During my digital marketing career, I have tried everything – customer relationship management, in-depth on-site SEO analysis, digital PR – you name it. But none of these things really made my heart skip a beat as much as link building.
For me, the feeling when I land a bunch of superb links can only be compared to my other passion – riding my horse. Actually, even the thought of combining these two things together already got me so inspired that I made this GIF with me riding my magical horse that creates links every time its hooves touch the ground.
I can even draw a parallel between horse-riding and link building.
Just like in dressage (that’s my horse-riding discipline), attention to detail is very important in link building. This is exactly what motivates me to occasionally sit down and give some good thought to the experiences I’ve been through. All the achievements, lessons, little and big ‘aha’ moments – everything that happened to me since I started my link building journey.
Many of these lessons helped me lay the foundation for the future success of my company that now has grown from a tiny agency to a team of 6 people. In today’s post, I want to share these findings, which you can also use on your quest to chase the best links and SEO results.
Building Truly Good Links is a Never-Ending Hustle
Over my three years in link building, I realized that learning never ends. The more links you build, the more you learn about the nuances that differentiate a mediocre link from a truly valuable one.
Here’s a little backstory from my experience to provide more context.
When I started my agency, we focused primarily on getting a link to a client from a site with a decent DR. These websites often wrote content on a wide variety of topics, and as long as our link was allocated relevantly in this content, there was nothing to worry about.
But one conversation with a fellow link builder completely changed my perspective on our entire strategy.
From this conversation, I found out that some of the links that we acquired are allocated on websites that are quite mediocre, while I used to think they were fairly good. And, although our links might have been placed relevantly, they didn’t bring any long-term value.
This was a huge revelation to me and a red flag at the same time. I realized that we needed to change our strategy as soon as possible to make sure it fit our main selling point – building only excellent links.
So, immediately my team and I had an internal chat and tightened up our link building requirements to ensure that our links will not miss on quality. We mapped out a few solutions that ultimately helped us bring our link-building strategy to the desired level.
Here’s what we decided on (please, feel free to steal it in case you want to build only exceptional links).
1) Focus on well-established businesses
Considering the story that led us to change our approach to link building requirements, we decided that, from now on, we only need to get links from sites that are trustworthy, well-established businesses.
Apart from that, we also started checking whether the sites that our clients get backlinks from are recognized by Google as trustworthy brands. That meant that the backlinks that our customers would get as a result would be inherently beneficial both for the domain authority and SEO.
At the end of the day, quality is above quantity when it comes to link building. Getting links from an untrustworthy website is a quick win, but it is a bad investment. You need to focus on links that will bring you long-term benefits, even though it might take some time.
2) Track the historical growth of the referring domains
Think of a referring domain as your personal email. If you keep sending junk messages from it, Google will quickly flag your email as spam. The same is with link building – all your previous practices will have an inevitable impact on the credibility of your domain.
That’s why checking the website’s historical growth of the referring domains, where you want to place your link, is an important step in link building. It allows you to size up the quality of the link building opportunity and understand better whether it’s a good site to secure a link.
We use Ahrefs to ensure that the site’s referring domains have a stable graph without any suspicious ups and downs. Below you can see what we consider as a healthy growth of referring domains:
3) Check organic traffic
Ideally, you want the sites where you’re building links have a decent number of organic visitors.
However, you need to keep in mind that not all organic traffic is relevant. It is more important to check whether a website ranks for the keywords that fit your niche instead of every possible keyword that brings good traffic.
You can easily check the relevance of the website’s organic traffic to your site either in Ahrefs or SEMrush. If you decide to go with SEMrush, I would also recommend you check out pages that are getting the highest percentage of organic traffic:
4) Investigate current link building strategy
The way, how a website is currently doing its link building strategy can tell you a lot about its trustworthiness. You need to ensure that the website is not following some spammy strategies and links that they’re building are really good ones.
To check the current link acquisition strategy, go to the Ahrefs reports, where you will find newly acquired links. What you need to do next is select a decent time frame (at least 2-3 months) to get more tangible results:
The larger the time span you select, the more you will find out about the website’s link building history as well.
I could definitely say that it took me quite a while to figure out if these strategies would work for us. But now I can swear by them because they have proven over time to be effective, when it comes to building truly outstanding links.
Getting Links to Commercial Pages is Debatable
Our clients often want to build links to commercial pages, and there’s nothing surprising about it. Of course, it’s harder than building links to content pages, but it’s definitely not impossible.
However, speaking from my experience, there are cases when building links to a commercial page is a complete waste of time. So, I listed below a few scenarios when it’s pointless to secure links to your commercial/service/feature page.
Scenario #1: Your clients don’t search for your services on Google
Let’s say you own a link-building agency. However, the decision-making process of your potential clients has nothing to do with Google search.
What I mean here is that your potential clients won’t be Googling for link building services. They’d rather ask their network for recommendations or even go to some trustworthy aggregators like Credo or Clutch.
