On-Site Optimization is the First Step in an Effective Link Building Campaign

In today’s SEO landscape, link building is a long-term strategy that requires a forward-thinking battle plan.

There was once a time when link building was a short-term strategy, where “get link rich quick” schemes ruled the day. Link-building was about quantity and rapidity, getting as many links as quickly as possible with the hopes of vaulting up the rankings.

Those days are largely over.

Google cracked down heavily on spammy link acquisition tactics with the April 2012 release of the Penguin algorithm update and the link-building landscape shifted dramatically away from quantity and towards quality.

Thus link-building finally became what it always should have been, a viable long-term strategy where you develop a systematic plan for acquiring and leveraging the power of high-quality links on high authority sites relevant to your niche.

For many effective link builders, a simplistic plan of attack might look something like this:

  1. Do keyword research to identify which keywords should be targeted
  2. Conduct competitor backlink research to help identify potential link acquisition targets
  3. Generate a list of sites to target, based both on competitor analysis and independent research of high-target sites that the competition is NOT located on.
  4. Identify which strategies and tactics can be used on each target site – examples of different tactics include guest posting, broken link building, infographics, relevant niche directories, etc.
  5. Identify which anchor text to use to optimize for target keywords (note: you want to have anchor text diversity with branded anchors comprising the majority of your link portfolio regardless of what specific queries you want to rank for).
  6. Begin the slow and laborious outreach process, attempting to build relationships with site owners in order to eventually land links on high authority sites that are relevant to your target audience.
  7. Repeat.

Having worked for an agency that undertakes this process on behalf of clients, I’ve developed a pretty good sense of how this approach works and how to tinker with it based on the individual needs of the client and the unique circumstances of the niche universe in which they reside.

However there is one aspect of the whole process that often throws a kink into our organic link building efforts, or more precisely there is one factor that – when not properly implemented – renders the value of the links being built negligible.

That factor is on-page optimization.

As an employee of agency that works primarily with off-site optimization (which is what link building is) it can be incredibly frustrating to see our work fail to be as effective as it might otherwise be because the client’s website is poorly optimized from the point-of-view of both users and the search engine.

The truth of the matter is that you can obtain a slew of high-quality backlinks to your site, but they will be rendered largely moot if the page where those links are pointed to is not properly optimized, devoid of quality content or otherwise deemed low-quality by the Google algorithm.

For this reason, it has become apparent that before a site owner can make any attempt to build links or target specific keywords, they need to have all their on-site ducks in a row. This includes:

– The basics including a sitemap, title tag, meta tags, H1-H3, breadcrumbs, etc. It’s amazing how many high-budget e-commerce sites are still missing the boat on the very basics of site optimization.

– Quality content – There are a lot of e-commerce sites out there that want to rank for the products they are selling, but those landing pages contain nothing but an order form. No content. No description. Nothing that helps potential users, aside from those already at the end of the buying funnel. Content devoid landing pages aren’t looked on favorably by Google, and all the links in the world aren’t going to change that.

– Having the fabric of your keywords woven into your site – It is always optimal to have your keywords in mind when you construct a page on your site, to match the URL and the keywords from the get-go. It is common for clients to want us to get them ranked for a specific query by using exact match anchor text (a bad idea post-Penguin), yet they will have done little or nothing to optimize for those keywords on-site. Targeting keywords is much more effective in on-site SEO than in the link building process. The target keywords need to appear frequently (but not too frequently) on the site and in the meta sections.

If you want to get the most out of your link building strategy, it is paramount that an analysis of your on-page factors becomes one of the first pieces in your overall campaign. Without it, the value in the remainder of your efforts will be largely for naught.

Post By
Cody Cahill is an experienced writer, link-builder and SEO advisor with the white-hat link building company Page One Power. More of Cahill and his colleagues thoughts on the SEO industry can be found at the company’s link building blog.