Do I want to do link building?
As I wait for the collective sigh of everyone reading this to subside, I think that this is a question that everyone in search asks themselves on a regular basis.
While the answer being overwhelmingly no for the majority of the population, the main reason being the time that needs to be dedicated to the campaign, everyone knows that link equity is a necessary part of the equation for a successful run.
So that leads to the question, “Do I need to do link building?”
Do I Need to Do Link Building?
The answer to that question depends on your perspective of the industry and where your site falls from an equity standpoint.
To me, sites fall into three buckets which determine how much time and effort need to be dedicated to these types of campaigns:
- Big brand.
If your domain authority (yes, we all know this isn’t a real thing, but it’s widely accepted so let’s get over it) is low because you haven’t been paying attention to your search presence (for shame), then you are probably going to need to spend a sizable amount of time here just to get off the ground.
Being an established site means that while you don’t hold big brand equity, you have been building your authority up over time and can compete on terms that are important to your business and probably have some form of link building in the mix.
If you’re a big brand you have links coming to you like water through many channels naturally with little to no effort, so enjoy that little slice of sunshine while the rest of us try to solve this jigsaw puzzle in the dark.
The three buckets above are not just to characterize sites by equity, it also characterizes them by the challenges they face from a link building perspective:
- Unestablished: Have to launch a campaign from scratch, most likely has zero resources to dedicate to this effort and even less budget.
- Established: Have established search processes and budget but are most likely paying a third party so they don’t own the process or relationships.
- Big brand: While links are naturally coming in, most of them are pointing to the home page, which doesn’t help the site as a whole. On top of that, most big brand sites are glacial when it comes to changing processes and development.
So now that we understand how sites stack up against one another from a link perspective, or at least how you can easily place where your site stands, what do you do next?
Getting Started with Sustainable Link Building
These days you simply can’t just “start doing link building” as there are many questions that need answers:
- Who is dedicating the time to this?
- What’s the process of identifying links?
- How do we avoid appearing unnatural?
- Can I trust this won’t trigger some type of penalty against my site?
While all of these are important questions that need answers, they still don’t speak to the more important over-arching one, “How do we do link building in a sustainable way?”
Sadly, most folks are still doing link building like it’s 2004.
People are burning calories on these campaigns, but they aren’t burning them in a smart way.
Thinking a little bit differently about how you approach this effort will bring much more value in the long-term.
Below are practices and ideas that you can try to run a sustainable link building campaign that won’t burn out in six months or burn your website down.
1. Look Before You Reach…Out
Let’s use data people!
Link building campaigns are typically very myopic in scope as most people think this way:
- Look for a relevant site with high domain authority.
- Send out prospecting email asking for a link.
- Hopefully get a response and work out a deal, rinse, repeat.
2. Get More Specific
Are you focusing on the domain as a whole?
The problem with this approach is that you are only focusing on the overall domain authority, which, as I referenced before, is actually not a real thing even though it is a widely accepted metric.
So why are we basing our efforts on a made-up number?
Get more specific.
It makes more sense to dig down and look at the individual pages that make up a domain you would like to link to and what their backlink profiles look like.
If they have strong page authority and you have a piece of content (or can create one) you believe would make sense for them to link back to, that’s a smarter way to find linking opportunities.
If you are selling baseball tickets to a certain game, wouldn’t it make sense to get a link to that page from someone writing a specific piece of content about that game or the teams playing?
This analysis isn’t hard to do if you are looking at the right data. You can set up a simple table and match up URLs: