Sales & Marketing
content marketing, link building, SMBs, StitchDX

Link Building: An Introduction for SMBs

This post was originally published on the StitchDX blog.


In my last two posts I introduced two metrics of website performance: Domain Authority and Page Authority. In those posts I noted that backlinks — links from other domains to yours — are the most powerful authority drivers. You can leave backlinks to chance, or you can engage in strategic link building.

Why does link building matter?

A quick rewind: Domain Authority and Page Authority do NOT influence where your site ranks in search. Those metrics, however, can give you valuable indications of how your site is performing head-to-head against those of your competitors. They also point the way toward the sites you want linking to yours.

Furthermore, Google likes sites that their algorithm regards as authoritative on their particular topics. For example, say you write a blog post reviewing and ranking the best brewpubs in the Berkshires, and then beer, food, travel, and lifestyle blogs start linking to it.

All those blogs are giving your post backlinks because they appreciate your content as original, unique, and authoritative. Google sees all those backlinks, thinks the same thing, and boosts your ranking in search results.

Why bother with link building?

BUT… with roughly 2 billion websites out there, a whole lot of topics have already been covered authoritatively, if not to death. Plus there are the Goliaths that you’ll always see at the top of search results. And backlinks are probably the SEO attribute you have the least control over.

So why bother, especially if you’re an SMB with limited resources? Because by following some proven link building best practices, you can take some control over your backlink profile.

Effective link building follows three “Rs”: research, relevance, and reciprocity. As you’ll see, they apply to every aspect of link building strategy. Let’s get started.

Start your link building by learning who’s giving YOU their love and linking back to them.

There’s no way to know who’s linking to your content unless either someone tells you or you do the research. Tools like SEMrushSpyFu, and Moz Link Explorer will quickly show you your link profile in detail.

Assuming the sites linking to you aren’t “spammy,” they’re the first domains you want to start linking to in your content. That’s a great way to start backlinking relationships. (And as you’ll read, relationship building is good for link building.)

In link building, authority breeds authority.

As much as possible, you want backlinks from sites with high domain authority and pages with high page authority. The authority of these sites and pages confers authority on your content.

And while, as I’ve discussed in previous posts, authority doesn’t affect your SERP positions, the authority of these sites and pages confers authority on your content. The Moz Bar is your go-to tool to find these authority scores (After all, they invented them.). You’re looking for sites with high authority scores and content that’s relevant to yours.

So how do you leverage this knowledge?

Get into guest blogging.

Flexing your expertise on another blog (especially one with strong authority scores) is probably the link building tactic that delivers the highest return on effort. And while you might think it goes without saying, you should only guest-blog on relevant sites.

Maybe it doesn’t go without saying because a few times a month I’ll get a blind email from someone offering to contribute to the StitchDX blog. I welcome these offers — when they’re relevant to what we do here. They make my life easier, I love to read good writing, and I love to learn from subject matter experts.

For example, and especially since March 2020, our Digital Workplace team have been blogging about organizational and technology strategy for remote and hybrid work. With the best of intentions, writers have approached me with blogs about remote working — but they’ve typically been more “lifestyle” in their content. How to “stage” your office for video calls, how to take time for self-care, that sort of thing.

Do your due diligence. Seek out authoritative sites where you can guest blog (and which will help your site and page authority scores). Contribute original content that adds value to those sites and your brand — don’t just repost what you’ve already published on your site. And make sure they link back to your site!

Take these broken links.

Broken links (“404 Not Found”) can be backlinks just waiting for you to claim them. First, research authoritative and relevant websites. Then audit their pages to find broken outbound links. Hint: You’re most likely to find broken links on older blog posts.

When you find a broken link and you have content that would be a suitable outbound link for that page, reach out to the site and ask if they’ll link to you. The payoff can be huge, PLUS you don’t have to create new content.

Give as good as you get. (Or is it “Get as good as you give?”)

To quote Becker and Fagen, successful link building involves a lot of “I’ll scratch your back, you can scratch mine” over the long term. As you create content, be strategic about external linking — specifically, link to the sites that you’d like to see linking to yours and tell them you’re doing it. Here are two ways to go about this.

  • Simply (and thoughtfully) include your strategic outbound links as you publish new content and update the old. Then, email to those domains asking if they’ll link to you.
  • Create a Resource Page that links to the authoritative domains you want in your link profile. For example, our Digital Workplace team could publish a resource page about “17 Blogs with the Best Ideas for Keeping Remote Workers Engaged.” Again, after you’ve published, send an email to each domain asking for a backlink.

Work it on social media.

Relevant content is just as vital to the social media aspects of your link-building strategy. But sharable content matters just as much, if not more. And the more active you are on social (on appropriate channels), the more likely others will be to share the content you post.

Track your link-building progress.

The same tools that enable your backlink research will also track your link-building progress. The data’s there — check it regularly. Use it to learn what’s working and change what isn’t.

3 words to sum up link building strategy: Research, relevance, and reciprocity

Dig into researching the most authoritative sites that also have a relevant connection to your content. Your most beneficial backlinks will come from them.

Link to those pages where appropriate, then reach out to them and ask for a backlink. (Because they may not be tracking their own backlinks.)

Credit where credit is due

This post is, of course, a primer on link-building strategy — plenty for the typical SMB to get started with.  For a deeper dive (and it does go deep), I’ll backlink you to this very relevant and authoritative article.

Next time I’ll explain how to put into action all that we’ve learned about DA and PA through effective backlink strategy.

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