Master SEO for your Business: Lesson #2 – Ethical Link Building

Do you want more traffic to your site? Do you want more targeted traffic to your site? Do you want to appear at the top of Google Search results when someone types in “your business-type in your-area?”   If you answered yes to these questions, then you need to master SEO link-building for your business. Before you start link-building it is important that you know how to build a solid keyword strategy first. You can learn how to do that in the first lesson in our Master SEO Series by clicking to the note here: Master SEO for your business: Lesson #1 – Keywords   Okay, I’ll assume from here that you’ve prepared some amazing keywords for your business, know what kind of search terms you want to rank for, who your target audience is, and what your unique selling proposition is too.  

Why should I care about SEO in the first place?

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is just a fancy term for talking about the process of getting you to rank higher in online search results. When you rank higher in search results for a certain term, you are more likely to see more traffic to your site. Why do you need more traffic to your site? Because more traffic, means more sales. Let’s say that on average only 1% of people who visit your site actually purchase something (a conversion). Well if you have only 100 visitors, then only 1 person is going to purchase something. If you have 1000 visitors, then 10 people will purchase something. So naturally, you want more and more people to visit your site in order to make more and more sales. (Business hint: the other way to increase sales is to increase the percentage of people who purchase something – ie: your conversion rate; however, that is not what SEO is about). Statistically speaking, 33% of search traffic goes to the person who is the first online search result. 18% of search traffic goes to the website in the second position, and then it starts to get infinitely smaller from there. In order to get the most amount of traffic to your site (and to make more sales), you need to work on getting as close to those search results positions as you can.  

Evaluate where you are at:

Here are some basic questions you need to ask yourself for each of your main keywords/search terms for your business: Are you showing up on the first page of results? How high are you showing up on the page? Now ask yourself those same questions, but examine your competitors. Are they higher ranked than you? Where are they in terms of search results  

Getting your site indexed:

One of the biggest SEO issues people face when they first launch a website, is the fact that their site might not be indexed at all. Why is this a big deal? You won’t show up in other people’s search results if your site hasn’t been “indexed” (ie: the Google bots haven’t found it and crawled all over it and recorded information about it). Google likes to take it time getting sites indexed, especially when they aren’t deemed as “important” as other sites. The more links pointing to your site, means a search engine will find it, crawl it, and index it. If you have never had any links pointing to your site, then you may never get site indexed. Make sure to link to all different pages, because then more of your site will be indexed (it is possible to have your site only partially indexed). You can also try manually submitting a request to be indexed by Google, but keep in mind this doesn’t necessarily mean you are high in the queue by any means. In 2012 it was reported that 140,000 websites are published everyday on the internet, so keep that in mind too. Thus, it is important to start getting links pointing to your site, so you can at least get on Google’s radar to begin with.   Links are the number one way to improve your search results ranking.   Links that point to your different places in your site are the single most important part of your strategy. There are many things to take into account when looking at the incoming links (links that point to your website).   Google PageRank: A numerical value based on an algorithm for link popularity that will indicate which page and position you are in search results.   Link Popularity: How many links point to your page? The more links pointing to your site, then the more popular your site seems to Google, and thus they will give you a higher page value, which means you are more likely to show up higher in the search results.   This also means that links pointing to your site (incoming links) from more popular sites themselves, are also more valuable, and will result in higher search results.   There is an even deeper layer to this algorithm measuring link popularity, and that is: that a link from a page with less outgoing links is more valuable than a page with a large number of outgoing links. For example, you there was a blog post and you were the only site linked to in it, Google feels that is more valuable than if you were on a page with a link out of 100 other different links. Something to always keep in mind when trying to crack the Google algorithm is that it is trying to seek out genuinely popular online content so that people are happy with search results. So being a genuinely popular company, having popular and related content, that is shared by other popular and related websites, is the best way to rank.  

How to find out your current Google PageRank:

Google no longer publishes any information on your Google PageRank. However there are some free and paid tools you can use to get a a better idea about your Google PageRank. You can also check yourself where you rank, but make sure to use an “incognito browser window” so that Google doesn’t show you results based on your browser history (which they do). You don’t want Google to know it is you searching. Other PageRank tools: majestic.com (Check out their Citation Flow + Trust Flow tool) moz.com (Check out their Page Authority tool) ahrefs.com (Check out their URL Rating tool) Remember none of these are showing you actual page rank, but it gives you a pretty good idea of where you are in the realm of things. You can also use these tools to check out competitors PageRank too and much more.   Bad news friends, Link-Popularity isn’t the only thing that affects Google PageRank. Good news friends, here are the other factors you need to know:  


Getting links from a popular site isn’t enough, you also need to get links from trustworthy sites. Trustworthy sites (as deemed by Google) are actually determined by Google employees themselves are often handpicked. They can include: established newspapers, universities, radio-stations, magazines, etc. When a deemed trustworthy site links to another website they are given a slightly smaller TrustRank value. Then when that site links to another website, that website is then given another slightly smaller TrustRank value. With each subsequent outgoing link the TrustRank value gets smaller and smaller or more diluted.  


