It’s hard to talk about SEO without mentioning link building. This is one of the focal points of web marketing, and it’s crucial for reaching top spots within search engines.
In many ways, links are a vote of confidence you get from other businesses. They are a measure of authority showing Google and other search engines that other people enjoy your content.
Due to their importance, website owners have used different tricks over the years to get as many links as possible. Nowadays, search engines are much better at detecting these shady practices, forcing companies to focus on high-quality content creation and relationship building.
In this backlink guide, we’ll talk about the importance of link-building and share a few strategies that will help you acquire them.
What are links, and why are they important?
The term “link” commonly refers to external links or backlinks. However, we also use it for internal links meant to connect different website pages. External links are further categorized as inbound (links coming to our site) and outbound (links going from our site).
So, what makes them important?
Many years ago, websites were able to rank through content alone. This made it easy to rank at the top of the search engine without concerning yourself with external factors. All this changed with the introduction of Google’s PageRank algorithm.
The search engine wanted to create a system that was more objective, so they introduced links as essential ranking factors. In other words, as other websites link to your pages, they become stronger. Given that no one wants to send their readers to crappy resources, this made it important for websites to produce authoritative content that actually helps people.
To this day, links remain a vital ingredient for ranking. The approach was further refined over the years, and Google is slowly introducing other factors, such as user experience, to measure the value of pages.
How to measure the quality of a link?
Before we continue, it’s worth mentioning that all links are not the same. Backlinks that you get from top-tier sites are worth hundreds, if not thousands, of links from other sources. In that regard, you should always focus on quality instead of quantity.
Some links can also cause adverse effects harming your pages instead of helping them. Hyperlinks you receive from the adult industry and gambling websites are especially notorious. Some people even use them to start black hat SEO campaigns, which can flag your site and lead to a Google penalty.
Here are some of the things that affect a link’s quality:
Let’s break down each one of these!
Although Google consistently claims there’s no such thing as website authority, most SEO experts tend to disagree.
Basically, each site has its “power.” For lack of better words, this is the sum of all the content, links, and other positive factors built over time. While it’s hard to define authority properly, you can easily discern that a major news website is “stronger” than a small local station.
Not only should you get links from high-authority sites, but it’s also much better to get them from high-authority pages. Google’s logic is that solid pages with high authority will never provide incorrect information or link to irrelevant resources.
It’s easy to understand why relevance is such an important factor.
If you’re constantly getting backlinks from websites that aren’t related to your business, it can seem like a questionable practice. To prevent exploits, Google assigns more value to links received from companies that are in the same line of work as you.
Another reason why relevant backlinks are so important is that website owners usually won’t link to competitors as they don’t want to promote their business. The only reason why they would do that is that they were blown away by competitors’ content or wanted to use it to improve their own.
Google uses a reasonable surfer method to determine how likely it is that a person will click on your link. According to that, it will transfer more or less authority to another page.
Based on that, you can conclude that links placed in more prominent positions are more likely to get noticed and, thus, more likely to get clicked.
The general rule of thumb is that the links on top of a page will get more clicks than those below. Once again, the reason for this is simple: a lot of people won’t read the whole article.
Anchors are crucial for your efforts. They are phases or words connected to a link. By clicking on an anchor, a person is sent to another page.
The anchor should indicate what the page is all about. You can also use them to spark curiosity and promote services and products. Ideally, the phrase used for the anchor should be related to the article’s title or main keyword.
Back in the day, anchors were vital for a website’s success, but as SEO experts started spamming them, Google changed its approach. As new algorithms arrived, it’s now much more important to have diverse anchors than to have one of the same. In fact, having too many same anchors can even get you in trouble.
In an ideal world, your business would get a lot of links to the product pages. That way, you could instantly sell products to potential customers.
As it turns out, content managers are more inclined to link to homepages and informational resources. If you’re struggling to rank certain pages, the best way to increase their value is by interlinking them with other articles on your site. Although this won’t give them the same boost, you’ll still get something.
When you give a link to a website, you have the option of altering its attribute. By default, all links are classified as “dofollow,” and they provide the biggest impact. You can also change them to “nofollow” so that the other article gets less “link juice” (link’s power).
Nowadays, there are also links “sponsored” (for advertisements) and “UGC (for forums and comments). Each one of these has a different value, but you should always target dofollows.
What are the other benefits of links?
Most people are too focused on the SEO impact of backlinks that they often forget their other benefits.
When the links were first introduced, they were meant to share valuable information across the web. That purpose hasn’t changed to this day. As such, they can help increase your traffic even if they don’t provide any optimization benefits.
Digital marketers often neglect the fact that backlinks are a reflection of a healthy business. Companies that do well with clients, partners, and other stakeholders are more likely to get them. For example, if you’re offering something revolutionary to the public, it’s only to be expected that you’ll be featured in various news outlets and social media.
Anyway, here are some cool ways links can help your brand besides SEO:
1. Building relationships
Organic link building is nothing more than a process of relationship building. Unlike guest posting and other methods that involve monetary exchange, other people should like you and your content to gain a link organically.
Truth be told, most of these relationships won’t lead to anything besides occasional pleasantries and a few social media messages. However, in some cases, you might get incredible business opportunities just because you stayed in touch with the right person.
2. Building brand awareness
Every link is valuable for increasing brand awareness. If your name is present on all news outlets, social media, and forums, users will slowly start gravitating toward you. In that regard, even the lowest quality backlinks can help your business if enough people notice them.
