The world of search is constantly evolving, with industry titans like Google and Bing always updating their algorithms to provide smarter, more accurate results for their users; however, having worked in the search space for a number of years now, there’s one thing I can say still remains truer than ever: the strength of your backlink profile is one of the top three factors affecting your website’s rankings.
Why is Link Building so Important?
So, why is your backlink profile so important? Search engines want to bring the most relevant and useful results to their users but, you might ask, how can they do this without manually vetting every site ever made? Well, one way is to have their algorithms look at who is linking to your site – your external backlink profile – and look at what terms – the anchor text – they are using when linking to you. The more sites that link to you using the keywords – the search terms – you wish to rank for, the more likely you are to be considered relevant and useful by search engines for those terms and, in turn, appear higher in the rankings.
Is Link Building Just About Quantity?
Link building used to be a numbers game, meaning you just had to build as many links with your keywords included in as many places as possible. However, as search algorithms became smarter, those working in SEO had to evolve their strategies. The biggest turning point was the release of Google’s Penguin update in 2012 which targeted links regarded as spam, penalizing sites with low-quality backlink profiles.
There are several important metrics used within the industry that not only act as KPIs but allow us to make sure we can keep evolving and improving our backlink strategies. When building out your profile, the key areas to look at are relevancy, search visibility, keyword rankings and site authority; the higher a site’s domain authority, measured by Moz between 1 and 100, linking to your site, the greater the boost to your own site’s authority and ranking position for targeted keywords. Using these KPIs allows you to benchmark the strength of your backlink profile and make changes to your backlink strategy where necessary.
Long gone are the days of building out spammy links. Today search algorithms, continually getting smarter, can identify if external linking content is useful to readers, relevant to the site being linked to – such as a financial blog linking to a bank’s advice pages, and of quality – with long-form content being valued more than shorter, less informative placements. Today’s strategy is much more about quality over quantity.
A Smarter Strategy
Today search is an incredibly competitive, ever-changing space, meaning we have to be much more reactive and proactive when it comes to backlink strategies. Your strategy will need to begin with building up and curating a list of bloggers and publishers who you know want to work with you and whose content is relevant to your target site. Once you have a list of people who are happy for you to write for them, you will want to begin writing relevant and engaging content that links to your site naturally; these links should include your core target keywords in and around the linking anchor text. To make these backlinks even more effective, you can tailor your onsite and off-site content – along with the keywords you are targeting – to seasonal search trends; this way you can drive authority and value to ranking keywords when they are being searched for most by your target audience.
The Future of Outreach
Outreach strategies will need to continue to evolve as the search space and search algorithms evolve. Trends over the last year show that consumers are actively searching on their phones and tablets much more, meaning our content and how it’s laid out needs to be mobile friendly; along with this, KPIs and reports should also monitor mobile/tablet rankings and search trends. Furthermore, the move towards voice search means the terms/ keywords consumers are using to search are changing; this is certainly something that will need to be considered and tracked when targeting core terms in your backlink profile. Another change we are seeing in the industry is the ability for search algorithms to be able to identify paid-for/sponsored content much more easily, putting an even greater onus on having quality user-generated links making up the majority of your backlink profile.
Although the world of search is only becoming more and more competitive, by employing effective Outreach strategies, remaining reactive to changes in the industry and regularly auditing your existing backlink profile, you will see your site rankings and search visibility boost over time.
Gordon Young is Outreach Executive at Scotland’s largest marketing agency, Equator. He has worked in marketing for the past 4 years, having worked for a variety of clients, including world-famous banks and hotels.