What is link building?

Link building is an essential aspect of SEO. You can write the perfect post, but if search engines can’t follow at least one link to it, it will most likely spend its days forever waiting in vain for visitors to admire its outstanding content. For Google to find your post, it needs links from other websites. The more links, the better. But, beware, the quality of links does matter! Not every link is worth the same. Even worse: some links could negatively affect your site. Here, we’ll explain how link building works. We’ll also guide you to more in-depth articles if you want to learn how to do it well.

Before we dive in, if you want to learn more about link building strategies and other essential SEO skills, you should check out our All-around SEO training! It doesn’t just tell you about SEO: it makes sure you know how to put these skills into actual practice!!

What is a link?

Simply put, a link, or a hyperlink, is a connection between two pages on the internet. With a link you can refer people to a page, post, image or other object on the internet. Links exist for people in the first place: with a link you can easily “travel” from one web location to another.

But links serve search engines well too; search engine robots follow links to discover pages on the internet. This is called crawling. For a robot to find your website, you’ll need at least one hyperlink to it from a website that gets crawled already. Making sure you get that first link is one of the things you really need to do when you launch a brand new website.

A link in HTML

In the coding language HTML, a hyperlink looks like this:

<a href=”https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/”>Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress</a>.

The first part contains the URL you’re linking to. In this case, it’s the URL of the Yoast SEO plugin page (https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/). The second part (Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress) shows the clickable text that you’d see on the page. We call this piece of text the ‘anchor text’.

Anchor text

The anchor text serves two purposes: it should describe what the linked page is about and it should entice people to click. If a link has a well-crafted anchor text, this has two advantages: 1) More people click on it, leading to more direct traffic and 2) It will help search engines understand what your page is about, possibly leading to more traffic from search engines. Of course, you can’t control how others link to your site, but you can use it to improve your internal links.

What is link building?

Link building refers to the marketing efforts to get links from other websites to your website. It’s seen as one of the most powerful tools to achieve higher rankings for your site in search engines. If a lot of high-quality links lead to a certain page, search engines will consider it a popular or meaningful article, and, therefore, they’ll rank it higher.

Link quality

Links aren’t all equal. Some links are worth more than others. For instance, a link from an authoritative website, preferably topically related to yours, is worth more than a random link from a small website nobody knows. So, if you have a restaurant, you’d rather get a link from a restaurant review (on topic) on The Guardian website (high authority), than, let’s say, a link from your aunt’s horseback-riding school website. This makes choosing sites you’d love to get links from easier, but at the same time, it makes it a lot harder to get those coveted high-quality links.

Shady techniques

Because link building isn’t easy, lots of shady link building methods emerged in the past. People tried to game the system, for instance, by buying links from link farms. That’s why link building has got a somewhat nasty reputation.

Consequently, Google intervened with serious penalties as a result. If your site gets linked to from websites with a questionable reputation, it can completely disappear from the search results. So you better refrain from any of these risky link building tricks. If you play it fair and smart though, you can gain a lot from link building.

What should you do to get links?

Now we get to the million dollar question: what should you do to get those valuable links? We believe in a holistic link building approach. You’ll have to create a website that people want to link to. It sounds so simple: Create high-quality, funny, original or exceptional content people want to share. But how do you do this?

First and foremost, find out who your audience is. Who are you trying to reach with your content? What kind of content do they need? What information are they looking for and what kind of questions do they ask? Which words do they use? And, what kind of websites do they visit?

If you can answer these questions, it will be easier to create content that fits your audience’s needs (for instance, by using the principles of content design). Also, when you’ve created that page with valuable content for your audience, and you know where your audience is (which websites they visit), you’ll have a starting point for your link building activities: you can start reaching out to those website owners. That’s what link building is, in a nutshell: Sharing your article with parties that might be interested in sharing it too. That’s why it’s key to target the right niche for your shop or blog. This focus decreases the number of people you’ll have to contact and increases the chances of actually getting a link.

People will only link from their website to yours if it’s in their audience’s (or their own) interest. Convincing them to link will only happen if your product or content really is exceptional. Offering them to try or use your product (if you have one) for free might help convince them. And always make sure to contact them personally, as this will lead to better results. Read all about this process in our step by step guide to link building.

Link building for bloggers and pros

Link building requires time, effort and persistence. As a blogger, you might dread link building even more. If you can relate to this, Caroline’s post on her struggles with link building as a blogger is a great read.

Have your bases covered and want to take it a step further? Then we’d advise you to read this article with advanced link building tips by Kris Jones. You’ll learn which tools you can use to find out which sites already link to you and what you can do to get more of those. Find out everything about broken link building, reclamation link building, the so-called skyscraper technique and more.

Pssst… if reaching out really isn’t your thing, you can always start with some “internal link building”: fix your internal linking structure!

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15 advanced link building tactics & tips to boost your SEO

Link building remains the SEO industry’s white elephant. Many proclaim that link building is spammy, dead, and even harmful to your SEO. But link building remains a primary part of an effective performance-based SEO strategy. And when executed properly contributes to higher organic search rankings.

I recently gave a presentation at YoastCon 2019 outlining my white hat toolbox of advanced link building methods. Which I’ve used for nearly two decades. First as founder and CEO of affiliate juggernaut Pepperjam, later as Chairman of Internet Marketing Ninjas, and more recently as CEO of US-based Top 10 SEO company (and Yoast Preferred Partner) LSEO.com. Some of you have probably heard of some of these tactics and some are probably hearing about these for the first time. Regardless, my hope is to provide you with specific, actionable link building tactics to boost your SEO.

