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A while ago, someone asked me a question. It was, “hey, should I do anything before link building”. At the time, I couldn’t provide all my answers because there’re lots of things you need to do before building links.
However, many people start link building without adequately preparing for it. In fact, building backlinks to your site should be among the last things you start doing for your SEO campaign.
But backlinks are important, right?
Yes, absolutely! And perhaps the most influential factor in SEO but that’s a debate for another time. The thing is, backlinks are more effective when your on-page and branding are great. Also, when you cover those areas well, you’ll need much fewer links than your competitors to outrank them but there’s a caveat to link building.
It’s something that has tanked many websites in the past. You see, not every link is treated equal, which can lead to a waste of campaign budget if you’re building the wrong kinds of links.
Furthermore, websites can become less profitable overnight due to an algorithmic change. And the rate at which backlinks are acquired need to appear natural, otherwise, one could risk a manual review.
The good news is that if you do the things that I’m about to share with you before doing any type of link building, in most cases, you won’t have to worry.
Do these 4 things before doing any link building!
1. Technical On-page
You may need to consult with your web designer for this part but technical issues with your website can hurt your SEO efforts. Things like ensuring that your headings use proper HTML tags, the speed of your website, mobile usability, duplicate titles/description tags, available 404 page, redirect errors etc.
These are all critical to any successful SEO campaign! So let’s look at them individually.
HTML defines 6 levels of headings and these are the h1, h2, h3, h4, h5 and h6. A proper tag is written like so: <h2>Heading here</h2>.
Some web designers neglect to include your headings within these tags. Instead, they use CSS (a tool for styling websites) to style your headings. While there is rumour or speculation in the SEO community that Google or Bing treat large texts as headings, my advice is to wrap your headings within the correct tags.
Website Load Time
The time it takes for your website to load is important to visitors, so naturally, it is for search engines too. The truth is that our tolerance levels are at an all-time low for slow loading web pages. Most of us will hit the ‘back’ button or exit a page if we’re waiting too long.
Similar to website users, search engines expect a fast server response time, also known as the time to first byte (TTFB). This is the time it takes for an initial response from your web server after a user’s web browser sends a request.
The total time it takes for a web page to fully render is also important. However, in my opinion, it’s highly plausible that as far as the search engines are concerned, TTFB is the most crucial.
So it’s critical that you have the right website hosting provider on your side. Tip: Better to use a service provider that is located in your area (e.g. North America).
Your website needs to function just as well as it does on a desktop. Google is officially mobile-first and having a comparable mobile site to the desktop is preferred. Although you may still use the classic separate site tactic (e.g. m.mobile.com), I don’t recommend it. This is because it’s extra work on your part and for the search engines.
Use Google Page Insights to check mobile usability and page speed for your site.
Duplicate On-page Content Of All Sorts
Duplicate content on different sites doesn’t generally cause issues, even though they can. But duplicate content on your website is a problem that you must resolve. Having duplicate titles or description, including page content across several web pages will reduce your ranking potential on the SERPs (search engine results pages).
Create Content That Works
Although many websites can benefit from it, you probably won’t need a blog. But what you undoubtedly need is great website copy. This is something that people try to go cheap on but they really shouldn’t. I’m all about fair investments but hiring someone for dirt-cheap will only result in mediocre results and headaches.
Also, content is a fuel for growth and if you want to scale link building, you need good copy. Stuff that people actually want to read and share with others. If you can build a marketing flywheel, you won’t have to spend all your time searching the web for links because it’ll happen without you lifting a finger.
If you want me to do a separate post on the marketing flywheel concept, let me know in the comments or if you’re already a subscriber, just hit ‘reply’.
2. User Experience
I’ve discussed user experience or UX and its importance at length many times over, so I’ll keep this brief. Your website visitors need to know what you do, why they should care and which actions to take.
Your website architecture is also very important for users and SEO. This refers to how you send link equity to your web pages, ensuring that every page gets a nice flow of it. There’re many great ways to do this but this is the one I prefer to use.
Note that interlinking can and perhaps should flow both ways. External or inbound links don’t need to. Inbound links can also be pointed directly to key areas of your site such as a blog.
3. Check Your Redirects
Unwanted redirects can cause your link equity to suffer and that’s why you should always audit your redirects. Unnecessary 302s, redirect chains and missing 301s can steal away link equity from your site.
When a web page becomes 404 (unavailable), the link equity gained goes away with it. So it’s better to 301 a web page to the new version when it’s moved or point it to another useful page of relevance. A 302 refers to a temporary redirect and redirect chains occur when needless 301s are made.
For instance, pointing to site A, then site B, before getting to site C. In this scenario, site C is the new web page, so the site B 301 is needless and you should point site A to site C directly.
Today good branding is one of the most important advantages you can have on the SERPs. The days of creating a web page and promoting it without proper branding are over or at least, it should be.
When it comes to branding, there are three main things you need to have before you start building any links. These are:
- Brand logo – Make sure you invest in this properly because it’s an important asset, one that deserves attention.
- A clearly defined style guide – This should contain your brand logo and variations, preferred colours and any alternative logos. Your website should follow this style guide.
- Branded social media profiles – Setup profiles on the most important social media networks for your business. But do this last! Since you’ll get a link back to your domain, it’s essential that you make sure other things mentioned in this publication are taken care of first.
Why Do All This Before Earning A Single Backlink?
The simplest way to explain it is this: The moment you start acquiring links to your site, you’re telling the search engines that you’re important and they should pay attention. Plus the first impression is everything!
Lastly, be prepared for some seriously tedious and time-consuming work if you’re building links yourself. They’ll be weeks where you’ll get nothing and some weeks where you’ll score some awesome backlinks. Just keep chipping away at it and eventually, you’ll hit your traffic goal. Also, remember that you’ll need very few links if you take care of all of the above-mentioned things first!