Entrepreneur Jon Zacharias recently authored a guide on his blog site detailing the tenets of ethical link-building in the modern digital landscape. As a leader and co-founder of GR0, one of the fastest growing digital marketing agencies in the country, backlinks are a core component of Zacharias’ business. In the October blog post entitled, The Definitive Guide to Ethical Link-Building, Zacharias outlines proven methods by which marketers can develop a wealth of legitimate and reliable backlinks without exploiting shady loopholes or treading into legal grey areas.
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Jon Zacharias, Co-Founder of GR0 (Photo: Business Wire)
Zacharias describes backlinks as a "vote of confidence from another site" for a business’ or an individual’s content. Accordingly, the more backlinks a page of content has, the more search engines identify that page as not only reliable and trustworthy but also as a useful source of quality, relevant information that will help users get what they want. Because Google places such a heavy emphasis on promoting web pages with rich backlink catalogs, Zacharias calls it unsurprising that some marketers have employed questionable methods to obtain backlinks over the years.
Before explaining the right ways and the sustainably effective ways to develop an extensive backlinks catalog, Zacharias first delves into the shady, dated, and ineffective ways in which some marketers try to cheat Google’s system. The digital marketing veteran identifies the following tactics as backlinks acquisition strategies that should be utterly avoided, regardless of circumstance:
Buying backlinks in any capacity (even through middlemen who seem legit)
Obtaining backlinks from sites that have nothing to do with your niche (irrelevant)
Forgetting anchor text when building backlinks (not optimized for search)
Using site-wide links instead of targeted links to a specific page on your site
Linking to sites without a good reputation and with low domain authority (DA)
After listing what might be called worst practices for backlinks building, Zacharias describes several quick-hit backlink tactics. These tactics are simple and would best be described as regular maintenance relative to the techniques that are truly foundational to backlinks building. Zacharias writes that marketers should regularly filter their existing backlinks by status code, identify any broken links, and make sure they are replaced with links to live pages. Backlinks to pages with broken links lead users to the all too familiar "Error 404" page, which of course, does not help a brand expand its online presence. Zacharias also encourages marketers to get their content listed on pages with links to their competition and to take the time to connect with webmasters whose pages contain reviews of products and services within their niche.
Like most any other aspect of digital marketing, a primary factor in successfully obtaining an extensive backlinks catalog is high quality content. This is the reason why Google places so much emphasis on backlinks to begin with, and this is the simplest and most organic way for a brand to generate backlinks. Zacharias writes the following about the importance of quality content for expanding backlinks: "Your primary focus should be on creating content that makes a difference in peoples’ lives. This takes time, but the fruits of your labor will be well worth it in the long run."
A slightly more nuanced but similarly foundational aspect of backlinks building is connecting with the right people. Zacharias writes that brands should reach out to relevant news sites and blogs within their niche as guest posting is a highly effective way to generate ethical backlinks. A strategy to streamline this process is what is known to digital marketers as HARO, a short-hand acronym for Help a Reporter Out. The HARO platform connects journalists with sources and vice versa and leads to backlinks from major news sites and media aggregators. Jon Zacharias writes that while this resource is not particularly intuitive, it is worth learning how to navigate the platform because HARO can become a "goldmine for top-notch links from the biggest sites in the world."
Zacharias’ final piece of advice for brands looking to maximize backlinks is to employ the help of experts. Influencer marketing, guest posting, and platforms like HARO are not easy arenas to break into, and many brands could greatly benefit from outsourcing at least a portion of their backlinks strategy to an experienced and effective agency or individual.
While building backlinks ethically and effectively is not an overnight process and may seem daunting, Zacharias encourages brands to embrace the grind because doing it the right way is well worth the effort and investment.
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