For digital marketers or those who are accustomed with search engine optimization, link building is the process of acquiring high quality links from other websites to their own domains. But, this standard definition is not quite enough for the lay man. If you are a business owner like me, struggling to get traffic to your wordpress then off-site search engine optimization is the way to go. However, understanding the process, its benefits and the key strategies might be a bit difficult to digest in one go. Therefore, I will make sure to keep this article as simple as possible, explaining as many jargons on the way possible. So, let’s start!
What is Link Building?
In simple words, link building is the technique of getting links from other websites, such as from business directories, content directories, forums and blogs, social media platforms and the like. In its entirety, off-page search engine optimization is actually link building. Any activity you perform on other domains to drive traffic to your website will include the practice of leaving you links behind. Hence the name, link building. When you leave your links on other websites, it’s like building a bridge between the website and your domain for search engines to follow. When the search engine visits the other website, it finds your link and follows it. The same goes for your potential customers as well. The more authentic and quality links your website has, the better it will rank on Google or other search engines.
While it may sound easy, link building today has become quite technical and complex. There are a few terms that you need to be familiarize with before we move forward. Here they are:
Common Terms of Link Building:
Page Rank (PR):
- Page Rank (PR) is Google’s evaluation of a web page on a scale of 1 to 10. This means that if a website has a page rank of 10, then it is an extremely important website to acquire links from, provided other factors remain accurate. Note that the general rule of thumb is to target websites with PR of 5 and above.
Domain Authority (DA): Domain Authority is again a website’s evaluation based on a scale of 1 to 100, developed by Moz. Note that since this is not Google’s own score, many argue that it is not as important as PR. However, DA shows changes more frequently than PR. Therefore, many use it as a reflection of the website’s performance in search engines and to predict the website’s PR.
Do Follow Links: Without going into the technicalities, Do Follow links are the ones that direct search engines to visit a particular website. For instance, if you left a link of your website in your press release, the Do Follow html tag on the link will direct the search engine crawler to visit your website.
No Follow Links: These are completely opposite to Do Follow Links. No Follow links instruct the search engines not to visit your website. If they stop the search engine crawler from visiting your website, then why bother adding these links? We will get to the point as to why No Follow links are as important as Do Follow links.
Backlinks: When you submit your website’s link to another website, it’s called a backlink, since it provides a link back to your website.
Relevancy: Google considers the relevancy of the website where your backlink is posted to your website. The more similar the websites are, the more powerful is the link for your website’s PR.
Natural Links: When somebody naturally links to your website or when you create a backlink with relevancy, making it look like a natural link.
Unnatural Links: When a backlink comes from a website that has no relevancy to your industry. Such links are either considered spam or do not contribute a lot of value to your PR.
Some of the most common link building strategies include the following:
Business Directory Submissions:
The technique of submitting your website’s domain to different HIGH PR business directories with descriptions, name and a backlink to your website.
Content Submission: Content submission is the process of submitting content (articles, videos, pictures, presentations, infographics, etc) to different blogs, directories and websites to get backlinks.
Social Media Backlinks or Signals: Getting backlinks from social media platforms is either social media backlinks or social media signals. Since Google and other search engines have recognized social media backlinks as an important factor to rank websites, its importance is still under dispute by many marketers. Some believe that social media signals have a lower impact on a website’s rating than standard backlinks while some believe that the impact is equal. We will briefly cover the importance of social media signals later in this article.
Comments on Forums, Blogs and Articles: The practice of commenting on an article on a website or a blog and leaving a backlink or participating in discussions on different forums and leaving backlinks.
Other Practices: There are numerous other practices of backlinking such as banner placements on different HIGH PR websites, guest posting, and the like.
The Complexity in the Process of Link Building:
Back in the day, link building was a fairly easy practice. Marketers enjoyed submitting websites to different article directories, press release directories, business directories and others to get backlinks. However, all good things come to an end. Such activities gave way to a lot of spam activities, eventually compelling Google to step in and monitor such activities and create regulations to ensure only the rightful websites reach the top. A lot of times, many irrelevant websites would make their way on the top just because they had more backlinks than others.
