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Jayson DeMers on July 23, 2018 • 6 minute read
Beyond the ranking benefits, it’s a valuable strategy for earning referral traffic and building your brand’s reputation.
Inbound links help to increase your domain authority, which in turn, helps to get your content more visibility in SERPs.
Some SEO ‘experts’ insist that the best way to get links in the modern era is to attract them naturally with high-quality content. This is a great start. “Table stakes” if you will.
You can guarantee all your links are natural (thus avoiding Penguin or other manual or algorithmic Google penalties), and build your reputation purely organically.
However, this approach has many downsides.
Instead, I recommend building links manually—the right way—so you can have a measurable, consistent way to scale your strategy for the future.
First, you should understand that you can’t just build links anywhere. Google is constantly scouting for “bad” links, and if it finds one, it could damage your domain authority rather than improve it.
“Good” links are links that are:
In other words, the best way to build a link manually is to include it naturally in an off-site article and get that article published on a high-quality publisher.
So what does it take to get that done?
It’s possible to write off-site content and build links with a corporate brand. But, it’s much easier with a personal brand (or two) at your disposal. Personal brands allow you to build a reputation and an audience faster, and are more readily accepted by off-site publishers.
You can start by defining a niche for yourself and attracting an initial audience on social media, then creating and syndicating content through those channels.
Make sure you stay connected with your audience throughout this process so you encourage them to keep reading your work and introduce you to new followers.
Whether you’re using your personal brand to write on your company’s domain, or under your own blog, start creating an archive of on-site content within your niche. You’ll need these examples of your work to provide material to your followers, a destination you can link to in the future, and evidence that you’re a worthy writer to include on your intended publications.
Make sure you have work dating back at least a few months and try to write something new at least once a week.
Your next step will be reaching out to the editors of publications you want to be featured in. You’ll have to start at the bottom if you don’t have existing relationships with editors, so reach out to local publications and niche websites before aiming for a high-authority publisher.
Look for the editor’s information on the publisher’s website and write to them specifically.
You’ll form and maintain most of your publisher relationships over email. If you want to maintain good relationships with your publishers and keep track of your upcoming content requirements, you’ll want to take active steps to improve your email productivity, so you don’t miss an important approval or lose touch with an important editor.
Once you’ve made a successful introduction with an editor, you’ll want to pitch a handful of initial topics for publication. Pitch titles you know their audience will appreciate—even if that means stepping outside of your comfort zone.
Your goal is to get published and prove your worth to the editor, not to promote yourself specifically, so you may not be able to include a backlink with every article.
Adhere to any edit requests you get, polish your work, and get it published; once live, you’ll start reaping the benefits of the backlinks you’ve placed. You’ll want to consistently reach out to new publishers but also maintain relationships with older publishers so you can return to them in the future.
Even though subsequent links on the same domain have declining returns, you can always benefit from the exposure and referral traffic.
Next, you’ll need to monitor, tweak, and eventually scale your efforts. Take a look at your backlink profile using a tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer, and get a feel for what types of links return you the most value.
As you gain more of a reputation, you can start reaching out to publishers with more and more authority, eventually building links far more powerful than your initial sets. Strive to scale upward in terms of value, authority, and frequency of posts, and make sure to keep an eye on your stats to maintain a positive ROI.
If you want to track your improvement in organic traffic as you build more links, use this free Google Search Console dashboard to monitor the impact of backlinks.
Of course, these steps are a long and intensive process; it takes months, or even years to build a baseline reputation. Also, maintaining your publisher relationships can be a full-time job in and of itself.
The alternative is to hire a link building agency, but be careful here. Agencies that build links anywhere, without regard for context or quality, could end up doing more harm than good. Instead, work with a link building agency that focuses on content quality, and has existing relationships with a diversity of offsite publications.
It might cost you a bit more, but the time savings and increased quality are worth it.
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