How Does Link Building Work?

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If you’re a fan of word of mouth marketing, then you should be asking yourself “How does link building work?”

What is Link Building — in Plain English

Google started it.

You see, when they were developing their algorithm, they decided that a great way to gage the quality of any website was to rank it higher if a lot of other high quality sites link to it or reference it for specific topics or information.

Technically, link building is a method of attracting more website visitors and boosting your rankings in search results. In return, you will gain better rankings and positions in search results, which will result in more traffic. This traffic may include clicks from outbound links as well. For example, a reputable blog may link to a website that sells pet products.

Why You Should Care About Link Building

Link building lives under the umbrella of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEO is a big element of any content marketing strategy. After all, if you want your ideal customer to FIND your content so they can choose you over any other alternative, then you have to show up in the search engines.

If your primary marketing strategy is content marketing, then SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is going to be a big part of your day-to-day marketing activities.

link building as part of a content marketing strategy

And that means that you’ll need to figure out what your link building philosophy is going to be.

The Two Basic Link Building Philosophies

There are two basic philosophies around link building; outreach and inbound. I prefer to think about it as push and pull.

Cold Outreach

Outreach, or push philosophies involve reaching out to high quality sites and basically asking them to link to your site.

Typical Outreach strategies include:

  • Outreach emails: Sending emails to specific sites and requesting a link from one of their relevant articles to your site, a product page or an article.
  • Check for broken links on high quality sites and reach out and ask to be placed as a replacement information source.
  • Guest blogging: You can reach out to websites and blogs that are influential and related to your area of expertise and ask if you can contribute a guest post.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of Outreach

Here’s the deal. Outreach gives you more control over who links to you, so you can get faster and more predictable results. But a lot of outreach is COLD outreach. That means that you’re emailing people who don’t know you and you’re asking them to do something for YOU.

I am not a fan of cold outreach. Quite frankly, when I get dozens of cold outreach emails. I ignore ALL OF THEM.

Here’s why:

  • They are often mass emails from people who haven’t taken the time to understand what the site is about.
  • Cold outreach emails and contacts are asking me to do something for them with ZERO benefit to me. If it’s a guest post, the content is very poor quality. If it’s a link exchange, it requires me to spend upwards of 30 minutes working FOR THEM with no benefit to me.

If you are going to do outreach, it has to start with building relationships with the people who you want to link to you. While it appears to be faster and offer more control, it’s a spam game and I don’t like it for my brand.

Inbound, Content-Based Link Building

An inbound or pull philosophy involves creating linkable content. This would be content that ranks on page one on Google and is so good that people can’t help but link to it.

  • Create better content: It’s hard to quantify this one. Do your competitive research for your keyword phrase and see what articles are ranking at the top. Look at each one and see how you can create something even better.
  • Create infographics: One way to create better content is to create infographics.
  • Do interviews, podcasts, webinars, summits, etc These are all brand building activities that not only feature you as an expert, but also provide backlinks to your site.
  • Build relationships with editors and journalists. If you want links from major publications like Entrepreneur or Inc or any other major publication in your industry, having a relationship with a journalist or editor can get you interviewed and get a link to your site.
  • Create “round ups”: A great way to both build relationships and get links to your website is to interview experts and place their quotes in your content.

Why Inbound Content-Based Link Building is My Choice

Many SEO experts are fans of the outreach method. You can hire people to do this for you or you can do this yourself. Based on my experience as someone who is constantly being pitched and ignoring every single request, I don’t see this as a valuable way to invest your time and money.

I favor the inbound content-based strategy because I believe it gives YOU more control and impact while, at the same time, providing your audience information and education that they are looking for.

Another benefit to this inbound strategy is the fact that you are building your brand, building engagement and creating relationships with other experts and influencers. These activities ultimately benefit your business on a longer term basis.

What We Know for Sure

In short, backlinks matter. Incoming links from high authority, trusted sites are valuable and will help you rank higher in search for targeted keywords.

You have to decide where you want to invest your time and money to generate those backlinks. While you can certainly do outreach, a far better strategy is to focus on creating helpful content for your audience.

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