Link Building

What Is Link Building?

Link building is the process of obtaining backlinks from other websites to improve a web page’s ranking while establishing authority and trustworthiness.

Backlinks are inbound links that other domains are pointing at your website. They are at the core of off-page SEO and have an immense effect on Google’s perception of a website.

Link building is anything but a straightforward process and there are serious pitfalls you should be aware of. It takes careful planning and consideration to stay on Google’s good side and avoid black hat strategies that link building is so frequently associated with. 

Link Building Don’ts

Link building used to be a lucrative prospect for people looking to game Google’s search algorithm. Backlinks were highly sought-after and spammed across domains with the aim of getting to rank higher than all the competitors.

It didn’t take long for Google to catch up on such behavior and begin penalizing it harshly. Any kind of an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings will end up in some sort of punishment, the most severe being the deindexation of the entire domain.

Backlinks are still important to this day, and there’s no website that can’t benefit from high-quality links from trusted websites. But the methods of obtaining them have changed and now take more careful planning and patience than before.

Before exploring white hat link building options, it pays to alert webmasters and SEO newcomers to what they shouldn’t do.

  • Buying links. Paying for backlinks can severely harm your search rankings. Google doesn’t directly know if a link has been paid for by looking at it. However, it can detect patterns of suspicious behavior and then penalize everyone involved. If you’re engaging in purchasing links from other websites, you could be in Google’s (and even Bing’s) crosshairs.
  • Exchanging links. While not as easily detectable as buying links, you should still be careful about exchanging links with other web pages. The reason why it’s hard to catch is that partner websites will often link to one another, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, participating in mass link exchange on a large scale will trigger a penalty.
  • Low-quality links. Unnatural links, that is, links that the site’s owner can’t vouch for, can potentially be a violation of Google’s guidelines. Low-quality links are backlinks from directories, footers, templates, hidden links embedded in widgets, and forum comments just to name some. Such links neither contribute to the trustworthiness of the website nor boost off-page SEO the right way. It’s a short-term game that has serious ramifications for long-term SEO sustainability.

Link schemes don’t pay off anymore, and Google’s got really good at detecting and punishing manipulative behavior. There’s the right way to do link building and one that will be worth it in the long haul.

How to Do Link Building the Right Way?

Link building done right takes more time than its black hat equivalent, but the rewards are well worth it. It’s easy to tell someone to write high-quality content that stands out to get backlinks, but the reality is the furthest thing from, especially for small up-and-coming websites. That is the most natural type of link building, but also the most difficult one. Fortunately, it’s not the only way to engage in white hat SEO link building.

  • Natural content creation. As we’ve just pointed out, the most natural way of obtaining links is by creating content that’s so incredibly good that people will want to link to it naturally. It’s the kind of content that will generate discussion, social shares, and comments. It’s also the kind of link building that’s least likely to happen without heavy promotion. For well-established websites, there is no issue here since their loyal audiences do all the work for them. Smaller players will have to invest resources into promotion on social media and other channels to get that kind of attention.
  • Links from friends and partners. If you have partner websites you like to work with or loyal customers with websites of their own, that could be an excellent source of backlinks. While small-scale link exchanges are relatively fine, there are better ways to incorporate backlinks on partner websites. For one, you could write a testimonial about the service they’ve provided and have them link back to you from there. You can also use partnership badges as image-based links.
  • Guest blogging. You should be very careful when it comes to guest blogging. While Google doesn’t technically prohibit it, it can be seen as spammy if the blog is sending out too many external links. Guest blogging can be a high-quality SEO activity when done right, however. That means carefully choosing who you write for and settling only for the best, most authoritative websites out there.
  • Reviews and mentions. If you know of any popular bloggers or influencers who’d be willing to review a product or a service of your own, it could be well worth your time to reach out to them and ask for it. Every mention your brand gets on social media is already better than nothing, however, when it is accompanied by a backlink to your website, it’s worth so much more.
  • Local outreach. Taking part in your local community by running competitions, engaging in sponsorships and scholarships, hosting events, and even posting jobs is an excellent way to get some links back for your good deeds.

There are enough ways to do link building properly without being manipulative and risking punishment. However, it does take some time to formulate a strategy that’s right for your business.

Topic-Specific Links

Link building isn’t about getting any link you can find. Links from websites in your niche, or at least associated with it, are more valuable than links from completely unrelated sites.

It goes without saying that you likely won’t be able to be too picky about where your links are coming from. However, it’s best that the majority of them come from topically related websites. Otherwise, you’re sending mixed signals to both your audience and search engines. 

Dofollow and Nofollow Links

HTML links have the ‘rel’ attribute that specifies whether the link will pass its “vote of confidence” to the target web page. Adding rel=”nofollow” to a link means that no link equity will pass from the website of origin to the linked-to web page. Dofollow links are the default — all you have to do is omit the ‘rel’ attribute.

On the surface, it might seem like dofollow links are all that matters. Is there a point in building links if they’re not going to share link equity? In short, there is. Off-page SEO is about more than just backlinks. A nofollow link can still provide a website with trust and boost brand recognition.

The search algorithm also cares about a website’s backlink profile.

Healthy Backlink Profile

A healthy backlink profile is one that has a balance between dofollow and nofollow links. It shows that your link building efforts have been genuine. As opposed to that, a backlink profile consisting purely of dofollow links might signal you’re engaging in link buying or other undesirable activities.

Anchor Text Matters

Anchor text is an excellent opportunity to tell Google what your web page is all about and what keywords you’d like to rank for.

Despite that, you shouldn’t use the same anchor text over and over again, because it might look suspicious. Just like your backlink profile, your anchor text needs variety. It’s not enough to just have anchors with the main keywords you’re ranking for. Branded, naked, and partial anchors (just to name some) all have a role to play and should be represented in your anchor text profile.

You rarely have any say over what anchor text someone uses in a backlink. However, you can create a more varied anchor text profile using internal linking. You have complete control over how the pages on your websites are connected to one another, so use that to your advantage.

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