Link Building – a Guide
What is Link Building?
Link building has been a long-established SEO tactic for building rank. Simply put, rank refers to how high up your website and web pages appear in search engine results when certain keywords are input. Naturally, the goal is to have your website rank as highly as possible. This increases the chances that whoever has input the targeted keywords will click through to your website. This adds to the online traffic that will be directed towards your website and establishes the site as an authority.
Link building involves other websites linking back to your website. It is like a recommendation from the other website that your content is relevant to the keywords. Search engines like Google that detect these links will take note of this recommendation. The more highly ranked sites that create these links, the more valuable your site will appear. Search engines will then boost your ranking as a reflection of how worthy our website has become of citation.
So, link building becomes a powerful tool for boosting rank and traffic. Besides the higher rank on search engines, you can also expect more traffic from the online users that click through the links on other sites that will bring them to your web pages.
All this began with the creation of PageRank by Google. This is the name given to the algorithm that the search engine has come to depend on for determining the quality of web pages. According to Google, it is like a voting system that gauges what web pages are most important. The more links you have, the more votes of confidence you are receiving from other pages.
Not all links will, however, bring these benefits. Search engines use algorithms that analyse the various SEO tactics used by marketers to determine the quality of its content and establish ranking. These algorithms change with time. There are multiple reasons for this including misuse or unfair manipulation of the ranking process.
Certain types of link building strategies have been found wanting and resulted in algorithm changes designed to ensure improved ranking that displays the most relevant results to user queries.
How Links Boost Rankings
In SEO, the goal is to get a website and its web pages highly ranked. A lot of research and strategy goes into this. By the time a page is posted, search engines will have crawled all over them. This is to pick out the salient aspects of the content and add this to their indexes.
In determining how relevant a page is likely to be to online users, the search engine algorithm will judge the value of the content through such factors as keyword usage, HTTP encryption, page speed, and mobile optimisation. Links that connect from other sites will also be valued. Consideration will be given to the number of links and the quality of the sites they come from.
If more high-quality sites are the ones creating links, then you can expect better ranking for your website.
It is also important to note that the more links you have from high-quality sites, the more discover-able your website becomes. This is because search engines also use links to identify new web pages and websites. Once they follow links from more established and quality websites and repeatedly find their way back to a page, the more relevance it is given and the higher ranking it is assigned.
The downside to all this is that some marketers took note of the behaviour of the algorithms and attempted to manipulate it. Later updates to PageRank sought to remedy this problem by revising link building techniques and penalising those that over-optimised.
Links and Ranking
The formula to PageRank has never been fully revealed. This is not unexpected as exposing such a secret will likely lead to further bad behaviour on the part of marketers willing to do anything to build rank.
It is however evident to most that link building does play an important role in ranking. A 2015 Moz survey indicated that it could be the second most important consideration by PageRank.
Throughout all this, quality has been given special emphasis, and with good reason. With every update Google has given, there has been a clearer focus on giving the highest recognition not just to sites with many links, but links that are from reputable sources. The connection between the quality of the link sites and webpage ranking is quite stronger and will likely increase as Google makes moves to phase out low-quality links.
The Follow and “No Follow” Attribute
Nofollow links are those that have a “rel=”nofollow” HTML tag inserted in the link. This tagging is a signal to search engines that the link should be ignored. Because they are ignored, they are thought to have no impact on ranking – although we beg to differ.
Dofollow links, on the other hand, are just normal links. They are recognised by search engines and therefore have an impact on ranking.
The main distinction here is that search engines can detect the difference between these links and not bother with nofollow links. But online users cannot tell the difference as they both respond the same when clicked or copied.
Nofollow links were created by Google to put a stop to comment spam. As more content was created, spammers would flood comment sections with links to their sites. Often without comments relevant to the content posted. This led to some spam sites achieving rank quickly, over and above better quality and relevant sites.
Now, inbound links from sources such as blogs and news site comment sections, social media, and links from widgets are typically tagged nofollow. Outbound links on sites like YouTube, Wikipedia, and Reddit are also tagged nofollow. Paid links are also expected to have nofollow tags.
