At first it seems pretty obvious what “link building” is… it is the practice of building back links to your site. But in the SEO marketplace, it is NOT clear today what “link building” is. What, exactly are you getting when you hire and pay a link builder? What are reasonable expectations for paid link building?
Today more than any time in the past I can remember, the service of link building lacks clarity in the marketplace. I’ve been doing SEO professionally for 7 years, and SEO was part of my job for almost 6 years before that. I’ve always done link building, but not the way I do it today. So what do professional link builders do for you today?
Aspects of Modern Day SEO Link Building
There are 6 obvious aspects to modern SEO link building. Some are integral to SEO, as you will see below, so in effect there are more than 6 aspects but these 6 get us started:
Link Building Foundations
Your content must be “linkable”, which means it has to present itself as something unique on the web. It doesn’t need to be truly unique as in one-of-a-kind, but within its target audience, it must appear unique and thus link worthy. This also means your content must be identified with unique URLs, so linking is possible. The foundations of link building require that your site work properly, be reasonably navigable and recognizable, and be “able to be linked to”.
Link to It, and Build Sites/Pages for Linking
Once your content is “linkable”, link builders link to it. They may adjust your within-site linking, or make use of your existing sub domain published content, your other owned sites, or sites where you have influence, to get links in to your site. A link builder will identify which pages of your site should be supported with links, and what sort of links will bring the most benefit. Link builders may have existing sites that can link to your site, or they may build new sites (or publish content on other sites) to carry more links to your site. Article writers do this, as do social media managers who create profiles on other sites linking to your site.
Link builders may create new sites in order to use them for link building, or may build new sites as extensions of your site, to benefit link building. These methods can be valuable, but care must be taken to align the activities with SEO activities (to protect your brand and your site SEO status).
This is link building at its fundamental core, and surprisingly many site owners have not engaged in this most basic form of link building.
Extending the Foundation with Directories
Professional directories and “listing” sites present opportunities for additional link building. Anywhere your competitors appear, you should consider. Your link builder explores such opportunities, and recognizes the ones that might have the biggest impact. Your link builder should also create links to you, and will want to expense any editorial fees or perhaps management fees associated with such links.
Good link builders know the difference between meaningful, powerful directory links and low-quality, questionable directory links. Oh, and not every “directory” is called a “directory” and this is another area where professional link builders bring value for those who hire them.
Link Building Innovation
Good link builders innovate to cause the marketplace to link to your content. Innovation might be content-based (infographics, interesting and remarkable content) or technology-based (such as new systems that make it easy to “recommend” your content via links), or activity-based (activity on exiting sites such as forums prompts linking to your site from third party locations). There is no limit to innovation, but of course innovation requires creativity, skill, and perseverance.
The best link builders rely on innovation first, and build their strategies out from there to suit your particular site’s needs. The innovative SEO link builder is sort of the opposite of the link builder who has a secret network of sites on Topic X which he will link to your site for a monthly fee. Link building must match your site’s unique positioning and needs, and your link builder should consider everything in the toolbox when forming a link building strategy.