Links are one of the most important aspects of SEO, signalling to Google how well-regarded and trustworthy your website is, while contributing substantially to your search engine results page (SERP) ranking.
Unfortunately, many businesses lack the knowledge to build large numbers of high-quality links, and as a result, link-building can seem difficult and is often ignored in favour of other, more familiar approaches. In this article, we will explore the value of links, dive into how Google looks at links, and offer some link-building strategies for both dealers and OEMs.
What is Link Building?
Link building is a strategy that involves developing links (often called backlinks) from other websites back to your website. There are a number of ways to go about link building but the most popular approach is to reach out to other brands and businesses in your industry or niche and ask them to provide links to your site.
However, you can’t just email 100 businesses and ask them to link to your website – you need to offer value in return and have a targeted approach about which pages you want to build links to. Articles, reports and research can offer a lot of value to other businesses and often require very little work on their end.
This article by Semrush suggests several good link-building strategies – so good in fact, that they just earned themselves another backlink with our recommendation. See how that works?
Why Are Links Valuable?
As we mentioned before, the main value of links is that they serve as an endorsement, signalling to Google that the website being linked to is trustworthy and relevant. Put simply, the more links you have to your website, the more Google trusts those pages (and, by extension, your site) and the higher it is likely to rank you on SERPs as a result.
Links also allow you to enhance the credibility and reputation of your business. By building links from influential businesses within your industry, you can gain recognition as an expert in your field and build trust with potential customers as you increase your exposure.
Link Building Strategies for Dealers
A strong online presence and good SEO are essential for dealers who want to succeed and stand out in the digital space, but one of the biggest challenges is building links in such a competitive environment, especially when dealers themselves are less likely to be publishing reports, research, etc. that other businesses can link to.
Guest posts are one of the most straightforward ways to build backlinks, and involve writing articles on other websites. Guest posts are a fantastic link-building strategy for both dealers and OEMs because they are subject matter experts. Whether it’s articles about new models, what’s involved in running a dealership, or industry insights, there is no shortage of topics for dealers and OEMs to write guest posts about.
Other businesses are always hungry for content, especially free content, so don’t be afraid to reach out to people in your local and professional network about writing some guest posts in exchange for backlinks – it will benefit both of you.
Online Directories & Citations
Another great approach is to make the most of online directories. While the White Pages and Yellow Pages may be long dead in their paper forms, the online versions are loved by Google due to their thousands of connections and are considered to be high authority sites (and thus, high quality links) – and best of all, a lot of them are free!
Although it might seem outdated if you’ve already got a Google Business Profile, taking an afternoon to list your dealership with as many online directories as you can find is one of the easiest and most valuable forms of link-building you can do, as every citation you receive (that’s the official term for a mention in a directory) will be highly-regarded by Google and go a long way towards improving your ranking.
The Importance of NAP
However, before you go out and start listing your business left, right and centre, you need to understand the importance of NAP. NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone Number, and refers to the process of ensuring every mention of these three pieces of information is the same, both in its format and contents.
For example, if your phone number on your GBP listing is 04102 485 00 then it needs to be presented with the same formatting (ie: spaces after the 2 and the 5) on every other platform, whether that’s your website, online directories, or social media. This is so Google can see the correlation between each as being the same business.
This is most important when it comes to local SEO (i.e. businesses that operate in a local area, such as dealerships) as Google sees the consistency of this information not only as a sign that all mentions of this business are connected but also that you are providing accurate information to your potential customers.
Get Links from the Local Community
Many dealers are visible and longstanding members of their local community and can leverage their existing relationships for link-building. Local repair shops, suppliers, or community groups (such as sponsored sports teams) can all provide backlinks and are often much easier to approach than businesses with whom you don’t yet have a relationship.
Leverage Your Media Spend
Dealers spend a lot of money advertising through local print and radio but rarely look to leverage their spending power to build quality links. Don’t be afraid to leverage your advertising spend to get articles in publications whom you have a relationship with – if they’re making a lot of money off you, chances are that they’ll be happy to give you some extra coverage to help your link building. Media outlets tend to be highly regarded by Google, and so any backlinks from them will be regarded by Google as high-quality inbound links.
Link Building Strategies for OEMs
Leveraging Your Dealer Network
Content such as reviews, maintenance and buying guides will also work as link-building tools for OEMs, but they are far less effective than leveraging your existing network: dealers. Most OEMs will have dozens of businesses in their dealer networks, and these offer the easiest method of link-building.
