03 Jan 2019

Is My Website Ready for Link Building?

You took the first steps. You purchased a domain, set up managed web hosting, and even got your site an SSL certificate. Now that you’ve nailed some of the basics, where do you take your website? Chances are, you’re absolutely itching to increase traffic, convert a few leads, and see your site at the top of Google’s first page. While that’s the ultimate goal for many a webmaster, the truth is that it’s a lot harder than it might seem initially. One way to give your web presence a much-needed boost is through a quality link-building campaign.

However, not all sites are created equally, and many aren’t quite prepared to dive into the link-building process. If you were to ask yourself if your website is ready for link building at this precise moment, it’s more likely than not that the answer is no. This doesn’t mean that you have a bad site, per se, or that you’re doing something fundamentally wrong. It could mean, though, that there are a few things that you’re not doing right or that you’re not doing at all, each of which plays a big role in determining your site’s success.

Whether it’s a tighter user experience, improving technical search engine optimization (SEO) metrics, or, most important, developing a better content strategy, you always have ways to make your web page more user-friendly. After all, if you don’t have a site that users will naturally want to spend time on, chances are a link-building campaign isn’t going to do you much good. It’s an unfortunate truth, but you need to keep a few key considerations in mind if you hope to execute a digital marketing strategy.

Think of your website’s overall interface as your first impression upon your end users

A crisp, clean, well-designed website is more likely to draw in browsers than a one-page site that looks like an old Geocities build. As much as we’d all like to pretend it isn’t true, looks do tend to matter. Your website is no exception. A clunky interface and questionable design choices can cause your bounce rates to shoot through the roof. Couple this with any of the other common website pitfalls, and you’re risking paying a hosting fee for what turns out to be a fairly inactive site.

So how do you improve the user interface and make sure it’s adhering to SEO best practices? A few tips make for a good start. First, it’s important to remember that design is subjective, and there’s no way that your UI is going to please every single user. However, your goal isn’t to please everybody. It’s more to develop a design that will please most users. If design isn’t your strong suit, keep the following three components in mind: simplicity, purpose, and cleanliness.

Simplicity should be fairly self-explanatory. Unless you’re running a very media-heavy website that relies on numerous plug-ins to execute your vision, having unnecessary animations, crowded designs, and unclear language probably isn’t in your best interest. A rule of thumb is that the best site interfaces are nearly unnoticeable to the end user because they feel natural and intuitive.

Purpose is equally important. Just because you can add an extra block of text or another photo or an additional widget doesn’t mean you should if it doesn’t have a defined purpose on the page. Is it something users will naturally want to click on? Does it work in service of your ultimate conversion funnel, be it a sale, a sign-up, or an email capture? Or does it simply take up space on the site for the sake of taking up space? Careful planning and placement is often the first step in navigating a webpage’s ultimate purpose, and if any of your interface elements don’t serve that purpose, they probably need to go.

As for cleanliness, it’s simply the most natural extension of the previous two points. If you ever look at your site and think “this seems a little busy,” it’s important to know that the user’s reaction is likely to be much more magnified than yours. Clean lines, proper use of white space (without going too far overboard into the realm of outright minimalism), and an avoidance of crowding your on-page elements all work in your favor here.

Where user experience is concerned, it builds upon previous concepts. Simply remind yourself that a good user interface lends itself well to a good user experience. However, your interface isn’t the only deciding factor in UX. Other considerations include how much your users interact with the elements on your site, your rich media offerings, and most importantly, the quality of the content on your site. Search engines rely heavily on content quality to determine whether or not a site is worth ranking, so if you haven’t mastered these fundamental steps and given your on-site content an overhaul, a link building campaign is out of the question — but more on content later.

Let’s get technical

On paper, technical SEO may sound like a fairly intimidating concept. The word “technical” tends to do that to whatever phrase may follow it. Luckily, you don’t need to be a programming or coding genius to handle some of the basics of technical SEO on your own (though you may want to call in the professionals if you’re interested in more advanced concepts). For instance, one key technical SEO ranking factor has to do with your page speed, and fixing it doesn’t require a master’s in computer science.

Think about it: a vast majority of mobile users bounce from a website if it doesn’t load within a few seconds. A slow website can mean the death of your online presence, and if your overall load times lag any higher than two and a half seconds, it’s important for you to address what’s causing the slowdown. The closer you can get to being under two seconds per page load, the better. Not only does this benefit the aforementioned user experience, but you’re also eliminating the risk of losing prospective users and customers just because your site can’t quite keep up.

