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This article has been previously posted here: https://feedpress.me/link/9375/14439287/technical-seo-for-link-building.
In this blog, we’ll examine some of the technical SEO implementations you can use for your site before, during, and after your link building campaign, to optimize the performance and long-term impact of each campaign. These will allow you to increase the short-term performance and build lasting benefits from a concentrated burst of brand interest and attention.
Build your strategy around new user retention
When undertaking a link building campaign, it’s important to remember that much of the traffic you generate will be from first-time users. These users are less likely to wait around for slow loading content and less likely to return if you don’t make a good impression. So whether your campaign is a brand-focused PR push, content-focused outreach strategy, or something in between, it’s worth investing in a robust technical SEO framework that helps users connect to and engage with your brand, for years to come.
To make the most of campaign traffic, ensure that users can smoothly connect and engage with your site from a range of channels and sources. Your SEO priorities should be broadly divided into tasks that encourage social shareability, create opportunities for site-wide SEO gains, and maximize the viability of your campaign as part of your broader marketing activity.
Let’s explore the SEO tactics you can use to optimize and improve the performance of your link building campaign. As part of your campaign, you should aim to:
Increase shareability by making the site load faster and display more consistently for the predominantly mobile audience that discovers your content via social media channels.
Improve opportunity for site-wide SEO gains through optimizations to internal linking, improvements to E-A-T indicators, and on-page SEO from landing pages.
Optimize for the viability of the campaign by improving tracking, channel integration, and planning for long-term link traffic.
In addition to being great for users, retention-based optimizations are efficient to manage because they can be planned and put in place well ahead of core campaigns. They’re also applicable to every type of link building campaign, and work in tandem with fundamental backlink management tactics.
Lay the groundwork with a backlink audit
Before undertaking the work to gain new backlinks, carry out a backlink audit for actionable data on the quantity of your existing backlinks and the quality of your referrers.
In the campaign planning stages, popular content identified in your audit can give you strategic insights into the kind of content that will perform well with your existing audiences and networks. The overall quantity of links will give you valuable benchmarks for evidencing campaign performance, and the quality and distribution of your inbound links will help your team set targets for which referrers, target pages, and anchor text will give you the most benefit.
Use a backlink audit tool to find out:
How many external sites are linking to your pages?
Which external sites are linking to your pages?
What is the quality of the external sites backlink profile?
Which pages have existing external backlinks?
Which backlinks are identified as “target errors” because they’re going 404 pages?
Which backlinks are going to 301s pages?
Use a backlink audit tool like Moz Pro Link Explorer to review your links.
If your inbound links include a significant proportion of toxic or poor quality links, then you may wish to take corrective actions like creating and submitting a disavow list in Google Search Console before the campaign starts in earnest. But if your links are of decent quality, then your next focus should be to reclaim broken links to 404s and reduce links to 301 pages.
Sort links by Status Code or Error to find 404s and 301s.
Why should you fix backlink navigation errors?
You should fix backlink errors to 301s and 404s to regain the link value and build momentum ahead of your campaign. When traffic arrives on a site via a 301 redirect link, you may lose some PageRank value from that connection and receive almost zero PageRank value from links pointing to a 404 page. Fixing these links re-establishes these connections and can help increase the organic performance of your campaign target pages by improving the overall domain authority.
These improvements also reduce user connection times and improve tracking data. Tools like Google Analytics find it difficult to attribute the original source of the click, often leading to referral traffic being incorrectly attributed as direct — which is less than helpful for marketers who want to know who their best performing referrers are.
How should you fix backlink navigation errors?
During the link reclamation process, you will want to update links to the best possible new URL. To improve the value of links you already have, carry out these actions:
Assign 301 redirects to any backlink “target errors” that are going to 404 pages. When assigning the new page, try to match it with like-for-like content. An old link to a page about “shoes” should not be redirected to a page about “sharks”, it should go to a page that is also about shoes.
Ensure that any existing 301s are linking to the final destination. Where possible, redirect chains should be removed to maintain as much link value as possible, reduce demands on the server, and optimize for crawl budget.
Where you have control over the linking page — for instance, on social profiles, directory listings, internal project sites, or partner sites — update any 301 or 404 links to a relevant 200 URL. This is something that’s often overlooked, but it’s common for sites that have recently adopted HTTPS to have the old HTTP link on their social profiles and listings. You can and should update these.
Improving these links makes it easier for bots to crawl and index your site, improves user connection speeds, and gives more consistency for your brand messaging before you begin your outreach activity.
