A contextual link is a type of link that’s usually found within the body of content and is in context with the idea surrounding the link. It can be both natural (voluntary links from other websites – ex: link bait) and artificial (manually built – ex: one of your guest posts that links back to your blog/content).
Acquiring links is a vital process in online marketing, as the practice benefits a site in so many ways, such as in building online brand presence, driving targeted traffic/leads and in getting better search ranking positions.
But this belief has somehow led many to focus on the wrong side of the practice.
Link building is a byproduct of the collective efforts and initiatives that a brand/business implements to promote and make itself more known to its target audience/customers. Elements that impact link building positively may include the following:
- Product development
- Content and business assets
- USP and Online Branding
- Offline Branding (events)
Contextual link building requires hard work. It’s all about earning the links, not just building them. Because if your product or service is really good, people will certainly talk about you and definitely share it with other people who might need your business.
Build something genuinely worth linking to, whether it’s your products, service, the content you produce or the opinions you share with your industry and peers. It all matters, because they can all result to hard-earned links.
Factors that make contextual link building easier (Autopilot)
Chain of online marketing activities causes a site to become a link magnet. Invest on implementing actions that can help alleviate your site’s visibility through various channels (I believe this list can help).
Because the more people find your content, the higher chances of getting natural linkers to your blog. Below are some of the most important factors that allowed me to consistently attract links to my blog.
Consistency in content development
Being consistent in regularly publishing new content on a blog is hard, especially if you have many other things to do. In my case, I try to publish a new post every week.
I always make sure that every post that I launch will be useful to my current and future readers, and that’s why I mostly focus on creating evergreen content. I treat every post as a business asset that will not just send me ton of links, but potential clients as well.
This also allowed me to grow and have a continual increase in readership on my blog, wherein new readers could be future linkers.
So if a single content can acquire natural links from at least 10 unique linking domains (on an average) on its entire lifetime, and you publish 4 new posts every month, then you’re already able to build 40 links in a month (I’ll share some samples on the latter part of this post).
Content promotion strategies
Creating content is just the initial phase, because they will never move on their own without promotion. There are many ways to promote your content (you can check out this and this for extensive tips).
Content that you don’t promote is content that you shouldn’t have written – Lisa Barone
Making sure that your content really offers value to your readers, community and to your industry will make it easier for you to promote your content, and of course get links to them.
Content promotion is very significant in scaling your contextual link building, as it gives birth to places where people can find your content. This can actually influence how your content can acquire more natural links in the future.
Having a strong following base on different social platforms can help get more eyeballs to your content. The multiplier effect of social sharing is very capable of introducing your content to new readers, who might use your content as a reference in their future works.
How to build a strong following base on social networks:
- Continuously produce great and shareable content.
- Make it easy for your readers to share and follow you on social networks (use social buttons as a call-to-action on your posts).
- Build or join conversations on social networks where your target audience is.
- Share others’ content and let them know about it, particularly individuals who have substantial followers in your niche.
- Thank the people sharing your content.
- Build alliances.
Optimize content for search
The best way to really scale your link building is by ensuring that your content will still be found by people even it has already been months after publishing the post.
Content publishers use search engines, especially when they do research for their own content. That’s why optimizing your content to rank better on search results for informational queries is important, to enhance link attraction to your content.
Having so many evergreen content published on my blog helped me to continuously attract lots of new contextual links to my site almost every month.
Absorbing traffic from other communities
2 ½ years ago, when I started blogging, this was the only link building tactic on my arsenal. My main goal back then was just to lead new readers back to my blog through participating on relevant discussions (on other blogs and forums).
That paid off. Because I was able to build relationships with other bloggers and I also get click-through traffic from the blog comments and forum contributions I made almost every day on my first 3 months of blogging (and some of them are still sending new readers to my blog until now).
If you’re providing great stuff on your site that people can really get value from, then this strategy will certainly be a good fit for you.
Find communities that have strong interactions in your space and start getting involved. For instance, I used to be active on Warrior Forum when I was just starting, but now you’ll find me more often on Inbound.org. Both communities are great in sending traffic/readers.
Being active on other industry blogs, forums and community websites is also a great way to build relationships and to strengthen your social following. These relationships will help semi-automate the social sharing process for your content marketing efforts.
Making it evident for readers that you’re hosting credible content on your site is an important element to entice linkers to using your content as a reference.
These signals may come in form of social proof, page layout (appealing design), visuals (images, videos, graphs, etc…) and readers’ comments.
Getting contextual links
Combining all the factors/efforts mentioned above will make it easier for you to get the links you deserve. Links that will get you qualified traffic and will genuinely help you achieve better search rankings.
It takes time and hard work to drive hundreds of high quality links to a site every month, and without actually building them. But no one is saying that it’s impossible. Because hard work always pays off.
So in this part of the post, I’ll just share some of the links that this blog has naturally acquired this past month, including the factors that helped made the natural link acquisition possible.
I got a few brand mentions from other blogs last month (but sorry, I can’t include or link to the other 8 that I’ve found), below are some samples:
- 8 SEO fundamentals for marketers and agencies in 2013
- 5 tools you never thought to use for link building
- Choosing the right name for your blog
- Use these 5 design elements to create the optimum blog user experience
Why I got the link:
- Because of the blog’s already established brand through continuously providing useful content.
- Most of the people who mentioned my personal brand on their posts were social followers (and perhaps regular readers, except for Mark, who I work with at Xight).
- I also got mentions from industry peers (like Moosa and Chris) – relationships!
