How to create a link building strategy


A link building strategy involves understanding:

  • Your content assets.
  • The people who consume and create your content.
  • How your content is shared.

This information helps create a guiding policy that leads to coherent actions, adding value for content creators and encouraging them to share your content.

The ultimate goal is to build the reputation of your page, website and content creators.

This article examines what makes a “good strategy” and a simple method to map a situation analysis to a strategic framework.  

Learn a method for applying helpful strategy and planning insights to your situation and turn it into actionable steps for your next link building campaign.

What is a strategy?

Before we jump into link building strategy, let’s take a quick step back to define what exactly we mean by “strategy.”

A strategy is how one organizes all available resources to navigate an environment to accomplish a goal or objective.

In “Good Strategy, Bad Strategy,” author Richard Rumelt argues that an effective strategy has three fundamental ingredients:

  • Diagnosis: Understanding the nature of the challenge.
  • Guiding policy: Overall approach selected to handle all obstacles to accomplish the goal.
  • Coherent actions: Coordinated steps to support the guiding policy.

Imagine snowboarding (or skiing) down a mountain. 

The line you pick – to bypass obstacles or face them – is a strategy for reaching the mountain’s base fast or for other goals.

Yet, it’s common to consider a “tactic” a “strategy.” 

For instance, “guest posting” is not a link building strategy. I would define guest posting as a tactic or technique to include in a strategy.

The guiding policy can either explore unique paths or follow behind the competitor and make something better, represented well by the “blue ocean” concept.

  • Blue ocean strategy: Spur demand in a fresh, unexplored market segment.
  • Red ocean strategy: Set your business apart from theme competitors in an already populated market.

While building a guiding policy, understand these areas to provide insights to evaluate for adjustment, enhancement, or complete reworking.

  • Budget: How much is being spent on the product? What does it cost the user?
  • Value creation: What problem does the software or product solve? What is that worth?
  • Internal workflows and resources: Create a competitive advantage by being more efficient.
  • Knowledge enhancement and growth: Are you smarter than the competition in a particular area?
  • Ethical considerations: Are there ethical factors limiting what can be built?

Taking a cue from Rand Fishkin’s advice on creating a great marketing strategy, look into the following:

  • Content creators: Individuals, businesses or organizations that create and publish content with varying goals.
  • Content consumers: Individuals or entities that consume the content, including other content creators and search engine bots.
  • Platforms: Websites, social media networks, forums, and other online spaces where content is published and shared.
  • Content: Various forms of content (e.g., blog posts, videos, infographics) are valued based on quality, relevance, uniqueness, and creator authority. This is owned assets or independent assets.
  • Competition: High level of competition due to the abundance of content being created and shared daily.
  • Trends: Influences such as content format trends, platform preferences, consumer behavior, and SEO practices.
  • Link building: Secure a link so users can click and navigate.

To illustrate, let’s break down the Skyscraper technique and apply it to an HR software’s link building strategy.

Diagnosis

Skyscraper technique

  • Diagnose the current state of owned content assets, their consumers, and the creators that share them.
  • Identify existing content that has already generated a significant number of links. The creators who have linked to this content are potential consumers of your own content.
  • Understand the online asset-sharing marketplace, which is highly competitive and saturated with content

Specific application

  • For HR management software, the top content ranking in Google does not discuss generative AI for HR management. Still, it’s a highly significant technology impacting the HR manager’s role.
  • There’s other online content about HR and generative AI, but all that information can be aggregated into one page to create more value.
  • The top content also doesn’t provide examples, and it is difficult to scan to find helpful content quickly.

Guiding policy

Skyscraper technique

  • Navigate the online asset-sharing marketplace by creating superior content that provides value to content creators.
  • Create content that is superior to existing content. This superior content is expected to attract content creators who are looking for valuable content to share with their own audience.

Specific application

  • Blue ocean
    • Perform a study of HR professionals to uncover their unique processes.
    • Build 3 AI tools for each time-consuming step, then have them tested.
    • Identify 5+ MVP (minimum viable product) AI tools that can drastically improve the employee review process to improve quality and reduce time.
  • Red ocean
    • Create a guide to top HR recruiting software using AI.
    • Leverage the company’s unique application of ChatGPT in the HR recruitment process to create engaging content for HR and technology podcasts.

Coherent actions

Find link-worthy content

  • Skyscraper technique: Identify existing content that has already generated many links. This serves as the benchmark for creating your own content.
  • Specific application: Top-ranking content that generates links and doesn’t cover the topic thoroughly, excluding generative AI.

Make something even better

  • Skyscraper technique: Create content that is superior to the existing content by making a more thorough, up-to-date, and better-designed piece or creating something completely unique.
  • Specific application: Create a data-driven article for “technology that will kill HR jobs in 5 years” from the study.

Reach out to the right people

  • Skyscraper technique: Identify and reach out to people who have already linked to similar content via email to get them to link to your superior content.
  • Specific application: Reach out to the sites that link to the top-ranking content and HR technology blogs to discuss the future of AI in HR technology.

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You can also craft a unique approach with the fundamental elements of a good strategy.

For instance, I created a new technique and applied it to a hypothetical scenario for HR software.

“The Collective” is a win-win strategy. Contributors get visibility and recognition, while you get high-quality content and potential backlinks. 

