Shweiki Media Printing Company is excited to chat with Stephan Spencer – Co-author of The Art of SEO and Social eCommerce and author of Google Power Search. They’ll discuss link building, why it’s important for a website, and how companies can achieve great inbound links to their site.
What is Link Building?
Dave: Can you explain what link building is and why it’s important?
Stephan: Recently, Google has said that the three biggest signals they use in the Google algorithm are relevance, links, and RankBrain. Google RankBrain is their artificial intelligence (or machine-learning algorithm), which is now running across 100 percent of all search queries. Last year, it was running on 15 percent of all search queries, which demonstrates how artificial intelligence is going to be the future of SEO and Google’s organic results.
But, until this takes over, companies will need to produce relevant content and get links to that relevant content to ensure they’re considered important and appropriate for Google’s users. Therefore, links are foundational to Google rankings – no links, no rankings.
Dave: How can a company find keywords / keyword phrases that they might want to rank for?
Stephan: The Google AdWords Keyword Planner is a great tool which allows companies to look at the popularity of keywords by showing them what the search volume is on an average monthly basis. They can also see the historical trend over the last 12 months by hovering over the chart icon.
Another free tool from Google is Google Trends, which has the option to change from web search to YouTube search to see what keywords are popular with users on this channel. As YouTube is the second largest search engine (more users search on here than Bing or Yahoo) the importance of this shouldn’t be overlooked.
There are also some paid tools that people can use like keywordtool.io, keyworddiscovery.com and the brand new tool from Moz, Keyword Explorer.
What Types of Links Should a Company Be Building?
Dave: Should companies use different links to their website?
Stephan: When people use certain keywords in their anchor text and link text, Google associates those words with the page that they’re pointing to. So, if someone links to a page and uses the words “click here,” these are the words that are considered relevant to the page instead of a great keyword phrase. This can get abused and start to look unnatural, which can lead to websites being penalized.
Companies need to have diverse keywords in the links that are pointing to their pages and ones that don’t just include the brand name either. That’s why knowing what keywords are popular is helpful for rankings and for link building. It’s also important that there are links to other areas of the business, e.g. social media pages.
Dave: How can companies identify what links they currently have?
Stephan: Link analysis can be done through a number of tools. There’s Moz.com, Majestic .com and linkresearchtools.com. If the site is one that a company owns, link data can also be found from Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools).
Dave: How can they identify “bad” links that could be having a negative impact on their rankings?
Stephan: Companies can analyze their links for “toxic links” through a number of tools including Link Detox which triages a company’s inbound links into three categories – toxic, suspicious and innocuous links. If someone then needs to clean up their toxic links they need an outreach tool that will contact the webmasters of these sites to get these removed, and a tool for this is Pitch Box.
If a company has a few toxic links it’s not something to worry about, but if there’s a lot this cleanup process will need carrying out (“disavowing” in Google terms).
How can companies get high-quality links?
Dave: What are some of the best practices for getting good quality link backs?
Stephan: Companies need to think like a content marketer because they need to create remarkable content that’s worth linking to and sharing on social media. For example, an e-commerce plumbing website’s product catalog isn’t remarkable but a blog post about the funniest urinals from around the world is. This curates existing content into a funny blog post that’s remarkable and doesn’t take too much time.
Companies then need to create some buzz around this content and a great way to do this is to use a power user who can share this on their social media channels. They should also use a variety of different content, including competitions, which will encourage others to share these posts on their own channels.
How to Create Great Link Building Strategies
Dave: Are link roundups a good way to reach out to people who are interested in your content?
Stephan: I’m quite skeptical of things that seem too easy, such as buying links, as this can get you in trouble with Google. Expert roundups are just the latest quick and dirty link building tactic and they’re not sustainable. People who have limited budget should be using tools like Link Box, which is affordable and allows them to reach out to relevant people within a certain topic area.
When they send an email to these influencers they shouldn’t use bulk emails and should try and find ways they can add value to these influencers. They need to give before they take.
Dave: By using Pitch Box is this how companies will eventually get lucky and find a power user?
Stephan: It could but even if a company never gets a power user this doesn’t matter. If all they’re doing is outreaching to influencers on a piece-by-piece basis and they’re finding value in what they’re sharing, a company may never need that one power user that’s in their hip pocket. It’s just a nice thing to have!
Dave: Can you give an overview of what intra-linking companies should be doing?
Stephan: When a company’s attracting links to their site, this is building trust. When they’re linking within their site there’s no trust being conveyed as far as Google’s concerned. Instead, if a company links within their site to important pages, they’re giving Google a clue as to what’s important in their content and what’s not.
Dave: What about linking to other people’s sites?
Stephan: This only helps the person that they’re linking to. However, if a company doesn’t link to any other websites, that doesn’t look natural and Google won’t like that. They just need to link to things naturally if they feel it’s relevant.
Dave: How can people continue to learn from you?
Stephan: I have multiple websites but the main one would be stephanspencer.com where there’s a resource area with videos, webinars, whitepapers and so on. They can also find links to my podcasts – Marketing Speak and Optimized Geek. My Twitter is @sspencer.