As an OEM, you can simply sort through your dealers’ websites and list any that are not linking to your website. Once you have your list, just send the dealers an email explaining what link building is (you can always link them to this article), give examples of how they can link to your website, and let them know that you have (or will) provide links to their website, ensuring a mutual benefit for you both.
Maximising Your Press Releases
In our industries, businesses tend to be poor at promoting themselves. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Dealers sell products that people want to know about, and publications want to write about. Whether you’re a dealer or an OEM, there is always something new you can discuss: new models, new colours, new pricing.
At both a local (dealer) and national (OEM) level, sending press releases to industry publications, auto and travel media can be a great start and a relatively easy source of highly relevant backlinks. Compile a list of media contacts, and whenever there is something new happening, take 20 minutes to write a press release and send it out.
Although you won’t get a link from every attempt, building relationships over time through consistent press releases will eventually pay off, and requires very little extra effort.
What About Buying Links?
If you’re short on time or manpower, there is another alternative to building links, which is buying links. Buying backlinks involves paying other websites and businesses for articles, directory listings, mentions etc. and is a perfectly valid form of link building, but one that needs to be approached with caution.
Although Google considers buying links to be an acceptable form of link building, there are certain types of links that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, and which you need to be mindful of if you plan on buying links. These include:
Excessive link exchanges, i.e. linking back and forth between your website and that of your partner.
Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links.
Using automated programs to generate backlinks.
Requiring a link as part of a Terms of Service, or contractual arrangement.
Exchanging money, goods or services for a link that passes PageRank.
It is also important to note that any links you purchase must carry either a “rel=nofollow” or “rel=sponsored” attribute. But what does that mean?
Understanding No Follow Links & Sponsored Link Attributes
Link attributes give search engines context around the link.
The attribute rel=”nofollow” tells the search engine that the Informs search engines the link was only created as a reference, and that the author of the link (i.e. the website doing the linking) does not endorse the website being linked to. This stops the linked website from receiving any benefit from the link.
The attribute rel=“sponsored” tells a search engine that the link was created as part of an advertising or sponsorship arrangement, instead of being an organic endorsement of the link’s value.
Because neither no follow links nor sponsored links pass any authority to the linked site, they do not violate Google’s Webmaster guidelines. Although this lack of authority also limits their value from an SEO perspective, no follow links and sponsored links can still serve a purpose.
In 2019, Google announced that it would treat nofollow links as hints rather than directives – effectively meaning that it will sometimes value it and sometimes won’t. So, while you may not get a huge amount of benefit from a no follow link, it can still offer value.
How to Approach Buying Links
If you plan to buy links, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you don’t throw your money away. Firstly, you only want to work with websites and business owners who have high standards, such as:
They never advertise that they sell links. If a site doesn’t advertise that it sells backlinks, it is incredibly difficult for Google to detect and identify that a link has been bought.
They only sell links to relevant sites within their industry or niche. This will help preserve a natural outbound link profile, so stick to businesses in your industry, and avoid buying links from sites that promote 10 different niches at once.
They distribute paid links naturally in their content along with normal, unpaid links. Sites that do this will make it even more difficult for Google to identify which links have been bought.
They only publish high-quality content and, ideally, create the content themselves to ensure a consistent tone and style. Nowadays, that means avoiding websites that publish obvious AI-written content, as this is likely to be penalised by Google in the near future.
Some Final Notes On Link Building
As with so many aspects of digital marketing and SEO, your work is never done, which is why you need to revisit your efforts at link-building constantly. When links are implemented, they gradually get stronger (i.e. have a gradually increasing effect on the page they’re linking to) over the course of about a month or so.
Eventually, this effect starts to subside, which is why it’s important to implement link building on a regular basis so that once the power of the first links starts to die down, the power of the next links is already kicking in, creating a continuous boost to your website.
Retain Media: For Industry-Leading Insights to Boost Your Digital Marketing
Hopefully, you now better understand the importance of link building and will start implementing strategies to build quality links. For more tips to help you supercharge your digital marketing, check out our Insights.
If you’re struggling to make an impact with your marketing, we can help. As auto industry specialists, we’ve worked with some of Australia’s leading brands to generate high-quality leads that help them grow their businesses. To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation, get in touch with one of our team today.
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