Link Building – What Is It?
Link building is a term describing the actions used to increase the number and quality of inbound links to a particular webpage. This tactic is important to ensure high rankings in search engines and is a proven marketing technique to increase brand awareness.
There are several link types that are used in link building a webpage: editorial links, resource links, acquired links and reciprocal links.
Editorial links are those links that are acquired without monetary transactions, requests or exchanges. They are attracted as a result of good content and marketing strategies of a website. Because these links are freely given by other website owners, the owner of the website in question is not required to ask for them.
Contextual do-follow links from high authority websites remain one of the most important off-page SEO factors, and having a good amount of these links signals to Google and other search engines that you provide great information in your content, that is valuable to the readers of other trustworthy sites, making your website or blog seem trustworthy as well.
Good editorial links can also come from a variety of mentions or recommendations, which will typically link directly to your front page using your brand or product name. Normally it’s good to do your best to ensure diversity in the anchor text used to link back to your website, but when the link is going into your front page it does not matter that much, since Google is aware of your company/brand/product name and knows that it is much more important to emphasise diversity to blog posts or subpages which are about a certain subject.
Resource links are either one-way links or two-way links. These links are often referenced as Resources or Information links in navbars. Resource links are references to other websites containing pertinent information. Resource links have grown in importance in recent years due to the algorithms of major search engines. As Google put it, “Quantity, quality and relevance of links count towards your rating.”
Search engines gauge the value and relevance of a website by analyses of the links to that site from other websites. “Link popularity” is the measure of the number and quality of links to a particular website and is a critical deciding factor in how highly a website will rank in search engines.
Resource links must be relevant and beneficial to those visiting the website in order for the search engine to accurately rate the website. In the past, many people were using artificial link building methods to trick search engines into awarding high rankings to sites using unethical link building practices. Most major search engines now employ technology designed to pinpoint and penalized websites that use dubious link building techniques.
Also known as organically-obtained links, acquired links are obtained by payment or distribution by the owner of the website. This link type includes advertisements, article distribution, directory links, and comments from blogs, forums and social media.
Reciprocal links are two links between two websites designed to ensure mutual traffic. Here’s an example. There are two website owners, A and B. If A’s website links to B’s website and vice versa, the websites are reciprocally linked. Many website owners choose to submit their websites to reciprocal link directories to achieve higher rankings in search engines. Reciprocal links are no longer important in search engine optimization. With the 2005 Jagger 2 update, Google has ceased to give credit to reciprocal sites.
Forum Signature Links
Forum signature links are used to build backlinks to a website. Forum communities that allow outbound hyperlinks in a member’s signature permit the forum signature link technique. This method of link usage can be used to quickly amass inbound links to a particular website.
The Essentials: How Backlinks Impact Your SEO Rankings
Imagine that the World Wide Web is a vast metropolis with each webpage represented by billions of residential and commercial buildings. These buildings are connected by the streets that run between them. In this example, links are the streets between each of these buildings. Search engines use link analysis to navigate these streets, or webpages, to decipher how each page is related to one another.
Since the late 90s, search engines have used links as a means for determining the popularity of a certain website. Search engines have evolved to become more refined in their techniques and now use complex algorithms to analyze and evaluate websites and webpages.
“Be worthy of natural value links that you never asked for”
While it’s true that links are not the only thing necessary for stellar SEO on a website, search professionals agree that a large portion of search engine algorithms use link-related information to make a judgment about the relevance and validity of a website. Links enable the engines to analyze the popularity of a websites and webpages along with metrics such as trust, spam and authority. In most cases, reliable websites tend to link to other reliable sites, while untrustworthy sites receive very few links from trusted sources. The intense focus on algorithmic use and analysis of links makes it critical to have strong links building practices on a website to achieve good traction, attention and traffic on the web.
Search engines assign value to links using a combination of factors, which include: global popularity, local/topic-specific popularity, anchor text, trust rank, link neighborhood, freshness and social sharing. It is vitally important to keep track of the changes to your keyword positions on a regular basis, so you will be alerted if something suddenly works or if you may have violated some basic SEO principles, such as gaining an unnatural backlink from an untrustworthy site, so that you can take action immediately before it affects too much of your website’s SEO performance.