Today, Google not only considers the PR and DA of your backlinks, but it also places emphasis on the relevancy of your link profile. If we have to create an equation, it would look something like this:
High PR + High DA + Relevancy (Natural Links) = A Good Backlink
Why Does Relevancy Matter So Much?
Before 2015, relevancy was not a concern for link builders. They could post a 100 articles on a content directory and get high PR backlinks. However, this activity was soon considered spam by Google. Why? Simply because if relevant websites are not linking back to your website then it means that your website is not as popular in your industry as opposed to a website that is being naturally linked to. This relevant popularity needed to be taken into consideration. And, this is why Google rolled out a couple of updates to its algorithms and its strategies for spamming, which included do follow links from press releases, article directories, etc. This shook the SEO world as many website owners had to scrape off ‘unnatural links’ from their websites in order to make their link profile seem good.
Google’s Expert Opinion on Link Building:
During a live Google+ Hangout session of February, 2015, John Mueller, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, explained that link building in general is a practice he would try to avoid. However, do note that he referred to unnatural link building in this scenario. According to him, the content of the website should generally stand out so that others can naturally link to it. He also did mention the importance of quality links by saying, “We do use links as part of our algorithm but we use lots and lots of other factors as well. So, only focusing on links is probably going to cause more problems for your website than it actually helps.”
In simple words, he said that if you are focusing mainly on unnatural links then it can get your website penalized. Although Google and their experts have time and again warned against unnatural linking, the practice is still in the market. Most SEO experts still work on getting lots of backlinks to their websites, and it surely works only if the links are natural.
Of course, today you cannot spin the same article 500 times and submit it to different content directories to gain High PR links, but that does not mean that the practice of link building is dead. In fact, I believe the term link building itself sounds fishy, it should be rather called link attracting or link building.
A Note to the Wise: You can still submit articles to directories and get backlinks or use other similar techniques, but that might get your website penalized or will only earn No Follow Links. Therefore, it is wise to focus on getting relevant links even if you are purposely doing activities to get backlinks. We can all understand that attracting natural links without putting in any efforts can be wishful thinking at times.
Identifying 8 Types of ‘Bad’ Links that can Get Your Website Penalized…
Now that you know how hurtful bad links are for your website, let’s take a look at some of the most common types of bad links that can get your website penalized. Once you know about these, you or your SEO manager can have a better idea of what to stay away from.
1. Links from Irrelevant Websites:
For instance, you have a website of an automotive business in the USA and you are getting links from a wedding planning company from China then these are considered as irrelevant links. There are a lot of factors that define relevance, such as location, business type, industry type, etc. If you are focusing on getting links from any websites then it’s time to stop and rethink. Start focusing on getting links from relevant websites.
2. Links from Low PR, Low DA or Penalized Websites:
As we have already discussed, links from websites with a bad reputation, low DA or low PR are usually considered spam. Why so? It is quite evident that a website with low PR or DA is either new or does not have a good reputation because of its unhealthy SEO activities.
If the website is relevant but has low PR or DA, it might be good enough to get the links but irrelevant websites with low PR and DA is a big signal to Google of spam activities.
3. A lot of Links from Similar Domains
If you think you just found a website that has High PR, High DA and is easy to get backlinks from and so you can get thousands of links from it, you need to think again. Link diversity is an important concern for Google. If a lot of your domains are coming from a single domain or from similar websites such as business directories, content directories, etc. then this is an alarm for Google. This is why we always say to keep your link profile diverse. You need to have links from a variety of website types such as social media websites, videos, etc.
4. Reciprocal Linking:
Reciprocal linking was ‘the thing’ before 2014. Recirpocal linking is when a website gives you a Do Follow backlink and ask you to send a backlink back for it. This is also known as link trading. While this might not be a very unhealthy activity, if a lot of your links are based on link trading then definitely it may land you in jeopardy.
5. Anchor Texts Over Optimized:
If you are connected with the industry, you would know that 2015 was a troublesome year for SEO managers involved in optimizing anchor text with keywords. Anchor text is basically the text you see that is hyperlinked to your website’s url. Back in the day, the standard practice was to use your keywords as anchor texts but now it is considered as a red flag. There is an entire set of practices on optimizing anchor texts, but briefly, let’s just say that naked anchor texts (using your brand name directly), anchor phrases and topic anchor texts are considered the best.
