Whether you’re thinking about creating a self storage website or you’ve been working on improving yours for years, there’s one term swirling around in the world of SEO and self storage marketing that you may have heard: link building.

Link building is an intimidating and confusing term, but it’s important to know what it is and how to use it. There are hundreds of link building companies out there who make grand promises and charge grand prices to fulfill those promises. By doing a bit of reading, you may find that there are some simple steps you can take yourself, capitalizing on the benefits of link building without getting sucked into paying for services you don’t need.

What link building means

Link building, in its simplest terms, is the act of using links to positively affect your rankings in search engine results pages. It’s one of many ways you can improve your site’s search engine optimization.

Link building is a way to improve your site's SEO

When you build links, you seek out and earn links to your website from other credible sites. If Google views a particular site favorably and ranks it well, you can earn a bit of that site’s “link juice” to hopefully make your site rank well, too.

Why link building is such an SEO buzzword

The potential benefits associated with successful link building are powerful. If you care about your business and your website, it’s natural to want to explore the best ways to improve its search engine optimization. Plus, through all of Google’s algorithm changes, links remain one of the most important factors in determining where your self storage website design stands in search.

Much like self storage SEO in general, link building is a concept that many people don’t fully understand. There’s advice out there ranging from “Get a couple links here and there and you’ll be fine” to “Implement a 12-week long campaign and track everything along the way,” with a full range of opinions between.

What does Google think about link building?

While Google isn’t one to reveal a step-by-step process for succeeding online, there are several articles by industry leaders that shed light on link building’s place in the SEO puzzle, which makes sense given increased interest in the term over the past few years:

Matt Cutts, often the liaison between Google’s team and the world of internet marketers, regularly produces videos that, while not comprehensive in explaining the value that link building has within Google’s algorithms, present some pretty clear advice on how not to approach it.

The wrong way to build links (meet Penguin 2.0)

Because the payoff for link building is so enticing, it’s no surprise that marketers everywhere look for fast solutions. They stop when they hear “earn links to your site,” ignore their users’ needs, and try to trick the system. These tricks most commonly come in the form of:

Leaving spammy or irrelevant comments on other sites, thus pointing a link to their own sites. These comments don’t contribute to the conversation; they’re only there for the link value.

Spam comments are comments that exist only to get a link

Adding their website to what SEOs call a “link dump,” or a page that’s built for the sole purpose of pointing links to other sites. These sites are often disguised as something else, such as a business directory.

Link dump's are websites that exist only to give out links

Paying for or trading links with other website owners. These links are irrelevant to the user but the “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” mentality makes it easy to get the link.

Paid link building can be compensated with money or link trades

Ultimately, bad links are just that: a bad idea. They aren’t there for the user. They’re there for the link and that’s it. While in the past they paid off in the short-term, Google is only getting better at finding them and penalizing the websites that use them.

These wrong ways to build links became even more wrong with the release of Penguin 2.0 in 2013. This update to Google’s algorithm specifically targeted black hat SEO techniques, particularly what has come to be called “non-consensual link building.”

The right way to build links

In general, proper link building takes a lot of time – and even then it might not be successful. There are three broad strategies you can try for link building:

  1. Producing content. While the term “content” often refers to writing, it doesn’t have to be words. Content can also be infographics, pictures, and/or videos. Of course, the written word is still important. Writing articles, blog posts, or press releases is one way to produce share-worthy content.

  2. Providing relevant resources for users. Getting a link to your storage facility from a truck rental company, house cleaning service, or moving company makes sense and may prove useful to the user. You can also get links to student storage pages from local universities and military storage pages from local military bases, reaching a niche market that may need your services.

  3. Sharing expertise on a topic. This can be in the form of an internally produced blog or video, but it can be a lot more than that, too. Guest posts, interviews, collaborative articles, and more can be a way to share the knowledge you have with a wider audience.

Link building, at its center, is really just relationship building. If it doesn’t feel like it is, then you’re probably violating the way Google wants you to approach the process. You ought to be building relationships, both with the potential customers you’re reaching out to and the organizations you’re trying to earn a link from.

The good part about the relational aspect of link building is that long-term efforts can pay off. You will likely find that it takes a lot of work to build relationships with sites and businesses that can provide the most valuable links. You’re trying to provide a solution to a problem, and that takes time, energy, knowledge, and, of course, people skills.

As you continue to push beyond the “acquaintance” territory with these other companies by following ethical link building strategies, you’ll likely become a long-time, trusted partner with a reputable and authoritative organization that’s seeking to help the same users as you are — and that’s worth something, even if it doesn’t get you an immediate link.

Questions to aid your link building efforts

Rand Fishkin, co-founder of Moz.com (arguably the best authority in the SEO industry), releases a video every Friday covering a variety of topics. In his recent video about link building efforts that don’t seem to be paying off, he provided some helpful insight on what to look for as you seek out links from other sites.

Ask yourself the following questions…

...while choosing content ideas:

  • Would this content be relevant to my industry and to my audience? Is there anything about it that Google could interpret as manipulative or spammy?

  • Does my brand’s identity support this content? If a user saw this article listed in search results, would they recognize my facility as a trusted authority on the topic? Would they be surprised or pleased with what they find after visiting my site?

...while creating content:

  • Is this content something that will last a long time? Does it address issues that will be important for a long time rather than a temporary idea that will become irrelevant in the near future?

  • Does this content answer the questions my user might have? Is it a comprehensive resource that provides everything they need, or is it merely one piece of the puzzle?

...while selecting where to put the content:

  • Does the site I’m hoping to get links from link to other reputable and helpful resources, or does it have a pattern of linking to poor quality sites?

  • Is the site I’m hoping to get links from related to my industry? Would a user flow naturally from that site to mine?

  • Where does this site tend to put its links? Is it in the text or at the top of the page, readily available for the user? Or is it dropped in the footer or in a sidebar, which might look like spam to Google?

Choose a baby step and take it

The nice thing about link building is that there are many parts of it you can do on your own and there are many ways to start learning more about it without committing all of your time or money to it.

Choose content that's relevant, create comprehensive solutions, and select high-quality sites for links

If you’re looking for ways to improve the SEO of your website, you can go out and hire a link building team. You can also take some of its principles and find small steps to take on your own, and you may be surprised at how much they can help!

You don’t have to plunge yourself fully into the world of link building. There are entire companies out there dedicated to it, after all. But by understanding what it is and what it isn’t, you can decide for yourself what will be most beneficial for your facility and start to take some steps to see a boost in your SEO efforts. Begin establishing those relationships, thinking about the kind of share-worthy content you have to offer, and check out this list of link building ideas to get inspired to find what’s best for your storage facility.