We ranked a whole lot of websites including our own pages for very competitive keyword terms and it was all a direct result of link building.
If you are a complete newbie to search engine optimization, then you probably heard that the number one way to rank your website is by getting more backlinks to your site. However, it sounds so much easier than it is. For example, did you know that poor quality links can get you penalized and even de-indexed from Google?
Did you also know that Google uses hundreds of different signals to determine the quality, legitimacy and power of each link pointing back to your site? Moreover, did you know that there are several types of hyperlinks you can have?
About 60% of our clients came to SEO Web Designers after being burned by so-called “SEO experts” who did nothing more than tell the client what they are going to get them results. However, like 90% of SEO companies, they never followed through.
We even had to reject some business owners who requested our help, but, unfortunately, their website was penalized due to blackhat link schemes being used by their former SEO company.
In this beginners guide, we will cover the basics of backlinks. By the time you are done reading this, you should have a better understanding of the Do’s and Dont’s in link building. So that next time you decide to hire an SEO agency, you will make well informed and educated decisions about whom to trust with your website.
What Are Backlinks?
In SEO (search engine optimization), a backlink refers to an inbound hyperlink from one web page to another web page. In other words, site “A” is linking to site “B” in the form of a clickable text, URL or image. When clicked on, it opens the URL (website address) embedded within the hyperlink that it is pointed to.
The Importance of Backlinks
Link building is the number one ranking factor to getting your site on the top of Search Engine Result Pages (SERPS). In fact, it accounts for about 90% of all page one rankings on Google. It is not enough to optimize your web pages.
Because links are such a crucial aspect in SEO, search engines use sophisticated algorithms to determine how pages are related to each other. They analyze how popular and authoritative websites are, based on the number, relevance and quality of pages linked to them. They also consider other factors like spam and trust level of each site.
A trustworthy site tends to have links to other trusted websites. Spammy websites have very few links to trusted sources. There are many aspects of backlinks and link building in general.
Let us delve into the very basics:
Overview of professional Backlinking
1. Anchor text
Use anchor text. This refers to the right keywords used on a website. If your site has anchor text, it is more likely to rank well on search engine result pages (SERPs).
2. Link Neighborhood
Search engines can identify link neighborhood. For instance, if a website is spammy, it will link to other spam sites. Choose your link neighborhood carefully. Don’t just link to or attempt to get links from just any site.
3. Social link signals
SEO professionals have not agreed how search engines factor in social link signals. However, it is agreed that they do matter when it comes to increasing traffic and the rank of websites.
4. Link partners
You need link partners to earn trust and authority with search engines. Go for partners like Wikipedia, who are popular and trustworthy, since thousands of sites link to them. Other partners should be sites that are in your niche or industry. The latter partners matter more when compared to partners in general or even off-topic sites.
5. Trust Rank
Search engines have algorithms that identify spam web pages. The algorithms are based on the link graph. Professional link building involves getting links from highly trusted domains, for instance, university and government websites as well as non-profit organizations.
6. Fresh Rank
Link building is a continuous process where you need to continue earning additional links. This is because link signals decay over time. Google uses the freshness of link signals to determine the popularity and relevance of websites and web pages.
Types of Links
After looking at various aspects of link building, let us delve into the kinds of links that you will deal with:
1. Editorial links
These are also referred to as natural links. These are given naturally by other pages and sites that would like to link to your company or even content. All you need to have good quality content on your site and create awareness about it.
2. Manual links
Building these links is also referred to as outreach building. To create them, you need to email bloggers and request for links, submit your site to directories, or even pay for listings. You will need to create a value proposition to explain to them why creating the link is in their best interest. You can also fill out forms for submissions to a website award program, or even convince an academic professional that your content is worth including in the syllabus.
3. Self-created links
These are also referred to as non-editorial links. These are created via forum signatures, user profiles, guest book signings, and blog comments. These can be said to have the lowest value, but can still have an overall impact. However, too much of these links may make search engines identify your site as spammy.
Professional link building strategies
Let us look at some link building strategies that will yield maximal results:
1. Get customers to link to your site
If you have partners with whom you work with regularly, or even loyal customers, you can send them partnership badges. These are graphic icons that link back to your site. You can compare this to having customers wearing your business’ t-shirts, or having your bumper stickers.
2. Building a blog
This is a strategy that is not only popular but also very valuable. In fact, even engineers at Google recommend it. Blogs allow for consistent posting of fresh content, help in participation in various conversations across the web, as well as in earning listings and links from other blogs, blog directories, and blogrolls.
3. High-quality content
This is also referred to as link-baiting. Your content should leverage various aspects: dissemination of information, humor and usefulness. Users are therefore almost obliged to share it, as well as webmasters who can do so via links. These high quality votes are crucial in building trust and authority and helping in improving your site’s rank.
Your content should be newsworthy. In addition, you can give away something for free, write about a controversial issue or release a new product. If you are able to capture the attention of bloggers, news media or the press in general, you will get invaluable links.
5. Building relationships with authority figures
Partnering with authority figures in a relevant niche is a very effective link building strategy. Begin by identifying key influences via BuzzSumo for example. After identifying one, do some research about them, for instance any interviews done by the press, online presence, and if possible, the sources of their backlinks. Make initial contact via ego-baiting, which is making reference to their expertise. Request for an interview, agreeing to their terms, and have a range of topics that you want the authority figure to handle. You may send them the areas to be covered in advance for approval.
You can then build home pages across the areas, and employ other strategies like submission to other webmasters and sharing videos and content on social media. Ultimately, your site will not only rank higher, be seen as reliable and trustworthy, but you will also create a relationship with the authority figure, which further increases your credibility and in return increase traffic to the site.
Search engines discount paid links in SERPs and automated link software. They may not detect and discredit all of them, but if caught, there are severe penalties that noticeably drop a website’s ranking. Read Google’s SEO Guidelines to a better understanding of what you should never do.
There are many facets to professional link building. To ensure that your site ranks high on search engine result pages, employ the strategies discussed above. Over time, your efforts will bear fruit. Avoid black-hat SEO techniques that will adversely affect your ranking if the search engines identify your site as spammy.