Episode 189: Link Building 101

Google gives you more credibility when they see more people back your website.

In this episode, we delve into the basics of link building: what it is, its different qualities, how to get good quality ones, and the different strategies SEO specialists use, such as guest posting and the skyscraper technique.

Roger: Welcome to Local SEO Today. I’m Roger Murphy.

John: And I’m John Vuong.

Roger: We want to welcome you to our podcast. We are here today to talk and we want to talk to business owners today with respect to their business and how they can make their site more appealing to google so at the end of the day we’re going to talk about that. We do want to say if you enjoy our content please subscribe to our podcast. We do this on a regular basis. John so today is all about links and links. What is it? Maybe you could well, give a bit of history John of what it used to be before google and before links evolved. What they mean today so take it away.

John: Yeah so today we’re going to really talk and delve deep into like link building, right? And it is a very very important aspect in the whole realm of what SEO can do for you, right? Because it is all about building authority and links is a very pivotal part of that so prior to google, prior to the internet, how did business owners really survive? How do they get their name out there so that people will you know, come to them, right? If you think about it, these bricks and mortar businesses, mom-and-pop shops. They really focus on taking care of their customers and before backlinks and the internet and websites they really took care of their base by offering really good services, really good pricing and then they relied on referrals. They relied on word of mouth, they relied on associations or trade shows to do the speaking so that they are experts but really it’s all about…they become that expert, where they people are letting other people in on what you do, right?

Roger: I can tell you John it…from my past history and of course I’ve been in this advertising space for quite some time but the day in the days before google I had clients and I helped them with their advertising it was more directory advertising but they would create a binder with letters of reference whether you were a roofer, a plumber, a painter, a banquet hall if you had letters of reference from a happy client they kept those letters in a booklet so a new customer, a new client coming in they’d want to know, “Well, are you any good?” Well, there were no google reviews there were you know, all that sort of thing so…and there weren’t links coming from other sites to your site to give you some verification so that’s what the old days that’s literally how it was done.

John: Yeah, exactly so word of mouth was the way it was, right? You did really good care of your customers. They pass your name around because you were trusted. You did a really good job that now people wanted to back you. They were a fan of yours, right? They’re out there selling for you, right? Big advocates of yours so fast forward to you know, what is going on today in this digital age, right? So what is a backlink so as you know, websites are based out of the url of the website so the name domain name www.widget.com so that is the name of your company’s website. What you’re trying to do is to get other people’s website to link back to your website and that’s what’s considered a backlink but that’s the biggest challenge out there, right? Because why would anyone in their right mind link outside of their own website to someone else’s website, right? Because you’re really diluting yourself when you do that, when you have external links, when you basically are moving people away from your website to another website it means you really love what they do or why would you do that, right? So getting websites is very very important and because google is all digital and that’s all they see, right? They see content, they see the url, they see links, they crawl and this is what the algorithm does, right? This…they’re indexing it every day, there’s billions of websites and they got to sort it out to come up with your results on the page, right? For the customer, for the users so what we’re gonna really delve into is you know, how do you…and what is a backlink. First off because there’s so many different ways to get a backlink but what does it really mean first off, right?

Roger: Exactly and this we’re gonna talk also what it is and that there’s different qualities because not all links are created equal and we’re you know, we’ll speak to that in a moment but a business owner thinking that they can buy a bunch of links online and instantly you know, answer that you know what google’s looking for in terms of credentials saying, “Hey, look at all the links I have coming in. Quality over quantity for sure.

