Link building strategies: how to improve existing back links

An explanation of a link building strategy to improve existing links and build domain authority.

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If you’ve ever undertaken any form of link building, you’ll know just how much hard work it is. 

It’s true to say that the links that take the longest to achieve, often do your site the most good. This is generally the case because links that are really hard-earned, may take weeks if not months to nurture and secure if you are starting from scratch. The work often involves identifying the correct target and contact, introducing the client, creating a suitable story, pitching it and following up. 

Over time, these links are sometimes removed or changed, and as they’re not on your own site you have very little control over them.

Wouldn’t it be good if you could reclaim the benefits of these links and give your DA a boost?

Improving backlinks that you already have is a sound link building strategy that shouldn’t always be overlooked in preference for building new links. Both have a place.

Where to start

Just a note to add before we delve into the types of links you might want to update: if you are considering updating multiple links, it’s worth starting with those with the highest domain authority first as these will deliver the most benefit to your site. If there are multiple sites with much lower domain authorities than your own site, this might not be the best use of your time.

But don’t forget that even links from sites with a lower domain authority than your own can still drive referral traffic, so there is still merit in making sure these point to the right place too.

Similarly, if links were built a very long time ago, you may struggle to get them updated – this is particularly true for editorial content. Asking a journalist to go back and edit their copy from months or even years ago may not sit too well with them. However, if the content was something you contributed or is still driving traffic to the third party, they may better understand your request.

And now to address the types of link you might want to update…

Mentions to links

If a site has mentioned your business instead of linking to it, they may be persuaded to upgrade the mention to a link. You can but ask.

Before writing your carefully crafted email approach, be aware that some sites, particularly those with a greater authority (in the wider sense of the meaning), have very specific link guidelines. For example, national newspapers tend to be very sparing with the links they proffer but bloggers may be more receptive.

It’s worth doing a little bit of research before you start this process because having a good relationship with a journalist or blogger in the long term, might just outway the benefits of an individual link. 

Anchor text

There are many reasons you might want to update your anchor text. For example, if your business has headed in a new direction, the old anchor text may not reflect what you do anymore.

Another example might be a rebrand or rename where the links signpost to an old domain. Of course, these can be redirected to your new domain but the link juice is a hell of a lot better if the link is direct.

Another reason you might want to update your existing links is if you think your anchor text ratio (the mix of different types of links)  might be doing your site harm. In extreme cases, a link detox may be necessary if you know you haven’t always stuck to Google’s guidelines. 

However, you may just be aware that your site doesn’t have a typical backlink profile compared to competitors and are seeking to address that. For example, you may have too many links with exact match anchor text. Even if these were genuinely built, Google can start to get suspicious if it seems too good to be true.

A much simpler reason to update a link is if the anchor text is generic and could be improved. Perhaps the link says ‘Here’ or ‘Read more’ or similar. 

Follow vs No follows

It’s really important to have a mix of Follow and Nofollow links. If a site is skewed very much towards Follow links it might start ringing alarm bells with search engines, so going all out to convert every single NoFollow to Follow is not a good strategy.

However, if you truly believe that a link was wrongly assigned NoFollow status and other links from a similar site are Follow links, then it might be worth enquiring if this can be changed.

NoFollow links do not pass on any benefit to the linked site but don’t forget they are a segway for real people to get to your site i.e. referral traffic, so don’t be disheartened if you can’t update them.

Location of link

By location of link, we’re mainly talking footer links. You’ll see this approach to link building commonly applied by web developers who stamp their mark at the bottom of clients’ websites. Google is not a big fan of footer links, historically, because they are often commercially driven. In Ye Olden days of search, these were often links to family and friends’ sites with absolutely no contextual relevance.

For this reason, Google has a healthy scepticism about footer links and so if there is an opportunity to change a footer link to something else, this is always worth considering. For example, could you create some content for a different part of the third party’s site or ask for the link to be moved to somewhere more relevant?

Please note – footer refers to the footer of the website as a whole, not the footer (or byline) of specific blog posts for example. The latter types of links are generally fine as long as the site is relevant to your business.

Context of link

If you can’t do much to change the link itself, you could try improving the quality of the page the link (or mention) sits on to make it more authoritative. This could mean that the individual page grows in stature and increases Page Authority. Google may recognise that and in turn rank, the page higher or more frequently in SERPs, therefore benefiting your brand or product in turn by more traffic arriving on the page and more people seeing the brand name or product. 

Deep links

If a link itself ticks most boxes such as a good anchor text, and Follow status, but the link points to a page that isn’t relevant or no longer exists, it might be worth considering for an update.

This is also true if most of your links are to your homepage but you actually think that a link to a deeper landing page might be more relevant or helpful to readers.

Updating links to suit your organisation’s link profile is a very delicate process and there is no quick fix or broad brush tactic that will work a miracle. Try to think about it from the third party’s perspective. What’s in it for them? If you can provide a sensible reason for updating a link, you’re already halfway there.

Good luck!

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