What is Link Building? A Beginner’s Guide
The terms “tactic” and “strategy” are often used interchangeably in the SEO community, despite having different meanings.
In link building, tactics are the method used to secure links. Strategy is the plan designed to accomplish your goal.
Before you determine tactics, you need a strategy.
There are hundreds of various link building tactics including broken link building, link reclamation, content promotion, resource link building, influencer outreach, guest blogging, to name just a few.
A creative SEO or marketer can always secure links.
It’s not enough to secure links for the sake of links. You need to know why you’re securing links.
What pages are you going to build links to? What keywords do the pages target? How competitive is the niche? What opportunities exist?
Answer these questions, and you’ll have a link building campaign strategy. You’ll know not only how you’ll build links (the tactics), you’ll know why (the strategy).
Here is the research and analysis you should do to form your link building strategy:
- Backlink Analysis
- Linkable Asset Analysis
- Keyword Research
- Niche Analysis
Strategy is rarely discussed in SEO because each strategy varies client-to-client, website-to-website. Each campaign plan (strategy) must be customized to your goals, assets, resources, and opportunities.
There are no cookie-cutter solutions. There are no one-size-fits-all scalable solutions.
Instead, you have to analyze the unique situation of the website and make an informed decision to accomplish your goals.
Let’s cover the basic research and analysis you should perform in order to create a strategic plan to guide your link acquisition.
The first step to create an intelligent strategy is to understand your situation. In link building, that means your backlink profile.
Your backlink profile is the composition of all links to your website and pages.
A backlink analysis is fundamental in creating a link building strategy: you need to understand the quality and quantity of links to your site.
There are numerous tools that will help you discover what sites and pages link to your own website. These are typically referred to as “backlink explorers”.
Popular backlink explorers:
These tools specialize in helping you discover links to your website and pages.
The process of backlink profile analysis is to review:
- How many other websites link to yours (commonly described as “referring domains”).
- The quality of the referring domains.
- Which pages on your site have received the most links.
- The quality of those links.
- Your website’s total number of backlinks compared to the number of referring domains.
- The anchor text profile of your backlinks.
Depending on the age and popularity of your website, as well as the link economy in your niche, your backlink profile can vary greatly.
For beginners, I recommend these guides to help you through a backlink audit the first time:
I strongly recommend performing this same analysis on your competitors, as well. We’ll cover more of this in the niche analysis stage.
Once you have a strong understanding of your own website’s backlink profile, you’re ready to perform a linkable asset analysis.
LINKABLE ASSET ANALYSIS
Which pages you build links to is one of the most critical elements in link building.
You need to be strategic about which pages you secure links to. These pages need to align with your goals.
Unfortunately, it’s very rare that you can build links directly to your converting or money pages, for two reasons.
- Other websites rarely want to link to product and service pages.
- Product and service pages only capture one type of search traffic: purchase intent.
If you only target people actively searching to buy a product or service in that moment, you miss a large part of your marketing audience.
This is typically known as the marketing funnel.
This is typically known as the marketing funnel.
In order to successfully build links across your industry, you’ll need pages SEOs refer to as “linkable assets”.
Linkable assets are pages on your website that serve value to your audience, niche, and community.
These pages can offer value in a variety of manners. They can be guides, lists, videos, tools, resources, events, sponsorships, testimonials, etc.
You want to find pages that other websites would want to link to if they were aware they existed.
Your linkable assets should:
- Offer compelling value and create link opportunity.
- Provide an opportunity to build customers and clients.
It won’t always be a direct opportunity to create customers or clients, either. Remember our marketing funnel above; often, linkable assets target the awareness and interest part of the funnel, helping create brand awareness and affinity.
Finding linkable assets often boils down to locating pages that are popular with your audience, and offer good answers for commonly searched phrases in your industry.
Often, you can locate these pages by reviewing:
For beginners analyzing linkable assets for the first time, I recommend:
Your goal in this stage of your research and analysis is to find pages you can successfully build links to, and serve your business’s goals.
Keyword research is a vital piece of any SEO strategy.
You need to identify keywords important to your industry and website. How are people using search to find information about your industry?
Keyword research identifies the important words your audience uses to search online.
Keyword research is directly related to the search results for which your website ranks. Optimization is core to SEO, but you can’t optimize unless you understand the terms you should be optimizing across your site and pages.
There are numerous tools to help you perform keyword research:
For link building, your goal in keyword research is to identify:
- Keyword themes important to your industry.
- The pages on your site tailored to these keywords.
- Other sites with overlapping relevance in your keyword themes.
- Content opportunities within identified keyword themes.
Resources to help beginners learn keyword research:
This is a deep topic you can spend a considerable amount of time on in SEO. For link building, I recommend focusing on the pages you plan to build links to (your linkable assets).
Analyzing your industry, niche, and competition is vital to every link building strategy.
It’s not enough to understand the performance and goals of your own website. You need to understand how your competitors are achieving their goals, as well as the communities and opportunities across your niche.
It’s time to see how you stack up to the competition.
A niche analysis is a review of your niche, industry, and competition.
You’ve learned how to perform keyword research, backlink analysis, and linkable asset analysis. Now do the same on your competition.
Your goal is to learn:
- Which keywords are driving traffic to your competitors.
- Competitors’ pages with the most links.
- The types of sites that link to your competitors.
- How your competitors are securing links.
- Active communities within your industry.
You need to understand what’s led to success for the competition, relationship opportunities across your niche, important link tactics, and the general linking environment.
REVIEW AND CREATE STRATEGY
There is no formula to create a winning link building strategy.
It takes dedicated research and analysis to determine opportunity, resources, and challenges to achieving set goals.
If you’ve invested the time and energy into analyzing linkable assets, backlink profiles, keywords, and the competition you should have a clear understanding of the project.
Now it’s time to create your link building strategy.
Link building strategy is the plan you create to achieve your goals and meet project expectations, with stated resources.
There’s nothing left to do but pull the pieces together to see the big picture.
Here’s what you should review before launching a campaign:
- Backlink Profile.
- Linkable Assets.
- Industry Keywords.
- Competitive Landscape:
- Important Keywords.
- Search Competitors.
- Competitors’ successes.
- Niche linking environment.
- Relationship opportunities.
- Link Opportunities:
- Unique Business Value.
- Existing Relationships.
- Ongoing Initiatives.