SEO optimizations to improve social share effectiveness during link building campaigns
Optimizing for social media should be a key part of your link building strategy because social media drives around 25% of website referral traffic worldwide. This means that social media has become a core part of content promotion and should be an expected component of the link building process. You can optimize for this mobile-first audience by:
Securing network connections to reduce delays from referrals
Improving page speed for mobiles
Updating open graph data to improve social shareability
Improve security to reduce connection delays
Security is an element of technical SEO that is often oversimplified. Yes, HTTPS is a ranking signal, but many believe this is achieved simply by obtaining an SSL certificate. That is part of it — you do need an SSL, but it’s only the start.
Security optimizations often involve server-side updates that can improve the speed and quality of your connections across the web by streamlining the security verification process.
This is particularly important for social media sites like Facebook, which have high levels of encryption and security on their end and equally high expectations for referred domains. Security layers can slow down connection times and affect user trust, so investing time here can help campaign performance overall.
Upgrade your SSL to reduce connection time
Not all SSLs are equal, and the benefits of a secure website extend beyond achieving a lock icon in the search bar. An optimized SSL certificate will be using the latest transport layer security protocols and be error-free.
Test the quality of your SSL
There are several tools that allow you to check the performance of your existing SSL. Each tool runs different diagnostics, so it’s worth running them in tangent to get a full picture of where action should be taken. It’s possible to pass an inspection on one tool and not on another, so taking a layered approach will yield better results.
First perform a top-level SSL check
For a quick snapshot, run your site through the SSL Checker from SSL Shopper. They give you a top-level rundown of expiry dates and whether your SSL is trusted by all web browsers. You want all green ticks here. Any errors should be flagged and addressed directly with your certificate issuer.
Simply put, a healthy chain will have all green arrows.
In my experience, improving errors here can have an impact on site speed. One client saw an almost 70% reduction in overall server connection time and over 60% reduction in Average Page Loads on Chrome by resolving chain issues.
Example impact of SSL Certificate Updates.
Run a full diagnostic
Using the SSL Server Test, you can get a more detailed diagnostic of your security configuration. This test gives your site a grade and assesses a range of security indicators. To support a link building campaign, you’ll want to confirm that your server is running the “modern” Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocols, specifically TLS 1.2 and ideally TLS 1.3.
Test your security protocols
TLS 1.3 came into use around 2018 and has since become the preferred connection protocol for large scale CDNs and operating systems. Not only is it more secure, but TLS 1.3 can improve connection latency by around 45% by removing network connection steps.
Cloudflare, Facebook, and Android use this protocol as a default, and a matching upgrade for your site could improve performance for a significant number of web users. As a point of reference, Cloudflare alone is used by around 16% of all websites worldwide and 81% of those with CDNs, so upgrading your TLS could help more users to quickly access your site from each new (and established) link.
With the introduction of Google’s Core Web Vitals, speed metrics and upcoming algorithm updates have put additional emphasis on mobile page loading times in general. In a link building campaign, you could see spike in traffic to a single page. But Google is watching, and if your page doesn’t deliver high quality UX as measured by CWV for at least 75% of users, this traffic could affect your page ranking.
Monitor your target pages in GA and Search Console to identify any challenges that should be addressed.
Open Graph meta tags
Social shares will almost certainly form part of your link building campaign — with good reason. With updates to your Open Graph (OG) tags, you can tailor your tags for better rendering and performance.
Optimize and customize OG meta tags for social posts.
If the hero image for your page doesn’t display when you post links to social media, then you need to update your OG meta tags. It could be that your page doesn’t have the tags in place, or that the fields are not populating automatically. In either case, this is something you can fix.
Using post validators for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, you can inspect individual pages for performance.
Facebook Sharing Debugger
At scale, you can use a Custom Xpath Extraction in Screaming Frog to crawl your site. Then review your site for the best regex to populate the fields automatically, and brief your dev team to update accordingly.
Create opportunities for site-wide organic growth
Your link building campaign can bring benefits to other pages on your site with careful planning.
Whether your link building campaign is based on a short-term campaign landing page, a thought leadership piece, or a core service, your on-page SEO should be optimized to encourage organic traffic as well.
This is because humans forget things.
So while a user may discover a campaign or promotion via direct link building activities, they should also be able to find it again or look it up to transfer any offline buzz into online knowledge.
Your target page should be supported by solid on-page SEO that includes:
Keyword-optimized content with H1s and H2s
Relevant images optimized with alt text, titles, and structured data
Metadata that is optimized for campaign keywords
If you’ve received a juicy backlink from a relevant source, don’t let the benefits stop at a single page. Ensure that your target page has links to other, relevant content across your site that will keep users coming back.
