Link Development Strategy & Execution Recommendations
By: Jose Gonzalez
Search engines like Google and Bing determine what web pages to return for each search query based on a combination of On-page and off-page factors. Google now uses many factors other than links, which were the basis of its’ PageRank algorithm, introduced in 1998.
Although links now represent a lower percentage of total ranking factors, they are still critically important, just as paying bills on time remains important to a credit score.
To build the highest quality backlink portfolio for each partner website and degree program, I recommend a link development strategy for existing and new pages based on the following:
Increase the measured Authority & Trust for all site pages
Acquire more links to each page from Topically Relevant sites
Increase links from social networks
Each new client receives an assessment of current link assets, content analysis, and a prescriptive strategic plan based on their current state and perceived opportunity. The plan will consist of a mix of proven, foundational link development strategies with an openness to testing new ideas or angles that could expand opportunity. To ensure efforts are aligning with the highest ROI opportunities, all efforts are measured and strategic direction will adapt according to the data.
Our Link Philosophy
Link development is a long-term process, not a short-term solution. To achieve success, there must be a commitment to repeatable, effective and diverse link strategies buoyed by sound on-site and technical SEO factors. Your site’s SEO foundation directly impacts the value each link contributes towards gains and sustained success in the search results. Success won’t come overnight. A study by Moz estimates that it can take months after implementing a successful link development campaign to see any ranking improvement. Therefore, our focus is on positive organic trends over months or years. &
Content is King, however without promotion through a variety of link development strategies content efforts alone will never be able to reap the rewards of consistent link building.
Content has its place when it comes to link development and these three steps will provide higher rankings and more superior content.
So what is Superior Content?
Superior content is content that can be linked to because it’s great to share, informative and relevant using a combination of images and video that are engaging and speaks to our audience.
What I think we should do is:
Focus on merging low-level content or repurposing
Develop Superior content
Developing keyword targets for high-level traffic pages
Building new links to core pages and high-quality content pages
Superior Content Starts with A Content Relaunch:
Step #1: Identify underperforming content (High Bounce Rate, over 80%)
Step #2: Improve and update that content
Step #3: Republish your post
This strategy is very effective and here is why:
When you relaunch your content, you create another opportunity for people to benefit from your stuff. Second, you make your content better by eliminating low performing pages and repurposing them into stronger pages. Relaunching older content and content that is under performing gives us the opportunity to update and improve that content.
Better content=more traffic.
Third, your content can now build on social proof because more people will start sharing.
A study done by Moz & Buzzsumo supports that content with 1000+ words and multiple images receive more shares and links. There is no “magic” word count number, but the data leans towards long-form content being beneficial for both links, shares, and rankings.
Step 1: Identifying Content Assets and Link Portfolios Mix
During this step, we would identify core pages that would benefit from content revisions and rebalancing their link portfolios if needed. We would identify low performing pages using Google Analytics and any page that have very high bounce rates, over 80% would be tagged for a content revision first, second identifying keywords to track for that content, and third launching a link campaign based on the current link mix.
Step 2: Identify Investment Allocation
Determining budgets for link development and consistent link building would be segmented by mature link portfolios vs new programs. Not all programs are equal, some need more attention than others and depending on the keywords chosen some fields are harder to enter than others. During this stage choosing the appropriate keywords that we think will have a good chance of dominating would determine the budget for that program.
For example a school with a DA of 50 would find it very difficult to enter a keyword market where the average DA is 80-90, on the other hand, if the school has a DA of 80 it would be appropriate to enter that keyword market just on DA alone, but DA alone is not enough, we have to narrow down how many links are going to the top pages in Google, what is the quality of these links using Majestic and Moz and finally what type of content is being used in the search before we can determine budget.
