We’ve talked a lot about the incredible power-up that links can provide to your website and its rankings.
But what we often don’t talk about is how to get your website ready for a link building campaign in the first place.
While your links are important, what’s just as important is the website they lead to. If you’re investing in and launching a link building strategy, you need to ensure your site is set up to reap the rewards of your efforts.
Here, I look at some key website elements that you should get right before you start winning those links.
Conversion rate optimisation
Link building drives more traffic to your website. Put simply, the more links you have, the higher you will rank in search engine results pages (SERPs), which in turn leads to more traffic for your website.
Obviously it’s a lot more complicated than this in practice, but a boost in ranking from links should result in more traffic for your site.
But if your website isn’t set up in such a way to welcome those visitors (and, crucially, keep them onsite and converting), then it’s a wasted effort.
Sometimes SEOs get caught up in reporting rankings, traffic, and domain metrics. And while these elements all have their own value and are a signal of good progress for your site, as SEOs, we shouldn’t ignore the key metric we are brought in to improve (and the only one clients are often interested in): organic conversions.
This is the money-maker. As much progress as it might indicate, the number of visitors to your website is rarely indicative of business ROI.
Whether it’s sales, sign-ups, or downloads, you need to make sure your website already delivers a strong conversion rate with your existing traffic before you start building links. There’s nothing more frustrating than building links, climbing the SERPs, seeing an increase in traffic, only to fall at the last hurdle because your website is difficult to navigate.
Enter conversion rate optimisation (CRO).
For those not in the know, conversion rate optimisation involves tweaking your website in order to increase the chances of any visitors making a desired action—in short, converting.
While they’re often talked about as separate processes, CRO and SEO go hand-in-hand, as many technical onsite SEO improvements are likely to improve your CRO at the same time.
CRO is an ongoing process, and should be something you continue to invest in and improve long after your link building campaigns launch. However, these initial tips will help you ensure you are link building to a website that allows people to achieve their goals:
- Audit your site’s key ‘money pages’: look at the engagement metrics for those pages and spot some patterns. Once you’ve found some pages you believe are underperforming, consider using a heat map tool such as Hotjar to see how users are interacting with the page, and identify their blockers to resolve.
- Conduct a blind test: if you have a relatively new website with little traffic data, get some colleagues to give it a blind test by navigating it, having them note down anything that irritates them. This will give you a great starting point for what you tweak, amend, and include.
- Give your website a good technical health check: crawling your site can highlight critical issues that make it difficult for your users, such as broken internal links or redirect chains.
- Lean on A/B testing for data-backed fixes: if you’ve got a bigger site with a more established user base that provides sufficient data, use a formal A/B testing tool that lets you move your on-page elements around to see what works best for your users.
These are just a few tips to get you started. CRO requires constant work, so make a CRO audit a regular part of your website strategy.
You need to be certain that your website is actually in a position to be crawled, understood and appropriately indexed by Google.
If you’re already getting some organic traffic, that’s obviously a great signal.
But there are so many seemingly invisible issues that could be hindering how your site performs. Plus, once you build links, you might find yourself competing with other, better sites, often with more authority and a slicker technical set-up.
That’s why indexation is so important at this stage.
Indexation optimises how your website is crawled, ensuring it is as easy as possible for Google’s bots to index your site from top to bottom.
Here are a few things you need to get right:
- Review your use of noindex and robots.txt directives: this ensures nothing you want to rank is being ignored or deliberately blocked (and therefore not able to rank in search results).
- Embrace Google Search Console (GSC) functions: GSC provides a wealth of information and insight into how Google reads your site, the pages it finds, and the problems it faces. Review your coverage report and look for errors and warnings—and pay attention to what has been excluded too.
- Clean up your duplicate content: ensure that any duplicate content you have is managed with canonical tags and hreflang tags (if your business extends across different countries). Take this one step further and review the excluded pages in your GSC coverage report to see if there are any instances where Google has chosen an alternative canonical tag to you.
- Get your sitemap on-point: make sure your sitemap contains only pages that return a 200 status, and are not orphaned.
Spend some time getting your indexation right—it goes a long way towards creating a link building-friendly website.
Content and quality
Fresh, quality onsite content is essential before you start building links, benefiting both your users and the bots.
During link building, you are offering a value proposition—you’re convincing a website owner that your site is worth linking to. If your website and the content it hosts are good quality and trustworthy, it’ll make your link building efforts run a lot smoother.
Your prospects will actively look at your website content. If it isn’t up to scratch, you might find yourself on the receiving end of lots of rejections.
And it’s not just your prospects that are checking out your content—Google’s bots are pretty discerning too.
A lot has changed in the SEO landscape over the past ten years, but one core element remains steadfast: Googlebot needs written, crawlable content on a page to be able to have even the foggiest idea of what it’s all about.
As such, link building to thin pages with next-to-no crawlable words on the page isn’t the best use of your time or effort.
When it comes to content and quality, there are a few questions you need to ask:
- Does your content contain at least 200-300 words of written copy? This is especially important for ecommerce sites, where written copy can often be overlooked as something that isn’t essential, and often interferes with the look and feel of the site.
- Have you conducted sufficient keyword research? Solid keyword research helps guide your content, making sure you’re effectively targeting the right keywords and the right topics for your users.
- Does your website provide adequate trust signals? Both bots and humans want to know your website is trustworthy and authoritative, so take steps to build up those E-A-T signals.
- Does your website and its content have a clear purpose? If your site doesn’t know what it’s about, neither will your users or the bots. Make sure your focus is clear across your site.
- Is your content easy to read and understand? Accessible content is content that gets engaged with, so opt for short sentences, simple words, one- or two-line paragraphs, and so on.
Don’t neglect your content! Give it purpose, accessibility, and lots of trust signals, and your website is on the way to engage your new organic traffic.
Of course, no article about SEO in 2021 is complete unless it mentions one of the biggest developments in the industry of late: Core Web Vitals.
The long-awaited core update has recently been pushed back, with the end of the roll-out expected in August 2021.
But even after the initial commotion and reaction to the update, the fundamentals of the three metrics at the centre of it all should continue to be at the forefront of website development and strategies.
- Largest Contentful Paint: how long it takes for your page’s largest content element to load up. The quicker the load time, the happier the bots (and your users) will be—aim for at least 2.5 seconds or less.
- Cumulative Layout Shift: this refers to the amount of unexpected shift that your website’s visual content has. Ideally this is less than 0.1, but the smaller, the better.
- First Input Delay: this is the time it takes for a page to become interactive for the user. Shoot for 100ms or less.
These three elements are essential for creating a positive page experience, both for the bots and your users. Focus your efforts on these, and you’ll build a website that’ll keep visitors hooked.
There you have it! Four elements you need to consider when creating a website that’s ready for link building. Your site is an important part of your link building strategy, so it’s essential that you spend time getting it right to get the most out of your efforts.
Want to start link building but your website isn’t up to scratch? We’ve got you covered—drop us a line today and get your website on-point and ready for links.