SEO is fundamentally three key pillars and to be successful you have to be good at all three, and if not good – at least better than the competition.
The three pillars are content – you need to have great content, technical – I have a saying “you wouldn’t build a million dollar house on quicksand, so why build a million dollar website on poor foundations?” sorting out the foundations is super important, and the final pillar is authority- basically how This is likely to change in the coming years but in 2018/2019, authority is still all about relevant and high quality backlinks – it’s basically how Google started.
We know that content and links are still important, a Google spokesperson confirmed on a live Q&A and then disappeared never to be seen as a spokesperson for Google again. They are very very cagey about what they reveal effects rankings, as soon as they do, SEO experts like myself jump all over it and Google has to introduce a penalty to stop us from abusing it. Another reason they don’t want you to rank is simple, they want you to use Google AdWords and pay for the traffic – remember organic traffic doesn’t generate Google any money.
In this article I am going to show you the best ways to increase your authority and build backlinks, both using free and paid methods. These techniques are mainly for national brands, for small local businesses we have different methods and strategies of link building. Some of the techniques can work for local businesses but won’t be as effective.
Before we get started let me introduce myself, I am Andy the founder and CEO of Coreter Media – a digital marketing agency that helps small business with their digital marketing and I want to share with you some of the ways you can build links and increase your authority in Google eyes.
Before you go any further I want to put this disclaimer in. Building links and trying to manipulate Google’s search guidelines can run the risk of being penalized. That being said if you don’t build any links then you will really struggle to rank for any competitive keywords.
There are two methods of building links “white hat” and “black hat” techniques – anyone who knows me, knows I absolutely hate these terms but in this article I am only going to share with you “white hat” strategies that are less risky in Google’s eyes.
Like with everything there are free ways to do this and also methods which requires budgets – I am going to cover both, the methods which are usually free require more time from you.
The way Google wanted you to acquire links is that you write amazing content (pillar one from above) and then other websites will like it that much and link to you.
Yeah, do you know that in the last two years we as a species have created more content than in the proceeding years since the dawn of time. So with all this information how are these sites you want links from even going to find your great content.
If you want to stick to this strategy alone, then you are going to have become creative and get this content in front of the people who are going to link to you.
Email it directly:
This is a very old school method and still works, its just very time consuming and not efficient. You basically find the sites you want links from and try and build relationships with every single one and ask them to your links.
Like I said this still works but journalists and bloggers are getting more and more emails that tend to go unnoticed in this day and age.
We still do some of the above even though it’s pain staking labor and doesn’t guarantee results. Our clients pay us to deliver them more traffic and sales so sometimes we get a little bit more creative to get good content in front of people.
We use Social networks and do very specific targeting to the people we want to see the content and hopefully link to it.
Twitter is very good for this – it delivers better results than Facebook – again there is risk that the person will see the content, even like the content but not link to it.
That isn’t the only method of building links – it’s probably Google’s preferred or as close to it as possible but there are a lot of more effective link building strategies to do.
We have quite a few tests sites, after all we wouldn’t want to try something new on a client site and potentially hurt their business, but the most frequent email that these test sites receive is- “can we write a guest blog for your site”.
Basically you are providing a third party with a complete article, which is well written and high quality and within that article is a link back to your site.
Google hates this technique – as you are writing the content you can choose your anchor text and this plays a role in rankings. Less so in 2018, but it is still a small factor.
Be Careful if you are going to use this technique, I was unsure of whether to include it because getting links from the wrong sites can be a red flag to Google.
Relevant Directory Links
Directory links used to be great, then they became over used and spammy so people stopped using them. After all they are quite an easy and usually cheap way to build links.
If you are a lawyer, naturally I would expect you to be listed on the local lawyers directory, but i wouldn’t expect to find you on a lawyers directory list in another country.
High quality and relevant directory links are a great way of building your authority.
Round up / Expert Comments / Lists
Here’s another great tip which that was ruined, althoug if is done correctly it can be a great way of getting links, especially in industries / niches that didn’t use this system.
Basically you ask for 10 experts to give their thoughts on ‘x’ subject, do a piece quoting all 10 and hope because you have mentioned them they link back to you.
Back in 2015 I can remember doing quite a few of these, “Top 10 SEO’s tips on SEO in 2016” or “Seven experts share their tips on link building” “We asked 5 leading professionals to share their number one tip” you get the picture. The author flattered the person and hoped they would link back.