Thankfully — depending on the content management system you use — slow page speeds are a fairly simple fix. If you’re using a fairly popular CMS such as WordPress, plenty of page speed plug-ins can get your site snapping along with just a few clicks of your mouse. Before you go installing new plug-ins left and right, make sure you check overall download statistics as well as general user reviews. While page load plug-ins are always geared towards speeding up things a bit, poorly optimized or incompatible plug-ins can often have the opposite effect.

Page speed isn’t the only technical concept you’ll need to tackle before you’re ready for a link-building campaign. Other primary concerns include a few key optimizations such as your Robots.txt file, your 404 page, your URL navigation, and your overall website structure. If you’re spotting glaring errors with any of these, they need to be fixed as soon as possible. However, while those are all important, they’re still not your primary concern. One of the biggest technical SEO concepts you’ll need to tackle right away comes in the form of mobile optimization.

Mobile search is continually growing and is one of the primary mediums for all searches conducted on the internet. Poor font choices, difficult-to-read content, and a lack of mobile scaling are all grievous optimization errors. If your site isn’t properly optimized for mobile users (or worse, doesn’t even have a mobile version) you’re going to lose out on a lot of potential traffic from browsers who strictly access the internet from their smartphones and tablets. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give your desktop version the same care and attention as your mobile version. Both are equally important. However, mobile’s rapid growth can’t be ignored for long.

A link building campaign often succeeds or fails as a direct result of how well your website has been optimized

Missing search-friendly titles, tags and descriptions? Haven’t thought much about strategically incorporating keywords and headers into your content? Or is your blog full of short puff pieces that are poorly constructed and don’t do much to draw your readers through your conversion funnel? All of these are examples of poorly executed on-page optimizations, which are frequently the kiss of death for any quality link-building campaign.

Keywords are especially important for your on-page optimizations. They’re used to inform search engines about any given page’s content and overall topic. For example, if you’re writing a page on “compact hybrid sedans” but don’t mention that phrase at all throughout your content or tags, a search engine is going to have an incredibly difficult time discerning what your page is about. This causes your site to be seen as unhelpful in a way, because it doesn’t adequately address the searcher’s query. This will harm your rankings and will further ensure prospective traffic sources have a difficult time reaching your website.

Another place where on-page optimizations are especially important in link-building campaigns is through anchor text. Not sure what that is? Think of your average hyperlink. The snippet of text that is clickable is known as your anchor text. Anchor text is used to inform a search engine about the destination of a hyperlink. Think back to the hybrid sedan example. If your anchor text for a hyperlink is the phrase “compact hybrid sedans” but it directs to a page that doesn’t mention this phrase in any meaningful way, it’s not a well-implemented anchor.

The best way to make sure your tags, anchors, and keywords are thoughtfully incorporated into your site is through a cohesive content strategy that carefully implements all of your SEO elements into quality writing. When you have a solid foundation of quality content, it’s that much easier to execute a proper link-building campaign because you’ll be linking back to pages that provide readers with value and are worth ranking. So what constitutes quality content in the eyes of a search engine?

Words on a page

When you hear the words “content strategy,” chances are that your mind immediately wanders to some of your favorite blogs. They’re long-form, they’re informative, and they’ve kept you as a repeat reader for several years. However, blogs and articles aren’t the only pieces of content strategy. In fact, they’re probably not even the first bits of content your audience will even see. Typically, unless you’re running digital ads that direct towards special landing pages, your traffic will wind up on your homepage or one of your services pages.

Even if you’re simply crafting product descriptions and writing an “About Me” page, these are all valuable aspects of your content strategy, and they’re frequently overlooked. Think about it in terms of a link-building campaign. Say you want to boost traffic and links to a certain service page, but that page has little in the way of content and isn’t all that valuable in terms of SEO. Often, the pages you want to develop links to simply aren’t ready to be linked to. Stepping up your content strategy, even for basic service pages, is an incredibly important factor in determining your success.

One place where the average web page suffers is its length. While search engines don’t outright penalize shorter page content, they certainly don’t prefer it. Think about it: if you and a direct competitor are writing on the same topic and the quality of your writing is relatively even but their page is twice as long as yours, which site do you think a search engine is going to serve up? If you guessed the lengthier one, you’d be correct. Search engines often (and sometimes incorrectly) infer that longer lengths mean higher quality. While this isn’t always the case, it’s important that your pages aren’t simply short snippets.