Global popularity refers to how popular a certain website is. For example, Wikipedia has many thousands of webpages that link to it. The high number of links leading to Wikipedia is an indicator of the popularity of the website. In order to earn a high level of trust and authority with search engines, you’ll need to enlist the help of link partners. The greater the popularity of the websites, the better off your website will be.
Links from a specific community matter more to your website’s ranking than links that are irrelevant. For example, if your website sells jewelry, a link from a trusted site dealing with jewelry will matter more in the eyes of search engines than a link from a site about wind surfing. This is also true for geographically relevant keywords, such as “Downtown in New York” where articles that have relations to sites with local authority, will help your local SEO much more and show up more often for people who are searching on Google in this particular area.
Anchor text is one of the strongest signals detected by search engines when determining a ranking. If you have multiple links to a particular page with the right keywords, your page has a very high chance of ranking highly for the targeted anchor text phrase. Any time you see searches with terms such as “click here” or “learn more here,” you are seeing the anchor text tactic at work.
The Internet is known to contain extremely high amounts of spam. In order to ensure that spam websites don’t clutter up the first pages of search results, search engines use various systems for measuring the trust of a webpage. If you have highly-trusted domains on your websites, you may achieve a significant boost in your rating. Examples of high-trust domains include universities and government websites.
As with everything else on this planet, links signals will decay over time. Once-popular sites become less popular and will eventually fail to earn new links. Search engines use the freshness signals of links to determine the popularity of a website, just like customers do as well (yep, you’ll probably make Google happy the same way you make your clients happy). In order to ensure the validity of your site, you will need to earn additional links on a regular basis.
Social media has seen an explosive rise in popularity over the last few years. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are ideal places to share links. While search engines treat socially-shared links in a different manner than other link types, they are still a useful tool to help improve the visibility of a website or webpage, besides the obvious fact that social media activity can drive customer acquisition, followers and loyalty. Most importantly though, activity on social media is a huge indicator that your brand or product is relevant, which is also one of the probably most underrated factors in Google’s search algorithm.
Okay, Let’s Look at Some Basic Link Building Strategies
In order for link building to achieve the highest possible return for your webpage, follow the steps listed below:
- Ask Business Partners and Customers to Link to You
If you have partners with whom you do regular business, you can make the most out of this relationship by sending partnership badges to them. These graphic icons link back to your site, driving traffic to you.
- Build a Company Blog
Blogs are great tools to provide valuable and entertaining information to customers and other readers (for blog themes that are great for SEO click here). This link building strategy is so popular that it is highly recommended by Google engineers as one of the top methods for link building. Blogs are able to consistently pump fresh traffic to a website, thereby increasing the likelihood of click-throughs. Blogs also permit conversations across the Internet as well as earn listings and links from other blogs.
- Create Content Worthy of the Internet
In the SEO world, content that inspires natural linking and viral sharing is referred to as “linkbait.” Linkbait includes useful, anecdotal or humorous information to enhance the potential for natural sharing. Users who see linkbait will want to share it with their families, friends and co-workers, leading to increased traffic. These high-quality, editorially-earned votes are essential to building trust, authority and rankings with search engines.
- Be Worth Speaking About
Catching the attention of the press, bloggers and the news media is an effective and time-proven method to earn links. Getting the attention of these entities can be as easy as giving away a free gift, releasing a new product or making a controversial statement.
4 Simple Ways to Become a Stellar Link Builder
1) Never Assume Anything
When dealing with the subject of link building, it is important not to believe all you may read on Twitter and Google webmaster hangouts. The tips and advice found in these locations can be useful, but you will need to ensure that they are actually beneficial to your website before following through with them. Use trusted sources to gauge the validity of the information you find online.
2) Remove All Toolbars
While metrics such as PR, TF, MR and WHTEVR are helpful in determining the value of a specific page or site, they should never be the driving force behind your site. Comments and content quality are more important than the numbers that show up with the use of toolbars, and you can generally get a much more accurate idea of your page’s authority and SEO performance through tools such as RankScanner that track and monitor your keyword positions accurately over time. In the end, your rankings are the final measurement of your SEO score.
3) Say Thanks!
