Four ethical ways to increase quality inbound links

Photo by  Gaelle Marcel  on  Unsplash

Inbound links can do a lot to help your business’s Google ranking but, unless you’re keen to incur the wrath of journalists everywhere, you’ll want to know of ethical ways to increase the number of links to your website.

Journalist Deirdre Hipwell tweeted last week that she’d been asked by PRs to insert links to their clients’ websites in stories she published. She gets asked this a lot, apparently. Her tweet was pounced on by SEO consultants and those who work on building links to their clients’ sites, who asked: “What’s the problem?”

The debate raged for a week, spawning blog posts about the ethics of asking journalists to contribute to – or at least be complicit in – building a company’s SEO score. None of this is new but it does seem to be happening more frequently.

Indeed, when I was a young whippersnapper of a journalist working at Citywire, I was asked on more than one occasion to provide links on news articles. I didn’t and, as a rule, we wouldn’t provide links unless there was a good reason the reader needed that link – for example, they wanted to share a useful resource like a pensions’ calculator.

Fast forward a few years and I now work for clients keen to increase their Google ranking. Had I not worked in a newsroom, perhaps I’d be one of those PRs Deirdre rails against – but I’m not. I happen to know that there exist ethical and effective ways of boosting inbound links, without destroying your relationship with journalists. And, just in case you’re in any doubt about how I, or indeed, Foco, feels about calling up a national newsroom to ask for a link to a new product – we would never do it, we love our free press too much.

1. Give a journalist a reason to link to your site

Never forget: the journalists ‘client’ is their reader, not you. So, whether it’s a pensions’ calculator, a stunning interactive page explaining something complex, a video series or a report – if you’ve produced something useful to a reader, a journalist is likely to insert a link into their news article about you. Not because you’ve asked, or because they’re keen to curry favour with you – but because it’s in a reader’s best interests to get directed your way. Some of the best PR campaigns we’ve seen have worked because the strategy involved creative ways of driving press mentions that led to quantifiable web traffic. Just make sure you don’t ask or expect the journalist to include it – you can only live in hope.

2. Create content for blogs

You’re likely to be familiar with placing opinion pieces in the media to promote your business but, unless you’re extremely lucky, those pieces won’t include links to your site. Honestly, you don’t want to worry at all about that because that work is still important but you should also be looking at placing blog posts in popular blogs run by those in your target communities. Say, for example, your client is selling software for paralegals. You’ll want to find out in which online blogs and forums those paralegals gather and place pieces there. Not only will you reach your target audience but blog editors are far more likely to include links to your website. Without getting too technical, that’s almost always a great thing.

3. Update your social media accounts

Your website’s ranking is also influenced by social media. Despite LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter being locked down – insofar as links from those sites are automatically fixed to ‘nofollow’ rather than ‘follow’ and do not, therefore, pass on valuable link juice – research has shown that retweets and links to your site from these social media platforms still help your ranking. Search engines call these types of user-generated link ‘social signals’. Legitimate profiles linking to your site – for example, your employees’ Twitter accounts – are great. This does not mean you can enforce employees to link to your site or grow their following but it does provide the leadership team with incentives to clean up their social media profiles – LinkedIn and Twitter, plus any external publishing platform they might use in a professional capacity such as Medium. Simple updates, such as checking the website links on profiles are up-to-date will help. Don’t forget your brand pages, such as LinkedIn Company and Group pages.

4. Create content on your own website

I’ll not labour the point, because you’ll know this by know (I hope) – Google loves content on your website. Google will love you even more if the content on your website is so amazing that people want to link to it. This is by no means a quick win, but quality backlinking never is. Infographics, useful tips, pictures of your cats – all this increases the likelihood of somebody picking up your content on the wider social web, loving it and linking to it. Begin by shooting for useful content...but if it’s entertaining as well, you’ve hit the jackpot, my friend.

Improving your Google ranking on certain terms is a complicated and involved process. Link building should make up a big chunk of your SEO strategy but ranking well in Google search is made up of many more components than inbound links. Improving your company’s SEO score takes a while and needs a well thought-out strategy. If you’d like any help on this or your wider digital strategy, please let us know.