John: Exactly, so first off we’re going to talk about do follow links and no followings and what does that really mean, right? So a do follow link is having a website that allows you to have a do follow attribute going back to your website and what that means is some of the juice that is derived from their website will be passed on to yours but there’s a lot of websites that are nofollow and what nofollow means is whenever you have a link from another website such as citations, usually citations are directly your listings where it’s free usually anything free is a no follow link. However, there’s a lot of earned links which you contribute to that are do following so there’s a difference, right? So for instance we used to work at yellow pages if you go into yellow pages and you look for your company profile. You have an opportunity to have a link there and that url link which is hyperlink going back to your website usually that attribute is a no follow link so all the juice coming from yellow pages doesn’t really get passed on to your website so it doesn’t really help in a sense but it’s still a signal, right? Because it is unique, it’s a unique url, unique referring domain, unique IP address and it has some relevance because someone who’s actually looking for your company either via keyword or brand name will come to your website.

Roger: And the other one that we should maybe mention is the Better Business Bureau again it’s a no follow but it is…google sees it as a reputable company so if someone’s searching for you there and you’ve got your link there in a way it’s better to have it than to not have it so it still is a no-follow as well.

John: Exactly, there’s a lot of sites out there that you can actually go in and claim yourself and own the asset, right? Like a yelp listing or facebook listing or your twitter account, right? All these are free and go out there claim it, get your link there. Going back to your website it’s a free citation but it doesn’t really help much with the backlink profile, right? So you know, what does that really mean for you, right? Like why should you get links in the first place? It’s because google gives you more credibility when they see that other people back your website by having it on their website linking and pointing to your website, right?

Roger: It sort of is like what I mentioned a few minutes ago that binder of reference letters from 25 years ago before google existed. How would a business owner build a profile of listen, “I do quality work. Here’s references of the work I do.” Links today John, as you say them coming in actually are a signal for google to say you are a quality company if you’ve got links coming in from these other quality sites.

John: Exactly and there’s so many different metrics behind trying to get good quality links because there’s you know, anyone could go out there and buy links right on fiverr or they can get a freelancer that only sells backlinks. My suggestion is stay away from them run away if you are trying to be sold links because usually there are sponsored links which are paid for and they’re not earned because the hardest thing is to earn the link from someone that actually loves what you’re doing. They are big advocates of yours so I’m going to give you a couple examples of like how you can actually get some links because if you think about how difficult it is to get someone else to be a big advocate to actually put a link to your site then it gives you a better perspective of what we as SEO’rs have to do to earn links for your campaign so for instance you are a local restaurant in Toronto, right? You work in a district that is called The Beach, right? It used to be called The Beaches and there is a community of all the shops there, right? And it could be a…is it a BNI or a community, right?

Roger: And your chambers of commerce or something.

John: Chamber of commerce and you’re a part of The Beaches neighborhood, right? And everyone wants to support each other and work together, right? So you subscribe and you’re now a part of that group and then within that group there’s a website where you can be a part of that group and when you are a part of something you are allowed to get a link, right? Usually you can put your description or a profile…business profile and you’re linking back to your website so that’s actually really good for your business because it’s relevant, it’s localized, right? And it actually makes a big difference in terms of what google is looking for because they want websites that actually will move the needle but also relevant but you know, location-based IP based, that is surrounding area that might have some niche associated to like topical relevance so it’s all about like making sure that it will move the needle for you, right? So that’s a good example of a good community backlink, right? Again there’s ways that you can earn these as well so if you’re a sponsor for your school like your child’s hockey team or soccer team, right? Having a school backlink to your website actually helps you as well because not only are you supporting your local school but it also gives google an idea that it’s a local school that you’re supporting. That is relevant, that has a lot of like you know, metrics behind it and these signals actually help you move up the ranking on google.

Roger: That’s interesting and we didn’t mention it but google links are so very important in terms of their algorithms. There’s 200 over 200 criteria that they’re watching for websites but links are very important and it’s all because they are showing it’s almost like a shot in the arm to you or you know, a letter of reference from other businesses or other organizations to you to say you’re a good person, you’re a good website, good operator and we’ll let you have that link so…