Step 3: Review and Determine Link Development Strategy Options to Execute
Determining clients link portfolio would fall under one of two categories, mature or brand new and then we can determine if the current mix is over optimized or under optimized. The plan would be less of outreach and more of using link vendors to manage our link buys just like a stock market and a combination of content marketing. We would pick which broker we want to use to place our stock buys instead of relying on webmasters to place a link placement. The advantage is three fold, we can choose the power of the link, a cheaper buy, 10x cheaper than current link buys and the implementation is faster, we don’t have to wait for weeks on end to receive confirmation of a live link. On the other hand, we would still build traditional links relying on outreach efforts using a combination of guest blogging and content marketing.
What does that look like?
Links can come from:
Networks such as Forbes, Huffington Post, etc.
Press releases not for brand building but for the keywords to rank.
Web 2.0 and Social Media sites. Building links from current partner assets such as facebook and youtube.
These places all carry: high relevance, trust and authority and all the links are contextual.
Current link building strategies are old relying on webmasters to update and place the link on their sites, which is time-consuming, requires software and a team of people to manage. Link buying, on the other hand, is safe, high impact, time efficient and cheaper than current link outreach efforts.
One of the examples I’d like to include is edservices.wiley.com, we started by identifying all key pages and providing a keyword map. Since the subdomain was brand new, we started by doing a 301 redirect of the old URL to the subdomain and the wes team build the content to the new pages. No other links to the site existed and we started with a strategy of link building with just the brand and website URL. We started building links to the unique approach page, https://edservices.wiley.com/unique-approach, targeting the keywords: learning experiences and learning experience which is a keyword with a volume of 4100+ searches a month.
Since the site was brand new I wanted to start a slow link drip, building up the trust and relevance of the site before I started targeting with higher more authoritative links and exact match keywords.
Over the course of 60 days, I hand choose vendors based on the metrics I was looking for.
Trust Flow: 15+
Domain Authority: 15+
Referring Domains: 10+
Over the course of 60 days, the URL has been hovering around 15th place and will likely bounce around because of the continual link building before settling. It is still too early to share this win, but it shows promise, I have used a small amount of link diversification but as we diversify the link buys from different classes, web 2.0, press releases, etc the site will see an increase from organic search.
From Feb-April 12th 2017, the page has a low bounce rate of 3.27% meaning that new users like the content and are sticking around with an average duration of 7:49, and an average page session of 6.48. What that means is that people that are finding us through organic search are finding the material highly relevant and are navigating through the site finding relevant information. I’d also like to point out that it takes on average 5 months for a link to fully kick in.
Step 4: Measure and Repeat
The way we have been measuring our success is by utilizing our reports in seoclarity, we plugged in the keywords into their respective page and measured monthly how that keyword is doing. We will continue to utilize seoClarity as we continue our link building efforts for reporting and analysis of page. We haven’t chosen to plug in the URLs into seoclarity because some vendors do require anonymity and minimize their footprint from others. Thus we have relied on the metrics from Majestic to show us the trust increase and backlink count.
History of Link Building:
Studies such as Moz’s Search Engine Ranking Factors Survey have indicated that links at the domain and page level are both high correlating factors for rankings, meaning links are essential to organic search presence.
Penguin 4.0 Update (September 2016 – Today)
Link Strategy: Quality is more important than ever. Consistently build relevant, natural looking links from high authority sites. Lesser focus on “spam” clean up but avoid links that could levy a manual penalty.
“Content/link asset creation first” philosophy
Specific link buy requirements
Natural keyword placement and diversification of anchor text.
Page level link quality emphasis.
Summary: The three big Penguin 4.0 updates are:
Spam signals no longer jeopardize the entire site. Instead, Penguin 4.0 devalues spam to where it only affects the pages it links to.
Penguin 4.0’s algorithm updates continuously, striving to pinpoint an optimal “quality” definition. Crawlers send constant link data to Penguin and it updates accordingly.
Real-time ranking adjustments. Rather than high-stakes judgment points (i.e. new Penguin releases), Penguin 4.0 strives to properly assess sites’ backlinks at more consistent intervals.