Gaining links to your website can be a daunting task for some, especially for those businesses or webmasters that have been previously issued with a Google penalty following any of the Penguin updates. With that said, there are still good quality links to be found and earned that can have a positive impact on your online visibility …these are natural links.
Below are some examples of how you could gain brand mentions and natural links. These can be a lot harder to achieve than unnatural or spammy links but the hard work is worth it.
1. Competitors Backlinks
One of the most common methods of sourcing link opportunities is to download all of your competitor’s backlinks. This is an ongoing task as you could potentially have hundreds of competitors, even if you are a business targeting a local area there’s no reason why you shouldn’t download the backlinks of competitors in other areas, there will always be opportunities. To perform this task, you will need to use a tool like Majestic, Ahrefs or opensite explorer.
Place a competitors’ URL into the tool and download their backlinks. Different tools measure the value of the links in different ways, for example, Majestic use Trust flow and Citation Flow metrics, others use ratings or authority metrics. Generally, the higher the number the better the value of the link.
When you download the data of all the backlinks with Majestic you will have the following details attached for each link.
Target URL: this shows which page of your competitor’s website the specific link points at. This can also be a useful column to sort by when looking to see whether they have any inner pages that have attracted a lot of links. The competitor could have written a great article, produced an infographic or developed an online tool which over time has gained natural links from external sources. This can be a good source of ideas for creating similar or even better content and you will already have a list of people you can contact to gain links from.
Source URL: this is the page that the link can be found on. This is always worth visiting as nothing is better than the human eye on making a final decision of whether you want your website listed there.
Anchor Text: the words used within the link that point to your competitors’ website. I recommend that for any links you can obtain, always use your brand name as the anchor text as keyword stuffed anchors look a lot less natural and can cause demotions within search results.
Nofollow: this indicates whether the link is passing SEO value to your website or not. These links are still worth obtaining as having nofollow links within your backlink profile is a very natural approach. Also, there are plenty of studies that indicate that nofollow links still pass some pagerank from one site to another.
Majestic will also indicate whether the link is a redirect, within a frame or is an image and show the alt tag if one is present and whether no link is found but your brand name is (a mention).
URL Citation Flow: this formula is based on the amount of links pointing to a website, and how much of this value arrives at the page the link can be found on. The deeper the link is within a website the lower the value.
URL Trust Flow: this formula is based on how trusted the websites are that link through.
Domain Trust Flow & Citation Flow: if a page has a low trust and citation flow result but you feel the site is relevant to your business, it is always worth checking the domain trust and citation flow as well as this may have a much higher score than an inner page and would be still worth considering. For example, who wouldn’t want to be mentioned deep inside the BBC website.
2. Building a Competitor List
When downloading and collecting any backlink data you should always keep a note of the date range. Competitors will always gain more links in the future so you will have to potentially download their backlink data again and again and you don’t want to crawl through the same data twice.
Building a list of website backlinks that may benefit your rankings or direct traffic is an important process. To do this you need to keep your eyes open for websites that fit this bill. Whenever you visit a webpage to gain a link, have a quick scan of the page or website. For example, you come across a page that you want to gain a link from as your competitor is listed there; don’t just think about gaining that link, look at who else is listed, maybe their backlink profile will have even more opportunities.
Not usually the best place to start when looking to gain natural links but there are still some quality directories out there to be found which can play a small part within your link building campaign. Rather than the hundreds upon hundreds of free link directories, many of which have been shut down following the Google Penguin, these directories have a process to follow and/or are niche to your business.
If your business offers a service local to you and you want to let people know about it, there are some very decent local directories available on the web. One way of locating these opportunities is to do a search for your competitors’ telephone number minus their site domain. This should bring back a list of directories and sites on which your competitor has listed their details. You can then approach these directories to see if you can get a link to your site.