- Step Aside SEO, Content Marketing Optimization is here
- The 5-part recipe for getting more eyeballs on your content
- Negative SEO: Chapter 5 from Google
- Tiger Traffic Tutorial – More Traffic, Less Time
- Student business ideas with zero startup cost
Why I got the link:
- Through search. Most of the posts that have been used as a reference were already months – if not years – old. There’s a high probability that some of them researched the topic using search engines and fortunately landed on my old posts (and used them as a resource).
3 posts from last month were also featured on different blogs that do weekly/monthly roundups (there were also other non-English blogs that featured my recent posts). Here are a few samples.
- Webgnomes’ monthly roundup
- Blogging Wizard’s January 13 roundup
- Blogging Wizard’s Feb 3 roundup
- High Profile Enterprises’ best of 2012 roundup
- Wow Internet’s weekly roundup
- Beckon’s content marketing weekly roundup
- Drunk on Life’s this week’s links
- SearchCap January 2
- SearchCap January 30
Why I got the link:
- Social sharing. I believe that the majority of these curators found my recently published content through social networks and from my peers who have shared the content.
- Relationships. Steve is an amazing curator!
The total number of contextual links that I was able to track for last month’s new links is 44 (from both high and low DA sites, and excluding the links from content scrapers) – close enough to reach 50+ (if only I’ve done outreach, right?).
Tracking natural links
I’m not sure if I was able to track all the new links to my blog last month. There are a lot of tools that can be used to monitor new incoming links to a site, though I found most of them inaccurate when it comes to this aspect of link reporting.
Here are several methods that you can do to track new links to your site:
Pro Link Building tools
But I wasn’t really able to make use of the data that these 2 tools have provided, as both included old linking pages/domains to the site on the report. Nonetheless, I still find both tools very useful.
Setting up Google Alerts is also a great tool that you can use to monitor new links and mentions to your site/content.
You can use advanced search operators to filter the web pages that Google will be sending to your email. For instance, you can use this query – “link:yoursite.com –site:yoursite.com” – to only get the pages from other domains that link to any page of your site.
Using advanced search operators on Google Search (web, blogs, etc…) can also provide you with results of the pages that have recently linked to your site. You can easily modify your searches using the “search tools” feature, to filter the results you want to be displayed.
However, this method may not display all the pages that have recently linked to your site, but you’d be surprised to find some that other tools might have missed.
Google Webmaster Tools
There’s a feature on Google Webmaster Tools that allow site owners to view and download the incoming links to their websites.
Go to Traffic > Links to your site > view more on “who links the most” > Download latest links.
The report that will be exported in excel format is not that comprehensive as well, but I think it’s still worth looking into.
Google Analytics’ Trackback reports
The trackback report from Google Analytics was the most comprehensive list of new links to the site that I’ve found. I’ve even discovered several links to my blog that I didn’t know that existed.
How to track contextual links through Google Analytics:
- Go to Traffic Sources > Social > Network Referrals
- Click on any of the listed Social Network
- Choose on the “Activity Stream”, which is placed on the top right corner of the graph above the table.
- And on the top right part of the screen, you’ll see a dropdown button (next to the name of the social network you’ve chosen) that can display an option, wherein you can choose to see the list of your site’s trackbacks.
- On the bottom left part of the table, show the maximum amount of rows to display all the trackbacks that your site has received in the past month.
- Export the report in excel or CSV format (you can see the export feature on the top part of the page).
- After exporting, you’ll then have a list of new natural links to your site similar to this:
The links extracted through Analytics data may not be the entire new links pointing to your site, since it may miss other link sources that have disallowed sending of trackbacks from their sites. But it’s definitely a good place to start in identifying sites that have voluntarily linked to you.
Why aim for contextual links?
It’s the strongest form of link over the web. Contextual links can be very advantageous to an online business in so many ways.
This type of link can generate more activity to the site. For example, for the past 6 days, the article from Socialmediatoday.com that links to one of my older posts has sent over 500+ visitors to my site (it was published on a weekend as well).
Having hundreds of in-content natural links to your site’s inner pages can also help build up your site’s domain authority. And having a strong DA enables a site to compete for highly competitive terms, and it also makes it easier for its pages to be more visible for long-tail search queries.
Given that in-content links are more receptive and are more often utilized by readers/users, they can certainly pass more link value to the destination page that they are linking to. And this can directly impact the search rankings of the link’s landing page.
Lastly, in-content links are very visible to readers (just as I’ve pointed above), which also translates to more brand impression.
It works on other niches
The cycle of gaining natural links on a continual basis doesn’t just work on content-rich and tech-savvy industries (like SEO, social media, technology, etc…). It happens on other niches too.
I’m not affiliated or associated with this site, but I believe Joshua is a reader of my blog (that’s how I got to his site).
Anyway, since they are really active in pushing out useful and engaging content to their community (almost every day), they were able to get ton of natural links to their site’s content.
Like on the most popular post from their blog last month, which was able to acquire links from 16 referring domains. I checked their 4 other popular posts’ link data last month, and each post was able to get 5 – 10 unique linking domains.
Contextual link building can be done naturally, but it needs manual push to really scale the process of getting more earned links to a site.
For link building to be really efficient, it’s imperative to consolidate all the other marketing initiatives you do to build awareness to your site.
- Produce content on a regular basis to constantly grow readership and build more link opportunities.
- If you can’t produce content on a regular basis, then focus on creating content that no one in your industry can match. Then invest on promoting these assets.
- Get involved in other online communities in your industry to absorb more readers and possible linkers back to your site.
- Optimize your content for researchers. They’re the ones who will most likely link back to your content in the future.
- Work on building an awesome brand through the content you produce, the interactions you make, and the relationships you build.