What is Link Building?
Link Building is a Digital Marketing strategy that involves building a network of links connecting a website to other sites, with the aim of increasing its credibility and visibility on search engines. Despite the emergence of new algorithms and technologies, Link Building remains a crucial element in achieving good search engine rankings, particularly in highly competitive industries.
To link a resource, the HTML tag <a> is used to identify the anchor, which is the link. The anchor is the most important element of the link because it suggests to search engines the destination page as a result for the keyword or phrase used.
A link can be follow or nofollow: in the former case, it communicates to Google that the link is transferring value, or link juice, to the destination page. It should be noted, however, that not all backlinks provide the same link juice, as they can only transfer a part of what they have accumulated over time and only if it has truly been earned. In the latter case, by using rel=”no follow,” it informs the search engine that the link is not transferring value to the linked page.
Backlinks can take various forms, including:
- textual links (are all the backlinks that have as an anchor the search keyword for which you would like to position the web page),
- image links (which convey less information to search engines),
- branded links (using the name of the brand as the anchor),
- sitewide links (which are repeated on every page, usually in the footer or sidebar),
- links from non-indexed pages (which have no value because the page is not recognized by the search engine)
- links of varying quality, ranging from low-quality links from less authoritative domains to high-quality links from well-positioned sites that cover topics related to one’s website.
As links are one of the most influential factors in the organic ranking of websites, Google has had to find ways to identify who and how it manipulates its algorithm’s search results. This has led to the creation of new algorithms for evaluating link credibility and the establishment of algorithmic penalties. These penalties can be difficult to identify, as Google does not provide any information about them. The only tangible evidence may be a sudden drop in traffic to the affected website.
Before the introduction of penalties by Google, many sites were created that offered anyone the opportunity to write articles and insert links to their own sites (guest posts). These article marketing domains obtained new content every day and often positioned well in search engines, acquiring traffic that could be monetized. With the arrival of Google Penguin, they were devalued en masse, but even today, this type of site is still widely used by those who do amateur Link Building because it is low cost.
To do Link Building at a low cost, riskier techniques with less significant quality can be used, such as:
- being linked by private blog networks (PBNs),
- inserting links to one’s site inside comments on blogs or forums without contextualizing them,
- being present in a directory (a web page consisting only of outbound links),
- being included in bookmark lists (lists of web pages deemed interesting and organized by topic),
- adding links to one’s site inside a free template or widget distributed on the Internet,
- opting for low-quality guest posts, engaging in cloaking (serving a version of a web page to search engine crawlers and a different version to site visitors),
- and setting up subtle redirects to hide spammy or low-quality pages from search engine results pages.
How to effectively do Link Building: Analysis and Strategy
Based on what has been said, it is evident that a method must be applied that allows conducting one’s Link Building campaign in a safe and effective way.
First of all, it is necessary to analyze the backlink profile of one’s website, which must be credible.
The fundamental factor that determines the credibility of a backlink profile is the balance between the various types of incoming links:
- branded links must be a higher percentage compared to those with exact match anchor text;
- each linked page must present more variations of anchor text;
- the domains that link to the website must be on different IP addresses, otherwise they could raise suspicions;
- the number of sitewide links must be low;
- links must come from themed pages.
Each of these aspects is essential for the backlink profile of one’s brand to appear as natural as possible.
Next, we move on to Competitor Backlink Analysis. The need is to know:
- how many inbound links they have;
- the quality of the links obtained;
- the most used anchors;
- the type of sites on which their guest posts are hosted.
This information allows understanding where one should aim to compete with the strongest competitors. However, just like one’s brand is moving forward in this regard, competitors are also doing the same, so these analyses need to be repeated several times. From this, it can be deduced that Link Building activity is like a marathon: it requires constant and progressive work.
After the analyses, it is important to develop a Link Strategy that takes into account the extracted data in order to implement a Link Building campaign capable of delivering long-term results.
To develop a Link Strategy, it is necessary to establish the duration of the Link Building campaign, the speed of link acquisition, their quality, and the target reference, which are the most relevant websites for one’s industry.
In addition, it is necessary to understand which keywords users are searching for around a specific topic, service, or product category of interest so that such keywords can be used as anchor text (exact match) together with branded ones.
Once the campaign is set up, it is important to constantly monitor the results obtained, checking the trend of one’s website’s positioning metrics and evaluating any improvements to be made to one’s Link Building strategy.
Monitoring of the backlink profile
After determining the number of links to acquire, the anchor texts to use, and the minimum quality of the sites to contact during the analysis and strategy phase, it is important to understand that the backlink profile of your site will not only be influenced by the implemented link building activity but also by numerous external factors that cannot be controlled.
