If keyword research is the backbone of search engine optimisation, then links make up the rest of the skeleton. Put simply linking can make or break a SEO campaign. And if you need proof, just consider the fact that it’s perfectly possible to get a page with virtually zero content ranking. In fact, if you’ve got the right links it’s actually quite easy.

However, developing and implementing an effective linking strategy is a tricky business. As Google gets increasingly smarter it’s getting increasingly easier for webmasters to slip up. Get it wrong and you’re looking at a stiff penalty or even removal from Google’s index. But get it right and you can cement your position at the top of the search results.

Link building is monotonous, time consuming and expensive; so it’s hardly surprising that it’s often the downfall of a SEO campaign. If you operate in a competitive online market it’s essential that you carefully plan, implement and track a long-term strategy.

If you try and ‘get the job done’ overnight Google will become suspicious. Instead dedicate one or two days’ resources every month and accept that you’re in it for the long-haul. And remember that whatever route you take; Google prefers quality and relevance over quantity.

Managing Expectations

Before you begin planning a link building strategy; you need to define exactly what you want your SEO campaign to achieve. For most commercial websites it’s all about sales, but which product lines do you want to push? Perhaps you should be focussing on growing your company footprint by generating more ‘brand noise’? Or maybe you just want to have competitive steal on your rivals by outperforming them in the search results?

Be realistic about what you hope to achieve based on: the strength of your online competition and the size of your budget. One question that newcomers to SEO always ask is ‘how many links will I need to get to No.1?’ and the answer is simply ‘a few more high-quality links than whoever is at No.2’.

Not only does link-building take time, but it also takes time for link-love to flow from one site to another. Naturally this makes it difficult to gauge the impact a particular set of links is having on your rankings, and it can drain your motivation. If you are flagging remember that linking doeswork and that you mustn’t give up.

Assigning Resources

How much time, effort and money you invest in your linking campaign will largely be determined by the shape of your online competition.

If you’re operating in a relatively uncompetitive market, where your business rivals have relied on an organic link growth, then climbing to the top of the SERPS shouldn’t be too arduous. However, if you have big budget rivals who are investing heavily in advertising and link-building; you will need deep pockets to keep-up.

Linking budgets tend to reflect a website’s potential financial revenue. And at the top of the scale, in the fiercely competitive world of financial services, monthly link development budgets can run into the tens of thousands of pounds.

Tracking you Campaign

Besides perseverance a good link-builder will need to be meticulously organised. Once you’ve defined your goals it’s a good idea to put a system in place to keep track of your linking campaign. In competitive marketplaces you’ll need to keep record of hundreds or even thousands of links otherwise you’ll end-up running around in circles.

Spreadsheets provide the best solution and at the very minimum you’ll need to make note of:

  • Who you have approached
  • When & how you approached them
  • When you intend to follow-up the request

And if you are successful:

If you have been spending your budget on ‘advertising’ links, you’ll also need to make a note of renewal date and cost.

TOP TIP: Link building is as much of an art as it is a science, and while you can plan a strategy you can’t plan the results. Hence, for a linking strategy to be effective it needs to be flexible. If you are getting the desired rankings sooner than you had planned: take your foot off the gas. If you are going nowhere fast: put some more gas in the tank.

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