What’s important to remember is that each link building tactic should be practiced strategically. This way you derive the greatest long-term benefit for your website. Stop looking at link building as a static tactic to manipulate search engines. Instead, focus on giving users value and building relationships within your industry. Your success will be dictated by your long-term investment in SEO, not short term thinking or tricks.

Why link building remains important

Is backlinking really one of Google’s top factors in their algorithm? Yes, link building still remains at the top with content followed closely by RankBrain.

Google’s algorithms remain incredibly dynamic, incorporating hundreds of vectors and considerations for each individual search. As sophisticated as search engines become, they’ll still rely on users and third parties to help them determine what content is considered useful to users. Links help search engines bridge that gap.

Beyond algorithmic benefits, backlinks serve functional purposes for your website:

  • Provides referral traffic
  • Indexes orphaned or isolated pages
  • Contributes on-page value to readers
  • Serves as a citation for research
  • Builds relationships within your existing industry

Really, link building should serve as an extension to an effective content marketing campaign. When you publish new content to your website you should also build links to the page. Much like paid media can help boost traffic to a landing page, so to can a link from a popular website. In the end, they both serve as an advertisement for that page, only one practice is free.

Link Building Considerations

Competitor research tools like SEMrush and Spyfu provide a treasure trove of important information about links. These tools, and others than focus specifically on backlinks, such as Majestic and Ahrefs, provide insights on the quality and quantity of links pointing to any website you’d like to analyze.

It’s important to understand that not all links are equal. Just because a link points to a competitor website in and of itself doesn’t justify a strategy to acquire it. In fact, based on your link analysis you may conclude the link should be avoided. Disregarding the addition of a ‘nofollow’ attribute for a second, it’s pretty obvious when a backlink is from a source of authority or spam.

Generally, SEOs search for backlinks that are authoritative and relevant. Determining authority can be based on Moz’s newly updated Domain Authority metric or you can dig deeper under the hood to examine specific metrics associated with a particular website, such as total traffic, traffic value, number of new unique visitors, the total number of referring domains to that website, etc.

In terms of link building, the number of unique referring domains is generally more important from an algorithm standpoint, then the sheer number of backlinks pointing to your site. But both are valuable to consider when analyzing links.

For the most part, a large portion of your backlinks will be generated naturally as your website ages and other websites link to your evergreen content. Keep in mind that effective SEO requires you to produce new quality content consistently over time. Producing high-quality content is worth your attention and investment.

Keep these considerations in mind when building backlinks to your website:

  • Never pay for links as it’s a violation of Google’s terms of service
  • Stay away from private blog networks that appear to be owned by a single entity
  • Don’t engage in guest posting opportunities for the sole purpose of link building; Instead contribute high quality content to extend your thought leadership
  • Build links that improve the on page value of new or existing content

With that said, let’s explore 15 advanced link building techniques that will help you improve your SEO performance over time.

Advanced link building tactics

Link reclamation

Link reclamation is the easiest and most straightforward link building tactic readily available for any website. The idea is to reclaim a backlink to your site that previously existed but is now broken or removed.

You can use tools like Moz’s Fresh Web Explorer to type in your brand and find any unlinked mentions across the web.

You can use specific search operators to find mentions of your brand and check whether or not the page provides a link back to your website. From there you can reach out to the publisher and request a link back.

Furthermore, you can set up Google Alerts to your email address whenever your website or brand is mentioned across the web. Unfortunately, Moz’s tool only goes back four weeks, so this helps you stay consistently on top of your brand and continually finding new backlink opportunities.  

Tip: To find an editor conduct a site: search using the domain name followed by the keyword “contact us”, “about us”, “email”, etc.

Broken link building

Broken link building is essentially the same strategy as link reclamation, only it involves leveraging broken backlinks from pages all across the web.

In the interim, you can use this Google Chrome extension to discover any broken links present on a page during your research.

But to find the goldmine of broken links you’ll need to do some topic research using SEMrush or Ahrefs. For this example, we’ll use Ahrefs.

Type in a keyword related to your industry and use search operators to find the most popular blogs or content publishers in that niche. For example, you can use sites like Quicksprout and Moz for the SEO industry.

  1. Plug the domain into Ahrefs Site Explorer
  2. Click on ‘Best by Links’ under the Pages tab in the left column
  3. Filter by 404
  4. Click on Dofollow Links and examine the list of pages linking back to that page

You can also scrape educational resources and blogs related to your industry and filter URLs by 404 using ScreamingFrog.

From there, you could recreate or even improve upon the previous page (called a skyscraper technique – see below) and reach out to publishers letting them know they have a broken outbound link and that you can easily replace it with high-quality relevant content.

Tip: Use this tool to look at what the broken page was and why it was linked to in the first place.

Reverse engineered competitor link building

Leverage SEMrush or Ahrefs to download a CSV of 3-5 of your top competitor backlinks. Filter your spreadsheet and tag by gTLD (.com, .org, .de, etc), industry, geography, DA / PA, traffic, total unique referral domains, and other metrics deemed valuable to your campaign.

The key here is to nerd out on all the data and think through how and why your competitor earned each link and simply do it better. Have fun with disqualifying links you’d never want and celebrate when you know you’ve got existing content (or have a plan to write new content) that will undoubtedly earn a link from the target site.

This is a good time to define the Skyscraper technique. In short, the Skyscraper Technique is when you identify content that ranks for a keyword you’d like to rank for (or in this case – a link that exists within content you’d like a link) and then you write something that’s even better. More on this in a bit, but let’s stay focused on reverse engineering competitor backlinks.

Using filters you can look for opportunities related to:

  • Guest blogging
  • Influencer relationships
  • Broken links
  • Thought leadership pieces
  • Local reach out

Look for opportunities to join existing conversations with value-added content (i.e. provide a quote, offer a link to research or an infographic) and even go as far as replacing broken or dead links with better content.