Niche directories are those relevant to the service your business offers and can be a good place to gain links. If the directory is of good quality then it will often involve following a process. This can include submitting examples of your work or evidence of a service you provide which will then be manually checked before allowing you entry onto the site. To find these types of directory you could carry out a search for your main search term within Google, for example if you search “electrician London” here are some good listings to gain a link from, though you may not class them all as directories:
If you find that you are struggling to get your business on the first page of Google then at least you are listed; in the case above, within four websites that are on the first page of Google.
Your business name, address and telephone number could be found across multiple websites without any links, keeping your business details in the same format across multiple websites will help enforce your brand and potentially help with geo-related searches.
A great way to build citations is to use your competitor’s addresses. Similar to the search carried out to find local directories, Google search their address, or part of it, and their brand name, for example:
"brand name" + "post code"
“brand name” + “line of their address”
Or you may want to look at all the businesses with the same postcode to produce more results within google, for example: “post code” + “industrial estate name”
If you carry out a search for “electricians London” one of the top results is a company called Aspect, we would then visit their website and find their contact address. For this example we have used their brand name and postcode… “aspect” + “kt9 2ny”
This search returned the following first page of Google results:
There are potentially between 4 to 6 websites here where you can get listed, and this is just the first page of Google.
5. Unclaimed Brand Mentions
Someone may have mentioned your business somewhere on the web but have not linked to your website. Having a mention online is increasing in importance but is still not as strong as having a link. It is worth reaching out to those who have mentioned you, thank them for the mention and ask if they would mind linking to you as well. Sometimes if you don’t ask you don’t get and this could result in gaining a good link.
To find these types of opportunities it is worth having Googles free tool ‘Google Alerts’ set up, this will tell you each time your business or brand is mentioned online, good or bad. It is always worth doing a regular manual search as well just in case anything has been missed. You can do this by doing a search for your brand name and subtracting your web address, from here you will be able to see any new mentions that have happened.
6. Reclaiming Broken Links
If you have broken links to your website this can look bad from a user experience. Use Google Search Console (previously Google Webmaster Tools) to look at crawl errors. From here you will be able to locate any links to your website from exterior sources where they may have possibly misspelled the URL. There are a couple of directions you can take to fix and reclaim these links.
The first would be to contact the person who has linked to you, thank them for the link but kindly point out the typo and see if they will correct it for you. The other is to create a redirect for the misspelled URL to the correct URL. This option would mean that you lose a little bit of the link juice from that particular link through the redirect but it is a much better option than the site user clicking on a link that takes them to a 404 page.
Testimonials can provide some fantastic backlink opportunities by providing a testimonial for a service or product that you have had a great experience with. This doesn’t guarantee a backlink to your site, but there are many businesses out there who love receiving a testimonial and then showing it off on their website, helping them to build desire of a product or service. When adding the testimonial to their site, they are likely to mention your business or brand name to make the testimonial look more genuine …they may even include a link to your site.
8. Industry Connections & Link Exchanges
This involves reaching out to your connections, clients and suppliers. For example, you might use a piece of software within your company from an external source and may have been a customer of theirs for many years. Get in touch with them and write a review about the product that they would be happy to place on their website, mentioning your business as the author of said review. In return for them mentioning your brand on their site, you could write an article based on the software they provide and how it benefits your business or mention them within another related article.
The opportunities could be endless but of course the more related the link exchange the better for both parties and the more likely it is to happen.
9. Events & Charity Work
When you and your business do something that is newsworthy, make sure that people know about it. There are always journalists on the lookout for a story, and if you are putting on an event or doing something to raise money for charity then this is the kind of thing they like to write about.
To get ideas or find opportunities such as this you can do a Google search for your profession within your local area, for example ‘local cake shop’ and then click on news. This will list all sorts of relative stories that have been produced. Maybe a local cake shop has given away free cakes to a homeless shelter or baked a cake for a special occasion or celebrity. This list will also give you information about where these stories are being published, giving you the chance to contact them and see if they will write a story about your business and what they are doing that is worth shouting about. Generally, these stories will include a link to your website.