Build links from your target page
Map out your internal links to ensure that any pages being used as backlink landing pages include links to similarly-themed pages on your site. You’ll get the most SEO benefit if your internal link structure includes links to pages with:
Optimizations for keywords that are lexicographically similar
A relevant parent folder
Good authority or low bounce rate
200 response codes for maximum crawlability
This allows users and web crawlers that are enabled for natural language search to understand that your content is part of a wider bank of knowledge and expertise. It also makes it more likely that users will return to other content on your site in the future.
Build links to your target page for better indexing
Internal linking goes both ways, so don’t forget to create internal links into campaign content. For short-term campaigns, marketers sometimes create bespoke campaign landing pages with minimal links across the wider site.
This can result in slower indexing for campaign pages, making it more difficult for users to find you via search. To address this, create an announcement-style blog post that links to the campaign target page. In this way, both pages can be entered into the updated sitemap and submitted for indexing.
Example Landing Page and Announcement Blog
As mentioned previously, humans may not remember every detail of your campaign target page when they try to find it again. However, they may remember the person that shared, created, or was featured in the content. So include information about the team behind the content or campaign in order to build Expertise, Authority, and Trust for your brand, and increase the impact of social shares. This is particularly useful for thought leadership campaigns, where expertise signals like author biographies can be optimized with structured data.
For short-term campaigns like those for new events or products, including trust indicators like dynamic reviews can assist with conversions.
Optimizing for the viability of the campaign
You aren’t building links for links’ sake. You’re doing so to meet wider business objectives like driving sales, increasing market share, or generating leads.
Review and customize tracking
Once you’ve built your links, traffic to your target page becomes an opportunity to generate valuable data for your conversions funnel. Your tracking should be designed to give you data that supports your overall business objectives.
During your campaign, you should keep your business goals in mind and understand how your target page contributes to those goals. Update the tracking for your target pages to include metrics that correspond to your aims and the content type. Users visiting a data rich 5,000-word industry report are at a different stage in the customer funnel than those visiting from a quality niche directory.
Creating target page metrics can also help with KPIs, reporting, and evidencing campaign ROI, which clients and managers adore.
Once your business metrics are in place, use the data you’ve collected from link traffic to inform performance on other channels. For example:
Scroll depth data from users who access a piece of high-quality content could be used for re-marketing content on YouTube or display advertising.
Demographic data from users who visit for niche relevant “awareness month” content could improve audience targeting for advertising or PR activity around the same topic.
Email signups for an outreach event can be added to Facebook as Custom and Lookalike audiences for more direct conversions.
Planning for long-term link traffic
Consider the lifecycle of your link building campaign target page.
Ideally, you want to be driving traffic to a URL that can accrue page authority over time. If you spend time creating traffic for a URL that needs to change soon after the campaign ends, you’ll eventually be driving traffic to a 301 link. As we discussed before, this doesn’t give as much PageRank value for your site as an active 200 link does.
So, plan for ways to keep a consistent, live URL for an extended period of time. Depending on your link building strategy, you may be able to employ one of the following techniques:
Use evergreen URLs for long-term content: Thought leadership, cornerstone content like a white paper, or one-off reports are likely to remain on your site for a long time. For this content, consider removing dates from your URL to make the content more evergreen, as this allows for content to be updated and reduces future redirect requirements.
Create permanent pages for recurring campaigns: Landing pages for recurring outreach content like annual event sponsorship or awareness campaigns should become part of permanent navigation. This allows you to build links every year to a well-optimized, annually updated, static page, rather than starting from scratch with blogs to different URLs every year.
Avoid building links to PDFs: Put any downloadable resources into an HTML landing page and build links to that page. Links to PDFs can be difficult to redirect because of how they’re configured in your htaccess file.
Plan for any unavoidable redirects: For short-term campaigns like sales promotions, plan for which page will become the permanent page. Include common copy on both domains to help Google understand that it’s not a soft 404.
Technical SEO can help you gain and maintain backlinks, connect with mobile users, and improve the quality of your connections when you:
Secure network connections to reduce delays from referrals
Improve page speed for mobile users
Update open graph data to improve social shareability
Update on-page SEO
Optimize internal links
Include E-A-T optimizations
Plan for channel integration
Plan for long-term link traffic
These tactics will help the links you build to add value for your customers, your rankings, and your business for many years to come.
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