This strategy is entirely white hat and offers the best potential to find new relationships in your field. It’s not easy. Instead, it’s terribly time consuming, but if you want to dominate SEO it’s absolutely worth your time and energy.

Resource link building

Resource link building requires manual outreach and has a low success rate. But links acquired through resource link building tend to generate quality website traffic in addition to passing authority to your website.

If you’ve ever searched for a discount on a particular type of clothing or top clothing store you’ve typed in something like, “best cheap hats” or even “best men’s clothing stores”.

Look at the results, they’re all great listicles and resources.

But there are also more sophisticated methods to derive resource pages for both B2B and B2C companies.

This is a good example of a resource page from a major publication in the SEO industry:

Using this operator string ‘Intitle:keyword AND intitle:resources AND inurl:resources’ you can find existing resources for business and services in your industry with ultra specific listings.

To find this page, I used the following query:

After you find resource pages that are suitable for your company and industry, you can contact the author and ask for a mention. When crafting an email, be sure to stress the value that your business offers its customers and ask what you can do to qualify for that list.

Skyscraper and modified skyscraper

We’ve mentioned the Skyscraper Technique above as a key way to think about how to build great content that is worthy of a back link. The idea is to find a piece of content ranking highly on Google for a keyword you’d like to rank for and create a better version of the content.  “Better” may mean adding a video, writing longer form content, adding useful images and / or infographics, or otherwise extending the quality of the contact that ranks highly for your target keywords.

In truth, the Skyscraper technique requires a considerable allocation of time and resources and there is no guarantee it will work. While it many cases the Skyscraper does indeed work (when coupled with an aggressive link outreach strategy) it’s more of a core philosophy around content marketing and link building than a specific SEO tactic. However, don’t discredit the approach.

After two decades of experience, I can tell you confidently that building great content is the most effective way to acquire new backlinks to your website over time. Using the Skyscraper technique is absolutely worth the effort since the concept is all about making the necessary investment required to compete at the highest levels of search engine marketing.

Note that you should always strive for your content to be over the top amazing sauce; don’t just attempt to be “a little better.”

10x content

If you think the Skyscraper technique sets a high bar for content marketing Rand Fishkin’s

10x content takes things to the next level. 10x simply means ten times better than all existing content on the web. So how do we do this when we’re competing against major brands and publications? Try doing something entirely unique.

Fishkin provides an example of creating a chart of the most trusted movie review sites.

From here, you can use the same follow-up as the skyscraper method to earn backlinks.

Just keep these concepts in mind when crafting a piece of 10x content:

  • Experiment with new mediums and formats
  • Be remarkable
  • Create visceral content
  • Answer an important question at length and with extensive detail

Keep this in mind – both the Skyscraper technique and 10x content Technique make clear the importance of going over the top when building content. Writing thin content or using dated SEO strategies are highly unlikely to yield long term results.

Guestographics

Piggybacking off of the idea of experimenting with new mediums, I strongly encourage you to experiment with a new form of guest posting using infographics as content. This strategy is called “guestographics.”

Remember this little formula: ‘Great Content + Targeted Outreach + Added Value = Links’

Use tools like Buzzsumo and Ahrefs Content Explorer to find trending content in your industry. Think through how you can take a trending topic or evergreen content and turn it into an infographic. Instead of submitting a guest post around the topic – you guessed it – submit a high-quality infographic that links back to your site (preferably to Skyscraper or 10x content that you wrote to rank for a target keyword).

You get what you pay for so think big on both sides (e.g. creative + placement). This will likely require that you hire a graphic designer. Consider hiring someone on Upwork or Freelancer to hire an affordable design expert.

Ego bait

Ego bait is a proven performer in performance-based SEO link building and can be used in a variety of ways. The idea is to appeal to an influencer’s “ego” by tagging them in a piece of content or the snippet of a post to encourage them to read the post and link back to it in the future.

Targeted sharing serves as a very popular form of ego bait. Other ideas and strategies include:

  • Creating a post with a reference list of thought leaders that includes a link to their website and/or social media profiles (BTW – I bite for these all the time with link backs. LOL)
  • Placing @mention to ping thought leaders and mention them in the post.
  • Email influencers once a post is live and request a comment.
  • Invite others with influence to contribute content to your site and interview them.

The idea is to encourage interaction between you and an influencer to start a conversation and build a relationship. Being controversial or humorous will increase your chances of getting a response. While the goal is to earn a link to your website you must first give something of value (a compliment, a ranking, a shoutout) in return.

Thought leadership

One of the most effective ways to build links (and recognition) is to become a thought leader. Becoming a thought leader means contributing your thoughts on topics that you are an expert and that you care deeply about. Most people would agree that thought leadership means having your finger on the pulse of your industry and continuing to inspire and educate readers in your industry. Naturally, people will link back to you as a resource because it will naturally help them strengthen their own content.

Here’s some ideas to help cultivate your own form of thought leadership:

  • Podcast interviews in return for a link
  • Do local media interviews (TV, radio, print, community websites)
  • Contribute to research (i.e. MOZ Local ranking factors, Special Guest App Talent Booking Surveys)
  • Create Viral Social Media Content (memes, infographics, studies, data, etc.)
  • Selectively contribute to industry roundups
  • Guest post on industry websites and hobby blogs
  • Speak at industry conferences and events

I’ve personally contributed to nearly 400 publications, written 3 books (new one coming out in May), and publicly spoke over 100 times, which have created tremendous backlinking opportunities for me. While I don’t only do it for the backlink, I always ask for a backlink. Every time.

