In both our basic and advanced SEO advice guides – we underline the importance of building links pointing at your website. Despite the significant move towards “quality” as the key driving force in Google’s ranking algorithm over the last few years, and the implications that has for not doing SEO, backlinks are still key. Indeed we believe that upstream “link equity” is still the primary driving component of Google’s ranking algorithm, once you have the basics of a decent website foundation sorted.
So, given the importance of this, the question becomes, how do I build upstream links pointing at my agency.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Step 1: Understand what you have got…
Before you set out on any concerted link building effort, step 1 must surely be to understand where you are, so that you can benchmark your progress. There are two or three things you can check, to track your existing position, and your progress.
- First, the quickest and simplest method (which has big flaws) is to go to Google and type into the search bar: link:yourwebsitedomain.com (make sure you have no space, and you don’t want the www. necessarily either). This will return a small subset of the upstream links pointing at your site. But it is a start point and directionally, it will be at least somewhat correlated to your actual number of links, and to your relative ranking in Google results. It’s good to know what kind of sites already link to you, as when you go out asking for links, you could do worse than use the sites that already link to you to provide ideas on similar people to approach. You can also check out your competitors too. This will give you a nice idea of who is linking to them, which you can also use later.
- Secondly, get Google Webmaster Tools installed, and verified on your website. (And if you don’t have Google Analytics installed, you should start there first. Indeed we’re always surprised to find a relatively large number of agents don’t have analytics installed, getting that set up, and emailing you a regular monthly report is a great start.) Webmaster tools will give you a much more comprehensive, and accurate count of your links. It can also report warnings from Google, and identify a whole host of other useful SEO traps and pitfalls, related to your website structure.
- Thirdly, get yourself on over to MOZ’s Open Site Explorer – and enter your domain name there. The scores you are looking to note down are “Domain Authority” (think of this as an approximate top level proxy for the overall strength of your domain name from an SEO perspective), your “Linking root domains” (that being a count of the distinct number of sites that link to you), and “Total Links” (the clue being carefully disguised in the name).
- Finally, when you’ve done all this, check back in with our Estate Agents SEO benchmarking project – where we use these scores from Moz to compare a representative set of agents, or sets of agents in any given town.
Now then, once you’ve done that preparation, you’ll may want to set yourself up with a simple spreadsheet with some of these measures for you, and your key competitors (especially those that appear in the results above you). You’ll want to check back in on this spreadsheet once a month or so, to track how you are doing. Sorted? Right then, let’s begin…
Step 2: Tread very carefully
Google’s main advice can be summarised as follows: “don’t do anything for me, just worry about creating a great experience for your end customers, as that’s what I’m worrying about and you can count on me to work that out sooner or later, so you just focus on that. Furthermore, if I catch you trying to game the system, I’ll slap your naughty wrists. Hard. So don’t do SEO“. If you still haven’t read that article – do that now. The very fact you are reading this article means you are flying dangerously close to the sun. So tread very carefully.
Don’t go buying any links from blogs. Don’t go signing up for any SEO consultants that sound like they might be doing any forced, or unnatural link building. It’s fine to build links, but only build natural links, that would occur in the wild. Just go carefully. And don’t force it too hard. Got it? Ok…
Step 3: Register in all the usual directories
This is the old school basics here, but you may as well sort them, and they can’t do you any real harm. There are various local directories, trade publications, internet directories etc. that you can use for a start. Have a google for business directories and business directories in your town, or website directories. Try the Yahoo! directory, etc.
Step 4: Build naturally
Having exhausted the easy directories that take submission (and probably have relatively low value anyway) you’ll need to start the hard work – indeed there’s no real substitute for hard work. However, here’s the good news: you don’t need many good links from editorial articles, on high authority, and ideally high relevance (property industry) sites, to make a big impact. It may be that 5 really good links sorts you out. And it will lead to more people finding you and more instructions as the practice of emailing for an “estate agent in XYZ town” is incredibly common, even if they are just looking for phone numbers of agents they already know. You want to be at the top of those lists.
