New for 2018: The Ultimate Link Building Guide

August 24th, 2018

PREFACE: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

You may be tempted to ignore SEO and hope your site will do fine without it. The problem with doing so is that what you don’t know can hurt you.

Many site owners have endured the pain, lost time, and expense of trying to recover from penalties in spite of never having built links intentionally.

Even if you do not choose to build links yourself, knowing how to analyze your link profile and guard against negative SEO is imperative.

Read on to find out how.

Ultimate Link Building Guide 2018

While Google may claim that links are not as important as they once were, every ranking factor publication put out by SEOs who do testing shows they are still the #1 factor in getting a site to rank.

Stone Temple did extensive research in 2017 proving links remain a powerful ranking factor. Attracting links organically by publishing exceptional content could work, but only if the content is so well-promoted that writers can find it.

If a site does not have enough authority for its content to appear in search, it surely will not be found in a search engine.

Because journalists and bloggers primarily use search engines when researching, if your content is not visible there it is unlikely to end up linked to in their content.

That leaves social media and outreach to build links. So link building will continue to be necessary into the foreseeable future.

1. Do Keyword Research First

Knowing what keyword phrases are most important to your site and business is the first step. It guides what content you create, publish, and promote and what links you want to acquire.

SEOs use many premium tools which we will discuss later in this paper. But the free Ubersuggest keyword research tool is sufficient to get started. It pulls data from Google which only those who have high AdWords spends can access directly now.

Start with the general words that describe what you offer. Then follow the tips on how to use Ubersuggest here.

Narrow your keyword phrases down to those that are highly relevant. Decide by asking yourself whether someone searching for that phrase would be specifically looking for what you offer.

1.1 Organizing Your Keyword Research

Keyword research can be exported into spreadsheets. While many exclusively use spreadsheets, others prefer a more visual method.

The free project management tool Trello is ideal for prioritizing your keywords. You can learn to use it in ten minutes. See this Trello 101 to get started.

Create columns for:

  • priority
  • too general
  • too competitive
  • specific niches
  • low priority

Then create a card for each keyword phrase showing the keyword, search volume, CPC, and competition value on the front of the card.

Easily sort cards by priority. Create one piece of pillar content for each keyword phrase and add the URL of that content to the card.

Then start building links to that content. Pillar content is also referred to as cornerstone or flagship content.

Before you build links, get familiar with how to judge the quality of a site. Various companies have provided metrics to assist in site evaluation.

The most commonly used is the Moz Domain Authority (DA). Install the free Moz toolbar in your browser to check the DA of any site. Just navigate to a site and activate the toolbar.

Also available on the toolbar is Page Authority (PA). Where DA is Moz’ estimate of the authority of the main URL of that domain, PA is the authority of any individual page.

URL stands for uniform resource locator. It is what you type into your browser to go to a site online and how that content is found and displayed to you.

It is important to note that Google states that they score pages on a per URL basis, not over a full domain. But it is still useful to have some idea of the authority a domain may pass to a particular page using Moz’ DA.

Although other tools pull data from Moz, they draw from an older version that is not updated as frequently. So the data on the toolbar is the most accurate.

Other metrics available from Moz are MozTrust (mT) and MozRank (mR). On the toolbar, click the Page Analysis (first icon on the left next to “Moz”) to get to these.

Then click on Link Metrics. If a site has a mR or mT, you will see it on that page along with PA and DA.

2.1 Relevance is Extremely Important

A pervasive mistake in building links is not to put enough emphasis on relevance. An incoming link from a highly related site is much more valuable than a link from a higher value but less related site.

Focus on getting many very relevant sites in your niche to link to your content. A link from a relevant site is more important than a link from any unrelated site.

Links from content specifically about your keyword phrase from a quality site that is about your niche should be your priority.

That does not mean other links may not be valuable. Only the most relevant links should be your target.

2.2 What Is Google PageRank (PR)?

In the past, there was a Google Toolbar that provided a PageRank (PR) number of 0 to 10 to indicate how valuable a site was for SEO.

Google eliminated visible toolbar PR on April 16, 2016, but SEOs believe that Google still uses an internal PR calculation.

For more information about the importance of Google’s PR (even though we cannot see it), read Bruce Clay’s What is PageRank.