Create original research

Conducting research is one of my favorite advanced link building strategies because of the positive impact it can have on your brand, the value that it can add to your industry, and because if done correctly can result in a lot of high-quality links to your website. The idea is to conduct research via surveys or other means to collect data that answers industry questions or otherwise helps your target audience better understand questions they find curious.

For instance, if you are in the coffee industry you can poll customers to discover the most popular times of the day people drink their second cup of coffee. But also how many cups of coffee people drink on average per day/week/month, preferences around coffee brands (i.e. K-Cup, Nespresso, Starbucks, Pete’s, etc) and coffee type (medium roast, dark roast, etc), most popular caffeine alternatives to coffee (i.e., Red Bull, 5 Hour Energy, Tea, etc), and public opinion around whether or not coffee is healthy for you or not.

Once you have enough interesting research data you can write content and publish it on your website (i.e. Top Five Caffeine Alternatives to Coffee). You can do this in one or multiple forms. It is also possible to use the data to contribute content to high authority third party websites. You can also put together a press release announcing the findings. With the goal of the data being used by news agencies or getting picked up by industry websites. Another way is to write a white paper, ebook, or brand your research around an annual industry survey (i.e. Annual Moz Local SEO Ranking Factors).

Research should follow proper protocol call for statistical significance; consider partnering with an academic institution or professor to add authority to your research. Email other industry veterans who would be interested in providing feedback on this research and create a roundup post for additional backlinking opportunities.

Create tools and widgets

If you build a tool or widget that becomes a resource for your industry, the number of organic backlinks you can earn may catapult you to the top of search results for hard to rank for target keywords.

There are two different ways to think about earning links through tools and widgets. One option is to build a tool and host it on your website. For instance, you are a mortgage company hosting a mortgage calculator on your website. It can in and of itself become a valuable reason for people to visit your website. If you are in the digital marketing space creating tools to help people measure keyword density, analyze backlinks, or evaluate keyword rankings, it can make your website a destination for fellow Internet marketers. This can result in free web traffic and links.

A second option is to build a widget that others host on their websites. Make sure it contains a link back to your website. For instance, let’s say you own an eCommerce store that allows others to post products for sale. You can create a widget that displays the specific products of each seller. This allows the sellers to post those products via a widget on their websites. Of course, the products will link back to your eCommerce store.

Ensure the tool or widget is functional and creatively leverages your own data or API data from third parties to display info in an easily digestible manner for users. Be creative and prepared to spend considerable resources to get it right. But the upside potential of building a tool or widget that becomes an industry standard can deliver greater ROI than any other advanced link building strategy.

Influencer link building

Influencer link building is especially helpful because it connects you to a pre-established audience of like-minded people.  

Identify influencer networks like Intellifluence or Upfluence to find influencers that have websites; there are literally tens of millions of influencers globally. Once you find influencers related to your brand, reach out to them to discuss potential opportunities for promotion.

The key is to offer influencers value before they laugh you off. Consider offering BETA access to software, free high-quality content, a groovy product you’d like reviewed, etc.

Follow guidelines for disclosure in your specific geography. Remember that the FTC in the US requires influencers to disclose promotional partnerships with brands, especially when money is exchanged for promotion.

The moving man method

This next link building tactic is vastly more complex. It also doesn’t always yield the highest success rates, but it’s something to think about. Essentially, the idea is to secure a link from a page that is tied up in a redirect chain.

It operates on the principle that companies, websites or services constantly undergo rebranding or discontinue their services altogether. This leads to URLs being redirected without the knowledge of site owners who linked to the original URL.

To find these links, you’ll need to find an URL that is being redirected on a competitor’s site. You can do this by using backlink data you retrieved during competitor research. Enter the URL of the outdated page/resource in any tool that’s capable of extracting backlinks for a specific URL (not just the whole domain). Extract these redirected links to a spreadsheet and begin reaching out to publishers. Let them know of the issue and offering to replace the link with a relevant piece of content.

Building a promotional database

Keep the steam of your link building campaign going with the following tactic. You should build a database of partnerships and relationships you’ve built for future content opportunities.

Each time you have a new piece of content that you want to be promoted or engaged with, follow up with influencers and thought leaders you’ve connected with in the past. This can serve as an instant traffic boost to your content, especially if you syndicate some of it.

Promote content you want linked!

Finally, the easiest way to get links to content is to get eyeballs on it. Use traditional outreach strategies from email campaigns to paid promotion to drive traffic to a page and see if anyone links back to it.

It’s perhaps the most organic link building tactic out there and it provides real value in the interim.

Conclusion

The rules of link building may change every few years or so, but its utility remains the same. If you don’t think link building is important, you are wrong. If you don’t think there are still white hat tactics to link building, you are also wrong.

As a Yoast Certified Partner, my agency LSEO has helped numerous Yelp users scale their brand using these advanced link building techniques. Take your brand to the next level by adopting some of these link building tactics or find an agency partner that can help!

Read more: 5 link building DON’TS you didn’t know about »

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Link building for bloggers

As your blog grows, the situations you’re dealing with seem to become harder. Whoever says blogging is for the lazy, has not dealt with optimization for search engines, the ever-changing algorithms of Facebook and Instagram, the best practices of Pinterest or the ever dreaded link building.

What is link building?

Link building means, in short, that you’re getting links from other websites to your own blog. It helps your posts to rank. Link building is not an easy task, as you are depending on third parties to link to your website. And not only that, you don’t want a link from every website. Spammy websites or websites that have little to do with your niche, are not valuable at all. I’ve tried link building, the holistic SEO way, and will share my experiences here. If you want to learn more about this, read this article Marieke wrote about link building from a holistic SEO perspective.

