The SEO landscape changes so fast, it can be difficult to know what’s working and what’s not and where to focus your efforts. All it takes is for Google to release an algorithm update and all the work you’ve been doing for the last few months can be wiped out in a few days.
Despite all the changes in SEO best practices over the years, the basic concepts have remained the same. You need to produce good quality content that meets the searcher’s needs and make sure you have enough high-quality links so that Google and other search engines know it’s an important resource.
Why Are Links Important for SEO?
If you have even a basic grasp of SEO principles, you should already understand how important links are when you’re trying to improve your site’s ranking in the search engines.
While on-page SEO (great content, proper markup, including important keywords) should always be the basis of any content you produce, if there aren’t any other pages linking to it then nobody will ever find it and read it.
Of course, you can provide the very first links from your own site. When you publish your post it might be linked to from the homepage. You can also add in-content links from other posts, but beyond this it’s important to get links from other sites.
Google and other search engines see links as a sort of “vote” for your content from other sites. Very important and useful pages will have lots of votes in the form of lots of people linking to them. For example, lots of people link to stories on the New York Times website because it’s a popular and well-respected source of news.
It used to be a simple case of the more links you had, the better, but Google has become increasingly sophisticated in how it analyses link profiles over the years and is now pretty good at detecting “unnatural” link profiles (that is links built artificially for SEO purposes rather than natural links from other people linking to your site because they think the content is good).
First Google started to pay more attention to the quality of links, so getting thousands of links from sidebar blogrolls and article directories was no longer good enough – one good link from a well-respected site might be worth the same value as hundreds or thousands of these low-quality links.
More recently, Google has started introducing over optimisation penalties in a further attempt to stop sites from boosting their SEO artificially. So, if in the past you’d built thousands of links all using the keyword “shoes” to link to your shoe site, for example, you might well have found your site disappeared from the top spots after this algorithm change was rolled out.
While links are still vitally important when it comes to SEO, your approach to link building must be a lot more considered. You need to make sure your link profile looks as natural as possible.
What Is Second-Tier Link Building? What Is Second-Tier Link Building?
First-tier link building is creating links directly to your site. This is the type of link building you are probably most familiar with.
There are many ways you can build first-tier links to your site including:
- Linking to your content from social media
- Guest posting
- Asking other sites to link to you
- Publishing press releases with links to your site.
These are all pretty standard SEO practices. Building these kind of links is still powerful (provided you take care to avoid over-optimisation penalties as previously mentioned).
Second-tier link building means, rather than creating links directly to your own site, you create links to a page that is already linking to your own site.
Confused yet? This is best explained with an example:
Say you publish a guest post on another site (let’s call it groovyguestposts.com) with a link back to your own site in your author byline. This is a classic example of first-tier link building.
Now you can go ahead and create some links to your post on groovyguestposts.com. The easiest way to do this is to share your guest post on Facebook. After you’ve shared your article, some of your friends read it and find it useful so they share it too. Eventually, it ends up with a few hundred links from Facebook and other social networks.
These links to your guest post from social media site are second-tier links. You’re not linking directly to your site, but rather you’re linking to, and therefore boosting the power of, your guest post.
Second-tier links can come from anywhere – they certainly don’t have to be social media sites. If you have another blog and link to your guest post, this would also be second-tier link building.
Why Are Second-Tier Links So Useful?
Some clever SEO experts first cottoned onto the idea of second-tier links as a way to avoid the over optimisation penalties.
Rather than throwing thousands of links at their own site and risking being penalised for it, they’d create a single link in a post and publish it in an article directory. This article directory site would then act as a sort of buffer to allow the site to benefit from the links without the danger of being penalised.
Article directories are no longer powerful and I don’t recommend you follow this strategy today! However, the same principles apply.
By building second-tier links to a page that’s already linking to your site, you will boost the SEO value of that page. As lots of people are linking to it, Google will recognise it as a more important and useful page. This importance then passes down to your site because it’s linked to you. You might have heard this effect being described as “link juice”.
Second-tier links don’t only help to improve your rankings. They can also help you to get more traffic to your site as more people will read the post containing your original link, and might follow the link to visit your site.
If you’re trying to build up authority to your own site and you’re not very well-known yet, publishing a guest post on a high authority site and building some second-tier links can also be a lot more effective than trying to link-build directly.
Imagine, for example, that you have a technology site and you manage to get a guest post published on Mashable. Mashable is a very high authority site with thousands of readers every day so you’ll get a lot of traffic just from the post alone.
However, if you also share your guest post on social media, it’s much more likely to be shared by others than a post on your own site, as Mashable is a well-known site known to publish great content. You may very well find that it accumulates thousands of shares and links from other blogs.
How to Get Started With Second-Tier Link Building
You can build second-tier links to any first-tier links you already have but the most effective strategy is probably the one combining guest posting and social media that we’ve already mentioned.
Start by identifying some high authority sites in your industry or niche that accept guest posts. You can check the authority of any site using these free tools.
Once you have a list of relevant sites to guest post on, come up with some good ideas for posts that will really benefit the site you’re posting on. This will make them more likely to publish your post. Guest posting strategy goes beyond the scope of this article, but there’s a good guide here.
As soon as you’ve succeeded in having a guest post published on another site with a link back to your site, you can get started with second-tier link building.
Start by sharing your guest post on all your social media accounts. If your article is good, hopefully, some other people will share it too and maybe even link to it from their own sites.
You could also reach out to other sites and see if they’d be interested in linking out to your guest post (maybe as an additional resource on an existing post).
Of course you can also link to your guest post from your own website.
Don’t just stop at one guest post. Once you’ve been successful at having one published and built some second-tier links to it, you can start thinking about where you’re going to publish your next guest post.
You can check the number of second-tier links you have at any time by using Moz’s Open Site Explorer. Just paste the URL of your guest post and see how many root domains are linking to it.
Harness the Power of Second-Tier Link Building
Second-tier link building can seem a bit overwhelming and complicated at first but it’s actually a really simple and easy way to get some great quality links to your site.
I think this kind of link building is a great strategy for sites of any size. It’s easy to implement and costs nothing.
If you need more help with link building, getting more traffic to your site, or any other aspect of digital marketing, our team at digitalmarketingspecialists.com.au is happy to help. Get in touch today to see how we can improve your SEO and build your brand.