity to build links is easy and requires little technical knowledge compared to some other major facets of SEO (see above figure). So, put your PR pro hat on and start fishing for those links!