Take out your business credit card and Google “improve site rankings through links” or “links for money.” Next, you’ll find a host of people willing to take your money and offer you something like links on 100 sites for $200. Give them your money. Watch your web ranking suffer.
Of course not! But that used to be the way people improved their listings back in the olden days where you could pay to play. <Insert nostalgic sigh> Today, search engines have evolved and improved on their algorithms. It’s no longer the number of links you have but the quality of them.
Quality links come from authoritative websites and authoritative websites aren’t going to sell their authority for $100. Not even if it’s your birthday.
How Do You Separate Authoritative Websites from the Junk?The easiest way is to search for them. Generally, they rank well, very well. But that’s not the only thing you want to look for. Moz is a good tool. But another way is to look for social interaction. This is more than just a lot of clicks or shares. You can get those by paying for them or creating a mutant army of Twitter bots. You want to look for accounts that have back and forth interaction.
Next, ask yourself, “are looking for links or shares?”. These two overlap and both are valuable. For instance, appearing as a guest blogger in a highly ranked and authoritative industry blog is wonderful and the link is very valuable. But posting your content to a popular Facebook group can also give you a lot of eyes and interaction with your post. This type of attention can also be beneficial for ranking. The latter is probably easier, although you still need to take the time to build the relationship with the group before dumping your content on them. You should never play “snowball fight” with your content and simply lob it in as you’re running by.
Not All Links Are the SameIt’s also important to know that not all authoritative sites will give you the same opportunity when it comes to links. For instance, some will give you a byline with a link to your site. Others will allow you to link to content on your site that fits the topic. But some, and these you really want to know about ahead of time, give you a no-follow link. (Often this is what comes to play in comments sections as well so if you were thinking about just buzzing the top blogs and dropping a few comments at the end of their posts, you’re wasting your time.)
A nofollow link instructs search engines to ignore it, so while readers can still click on your link and give you love that way, Google will not attribute any of the prestige or authority of the site to you. However, as mentioned above, this is not a reason to turn it down as readers still matter. But finding out if it’s a nofollow ahead of time might help you prioritize your outreach.
Authoritative Websites Looking for ContentSearch engines are becoming more advanced so providing you with a list of the highest ranking websites from an authority perspective is like someone asking for a list of the best movies. It’s impossible to create a list like that without knowing what that person is looking for. A list of best comedies would look very different than best horror movies or a Most Likely to Win an Oscar list. You should be aiming to be featured on sites that appeal to your target demographic. The Wall Street Journal is an incredibly authoritative site but if my target demographic is teen moms, my post probably won’t catch their attention.
Instead, here are tips to help you find sites that match the audience you’re looking for:
Associations in your industry. Many of them have magazines and journals and they’re always looking for content.
Local chamber of commerce. Not only are they often looking for content, many of them have online business directories as well.
Use Crowdbooster to find people of influence in your industry to interact with and then pitch your ideas.
Local news sites are always looking for stories.
Help a Reporter Out. This site connects reporters looking for expertise to the people who have it.
Neighborhood newspapers often want area experts to write pieces that are interesting to businesses such as a CPA writing about new tax deductions for small business.
All Top, all the top headlines from popular topics around the web.
Scoopit perfect for building your online presence by publishing great content.
Feedly is a customizable news aggregation site but the content they share is good quality and from reputable sites so it can help you find good sites to pitch.
Bizsugar.com, Growthhackers.com and inbound.org can also be leveraged to submit quality content and reach a greater audience.
Long shot sites. These are opportunities for your business because you help make the posting organization a better resource for its audience. For instance, a hotel might approach a local college knowing that on Parents’ Weekend, Visitation Weekends, and Big Game Weekends they’ll be referring people to local accommodations. Many schools keep a standing list on their website. Also, animal shelters may have reciprocal agreements with veterinarians. Think of those symbiotic relationships with well-known businesses that you can approach because you are also helping them help their audience.
Finally, always fill out profiles for your business on Google my Business, Manta, review sites as applicable to your business, and other business sites. An incomplete profile won’t help anyone find you and you’re also missing an opportunity for another link (even if it is a nofollow).
Top photo credit: iStock / NKMandic