Link building is a fairly simple practice, yet businesses still loathe spending a lot of time on it. This might because link-building’s reputation has suffered in recent years. Some marketing and SEO firms have gone as far to say that link building doesn’t matter. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Google confirmed on more than one occasion that linking is one of its top ranking factors.

In fact, separate studies have revealed that you’re unlikely to rank highly in Google without quality backlinks.

In other words, your link building practices are more important than ever. It’s not only a boon for SEO, it’s essential to establishing thought leadership and encouraging authority in your brand. This works both ways – the more people that link to your content, the more traffic your website will receive. Your content can be engaging and helpful and actionable, but it won’t matter unless people see it. Fortunately, you can take a few simple steps to expand your reach and ultimately elicit more business.

1. Have a Strategic Plan

The key to an effective link building campaign is effective preparation. Before you just jump into link building, you’ll have to make a few key decisions such as:

  • Who are the prospects for your link-building campaign?
  • What they will ideally link to?
  • Why they will want to link to your content?

Like any other marketing strategy, this will require a compilation of data and research, accommodating your digital systems for outreach, and engagement of your target prospects.

2. Consider Your Target

If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll have to think about your link-building prospects. This requires research on your part, and from a variety of sources:

  • Results from Google searches.
  • Member directories from trade or industry organizations.

Ideally, combining these two aspects should give you an idea of prospects you want to link to your content. Next, prioritize based on links that might be easier for you to get, but more difficult for your competition. For example, websites of professional affiliations of which you are a part, but your competition is not can make for a good jumping off point.

3. Organize

It will be difficult to track your efforts without having measurable outcomes and a tracking system in place. Many tracking tools for campaigns exist, but each company has different workflows and objectives. As such, finding the right tool for you will require some trial and error and introspection. For smaller companies, a free tool like Google Drive can be useful for sharing and organizing information seamlessly across team members. G-Suite services also integrate seamlessly with many kinds of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems to track prospects and their communication over time.

4. Make Your Content Linkable

Next, make sure you’re doing everything you can to make your content easy to link back to. Some best practices include:

  • Think Quid Pro Quo. At its heart, keeping a blog is an online community. When you take the time to link to someone else’s blog, you’re showing them that you respect their authority. When an entity checks their blog traffic and sees you’re linking to them consistently, they’re more likely to 1) check out your blog; and 2) participate in a little linking of their own.
  • Network with other Influencers. Look to other thought leaders in your industry when coming up with potential prospects, and take action to be on their radar, whether it’s commenting on their blog posts or sharing some of their relevant pieces.
  • Thank people. Some companies neglect this simple, yet effective step-if someone shares a story or a post, thank them for it. This creates an air of reciprocity that will ultimately help your link building campaign
  • Install sticky share buttons. This simple step makes it easier to share your content without scrolling all the way up to the top of a post to share. The process varies by the type of platform you use, but it’s generally intuitive.

5. Be a Compelling Resource

Lastly, if you want people to share your content, you have to make sure you’re an authoritative resource for all things pertaining to your area of expertise. This means blogging regularly, producing long-form pieces, providing actionable content, and being a voice of authority that people can and want to share. Your content should include a good mix of text, images, infographics, videos, podcasts, and anything else that seems relevant. If you want people to link to your content, make sure it’s truly awesome.

Link building is not only relevant, it’s one of the most important things you can do to improve your ranking on Google and expand your reach. By observing some simple steps, you can create an effective link-building campaign that establishes thought leadership and encourages people to share your awesome content.