It is possible that acquired backlinks may be lost or that, following an event, an advertisement, or a successful content produced concurrently with the Link Building campaign, the website may begin to receive natural links from domains whose quality cannot be controlled.
The main objectives of a Link Building campaign are to:
- improve the positioning of a site on predetermined keywords and their related ones;
- increase organic traffic;
- improve brand awareness and reputation.
To monitor the effects of Link Building, the main KPIs to consider are:
- Average Position: the arithmetic mean of the positions in which the site pages appeared in the search results.
- Organic Clicks: the number of clicks for specific queries evaluated before and after the Link Acquisition campaign.
10 Link Building Techniques to Get Quality Backlinks
Creating quality backlinks requires careful planning – as we have seen in the previous paragraphs – and a good amount of creativity. There are several techniques for building an effective link building strategy that allows you to obtain high-quality backlinks in an ethical and long-term manner.
- Doing Outreach: Outreach involves contacting authoritative websites and asking them to include a link to your site. Most link building strategies involve some form of outreach.
- Broken Link Building: Broken link building involves finding non-functioning links on other websites and proposing to their owners that they be replaced with a link to your site. This technique can be very effective because it allows you to obtain backlinks from authoritative websites. However, it is important to make sure that your content is able to provide interesting information for the audience of the hosting website.
- Joining forums and online communities: Joining forums and communities can be a great opportunity to build relationships with other professionals and acquire backlinks from websites relevant to your industry. However, it is important to participate actively and provide useful information for other members.
- Creating in-depth content such as research and white papers: When creating original and in-depth content, it is essential to use meaningful keywords and provide useful information for your target audience. In this way, it will be more likely that other websites will link to such resources.
- Attending industry events: Attending conferences and trade shows can be a great opportunity to build relationships with specialists in your field of activity and obtain backlinks from their websites. In addition, it can help consolidate your reputation as experts in your industry.
- Turning mentions into quotes: If your brand is mentioned positively in the content of some websites, it is because it is known and appreciated. So they may be willing to add a link to the mention, thus turning it into a quote useful for link building.
- Recovering lost links: Losing links is entirely natural and can happen because the link has been removed or because the linking page has ceased to exist. In the second case, there is not much to do but in the first case, it is possible to ask that the link be restored.
- Acquiring links pointing to inferior web pages: If you have rich and exhaustive content and therefore able to better deepen a content that is linked to a mediocre resource, it can be advantageous to ask the owner of the website in question to replace the poor link with one that points to your website.
- Creating videos and infographics: Videos and infographics, if of quality and engaging, can be used for link building in a functional way, since they can be easily linked or shared. Therefore, it is always a good practice to include a link pointing to your website within them.
- Guest blogging: Guest blogging involves creating content for other websites in exchange for backlinks to your site. This technique is one of the most effective as it allows you to obtain high-quality backlinks from authoritative websites with an audience similar to your own. Therefore, it is important to produce valid content for the audience of the hosting website.
The Costs of Link Building
Link building is a multidimensional process involving many actors, whose involvement varies depending on how you have decided to set up the work: building an in-house team, working with freelancers or delegating the activity to an agency.
Each of these options has advantages and disadvantages based on factors such as: pricing, flexibility and efficiency.
The goal of this paragraph and the subsequent ones is to illustrate what the costs of link building are by considering different factors and possible cases.
First of all, it should be mentioned that the prices for Link Building change depending on the band being considered:
- low range – includes links between 50 and 200 euros that usually come from less authoritative websites and therefore cheaper;
- mid-range – links between 200 and 600 euros that can actually provide good link equity and also offer other benefits (brand awareness, organic traffic and increased DR);
- high end – links between 600 and 2,000 euros from some of the most authoritative websites, whose pages are of excellent quality and can generate a lot of organic traffic.
Building an internal team for link building
Building the entire Link Building activity in-house means hiring a team of outreach specialists, copywriters and content marketing managers, with costs depending on the average annual salaries of each role in each country.
On average, a full-time Link Building team would cost 14,750 euros per month, in Italy, in terms of personnel, but it is also important to consider the cost of the tools needed to make the Link Building process faster and more efficient.
Working with freelance link builders
Link Building strategy can be done in collaboration with freelancers, which are independent professionals who find suitable Link Building opportunities for their clients and take care of their implementation. This is less expensive than hiring an in-house team or working with a full-service SEO agency.
In addition, freelancers tend to be more flexible as they can work on a project basis and specialize in specific areas of Link Building or certain verticals.
However, the quality of work can easily vary depending on the individual freelancer, making it difficult to ensure that the work is done to the same standards as a more established SEO agency.
