Link Building: Not Just Off-Page Anymore

Link building tends to be viewed as on off-page activity – you’re not messing with title tags or site architecture and you don’t actually have to touch the site itself or write new content. However, if all you are doing is building more inbound links to your site without doing any analysis of on-page factors, you’re selling the effort short. While it’s certainly not necessary to do much more than build inbound links, on page factors are definitely something that you should look into if you want to boost your overall link building effectiveness.

Think about the days when you’d search for a site and see a result in the SERPs that contained your keywords in the description, but when you clicked on the listing, they were nowhere to be found, and the content was not even remotely what you wanted. A nice ranking, if you cared, and a nice bit of traffic, but it wouldn’t convert. There were (and still are) various ways to accomplish this high ranking, but in the end, a user who is actively looking for something that isn’t actually being offered is just going to quickly become annoyed and continue searching.

I remember using cloaking techniques to get rankings for a shop that sold silk flowers. They wanted the rankings for things that they didn’t actually offer, so that they could do the whole “how about this option instead?” bit. While that’s not as far off the mark as some things I’ve seen, it’s still not the best way to grab the attention (and business) of your latest visitor. I got the rankings, the client got the traffic (and of course they wanted to do this for about 100 different keywords), but they got very, very few conversions for these keywords. If someone’s looking for silk roses, they might not want to go to a page advertising the fact that the site didn’t sell them, but could suggest silk daisies.

Link building is just another form of creating visibility for your site. If you build links using anchor text for something that isn’t actually found on a site – that’s not a good thing. It is, unfortunately, a common thing that clients want. It’s also not always an attempt at subterfuge, as occasionally we do encounter clients who don’t control anything on the site and make their case to the people in control, who turn a deaf ear to all of our pleas. Yes, we can rank a site with anchor text that’s not on the page. We’ve done it plenty of times. However, it’s not at all a long-term strategy, and honestly, it’s a bit deceptive.

Of course if you want to optimize for a keyword that is a product that you offer, yet you don’t have a good place on the site to send the user other than a fairly generic page (where, perhaps, you could order silk roses) there isn’t all that much that can be done. I’d like to think that if you’re actively pursuing links for a specific keyword, though, that item is important enough that you could create some content about it. I’m being an idealist though.

So if you’re building links for a site that has no content for the anchor text that the client wants to pursue, what do you do? I’m not limiting this to link buys, either, as there are many ways of getting your link done just the way you want it without the exchange of money.

3 tips to help link building with on page efforts

  1. Speak up. Yes, you’re the link builder and maybe the client thinks that’s all you know how to do, but actively being engaged in the overall process of optimization makes you a better link builder, and makes the results more targeted. Many times, you’d be surprised at how receptive clients are when you say “hey, we think this keyword actually might work out really well, and this one…not so much.” Clients like honesty and straightforwardness, just like anyone else. If you notice that there’s no mention of the keywords in the page you’re trying to build links for, say something and press to get some changes made. You don’t have to write the content…just point out how things could be done in a better way.
  2. Learn more about SEO. If you’re building links and that’s all you know how to do, you really need to start learning more about everything else. While I definitely don’t think that you can’t be a good link builder without knowing basic SEO techniques, I do believe that you can’t be a great one until you do.
  3. Social media is big, so use it. Remember that link building doesn’t just happen via email or press releases. Get on Twitter and use your keywords in your tweets about the newest blog post or bit of content. Submit the link to niche social media sites that seem relevant. Tell people about the site in any way possible, trying to get the point across that you have what they want.

Even though you may be able to successfully raise the visibility of a site with what you do off-page, it could easily stop working so well with the simplest algorithm change. Building a truly solid on-page SEO foundation in conjunction with link building will definitely be something that you won’t regret. That’s not a common thing in marketing, so why not go for something that is so easily within reach?

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Week Column


About The Author: owns the link development firm Link Fish Media and is one of the founding members of the SEO Chicks blog.

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  • Julie Joyce

    Thanks for the compliment…and the “bit deceptive” thing was just a Southernism. We like to be very polite and nice and not actively call people out you know!

    I think the best bit of your comment was this: “Disappointed customers will not be very viral-where a happy customer might just become a link opportunity for you as well.” That’s the exact takeaway.


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