Ahrefs, Moz, and Majestic calculations are used by SEOs in place of Google PR to evaluate sites today.

People use a variety of different types of links. It is useful to know the standard terminology so that you can make inquiries accurately and follow the latest research. Here are some common types defined:

  • Homepage link: a link that goes to the primary domain URL
  • Branded link: company name used as anchor text, typically linked to the home page
  • Editorial link: editorial content linked to a comprehensive blog post or other informative, long-form content
  • URL link: a link to yourdomain.com
  • Image alt tag anchor text
  • Brand + keyword anchor text
  • Title anchor text: a link whose anchor text is the title of content on your site
  • Naked link: any variation of anchor text using a URL including those starting with http, www, or just domain.com. (Examples: www.yourdomain.com, http://yourdomain.com, http://www.yourdomain.com, https://yourdomain.com, or https://www.yourdomain.com)

While some SEOs insist that it is essential to include naked links while linkbuilding, most writers consider them unnatural and almost never use them.

Mike Friedman argues that naked links are not necessary in this research. Publishers and writers would probably prefer you leave them out of content you request.

When commenting in blogs became commonplace, Google introduced the practice of adding code to a link to make it “no follow”.

That is not accurate because robots do appear to follow these links. We know that because they get indexed in search engines.

“No juice” might be more accurate. In theory, links that have the nofollow attribute do not pass what used to be called Google PageRank (PR).

Until Google introduced nofollow links, there was no such thing as a “do follow” link. Unless a link has a nofollow attribute added to the HTML, it is naturally a dofollow link.

Dofollow links are considered more valuable for SEO rankings because they pass “link juice”.

4. What is Anchor Text?

The words that make up the part of the text that contains the actual link you click on to visit another page are the anchor text.

Example: In this sentence, click here (typically highlighted in blue and often underlined) is the anchor text. If you want to start a huge debate, argue whether you should use “click here” as anchor text to encourage clicks or not use “click here” because it has no direct value for ranking purposes.

4.1 Exact Match Anchor Text

An exact match anchor text is a link that includes only the specific targeted keyword phrase. For example, if your target phrase were “link building” the anchor text would be link building.

Exact match anchor text is not as necessary today as it once was because search engines now use semantic search. Read this to understand what it is.

4.2 Partial Match Anchor Text

Partial match anchor text would contain only some of your keyword phrase or additional words.

Here are some examples for a partial match of the phrase “link building” in the following sentence: “Read this to learn link building safely.”

  • Read this to learn link building safely.
  • Read this to learn link building safely. Notice that only the word “link” or alternately, the word “building” would be part of the anchor text. Another method of doing partial match phrases is to include other words:
  • Read this to learn link building safely.
  • Read this to learn link building safely.

See how we created partial match phrases for “learn link” and “building safely” in the anchor text above?

4.3 Latent Semantic Index Keywords (LSI)

Neil Patel uses Latent Semantic Index Keywords (LSI) even though he acknowledges that some feel they are ineffective. It can’t hurt if not overdone.

4.4 How Anchor Text is Evolving Over Time

Each site owner or writer online tends to link in different ways. At one time, writers would choose the phrase that best describes the page where each link lands.

But due to pressure from Google, links today will often intentionally avoid using that type of keyword phrase.

On prominent sites, you will often see anchor text that says “research shows” or “according to” some source rather than anchor text indicating what type of research or what the source discussed.

4.5 Be Careful With Exact Match Anchor Text

There was a time when it was common practice to use exact match anchor text. So if you wanted to rank for “link building” you would get others to link to you using the anchor text phrase “link building”.

If you do that too much today, Google’s Penguin algorithm is likely to penalize your site. Cautious SEOs now only build one exact match link per phrase.

Others with premium tools will build based on the percentage of other types of links. A natural link profile has varying ratios of anchor text types.

4.6 The Importance of Co-Occurrence

By including additional words from your target keyword phrase close to your anchor text, you can increase the value of links without the risk of using too much exact match anchor text.

Here’s an example. If the brand name Vazoola often appears near the words “link building”, Google will assume that our site is relevant for searches about link building even though the brand name was not linked.

4.7 Understanding Co-Citations

Some SEOs theorize that if a third site mentions two sites as being correlated with each other, Google will recognize a relation between those two sites.

According to this post on Search Engine Journal, co-citations can be an important ranking factor.