An easy way to gain more length on your web pages is by thinking of them as solutions to your users’ problems. For example, if your user is asking a question, does your page directly and clearly answer it? If your user has a specific problem, is your content doing a good job of providing the proper solution? Ask yourself these questions as you evaluate your website’s content. Chances are, you’ll find several spots where the writing is unclear and doesn’t directly address your target keywords or provide adequate solutions. This is when you take the time to thoughtfully expand on any slighter points and develop lengthier content.

Keep in mind that while it’s important to strive for longer, expanded content, you shouldn’t simply stuff filler text and keywords throughout a page. While search engines do prefer length, they also tend to penalize content that isn’t purposeful, helpful, or adhering to SEO best practices. If you’re struggling to write thoughtful content that doesn’t rely on common writing pitfalls, you’re going to have a tough time building links back to your site, regardless of whether you’re running a campaign to trying to gain organic backlinks to your pages.

Building a blog is more beneficial than you think

It’s a common misconception that blogs are no longer useful SEO tools. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, a consistently maintained and updated blog is far more valuable than a neglected one and vastly superior to having no blog at all. That’s because many search engines have started prioritizing freshness. Because users want the latest, most relevant and up-to-date information, it makes sense that search engines would serve up the most recent results. Combining the freshness a blog provides with the boost that quality content provides is a great way to get your site in front of a larger segment of users.

The word “quality” plays a big role here, too. Just like search engines prefer thoughtful content on standard web pages, they also prefer thoughtful blog content, as well. If you thought it would be as easy as writing a bimonthly post and calling it a day, you’re going to be dismayed by the lack of traffic it brings in. Content needs to be actionable, creative, unique, and tailored to a specific audience. Sure, general knowledge pieces still have their time and place, but they’re far harder to rank for and build links to than their more specific counterparts.

Keyword selection also plays a big role in blog success. If you’re choosing hyper-competitive keywords, aren’t using long-tailed phrases (lengthy, more specific keywords that have higher conversion rates), or are hitting the same keyword too many times throughout your posts, you’re going to have a difficult time running a successful link-building campaign. Repeat content is especially troublesome for the average site owner. After all, if you’re trying to post multiple times a week and are in a particularly niche industry, you might think that double-dipping isn’t too much of a concern when it comes to your blog. Unfortunately, this isn’t the truth. If multiple blog posts are targeting the exact same keyword, search engines are going to be confused about which ones you’re trying to rank which can negatively impact the search results.

So blog content needs to be consistent, fresh, and unique for link building to properly work. Doesn’t sound too difficult, does it? The truth is that it’s a little more complex than it initially sounds. It requires a lot of time, effort, and most importantly, patience. This is also where many webmasters falter. Unless you set out to start a blog from the get-go, chances are you’re running a business or company site.

That means that you might not have much time or resources to devote to a blog. Plus, the vast amount of work that a solid content strategy requires and the length of time it could take to see results often deter most websites before they even get started. However, if you persevere (or even rely on assistance from LinkGraph), you’ll soon see that the long-term traffic gains and sustainable source of organic leads is well worth the investment. Though digital advertising often holds appeal because of its rapid return on investments, once the ads stop, so does the traffic. Content strategy and link building campaigns can build a foundation for continued growth and expanded traffic in a way that advertising can seldom touch.

Here’s why hundreds are partnering with LinkGraph

If it sounds like you have to have a lot of moving pieces in place before you’re able to begin a link-building campaign, that’s because you do. From both on-page and technical SEO implementation to executing a quality content strategy that helps your website stand out amongst a sea of competitors, developing the right link-building campaign isn’t as simple as publishing a piece of hyperlinked text. If it all sounds a bit overwhelming to you, you’re not alone. Luckily, that’s where LinkGraph comes in.

At LinkGraph, we pride ourselves on high-quality link building, flawless content strategy, and on-page search engine optimization to give your site the strongest chance at being a rankings powerhouse. We know the publishing industry inside and out, and we work with top-tier writers to develop content and links that make your brand shine. Our link- building strategies are the best way to see a rapid search ranking improvement and our progress dashboard allows you to keep a close eye on your campaign at every step of the process.

On top of all that, we also offer a suite of free SEO tools that are developed to help both beginner and veteran webmasters leverage their sites to be the best they can possibly be. Our commitment to digital excellence is reflected in every one of our services. If you’re ready to learn more about how link building, content strategy, and search engine optimization can give your website the added boost it needs, reach out to the digital marketing experts at LinkGraph today or contact us to consult further on your website and your unique marketing needs.

Kon Moiseenko
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