An easy way for online users to confirm if a link is “nofollow” or “dofollow” is to check the page source. Simply right-click on your browser and click on the Page Source option. Look for where the link on the page that appears. If it has the rel=”nofollow” attribute, then it will be ignored by search engines. If nofollow is absent, then the link is dofollow.
For marketers and developers looking to build rank, it is important to place an emphasis on dofollow links as these are what will aid their cause.
Benefits of Link Building
At an SEO level, it is clear that link building offers two main benefits. Those of helping to build rank and stimulate online traffic towards a website. But how does this benefit the businesses that finance the creation of these websites and webpages?
With more traffic directed towards a business site, there is more opportunity to show off whatever products or services that are on offer and secure sales. Whether it is a potential buyer looking for a specific item or service that matches the keywords used and brings up your webpage on the search engine, or a referral from a linked site, it all translates to more sales revenue and profit. With increased traffic, businesses have a larger audience to work with and entice.
When a website achieves high ranking, it is automatically the go-to source for trusted information. Most online users rarely go past the first search results page. They consider the sites on the top page to be an authority. They better trust the brands associated with those pages and what they offer. by landing on the top page, businesses benefit from brand building.
Content creation plays an important role in this. It is a good opportunity to show off your expertise by covering topics that pertain to your area of business. As more people find their way to your webpages through links and search engine results, you begin to stand out from the crowd of other experts as being the top in your field. Through careful use of additional strategies such as press releases, hosting events, blog comments, and guest contributions, brands can better secure their position or take it to even greater heights.
To create a link, you require the cooperation of the other site’s owner. Making a connection with an industry peer is important. It adds to your credibility as an authority figure. As long as you can convince the author of a high-quality site to create a link, then you will likely be building a relationship that will be long-lasting. Those that own high-quality sites are good for more than just boosting your rank. They are likely influencers in their own right that bolster your reputation and help market your brand.
Enhanced Conversion Rates
While attracting a high viewership can be gratifying, at the end of the day what matters in business is the bottom line. You will want to attract the attention of online users with a strong interest and capability to buy what you are selling. The relationships you build with influencers is important as they can draw the attention of their followers in your direction. Having an influencer with a strong following and affiliation to the kind of product or service you offer can be a boon to your sales. The more relevant your influencer is to what you offer, the more likely his audience is to take his recommendations to heart and deliver stronger conversion rates.
Long Term Returns
One of the best rewards of proper link building is that it is the gift that keeps on giving. You can even edit should you find you are in contravention of a recent update. It can be very difficult to knock off top-ranked pages. So, if you do achieve this top rank, you will find a steady stream of referral traffic headed your way.
That high ranking will also likely attract even more links that can help to further maintain the top spot. As new links are added and the brand strengthens, the more easily top rank is retained and continues to send more online traffic your way that can be converted to actual sales.
To gain any of these benefits, you will, however, need to start with creating link-worthy content. You need to give other sites a reason to connect with you. High-quality content lays the groundwork for link building. It needs to be relevant, timely and can incorporate ideas that can have links built into it.
Inbound, Outbound and Internal Links
Outbound links are those you incorporate into your content that point towards or take online users to other websites. While we have mostly focused on inbound links, outbound links do also play a major role in boosting ranking. They can help to better define the niche and authority of your website to search engines.
They also provide a chance to connect with other related bloggers ad businesses who can in turn link back to your site and also contribute referral traffic. Because the content is your own, you have full control over defining if these links are nofollow or dofollow.
Inbound links are also referred to as backlinks. These are the links that are created on other domains and lead online users to your pages. These links have the greatest influence over ranking. They are the ones that are counted almost like votes of recommendation in your favour. As mentioned, the better quality sites that provide backlinks, the better ranking you can achieve. Both inbound and outbound links are also referred to as external links.
Internal links are another form of linking that connects different webpages within the same domain or website. These links are normally created as a means of navigating through a website. They also help to establish connections between related content and help share link value.
Link value is spread across all the links on a web page. As it connects to related content on other webpages in the same domain, the link value is further divided on the subsequent page.
Internal Linking Strategies
Internal links are important because they help search engines understand the relevance of web pages, how they relate to one another, and their link value.
When adding new content to your website, you should link it to whatever other articles, videos, infographics, or other material that relates to the same topic. This contextual linking will confirm to search engines that the content is related and provide links that makes it discoverable. Ensure that if this article was inspired by more comprehensive content, that it also links back.