6. Links from Link Farms or Schemes:
Many webmasters create smaller websites to get backlinks to. When these smaller websites gain good PR, then they are linked to the main website. While this activity on its own is not harmful, using it to get irrelevant links can be spam. For instance, if you create several blogs linking to your brand website and a lot of people link to your blogs, then it is completely fine as long as the link profile has natural and relevant links.
5 Time-Tested Strategies to Get Good, Relevant and Healthy Links
Gaining natural links is not impossible. While it may seem daunting to most webmasters, it is actually a better way to not only get content but to make your website genuinely more likeable by the masses on social platforms as well. Here are a few techniques, as suggested by Neil Patel (the famous digital marketer) that you can adopt in order to ensure you are getting natural and relevant links.
1. Create Viral Infographics:
If you are thinking of creating infographics and submitting them to various directories then that’s not what we are referring to. Instead of creating 30 infographics in one month, try to create on infographic that really has the potential to go viral.
It should be well thought and well-laid out. Today, there are numerous online tools that can help you create infographics within minutes without even paying a professional to do the job. Once the infographic is created, you can make it viral through social media platforms or by toughing bloggers in your industry and asking them to share the post. You can do the same with videos as well.
2. Guest Blogging:
Note that guest blogging has been widely discouraged by Google in 2016. However, this does not mean that guest blogging or posting is completely dead. Guest blogging might not give you Do Follow links in most cases, but it has the potential to give your link profile a massive boost, only it is done in the boundaries of natural linking, which means it should be relevant to your website. Guest posting on high PR websites within your industry is a great way to get targeted traffic. The best way to go about this is to find high PR and DA websites and blogs that are relevant to your industry. Ask them if they would post or let your create a guest post for their website and in return they would link back to your website. Be aware of link farms and guest blogging directories. They will hurt your website.
3. Social Media Platforms:
Gone are the days when social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and others, were considered fun places to chat with friends or share photographs. Today, these platforms have a major share in sending targeted traffic to your website. Activities that can go viral on social media platforms include videos, infographics, contests and events. Note that social media links itself are very helpful in boosting your rank, they do have the potential to give you targeted traffic and to touch other website owners who would share your material on your website with a link back. Also, now social media posts appear in search results too, which means
4. Manually Reach Out to Websites:
It may seem hard but manually reaching out to people to provide a link back to your website by offering them a helpful piece of content is worth a shot. If you have a blog for your brand and you regularly publish helpful articles there, then asking other bloggers or website owners to republish the article on their blog or use excerpts and give a link back to you is definitely one good strategy to gain relevant and healthy links.
5. Work on Brand Management:
Brand management is not what most webmasters go for. Unfortunately, it has become a requirement in 2016. You need to work on your branding strategies and promote your brand via social media and other platforms. A good reputation in the market will convert into good backlinks since a lot of people will referring to your website. In addition, brand management also includes the aspects of on-page website, such as building your website on silo structure, creating the right structures of your pages, having the right content for conversion and seo purpose and so on. All of this has a lot of impact on your search engine optimization efforts. If ignored, this might hurt your rankings in search engine results. SEO Management is crucial for building your website rank. Anchor text is still an important part of it and it still gives great results.
Conclusion – Is Link Building Worth It?
The answer is yes! It is definitely the best way to get your website up in SERPs and to get targeted traffic. However, one must know how to be careful of Google’s policies. If you avoid spam link building activities and focus on the ones we have provided here, you will not only get targeted traffic and good rankings in search engines, but you will also be able to convert more since you will be reaching the right audience instead of the generic ones.
In addition, do keep in mind the importance of link diversity in your link profile. A diverse link profiles is a signal that the website is genuinely popular which is why it is gaining links from different mediums such as social media websites, blogs, etc. You can submit videos to video websites and social media platforms, submit infographics to social media and bloggers and so on. A diverse link profile is a healthy one.
Remember, one relevant healthy link is better than a 100 links with no relevancy or health (DA & PR). You wouldn’t want to be penalized by Google for violating their policies. Play safe yet gain popularity by our sure-fire link building strategies mentioned here!