Has someone linked to you or mentioned you in a positive way? Whether you asked them to or not, be sure to say thank you. Send a short email, give them a call or send a small present to show them your appreciation. Saying “thank you” is an excellent way to build trust and to establish a working relationship with people.
If you acknowledge people who give you some value – whether they know it or not – you make sure that they know how appreciated their mention is, and that that gesture didn’t go unnoticed. This drastically improves the chances that they will want to link to you again in the future, and in some cases might even spread the word to acquire more customers for your business.
4) Take Breaks
A person who spends his or her time on the computer constantly will eventually become burned out and jaded. Get away from the computer for a break every now and then. Walk your dog, go shopping or step outside on your patio or deck. A few minutes of refreshment can work wonders for the tired brain. Some of the best ideas occur when a person takes a break from the grind of daily work. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be the one who invents a ground-breaking technique that will revolutionize the way the Internet operates for the whole world.
How To Design a Natural Link Profile
Because Google and other search engines have become more stringent at pinpointing and punishing unnatural link profiles, it’s important to learn how to make use of good and strong SEO tactics. Sites once ranked well when they were full of links to pages that made money. Today, however, this tactic is mostly ineffective. The top competitive sites have increasingly diverse link profiles. Quality content is now the ultimate method of earning natural links and building trust.
“Don’t assume what you are doing is right, unless you have verified the strategy from multiple trustworthy sources”
Many SEOs make the mistake of using outdated SEO strategies when designing webpages, and don’t focus on what’s important for the user experience such as site/loading speed, to name a critical factor. They will begin by identifying the keywords they wish to use. Next, they will create pages based on these keywords that have little value to the reader. Finally, they will focus in building links to the unnatural pages, thereby creating an extremely unnatural link profile.
There are five key points to building a natural link profile. These are listed in detail below.
1) Make an Assessment of Your Link Profile
Use a tool such as Open Site Explorer to analyze your link profile. You’ll want to see how your profile measures up to those of your top competitors. When looking at sites ranked highest, you’ll usually see a mixture of anchor text and an even distribution of inbound links to internal pages. It is rare to find a high percentage of links leading to monetized pages.
2) Know Your Audience
In order to generate natural and successful links, you will first need to decide who your target audience is. While you will want to keep your intended readership in mind, you’ll also want to think about the websites that could link to you. Your content should speak directly to your target audience, addressing their needs, wants and values. If the content is relevant, your audience is much more likely to provide links to your site.
3) Engaging Content
All content on your site should be useful and relevant to your target audience. It should come from a reliable source to ensure credibility. If you are unable to perform this service in-house, hire a company that specializes in creating quality content for websites. Although you should still create manual links to the content, the content should be good enough to attract links without the creation of manual links.
Don’t spend all of your energy on producing massive amounts of content. Instead, focus on making each piece of content worth the user’s time. If possible, all your content should be custom-designed. The more effort you place in your content, the greater your likely return in links.
A common mistake made by business owners is the publishing of low-quality content. Such content is guaranteed to hurt the business and will definitely fail to attract in-bound links. Consider using infographics, videos (here’s a guide to optimise your videos for search engines), custom-designed charts and in-depth articles to increase the chances of earning in-bound links to your site.
When thinking about content ideas, consider the possible ranking terms for the content. If you write a post about a hot topic, it is more likely to receive high amounts of search traffic. It is also more likely to be discovered by bloggers and journalists, thereby acquiring links of its own.
4) Work Yourself Out of a Job
Your ultimate goal with link building is to make your content work for you. Over time, stellar content will earn links all by itself as journalists, bloggers and others discover and share the content. As link volume increases, the process will continue to self-perpetuate. Because every person who searches for your content, whether it’s on a desktop or on their mobile phones, is a target for further content, try to capture these potential targets by collecting email addresses, RSS subscribers and the encouragement of social engagement.
“Don’t worry about how other people link to you”
When you’re building links to potential customers, don’t worry about how other people link to you. Some people may use a URL as the anchor text, while others may misspell your company name. These flaws are all part of a natural link profile and are actually more likely to benefit your SEO rather than hurt you. Despite any flaws in the anchor text or target page linking to your site, high-quality links will improve the trustworthiness of your domain to search engines.
