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Don’t Start Link Building Before You Take These 3 Critical Actions

link building plan

Link building is fundamental to a successful SEO campaign. But before you jump in, there are several actions you need to take. What I’m about to show you will not only make your backlinks more effective, but it will actually reduce your costs. That’s because when backlinks are more impactful, you don’t need as many to achieve your SEO objectives.

Let’s jump in.

1. Fix All Technical Issues

Many people zoom right past technical optimization and jump right into link building. This is a huge mistake. Google values User Experience (UX) more than any other factor. That’s why you need to dedicate time and resources to please every single user that lands on your site. The first way to achieve that goal is to fix all technical issues. Technical issues hurt User Experience (UX). If users don’t like your site, then Google won’t either.

Trust me: It won’t matter how many backlinks you have if your site has technical issues.

With that out of the way, here are 6 technical issues that need to be on top of your priority list:

Improve website loading speed

Site loading speed is one of the most important UX signals that Google measures. If your site isn’t loading below two seconds, then you need to make this a priority. Use the following tools to test your site speed:

Make your site mobile friendly

You likely already know this, but your site needs to be mobile friendly. Almost half of all searches come from a mobile device. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly test to find out how your site is performing on mobile.

Fix broken links

No one enjoys clicking on broken links. There are two types of broken links you need to fix: Internal and external. Both types are bad for UX, but external broken links leak valuable link equity off your site. Use Broken Link Check or Dr. Link Check to find broken links on your site.

Identify valuable 404 pages

404 pages are not always harmful. In fact, they are an effective way to remove unwanted pages from Google’s index. But you still want to make sure you audit all your 404 pages. That’s because you want to recapture authority from 404 pages that have backlinks. This requires a three-step process. First, you have to identify 404 pages on your site. You can use one of the broken link tools above or use Google Search Console. Here’s how to do it in Google Search Console:

indentifying 404 pages in Google search console

Second, you have to copy all your 404 pages and run them through a link analysis tool like Ahrefs or Majestic.

For Ahrefs, go to “Tools” and “Batch Analysis.” Enter your URLs and change the dropdown to “URL.”

how to run 404 pages through ahrefs

After you do that, you will know which pages have backlinks. The last step is to 301 redirect these pages to a relevant page on your site or back to your homepage.

Fix duplicate content

Duplicate content is not only lazy, but Google’s Panda algorithm hates it. Use Siteliner to find all and fix all duplicate content on your site.

Audit your redirects

Redirect chains and 302 redirects steal link equity from your site. Although Google claims that 302s still flow link equity, it’s still best practice to use a 301 if the redirect is permanent. A redirect chains looks like this:

illustration of a redirect chain

All you need to do is 301 redirect the Page A to the final destination page (Page C). This will ensure that 100% of your link equity is flowing to the target page.

2. Improve Your Site Architecture

Your website architecture is one of the single most important elements of making your backlinks more effective. If you structure it the right way, link equity will flow through your site and make your site more authoritative. When your site is more authoritative, you don’t need as many backlinks to see significant organic search growth. This is why sites like Amazon can rank for competitive keywords with very few backlinks.

There several different ways to structure your website, but the one I leverage the most is the reverse silo structure.

This is what it looks like:

reverse silo structure

This is the most effective structure because it is content-driven. In essence, you acquire backlinks to your content assets, and the link equity will flow to category and product pages. This is the most natural way to promote your website and build backlinks.

3. Create Keyword-Targeted Content Assets

The best type of page to acquire backlinks to is a keyword-targeted content asset. You have to remember that Google ranks pages, not websites. That’s why you need to create incredible pages if you want to rank. The best way to do so is through content development.

There are two ways to rank a content asset in Google. The first way is that the content asset must be significantly BETTER than what is currently ranking on the first page for your target keyword phrase. The second way is to create a content asset that is entirely different than what is currently ranking on the first page. Ideally, you should use both tactics to create a powerful piece of content.

Creating quality content is the most scalable link acquisition tactic.

Be Prepared

Link building can be a time-consuming and sometimes tedious process. Make sure you are getting the most of your time and effort by taking action on the items above. By doing so, your site will see the full impact of your backlinks.

Nathan Gotch is the CEO and founder of Gotch SEO – a St. Louis SEO agency. His blog attracts thousands of visitors every day who are looking to learn SEO.

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4 Responses to Don’t Start Link Building Before You Take These 3 Critical Actions

  1. Dean says:

    Hi. I have a question you may be able to help me with.
    Do you think audit done by Serpstat is enough to start linkbuilding? It finds 404 pages and all other status codes, plus shows some other errors. Can I start working on links if I fix everything that serpstat finds?

    • Nathan Gotch says:

      Hey Dean,

      I recommend you run your site through some other quality tools like Screaming Frog SEO Spider and Siteliner to make sure you have all bases covered

  2. Alexis Gil says:

    Thank you for the good tips! Mostly I appreciate for tip about mobile-friendly. We often forget about it. But in our days indeed most of information people get from their mobiles.