5. What is a Natural Link Profile?

Building links is not without risk. It is critical to build your backlink profile naturally. You want your link profile to appear organic. Avoid focusing only on exact match phrases unless you have done extensive research and know the percentages by type of links pointing at your site. The safest method is to build one link per exact match phrase. Be sure to have a mix of all other link types such as partial match, branded, editorial, URL, and naked.

There is no consensus on exact percentages. Some SEOs treat this information as valuable proprietary and confidential data.

Others have shared their advice publicly. Note how low the exact match percentages are.

5.2 Gotch SEO Anchor Text Percentages

In Gotch SEO’s Anchor Text updated for 2018, Nathan Gotch recommended:

  • 70% branded
  • 20% naked
  • 5% generic
  • 1-5% LSI or partial match or titles
  • Exact match less than 1%

In an interview, he said that the naked link percentages will usually come from business listings, press releases, profile links, etc. and not contextual placements.

And the reason he recommends such a high percentage of branded links is to keep people out of trouble getting too many anchor text links.

5.3 Serpstat Anchor Text Percentages

In October 2017, Serpstat suggested:

  • Branded anchor text: 50%
  • Naked links: 20%
  • Generic anchors: 5%
  • LSI, partial match anchors: 1-5%
  • Exact match anchor text: 1-2% As you can see, their recommendations are very similar.

6. Featured Snippets

What is better than ranking #1 for a search phrase? Having your site at the top of the page in a Featured Snippet on Google can be even better. (Some are calling this position 0.)

An estimated 30-40% of searches are already showing Featured Snippets. Google is likely to continue to increase this number, so targeting these is a good strategy.

Ignore these at your peril. Many sites are seeing their traffic go down even though they still rank in the same place.

Ahrefs research shows that clicks on these Featured Snippets are garnering an average of about 8.6% of clicks.

Optimizing for Featured Snippets can be a substantial competitive advantage. The first step is to build links to rank within the top 10 listings.

6.1 Ahref’s How to Find and Steal Featured Snippets Manually

Ahrefs created a post and video on how to manually find Snippets you already own and how to acquire more.

In it, they advise:

  • #1 Find and optimize Featured Snippets you already own (so you keep them)
  • #2 Win more Snippets by optimizing your pages that rank in the top 10 positions
  • #3 Find Stealable Featured Snippets

6.2 Automated Featured Snippet Tools

Ahrefs is not the easiest way to optimize for Featured Snippets. There are new, specialized tools to guide you.

Get a jump on your competitors by using Ann Smarty’s Featured Snippet Resources and videos on how to do Featured Snippet Optimization.

Ninja Tools created the Featured Snippet tool shown in the image below: Featured Snippet

The tool finds and analyzes the 2000 most valuable keyword phrases for your site that are already in the top 15 positions on Google.

[Note: Research shows that you need to move up to the top 10 to capture a Featured Snippet 99+% of the time.]

It shows the Featured Snippets you already own so you can optimize those to make sure you keep them.

Their “Low Hanging Fruit” feature points out the Featured Snippets that you can most easily capture because your site already ranks higher than the site being featured.

Other data includes what type of Snippets Google shows for:

  • keyword research
  • best tags to use
  • searches related to
  • people also ask

Use this data to optimize your pages. There is also a less sophisticated Rank Ranger Featured Snippet Tool.

7. Avoid These Common Mistakes

Many people end up with a very unnatural looking profile similar to the one in this image:

Link Profile

The reason this happens is that they do not want to pay to acquire links that are under DA30 and they don’t know how to get mentioned on the most significant sites.

It is a mistake to only end up with links from sites with mid-range DAs. Vazoola is perfect to help you with both higher and lower end sites.

8. Monitoring Your Backlink Profile

Whether you are actively building backlinks or relying on gaining them organically, it is essential to monitor your backlink profile.

Incoming links should be a mix of types of anchor text and also sources. Too many so-called SEOs with little knowledge will focus on links that are auto-approved and end up with backlink profiles so unnatural they can get your site penalized.

For example, while links in comments are easy to get, they are low value and typically nofollowed. Too many comment or forum links can be dangerous when you do not have other types of links to balance them out.

8.1 Negative SEO

Monitor your backlinks to detect negative SEO so you can work on recovery quickly. Waiting until your income drops dramatically can be costly.

