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What is link building and why is it so important for charities?

17 May 2019

Link building is the process of getting other websites to link to your website, endorsing your content in the eyes of search engines, and resulting in search engines ranking your content higher.

It’s a key part of a process known as search engine optimisation.

Why is Search Engine Optimisation important?

It’s pretty safe to say that every organisation – big or small, charity or not – faces its own unique challenges when it comes to boosting organic search digital presence.

Having said that, often the challenges faced fall into one of two baskets:

  • You don’t rank for your most important keywords
  • Your competition outranks you in search results

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) falls into three main work streams:

  • Technical: having a well designed, fast website that search engines find easy to crawl and index
  • Content: pages that answer users search queries better than competing pages
  • Links: Other websites endorsing your content by linking to it as a trusted resource (which is what this article is all about)

Working as an SEO consultant for a range of organisations in different fields, I would say that the one challenge anyone working on SEO consistently faces is that of link building.

Link building is a common stumbling block and is the process of getting other websites to link back to your website’s pages. And here’s the kicker… crucially, link building is the best way to increase your rankings and beat your competition in the search results.

Why is link building important?

Link building is important because Google uses the links from other websites to measure how authoritative your website is. These days it’s not just the numbers of links that matter either – Google looks at a multitude of factors including:

  • How much traffic the referring website receives
  • How much traffic the referring page receives
  • How well the referring page ranks in search
  • The relevance of the referring website and page to your website
  • The physical location of the referring website (hint: your country is best)
  • How difficult it is to earn a link from that website (hint: the harder the better)
  • The text the referring website uses to link to you
  • How new the linking page is
  • That the link is editorial and not paid for

You don’t need to have all of these ducks in a row, but it’s definitely a case of the more the better.

What advantages do charities have?

Link building is always going to be a hard slog, but it’s so important that if you are serious about growing your organic search performance, it is crucial to get right.

  • Luckily for charities, you’ve got have some things in your their favour that your typical organisation doesn’t have.
  • You’re a charity and you help people – and people also want to help you (and be seen to help you – linking to your website reflects well on them too)!
  • You’re an expert in your field, so Government, educational and major news websites are potential targets (surprise, surprise: these are also the best websites to get links from – period)

This definitely gives charities an advantage in this area compared to profit driven organisations who face a multitude of barriers when they link build – everyone knows they are out to make a buck and/or have an ulterior motive when they do link outreach. Not to mention they are probably in competition with many of the larger websites in their niche. All of which makes it really difficult, even when they’ve got great content or a great product.

So how do you link build in the charity sector?

Essentially building an effective link building campaign can be broken down into relatively simple steps:

  • Create highly authoritative pages built around the main topics that:
    • you specialise in
    • people are searching for
    • other websites are writing about
  • Identify the top websites that are writing about these topics – focus on government, educational and those currently ranking in organic search results
  • Reach out to those websites with relevant content on your website

We’ve had some excellent results following this process which have lead to significant improvements in traffic.

For instance Reach Volunteering has been link building with Government and other highly rated websites for almost a year and during this period their organic search traffic has doubled.

Of course we’ve been working on the technical and content aspects of SEO as well, but given that pages which we have made no changes to are now ranking significantly higher in search results, we can draw a strong correlation between link building activity and increased rankings.

To summarise…

Link building is crucial to moving the needle upward on your ability to rank in Google search results – great content alone doesn’t cut it by itself for the vast majority of websites – you need to show that you are knowledgeable enough that other people want to share your content too.

If you are consistently ranking between three and 10 in organic search results for your money keywords and you’re confident that your targeted pages are best in class, I believe that link building is your best option to move the needle.

Photo by Mike Bird from Pexels

Damon Rutherford

SEO, PPC, UX Lead, freelance

Damon Rutherford is the search engine optimisation strategist for Digitator, a digital marketing agency who work with some of the biggest charities in the UK, including the British Heart Foundation, Marie Curie and Reach Volunteering.