Link l-earning: What you need to know

at-99377_640Linkbuilding has changed. We touched on this massive topic in our recent what’s out what’s in post and today we’re going to explore it in a lot more detail and hopefully share a little learning about link earning. Since the Penguin update first flapped its wings lots of linkbuilding practices that were used in the past should have taken flight. If your SEO agency is still building links on forums, networks or outright paying for links on sites that just aren’t relevant, you should query why. These easy-win linkbuilding strategies might yield a large quantity of links but they are likely to do your site far more harm than good, which brings us neatly onto the subject of earning links…


What is link earning?

You’ve probably seen the term ‘link earning’ being bandied about in marketing publications. The term is so popular that some SEO agencies have even rebranded their linkbuilding departments as the ‘earned media’ team. For us, the fundamentals of good linkbuilding haven’t changed, which is why we’re sticking with linkbuilding. The links worth having are, and always were, those that are built by people. Just like building a bridge, building a link takes a fair old amount of time and hard work. And, just like bridges, it’s far better to have a few solid, good quality links than a lot of shoddy unsafe ones that you’re likely to have to remove at some point for safety purposes.


What does the ideal link building model look like?

Truth be told, there’s no ideal linkbuilding model. Every site and brand is different and so the methods of building links for sites should also differ. That’s why we take a bespoke approach to SEO – looking for and developing linking opportunities rather than using the same tactics for each site. In Google’s eyes a link from one site to another is like a vote of confidence that signals relevancy and gaining that vote isn’t something that can be done in a formulaic fashion.


Good linkbuilding that falls within Webmaster Guidelines make use of natural assets, it leverages relationships that are already established and looks to create new ones, building links in the process. This might mean creating and sharing content, news or products, making use of things that are happening offline in the online sphere or creating offline things that will make an impact online.


What does link earning outreach look like?

Earning a link requires a lot more than sending out a bunch of emails, believe us, we’ve been doing this a long time! We work with bloggers – some of us are bloggers – and we know how frustrating it is to get a generic email seeking a link out of nowhere and frankly, the conversion rate for this type of outreach is not good. To earn good quality links from blogs and other types of sites requires a link development approach that is creative and well planned. Depending on the technique(s) and the target, this may include site wishlists, personalised email outreach, social media outreach or a bit of old-fashioned telephone or meet and greet action.


The key is to present opportunities in the right way and this requires time to plan your approach, to perhaps communicate back and forth with webmasters or editors in order to build the trust that will lead to a lasting and good quality link. An outreach campaign built around specific content, events or products can take several months to plan before outreach begins and for many projects, getting the timing right is critical. With this in mind, it can be risky to stop and start linkbuilding campaigns as any pause can create a lag, giving your competitors the chance to gain advantage.


How long does linkbuilding take?

We’re often asked how long it will take to see linkbuilding campaigns come to fruition. This of course depends on the strategies used and in turn whether they are built around on any particular news hooks or events. Clients usually begin to see the benefits of linkbuilding campaigns a few months into their execution, but a project – onsite or off – can continue to amass links even after proactive outreach has for the most part ceased.


A topic may resurface in the news, allowing you to give something an extra push or content can be shared by a contact much later than expected, resulting in a second wave of interest, traffic and potentially extra links. This can of course make measuring the progress of linkbuilding difficult, so how does the concept of link earning reconcile with a KPI that equates to building X number of links per month?


How should you measure the effects of linkbuilding?

Lots of clients still like to target a number of links as a KPI and we are happy to set a minimum number of links to earn. That said, monthly reporting isn’t necessarily the best way to see the progress or measure the success of linkbuilding campaigns. The building of just one link might straddle several months once you factor in things like content creation and effective outreach but that one piece of content might attract a number of links and in turn those links might have additional benefits.


Placing links in the right places doesn’t just have value for SEO; it can also drive traffic or put your brand in front of new audiences. All of this means it’s very difficult to measure the progress and worth of links in terms of numbers alone, so it’s always important to look at the impact of those links on rankings. When it comes to reporting, your SEO agency should be able to give you some visibility on links that are currently in development. This means you have an idea of activity as well as links built, giving you a better overview of the work overall.


Key link earning takeaways:

  • Linkbuilding should focus on quality not quantity
  • Links can take a while to build but you can get a steer on what’s in the pipeline
  • Link earning is about being proactive and resourceful
  • Earnt links can have benefits beyond SEO – building brand awareness as well as traffic or introducing your products and services to new audiences


Want to learn more about what an earned link campaign might look like for your site? We’re always happy to chat and share ideas – contact us on 01202 237121.