How to Create a Good Website That Gets Links
The days of not need your website to be linkworthy (for many businesses) have passed.
Historically, we could build links to any page we liked using a variety of methods that simply aren’t sustainable or professionally justifiable any longer. High-risk linking tactics may still prove effective in securing rankings short term but the risks (and long term costs in terms of cleanup/removals etc) now often outweigh the potential rewards – especially if you are working on a trophy domain not some burn and churn microsite.
That’s not to say link building is dead, the game has just evolved and now more so than ever getting your house in order is vital to success. A linkworthy page now forms the cornerstone of any successful link building campaign.
The easiest way to explain the shift is that we’re helping clients to earn links through merit rather than manipulation which means a real human is going to be looking at the page we are asking for a link to. This frequently leads to two questions; “What makes a website linkworthy? and “How can I increase my chances of acquiring links?”, both of which we will attempt to answer today.
What makes a website linkworthy?
The same things that make people buy from you.
There is no need to throw business sense out of the window in pursuit of links. We don’t typically advocate “stunts” aimed at attracting links that either don’t align with business objectives or frankly go against them. Yes we’ve all seen nice instances of funny fake product pages, witty 404 pages and “crazy” about us pages but the reality is these don’t apply to the majority of businesses. In a lot of cases the links attracted come from fellow digital marketers who are merely back patting.
Link prospects will want to see that your website has some form of utility beyond your commercial intentions. We don’t have to compromise on business goals, simply be smart about balancing utility and commerciality. For example; playing it softly softly with the calls to action on resource pages is advisable from a linking standpoint but it will also ensure any prospective customers landing on your website “cold” can familiarize themselves with your brand and expertise before being sold to.
Your website becomes truly linkworthy if it can offer informative, educational and evergreen content. We will be talking more about creating a website that is information-rich later on in this article. Keep in min that creating content assets and tools that have utility need not be a completely self-less act. Constructed in the right way, these things can form top of funnel assets that are not only highly linkable but also the first step in converting someone into becoming a new customer.
When people buy from you they want to be sure you are a legitimate business/organization that is still going to be around in years to come. The same applies when people are considering linking to you. In our experience there are multiple points of concern that a prospect might have…
- Are you pulling a bait and switch? – convincing a link prospect you’re not going to redirect this page into something crappy, or suddenly flood your site with affiliate links is no easy task. We’re finding prospects increasingly skeptical but the easiest way to garner trust is to “act normal”… if your website long term is going to require advertising then include that . People aren’t stupid, they know that you can’t run a server on fresh air and optimism and the chances are you can still earn the link from them anyway.
- Am I going to have to update this link because the site is gone? – many webmasters we talk to hate having to constantly combat link rot on their website that has thousands of pages. They want to be sure that you’ll be around for years to come – conveying trust and legitimacy across your website can help with this.
Faceless content creation and outreach is becoming more difficult. Humans want to know who they are dealing with and more specifically want to be able to trust the validity of the content you have.
- Demonstration of credentials
- Highlight organizational track-record
- Incorporate expertise from trusted, known 3rd parties if necessary – it need not be “your” expertise specifically as there is nothing wrong with curating information on a particular topic.
- Expertise they can’t [easily] find anywhere else – no idea is a new idea and your angle might be having all the information on a popular topic in one place but another key reason a page or website becomes linkworthy is if it contains information that can’t be found anywhere else.
A website that is simple to use which offers something of utility in a straightforward manner.
- Easy to access
- Clean layout
Link prospects see their link to you as a vote of confidence in what you are doing, they are putting their faith in your ability to deliver for any members of their audience who should find their way across to your website. Creating an easy-to-use, straightforward website with a clear purpose can be the difference between getting a link and not. You may well have masses of useful content, and the prospect might be on the edge of granting you that link, but if it is painfully difficult to use your website then you’ve got a problem.
To summarize, there should be a fundamental reason to link beyond your need to build links to that page. If you looked objectively at the guide / website / page / article do you honestly feel it deserves a link? If not, you probably need to think about making some adjustments otherwise you are restricting yourself a really small pool of potential linking tactics that are steadily decreasing in effectiveness.
How can I increase my chances of getting links?
Now that we are on the same page about what makes a website linkworthy, let’s explore some specific things that help maximize chances of gaining that citation/link. We don’t subscribe to the field of dreams fallacy, it is incredibly rare for a page to get links all by itself so you’ll need to be proactive about promoting your pages but these things will just help increase the chances of converting that conversation with a prospect into a solid link.
We conducted a study last year which looked at what the average internet user thinks about online content – you can see the results here. Many of the things that the end user like and dislike about a piece of content should be considered here simply because many link prospects act as a conduit to your end user and they are in tune with what their audience like so will instinctively take a like/dislike to similar things.
Rich with information on the right topics
Google wants us to create Information-rich websites, they’ve been trumpeting the idea for years.
People are finally waking up to the idea that actually it might be a good idea to provide information to customers instead of just desperately trying to hawk products. It also helps to increase the chance a website will get links.
You need a rich array of information yes but on the right topics. We often see the “mining of sales conversations” being advocated as a suitable way to add information to your website and whilst this may prove useful as a strand of your content creation efforts.
We recommend going back one step to explore the wider topic area that your website sits in. When you zoom out from your focus on commercial keywords you often see a rich vein of potential content ideas that can help drive your visibility for long-tail keywords and also often provide incredible link opportunities.
The fact is that more link opportunities exist in informational areas of the web than purely commercial ones…The intelligent amongst us can connect the dots to get the links and the customers 🙂
- Pop-ups & other commercial elements – tone down things like live chat pop-ups, forced email signups and so on and you will see a huge difference to the type of response you get to any proactive outreach.
- The humble URL – beyond the outreach email itself, the URL is often the first interaction a link prospect has with your website so ensuring it conveys the purpose of the page is so important and can be the difference between a prospect investigating further and simply ignoring your email.
- Make your detailed content readable – We often advocate the use of long form content when developing an information-rich and linkworthy website. This comes with its own set of challenges though because the sheer volume of information can be a turn-off for some people who may never realize you had the information they were searching for. Think about presentation of the information to make it easily digestible. Articles like this one help you to structure long blog posts in ways that make them far more readable. For other useful tips on making content more readable try this guide.
The online World is a diverse one, so you need to pay consideration to individuals who don’t speak English as their first language as well as individuals who have a disability that prevents them from enjoying your website.
There is a good checklist here which is designed for Government departments seeking to comply with Section 508 but in many ways it provides a solid step-by-step guide for ensuring your pages are accessible to all. There’s also a good amount of information on this topic over at W3C in their Web Accessibility Initiative Section.
When it comes to language barriers, we recommend translating all content into every language your prospective customers speak. We frequently see clients who have sales content translated but other information on their website in English only, this not only turns-off a percentage of their visitors but also limits their pool of link opportunities.
Why do we mention this when talking about attracting links? Equality plays a key consideration for public sector services worldwide and webmasters are very particular about ensuring any website they link out to is going to cater for their entire community.
Outreach Conversion Rate Optimization
Listen to the feedback you get from the relationships you develop and listen to the responses your agency tell you they are getting.
We typically see patterns emerging with common questions being asked or concerns being raised by multiple prospects. We will often try to strengthen a page’s chance of getting links by adjusting the content as we go; covering off common rebuttals from link prospects whether that be something as simple as including additional detail on a particular topic or something more general such as toning down the lead gen form in the sidebar.