In the previous section of this white paper, we talked about optimizing the content on your website. In this section, we’re going to talk about how to promote that great content, so you that can attract more back links, more shares and ultimately more traffic.
As we mentioned early on in this white paper, back links play a huge role in SEO. The concept of rating websites based on the quantity and quality of other sites linking back to them was a huge breakthrough that Google used to take over the search engine marketplace and become a household name. And, even more than 15 years later, back links are still one of the most important factors in SEO.
First Things First
While building back links is very important, you’ll want to make sure your website is technically optimized and has good content on it, before you hit back link building hard. A lot of times the technical optimization can get you good gains up front and back links will be that final push to get you to the top of the results. Remember that SEO is just one of many ways to get traffic to your website. And, once you get traffic to your website you need to convert it. Just like you wouldn’t invite guests over to your house if it was dirty, you’ll want make sure to get your house (website) in order before you start sending traffic to it.
Building Back Links Isn’t Easy Anymore
Building back links has become increasingly difficult over the years. In the early years of SEO, it was easy for marketers to manually build their own back links. There was no shortage of websites that allowed you to post content and link back to yourself. But, what Google started to understand is that the practice of doing this and other common SEO techniques had a negative influence on their search results. So, they took measures to correct it by updating their algorithm.
In April 2012, Google released its Penguin algorithm to penalize websites that engaged in unnatural link building. This included sites that collected a bunch of spammy back links from low-quality sites and over optimized their links by using the same keyword phrase they were trying to rank for over and over again in their anchor text.
Since its Penguin update, Google has continued to put more and more value on back links from high-authority websites. They want the links you build to be natural, meaning not manufactured and not over optimized. This takes a lot of control out of marketers’ hands and puts it in the hands of publishers of quality website content.
What this does is make the most powerful backlinks a product of editorial review from a real humans. Remember, the idea behind Google using back links as a ranking factor was based on the assumption that back links were a signal of trust. In real life, you don’t blindly trust someone. You have to get to know them, first. You have to meet them, first. There’s an initial “review” process. And by giving more weight to websites that have some editorial control over what gets published on their sites and that have standards for content, Google is able to come a lot closer realizing its original intention.
With that in mind, the best ways to get valuable back links today is to:
- Create great content that people want to link to, and then promote that content so the right people see it.
- Be a source for others in their content creation efforts, whether it’s contributing to an article as a source or creating guest posts for other websites.
- Getting links from people you work with in your industry, either on their partnership pages, through testimonials, etc.
NOTE: Sometimes you can get back links from the advertising you do on other websites. This is about the only time you’d ever want to pay for a back link. To be clear, buying back links or paying someone unqualified to build back links for you is an extremely risky proposition than can result in manual penalties from Google that can completely destroy all your hard work over night.
The bottom line is that link building is becoming more and more about creating quality content and building relationships with the people you want to link to it. And, in this part of the white paper we’re going to go over some strategies for building strong links in a sustainable and safe way.
Back Link Analysis
Before you start building back links, it’s important to conduct a competitive analysis of the websites that are ranking ahead of you for your main search terms. Understanding how many links they have and the quality of those links is important. It will give you a better idea of the type and quantity of links you’ll need to build, and can even give you specific sites where you can pick up back links.
There are a number of free tools available to do back link research, but most of them limit the amount of results they’ll return. Some of the better tools are MonitorBacklinks, Rank Signals and Moz’s Open Site Explorer.
For a more comprehensive back link report, you can use a paid software like Moz, Ahrefs, SEO PowerSuite or RavenTools. Some of these programs have free trials that will let you run initial reports. From our experience, Ahrefs seems to be the most comprehensive for back link reports (but it is also very expensive).
You can also find services on sites like Fiverr.com that will create back link reports for you using these software programs.
And, if you’re in the LiveRez SEO program, we can pull these reports for you.
Once you download a list of back links from every competitor ranking higher than you, comb through those lists to see which sites are linking to them. Most reports will include some sort of rating of each link – the higher the rating, the better the back link.
To outrank these websites, you’re going to need to start building high authority links like they have. You’ll want more links, more relevant links, and higher authority links than they have.
One of the best ways to get back links and social signals to your content is to promote it, so more people see it. There’s no use in having great content if nobody sees it. Getting your content noticed purely through search is somewhat of a chicken and egg problem. Without back links and social signals, your content probably isn’t going to rank well. So you can’t expect people to find your content organically (and subsequently link to it or share it) if you don’t promote initially through channels other than search.
With that in mind, here a few easy ways get your content in front of people.
If you’ve built a following on social media, a good way to get your content seen is to share on these social channels. Sharing good content can have a viral effect, because if it’s truly good content people are going to be more likely to share it with their network. The larger and more engaged your social following is, the more likely you’ll get the content to take off.
However, if you don’t have a strong following on social media, you can use some of these methods to get some initial traction while you continue to build your following.
First, you can always use social media advertising and pay to get your content in front of people. Just make sure you’re smart about who you target in your advertising. Make sure it’s people for whom the content is relevant.
Second, you can use hashtags in your posts to signal what the content is about. A lot of people who publish content online in a specific niche follow content based on hashtags, so using a hashtag is a good way to get your content in front of an engaged audience that has both social influence and the ability to give you a back link.
Another closely related channel is social bookmarking. You can post your content to threads on Reddit, submit your content to sites like Stumbleupon, or aggregate content on sites like Scoop.It! Users of these services can then find your content. Again, tagging your content, similar to using hashtags, is important because it will target it to the right group of people.