Asking for relevant links

To get relevant backlinks, you should know the websites you would like to get a backlink from. Send them a polite email requesting to place a link to your content, if it’s relevant to their audience as well. Please note that often, you will not get a reply at all. To improve your chances of getting a link to your website, your content should really be unique. Trying to get a link for a blogpost that is extremely basic and could’ve been written by anyone, is less likely to succeed than when you provide some very good content: content people can only find on your website. If you, for example, are a planner guru or the nation’s funniest mom blogger, it’s way easier to get a link to your website than if you just started out.

Facebook Groups

Do your hands get sweaty by the idea of having to email your fellow bloggers to ask for links? Fear not! Luckily, there are a lot of Facebook Groups, where bloggers post they might be working on a blog post that, for example, collects the best recipes for Easter, the best bullet journal tips or something different. You can often drop your link in the comments if you’ve written about the topic requested and with a little bit of luck, you’ll be featured in a blog post. It depends on your country which Facebook groups could be suitable, so ask your fellow bloggers or look around on Facebook.

Guest blogging

Another option to get links to your website, is through guest blogging for other blogs. Often, blogs are looking for input from fellow bloggers and in return will let you link to your own content. You’ll not only get a link to your website from a relevant website, you’ll get attention from the readers of that particular blog as well. Visit your favorite blogs and check to see if they accept guest submissions. They’ll usually mention this on their contact page or their collaboration page. Please note that a website could have certain guidelines before they accept your guest blog. It has to be unique content, but it also has to be in line with that website.

Do your thing

Link building for bloggers can be hard. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. When you’re already working on optimizing your posts, finding your voice and creating original blog posts, you might not want to add another massive project to your list. Because that is what link building is: it is not something you do just once. That’s why I’ve decided to quit my attempts at link building. I find it removes the focus from my blog entirely and turns into a popularity contest, at least in my mind. Not only that, I am not someone who finds it easy to reach out to other bloggers to request links in their content.

Instead, I’ve decided to focus on my own website and on helping others. I’ve found that I’ve received backlinks whenever I give a talk at a conference or after I helped someone with their website. This is not something that I take for granted, but when it happens, I realize why I’ve spent a few hours helping a blogger out with a bug on her website. For me, this means that I stay true to my own beliefs without having to focus on an entire strategy that is not my thing. And I found out that this is a link building strategy in itself: it helps my reputation as a blogger in the Dutch community. Find whatever works for you. And if you are actively building links, could you tell me your strategy?

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Link building with Dixon Jones (Majestic)

“If nobody writes about it, then the content is a tree falling in the forest without anyone there to listen.” That’s how Dixon Jones, Marketing Director of Majestic, illustrates the importance of getting the right links to your content. We proudly announce that Dixon will be speaking at YoastCon 2017 on November 2!

Learn link building from the best! Get your ticket now for YoastCon 2017!
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Dixon Jones has worked at the forefront of search marketing since 1999. He became the Marketing Director of the world’s largest link analysis engine, Majestic, in 2009, transforming the SEO industry by providing link intelligence on a scale not previously open to the industry. Here, you can discover what he has to say about link building in 2017.

Majestic is all about links. If you compare links to other ranking factors, like content on a page or technical optimization, how would you rate the importance of links? Any examples to illustrate this?

In March 2016 Google’s Andry Lipattsev revealed that links remained one of Google top three ranking factors. In February 2017 Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed that the PageRank algorithm that made Google what it is today was still part of the algorithm. So yes – links are highly important, but these days there is a big difference between “a link” and “a link that counts”. Most links are hardly worth the screen they are written on.

Over the years link building changed a lot. Obviously, buying links is not the way to go. But what do you advise site owners if they want to get valuable links?

In a white hat world, you really should be considering the nature of the people that will be reading the page that the link is on. Are they real people? Is it a real story that relates to them? Does the link add to the story and is it a continuation of the user’s quest for knowledge? Is your content the END POINT for that quest?

Come see Dixon Jones speak at YoastCon 2017 on November 2 »banner YoastCon

Some site owners might find it easier to get links from Facebook or Twitter than from other websites. How do social links compare to links from other websites? What would you invest in more?

Facebook and Twitter create short term noise, but unless that noise translates into others writing evergreen content that links to your site, the benefits are transitory on social. But I think of Social links as a stepping stone to long term success. They give you a tannoy to broadcast a new message… but if the wrong people listen, then nobody will write about what you have to say. If nobody writes about it, then the content is a tree falling in the forest without anyone there to listen… does it make a sound?

When a site owner analyzes their site with Majestic SEO they’ll get a trust and citation flow score. How can they put these metrics to use to help them optimize their site?

Understanding how we create those metrics really helps. The data is not simply scraping Google or looking for some sort of reverse engineering of Search Visibility. Trust Flow really is a score that relates at scale to the quality of a page. The simple workflow is:

  • Find candidate sites for getting links to your content.
  • Find the influencers on these sites.
  • Convince them of the merits of your business and content.

You can start by just typing in a keyword into Majestic to find the candidate sites or you can look at up to 10 competitors and find the hubs of authority for your niche. Both strategies can work well.

Majestic is often used for competitor analysis. Is there a set workflow in Majestic that you can recommend to a new Majestic user who wants to analyze the competition?

Yes. Many people use the “Clique Hunter” to look at sites that link to three or four or more competitors but not to themselves. For some businesses, this creates quite a list, but re-sorting the list can put the best candidates near the top. To the right of each domain is a little cog. Use the cog to select candidate sites to approach and select the “add to bucket” button. You can do this all day, and when you are ready, click on the bucket icon at the top of the screen and you can export all the sites out as a .csv file to approach the influencers for these sites.

Alternatively (and indeed – in addition) I strongly urge users to set up a campaign dashboard as soon as they have an account on Majestic. This starts tracking their niche and from these dashboards, you can easily analyze the sites in any of Majestic’s tools by using the “Export Sites To…” button.