While Google claims it can detect negative SEO so that it will not affect your site, some have fallen victim to it.

For more information, read Search Engine Land’s post on 6 types of negative SEO and how to protect your site.

According to Neil Patel, negative SEO definitely exists. He offers tips on how to protect your site from negative SEO here.

Both Matt Cutts and John Mueller have publicly stated that using the link:URL command should not be used to find incoming links.

Google advises using the “Links to Your Site” report found under the Search Traffic category in the Google Search Console.

9. Recovering From Penalties

The first signs your site may be penalized (or have a technical problem) will be dropping traffic or lost sales.

Immediately check your analytics to see if your traffic has dropped off. If it has, drill down to determine what incoming sources of traffic are lower than usual.

When organic search traffic drops, and in particular Google organic search, you need to find out why.

Immediately log into Google Search Console to get additional information. (Note that search console was formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools.)

Every site owner needs to have access to this free tool and information. Bruce Clay has provided instructions on How to Set Up Google Search Console.

Go to the Search Traffic > Manual Actions section and check for manual penalties. There will be information online on how to recover from each type.

You could start with 7 reasons your rankings suddenly dropped, or how to revert the SEO apocalypse.

10. Manual Penalties

An unnatural inbound link penalty is a manual penalty Google levies against a site they believe built incoming links. Negative SEO may also cause this penalty.

Search Engine Journal provides comprehensive information about unnatural inbound link penalties including how to recover.

The most straightforward penalty to fix is the manual unnatural outbound links because they are all on your site.

What most do to recover is to remove or nofollow their outbound links. For comprehensive information read Predicting Intent: What Unnatural Outbound Link Penalties Could Mean for the Future of SEO.

11. Algorithmic Penalties

Algorithms were infrequently updated in the past. If you were penalized by one, you had to wait for the next update to see if your site recovered.

Today, they are “live” and immediately update. Live updates allow you to recover more quickly, but also be penalized much faster.

Immediate updates could make it easier to connect something you did with why you were penalized.

Google algorithmic penalties can be applied at the page level rather than across the entire site. To better understand levels of algorithmic penalties, see this older Moz post.

11.1 Panda Penalty

The Panda algorithm is a filter intended to weed out poor quality and thin content. It caused particular issues for ecommerce sites and product pages that had only the name of the product or a very short description.

The short list to not trip a Panda algorithm is:

  • Avoid having pages with very little text on them
  • Do not use Flash
  • Fix your 404 errors
  • Delete or improve thin, duplicate, or irrelevant content

To better understand how to protect your sites from a Panda penalty, read Searchmetrics post 5 ways to definitely get hit by a Panda algorithm penalty.

11.2 Penguin Penalty

First introduced in April 2012, the Penguin algorithm dropped rankings for sites with unnatural inbound links.

Penguin initially was updated periodically, so any link clean-up done on a site would not change rankings until another Penguin update occurred.

Between September and October 2016, a new real-time Penguin 4.0 was fully rolled out. See Ignite Visibility’s research for complete details on the history of Penguin through 2018.

The most cautious SEOs avoid tripping Penguin by using a specific phrase as anchor text only once. They also keep their exact match anchor text phrases under 1-2% of all links.

Advanced SEOs actively monitor the percentages of link types to ensure a natural balance so that they may use the same exact match anchor text more than once.

Find out How to Remove a Penguin Penalty from 58 SEOs Who Share Their Tips.

11.3 Mobile Friendly Ranking Factor

Although this may or may not actually be a “penalty”, Google has announced that sites that are not mobile friendly will have their rankings lowered.

They also show a “mobile friendly” label in the SERPs. (SERPs is a common SEO term that stands for search engine ranking pages or search engine results pages.)

12. SEO Tools

Serious link builders use a combination of free and premium tools. The ones discussed below are the most commonly recommended.

It is nearly impossible to decide which is best because they have different strengths and weaknesses.

Advanced SEOs use many premium tools with monthly fees. Choose wisely to minimize your monthly expense.

Start with the free tools and then add a premium tool. Once you have thoroughly learned it, then you can consider additional paid tools.

The list below is not complete because there are so many SEO tools, but it does cover the best-known and most-often mentioned.

