If you’re looking for a shortcut, hack, or magic elixir to elevate your digital marketing and accelerate your SEO performance, you’re in the wrong place. But if you’re searching for a proven, sustainable method of building an online presence and reaching the right customers at the right time with the right message, then feel free to stick around.
The Power of Link Building
Search as hard as you want, but you’ll fail to come across any modern business strategy that offers as high of an ROI as SEO link building. While it may seem like just another SEO ploy or marketing tactic, the implications cut much deeper.
Link building – or the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites that point back to your own – impacts your search engine rankings, brand visibility, customer engagement, website traffic, sales funnel, and networking. It’s not an isolated endeavor. Link building has far-reaching benefits for small businesses and Fortune 500 companies alike, including:
- Relationships. Ultimately, link building is about building relationships with customers, business partners, and influencers. Over time, a strategic link building plan will lead to strategic relationships that amplify your brand many times over.
- Referral traffic. Each new backlink is like building another exit ramp into a city. Every time you earn a link, you’re creating a new entry point for people to find your website and engage with your brand.
- Rankings. Google loves links almost more than anything else. It’s one of the single most important ranking factors in the algorithm and there’s no better way to climb the search rankings than to pick up hundreds and thousands of links.
- Brand building. At the end of the day, more links equal more visibility for your brand. Even if someone never clicks on one of your backlinks, there’s still a point of exposure. In the long run, this can be even more beneficial than a click.
The best news is that you don’t need deep pockets or an extra 50 hours per week to get the ball rolling. With a steady commitment to link building, you can go from zero backlinks to dozens within a matter of weeks. Don’t see how that’s possible? Continue reading and we’ll lay it out for you in a step-by-step fashion.
The 5-Month Plan
Link building isn’t something you set in place and forget about. It requires an ongoing commitment and a willingness to make long-term investments. Having said that, any business can develop a link building strategy and begin seeing results in as little as 150 days. Here’s the five-month plan to get you there:
Month 1: Clarify Your Brand Voice and Set Goals
The first order of duty is to make sure you have the right foundation in place for developing a link building strategy that’s specific to your brand. This starts with clarifying your brand voice and developing rules and principles to keep your content marketing on track. Most brands develop a tangible style guide to keep all of these details in a central place.
Your style guide will most likely be a four- or five-page document that describes your brand (mission statement, boilerplate, etc.), explains who the target readers are, and breaks down specific writing guidelines so that any writer – whether an employee of the company or an outsourced freelancer – can develop on-brand content.
“Roughly 45% of a brand’s image can be attributed to what a brand says and how it says it,” content marketer Sasha Laferte mentions. “Details like whether to use ‘&’ or ‘and,’ or if you should use the numerical or written-out versions of numbers may seem trivial. But the sum total of these details adds up. If they are consistent throughout your published work, they convey a coherent voice, coherent thinking, and credibility impossible to attain without this consistency.”
Once you have your brand voice clarified, you can set some goals. For best results, make them specific and measurable. For example, you might set a goal of having 36 new backlinks from websites with a domain authority of at least 50 within the next 12 months. With a goal like this in place, you can then work backward and establish specific objectives and checkpoints to reach this outcome.
Month 2: Develop Rich Onsite Content
The second month is all about building up a warehouse of quality content that bolsters your website and gives you the chance to organically attract backlinks.
During this month, your sole focus is on writing content. Depending on the size of your team and the resources you have, you can really pump out some content. For example, let’s say you have a team of 10 people in your business. Five of them are really good writers and possess a great deal of creativity. The other five are decent writers, but it’s not their strong point. If you assign the five talented writers with creating two 1,000-word blog posts each week and the decent writers with creating one 1,000-word blog post each week, you’ll amass 60 blog posts – or 60,000-plus words of copy – in a single month!
Depending on the size of your team, you may produce more or less in this one-month content blitz. However, regardless of size, keep the focus on quality. You don’t want people writing for eight hours a day. Just a few minutes here and there over a period of days and weeks will allow you to build a library of content that’s rich in value for your audience.
Month 3: Reach Out and Build Connections
During month three, your focus shifts to reaching out and building connections. In other words, this phase is all about networking. (Though it should be mentioned that you continue to develop original content throughout the entire process. But instead of pumping out 60 blog posts, like you did in month two, you’ll pare down to just a couple each week.)
There are a few different groups of people you should be reaching out to, including:
- Bloggers with audiences that overlap your own. Ultimately, your aim is to earn the right to become a guest blogger on their platform in the hopes of sending a few links back to your site.
- Journalists who are looking for stories and feature pieces. The HARO network is a great place to discover these connections. Use your knowledge, resources, and expertise to offer journalists something of value.
- Podcasters are always looking for people to interview and you can benefit tremendously by being a featured guest on a show whose audience overlaps with your own. Not only will you get the exposure, but they’ll typically promote you with links on their social profiles.
When reaching out, don’t be intrusive, rude, or selfish. Introduce yourself, offer to do a favor, and slowly build up your reputation. This is a long-term play – not something that you accomplish in a single email or direct message.
Month 4: Begin Guest Blogging
Month four is where everything comes together. Using the connections you built in month three, you start writing guest blog posts that point back to the rich content you wrote and published in month two (making sure everything aligns with the goals you put in place in month one).
Gather your three or four best writers and task them with writing two quality blog posts each week this month. By the end of the month, you could have as many as 24 to 32 valuable links pointing back to your website.
Month 5: Track and Optimize
During month five, you’ll continue to generate onsite content and explore guest blogging opportunities. However, you’ll also want to study your progress and optimize accordingly.
Pull up your Google Analytics account and follow the trends. Look at website traffic, referral sources, click-through rates, bounce rates, who is linking to you, and which pieces of content are performing best. Have you picked up any organic links from websites or bloggers that you haven’t solicited? Is one type of guest blog post generating significantly more traffic?
Based on the data you gather during these four weeks, you can optimize your strategy moving forward so that it focuses on the highest-returning actions. Look at link building as objectively as you possibly can and let the data lead you.
Stay Committed to Quality Content
Some businesses will find that it takes them a little less or a little longer. Some will double-up on certain steps, while others will choose to spend a bit more time on different tasks. The timeline isn’t the important part. This five-month game plan is just a framework to get you moving in a positive direction. The principle objective is to begin building links sooner rather than later.
Once you complete all of the steps outlined in this article, your job isn’t done. Content creation is something you’ll continue to do indefinitely. Over time, your results will compound, and you’ll find it easier to earn organic backlinks without any need to guest post or solicit links. This snowball effect will generate results that can’t be replicated with hacks and shortcuts that so-called marketing gurus are trying to sell.