Nick Brown is the Founder and CEO of accelerate agency, a SaaS SEO & content agency. Working with enterprise and scale-up brands.
SEO trends come and go, but from the moment Larry and Sergey fired up Google.com, links have been fundamental to growing a business through search.
Despite whatever else you read, links from trusted and authoritative websites to your domain are still one of the best ways to improve your SEO performance. Lots of other things are important, and SEO is always changing, but quality links remain a consistent and ever-present factor in who ranks first in any search.
Since links can be crucial to a company’s marketing, a question I’m asked a lot is: “How do I get them?” The answer depends on what sector you work in, but I can explain how my company does it. I run an agency that specializes in SEO for SaaS companies, possibly the most competitive SEO niche there is. Here’s a brief overview of how we help our clients get links for their domains.
A Quick Background
The most important thing to understand about acquiring high-quality backlinks for your domain is that SEO is not the Wild West that many people think it is. It is not a matter of tricking or buying your way to the top.
Today’s SEO actually tends to have a lot in common with more traditional marketing practices. The goal is simply to present your company in the best light by providing high-quality information and the best user experience possible. The best way to do this is to create content that answers problems people are seeking answers to.
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The other issue that needs to be addressed is how competitive SEO has become if you want to compete in most SaaS niches. Acquiring high-authority links one by one over time simply won’t cut the mustard in today’s market. If you want to turn SEO into a growing sales channel for your business, you need thousands of links from highly trusted and highly relevant websites as soon as possible. In other words, if you want to use SEO to scale your business, you need to scale your SEO.
So this situation presents a dilemma. Links to your domain need to be earned by producing genuinely valuable content (which is time-consuming), but to compete in SaaS, you need to get those links at scale (which means doing everything quickly). How do we square this circle?
How High-Authority Links Are Created
There are lots of ways to get links from high-authority domains. The most obvious way is to create content that is so amazing that highly respected media outlets and academics will link to it as source material. Unfortunately, this would take way too long to be effective for marketing SaaS.
Another way is to write blog posts for high-authority domains. Editors commonly ask contributors to write a thought piece or explainer that they can publish. It’s a win-win process: Editors get content for their website (which they need), while the author gets to include a link or two. Guest posts are not the only way to get links, but they are a good, reliable method.
The occasional guest post isn’t enough to catapult a SaaS website to the top positions for important keywords, though. To do this, you need to scale the acquisition of high-authority links.
How To Scale High-Authority Links
To get high-quality links from high-authority domains in large numbers, you need two things:
• An outreach process that focuses on finding domains with highly relevant content, contacting the editors and pitching content ideas.
• A large team of editors and writers to help subject matter experts (SMEs) fulfill these content opportunities as they arise.
Getting these two resources in place is a big job. Just identifying the domains to be contacted is a Herculean task, and then you need to cultivate relationships with the editorial staff and come up with ideas for content that they can’t resist.
Once an editor has agreed to an idea, you need to have the resources to write great content. SMEs are vital, as Google is increasingly prioritizing content with expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (often abbreviated to E-A-T).
If you can build a team who can pitch great ideas, and then write great content to turn those ideas into exceptional thought pieces, you’ve got a shot at getting those high-authority links. Make the process as frictionless as possible, and then do it hundreds of times as fast as you possibly can.
In-house or agency?
Creating a process as I’ve just described is doable with enough time, resources and expertise, but for most SaaS companies, it doesn’t make sense to do this in-house. As SEO performance improves, the need for more links slows down. This means that by the time you’ve got everything working perfectly, it will likely be time to start scaling back.
There’s also an extra challenge with doing this in-house. Once you’ve built a good relationship with an editor who publishes content on a high-authority domain, you want to keep that relationship going. Editors need a variety of content types, though, and variety can be hard to come by when you’re only getting links to support a single SaaS product. By having a variety of clients, a good agency is much better placed to develop what we call a “content partnership,” where new content is being published on the same domain several times a month or more.
Not all agencies concentrate on securing links, however, so don’t just assume that’s what every SEO agency will provide you. Be sure to ask for examples of recent links they’ve helped clients acquire, and ask them to tell you about their outreach and content creation processes. I’d also recommend asking your SEO agency these five questions.
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Author: Nick Brown, Forbes Councils Member