This comprehensive content can also be referred to as your cornerstone. It should be the most complete article on whatever topic you are covering that has all other content that is related link to it and vice versa.
Setting up a related section is also ideal. You can make use of plugins to manually do so, ensuring that the content whose links you are listing actually fall under the same or related category. You can also add a recent posts section. Even if not related, it is a good way to promote your more recent content on the side or below the post. Navigational links and taxonomies help to keep your website organised and easily navigable.
Also, pay attention to what you put in your anchor text. Search engines will use this as a guide on what your page content is about. When linking off of anchor text, be moderate in your use of links and ensure your keyword choice is well varied and relevant for good ranking. Avoid spam-like phrases and repetition. Diluted rather than optimised anchor texts can be helpful in this post-Penguin update era.
Link Building Strategies for Heightened Visibility & Authority
Effective internal link strategies are useful in making a website more navigable, helping to spread link value, and defines page hierarchy. Let’s now look at how external links can be used to help make business sites more visible and earn authority that will boost rank.
The choice of keywords on which to build content is typically guided by the words and phrases that your targeted audience is most likely to input when on search engines. A business needs to take time to understand their clientele and what they want. This research can be time-consuming, but the wealth of knowledge will play a critical role in content value.
Keyword research tools can help identify variations of keywords, phrases, and queries that are of most interest to your target audience, and their volumes. This research can even bring up topics that you never expected your audience would want more information on.
When selecting the keywords and phrases on which to build your content, do not just focus on those with high volume numbers. Give some consideration to low competition keywords. They may even lead to your carving out a niche for yourself that could prove strategically beneficial to your business.
For a more targeted approach that narrows down to an audience that is most relevant to your business, do factor in the long tail of the search. Though less popular, long-tail keywords do have a good conversion rate as they account for the more specific search terms that online users input.
As a part of your research, also consider what your direct competitors are up to. It is preferable to avoid taking the same route when they are already ahead of you in the use of particular keywords. Seek out high volume keywords that your competition is not ranked for. These could be the opening you need to raise your visibility.
Link Building from High-Quality Sites
EAT is an acronym that denotes the qualities that a high-quality website is supposed to possess. These qualities are expert, authoritative, and trustworthy. As search engines become more discerning as to what qualifies to be recognised as a quality website, these characteristics represent the bare minimum in ensuring online users gain access to the best return on their user intent.
For link building to help a website establish authority, the links must come from websites that possess EAT. The links should be from content that is credible and trustworthy. Google has become more aggressive about weeding out spam sites so focusing your link building efforts on EAT sites can help in both achieving and maintaining high ranking for the longest period possible.
It is good to keep up a steady pace when link building. Too many too fast and search engines may consider them spam sites. Focus on high-quality sites with the strangest relation and relevance to your own if you are looking to keep rising in the ranking.
Link Profile Reviewing
Your link profile is a compilation of all your inbound links. It provides information such as the number of links, their quality, and diversity. Search engines like Google will penalise sites that have bad link profiles that possess plenty of spammy backlinks. It is important to keep on top of your link profile and ensure that linking sites remain relevant to your own content. This refers to both the general content of the linking site and the specific content on the webpage it is linking from.
To limit the problem of spammy backlinks, check on the domain authority of the linking sites. Low-quality links will have high spam scores and low domain authority. You can use tools like Ahrefs to confirm domain scores and start taking down links that could be dragging down your ranking.
The freshness of the content being linked also matters. If the posting is several years old, it may have lost some of its relevance and can steadily decline the value of your link and link profile. When building content, the freshness will also matter. Updating your posts to reflect their impact in the current 2020 year can put you ahead of other sites with similar content. This jacking makes your content appear more current and therefore relevant.
Identifying broken links because a site or page has disappeared can also provide an opportunity to create similar content on your site. You can then reach out to other sites and offer your content as an alternative link, adding to your backlinks. You can use a similar approach in link reclamation by checking if any broken links are pointing to your site and redirecting them.
Even at the best of times, a website will have some combination of nofollow and dofollow links. Dofollow links from high-quality sites will have a strong positive impact on your rank profile. As said earlier, you can check on this using Page source code.
