On the Importance of Backlink Research

There are really only three things that website marketers can do to influence where they rank for a particular term on the search results pages of Google.

Content utility, or how useful it is (based on relevance) to user or prospect, is of course very important, as are technical elements of a website (the security, stability and accessibility). Arguably the most critical however is that of backlinks - or inbound links or citations. Without backlinks, a website page stands little chance of ranking.

The more good backlinks a website page has, the more likely it will be to see it on the first page of the results (and in the first, second or third positions). Building backlinks however is quite difficult if you're not sure what you're doing which is why so many companies turn to professional agencies who have processes and systems in place.

These systems and processes are a fundamental aspect of successful search engine optimization campaign - and backlink research is a core part of that. Let's take a look at a typical backlink acquisition campaign for a mid-market or small business.

Use the Right SEO Tools: SEO can be incredibly time consuming if all the research is done manually. That is why so many search engine optimization professionals use software to facilitate the discovery of trends, identify opportunities, and track performance. Using one tool is rarely enough however and good SEO's will often use a minimum of three to five tools when it comes to backlink research. The reason is that they often have different metrics, different ways to approach the presentation of that data, and even have different indexes of information from which to pull information. Using a combination of tools ensures more information is available, and more comprehensive and useful information too.

Strategic Plan Development: With an abundance of data and link targets now available, those responsible for SEO must then be able to come up with a plan on how to actually acquire those citations. Anyone can scrape and organize data, but being able to identify backlink opportunities - as well as underlying trends - is what separates the good SEO's from the great (and truly successful) ones. What does the research indicate. Are competitors engaging in a practice of guest posting? Are they publishing infographics and distributing them across the Web? Are they engaging in relevant digital communities? When you know the backlink targets, only then can you come up with a plan on how you'll go about acquiring them.

The Outreach Imperative: An immense amount of data? Check. A plan for acquiring links? Also check. So, now what? The "hardest" part of link building, the part that most people simply do not understand, is that without actually making contact with people about having them link to your content, you're never going to get a link. In much the same way that public relations professionals do what is called "dial for dollars" (which means getting on the phone and pitching media folks), SEO professionals also have to put in the time, working to engage link prospects and convince them of the soundness of the company and its products (be it information, or a campaign). While public relations professionals tend to focus on high value mentions, SEO's take a different approach, shoring up the foundation of a brand's profile with an abundance of links from websites . It takes time to

Analyze & Repeat: A common failing in many brands approach to link building is not continuing their efforts, making it part of the daily operations in a marketing or public relations department. Engaging in ongoing link building requires analysis to understand what exactly is working and what is not. Some of the best link building campaigns are repeatable and some are one-time efforts, but what matters is that you're always doing it.

Building backlinks is a challenging component in marketing brands on the Web today. The rewards however can be immense. Don't have the resources to do the research and organize the data? Not sure about the right strategy to employ? Are you currently without sufficient, knowledgeable personnel to engage in audience development? There is no one answer or approach to link building and the acquisition of digital citations - put in the effort and you will receive the rewards.