So, there’s no sense in wasting your time on ranking at the top of results by your commercial pages. Instead, you need to write content that will be focused on educating your audience and making sure that your content really stands out.
Scenario #2: Your commercial page is not specific to your solution
Another case when building links to a commercial page is a waste of time is if the page is matching a very broad search term instead of being specific to your solution.
Of course, it doesn’t mean that you won’t get anything in return. You will be getting a decent amount of traffic. But, in the long run, you’ll see that this traffic is not relevant to your business and brings you no tangible results.
Some experts wouldn’t agree with that. They might say, “Hold on, Alex! It might be a smart way to grow brand awareness. At the end of the day, the more people stumble across the brand, the better.”
And I agree, at some point, it might work pretty well, but you also shouldn’t forget about search intent. So, if users aren’t staying on your site for a decent amount of time, it might affect your overall site rankings since Google relies on the behavioral factor as well.
Scenario #3: Your commercial page can’t outrank the competition
In some cases, it can be quite hard for the newborn websites to rank their commercial pages higher on Google because of the pressure from the competitors. But it gets next to impossible if the page doesn’t have much content on it.
That’s where things become quite challenging, as adding more content to a commercial page most probably will lead to a significant decrease in conversions.
So, yes, building links to a commercial page is a real challenge. But if none of the above-mentioned scenarios scare you away from trying to build links to a service page, then I want to share with you a few examples of websites that tackled these challenges successfully.
Use these commercial pages to unleash your SEO potential
Let me show you a few good examples of commercial pages that have the biggest chances to rank remarkably on Google.
First, you may consider adding more details about what your service is and how it works. You can take a look at the example from MyGrowthGorilla of a 100% commercial page that has enough content and talks about how exactly this agency builds links.
The only thing I don’t agree with here is the search term that this agency decided to target since “link building” is obviously too broad. On top of that, there’s no chance for them to outrank the sites that are currently ranking at the top of SERPs based on the Ahrefs data:
Also, if we take a quick look at the pages in the image above, we can see that this website is mostly talking about what link building is, beginner’s guides, etc. Basically, those who are searching for “link building” are not really in need of it, they’re just trying to understand what link building is.
That’s the prime reason why keyword research is so important. It explains why you need to allocate some time to check what kind of search intent is hidden behind each search term. There are plenty of keywords tools besides Ahrefs that could help you with keyword analysis. Among the most popular ones are SEMrush, Answerthepublic, Keywordtool.io, and so on.
One more example of a commercial page that I want to share with you is this feature page. It doesn’t really have tons of content, but at least it has a link to a content page that a user could go to if they want to learn more about email reminders:
For sure, that’s not the best solution, but it brings more credibility to the page and is a kind of a compromise to persuade a user to stay longer on their site.
Finally, here’s one more solution regarding content on commercial pages. Some time ago, I stumbled upon this feature page from Engage Bay about marketing automation that has a paragraph of text:
The trick here is that in this paragraph, they’re trying to target not only exact matching keywords but also a bunch of informational search queries (e.g., “what is marketing automation software”). This approach might work out quite well as SERPs include a good number of feature pages similar to Engage’s:
However, with all these tricks in mind, you still need to remember that Google isn’t as stupid as you might think. If you get an awful lot of great backlinks only to your commercial pages, you won’t be able to enjoy this relative success for too long.
So, keep in mind that everything is good in moderation, and you don’t need to use any manipulative strategies just to get more traffic to your commercial pages. Focus on building links to different pages, but be especially careful with commercial ones as users don’t link to them organically.
Balancing between Links that Bring SEO Results and PR Value
I think the true beauty of link building comes to light when a link delivers both SEO and PR benefits.
If we take SEO links separately, those will be coming mostly from the sites that have a good growth rate, but they still have a long way to go to become top-notch leading websites. Links that solely bring SEO value are great, but these can’t be the only links you should focus on.
And then we have links that bring both SEO and PR value. Besides sending a great flow of link juice, such links send a signal to Google that this site is trustworthy business. For instance, we recently landed a link for a client on the Hubspot blog, and I guess that might be considered as something that could help them build trust not only in the eyes of Google but also among their potential clients.
Your main challenge and responsibility as a link builder is to keep the balance between links that only bring link juice and those that are also helping to grow your client’s brand authority. That’s the reason why we always try to negotiate with a client that we could have at least a few quite well-written content pages besides commercial ones. Content pages allow us to secure links from leading sites.
I truly believe that when SEO and PR value are meeting in one link, that’s what makes this link truly powerful. Amen!
I’m not going to lie to you. Figuring out how to build a good link takes a lot of time and effort. Not to mention that you will probably fail a lot until you find the perfect formula for a truly great link.
But I can confirm that at the end of the day, regular practice is the best way to learn how to build the best links and gain valuable insights, some of which I shared with you in this article. Hopefully, you can take advantage of my knowledge and apply it to grow your own link-building strategy.