When asking people to link to you, it’s best not to be too prescriptive. Broadly you’d like the links in editorial articles, nearer the top of the article if possible. But you want a scattering of positionings, and you want a variety of words. Let the people linking to you chose their own link wording. If you force it, and get caught, you’ll get knocked out. Remember, you want to be natural, so just let it happen.
Step 5: Ask your friends
If your godson is the town’s biggest blogger, or your mate Dave is a local architect, then ask them for a link. Charity starts at home.
Step 6: Ask your suppliers
And if charity doesn’t start at home it definitely starts with people you pay money too! Your board supplier. Your website supplier! Your favourite solicitors, and IFAs. Your office furniture supplier. You name it, ask them for links. Write them case studies. It all adds up.
Step 7: Ask your local newspapers
This is often a subset of Step 7. But if you advertise with them, they’ll be keen to help, as the world moves online and they want to hold onto your business. Ideally you would link this to writing interesting content for them, and link naturally from it. But it might be as simple as asking them for links when you supply them interesting properties for features they write, or local market comment, etc. Take the journalists out for lunch, get to know them, offer them interesting local stories when you are in the know of interesting properties coming up for sale.
Step 8: Ask the council, schools, local government
This may sound far fetched, but if you sponsor the school fair, or if you sometimes work with the council on property or planning matters or whatever, then a link from a government site or school, is extremely valuable. Even more so a university. The theory goes that .gov domains and .edu domains, or sites of that ilk, carry much higher trust, and hence link authority than a run of the mill site. 1 link here, could be worth 10 from random local sites.
Step 9: Write content
At the heart of all of this is content marketing. It’s a huge shift in the way marketing works at a fundamental level. In many ways, the irony of the reading this article right now, supports this point. The internet has lowered the barriers so that anyone can be a publisher, anyone can start a blog on their own website, and everyone has something interesting to say to one audience or another. You could write articles with advice for your vendors for example.
Articles that are really good attract their own links. They travel. They get retweeted (see below). People blog about them, respond to them, reference them. And that all builds links. The same goes for infographics, local market data and stats, great photos, or interesting videos. But even where the articles don’t travel by themselves, you can write them and send them out there. You can email them to your clients. Or write them for your local newspaper or magazine (in return for that crucial link even).
One quick rule here though. The sounds too good to be true, inexpensive content, that gets hawked around by various suppliers (automatic newsletters, centralised content that you can rebrand etc.) is actually damaging from an SEO perspective. It’s “duplicate content” and Google understands this. Think copying your homework and getting caught by teacher. Google will punish you for regurgitating sections of content provided externally, so make sure if you are taking newsletter content anywhere near your site or brand that it is original, and written only for you, in it’s entirety.
Step 10: Engage in Social Media
Finally, once you’ve written all this interesting content (which has other SEO value beyond just the link bait by the way), you’ll want to get it out there actively. You’ll have set up your social media channels by now, so make sure you use them to distribute your interesting new articles / area guides / featured property case studies, etc. Social media has value well beyond the links it generates, and there is a school of thought which says that your social heartbeat is increasingly a direct factor in the ranking algorithm, but one this is for sure, it does generate links, and it spreads you content around. So get on it!
If you have enjoyed this guide, and want more SEO advice – you’ll find plenty in our resources library.
And if you are worrying about SEO performance generally, a very important thing to realise is that your SEO performance might be hampered by the structure of your core foundation, the very fabric of your website. It may be a simple fix to your existing site is all you need (and this can be very inexpensive). Or it might be that you need a site with built in structural advantages for SEO. You might not want to act on it straight away – but if it is the case, you at least want to know about it. There is literally no point in trying to build your link equity if your fundamental chasis is broken, so you should consider refocusing your energy on other problems, or even researching and fixing this one. You’ll be barking up the wrong tree otherwise. Building links to a fundamentally hampered website is like putting higher octane petrol into a VW Polo when you’re about to enter the British Touring Car championships against Porsche 911s. Not worth the effort.
Well, that’s quite enough mixing of metaphors for now. Give us a call and we’ll give it a ten minute once over for you, we’ll explain any foundational problems in plain english, so at least you’ll know the situation and can deal with it from there.
Thanks for reading.