In a recent post we looked in depth at the “onsite” component of SEO. Onsite SEO deals with relevancy — it means creating website content that will be recognized by search engines as relevant to specific search phrases.
In this post we’ll explore SEO’s other component, offsite SEO, which involves authority. Your search rankings are heavily affected by how authoritative your website appears to search engines. In other words, Google evaluates the credibility of your website by comparing it to other sites with similar content.
To improve your website’s authority — and its rankings — you must increase the number of high-quality websites that link to your web pages. As more sites link to you, search engines begin to see your site as a useful and trustworthy place to send searchers. So how do you go about getting more links and increasing authority?
1. Develop a Strategy
There are many ways to increase the number of links leading to your website. But don’t just jump in and hope for the best. First develop a plan of attack, thinking through your options.
Depending on your industry, getting another website to link to yours may be quite a challenge. To understand what will work in your niche, look to your competitors who already rank in Google; try to get a sense of what types of websites link to them. Tools such as Open Site Explorer are built for this very purpose. In most cases, the types of sites that link to your competitors will also be willing and able to link to you.
Compile a list of link-building tactics. You'll find some great ideas to get you started in this article, and you can find others in books and online — try Googling “link building strategies.” Just make sure you have the resources in place to implement them, as link building can be time intensive. Be sure to include multiple tactics in your plan, as Google favors a varied, natural-looking mixture of link types.
2. Grab Low-hanging Fruit
Most link-building campaigns spend several months focused on “easy-to-obtain” links:
- Quality industry web directories
- Social bookmarking sites
- Blog comments
- Reaching out to partner and friend sites
These types of links are often free or low cost. Take some time to find relevant niche sites to which you can submit your URL, and get these out of the way up front. You’ll find it’s easy to obtain links like these because most of the time there is no barrier; there is no person whom you need to convince. Laying a foundation of “low-hanging fruit” links is the first step to improved authority.
3. Write and Promote Quality Content
Although directories and other easy links provide a good start, they will not necessarily get you to where you need to be. Search engines have evolved to favor websites with robust libraries of educational content, so for link-building purposes, having and maintaining this type of content is very important.
Think about it — if someone asked you to link to their website, would you be more likely to link to a business home page or to an educational article that is useful to your web visitors? The more blog posts, ebooks, webinars and other pieces of valuable content you have on your website, the more links you will attract.
As you publish content, don’t forget to promote it. Share it through social media, email it to your list and feature it on your home page. The more people see your content, the more likely they will link to it.
4. Think Outside the Box
Most link-building campaigns eventually hit a wall as the strategies you've been using begin to dry up. This could happen to you after 6 months or 2 years. But when it happens, you need to have a plan for moving forward. At this point you need to generate new ideas for attracting links.
One company with a creative approach is Hubspot, a software provider. They built a free tool called Website Grader. This tool automatically evaluates your website, scores it and recommends ways to improve its performance. This tool is so helpful and appealing to people around the world that it has generated over 23,000 inbound links for Hubspot. Talk about a unique link-building strategy!
5. Report and Evaluate
SEO is a long-term initiative, so it is vital to track your progress over time. Keep track of which links you’ve secured and how you obtained them. Also track your search engine rankings for important targeted keywords. Finally, use your web analytics program to measure traffic and leads over time. Expect to see increases in these metrics after 2–3 months (it takes some time for Google to crawl through websites and process new links). Then you can expect to see a steady, organic increase of rankings and traffic throughout the time you are link building.
For more information on the importance of SEO, download our free online marketing book.