In the grand scheme of the web and its powers of interconnectivity, links are king. You want to link to relevant websites from your content, and you want relevant websites to link back to you. Having popular websites link to your site (building links) gives you a boost up in the eyes of search engines. And the more boosts you get, the stronger your website and the easier it is to show up near the top of a search engine results page when someone is looking for your organization or the type of work that you do.
It seems like such a simple setup, right? But no, unfortunately, building links is quite a bit trickier than that. See, you only want the right websites to link to you, and vice versa. When untrusted websites (read: spam) link to you or when you unknowingly link to untrusted websites, your website’s reputation and search engine rankings can both take a hit.
At this point, you might be thinking links are too risky to be worth the trouble. But I would strongly discourage you from falling into this line of thought. When done correctly, link building can make a huge difference in the strength of your domain. You could see a noticeable increase in both referral traffic (from those websites linking to you) and organic traffic (from those visitors who find your site through search).
We’ll break this down a little further for you.
Search Engines Love Links
Search engines use complicated algorithms to determine which and how much components of a web page matter when they rank pages for specific searches. And, for search engines like Google, ranking in the top ten search results for a popular search term can make a huge difference in your organic traffic. Most search engine optimization (SEO) experts believe that relevant and trusted links factor into the algorithm pretty heavily.
The Importance of Anchor Text
The setup of the link factors into the algorithm. The anchor text (or the text that is linked) should be relevant to your website.
Say you run an animal shelter and a local company recently sponsored one of your volunteer events. The company plans to post a recap of the event on their blog and will link to your site for people to learn more about you. Option one could be: “To see other volunteer opportunities at Example Animal Shelter, click here.” But, “Check out other volunteer opportunities at Example Animal Shelter” is a better option.
You want that anchor text to be as relevant to the page it’s linking to as possible. Sometimes that means reaching out to the organization linking to your website and requesting that they strengthen the anchor text and make it more relevant.
The Strength of the Linking Domain
Getting The New York Times to link to your website carries more weight than getting a link on your small-town community newspaper’s website. The algorithm is set up to value the strength of your domain, and popularity (meaning lots of people like your content and link to it) is a big part of that strength scale.
When the search engines crawl the web and find lots of valued links to a site, it’s an indication to them that it has popular (and thus useful) information worth sharing in relevant search results. So when popular and well-established sites link to your content, their links are more powerful because search engines already trust them and their judgment.
Building Links from Trusted Sites
There are a variety of ways to go about building links. Some of these links will come to you naturally. When your content is helpful, well thought out and enjoyable to read, you’ll get links without having to do anything extra (although creating a website chock-full of great content is no easy feat).
The other way to get links is to ask for them. And there are lots of options if you decide to reach out to others for links. The following are just a few of the possibilities for nonprofits.
- Have others write articles about your organization and the work you do
- Write a guest article or post on another website or blog
- Link out to trusted sites and encourage them to link back
- Make it into the news and work with reporters to include relevant links in the story
- Promote resources on your website that could be more widely utilized
- Ask partner organizations and funders to link to your website
- Set up listings in relevant directories and websites
In the end, building links to your website will rely on you building meaningful professional relationships with others in your field. We’ve found that keeping active on social media sites and other forums relating to your expertise is a great place to start building more of those relationships.
It’s important to build links through hard work and not take the easy way out by buying them. Purchasable links are most often to spammy websites that will not help your search engine ranking. In fact, as I’ve explained above, there’s a good chance this will hurt your ranking.
Write some great content and make it as helpful as you possibly can, then try out a few of our suggestions above. Go after websites that are relevant to your field and organization. And keep at it, because freshness also matters! It may be tempting to give up, but link building really does make a big difference in your SEO efforts.
Does your nonprofit have a strategy for building links? What does it entail? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!