We assume this interview has convinced people to go see your presentation at YoastCon on November 2! In the unlikely case someone is still in doubt, what’s the main reason they shouldn’t miss it?

The chart below shows how our Gamification system has distributed 1 Million “badges” on Majestic. Only 3% of all badges were for areas of our site related to comparing websites. This tells us that most users are really only scratching the surface of what Majestic can do for them. Yoast’s conference is a chance to go deeper. You’ll find out things about links analysis you never knew was possible.

Read more: ‘YoastCon 2017: Practical SEO’ »

SEO for a new website: the very first things to do

How does a new website start ranking? Does it just magically appear in Google after you’ve launched it? What things do you have to do to start ranking in Google and get traffic from the search engines? Here, I explain the first steps you’ll need to take right after the launch of your new website. Learn how to start working on the SEO for a new website!

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First: you’ll need to have an external link

One of my closest friends launched a birthday party packages online store last week. It’s all in Dutch and it’s not WordPress (wrong choice of course, but I love her all the same :-)). After my friend launched her website, she celebrated and asked her friends, including me, what they thought of her new site. I love her site, but couldn’t find her in Google, not even if I googled the exact domain name. My first question to my friend was: do you have another site linking to your site? And her answer was ‘no’. I linked to her site from my personal site and after half a day, her website popped up in the search results. The very first step when working on SEO for a new website: getting at least one external link.

Why do you need an external link?

Google is a search engine that follows links. For Google to know about your site, it has to find it by following a link from another site. Google found my friend’s site because I put a link to that site on my personal site. When Google came around to crawl my site after I put the link there, it discovered the existence of my friend’s site. And indexed it. After indexing the site, it started to show the site in the search results.

Read more: ‘What does Google do?’ »

Next step: tweak your settings…

After that first link, your site probably will turn up in the search results. If it doesn’t turn up, it could be that the settings of your site are on noindex or is still blocked by robots.txt. If that’s the case, you’re telling Google not to index your site. Sometimes developers forget to turn either of these off after they finished working on your site.

Some pages are just not the best landing pages. You don’t want people landing on your check out page, for instance. And you don’t want this page to compete with other – useful – content or product pages to show up in the search results. Pages you don’t want to pop up in the search results ever (but there aren’t many of these) should have a noindex.

Yoast SEO can help you to set these pages to noindex. That means Google will not save this page in the index and it’ll not turn op in the search results.

Keep reading: ‘The ultimate guide to the robots meta tag’ »

Important third step: keyword research

My friend’s site now ranks on her domain name. That’s about it. She’s got some work to do to start ranking on other terms as well. When you want to improve the SEO for a new website you have carry out some proper keyword research. So go find out what your audience is searching for! What words do they use?

If you execute your keyword research properly, you’ll end up with a long list of search terms you want to be found for. Make sure to search for those terms in Google yourself. What results are there already? Who will be your online competitors for these search terms? What can you do to stand out from these results?

Read on: ‘Keyword research: the ultimate guide’ »

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And then: write, write, write

Then you start writing. Write about all those topics that are important to your audience. Use the words you came up with in your keyword research. You need to have content about the topics you want to rank for to start ranking in the search results.

Read more: ‘How to write a high quality and seo-friendly blog post’ »

But also: improve those snippets

Take a look at your results in the search engines once you start ranking (the so called snippets). Are those meta descriptions and the titles of the search results inviting? Are they tempting enough for your audience to click on them? Or should you write better ones?

Yoast SEO helps you to write great titles and meta descriptions. Use our snippet preview to create awesome snippets. That’ll really help in attracting traffic to your site.

Keep reading: ‘The snippet preview: what it means and how to use it?’ »

Think about site structure

Which pages and posts are most important? These should have other pages and posts linking to them. Make sure to link to the most important content. Google will follow your links, the post and pages that have the most internal links will be most likely to rank high in the search engines. Setting up such a structure, is basically telling Google which articles are important and which aren’t. Our brand new text link counter can be a great help to see if you’re linking often enough to your most important content.

Read on: ‘Internal linking for SEO: why and how’ »

Finally: do some link building

Google follows links. Links are important. So get the word out. Reach out to other site owners – preferably of topically related websites – and ask them to write about your new site. If Google follows multiple links to your website, it’ll crawl it more often. This is crucial when you do the SEO for a new website, and will eventually help in your rankings. Don’t go overboard in link building for SEO though, buying links is still a no-go:

Read more: ‘Link building: what not to do?’ »

Ask Yoast: Create profiles on online platforms?

Nowadays there are a lot of online platforms where you can create your business profile. The idea is that you can be found on those platforms and that the backlinks to your site will benefit your SEO. But is it really worth investing your time and money in those kind of directories? Get the answer in this Ask Yoast!

Marcial Bollinger emailed us asking:

“There are a lot of possibilities nowadays to add an online profile for your site on all sorts of directories, etc. It might give you a lot of backlinks, but are these worth anything for SEO?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Add an online profile for your business

In the video, we help you decide whether your should invest time in creating profiles on online directories. Do they boost your SEO?

“To be honest, probably not. The only reason to create profiles on sites like that is if those sites actually have traffic. If they have traffic, then having the profile probably has an SEO benefit too. Because, in that case, probably the links are worth something to Google, as they see that that site is a living thing and people really use it as a reference.

So if you can make a profile on one of those sites, by all means do. If you can make a profile on a site that you don’t think anyone would ever get to and you’re just doing it for Google, stop doing it. Stuff like that doesn’t work anymore, so don’t. Focus on sites that people might actually will find you on and if those sites are in your area or in your niche, then use them. If they don’t exist, then focus on something else.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.

