Over 20 years ago Google invented PageRank which turned external links into votes of endorsement. Pages with more links pointing at them were seen as more important and authoritative than pages with few links pointing at them.
Why was PageRank revolutionary? Because it created a proxy for understanding a website’s authority. How the search engines measure and value links have evolved drastically since PageRank was created. But, at its core, Google cares about authority. In fact, they care a lot. And thus, links still matter.
We are often asked, “Why can’t I find my website on Google?” A likely cause is lack of online authority. If a business launches its first website or changes to a new domain, then its domain lacks authority. The website may have amazing user-experience, lightning-fast page speed, and great content. But, Google isn’t going to show this new domain in the search results until authority has been built. Google needs to trust that the website has expertise and credibility via the third party endorsements that come from links.
How do you get more links? In the SEO space, the tactic of actively cultivating links that point to your site is called link building. The goal of link building is to expand the network of authoritative sites that link to yours. This network is referred to as your backlink network or link profile.
That said, link building doesn’t have the best reputation. Spammy email requests, link schemes, and old school tactics like article submissions are some of the things people have done to sully the name of this essential SEO tactic.
Let’s change the way we think about link building by focusing on building your business’s online authority.
Overwhelmed by SEO? Try a guided approach.
How to Get Started with Building Online Authority
The best way to get started is a brainstorming exercise to identify your professional relationships. Who do you do business with? Who are your friends within your professional sphere?
Take for example an architect. Architects typically do business with contractors, land-use planners, landscapers, print shops, etc. An architect may be in an association or have a professional community for shared learning. Architects go to events and conferences and may be connected to a mentoring program or their university. What about charitable giving? Is the architect on the board of any nonprofit organizations?
Write down a list of these relationships.
Does Google know about these professional relationships in the form of links? The answer is usually no. As a result, these are all opportunities to build your business’s authority online. The goal is for a business’s backlink network to be equivalent to their professional network.
After you’ve identified your business relationships, note which ones aren't echoed online. Reach out to those partners and pitch them on the idea of linking to your site. You should probably also offer to link to theirs if your goal is, in fact, to show Google that your relationship exists.
It helps to think ahead about how a partner could link back to your website in a way that adds value to their website. Ideas include:
— Partner Lists: Websites often have a page that notes their professional relationships via a Partners or Our Friends list. Ask them to include your business on their partner's list. Offer to do the same on your website.
— Guest Blogging: Offer to share thought leadership content on one of your partner's blogs. This is great if your businesses are in the same, or complementary, industries.
— Sponsorship: Formally support an event or nonprofit with sponsorship.
— Podcasts: Pitch yourself to be on a podcast that focuses on your professional community.
— Chamber of Commerce: Ensure your business is listed on your local chamber of commerce website.
Does your business serve a local area? If so, then there are ways to build your business’s authority based on the trust that is created from having a pin dropped on a map.
— Google Maps: Create a Google Maps listing via Google My Business.
— MozLocal: Distribute your local business information to a broader network of local business websites and aggregators.
Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching business owners and freelancers how to get found in Google, Yahoo, and Bing via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.