This is the second in a series of blog posts about SEO for B2B tech companies. The first post – How to identify keywords for targeting engineers – provides an understanding of how to target a technical audience. The below post discusses the importance of inbound links, and how to leverage your marketing agency to build them.
Quality inbound links, built from industry-authority websites are essential for SEO, as Google interprets inbound links as votes of confidence. Google values sites with high-quality backlinks based on editorial authority, relevance, audience interaction, and quality traffic, among other factors.
All links are not equal
It is important to note that social shares have a lesser SEO value to links from websites, blogs, and forums due to the transient nature of social posts and the way that domain authority disseminates through a website. The below graphic from the RLS Group explains the concept of “link juice” very simply.
For most websites, the homepage holds the most authority because it has the most links—from other pages on the website (e.g., in the main navigation bar) and from external websites. This link juice flows through the website structure, divided amongst the first pages that are linked. Each of these pages then links to more pages and divides the link juice further. This simple concept explains how internal link sculpting works—how link juice can be directed to specific pages in order to boost their authority, and also explains why a single Tweet is likely to have less SEO value than a web page—because there are so many Tweets trying to get a share of the link juice.
Since not all links are created equal, it’s important to look not just the at overall quantity of links, but also at the quality of each of those links. A competitor that has fewer links, but from more important websites, can often outrank a site with a larger number of low-quality links.
The importance of internal link building
As can be seen from the above example, it is possible to deploy a technique known as “link sculpting” as a means of retaining or redirecting the flow of SEO value. to key pages on your website – often known as “cornerstone” pages. This typically involves identifying cross-linking opportunities, redirecting existing inbound links to these cornerstone pages as well as removing extraneous links.
Organic link-building techniques
Creating good content pays off and will improve traffic, reader engagement, and backlinks. Indeed, Google states in its code of practice: “The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content.” When developing a link-building program, we should tie this in with our framework. We need to approach link-building on a topic-by-topic basis, or even page-by-page. For each node in our taxonomy, we have created a list of keywords and phrases. We need to identify the top-ranking websites in Google search results for each word/phrase and then identify which websites are linking to these top-ranking websites. Now we have identified the websites that Google values the most for each topic. Each of these sites now needs to be evaluated to understand if and how we can get an inbound link to our own content. If it is a blog post, perhaps the author could be convinced to update the post by telling them how our content complements their own.
Assuming your content has been found (not necessarily through SEO but other marcomms activities) there is a chance that your content will be shared organically, either through social sharing or referenced in other web pages.
Link building through social media
In order to encourage social sharing, make sure you have a social sharing tool prominently positioned on all web pages—ideally both at the top and the bottom of the article, or in a floating sidebar that is always present on the screen. This makes it easy for users to share once they are read the article, but also for those that want to save the article to read later.
How to build links through a PR program
This graphic shows a typical distribution of inbound links, with a high number of links from mid-level domain authority domains.
Tools such as Backlinko and SEMRush can help you identify possible inbound link opportunities by running analyses on direct competitors to identify the intersects of inbound links – i.e. websites that are linking to your competitors websites but not to yours. These intersecting websites can be prioritized by Domain Authority (a scoring model developed by Moz) as well as a manual review for relevance. Content placements (e.g., guest blog and articles) can be targeted to the most relevant, highest quality publications where you are most likely to get an inbound link.
Distributing SEO-optimized press releases can garner not just coverage, but a wide dispersal of quality inbound links. It is important to note that you cannot just rely on wire distribution services because the quality of links generated through these is dissipated by Google’s penalization for duplicate content. Each press release that gets reproduced in full needs to refer back to the original article (usually hosted on the PR distribution service’s own website), which greatly reduces the SEO value of all the other places where the press release is published.
Link building through content syndication
Content syndication is when web-based content is re-published by a third-party website. According to Outbrain.com, any kind of digital content can be syndicated, including blog posts, articles, infographics, videos, and more. Think of it as a kind of barter arrangement. The third-party website gets free, relevant content. The content creator gets free exposure and publicity, and backlinks to their own website, which in turn boosts their organic traffic. A structured content syndication program can help your SEO efforts in two ways:
- Search engines track links across the web to help classify content and determine the popularity of web pages.
- The content of pages linking to each other is taken into consideration when pulling it into the search result—it is beneficial to get inbound links from web pages/sites that have relevant content to your own.
In niche sectors, it can be difficult get build inbound links for your content to build SEO value. It is therefore important to kickstart the opportunity by amplifying content to potential visitors, then providing the tools to make it easy for them to share it. Competitor analyses can help you identify easy targets for building inbound links, as well as high-value targets that can be leveraged through the strategic use of placed articles and blog posts on industry authority websites.
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