John: So I’m gonna go back to that example of the community of The Beaches, right? If you know all those business owners that are maybe there’s a hundred of them in there. I would say don’t go and talk to each of them to have like a reference page of all links that are sharing, it’s called link exchange. I would stay away from that because it’s not really earned. It has no relevance to your website or your business, right? So you want to really provide something of value where they are supporting your business or there’s an article piece or there’s a blog or something newsworthy that they back, right? And therefore within that piece of service or product that you’re offering or blog. It goes to your website because that makes more of a natural earning backlink versus you’re doing link exchange or you’re paying for something, right? Because again it’s the relationship piece that you’re trying to earn throughout the whole process of building a backlink so I’m going to give you some other examples like everyone here probably heard of like Quora and Reddit as forums and there’s a lot of industry type of kind of forums as well, right? There’s a comment area where you can go in and you can pitch your product, you can pitch your service, right? And it’s actually frowned upon google actually knows what’s going on they know the pros and cons to it all and you’re not actually creating value by putting a backlink there like you can offer up your product and service but ultimately what you want to do is help the readers answer the question that they have, right? Once you do that then they may want to reach out to you on a personal level but don’t do it just for a backlink, right? Because that’s not really adding value and google sees this as a spammy tactic and they’ve actually tried to cut that away from a lot of business owners so stay away from that kind of spammy activity in terms of backlink. It’s not earned you know, I mean. Then there’s the PR piece of things, right? This is more earned media because you have something newsworthy you go out there. You spend a lot of time on a campaign and you push it out to maybe a PR agency or you put it on decision or you reach out to all the media outlets and maybe one of them gets picked up and they put it on their digital property in the Toronto Star or the Global Mail, right? And it links back to your article within your website that’s worth it, that’s really what you’re after earned media. The only thing about earned media is a lot of time, a lot of expense hit and miss because it’s very time sensitive and there’s a lot of unknowns and you don’t know how long that link will actually last, right? So there’s yes, it’s a play definitely but what’s the longevity of it, right? So that’s something you really have to consider in terms of the arsenal of a backlink what we focus on heavily in our company and agency is guest posting and also you know, when there’s broken links you can go in and kind of uncover it and try to get them to replace it with a piece of content or link within your own website so there’s I’m gonna talk about like guest posting a little bit so guest posting is probably the most ethical and the one that is hardest to achieve at scale so we do this for a lot of small business owners what guest post is say you’re a restaurant and you’re trying to be in a blog site, right? That only focuses on restaurants like BlogTO for instance they have a huge section on restaurants and what you’re doing is you have something special coming up, right? Like you have an event or you have a new product or service.

Roger: New chef something.

John: New chef something that is you know? And he’s a really renowned chef. He’s joining your team or whatever it is you want to make a splash so you reach out to BlogTO. You want to contribute a piece of content, right? You want to contribute something so that they can use it as a unique article on their site BlogTO and in there is you push out piece of content you write it up for them, you go out there you pitch it and hopefully they launch it and they put it on their website and within that blog or within that piece there’s a link going back to your website so think about that. The relationship piece but also it has to be newsworthy and you have to write the content yourself so there’s a lot of dynamics that go behind getting a backlink but it’s worth it. If it moves the needle because that website of block to is relevant within your niche has a lot of traffic and it’s a unique referring domain with authority, right? There’s a lot of people that actually actively look on their site on a daily basis that are looking for restaurants, right? So it makes a difference to you for you as a business owner to go after more of these links so we do that for all of our clients. We have a team of in-house link builders and that’s our main way to get links, right? It’s very manual, it’s very time consuming and there’s strategies within guest posting that we’ve learned and you know, we use a lot of software as well to kind of uncover opportunities, right? So that’s a good strategy and then we’re gonna talk about like broken link or that kind of link placement, right? Because broken links, there’s software that actually detects broken links, right? Which are opportunities that you can actually reach out to the business owner to say let them know that there’s a broken link on an article piece within that website and you have so you inform them you build a relationship to hopefully help them fix that link. Then there you will you know, propose or you know, let them know that you have something of value that you want to contribute for that link because you have a great article piece within your website that you want to replace that link with your link, right?