These are still done, but these are now more done for social traffic, the experts learnt the reason they were being done and stopped linking back, but instead they tend to share on social media (especially in marketing and tech niches) but that can be a great way of driving traffic and brand awareness.
Analysis of competitors backlinks
This is a great strategy but does costs money. Using tools like SEMRush you can input your main competitors and they will identify where they have all got links but you haven’t.
We usually input four competitors into the analysis and if all 4 competitors have a link, they
level the playing field as you get links where your competition has them but as you go further down the list it allows you to build more links and authority than your competition.
SEMRush does cost and I think it’s about $99 a month but if you click on the above link – you get 7 days free trial meaning that you can login and get the data and export it.
The platform has quite a few other great benefits which makes the $99 feel like a steal, but if you can’t afford it and are trying to do it on zero budget, go to the free trial page above and get all the data and export it to excel.
Research analysis / reports / whitepapers
This is probably the most white hat technique on the list and is very similar to the first technique we shared “produce great content” but if you are
It’s highly likely though you are not a scientist studying the effects of global warming, but you can still use this technique. Survey your customers and find out some useful information and promote this to the press.
These need to be good stories and unique data so it does require time and resource. You should first think of the question, then analyse the data and thirdly get in contact with the press.
You may have noticed a common theme in all of the above, in some shape or another you were trying to get journalists to link back to your site.
What if I was to tell you that there are a couple of ways in which you can attract the press to you, some of the biggest press in the country and the world too.
Yeah you didn’t read that wrong, the world’s top press could come to you and link to you.
Of course there is a catch, what I am about to share with you can be done for free and there is a paid method too, both of which we will share but this method can be infrequent, hard work and means dropping things to do something imminently and after all that, it is not guaranteed that it will be used.
Basically journalists and bloggers are under pressure to put Instead they put out press requests asking for information, you then need to receive that request and respond and if they use your response, data, images etc and they will usually link to you.
The big downside is time, sometimes the deadlines are super tight especially for the big publications, it is either because the story is breaking, its just landed on their desk from the editor and more often they don’t want their competition to produce the story before them, afterall newspapers are competing with each other to get your eyeballs on their site so that they can fire about a million adverts at you.
Let Journalists comes to you
The other downside is you are waiting for them to request information and this is usually like buses, none for ages and then a few at once. It is not a strategy that should be used on your own as you can be waiting weeks / months for links but should definitely be part of the strategy.
We usually class these links as bonus links, not links we’re expecting to build for the client but additional work.
Before I get into how to find them, let me give you a lesson I learnt after a long time, only respond to relevant queries where you think you can add value, don’t just respond to everything.
Don’t waste your time and theirs – just respond to relevant requests.
Now let me explain how you get requests and where to find.
This used to be a great source- follow these hastags, #journorequest and #prrequest – and then wait for a journalists to post a question that is relevant to you.
This used to be a great technique and can still be a great tactic, you just have to sift through the million mummy and beauty bloggers asking for free stuff.
The one downside is while it is free, its free to everyone so your competition is likely to be doing it, so speed is essential, it’s usually a case of the first one to respond with what the journalists is after gets used – afterall they have to get that piece completed and onto the next article.
Using this method I personally have been featured, in the Guardian, Metro and Virgin – as well as numerous clients links over the years.
Haro (Help a reporter out):
With this one, you sign up on the website and three times a day you get a list of requests that journalists are after.
The two downsides, it is usually American press and they only want American businesses (usually) and it is free, so again, be the first to respond and you can be competing with quite a wide range of businesses.
I have had some great coverage especially for a travel client, but two of the emails come out at 5:30pm and about 10:30pm so out of hours for most UK businesses.
Paid services “Journo Request / Gorkana”.
Unlike the two methods above there are a couple of services where you can pay to get “exclusive” requests. Obviously your competition can still pay to get access to and it’s not cheap, but this is where the top publication usually request informatio.
It’s the same method, journalists put out requests and you respond, but as it is a paid for service, you have less competition for coverage.
We have used both services over the years and currently use Journo Requests, I think this request came via a Journo request.
To reduce your risk of being caught, you want to use a mixture of all the above to make your links profile looked mixed and varied – more natural some would say.
The key is building links to help with your SEO strategy in 2018 and beyond.
I am the Managing Director of Indago Media and have been in Digital Marketing since 2009. Initially in-house working for some of the UK’s biggest brands, but now I run my own agency helping small business grow.