Plus, the collaborative nature of the content makes it more likely to be shared and linked to, as it represents the collective knowledge and insights of the community.

Diagnosis

Collective technique

  • Identify a topic relevant to your industry (i.e., a trending topic, a common challenge, or an area of interest) and has a large community of interested individuals or businesses.

Specific application

  • HR software focused on B2B audiences that reduce recruiting management time with AI automation.
  • A lot of content is being produced around generative AI. A small number of people on Reddit are discussing the negative impact AI might have on HR manager roles and taking jobs.

Guiding policy

Collective technique

  • Create a collaborative piece of content that involves contributions from various community members. This could be expert insights, case studies, personal experiences, or other valuable contributions.

Specific application

  • Blue ocean
    • Connect internal experts (SMEs) with the Reddit community to ask what technical questions have not been asked around the topic but are essential.
    • Create a list of top-engaged experts, then have internal SMEs create an article explaining the topic of discussion, sharing the Reddit comments.
  • Red ocean:
    • Create a listicle roundup from expert community members’ comments.
    • Ask them to expound their comments through an article or a more in-depth contribution for a quote or valuable insight.

Coherent actions

Identify contributors

  • Collective technique
    • Select a trending topic and reach out to potential contributors within the community (i.e., industry experts, influencers or other key individuals who have valuable insights to share).
    • Explain your project and invite them to contribute.
  • Specific application
    • A certain HR influencer on YouTube has HR professional followers discussing generative AI’s impact on their jobs. The influencer and followers examine the risks of losing their jobs from AI, with no examples of how it creates risk.

Create collaborative content

  • Collective technique
    • Compile the contributions into a comprehensive piece of content (i.e., a blog post, ebook or video).
    • Make sure to give proper credit to all contributors.
  • Specific application
    • Create content from internal SMEs community conversations in blog articles, screenshots from conversations, and listicles.
    • Compile unique insights that can be discussed.

Promote content

  • Collective technique
    • Encourage the contributors to share the content with their audience and the influencers they engage with.
  • Specific application
    • Share content in the original threads and directly with the community members, explaining that the insight was shared in the blog posts.

Engage with the community

  • Collective technique
    • Continue to engage with the community after the content has been published.
    • Respond to comments, participate in discussions and show appreciation for shares and links. Doing so helps build relationships that can lead to more link opportunities in the future.
  • Specific application
    • Start a discussion around new insights or critical points from the article and community members.

After the strategy framework is designed, apply it to your situation.

This method of mapping strategy can be applied to any link building technique.

My Search Engine Land article on ways to build links for any site touches on some of the most popular techniques, including:

Guest posting for subject matter experts (SMEs)

  • An expert from your company contributes a unique piece of content to another website, including a link to your site.

Broken link building

  • Find broken links on other websites, suggest your own relevant content as a replacement, and ask the site owner to link to your content instead.

Podcast guest

  • A representative from your company appears as a guest on a podcast, and a link to your website is included in the show notes or podcast description.

Unlinked brand mentions

  • Find instances where your brand is mentioned online but not linked to, and you reach out to the site owner to request a link.

Resource page link building

  • Create high-quality, valuable content relevant to a specific topic, and then reach out to websites with resource pages on that topic to include a link to your content.

Linkable content (no sharing)

  • Create high-quality content on your own website that is so valuable and unique that other websites naturally want to link to it.

Linkable content (sharing)

  • Create high-quality content and actively promote it to other websites, influencers, or on social media to encourage others to link to it.

Listicle roundups

  • Create a listicle (a list-based article) featuring top resources, influencers, or trends in your industry, encouraging those featured to link back to it.

Competitor link building

  • Analyze where your competitors are getting their backlinks from, and then reach out to those websites to try and get them to link to your content.

Strategy development and planning processes

A strategy for link building can be broken down into a simple process of:

  • Selecting the technique.
  • Mapping to the strategy framework.
  • Mapping the framework to specific analysis, policy, and steps.

Step zero is to identify SEO goals and objectives, then use that direction as a guiding light for the policy to navigate toward.

Step 1: Analyze and diagnose issues

  • Prep work:
    • Identify your specific goals, objectives, and resources.
    • Analyze the content ecosystem in the targeted keyword cluster or niche.
  • Broad technique selection: Select the overarching strategy or technique that aligns with your identified goals and constraints.
  • Specific application: Use your understanding of the ecosystem to tailor the broad technique to your unique situation.

Step 2: Map technique to table of elements

  • Select ocean: Select the type of strategy to either create something completely new and disruptive or something better than the competition.
  • Create options: Create guiding policy options for each ocean.
  • Select the ocean based on the analysis and likelihood of success against risk tolerances.

Step 3: Develop steps

  • Identify people, processes and technology: Determine what you need to support your strategy.
  • Plan development: Develop the general steps incorporating these elements and detail how you’ll implement your strategy.
  • Documentation: Document the strategy in an SOP or process map.

Take action

Now you have the knowledge and tools to craft and implement effective link building strategies. 

By understanding the distinction between tactics and strategies, and following the step-by-step guide, you can:

  • Diagnose your current situation.
  • Develop a guiding policy.
  • Execute coherent actions. 

Whether you’re navigating a saturated market or exploring uncharted territories, these insights can help you create value for your customers, stand out from the competition and achieve your marketing objectives.

It’s your turn to apply these insights to your unique context. Happy strategizing!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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