Your link profile will also be impacted by the depth of your links. Your website’s homepage is likely to receive the most links. For many sites, this is where cornerstone content is located. It should however not be oversaturated. There must be some balance achieved with the content on deeper internal pages of the website. This brings into focus content value. The better the quality content you have on your internal pages, the more backlinks it should attract
When considering the diversity of your link profile, it should indicate a broad interest in as much of your content as possible. This means that your backlinks should connect with a variety of webpages on your site. Not just blog posting and the home page. Even the about page and contact page should have some hits. There should also be some variation in the range of linking pages, though they should still remain related. From news sites to business directories, try to ensure that anything related to your brand that is mentioned online will have a link that allows online users to find your website.
Link building can be an exhausting and time-consuming endeavour. There are so many areas to be covered and updates to keep up with. Outsourcing some of the work to an external agent leaves the site owner with more time to deal with more fundamental and real-world aspects of their business. It may seem like an expensive affair, but you will probably spend less on these services than what you additionally earn during the same period when focused on your core business.
Experienced agents are well adapted to understanding how link building works and keep updated on industry changes that may impact their clients. A good provider should be able to evaluate a website’s link profile and advice their client on what areas need addressing.
Be careful when selecting a marketer that will undertake your link building efforts. Understand that you get what you pay for so avoid cheap deals that may result in poor content and links that damage your ranking rather than boost it. Search for a team that is reputed for being dependable, knowledgeable, and are authorities in their own area of expertise.
Make a review of their website to see how well they have managed to execute content and link building strategies to build their own rank. You can even ask for a portfolio of their clients to see if they are capable of delivering as promised. Be sure to clearly outline your needs and expectations. At the same time, understand that link building takes time so be patient about results while tracking the efforts being made.
Be aware of the sites your provider will be using to build links from. It is important to give effective guidance on what kind of results you are looking for and how you expect them to be delivered. You can achieve this through such efforts as profiling the level of domain authority, site/publisher reputation, and types of links you expect. Have the provider take you through their link building strategies to avoid concerns such as link schemes that could negatively affect your ranking.
Link Building Dos and Don’ts
- Have a healthy mix of nofollow, dofollow, external and internal links
- Steadily increase and maintain freshness alongside the content
- Have relevant and natural anchor text
- Make use of irrelevant paid links that are now more easily detected by more sophisticated search engine algorithms
- Make excessive use of link exchanges, especially for unaffiliated sites with little relevance to your own
- Link to low-quality directories that have historically been used to manipulate algorithms
It is noteworthy that search engine algorithms continue to be updated and refined. Each time an update takes place, some sites lose ranking while others rise (sometimes) because of the quality of link building tactics that have been applied. While link building can be sometimes complex, marketers should have a reasonable idea as to whether or not the strategy they are using is shady or not. Keeping abreast of new developments in link building should also be prioritised.
Focus on building relevant and authoritative links from customers and partners in your industry. Continuously build your content and strive to make it high quality, fresh, interesting, and unique. Also, keep your content visually appealing and engaging by taking advantage of such tools as video content and infographics.
Incorporate interactive content like infographics, quizzes, polls, and interactive e-mails will prove more engaging and entertaining to your audience. This can also allow marketers to capture important data from users that can guide future content building and aid in building a more distinct niche presence that will encourage your audience to keep following you and boost conversion.
Be location specific to match long-tail searches from the most potential customers. Real-world engagement should also not be underrated. Having your brand recognised by news sites and blogs for such activities like sponsoring charities, hosting events, running sales promotions, and more, also contributes.
Keep reviewing your link profile to gauge the quality of your links and guide your future efforts in link building. Make use of social media platforms to disseminate newsworthy developments and provide links that will boost your online traffic numbers. Even though such links do not help in building authority, they do boost viewership numbers and can provide a great opportunity for enhancing brand recognition and engaging with viable partners and customers for link building.
Match your real-world efforts to build brand recognition by aiming to provide your clients with the highest quality in products and services. How well your efforts are received in the real world will often be reflected online through such mediums as online reviews. When complemented with a well-built website that is highly visible and ranked authoritatively thanks to such efforts as good content and link building, there is nowhere for your business to go but up.