Some of these sites will even give you do-follow backlinks, although many offer no-follow back links (which don’t pass link juice, but can still bring traffic).
You can find a fairly comprehensive list of social bookmarking sites here.
As a vacation rental manager, you are probably already doing email marketing (if you’re not; you should start). Because your content was designed with your target audience in mind, it only makes sense to include it in some of your marketing emails.
Sometimes the best way to get a back link is to reach out directly to the person in charge of the website you’re trying to obtain a back link from. If your content is relevant to their audience and well done, you can drop them a note via email (or even snail mail) with a link to your content explaining why you think it is a good resource for them to share with their audience. Just make sure you’re polite and not pushy in your communication with them. They may say no for this piece of content, but future content might be a better fit.
It’s important to start building a relationship with them. Remember, they care about themselves and their audience, so you want to come across as being helpful. Try not to pitch content that isn’t relevant to them. Do your research and respect their time.
Sometimes even sending them an email to just tell them you’ve liked something they’ve published can start building that relationship. You can also show you care by sharing their content and contributing to their posts by commenting on them. They’ll probably be more likely to help you out if you’ve help them out first in one way or another.
If they do give you a back link, you should consider promoting the content that back links to you. They’ll appreciate it, and it will help raise the profile of that content and potentially increase the value of the back link.
Later in this section, we’ll discuss some more specific webmaster outreach methods.
A great way to get back links is to partner with another website publisher in one way or another. The right kind of partnerships create a win-win for both parties. They get access to your network of followers and you get access to theirs. Plus, you’re both likely to promote the content, which can multiply your results.
Here are a few ideas:
Sometimes it makes sense to do a joint project with another website publisher, whether it’s collaborating on a white paper, a webinar, a podcast or some sort of promotion. It could be even be a series of guest blogging articles.
In terms of who to partner with, think about the businesses you have close relationships with, like your local chamber of commerce, vendors that you work with, organizations you’re a member of, even other managers from different destinations or local ones you refer to. Also look to people who cover your industry, as they sometime need industry-specific sources or want to use specific examples of what people are doing in the industry.
HARO Method I: Be the Source
One great way to discover opportunities where you can offer your services as an industry expert is by using a service called HARO (Help a Reporter Out). With HARO, you can subscribe to get daily alerts via email that contain a list of media members who are seeking sources for their stories. If you see an opportunity you’re a good fit for, you can email them through this service and pitch yourself as a resource. If they use you as a source in their article, there’s a good chance they’ll link back to your site when quoting you.
HARO Method II: Be the Publisher
Another way to get back links is basically the reverse of this process. If you have a well-read blog, you can list your requests on HARO and say you are seeking experts to quote in an upcoming article. You’ll get people volunteering to be a source. Quoting them will give your article more credibility, and they’ll very likely promote the article and even link to it themselves.
Webmaster Outreach Methods
Earlier we discussed how reaching out to webmasters can be a great way to get back links. In this section, we’ll go over some specific tactics you can take to make this outreach more successful.
One way to identify people to reach out to is by seeing who is back linking to content that is similar to yours. It ties in directly with the Skyscraper Method we talked about in our section on building content. Well, Brian Dean of Backlinko, the author of the Skyscraper Method, has another popular method he uses called Moving Man.
With the Moving Man method, you run an audit on some of the websites you’re trying to get back links from to see if they have any broken back links. Maybe they link to an article that has since been deleted, moved or even has become out of date. If you have a similar piece of content that can replace the content that is broken or out of date, you can reach out to the webmaster and offer your content as a replacement.
Starting an Internship or Scholarship Program
Getting back links from domains with an .edu extension can give your SEO efforts a big boost. Since .edu (and .gov) domains are generally harder to get back links from, Google values them more than back links from many .com, .net, or .org domains.
One ways to get links from .edu domains is to create internship programs or post job listings on your website. Most colleges have job placement services and some have pages that link to resources for jobs and internships. If you can identify those pages, you can contact the webmaster and offer your jobs/internship page as an added resource for their careers page.
Converting Unlinked Mentions
Sometimes people will write about you in their articles, but fail to link back to you in the article. If you’re important enough to mention in the article, there’s a good chance their readers may want to learn more about you and your business. So, you can always reach out to these webmasters, thank them for mentioning you, and see if they would mind linking to your website in their article.
Getting Back Links from Partners
If you partner with other people in your area, it can give you added credibility. But, it also works the opposite way, too. So, it’s good to keep the lines of communication open with your partners. They may have not even of thought about highlighting their partners on their website. In some cases, they may have already done it, but not linked back to you. As such, reaching out to your partners and asking for back links is always something good to try.
As a vacation rental manager, you know how valuable good reviews and testimonials are. Well, reviews and testimonials are probably also very important to the people who you buy products or services from. If you’re truly happy with their service, offering to give them a testimonial that they can put on their website is a great way to get a back link.
Reverse Engineering Back Links
The websites ranking ahead of you on Google have probably already gone to a lot of effort in building back links. One of the hardest parts about building back links is knowing where you can get them. So, make sure you’re looking over your competitors’ back links and seeing if there’s any opportunities for you get the same or similar back links that they got.
These back links can be much easier to earn, and they help you even the playing field when you’re competing for a top spot in search engines.
Part 5: Review
- Building back links isn’t easy; you have to earn them
- Doing back link analysis is crucial
- Building great content isn’t enough; you have to promote it, too
- Start building relationships with publishers in your niche
- Never pay for back links, and be very cautious if you hire someone to do it