12.1 Ahrefs

Ahrefs define themselves as competitor research tools and an SEO backlink checker. In a post updated in early July 2018, they wrote, _“At the moment we stand out from the herd of other similar services by the largest base of Live links, huge Index and the best Speed of index updates.” _

Ahrefs announced their Domain Rank (DR) calculation in January 2018. They also have other metrics including URL Rating (UR), Domain Rating (DR), Ahrefs Rank (AR) and Keyword Difficulty (KD).

Did you know that Ahrefs has a free toolbar for Chrome to make it fast and easy to pull their metrics?

Tools offered by Ahrefs are:

  • Site Explorer for analyzing backlinks of your site and competitors
  • Content Explorer to find the most shared content on any topic
  • Keywords Explorer for keyword research
  • Rank Tracker tool to track desktop and mobile rankings for any location; includes the ability to run daily, weekly, and monthly reports
  • Site Audit tool to find common SEO issues and monitor your site’s SEO health
  • Alerts notifying you of new & lost backlinks, web mentions, keywords rankings

Be aware that even paid plans have limits on the number of searches you can do. So keep that in mind when using this tool.

There are comprehensive guides online to make it easier to get the most out of these powerful SEO tools including Nathan Gotch’s Ahrefs: The Ultimate Guide.

12.2 Majestic SEO

Majestic bills itself as link intelligence tools for SEO, Marketing, and Internet PR. There are huge debates whether Ahrefs or Majestic has a more extensive database of links.

They also claim to have “The planet’s largest Link Index database”. Majestic and Ahrefs tend to run neck-and-neck for that claim.

Many SEOs prefer one over the other. There is no consensus regarding which one is best.

The Majestic SEO toolbar data is free to access. The Majestic toolbar provides the valuable Flow Metrics ™ for Citation Flow and Trust Flow.

Their Starter Plan (Lite) has access to their Fresh Index and other commonly used features.

Upgrade to the Pro version to access their Historic Index, other history metrics, and additional features.

Majestic provides SEO training videos to make their many tools easier to learn.

12.3 LinkResearch Tools

Not as commonly known, LinkResearchTools claims to be able to “simulate the danger of a potential new link” so site owners can avoid Google penalties.

They offer a free toolbar and premium tools.

12.4 Moz Toolbar

The free Moz Toolbar is probably the most popular of all the tools because their Moz metrics are widely used to evaluate the quality of websites online. Those metrics were discussed earlier in this white paper.

While many writers and site owners use the free Moz Toolbar, fewer know what the difference is between it and Moz Pro. The premium version includes:

  • Keyword explorer for keyword research
  • Link profile analysis
  • On page optimization
  • Open site explorer
  • Rank tracking
  • Site Crawl

Their Content tool was shut down to focus on the SEO tools. Find out more about Moz Pro by reading this updated 2018 Moz Pro review.

12.5 SEMrush

Billing themselves as an “all-in-one marketing toolkit”, SEMrush provides tools for SEO, and also paid traffic, social media, content, and PR.

Their SEO tools include:

  • Backlinks audit and analytics
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Ideas for gaining more organic traffic
  • A “not provided” problem solution
  • Position tracking
  • Semantic core collection
  • Technical SEO Audit

To find out more, read their SEMrush getting started guide.

SEMrush also has their version of SEO metrics they call SEMrush traffic scores. These include:

  • Authority score
  • Page score
  • Domain score
  • Trust score

The Authority score combines the other scores to measure the overall quality of a domain.

When deciding which metrics to use, the G2 crowd Ahrefs versus SEMrush comparison can be useful.

13. SEO Crawling Tools

There are multiple crawling tools. Again, there is no consensus regarding which is best. Here are some top choices:

13.1 DeepCrawl

DeepCrawl is a web-based application used to “analyze your website architecture to understand and monitor technical issues to improve SEO performance”.

Online Performance Agency Roast said, "Using DeepCrawl means we can spend more time making recommendations and changes and less time trawling through the data". You can see their case study here.

13.2 Screaming Frog

The Screaming Frog SEO spider tool and website crawler “is a desktop website crawler and auditor for PC, Mac or Linux which spiders websites’ links, images, CSS, script and apps like a search engine to evaluate onsite SEO.”

If you have less than 500 URLs, you can use their free version unless you want to use their advanced features.

