Foundational Links Explained
Foundational links are the cornerstone of your backlink profile, the first initial backlinks that are built when your website is brand new. They are an essential step in every SEO campaign and allow your site to rank for low competition keywords and most importantly: your brand name.
Backlinks in general serve as votes of confidence from other websites, signalling to Google that your content is relevant and trustworthy. When a reputable website links to yours, search engines will view this as a signal of quality.
By building foundational links, you’ll be able to improve your website’s visibility and credibility on search engines. This results in improved rankings for your first pieces of content, your homepage and landing pages early on in your SEO journey.
It’s also important to note that the anchor text used in foundational links should follow a logical structure to establish your website as a topical authority in your niche. The focus keyword of your homepage is typically a high competition keyword that reflects your overall business, while the focus keywords of landing pages and initial blogs will typically be lower competition, since they’re easier to rank for. When selecting anchor text in foundational links, you should choose a variety of branded, keyword-rich and navigational (click here, learn more, etc.) text.
What’s the difference between foundational backlinks and regular backlinks?
While we’ll jump into the most common types of foundational links later in this blog, you’ll notice many similarities between foundational and regular backlinks. The main difference is the time when the backlinks are built. Foundational links are built at the start of an SEO campaign, often coinciding with a website launch or a rebrand. Standard backlink building tactics can be used to build foundational links, although there are types of foundational links that you won’t be using later on in SEO campaigns as well.
Types of Foundational Links
Having a diverse backlink profile is crucial for SEO because it accelerates the time it takes for Google to consider your website credible. When search engines crawl and index websites, they take into consideration the quality, quantity and relevance of backlinks pointing to a site. A diverse backlink profile will indicate that a website is being referenced by a variety of reputable sources.
Building foundational links from a variety of sources will help your chances of ranking early on in your SEO efforts.
Here are the 4 types of foundational links that we like to build for clients:
Business Directories: Directory backlinks don’t always pass link equity, but when they do, they really do. This is because most business directories are established websites with robust backlink profiles and authority on search engines. Business directories are also location or niche specific, which can help build your website’s trustworthiness. For example, if you were running a SaaS, it’d make sense to create profiles on software review sites like G2 Crowd and Capterra.
Social Media Profiles: While social signals are not a ranking factor, it’s still important to claim your brand’s social media profiles at the start of an SEO campaign. While social media profile links won’t really move the needle when it comes to ranking for your focus keywords, it will flood the page 1 results for your branded terms. For example, if you search for “Spacebar Collective” on Google, our Linkedin Page and Twitter/X Profile are among the first results.
Guest Blogs: Writing new content as guest contributions for established blogs is a great way to build foundational links because you have complete control over the anchor text used. And as we’ve already mentioned, anchor text is important in building yourself up as a topical authority. Guest blogging is the link-building tactic you’ll likely continue well beyond your initial foundational links, as it’s one of the most consistent ways to build powerful backlinks.
Link Insertions (Niche Edits): Unlike guest blogs, link insertions are where your link is edited into existing content that’s already published on someone else’s website. Some would argue that link insertions are more powerful than guest blogs because Google has already indexed these pages and already ranks them for keywords in your niche.This is especially true if the page you’re getting a link insertion from is getting meaningful search traffic. You’ll not only earn a relevant backlink to your site, but you’ll also gain referral traffic from their article.
3 Link-Building Tactics for New Websites
Citation Building: Citations are any mentions of your business details and link to your website on business directories, review sites and social media platforms. These are considered foundational links because you build them just once when you launch your website. If you’re a brick and mortar, you might want to look into local citation building, which will help your business appear on Google Maps, Apple Maps and other local search engines. If you’re a startup, you’ll want to build citations on websites like CrunchBase and G2.
Cold Email Outreach: Sending cold emails is one of the most effective ways to build backlinks from guest blogs and link insertions. It all starts with link prospecting, the process of identifying websites most likely to accept guest contributions. Once you have your list of target websites, you’ll need to find contact email addresses using tools like Apollo.io. From here, you can use email outreach software to send out your cold emails and a small % of the people you contact will accept your guest blog content.
Competitor Backlink Analysis: Checking competitor backlinks will allow you to understand what’s already working for websites in your niche and give you target websites that are up for collaboration. If your competitors have built links from a site, so can you!
When Should You Build Foundational Links?
Website Launch: As soon as your website goes live, you should be thinking about building foundational links. In fact, if you can accelerate your website launch, this would be beneficial because SEO takes time and there is a time cost involved with ranking. The sooner you rank, the sooner you can earn organic search traffic.
Website Rebrand: Since many of the foundational links you build will help with branded terms, it makes sense to focus on updating your foundational links when going through a rebrand. You’ll want to make sure that all citations have up-to-date information. If your rebrand also includes a new domain and 301 redirects from your old site to the new one, you’ll want to make sure to update as many of your foundational links as possible to the new website. While a 301 redirect will help pass link equity from old to new, there is a chance that some of your website’s authority will be lost in the process. Updating backlinks safeguards you from this potential loss in site migration.
Before an SEO Campaign: If you didn’t build foundational backlinks at your website launch, this is the time to do it. Make sure you have a strong foundation before putting resources into SEO as a growth channel to ensure the best odds of ranking on Google.
Outsourcing Foundational Link Building
Outsourcing link building is ideal if you don’t have the time or expertise to build backlinks in the early stages of SEO. There are 2 categories of foundational links you should consider outsourcing, each for different reasons.
Citation Building: While you should be able to handle citation building on your own, outsourcing citation building to an agency often results in a higher volume of citations and it’s a massive time saver. Building up profiles in business directories can be a time consuming task, so hiring an agency is a great option if you’re swamped with other work around the time of your website launch.
If you’re interested in letting us handle your citation building campaign, contact us today for a custom quote.
Guest Blogs and Link Insertions: While these are considered some of the most powerful foundational links you can build, they’re also the most difficult ones to build. If you don’t have experience building backlinks through cold outreach or experience producing blog content, this is best left to the pros. For those ready to pull the trigger on a campaign, we have 3 tiers of backlink building packages to choose from.