In a way, they are a vehicle for your online reputation and are similar in that regard to reviews and feedback.
3. Generating referral traffic
Unfortunately, most website owners don’t even think about all the visitors they would be getting through links. If you get a hyperlink from a major news platform, this can drive enormous traffic to your content. This could also help you reach a new audience and receive more targeted traffic.
In some cases, referrals can have a much bigger impact than the potential organic traffic. This is especially true for hard-to-beat keywords where you have little chance of reaching Google’s page one. Instead of trying to get more visitors via optimization, you can just get them from other sources.
6 Best strategies for building links
The way SEO experts approach this matter can tell you a lot about their link-building agency. Let’s analyze the best strategies that would help your business!
1. Analyzing competitors’ links
The first entry isn’t necessarily a strategy but more of a methodology.
Basically, all you need to do is analyze top competitors’ links. As you’re in the same industry, you can use the same approach to reach top spots in Google. Check out all the methods they’ve used to gain traction, and try to replicate them.
Analysis can also tell you a lot about sites from which you can get links. It’s a pretty straightforward method that you should consider doing before you start anything else.
2. Guest posting
When we talk about link-building strategies, people usually think about guest posting. This is one of the oldest approaches, which still provides solid results to this day.
A fantastic thing about this method is that it works for both sides. The poster gets a valuable link, which they probably couldn’t procure otherwise. Even better, they get it with minimal effort. The website that publishes the article gets content and some extra money to boot.
It shouldn’t be too hard to find sites that publish guest posts. They usually have sections such as “write for us” or something of that sort. If there are numerous articles on a site on different topics, this is usually a good indication they’re asking for money.
Even large sites and industry leaders allow guest posting. However, in this particular case, they’re more interested in quality content than monetary compensation. If you wish to pursue one of these potent links, make sure to create a portfolio of work published on other large sites. Otherwise, they will reject you straight out.
Like everything else in life, the best way to get access to major websites is by recommendations and word-of-mouth. If that is the case, you might get published even if your writing is subpar.
3. Create linkable content
If there’s nothing interesting on your site, people simply won’t link to it. So, the best way to attract attention is by creating types of content that are “too big to fail.”
Linkable content can refer to lots of things. We use the term for surveys, studies, eBooks, awards, tools, infographics, surveys, ultimate guides, etc. The most important thing is to create something that other sites can also benefit from.
If you’re a new website with a limited budget, we suggest you consider ultimate guides, industry surveys, and round-ups. Some of these can be done with minimal investment, but each one of them requires maximum effort.
Certain types of content are made exclusively for link-building purposes. The best example of that is infographics, but you also can’t go wrong with studies, research, and other types of content that involve high-quality information.
4. Broken link building
In our opinion, this is one of the coolest ways to grow your brand.
As years go by, many pages on the web are moved or removed. When that happens, all the links that were pointing to those pages become broken. To implement this approach, you need to find articles that previously received huge attention. Then, visit all the sites that previously linked to these posts, and offer them your article as a replacement.
The method works because no one wants to have broken links on their website. However, make sure that your content is good enough so that people see it as a potential replacement.
There are a few tools and extensions that specialize in this function. However, you can also do a great job with popular SEO suites such as AhRefs and SEMRush.
5. Content promotion
As people get acquainted with your content and brand, they become more inclined to give you a link.
Content promotion is actually a method for building brand awareness and increasing sales that can also result in links. As it usually goes, any positive activity on the web can give you more exposure and, thus, more chances for backlinks.
Here are a few methods you should consider:
- Forums and communities
Although influencer marketing is a separate area that is commonly used for increasing sales, it can provide other benefits as well. Just make sure that the influencer is in some way connected to your business and that its fans would be inclined to visit your pages.
While influencers are sometimes used for brand awareness purposes, advertising’s main focus is to increase sales. When we talk about paid ads, we usually think of PPC and SMM.
Many SEO experts use forums and communities to build awareness and link to their sites. Although these links are irrelevant to your strategy, they might provide indirect benefits.
Fans will always be the best brand ambassadors. People who love your content are more likely to share it with others. This is another reason why building relationships is so important for online companies.
This is a method that provides excellent results for some SEO experts.
HARO, or Help A Reporter Out, is a platform that connects journalists with their sources. Individuals can pitch reporters various stories, which they can use to post on their sites.
The reason why this approach doesn’t work for many people is that they don’t have anything newsworthy. You won’t attract reporters’ attention with simple articles, and often, not even case studies are good enough. So, you have to think through your pitch when reaching out.
If you master HARO, you’ll start getting incredible backlinks. Keep in mind that most news stations have high authority and can pass lots of link juice to your pages.
Link-building strategies you should avoid
As previously mentioned, not every link-building strategy is a good strategy. Some of them can cause Google penalties that can set your site back several months behind. What’s even worse, other website owners and potential clients might figure out what you’re doing, which will quickly ruin your reputation.
In an ideal world, you would like to get as many organic links as possible. Unfortunately, not everyone has the resources to pursue this approach. So, company owners have to figure out the best methods that would lift their business off the ground.
Out of all the things you can do, here are a few strategies you need to avoid (for this or that reason):
- Buying irrelevant and low-quality links.
- Bribing and performing other morally questionable acts to get links
- Getting involved in link schemes.
- Using PBNs.
- Exchanging links with other sites.
- Relying on misleading redirects.
- Spamming links via forums, comments, social media, and similar platforms.
If you’re not certain about a certain strategy, you can always check the competitors in your industry. The way they built their links can also help your website!