I build a lot of backlinks for my clients and one thing I encounter very frequently is the request to build links to the homepage. The requests are sometimes more specific – the client may not only want to build a link to the homepage, but also would want a very specific anchor text.
I can understand why clients want this. Quality link building campaigns can be a lot of work and is thus quite expensive. It is not uncommon for marketing agencies to charge several hundred dollars for a single high authority backlink. The boost up from such links can be immense. Business owners want the maximum bang for their buck. A link to the homepage with a money anchor might look like the best return for their investment.
But let me clear some misconceptions and also tell you why this strategy might be bad for your business.
Natural Link Profile
You may have come across this phrase, ‘natural link profile’ when reading about SEO. What this essentially means is that the backlinks you build should look “natural” – as if they happened without you even having to ask or pay people to link back. Take Amazon for example. Think of the last time you shared a link from Amazon to your friend or family member. Was it to the homepage or did you link to a specific product you were interested in? You can be sure that for every page that link to the Amazon homepage (like this very article), there are perhaps dozens or even more pages that link to specific products or offers within the Amazon website.
Google has several billions of webpages indexed today and this gives them all the information they need to know what a natural link profile looks like. When you try to build a link to your homepage with an anchor text like “Best New York dentists”, it screams ‘paid’. You are not getting any benefit building a link that way.
Time and again, Google has imposed penalties on websites that fail to toe their webmaster guidelines. Websites that are accused of low quality content or paid links bear the brunt of such penalties and clearly no website owner wants this. What’s worse is that Google does not always confirm whether a website is penalized or not. What this means is that blogs that see a sudden drop in traffic (for whatever reason) often fear the worst and assume they have been penalized.
The immediate course of action from such websites is to strip out links that seem commercial in nature. If you had a link back from one such website with your favorite anchor text and a link to the homepage, chances are they get stripped out because the website owner fears such links are the reason for the penalty in the first place. Natural looking links pointing to blog posts do not get stripped out so frequently.
How Google Calculates Website Authority
Let’s say you have the most exhaustive article on a subject related to your industry. This is alone not enough to rank your page on the top of Google for a related keyword. Google places a lot of emphasis on the overall authority of your website. This means that while the content within the article and the number of link citations to this page are definitely important, it also matters how authoritative your website, as a whole, is in your industry.
To put this another way, if you want to rank your homepage on top for a related keyword, it does not matter how many links are pointed at your homepage. What matters is your overall website authority. You may as well have a link pointing to a blog post (which is likely to stick) than have a link to your homepage (which is more likely to get nofollowed or stripped out).
Focus On Generating Business – Not Backlinks
Link building is just one component of your overall marketing strategy. As a marketer or a business owner, your focus should be on generating leads and new business; not worrying about where your links are pointed at. Here is a link building strategy that I recommend:
Build conversion-focused content: Homepages are not always the best place to generate new leads from. There are two reasons I say this. Firstly, a homepage typically links to all the various sections of your websites. The sheer number of links and text is distracting and is not ideal for lead generation. Secondly, if you have more than one type of customer or product, it becomes a challenge drafting a content that appeals to these various products or customer profiles.
In addition to this, no matter how targeted your customer is, they would still need to be nurtured and primed for your product before a sale is done. Your content should serve as the gateway for a targeted prospect to sign up and become a lead. It is a good idea to craft content that is targeted at one specific product or customer. A prospective customer who visits this page from Google is more likely to sign up for your mailing list or request a quote compared to those who land up on the homepage.
Types of content that works: Let us take the example of a business that makes project management tools. A typical customer goes through the following stages of research before they finalize on a tool:
Stage 1: “Best project management tools”
In the first stage of research, the customer wants to know what are the various options they have at hand.
Stage 2: Project management features comparison
Now that the customer has the list of tools, they want to compare the features on these various tools to understand what fits their requirements the best
Stage 4: Product reviews
At this stage, the customer has almost made their mind up about the project management tool that they want to sign up for. But before they proceed, they read up the reviews from other customers to be sure they are making the right decision
If you are not among the top 3 tools already, you should be focusing on content that targets customers in the first two stages of research. Doing so ensures that customers read up on your product and thus have you as one of the possible options moving to their next stages of research. I recommend my clients to build list-based content (like “10 Best Project Management Tools For Small Business Owners”, or “5 Must-Have Features In A Project Management App”). By ranking for these keywords, you set the direction and narrative when a fresh client begins their research on a project management app.
Build backlinks to these blog posts: The next step is to try and rank these blog posts on Google search. It is easier to build backlinks to blog posts that comprehensively cover a specific topic about an industry than it is to link to a homepage. This makes ranking for these keywords easier too, not to mention that your website, as a whole, is building authority because of these backlinks. It is also worth pointing out that you will need far fewer resources to rank such content pieces on top compared to ranking your homepage.
Wash.Rinse.Repeat: A sustainable content strategy is when your business or content ranks on top for all the relevant keywords that customers use during their research phase. You could probably have a handful of exhaustive content pieces that covers each of the four stages of customer research. Build backlinks to these pages enables you to rank for these keywords should enable a business to generate more leads and customers in a shorter span of time.
In conclusion, how important is it to build backlinks to your homepage? Not so much. Focus on content that generates leads. Optimizing these content pieces for their relevant search terms should go a long way in building a sustainable sales pipeline. Working on homepage links is not only sustainable, but can also take a lot longer to show results.