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The exact details of Google’s search algorithms are not publicly known, making it somewhat difficult to know exactly what the search giant is looking for in quality websites.
Related: 5 SEO Mistakes That Are Costing Your Business Money
One of the most often misunderstood aspects of these quality rankings is the importance of ‘white hat’ link building as part of a solid SEO strategy. The term refers to the desire to create a good product or service that people will want to relate to (the “white hat” reference) that over time can increase your search rankings.
The confusion over the white hat was triggered in a February 2015 Google Hangout with John Mueller, one of the research firm’s webmasters: Mueller cautioned against the practice of creating “unwanted links”, which means that businesses violate Google policies by buying links from websites or by causing irrelevant sites to link to theirs.
In November 2015, Google helped solve the problem by releasing a comprehensive 150-page guide explaining the company’s search quality rankings. The move was intended to allow webmasters to proactively build relevant sites that would avoid the penalties associated with frequent updates from Penguin and Panda (Google’s algorithms that check for infractions like duplicate or low-quality pages).
For anyone who hasn’t yet had time to read Google’s abundant manual and all the forums, blogs, and comments that come with it, here are some tips on how to get quality inbound links that drive your site up. in search engine rankings.
1. Scout out what your competition is doing.
The first step in creating a link building strategy is understanding what works for others. No matter what you are looking for online, there are already tons of results for it. If you expect to compete with these existing sites, you have to play the same game as them.
With the Common Backlinks Tool, you can enter up to 10 websites to see which backlinks they all have in common. If everyone has an inbound link from a specific website, that website is probably a trusted and respected source for your industry.
You don’t want to be the only entrepreneur-focused website that isn’t featured on big sites like Contractor (you know the others). This is a clue that you are not a trusted source on the subject.
Once you understand what the competition is doing, you can create a targeted link building strategy that will allow you to rank among the leaders.
Related: No Money, No Problem: 17 Free Ways To Improve Your Website’s SEO
2. Build business relationships.
Now that you know who to target, it’s time to build business relationships with these influential companies.
Journalists and other professionals hate spam and often ignore requests from people they don’t know. To get their attention, you will need to get involved in their communities.
On a site like Huffington PostGetting the blog team’s attention is as easy as linking your Facebook account and leaving relevant comments on the articles. HuffPo is a community-driven blogging site that values and encourages contributions from its members. You can also contact their staff by finding their names and email addresses, either on individual articles or company header.
Each company has contact information which can be found on the company’s website. Start a conversation with the company, introduce yourself and provide valuable information and advice to their staff. This puts you and your business in front of the right people, who are more likely to notice when you post relevant content to your site, using you as the source.
HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is another great place to sign up as a source (and even as a blogger if applicable). By signing up for this service, you will receive targeted emails three times a day, listing the articles that journalists looking for sources are currently looking for. If you provide relevant information, these editors provide a backlink to your site citing you for their stories.
3. Guest post with relevant content.
Of course, if you want something done right, your best bet is to do it yourself. Posting guests directly to relevant sites is one of the best ways to solidify your status as a subject matter expert. Unfortunately, for marketers (and luckily for readers), guest posting is such a common practice that publishers are increasingly picky about what content they will accept and from whom.
To successfully present a guest post on a blog, you need to fully understand the tone and voice of a post. Then you can create specific, actionable, and relevant content that matches the site guidelines.
To effectively use guest posting as a SEO link building strategy, you will need links in the content, with varied anchor text that shows Google that your site is a relevant source for the one to five word keywords related to the topic.
Think about how you watch a TV show versus an advertisement. While an advertisement is an effective marketing tool, you want your content to be a part of the show. Instead of selling directly, you are demonstrating value that brings readers to you when they have issues that you can solve.
4. Check for dead links.
There is nothing more frustrating than clicking a link to find more information, only to be presented with a 404 home page (a “page not found” notification). However, as a savvy online marketer, the failure of others to keep the links up to date gives you the opportunity to grab a valuable backlink to your website.
Whenever you come across a broken link while researching information about your industry, contact the publisher of the post to report it and offer an alternative within your site.
If you can explain to the post why this backlink is hurting their web traffic and how your information can help their readers, you will not only gain a backlink but also build trust with the post. It’s also a great opportunity to start a guest blog and even earn an editorial column because you’ve just proven your worth as a trusted source.
5. Use schema markup.
In 2013, Google began to focus on including infoboxes in search results by using the Knowledge Graph to display semantic information relevant to searches. Instead of having to click on a website, users could find common answers to common questions on the search page itself.
While this might seem like a wasted effort in link building, it’s actually an easy way to get your site noticed, as snippets of pages on your site will show right at the top of Google search results. You can’t pay for this kind of ranking, which even takes precedence over sponsored posts.
Site relevance is an important scoring factor for SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) rankings, and Google will obviously see itself as the most relevant site on the Internet. The best part is, you don’t have to be the first search result to be in the infobox.
To be part of the Knowledge Graph, you must implement Schema markup in your website. Google defines this as “code that you put on your website to help search engines return more informative results to users.” Schema.org, which is sponsored by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandax, contains everything you need to know to start using schema markup.
6. Use social media.
As we move forward, social media continues to gain in relevance in determining search results. Earning backlinks on social media shows search engines that you are creating content that people actively share within their social groups.
I can’t stress enough the importance of including social media share buttons on every piece of content you create. It’s a call to action for every reader to share your information and help a post or page go viral.
When Google’s algorithms notice that a page resonates on social media networks, that page is indexed and presented to search-grade rankings to determine why. This is what pulls the unknown obscurity URL on page 175648 from the search result on page 1.
SEO experts have debated the effectiveness of link building as an online marketing tool for as long as search engines have been around.
Although Mueller and other Google webmasters have cautioned against link building as an SEO strategy, seasoned marketers know they are warning against spam and black hat techniques.
Simply spamming the comments section of every website or creating bogus sites to boost your inbound links will penalize your site.
Instead, focus on creating content that is relevant to the real-life questions and issues that people encounter. Become a subject matter expert and disseminate valuable, factual information backed by statistics to engage readers and prove your worth.
Related: Top 7 Things You Don’t Know About SEO
By building relationships with trusted sources, you can become a trusted online source yourself, increasing your brand’s visibility to readers and search engine bots.