Link Building Guidelines for SEO Agencies

- Joseph R. Mason

Anatomy of a high value link:

Here we’ll explain the core component of any SEO effort: link building. While SEO trends come and go, often bringing with them the possibility of exploitation and penalization, what doesn’t change is the value of links. However, Search Engines are smart about how they count those links, so in this post we’ll cover the strategies that we’ve found to work best, as well as the pitfalls to avoid.

Google regards links from legitimate blogs as votes of confidence in a brand. But in order for those votes of confidence to truly count, a few criteria must be met. The quality of the publication matters, as does the placement and type of link.


Target High Quality Sites

When evaluating site quality, site authority rankings only tell part of the story. Sure, a high DA ranking is never a bad thing, but don’t be led to believe that sites with lower rankings can’t be a valuable source of links. Look at the overall quality of the site - is it relevant to your client’s brand? Is it generally kept up to date in terms of both content and page design? If so, then it’s a site that’s more likely to stick around and continue to engage readers, and is therefore a worthwhile target for backlinks.


Link Placement Matters

In order to get the highest benefit from a link, it should be placed within the main body of a post. What this means to Google is that the link has context, and is therefore truly being vouched for by the blogger. Links elsewhere on the site (for example, in the footer of a sidebar) aren’t entirely without value. However, without the context of a post, the link can mean a whole number of other things besides a “vote” from the blogger as far as Google is concerned.


Avoid the “sponsored” tag!

Search Engines are savvy about dismissing links that come from blatantly sponsored content. How do you avoid the telltale signs? If the post is labeled “sponsored”, “advertorial”, or the like, any links from that post will not be valued.

When securing links within the body of a blog post, it’s important for that link placement to be as “natural” as possible. This relates to the contextualization of that link and also to the other links in that post. It’s far more natural for a blog post to mention and link to more than one brand, and if your brand is the only one linked to in a number of posts across the web, that creates a pattern that Google can spot. It’s a red flag that all those posts were sponsored.



Reader Engagement Boosts Link Value

Social signals on a site such as social media likes and active commentary are likely drivers of link value on that site.

Tailor your efforts to your client:


Give your clients what they need, not just what they want. What does that mean for SEO? Analyze your client’s online profile. What kind of company are they? New or old? Local or National? While the client may be inclined to try and push for a quick fix or fast track to SEO success, the most effective strategies will mirror the natural trajectories of businesses within the same profile group.

So, where to start? Begin by breaking down the existing distribution of anchor text that your client has. When doing so, you’ll want to pay particular note the current rate at which links are being accrued.

It’ll be important to avoid a massive spike in backlinks and instead slowly pick up speed while varying the number of links acquired in any given week.

Identify “linkworthy” assets your client may have, such as blog posts of their own, infographics, and so on. These will prove highly linkable pages and are in fact better page choices for linking than so-called “money” pages. Why? Again, it’s about what is most natural, and these are the types of pages bloggers tend to want to link to in the context of an article.

Create an Appropriate Link Profile for your Client:

Directory Links

Directories make a great starting point for building a link profile. Keeping in mind that these should be high quality, authoritative directories, having between 25 and 50 of these links is a good box to check, particularly for new sites. In addition to the general directories, look for industry or location-specific ones.

Rules of Thumb:

Local Website: 20-50 Local Directory links
New Website: 15-50 Web Directory links
Established Website: 0 Web Directory links

Links From Bloggers + Webmasters

These should make up the bulk of your client’s link profile. These are highly natural links and are exactly the type that Ocean_SEO can help you obtain. We acquire blogger and webmaster links through systematic outreach to unaffiliated, high quality blogs and other online publications. By pitching linkworthy material from your client to prospective blogs at a high level of scale, we can guarantee you hit your backlinking goals.

When seeking blogger and webmaster links, it can be just as useful to get link placement on a “resource page,” a page where the blogger provides a list of helpful resources to their readers, as it is to get a link embedded in a post. These pages are highly regarded by search engines as a true vote from the blogger or webmaster.

Rules of Thumb:

Local Website: 2-6 blog links per month
New Website: 5-10 blog links per month
Established Website: start with 5-10 blog links per month and slowly ratchet up. Supplement with 1-2 infographics or promotions per month.
Low Competition Website: 2-6 blog links per month

Press Release Links

A press release, if timed right and containing linkworthy news, can generate actual buzz and natural backlinks.

Rules of Thumb:

Local Website: 1-2 press releases a year
New Website: 1-2 press releases a year
Established Website: 3-4 press releases per year maximum (based on major milestones)
Low Competition Website: 1-2 press releases a year

Where to send those links?

Again, it’s best to follow natural patterns - your link building should follow trends that happen “in the wild.” This means that most of your links should point to the homepage, followed by linkworthy content, followed by the high value pages.

While it takes some time for the page rankings to even out and spread to those high value pages, eventually you’ll have strong and sustainable, highly ranked pages across the site due to the natural quality of your backlink profile.

We can’t stress enough the importance of avoiding unnatural patterns when it comes to the pages you’re linking to. Penalizations arise from unnatural patterns whereby links continue to point at the highest value pages on the site.