As with everything surrounding SEO, the landscape is continuously evolving. One area of SEO that has been the most impacted by recent updates from Google is link building. While you always want to be building high-quality backlinks for your SaaS company, the realities of link building might be more daunting than you’re expecting. When building links it’s important that the links are going to designated pages, and this must be done in a natural way. On one hand, you can't realistically expect websites to link to the content on your website (even if you have a great piece of content!) with nothing in return. Link building is the delicate art of negotiating the placement of a relevant link on your website, on someone else's.
What's less discussed are the strategies needed to ensure your backlinking efforts receive maximum value. Both tactical and authority link building are critical when building a comprehensive link building strategy. Let's dive more in-depth on each to determine how to build the most comprehensive link building strategy for your SaaS company.
Tactical links are highly relevant links that signal to Google your target URL has an association with the keyword group you're attempting to rank for. This is perhaps the most fundamental part of link building, and most URLs can rank with solely tactical links if the keyword difficulty is low enough.
All tactical links are not created equal. A large portion of tactical links are created in an unoptimized manner, such as repeatedly using exact match anchor text, being placed on websites in private blog networks (PBNs), and poor contextual use of the link within the article. When building tactical links, make sure they serve a strategic purpose and signal to Google what keywords the URL on your website is relevant for.
In addition, double-check that the website you are asking for a link from has sound metrics, including natural organic traffic and a decent backlink portfolio of its own. Check the domain for obvious signs of spam, such as listings that advertise pay-for-play guest posts and horrible grammatical mistakes within some of the featured articles. You don't need to perform a deep dive into every page of the website, just make sure it looks natural in order to avoid a manual penalty from Google.
The idea behind tactical link building is that the content can largely be controlled by the person creating the link. This is invaluable from an SEO perspective, where everything needs to be spelled out to Google. While Google now uses machine learning to evaluate links, it needs relevant context and content in order to associate that with the content of the link itself.
Of course, the content you create needs to fit into the editorial standards of the website you are asking to link to you. This can be largely dependent on your target URL. For example, if your target URL is a product or landing page on your website, the links will most likely be on sites with lower editorial standards as it’s a bit unnatural to link to those types of pages. It’s tough to write quality content toward a target URL that is either a product or landing page but it can be done.
For instance, if you’re a SaaS company in the cloud storage space, ensure the asset you’re building links to is relevant for your overall website while still being specific for the keyword you are trying to rank for within that niche. Keep in mind that even if you do target the link correctly with thoroughly researched content, the asset won't rank if it wasn't built specifically to capitalize on a keyword group.
A followed mention can do a lot for your business, especially if it's a publication relevant to your industry. Getting these types of links is not typically realistic. Major publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc. Magazine only use nofollow links in their content due to abuse from digital PR firms. Authority link building should be separated from digital PR and thought of as two separate entities.
Nofollow links are important from an SEO perspective, but they won’t boost the metrics of a page directly. Google still uses PageRank to rank pages on websites, although they no longer publicly show this metric in a toolbar. When building authority links make sure you are building will increase the authority of your URL. To do this, find relevant publications with a higher site authority than you would look for in a tactical link. The trade-off is that these authority-based websites likely have a more extensive following, and as a result have tighter editorial control.
Because of this, you can't expect a website like this to link to you in the context of your choosing. The negotiations for link building on these types of publications tend to be more delicate, and you'll have to prove a demonstrative value. Fortunately, this is possible using the pair-up link building strategy.
The pair-up link building strategy enables you to marry a comprehensive piece of content to a specific keyword or keyword group. A content asset created for pair-up link building is specialized and needs to have tactical links built to it. Depending on the keyword difficulty, a great piece of content created in this manner may be able to rank with just a handful of tactical links if the keyword difficulty is low enough. After performing a deep dive into keyword research, pairing a comprehensive content asset with contextually relevant tactical links is generally a winning strategy to rank for any information-based keyword.
Many people confuse authority link building as a synonym for digital PR. Digital PR has effects that go far beyond the realm of SEO, and often is more focused on things like brand recognition and thought leadership. These are not fundamentally dissimilar to the goals of SEO, although not nearly as keyword-focused, the tactics of doing digital PR and authority link building couldn't be more different.
PR firms specialize in digital PR placements in major publications. These publications have an existing angle for a story and may be looking for a subject matter expert to help them flesh out an article. Using a service like HARO (Help a Reporter Out), digital PR firms can pitch their clients as thought leaders in their industry in accordance with an existing story. Alternatively, companies can release and distribute press releases in the hopes that their product or service offerings will be covered by a reporter in some capacity. In certain cases, digital PR companies can even negotiate features for their clients as sponsored content, which many larger media companies, such as The New York Times, run alongside their regular articles. However, SaaS companies will be more successful using authority link building to target specific pages on their website in relevant industry publications versus a digital PR placement.
There are, of course, other ways to build links besides using tactical link building and authority link building. These include building citations (which can make sense for local SEO in a limited context), as well as traditionally spammy methods like forum links, blog comments, etc. These strategies may have worked in the past but they are generally not effective, and should only be used in extremely limited use cases. Tactical link building and authority link building strategies are the two main ways we recommend building links to the various URLs on your SaaS company’s website.
Any good link building strategy targeting a semi-difficult keyword will have a mix of tactical links and authority links. The mix of the two is called link diversity and should be informed by the SERP results. Try using an SEO tool to look at what links have been built to your SERP competitors; the sites that are ranking for your keyword target. Take a deep dive into the backlink portfolio of each SERP competitor on page 1 of the search results. These sites will not always be your actual business competitors. You will likely be trying to rank against blogs and publications for your information-based target keywords.
Link building is one of the least-understood parts of SEO because it's not an on-page factor that you can directly control. Many companies opt to skip link building altogether and focus solely on gearing their content strategy toward their keyword strategy, hoping Google will notice and naturally rank their website.
However, Kevin Costner's adage "if you build it, they will come" in Field of Dreams does not apply to digital marketing efforts, least of all to SEO. SEO for SaaS companies is all about signaling things to Google, not directly to potential customers, and building links is the cornerstone of that strategy. However, you need to make sure that your link building efforts are done in a strategic manner, and that links serve as the lightning rod to that strategy.
Shout it from the rooftops, link building is essential to rank for any semi-difficult keyword! If your SaaS company needs help building high-quality links please reach out to SimpleTiger to schedule a discovery call and learn how we can help you rank for your target keywords.