Let’s talk link building.
Link building refers to the process of getting external pages to link to a page on your website. In the world of SEO, these types of links (also referred to as backlinks, external links or inbound links) are seen as a valuable endorsement for a site.
In fact, Moz’s most recent Search Engine Ranking Factors Study notes that high quality backlinks are some of the most influential factors in SEO. They serve as a quality signal to search engines, can increase a website’s brand awareness and conversions and significantly impact a website’s organic traffic.
While link building plays an important role in SEO, this tactic is also rather controversial. This is because some unscrupulous sites use link building techniques to exploit loopholes in the search engine algorithms in order to get their website ranked higher than it actually deserves to.
Moz calls these “black-hat strategies” and they include:
- buying links from link farms
- showing different content to the search engines compared to what is shown to users
- injecting hidden links into a website that isn’t owned by the link builder by exploiting a security flaw
These black-hat link building tactics are problematic because they don’t count as genuine endorsements.
Fortunately, modern search algorithms have become more advanced at spotting questionable inbound links. For example, Google Penguin is an algorithm update that was created to penalize sites that were creating unnatural backlinks in order to gain an advantage in the Google results.
With that said, it’s also very possible for a well-intentioned backlink campaign to do more harm than good if it’s poorly developed. Building a legitimate link network can be difficult and time-consuming, but it is also an essential part of adding true value to your industry, your customers’ experience and the Internet community.
If you want to build a loyal customer base that not only buys from you but happily recommends you to friends and family, then you need to focus on tactics that will give the customer a great user experience. Here are a few “white-hat” link building techniques to follow:
1. Create Fresh, Customer-Focused Content
One of the easiest and most efficient ways to receive quality inbound links is to generate your own unique, insightful, and quality content that compels people to want to link to your site on their own. Links found in blog posts can be a great source of backlinks and links in social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are becoming increasingly valued by search engines.
2. Quality over Quantity
Above all, the quality of a site’s inbound links is the most important. A few trustworthy and reliable links can be more valuable than hundreds of questionable links. It is worth the extra effort to seek out links from high-trafficked, valued websites.
Conversely, having too many links built in a short time, or links from questionable, low-quality websites can trigger warnings within a search engine’s algorithm (e.g. Penguin) and create a manual penalty which can lower your site’s keyword rankings and organic search traffic.
Although it may be tempting to seek easy link targets, the relevance of a backlink to a website matters a great deal. The linking website’s content and the anchor text of the link itself must be relevant to the landing page to which the link leads. The more targeted and relevant the inbound link is, the stronger the vote of confidence for a site.
4. Anchor Text
Anchor text provides search engines with cues about the content of the page that is being linked to. Ideally, any site linking into your site will use mostly branded text and targeted anchor text using the keywords you are targeting on the page. It is generally advised to have 70 percent of your backlink anchor text be branded and a logo or full URL to have a natural anchor text profile. Over-optimized anchor text can set off triggers for penalties. An example would be if 70 percent of links have the anchor text “handmade jewelry.”
5. Offer Value in Exchange
The trickiest part of link building is getting webmasters to spend time on link building for you – for free. It’s easier to get them to want to help you if you offer something valuable in return for an inbound link.
For example, a mutually beneficial strategy might be offering another site valuable content (that also contains a link to your site) that they can post on their website. Other strategies include offering a guest posting spot on your blog or offering discounted (or free) products or services.
What we don’t recommend is offering to exchange links. It’s an outdated tactic that is likely to either negate the link value altogether or flag the search engine spiders as questionable behavior.
6. Online Directories
Linking through online directories is another old school strategy that may not work as well as it once did. If you have the time to research directories that are trusted and specific to your site’s subject matter, it can be worthwhile. Some directories are still relevant for some verticals, such as real estate, tourism, hospitals, etc.
It is preferable for a directory to be human-edited, as directories that require a vetting process are usually given greater weight than directories that have entries you can add yourself. Directories are not only a valuable source of inbound links, they can also increase traffic by advertising your site to potential users.
7. Beware of Paid Links
Paying money outright for inbound links is rarely cost-effective and could potentially do great damage to a website. Although it is acceptable to pay to join a directory or to pay to advertise with a no-follow link (a link which site users can follow but prevents search bots from following), paying to join a syndicate network of links will not be effective. Search engines can quickly pick up on these networks and de-emphasize the importance of their backlinks. Investing in these types of links will quickly become money wasted.
To learn more about how to link build correctly in order to take your organic search and page ranking to the next level, reach out to our SEO and digital marketing team. We’ll be happy to do a complimentary evaluation of your link building strategy.