Link building is one of those funny things that seems really unnatural at the time but it is the way that the Internet works.
Back in the day companies used to sell links to anybody who was willing to pay the appropriate price. This technique is now one of the really well documented black hat techniques of old school SEO.
Nowadays, link building seems to be far harder to accomplish for every day Internet users. The really sad thing is that marketers today seem to be scared of link building. This doesn’t need to be the case and whilst the rules of link building have changed, the end result is still the same. In order to increase search rankings quickly and to make Google aware of your content, link building is still one of the key activities of SEO.
What exactly is a link?
Basically the link is a piece of HTML code that points are user from one webpage to another – this could be on the same website or on a different website. The link is made up of two parts the first of which is the you are URL (or the destination address) that you want to user it to visit. The second part of the link is the anchor text which is the actual text visible on the screen to the user.
The value of links is based upon the authority of the donor website and the anchor text placed within the link.
Types of links.
There are basically three different types of links that you can build. The first are self controlled (or a natural) links. These are the links that you build yourself why you are in full control of both link destination and the anchor text. These links carry the least value for your website, however for new websites or websites that don’t generally generate a lot of content, these links can still help you kick off and SEO strategy.
The second type of link you can build are earned (or natural) links. These links that influences and your audience generate naturally for you. In other words you have had no input in the generation of these links whatsoever. Contrary to self-controlled links, and links carry the most value (or link juice) for your website. In terms of link building strategy, these links provide a very natural backlink profile. Whilst this may not be as targeted as many marketers would like, the end result is far better for your organic search rankings and really this should be the target for all content distributors.
The final type of links you can build our outreach links. These are links that you have actively sought from a website owner. Sometimes these links take the form of email outreach whereby you notify a site owner of your content, and they deem it is valuable to their own audience so they therefore provide you with a link. Alternatively you may be asked to write a guest blog for their website in which you are given the opportunity to link back to your own website. There is a high failure rate with outreach link building, but it does have its rewards.
The rules of good link building.
Although Google’s algorithm has changed to make link building more controlled, by following these basic guidelines link building can still be a key part of your strategy.
#1 – Actively link build
Especially when you start it is difficult to generate high value links, this shouldn’t put you off trying to generate links through other means. We have enough data to show that Google follows even the lowest value links for crawling and some indexing tasks. Therefore to get going, any white hat link building is good link building (as long as you are not purchasing them from a questionable source)!
#2 – Focus on content distribution
We need to ask what is the purpose of driving traffic? Ultimately the end goal is to get people to see your content. It is not important whether this content is viewed on your own website or through another medium – the key is that is seen, digested and accepted by your target audience. By making this your focus you change the game from solely building links, to providing value, information and service to your target audience / readership. The ultimate result is the same – your audience will inevitably visit your website more frequently.
#3 – Quality vs Quantity
With all developments in digital marketing and the means by which we can now profile our target audience, it is far more beneficial to look at the quality of both your links and your traffic rather than the quantity that you have achieved. This is the key to truly data driven marketing whereby the aim is to drive the cost per acquisition of each customer down and the lifetime value of a new customer or lead up.
#1 – Don’t worry about nofollow
The nofollow attribute is a piece of code that website owner can add to any link on their website. This code notifies the search engines that the owner does not want to pass any pagerank or authority through the link to the destination website. Over the past 18 months or so, the use of nofollow links has been responsible for a large part of the demise of link building as a valid SEO strategy. However, There is plenty of evidence to show that Google still uses nofollow links within its algorithms even though it doesn’t have a direct correlation to search engine results page position.
#2 – Don’t try to control the anchor text
Whilst we all want to rank for our primary keywords, the reality is that by controlling anchor text we start to over analyse and over optimise our link building and the result is an unnatural backlink profile. Evidence shows this that these artificial backlink profiles lead to a higher examination rate by Google and therefore a higher chance of being penalised or even blacklisted completely. As noted above, whilst a natural backlink profile may not be as desirable to an SEO strategy, an unnatural profiles is by far a better reflection of site authority and long-term gains.
#3 – Don’t use sitewide links
Other than your navigation and footer, sitewide links are links that appear on every page of your website. If you are trying to build links through your own website or you have generated a link from another source and it appears in either the website footer or sidebar (the point is that it appears on multiple pages) then research shows that this can actually have a detrimental effect to your SEO. It is far more valuable to have a single link on a single page which has been earned naturally than a single link but on multiple pages that has been put there artificially.
Hopefully you have found this breakdown informative and you now feel more confident to go and build links to your content and distributed more widely across the Internet. Please see our other resources regarding how to monitor the quality of your content and of your traffic rather than simply looking at the quantity figures.