So that’s the purpose you help them all solving the problem but you also have something of value that you want to pitch to them that will solve and be of better benefit, right? So that’s what we also do to some extent in terms of link building. The last thing I’m going to talk about is skyscraper technique which is a little bit more complex and it takes a lot more time but it’s you know for in the link building world it’s very very popular, right? What it is you’re looking for old blogs or dated content pieces that have hundreds of referring domains which is a lot of links point…going to that site, right? Or that piece of content because it was very valuable, it was a great piece of content so what you’re trying to do is become more of that article but add more substance, add more value because you know, there’s way more things that have changed during the last year or last couple months since that article was put out a couple years ago, right? So you’re…

Roger: It’s like updating it.

John: It’s like updating content, right? But you’re adding your own dimensions with a lot more substance, right? Well, a lot more research, a lot more trending information that they can use the customer so then what you have to do is create this huge article and these could be five thousand, ten thousand blog… word blogs articles, right? You put it on your website and then the tactic is you get people to reach out to all those other partners or websites that link to that old site. That site that you’re trying to get earned links to and that’s the time consuming part, right? It’s the relationship building you’re going to get a lot of no’s. You might reach out and drip them for you know, weeks on end without an answer, right? Because what’s in it for the business owner? What’s in it for them? Maybe it is valuable information but it’s work, right? People want to do as little work as possible but make an impact, right? So you have to provide value, you have to give them something, right? So that’s where relationships are so important and maybe you…before you even write that great piece of content you can reach out to them and find out is there anything missing because I’m working on a piece of content be proactive find out what are the gaps and then put this out so that you hit them with this piece of content that they want and expect, right? And then it’s more likely for them to link to you than the old piece of content so that’s the skyscraper tactic and a lot of SEO agencies do that. It’s a lot of time a lot of money a lot of effort but it also is very rewarding, right? At the end of the day so think about all these different tactics. I know, I’ve been talking a lot about backlinks and it’s so important for every SEO’r out there and if you are running a business it gets pretty difficult, right? Because you’re so busy running a business, you’re to be like I just spent hours on end building a piece of content. Now I have to amplify and get other people to link to you. That’s a whole process and system and job industry as a whole, right?

Roger: So and to tie it up in a nice bow John, what you’re really saying is that if you do it well and it sounds like a lot of work and some people might be put off to say, “Oh, it seems like so much work.” But the reality is you are rewarded because when Google sees these quality links coming in. It is a absolute need, it moves the needle on your ability to rank higher and higher in those search results. Quality links from high page authority sites that are permanent links that we talk about all the time. It is work but it’s…and it was easy everyone would do it but it is hard and it is valuable if you do it so…

John: Yeah and it positions you as an expert, right? Because it’s earned links it’s all about that hard work, the relationship, the personalization, the providing value, right? All that of building a good business. It’s the same thing in terms of foundation of building a good link, right? There’s a lot of software a lot of metrics behind it but if done right it’s gonna help you move the needle in terms of rankings in terms of your money pages, in terms of your target keyword. We didn’t really go into like anchor tax and going into like the authority metrics because that’s more in-depth but it gives you a good overview of what link building can actually do for your business.

Roger: You can learn about yourself and it should be mentioned John, you can hire a good company to do this for you too.

John: Exactly…and you have to understand how difficult it is to really appreciate the value of what people are doing for you behind the scenes.

Roger: Exactly. Well, John this little topic today on link building was very informative. It was heavy but it was…it’s important to let people know and business owners know that this is something that they cannot overlook if they want to do…and in this world of Covid. Move the needle to get their website showing up better, more often in front of the people that are ready to buy. This is something that will help them achieve where they want to, where they want to show up.

John: Exactly, Well, thanks a lot Roger that was a good job.

Roger: Thank you for your time today and everyone please subscribe to Local SEO Today if you enjoy this content. We do this regularly and we try and bring topics that…it that will help your business thrive and grow so thank you and we’ll see you again.

John: Perfect, thank you.