10. Popular Content
Using Google Search Console, you can identify the content on your website that is already proving popular. Under ‘Search Traffic’, go to ‘Links to you site’, ‘Your most linked content’ and then choose the ‘More’ option. This will give you a list of the URLs on your website and the number of domains that are linking to them. If you already have content on your site that is attracting links, then this is the type of content that you want to be promoting to others to help attract even more links.
Another option is to contact the people who are linking to your content, thank them for the link and ask them if there is anything else that would be useful to them and their customers. Their response could give you some good ideas for creating new content …you already know that people are going to be interested in it because you have asked.
11. Become a Resource
Lots of website owners, bloggers, even schools and universities link out to great resources to help their visitors gain more knowledge. Wouldn’t it be great if they linked to you as a resource?
You will need some great content for this to happen naturally but sometimes you can get in touch and share.
You can use Google search to find potential places where you may be able to get listed.
Try the following searches into Google:
“keyword” + inurl:resources
“keyword” + inurl:links
“keyword” + “other”
If you do not currently have any resources that they could link to then it is worth taking a look at what they are linking too, then just create something better.
12. Dead Website
Websites shut down all the time for many different reasons and this can potentially create two opportunities.
- Is the domain name for sale? If the website is a competitor website, then potentially you could buy the domain and either use it or redirect its traffic to your website. This would then pass most of the SEO value to you. Before considering this as an option it is worth checking the websites backlink profile first, it may have been shut down due to linkspam.
- Download the backlinks to the website that has shutdown. This could potentially be a wealth of backlink opportunities. If there are good quality links within the list of backlinks, then reach out to the webmasters who are in control of the websites. Inform them that they are linking to a dead website and offer some of your great resources that they could link to instead.
There are a lot of organisations running awards, whether they are local, national or niche related. When entering for an award you can generally gain a link back from the website. If you were to enter the awards every year, then you may have a long-lasting backlink.
Even better than gaining the link, would be if you were to actually win! This would offer the opportunity to shout out about it and possibly gain even more exposure through social media or even press releases.
The additional benefit to this is that bloggers within your industry will most likely blog about the awards and publish the winners and runners up which create more links or brand mentions …who knew awards could open up so much potential for your online presence.
Forums related to your industry is a good place to build your online brand awareness. Signing up to these forums and offering advice without pushing for a sale will stick with people. The next time they need help with a problem or are looking for a service they will be more likely to remember you as the business that helped them out and could potentially use your services.
Once you have become a regular user of the forum you can start to use a signature to accompany your posts. These can potentially include a link to your website.
Infographics can be a very effective way of naturally gaining links to your site but very few people take advantage of this link building strategy. Infographics can be perceived as being expensive to produce but this is not always the case.
The main thing that makes an infographic so effective is the idea, which is free! If your business can come up with a unique idea that people would want to share, then you are already onto a winner. The next stage would be to make this idea stand out, this is where you would get a designer involved and where there could be a cost, but you need to think about the cost in relation to what you could potentially gain back. There are also free tools available on the web where you can create your infographic such as piktochart.com, this site offers templates etc so you can easily put your infographic together yourself. There may be limitations to your design using this route but it is a cheap option if you so need it.
Once your idea has been put into a design, it is time to share it. As a starting point, there are some infographic sharing sites available on the web such as visual.ly, allinfographics.org and bestinfographics.info which are all free to submit to. You could also share the infographic on your social media channels; although this wouldn’t necessarily gain a link to your site, it will be building your brand every time someone decides to share your fantastic idea.
Now you’ve submitted your design and shared it on social media, the next stage would be to reach out to some bloggers, preferably niche to your business sector and offer them the infographic to share as a post. If your idea is worth shouting about then they will be more than happy to do this and all of a sudden something that started as an idea has potentially gained you a lot of links to your site.
This is just a few ways of naturally gaining links to your site in 2017, none of which are going to be easy, but the results will be much more rewarding to you and your business than gaining a free link on one of the numerous online directories.