In general, freelancer prices can fit almost any budget, but it is important to be aware that a low price often also indicates a low quality of service. For best results, it is important to do thorough research to select the right professional.
Partnering with an agency that specializes in Offsite SEO
Partnering with an agency is often the best option for link building strategy, as it usually provides better results than freelancers and requires a lower investment in terms of time/cost than hiring an in-house team.
An agency already has a team of qualified experts and the necessary tools to execute campaigns effectively, and often has an established network of relationships with industry websites, bloggers, influencers and more, which make the entire Link Building process smoother.
In addition, a good agency provides regular reports on the progress of the activity and offers dedicated account management, including regular updates on the status of campaigns and recommendations for their improvement.
The cost of working with a Link Building agency can depend on several variables, including:
- The number of backlinks to be obtained;
- The quality of the headers;
- The additional services included (guest post, backlink audit, backlink gap analysis, etc.).
Therefore, it is important to carefully choose the agency to work with, evaluating its experience and expertise in the field.
Using platforms designed for link building
The last option involves the use of platforms, created and managed by experts in Digital Marketing, within which you can find a large database of publishers with whom you can easily get in touch. They are a useful tool for speeding up and making Link Building activities more efficient. Costs in this case include:
- monthly subscription to the platform (not all tools of this type provide this);
- price of links;
- cost of writing articles;
- additional services.
This is a hybrid solution in that in order to implement a link building campaign it is necessary to: analyze the backlink profile of one’s own site and those of competitors, develop a strategy that can be effective, and monitor the progress of the campaign. Consequently, you will need to either take care of each of these aspects internally or outsource this task to an agency.
However, our Link Acquisition Relevanty AI platform includes among its functions the automatic processing of Backlink Analysis, Competitor Backlink Analysis and Link Strategy thanks to Artificial Intelligence.
Therefore, within a single tool, it is possible to process an end-to-end Link Strategy: starting from analysis and ending with the creation of campaigns.
Factors affecting the cost of link building
It is important to reiterate that backlinks are a crucial factor in a website’s visibility. They are a signal of trust from one website to another and are one of the main factors that search engines consider in determining a site’s authority and relevance. However, not all backlinks are equal and not all websites are equally authoritative and relevant.
Therefore, it is important to understand what is meant by a website’s authoritativeness: a website must be deemed trustworthy and credible by search engines, which can be influenced by Domain Rating (a metric developed by Ahrefs that shows the strength of a target website’s backlink profile relative to others on a 100-point scale) and the E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trust) principle.
However, trust (Trust) is the most important factor among the three, because if a website is not trustworthy, the E-A-T factor will be low, regardless of the expertise (Expertise) or authoritativeness (Authoritativeness) of the website.
Acquiring a backlink from an authoritative website, of course, has a higher cost than acquiring a backlink from a less authoritative website.
Relevance is another factor that plays an important role in backlink building. You need to acquire links from websites that make sense thematically for your site. Although search engines prefer high-authority links, it is often their relevance that is the parameter that matters most.
It must be said, however, that not all verticals are equal. Some areas may be more difficult than others because there are fewer opportunities for link building. As a result, the costs are also higher.
In summary, link quality is more important than quantity, and authority, relevance and verticality are all factors to consider when building backlinks.
Another key element that influences the price of link building is the quality of content, which can be studies and research, original articles, statistics, and more. Such resources must be designed to be clear, well-written and, above all, useful to users, i.e., they must respond to their research.
Another noteworthy factor is the speed of link acquisition.
A high acquisition rate does not necessarily translate into better results and should be done with caution; gaining a large amount of backlinks in a short period of time can potentially be considered manipulative by Google’s algorithm if it deems the profile to be unnatural.
For this reason, all backlinks must be relevant and of high quality, as well as distributed over time as naturally as possible.
It is necessary to monitor the link velocity of competing pages, because if you want to compete successfully with them, you will have to meet or exceed their acquisition rate, always respecting what was stated just above. This means that the cost of link building is also strongly influenced by competition.
Based on what has been reported in this article, it is clear that link building represents a delicate and complex process, to which it is important to devote an adequate investment.
Indeed, it should be considered that an ineffective link building activity could result in higher costs in the long run, so it is essential to invest appropriately from the beginning.
For this reason, it is crucial to rely on professionals in the field who can properly manage the acquisition of links and ensure the quality of the links obtained.
Finally, it is essential to consider that link building should not be the only optimization activity for one’s website, but should be integrated into a broader digital marketing strategy.
To further explore the topic of link building and, in particular, understand how brands in Italy are doing in this respect, you can consult our recent white paper.