Whether or not getting links from social media shares is helpful for SEO is a highly debated topic. Some experts argue that they are technically not helpful because they include a “no-follow” attribute in their link (we’ll talk about those a little further down). However, some experts argue that there might be a value associated with social shares and have deemed this “SocialRank.” Whether or not social media does indeed give you any SEO value, I think it is important to still focus on efforts here because regardless, it sends traffic to your site – and that is the whole point of SEO too, now isn’t it? Also, people sharing your content via social media links may also be sharing your links on other channels too. So at the very least, this is indirectly helping your SEO, and directly helping your traffic. Social proof is also a great marketing tool to leverage (people are more likely to trust and buy from someone who other people trust and buy from).  

Links with keywords are crucial. It isn’t enough to have links with no keywords as search engines may not recognize that the website linked to are supposed to even match with certain search terms. When you are first getting started, internal linking within your own site is a helpful way to get keyword-rich links because you control these links. In order to use keywords in your links, you must use keywords in your anchor-text of the link, and in your link text if you want to rank well for those terms in search results pages.  

Here are examples of links with no keywords (which is bad):

(just an action) click here (just your company name) Marceil Design (just your domain) marceildesign.com

Here are examples of links with keywords (which is good):

Vancouver web designerVancouver digital marketing agencyHow to build a SEO keyword strategy   Another part of the link you need to be aware of is the Rel=“nofollow” Attribute. If this attribute exists in the code of the hyperlink then it will provide no SEO value to you, because it is telling search engines not to follow that link. Keep in mind that typically all social media links and all blog comments have this tag. This tag was originally created to prevent people from spamming their links all over the place. However, you need to make sure you turn this tag off, or request that it be turned off when doing link-building.   Another characteristic of a “good link” is that typically it is embedded within text or the content of a post. Although you should always complete all uploaded images with keyword rich links (using the alt tag, and file name), your top priority should be getting more incoming text links that point to your website.   Here is a checklist of what the perfect incoming link would look like (to get the most bang for your buck so to speak):  

  • Can be followed: (no rel=“nofollow” attributes)
  • Text link versus image link
  • Must contain good keywords (not company name or URL, or click here)
  • Must be coming from a website that is already indexed
  • Must be coming from a relevant site (may be overrated, but still makes it more valuable)
  • Comes from a trusted site (.edu or .gov)
  • Comes from a website with a high PageRank
  • Is within static text in a readable portion of the website (ie: not in content embedded in javascript, which may not be read by search engines)
  • Is within content is ideal, and preferably near the top of page, and embedded in a paragraph
  • Avoids the “click here” or “website here” wording

You may not be able to meet all of these criteria with every link you get; however, you should always aim for all of these characteristics. Any link is better than no link, so take what you can, but the higher value that link has from Google by following these criteria, the better (and less work for you in the long run). It is also okay, and even healthy to have a good balance of “good” and “bad” links pointing to your site. This makes you look like you have a orme natural link portfolio, which Google likes. Remember that the the single most important thing in this list is to get the perfect keywords in your anchor-text and that Google can actually use the link (ie: it isn’t a Rel=”nofollow” link). Here is a checklist of what a bad incoming link would look like:  

  • Can’t be followed: (rel=“nofollow” attributes)
  • Is a Redirect Link (link that goes through advertising and affiliate link services) have no SEO value and are for commercial reasons or were paid to be there.
  • Has no keywords (thus doesn’t count towards search results of those search terms)

  Okay, so I now know about Google PageRank, Link Popularity, TrustRank, SocialRank and the kind of links I need pointing to my site – BUT WHERE DO I START? How do I start getting those kind of links to my site!?   Search engines want “real” links. They want to see people linking to your site because they actually find it helpful, interesting, and what they are looking for. This is why this article is entitled “Ethical Link-Building” because we are following this mind-set. I am not suggesting you purchase links, and you should also be weary of services claiming to be able to give you tons of links for a certain price. These are scams, are unethical, and Google will penalize you and usually not index your site, or recognize/follow those types of links. So that being said, how do you get people to naturally want to link to your site? You need to create “linkable” or “sharable” content. The key is to find bloggers, magazines, and people in your niche market who genuinely want to share your stuff. You can create evergreen content that is “link-bait” that people want to share. Ideas for possible link-bait you could create:

  • A blog post can be effective if it is high-quality and well promoted
  • Create a useful tool like a calculator or resource for your target audience
  • Create a glossary or directory
  • How-to videos
  • Tutorials
  • Free downloadables
  • Crowd-created link bait is done by the world’s top websites, where other people create the content. Create support forums and that can create link bait

You need to share your link bait: contact relevant bloggers, newsletters, magazines, directories, friends and family, newspapers and share your link bait.   Link-bait isn’t the only way you can attract links. You can also try examining your pre-existing relationships and see if anyone would be willing to post a high-quality link to your site. You might be surprised how many potential people would be willing to feature a link to your site.  

