One of the biggest marketing challenges business owners face is attracting visitors to their website. Most small business marketing begins with word-of-mouth recommendations and simple traditional print marketing strategies such as postcard mailings and flyers.
However, sooner rather than later, business owners learn that these efforts can only fuel so much growth. It is then that they seek other methods of marketing such as social media, paid advertising, and optimizing directory listings.
Small business owners realize that the key to success is working smarter and not harder. And this extends into the digital world through search engine optimization (SEO), content management for on-page SEO, automation, and other strategies that create a bigger bang for the buck.
These initiatives also include website structure optimization, meta tags, and off-page strategies such as link building — all of which leverage behind-the-scenes technology to attract a wider audience and generate website visits.
Overview: What is link building?
Link building is one of the foundational strategies used to boost website rankings in organic search engine results. In its simplest form, link building refers to using other websites and online outlets with higher page ranks to link to your website.
The other website’s ranking (in terms of popularity and visits) can impact your site’s ranking by association. This website linking gives your site a boost when Google “crawls” the web and applies its algorithm for giving sites value.
How does link building benefit your SEO efforts?
Google has confirmed that high-quality content and inbound links are in the top three most important ranking factors for SEO. So, while you want to focus on high-quality on-page content that targets competitive keywords and long-tail phrases, you also want to work on effective link building from high-quality sites.
Let’s review a quick example using a made-up small business called Justin's Fitness Studio for Kids.
Justin has a small fitness studio, and during the pandemic, he is running great virtual classes to keep kids active and less likely to Zoom-bomb their parents’ work meetings. A local TV station finds out about Justin’s work and films a segment for its small business series.
After the story airs, the station posts the video on its website. Accompanying the story is a link back to Justin’s studio website (an inbound link, also known as a backlink) so viewers can get more information about his business.
When Google indexes Justin’s site and detects a new inbound link from a more prominent website, the algorithm attributes greater importance to Justin’s site through the link association. So, the TV report helps Justin’s business increase brand awareness in the community, and his site gets a little pat on the back by Google thanks to the inbound link.
As a result, Justin’s site may end up with a higher page rank, which will hopefully cause the site’s search results to bump up a few spots. This is ideal since every business wants one of those coveted first-page search results listings without paying thousands of dollars to get there.
Another consideration for SEO is Google’s E-A-T guidelines. E-A-T is an acronym for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness — characteristics Google’s algorithm uses to evaluate quality, which factors into a site’s page rank. Quality inbound links can help fulfill each aspect of the E-A-T guidelines for a site if the linking sites also meet the E-A-T criteria.
Here is what you need to know about E-A-T.
Your site should demonstrate a level of expertise. You can accomplish this by understanding how to communicate your knowledge in a way that engages your audience. You need to know what your audience wants and how to deliver that information effectively.
Do this by:
- Understanding what your audience wants to know through keyword research
- Answering search intents (meaning the questions your audience is asking Google)
- Creating excellent, expert content and displaying it throughout your site
Showing authority is where inbound links and an effective link building strategy have significant impacts. When your site receives links from relevant and authoritative websites, this shows a higher level of authority and can be a substantial boost to your site’s rankings.
Sites with existing authority in your area of expertise that link to your site serve as third-party endorsements demonstrating that they support your focus and expertise. In addition to links, mentions on these authoritative sites can also prove to be beneficial for SEO.
Trustworthiness is arguably a characteristic that can make or break your brand. It is predicted to have a bit more weight on your site’s SEO than the other two. Regardless of its relative power, it is always important to be perceived as trustworthy.
A great way to build trustworthiness and get useful links is by earning positive reviews on third-party sites such as TripAdvisor, Trustpilot, Facebook, and Google My Business. These sites give star ratings and collect reviews from customers, reflecting your reputation and how Google ranks trustworthiness.
How to develop a link building campaign for your small business
As you focus on a link building strategy, first determine what you truly want to accomplish with your efforts and how you will get there. Then consider a few different ways to get high-quality links.
Follow these steps to develop a link building campaign.
1. Set your baseline
As you get started, know the current stats on your site regarding ranking, search engine results, and keyword optimization. Determine the marketing metrics that matter for your efforts and identify your baseline numbers so you can set your goals and determine feasibility.
2. Determine your resources
It is essential to know who can help you with your optimization and which SEO and link building tools — free or affordable — you can use to help you identify the best strategies and track progress.
These helpful sites and tools include link builder functions, SEO tips, and general education on effective link building.
Use these resources to help determine keywords, competitor sites, and high-ranking authoritative sites, and ways to creatively pitch sites to give you a link.
3. Formulate and execute your strategy
Armed with your goals, budget, resources, and tools, set your strategy to move forward. Determine how much time, effort, and budget you plan to allot to these efforts with the goal always in sight.
Implement your strategy and stay aware of changes or pivots to ensure your strategy stays on track. Also, stay updated on any Google algorithm changes that may impact the rank of your site or other targeted sites.
4. Get creative
There are plenty of ways to get links without seeming spammy or pushy. However, sometimes you have to get a little creative to make it happen.
One way is to set up Google alerts for your business or brand name. If you receive an alert for a mention from a quality site that doesn’t include a link back to your site, ask for it. Reach out to the site owner and offer a direct link to your site. To get your SEO backlink, request an update to the mention that includes your link. This request may seem a bit forward, but you will be surprised by how often it works.
5. Maintain, revisit, and reactivate your strategy
Lastly, it is essential to know that link building isn’t just a one-and-done effort. Maintaining quality inbound links requires ongoing monitoring to observe the impact of the inbound links and possible adjustments to your on-page SEO to optimize the benefits.
SEO and link building continue to be codependent
Just like couples who can’t live without one another, SEO and link building are closely intertwined and will be for the foreseeable future. So, if you want your SEO to be effective, focus on grabbing those high-quality links and get creative to get there.