16th Aug 2017
In the past, link building was a quantitative process that was often directly influenced by how much money you had to spend. And the more links you had, the more likely you were to rank.
Since then, Google has changed its algorithm to minimise the relevance of link quantity. The focus of a successful link-building campaign has now become about quality.
This change may feel strange if you’re used to pulling in hundreds of links, but it’s vital for delivering the most SEO value.
To compare the importance of quality over quantity, the first question to answer is what we mean by quality link building? The answer is actually simple – it means creating compelling, relevant content that adds value to the site that you’re hoping links back to you.
The idea of getting content placed on fewer, higher quality sites (opposed to a quantitative strategy) might appear challenging, but placing a focus on quality can actually make pitching content easier.
To gain the interest of an editor it’s vital that content is engaging, informative, and written to a high standard. A qualitative link building strategy benefits everyone – clients, editors and readers – making your proposition closer to that of a contributor, rather than an advertiser.
“Quality link building means creating compelling, relevant content that adds value to the site that you want to link back to you.”
It’s usually easy to spot poor-quality sites thanks to red flags like excessive popups and ‘adult’ adverts. It’s harder to define a good-quality website because there are so many factors that must be considered.
Indications of a good-quality site can include:
For example, a website with the following statistics and insights would be considered good quality:
It’s important to note that this is a very good example. On average, sites will be lacking some of these aspects – lower social following, lower DA, etc. But as long as the quality of content on the site is generally high, then even just one of these factors would make the site worth pitching to.
In addition to these indicators, it is also vital to find relevance – the closer the target site’s focus is to your client’s field of interest, the better (even if it means offering content to a site with slightly lower traffic or social following).
Once a site has been found, the next step is to assess the likelihood of getting your content placed. Sites that offer follow links when citing sources are ideal.
Follow links are considered by search engines as they assessing where your website (or your clients’ website) should appear in search rankings. Nofollow links tell search engines to ‘ignore’ them.
So, while nofollow links can be beneficial for raising brand awareness, they do not contribute towards the primary goal of link-building, which is to increase search rankings.
Many high-ranking sites, such as news sites, are likely to post with nofollow links. For this reason, you must look at other articles and blog posts on the target site to get a measure of how they operate before you make contact.
This has the added benefit of helping you develop a better understanding of the site’s voice, which you can use to inform your pitch.
One of the main challenges in link building is that the results of your work are not immediately obvious. While successes can be noted with a jump in page rankings or site visits, there is no definitive figure to benchmark against.
It’s therefore good practice to develop an in-house target to work towards. Doing so will ensure that you’re making the most of the time and resources allocated to a campaign.
In addition to Domain Authority, Citation Flow and Trust Flow are useful indicators of a site’s quality. Developed by Majestic, Citation Flow is a score out of 100 that indicates the link equity (the influence, or value) of a website or link.
Trust Flow is also rated on a 0-100 scale. It indicates the relationship of a particular site compared to Majestic’s database of trusted website, known as ‘seed sites’. Sites more closely linked to the seed sites gain a higher score.
Individually, Trust Flow is likely to be the most valuable of the two figures as it focuses more on the quality of links on a site than quantity. However, considering Citation Flow and Trust Flow in conjunction with each other can offer a useful indication of a site’s quality.
While there are obvious benefits to collecting sites with very high scores, there is also an advantage to having several links – as long as the qualitative approach is maintained. In particular, more placements mean more positive contacts with editors and therefore the development of those relationships for use in future campaigns.
“There can be an advantage in multiple links, but only if a qualitative approach is maintained.”
A strong indicator of a quality site is the level of their audience engagement through site visits and social media presence.
If these figures are high then simply getting a brand mention could be beneficial for the client – it means that your article and the link could be seen by a large number of people, both on the site and through their social accounts. Even if the link that gets placed is marked as nofollow and doesn’t count towards page rankings, a strong social presence still increases the chances of click-throughs to the client’s site and helps to raise brand awareness.
Having gained this information and selected potential sites to target, it is now possible for you to purposefully develop a campaign strategy.
It is the pursuit of efficiency that makes in-house targets so valuable – knowing the target, as well as the time and resources available for a given campaign, means that a strategy can be developed very quickly. This includes estimating the amount of content you need to create or outsource for the campaign.
While outreach will typically involve article creation, other link-building techniques will also be used, including broken link building and finding missing citations. These techniques allow us to bring in or repair links without the need for creating new content, which reduces the number of articles that need to be produced.
When prospecting sites, it is important to touch on the balance between quality and quantity again. Unless you have a prior expression of interest or similar from a large site, it’s best to look towards smaller sites that publish content of a similar style to that which you’re outreaching. Not only is the likelihood of success better on a site like this, but there are probably more sites around this level of authority that you can contact.
Of course, having content published in a national newspaper would reflect favourably on the campaign – but it’s more likely that your targets will be hit efficiently by collecting high-quality links on five or six slightly smaller sites than pinning a campaign on the hope of claiming one huge link.
The other obvious advantage is that building follow links across multiple sites will reach multiple audiences. As long as the Domain Authority, Citation Flow and Trust Flow reach a good standard, it is likely that your campaign will not only hit target, but do so well within the allocated time and budget.
A quantitative strategy is no longer going to deliver a successful link-building campaign. Instead, it is vital that a successful link-building strategy prioritises quality links alongside building relationships with editors.
With such a diverse selection of factors to consider, the method of identifying the sites that best fit your campaign is incredibly subjective. The most important thing to take away is that a small amount of high-quality links are going to yield better results than many links across low-quality websites, or one link on an extremely high-value site. With a range of factors that can be used to determine the quality of sites, contextual relevance is key to placing links on sites that will bring the most value to your campaign.
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