  • Use social networking accounts (may be no-follow links, but still you get traffic)
  • Add links in footers of any sites you own or are part of
  • Forums (this shouldn’t be spammy, we’ll talk about this a littler further down the page)
  • Bulletin Boards
  • Professional Associations
  • Friends and Family
  • Blogs
  • Clubs
  • Business Partners
  • Your Suppliers
  • Your Resellers
  • Charities your business donates to

You can also get as many links from local directories as you can, and that may improve your search rankings. Even if it doesn’t dramatically, you still get an additional way for people to find your site. I wouldn’t suggest paying lots of money to be included in directories for SEO purposes, unless you think you are going to see real traffic from those directories directly. Most basic listings should be free, and all you are really looking for is the link at this point.  

Make sure to add yourself to these directories:

  • Google Business Listing
  • Bing Places
  • Yelp
  • Search for your city name and business directory, local pages, and local directories
  • Search for industry-based associations and directories
  • Niche Directories
  • Blog Directories
  • Local Directories

You can also work with bloggers to get links to your sites. Be weary of “fake-links” where it seems like the site is only placing the link because they got paid to do so. Some fake links work – like sponsored posts by bloggers. However, when Google does find a site that accept a paid link they may stop indexing or disregard the link. Make sure that you are still delivering high-quality content, and high-quality links through the blogger and their site.

Here are some things to consider to work with bloggers:

  • Remember that blog comments are no follow links, but in blog posts are follow links.
  • Try guest writing for blogs
  • Blog PR: If you want people to write about you, make it worth their while
  • What’s your unique selling proposition? Figure that out and then look at blogs in your niche
  • Contact bloggers, using a target list, send a personalized message, and propose one thing, and tell why their readers might be interested, and suggest they add a link to your site, or offer to write an article for them, or hold a contest, offer a giveaway, offer discounts for their readers, offer discounts for the bloggers

You could also try using forums to get links pointing to your site (or create your own forum!) Find all the niche forum boards, and answer messages whenever you can, don’t be spammy, but be an expert. Answer questions with a blog posts, provide suggestions with your store links. Again, even if little SEO value is there, it will provide you with traffic nonetheless.   Another strategy is to create infographics. Infographics are highly sharable content and likely to spread around the web quickly. Make sure the infographic links to your page, so that bloggers can share it with a link to your site, and make sure to add it to infographic directories themselves for extra coverage.   You may be interested in a more traditional PR campaign to get more links. Think of a story, pitch it to writers, and have them share and link to you. Many newspapers and magazines have advertorial content masked as editorial content. This is usually the most expensive option. Look to see past examples of that publication and whether or not they seem spammy because Google may recognize this and dismiss these links.   Typically you want to avoid buying links, as this is a shady practice. However there are a few instances where this is a little less shady. Keep in mind though, that buying links in any form is a risky endeavour and you won’t be able to really perceive what value that link is giving you unless you have the means to track it in an analytics platform. Here are some of the less shady ways to buy links:

  • High-quality Directories that are human reviewed
  • Local directories
  • Local search distributions services/paying a PR company
  • Indirectly paying for sponsored content by a blogger

How to evaluate and analyze your link strategy:

You should always analyze links coming to your site so that you can see how you can improve them. Just like your sales strategy, your SEO strategy should be focused on two things: traffic and conversion/quality. So when analyzing your linking strategy you need to focus on two things: The number of incoming links and their quality. You are constantly analyzing how to improve upon these two things. You can also apply this same approach to your competitor’s links to find weaknesses in their strategy so that you can apply efforts in those areas and see even more results.   You can analyze you and your competitor’s links pointing to them (to see why they rank so well) using some of the following free and paid tools (SEMrush.com; ahrefs.com; moz.com; majestic.com; link-assistant.com; raventools.com; seo-spyglass.com). I personally love Spyfu.com as my preferred SEO and PPC tool, although it is a paid option – it has many, many reports and amazing tools.   Remember to keep these questions in mind when doing a link analysis between you and your competitor:

  • How many links are pointing to your site? Who has more links?
  • Sites overall value (Domain authority)?
  • How are your anchor text keywords versus your competitors (Anchor Text)? Who has better keyword links?
  • What kind of sites are your links coming from versus your competitors (inbound links)? Where can you get links to your own site?
  • Look at the highest value inbound links of your competitors and focus on those first.

Remember: More links than them, Better keywords than them, Better quality link sources than them.   WOW YOU MADE IT! This is the end of our article. Interested in learning more about SEO? Comment below any questions you have, and also let us know if you want to see more articles like this! Marceil Design is an online digital marketing agency for small business owners and entrepreneurs. We are based in beautiful Vancouver, BC – but available world-wide for your design, advertising, and marketing needs. You can contact us at info@marceildesign.com if you want to know more about our services and how we can help launch or grow your business.