They also offer a Log File Analyzer tool “to upload your log files, verify search engine bots, identify crawled URLs and analyse search bot data and behaviour for invaluable SEO insight”. It also comes in a free and paid version.

You can use this tool to find broken links on your site and fix them. Not repairing broken links can impact your rankings in Google and other search engines.

Note that WordPress sites could also use the Broken Link Checker plugin. It is best not to leave it running all the time as it consumes resources and could slow your site.

For this reason, some hosting companies forbid sites to use the Broken Link Checker Plugin. Run it, clean up your links, and disable it until you rerun it.

13.3 Sitebulb

James Perrott of Zazzle Media said, “Sitebulb compiles the data integrity of Screaming Frog with the UX of DeepCrawl.”

If you’re no fan of using spreadsheets, one benefit of using Sitebulb is the reports:

  • Indexation Status by Depth
  • Mobile Rendering
  • Site Speed

In a review of Sitebulb for BuiltVisible, Richard Baxter wrote, _“This tool isn’t a replacement for crawlers like Screaming Frog or products like Ryte – it’s something you’d want in addition to them”. _

13.4 Which Crawling Tool is Best?

Not sure which crawling tool you want to use? John Doherty of Credo wrote a comprehensive comparison of the pros and cons of Screaming Frog, Sitebulb and DeepCrawl.

He also mentions that Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMrush also include crawlers. See his post for how these compare.

14. Data Intelligence Tools

14.1 BuzzSumo

Discussed further under Tools for Finding Influencers, BuzzSumo is used by content creators, but also by SEOs for doing competitive research on what content is most popular for a given keyword search.

(See discussion below in sectin 15.1 to learn more about BuzzSumo.)

14.2 Kerboo Data Intelligence

Kerboo is link audit software that consolidates information from multiple SEO tools. So if you have premium subscriptions to more than one, you may wish to use Kerboo.

14.3 SEOClarity for Market Intel

SEOClarity uses Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) to collect and analyze the data and turn it into reports for you.

14.4 SEMrush

SEMrush is also used for market intelligence. (Jump to discussion 12.5 above about SEMrush above.)

14.5 SpyFu

One of the most popular competitor analysis tools related to organic and paid search is SpyFu. Because it is so popular, you may want to see the SpyFu reviews on G2Crowd.

According to their site, SpyFu enables users to “Search for any domain and see every place they've shown up on Google: every keyword they've bought on AdWords, every organic rank, and every ad variation in the last 12 years.”

15. Tools for Finding Influencers

15.1 BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo is the primary tool content creators use to determine which content is most popular for any given keyword phrase, who is sharing it, and how influential they are.

There are so many features inside BuzzSumo, there is too much to cover here. Head over to Backlinko’s BuzzSumo: The Definitive Guide for details.

How good is it? I used BuzzSumo to find the best content about BuzzSumo!

15.2 Klear

Although not as well known as Kred once was, Klear categorizes influencers into 60,000 niches. (It doesn’t do you any good to use an influencer whose audience is not interested in what you have to offer.)

Use their influencer search engine to research influencers on specific networks or who post about topics relevant to your brand.

15.3 Klout

Although Klout shut down in 2018, it is mentioned here because they were once very prominent in the influencer space. Now you won’t need to waste your time looking for it.

15.4 Kred

Kred is an influence score and platform. Unlike some influencer tools that provide only one number for influence, the advantage of using Kred is that they provide separate scores for influencer and outreach level.

15.5 Leveraging Influential Content Marketers

Read much more about finding influencers, content marketing, and how to get influential writers to talk about your brand in our other white paper, Leveraging Influential Content Marketers.

16. Outreach Tools

16.1 Dibz.me

One way to find influencers is to use Dibz.me. Finding influencers is the simple part. Getting them to respond when you reach out to them is another thing.

That is why tapping into existing relationships by using Vazoola is faster than doing your outreach manually.

16.2 Hunter.io

Another tool for contacting sites is Hunter.io which provides potential email addresses based on searches of domain URLs.

As with Dibz.me, it can be challenging to get a response even if you do manage to find the correct email. There are often many incorrect emails listed, but it is a place to start if you want to do email outreach yourself.

17. On-page SEO

There is more to SEO than link building. Ensuring you have your pages optimized for on-page SEO is just as important.

Find out everything you need to know in Moz’ On Page SEO – The Ultimate Guide.

