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How to Build Authority Without Building Links

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In order to get your website found in search results, you need to have a high domain authority. The higher your domain authority is, the higher it’s going to rank for relevant queries. For many years, the best way to build that authority quickly was to build external links pointing back to your domain on a diverse range of high-quality sources. However, after the crackdown of Google’s Penguin and subsequent updates, it became harder and harder to build authority using links as a primary strategy.

The words of Google’s own John Mueller echoed a fear in the search marketing community. Recently, he was quoted as referring to link building: “in general, I’d try to avoid that.” While links are still valuable for passing authority to your domain and a high-quality link building strategy can improve your overall domain authority without much risk of a penalty, for the average search marketer, it may be wiser to stay away from link building altogether.

That raises an important question; without link building, how can you increase your domain authority, and by association, your search ranks? Fortunately, there are several alternative strategies that can boost your domain authority just as much as—if not more than—a traditional link building campaign.

Creating Viral Content

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Your first option still involves link building, but in a much more organic way. Rather than building any links directly on outside sources, you’ll be calling upon your audience to do all the work for you. The goal here is to produce a piece of content with a high potential to circulate virally—that means it’s highly informative, entertaining, shareable, and practical—and share it to a wide audience. Those audience members will share your content in turn, and eventually, it will catch the attention of several dozen (if not hundred) external sources. Those sources will link to you as a credit, of their own accord, which will pass ample domain authority onto you without ever having to get your hands dirty.

Social Media Marketing

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In addition to being a perfect outlet to begin syndicating your viral content, social media is a great platform for building your domain authority. While it’s not clear exactly which factors Google takes into consideration when calculating your social-related domain authority, there are many social signals that can actively improve your position. For example, companies with large social followings tend to have higher domain authorities than those that do not, and companies with high levels of engagement—that means your followers have a high tendency to like, share, or comment on your content—also have increased domain authority. Engage with your audience frequently and make an active effort to build your following. If you can encourage enough activity on your social profiles, you’ll earn a much higher domain authority without the need to build external links.

Brand Mentions

Google also considers mentions of your brand name on external sources when calculating domain authority. In a sense, you can consider brand mentions to be a milder form of external links. Because brand mentions do not trigger any spam-related red flags to Google, it is much safer to build brand mentions on external sources, and you can therefore use them as a simple substitute for your traditional link building strategy. Capitalizing on the same high-authority, industry-relevant sources, you can post occasional brand mentions to boost your domain authority, and you can also use nofollow links to attract referral traffic to your brand without upsetting any search bots. This works both for company brand names and branded names of individual products.

Navigation and Interlinking

If you’re looking to increase your domain authority, don’t exclusively incorporate offsite tactics. Onsite SEO implementation is just as important for building authority. For example, the navigation of your site has much to do with how much authority Google evaluates your site to have. Sites with a clear, simple, and intuitive navigation will have a higher authority than sites with a confused, jumbled, or overcomplicated system. This is because Google values high-quality user experience above all other factors when ranking websites. You can also increase your domain authority by interlinking your content; the fewer clicks it takes to get to any one page of your website, the better. You can improve this by implementing user surveys, finding ways to consolidate your pages, and redesigning your site to be more intuitive to the average user.

Historically Great Content

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Everyone knows that great content is essential for SEO, but don’t forget the fact that one piece of content doesn’t trigger an increase in domain authority. Authority must be gradually earned over time. If you produce high-quality content, consistently, over the course of months and years, your domain authority will flourish. Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut for this. Domains that have been around for decades will always have more domain authority than similar sites with a shorter history. Stay patient and committed to your domain.

Remember, as long as you’re posting on highly authoritative and industry-relevant sources with a diverse and appropriate style of links, you shouldn’t have to fear a penalty from link building. Link building can still be a valuable strategy, especially if it is used in moderation and in conjunction with the authority-building strategies listed above. The more diverse your strategies are and the more effort you spend trying to improve user experience, the more you’ll be rewarded in search engine visibility across the board.

Want more information on link building? Head over to our comprehensive guide on link building here: SEO Link Building: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.

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Samuel Edwards

In his 4+ years as a digital marketing specialist, Sam has learned the ins and outs of online marketing. Additionally, he has worked with countless local businesses as well as enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including: NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP, and human rights organization Amnesty International. Today he continues to work with and establish SEO, PPC and SEM campaigns.

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