5) Scaling Your Content Development Efforts
In order to make the most out of your website, you will need to set a publishing schedule and adhere to it at all costs. An editorial calendar can help you create a workable schedule. Be sure to allow plenty of time to create your most important pieces. That way, you’ll be able to focus on marketing and link building and avoid overwhelming your audience with too much content at once.
As your content creation expands, start to pinpoint which methods and strategies work best for you. You may discover that certain subsets of your target audience are especially responsive to certain types of information or that specific topics generate significant search traffic.
If you hit upon a successful strategy, give it first priority in your editorial calendar. Don’t give up on methods that have yet to prove their worth. Keep working with them until you find something that works consistently. In order to maintain your viability, you will need to continue to acquire new links from new sites. This acquisition is only possible if you constantly grow and expand beyond your current niches.
Keep in mind the need to move away from the promotion of conversion pages using manual link building. Using your resources to create quality content is more beneficial to your website in the long run. Link-building efforts should focus around the content they create to ensure optimal returns. For every piece of content you create, you have the opportunity to build natural and organic links for your profile. You will also have the opportunity to gain links from authoritative sites that would never link to one of your commercial pages.
In the perfect world, each website would have only incoming links and no out-going links. However, it is rare that you will be able to have an in-coming link without having an out-going link in return. Link exchange is extremely important in the world of link building. The more links you have to your website from authoritative sites, the higher your site will rank according to search engine criterion.
Next to advertising, link exchange is the most successful method of increasing visitor traffic. Link exchange is also considered essential for the “searchability” of your website. Search engines will rank websites containing a large number of incoming links higher than sites that contain low numbers of incoming links. Below you will find helpful information on how to swap links.
1) Get Links with High Google Ranks
If the links you use rank highly with Google, your site ranking will receive a huge boost. If relevant sites link to your content, your URL will rank more highly in search engine results, leading to a boost in the number of visitors to your page.
2) Interlink Pages on Your Website
The importance of a specific page is determined in part by the importance and depth of other linking pages on the website. Interlink your most important pages by referencing them in the text or placing them in your site footer.
3) Snag As Many Incoming Links As Possible
The greater the number of incoming links to your site, the more highly your site will rank according to search engines. If you are in the first stages of building a website, the last thing you should to is link to paid links. There are many sites that will buy a certain number of links for you using paid directories submission to do so. Because Google despises this type of link, you will only lose money if you use them. Google may even penalize you for using paid links. Text ads and banner ads are in a different category and will not cause a problem for you if you wish to use them.
Guest blogging is a great way to build links along with building your brand. This method of link building is one of the few remaining ways that you can proactively work on link building without actually publishing content to your website and waiting for it to attract inbound links. Guest blogging has benefits beyond link building by giving you the opportunity to connect your brand with authoritative publishers and brands. It also helps you to increase your influence by broadening your audience base.
Metrics and Their Usefulness
Metrics are vital to ensure the success of your link building strategy and positive ROI. You can choose from several different tools to help you gauge the success of your efforts.
- Majestic SEO: Majestic SEO gives you a wide variety of services to choose from. Link builders can benefit from the backlink checker. The backlink checker helps you determine the number of backlinks to your site that are detected by Web crawlers. A registered user of Majestic SEO can compare up to five URLs simultaneously.
- Screaming Frog: Screaming Frog allows you to crawl a list of selected links. The output created by Screaming Frog will contain all the data relating to the links that you need.
- Google Analytics: Google Analytics is useful for all those who are interested in SEO at all levels. This tool contains everything that you need to assess all aspects of a link or a keyword including traffic reports, mobile traffic information and in-page analytics. You can use Google Analytics to measure organic search traffic as well.
All great projects are the result of trial and error. Great link building is no different. The information that you gather from your tools to assess current trends will help you to build links that will cause the rankings of your website to soar.
Maintain a critical eye when determining the next step in your link-building campaign. Having a mindset of constant improvement will help ensure an increased ROI of your efforts. Keep your finger on the pulse of the Internet. As search engines continue to evolve and change, you may find that your strategy needs to change as well. As long as your focus is on creating quality content, you can rest assured that Google will never penalize your website. Let quality content be your main goal, and allow the rest to follow from there.