Read more: ‘6 steps to a successful link building strategy’ »

What is on-page SEO?

Every SEO strategy is focused on ranking as high as possible in the search engines. To do this, we all try to design and develop a website that Google’s secret algorithm will love. That’s basically what SEO is about. The factors in Google’s algorithm can be divided into two categories which will determine the ranking of your website: on-page factors and off-page factors. Here, I’ll discuss the differences between the two, explain the importance of on-page SEO and go over the most essential on-page SEO factors.

On-page and off-page SEO

On-page factors all have to do with elements of your own website. On-page factors include technical set-up – the quality of your code – textual and visual content and user-friendliness of your site. On the other side there are off-page factors, like links from other websites, social media attention and other marketing activities outside your own website. If you focus on off-page SEO you mostly aim to get more links to your site. The more relevant links you get, the higher your ranking in Google will be. Want to get more links to your site? Read our series about link building.

Importance of on-page SEO

On-page SEO consists of all the elements of SEO you can control best. If you own a website, you can control the technical issues and the quality of your content. We believe on-page issues should all be tackled as they’re in your own hands. If you create an awesome website, it will definitely start ranking. Focusing on on-page SEO will also increase the probability that your off-page SEO strategy will be successful. Link building with a crappy site is a very tough job. Nobody wants to link to articles that are badly written or boring.

New to SEO? Learn the Basics of SEO in our Basic SEO course »

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Essential on-page SEO factors

In our view, there are three major on-page SEO factors. These three pillars are the ones you should focus on:

Technical excellence

The quality of your code should be high. Check if you’re not unintentionally blocking crawlers from indexing your website (we still see this happening!). WordPress is an SEO-friendly platform and our free Yoast SEO plugin takes care of most remaining technical SEO challenges, without you even noticing it. So if you’re using WordPress and configured Yoast SEO well, you’ll have most technical aspects of your on-page SEO covered.

Want to dive deeper into the technical side of SEO? Read our articles on technical SEO or take the Technical SEO 1 training.

Awesome content

Why do people visit your site? Most likely because it contains information they’re looking for. Therefore you should write excellent content. Search engines like Google read your text. Which site ranks highest is for a large part based on the content of a website. That content should be about the right keywords, informative, and easy to read.

Learn all about writing high-quality content in our Ultimate Guide to SEO copywriting or get our Content SEO eBook.

Flawless UX

The third and final pillar is User eXperience. Users need to easily understand your website. They should be able to find what they want in a heartbeat. They should know where to click and how to navigate through your site. And it should be fast! A beautifully designed website is nice, but you should definitely make it your top priority to create a user-friendly website first!

Read more about usability here. If you want to learn more about combining SEO, UX and conversion we’d advise you to read our eBook ‘UX and Conversion from an holistic point of view

Read more: ‘SEO basics: what does Google do’ »

My bullets are green, but my post doesn’t rank?!

The Yoast SEO plugin helps you to easily optimize the text of your post. This could definitely result in higher rankings. But unfortunately, green bullets do not magically put you on top of the search results. In this post, I’ll discuss a number of possible reasons why a post doesn’t rank, even though the text has been optimized with the Yoast SEO plugin.

Too much competition

In most cases, the reason a post doesn’t rank on top is because there’s simply too much competition. If you optimize your blogpost for Justin Bieber, chances are high you won’t rank for that term.  Too many sites and blog posts have established themselves in this niche. Your site doesn’t have the authority that some other sites do have. And a large portion of the other sites in this niche are probably also capable of writing SEO-friendly texts. Green bullets won’t help you to rank high in the search results if your niche is too competitive.

Read more: ‘Should you blog about Justin Bieber’ »

If you really want to rank for those highly competitive terms, you should try a long tail keyword strategy. Blog about all the nuances and little variations around the competitive keywords. If these long tail articles start ranking, you’ll be able to rank for more competitive terms as well. Such a strategy requires long-term efforts, but in the end, it will pay off.

Learn how to set up a keyword strategy for your site in our Keyword research training »

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Technical issues

If your post doesn’t show up in the search engines at all, it could be that there are technical issues that prevent your post from appearing in the search results. Of course, when set up right, Yoast SEO takes care of all technical issues, but you could be running a plugin that interferes with our plugin. And we’ve seen some themes that actually prevent Google from indexing your site.

Hacked?

Always make sure your site isn’t hacked! If a site is hacked, your older posts will decrease in ranking as well. New post won’t rank as easily as they used to do. This will all evolve rather slowly, depending on how much crap is published on your site, without you knowing it. This really happens!

Keep reading: ‘WordPress Security’ »

Internal linking structure

A reason for your post not to end up high in the search engines , could be because other parts of your SEO strategy are not optimized. The structure of your site – the internal linking structure – is a very important aspect of an SEO strategy. Having a clear site structure leads to better understanding of your site by Google. If your internal linking structure is poor, chances to rank high (even though your content might be awesome) are lower. Yoast SEO premium could help you with your internal linking structure. If you want to improve your site structure, you should check out our site structure training.

Read on: ‘Site structure: the ultimate guide’ »

Few external links

If you just started out with your website, your content won’t instantly rank. Not even if all your bullets are green. You’ll need some links from other websites. Google has to know your website exists. In order to get backlinks, you should reach out to other websites. You’ll need to do some PR or link building. Ask them to mention your site or talk about your product and link to your site. Use social media to get the word out!

Content SEO: learn how to do keyword research, how to structure your site and how to write SEO friendly content »

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Green bullets, no ranking?

There are multiple reasons that could prevent a post from ranking. If you optimized it correctly with Yoast SEO, the most common cause will definitely be that the competition in a niche is just too hard. Unfortunately, SEO is a long-term strategy. You just need to have a little patience. In the meantime, there are a lot of other aspects of your SEO (site structure, link building) you can tackle. Try to focus on all aspects of website optimization, try to be that best result. It will pay off eventually!