18. Content as an SEO Strategy

As Google’s algorithms have improved, SEOs like Martin MacDonald have said _“it became easier to just build the best for the query rather than trying to find ever more elaborate linking schemes”. _

He works in highly competitive niches, currently travel and previously casinos. He says,_ “It’s time to invest in content, and being the “right answer” to queries, not focusing on eeking out % of ranking factors”. _

18.1 Quality Content Defined

Before you build any links you need exceptional content. Even if you ask someone for a link, you cannot have one just because you want one.

There needs to be something of value for them to link to on your site from their content.

To attract both natural, organic links you haven’t explicitly requested and to actively build links, endeavor to publish the best possible content on your chosen keyword phrase.

It should be lengthy and comprehensive. 700+ words are the absolute minimum, and at least twice that is more common. Neil Patel recommends pillar content of about 2,550 words.

Other terms commonly used for pillar content are flagship content and cornerstone content. The SEO plugin Yoast provides a cornerstone content strategy.

The best way to get journalists and influencers to link to your content is to include current statistics they can quote.

If your content includes multiple statistics, they may even suggest their readers click through to see more.

Every keyword phrase you plan to target needs a separate post or page on your site. Then incoming links on that keyword phrase should always be linked to that specific URL.

Short on time to create content yourself? Get introduced to influential content writers by using Vazoola.

18.2 How to Create Quality Content

The easiest way to get ideas about what to write is by researching the top content for the keyword phrase you plan to target.

You can find this content using Google, other search engines, and BuzzSumo. BuzzSumo allows a very limited number of searches from their free version.

Serious writers typically use the Pro version which allows unlimited searches and provides additional features.

Review the best content about your keyword phrase. Make notes and add additional ideas as they come to you.

If you set up a Trello board for your keyword research, you can do this on the card for that keyword phrase.

Do use these notes and ideas to write the most comprehensive content possible on your topic. But be careful not to plagiarize.

Only original content will rank. And it is not good for a company’s reputation to be accused of stealing content from others.

When you’re ready for advance strategies, check into Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique.

Content that contains images, videos, SlideShares, infographics, graphs, and current statistics gets shared more on social sites and attracts more readers.

When journalists and writers are deciding which supporting documentation to link in their articles, they choose the most comprehensive and visually appealing content.

18.4 You Get What You Pay For

Skimping on content creation will severely reduce how many will read, share, and link to your site. It will make link building efforts much more challenging.

The significant difference between cheap content and using an influential writer is accuracy. Any writer can research, read, and regurgitate what they found into a new article.

But if they are not subject matter experts on the topic, they may have no idea what is correct and what is not. What they write can only be as accurate as the sources they found.

If you are an expert in your field, consider providing the sources you wish the writer to use. Also be sure to review their content for accuracy.

18.5 Plagiarism Checkers

Commonly recommended solutions that provide plagiarism checking include:

Some of these are web-based with add-ons for specific browsers and solutions. Others you can download to your desktop.

When using ghostwriters, you will want to run their content through at least one plagiarism checker.

19. SEO Success Stories

Getting SEO right can lead to more than just traffic and direct sales. Here are some exciting success stories:

19.1 Top SEO Spot Lands Nationwide Deal with Best Buy

19.2 SEO Success Stories:

Hasan’s online traffic increased 300+% in 6 months; 10x quality and relevant leads compared to previous; Jade saw a 150% increase in website visits and almost 50% increase in sales for an ecommerce site.

19.3 Hotel Success Story:

Room rates increased by 11.5%; occupancy rates doubled. During the busy time of the year, they went from 40% to 80% occupancy and during the slow time of the year they went from 20% to 40% occupancy.

19.4 Verruca Success Story:

88,000 Impressions and 1,574 Clicks across 684 keywords, all of which appear with an average position of 9th within 6 months.

20. Why You Should Not Wait to Get Started

Josh McCormack of SiteHerders and Unlofty summed SEO and content up well:

_“Life, and SEO, are not a meritocracy. Great content will not rise to the top by itself. It needs to be optimized, promoted and connected. In short, the best answers might be on the 100th page.” _

If you don’t want your exceptional content to stay on the 100th page, you need to take action. The sooner you get started, the faster your site and business can grow.

Are you ready to build links?

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