If you’ve researched how to market your vacation rental online, you’ll be familiar with search-engine optimization (SEO) — the process of influencing the many factors that can impact where your website will show up in search results.

Some of this must happen on your actual website, something called on-page SEO. But SEO also considers how other websites connect to your page, called off-page SEO. One important part of off-page SEO is called link building.

What is link building?

Link building is the progression of having more websites to link back to your page.

“The web was built on links. Links drive traffic and they boost rankings. They are how we tell a story,” Julie Joyce explained on Search Engine Watch. “They are how we point people to things we want them to see and how we navigate through the endlessness of the Internet.”

Getting more websites to point back to your site matters; each link helps signal what your page is about and whether or not it’s credible.

Search engines use complex algorithms to decide which web pages are relevant to which topics. The more credible websites that point back to your property’s website, the higher the potential for your website to rank higher in relevant search results and the more likely that potential guests will visit your site over a competitors.

The three ways to link to your site

As explained by Moz in Link Building Basics, there are three broad ways to have more websites link back to your site:

"Apoptosis Network" by Simon Cockell (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  1. “Natural” editorial links: from sites who choose to link to either your content or business, like the local newspaper or a travel blog by a previous guest.
  2. Manual “outreach” links: from sites who have linked to you because you asked and because your site or information is relevant to them. This might include submitting your site for inclusion in  a local tourism directory, or joining the Better Business Bureau.
  3. Self-created, non-editorial links: the “low-hanging fruit” of links, like free profiles you can add your web address to, or your signature in forum posts.

Getting a lot of natural links is ideal, but it can be tricky because the only way to attract this type of link is to create good content that people will want to link to. There are no shortcuts!

As you may be able to guess, the third type of link isn’t particularly important to search engines. There is no quality control because you can add those links wherever you like, so they’re not given much weight for credibility or relevance.

Outreach links, however, are a happy medium; you don’t need to rely on someone else to think of and link to you, but you do need to be relevant or you won’t earn the link.

There’s no quick way to get more outreach links; either you need to do research, contribute something of value, or — quite likely — both. But the payoff can be great, not just when it comes to ranking well with search engines, but also when it comes to gaining credibility with real people.

Curated directories

Getting added to a directory is generally an easy process, but finding the best directories to target can be more complicated — that’s why I’ve called them curated directories. There are worthwhile free directories available, but some have a better reputation than others. The Better Business Bureau and your local chamber of commerce are worth considering; relevant niche directories for vacation rentals or local travel info are also likely seen as dependable.

“Why is the search for broken links so important?” Kristi Hines asked on Search Engine Journal. “It’s because it works. No webmaster that takes pride in their website wants to lead visitors to a 404 page or a business that is no longer operational.”

While Hines outlines a detailed process to track down broken links, it’s easy enough to keep your eyes open for broken links while doing your own research into local travel information and resources. If you come across one, reach out to the website owner to flag the error. Then suggest a few relevant resources that they could link to instead (including one of your own).

Write for other blogs

“Guest blogging is probably the most effective way to generate quality inbound links to your website,” Pamela Vaughan wrote in a HubSpot article on link-building tactics. “Yes, it requires more content creation on your part, but the results are lasting and powerful.” HubSpot put together a guide that explains how you can succeed with guest blogging.

Is link building a tactic you’ve tried with your vacation rental? How did it go?