Read more: ‘The temptation of the green bullet’ »

SEO fact or fiction?

SEO has a somewhat questionable reputation. Why is that? At Yoast, we advise you to make an awesome website. Our SEO advice always comes down to: make sure to outrank the competition by being the best result. We actually collaborate with Google in the development of our plugin. So, why does SEO have a questionable reputation? And what about all those ‘supposed’ SEO tricks that’ll get you instant rankings? In this post, I’ll take a look at what’s an SEO fact and what’s SEO fiction!

The origin of this reputation

A lifetime ago, when Google’s algorithm wasn’t that good, you could trick your way into the search results. Putting down keywords in white (so nobody would see, but Google would crawl it) was an effective strategy back then. As was buying bulks of links from questionable sites. As Google evolved, these kinds of dirty SEO tricks started to backfire. If you’re wondering whether certain tactics of old school or blackhat SEO still pay off, just think about the following questions: does it give the user a better experience on your site? Does your website become a better result? If you can answer these questions with yes, then it’s probably a good SEO strategy. Anything that feels like a trick though, probably won’t be a good SEO strategy in the long run. So, let’s look at some SEO statements and find out if they’re fact or fiction!

SEO: fact or fiction?

Fact or fiction 1: Content is King

Content is a very important aspect of any SEO strategy. After all, Google crawls texts and determines the ranking of your site on the quality of your texts. High-quality content also leads to lower bounce rates and more social media attention.

SEO fact: Content is King

Fact or fiction 2: Get as many links as possible

While backlinks are definitely important for your SEO strategy, you should be rather selective in which kinds of backlinks you’d want to attract to your website. You shouldn’t buy large amounts of links. You shouldn’t exchange links. You shouldn’t use any automated programs to get links. You shouldn’t do guest blogging with very thin and off-topic content. You shouldn’t have links that are unrelated to the topic of your website. You shouldn’t have links from sites that have no real content. You shouldn’t have links from spammy sites whose only purpose is to advertise for gambling, viagra and porn (unless your website is about gambling, viagra and porn). You should never pay for links. If you choose to go overboard on link building, you’ll risk a penguin penalty and loose your rankings in Google.

SEO fiction: Get as many links as possible

Fact or fiction 3: Keyword density should be sky high

Some people try to put as many keywords in their texts as possible. They hope that Google will notice the amount of keywords they’re using and therefore will rank the text highest in the search results. However, their text will become unreadable. So they shouldn’t do that! It’ll definitely backfire. Never write content that’s created for the search engines. Always write content with a real audience in mind. Invest in high-quality content, that’ll generate long term stable traffic to your website.

SEO fiction: keyword density should be sky high

Fact or fiction 4: You don’t need high-end technical skills to do SEO

Technical SEO definitely is an important element of an SEO strategy. And it doesn’t hurt to learn a bit of code (it could even be great fun). However, if you’re using WordPress and our Yoast SEO plugin, your technical SEO is pretty much covered. Our plugin is designed to take care of all the technical aspects of your SEO strategy.

SEO fact: You don’t need high-end technical skills to do SEO

Fact or fiction 5: SEO is all tricks

At Yoast, we propose an SEO strategy we refer to as holistic SEO. You should develop a long-term SEO strategy focusing on all aspects of website optimization in order to be the best result. You should write awesome content, do great PR and social, make sure your website is properly secured and create a superb User Experience. And of course your website should have technical excellence and an awesome site structure. That’s no trick. That’s just a whole lot of hard work.

SEO fiction: SEO is all tricks

Conclusion

The final SEO fiction actually says it all. SEO is not all tricks. Not at all. SEO, in our view, is a longterm strategy, focusing on getting and keeping those high rankings in the search engines. It is a lot of work, but it will definitely pay off in the long run!

Read more: ‘Holistic SEO’ »

Ask Yoast: how to rank globally

Ranking in your own country is one thing, ranking around the globe is quite another thing though. It poses other challenges. Let’s say you’re organizing trips for tourists who visit your country, how to reach those tourists? In this Ask Yoast, I’ll explain what’s essential for your global SEO strategy.

We received the following question from Thushi from SriLankaHolidayIdeas.com:

“Our website ranks very well in Sri Lanka, however we’d like to rank globally. We’ve already specified “Unlisted” in Google Search Console with the intention of ranking worldwide. On our Facebook page 75% of likes is from Sri Lanka. Could this be an issue?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Using links to rank globally

Most importantly, if you want people from all over the globe to find you, you’ll need links from all over the world. Read the transcript of the video to learn more:

“Your Facebook likes are probably not the issue, because Google can’t see most of Facebook, so it can’t see where your likes are coming from. Nevertheless, if your Facebook likes come from Sri Lanka, your backlinks might as well. So Google may think that, because most links that point to your site are from Sri Lanka, you’re relevant to Sri Lanka. So, you should get links from all over the world, pointing to your site, that tell Google: “Hey, we write about Sri Lanka, we’ve got cool ideas”, and that will help you rank in the rest of world.

What’s probably also the case, is that for your specific keywords, the competition in Sri Lanka might not be very high. Whereas the competition in the rest of the world for those keywords – we guess they’ll be related to Sri Lanka, vacation, holiday – will get a lot more competition. So, you’ll need a lot more links to rank well in the US, Europe etc. This means you’ll really need to start working on your link building and your PR internationally, so that you’ll get links from international sites, pointing to your site. That will help you get better rankings across the globe.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers! Need help with SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.

Read on: ‘Link building from a holistic SEO perspective’ »