Targeted Link Building is Hard. So You Best Be Getting On With It


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Link building, link building, link building. No I am not repeating myself to emphasise it as a keyword for this blog. Over the past decade this is a term that has become synonymous with SEO and to webmasters looking to boost their website’s rankings. It is a practice that at one point firmed its roots as the primary SEO activity. Today, it is still an important part of SEO but no longer the only tool to the SEO’s toolbox to help boost rankings. It is an activity which looks completely different to what was once a practice of mass manipulation or anchor link text, link farming and automated forum and directory listings.

Success from what is now known as “targeted link building” is now measured in your ability to grow your industry’s audience and build relationships with relevant supporters that are willing to share your links and content across their domains. The key term to note here is “relevant” and if you haven’t heard of the phrase “it’s quality not quantity” when it comes to targeted link building then you should take note. If you are reading this and thinking of going ahead with this type of practice on your own, then that phrase is something that should be at the forefront of your mind moving forward.


Targeted link building is the practice of reaching out and trying to individually bring links to specific URLs or specific domains” – Rand Fishkin (Moz 2016)

When is it Wise to Consider Doing It?

Good or bad link building can cause a website to rise or fall in the rankings. That is pure fact. However, what some webmasters don’t know is that there is a time and a place for undertaking it as a practice to see considerable returns on your effort. If your website is position 47 for example, then it is not the right time for you to be focusing all your efforts on this activity. Rather, your efforts should be kept on-site and focus on the optimisation of your website structure and the keyword targeted content. Similar to the saying “charity begins at home” the same applies to SEO with your own website, where charity is the time and effort you dedicate into creating those solid on-site foundations and content that can push you up the rankings to at least page 3. Some may disagree with what I am saying but the last ecommerce website I worked was a completely new domain and purely focused on content and well optimised SEO attributes. After 3 months it jumped from over position 50 to hold position 11 on Google for a keyword term that had 74,000 monthly searches and had national brands competing for it. For the first 6 months from launch I was writing pages and pages of sales enticing content, user guides and blog articles on the industry and on the products with relevant keywords embedded into the content. If you were to put the content purely from the category level and CMS pages into Microsoft word it filled approximately 43 pages. It was essentially a book of consistent, related and relevant content.

Targeted link building is appropriate when certain conditions are fulfilled on your website. It’s like selling a house, you don’t start arranging viewings until you’ve tidied or redecorated the place and added some furniture to make it appealing. If your site is ranking on the 1st, 2nd or 3rd page on Google and you have solid footings and content worth showing and amplifying, and it represents measurable business metrics, then your efforts can be directed towards targeted link building. If you want an indication of the success of those pages you intend to push to position 1 organically from a business sense, be it sales or leads, then you should consider undertaking some PPC to roughly see what type of returns you will gain if you can achieve position 1 or 2 on Google Adwords. That way you can be assured that your efforts from targeted link building will be rewarded and the same target audience coming from organic search results will convert.

Is it Worth the Effort?

If rank boosting is your primary objective then this activity will be one of the most powerful ways to achieve this, providing that the pages you are promoting are high performing and well optimised pages from both a conversion and user experience stand point. Otherwise the effort you put in will be wasted as all the above points mentioned are all important types of user metrics Google uses to determine rank positioning. This means you should have low bounce rate and high time on site metrics and evidence that the page converts to sales or leads. Providing that your pages do this then your next step is to develop a marketing flywheel. This will help ensure a consistent, logical and scalable process to building these links again and again.

How to Reach Out to Those Backlink Opportunities

Essentially it all depends on your industry and differs from website to website as to which activity will work for you. The 3 most popular types that have been known to work are one to one outreach, broadcasting, and paid amplification. Picking one or using a mixture of these approaches all depends on your business and website. However, the benefit of developing a marketing flywheel to reach out to these opportunities will tell which method does or doesn’t work through trial and error. Then you can focus more effort on what does work down the line.

  1. One to One outreach is the personal approach through existing business relationships or approaching webmasters directly through a direct message, tweet, linked in, email, phone call or letter. Again how you do it depends on your business and how you want your brand represented. Some approaches will work more than others so think carefully about how you want to undertake this one-to-one effort and what you want to come out of it before you structure your message.
  2. Broadcasting through bulk email, PR, blogging or social sharing to an already established audience is another means of generating backlinks and works well for specific or niche industries. 
  3. Paid Amplification is targeting or retargeting, paid ads, displaying to an audience that would be interested but you haven’t reached out to before or that you don’t connect to through organic channels.

Targeted Link Building is an Iterative Process

Being an iterative learning process means we will learn from our mistakes and discover what is and is not working, providing that we give ourselves time to try and refine our ideas and hypothesis with our targeted back link strategy. Don’t be down or negative about the whole process if your first attempt at something like one to one outreach yields no replies, or why your paid amplification didn’t produce any reciprocal links. Rather, figure out why your message didn’t resonate with the recipient and start asking yourself questions like, what might interest them to click? Do we need to adjust our message? Are we targeting the right person in the organisation? Can we go about contacting them a different way?

Targeted link building is a hard, slow and frustrating activity as you are going to be reaching out to other physical webmasters (people) within organisations and persuading them to share and/or link to your content. Some of these webmasters may come from established business relationships but more often than not as you start to scale up your link building efforts they will be new contacts you will be reaching out to. Therefore, your flywheel might be slow to start with but remember, it’s quality and not quantity when it comes back linking.

Next Article: How to discover those Targeted Backlink Opportunities?

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Category: Marketing