There’s no way around it – if you want to make it in today’s crowded digital landscape, you’ll need to build a robust backlink profile to stay afloat. Having a solid link-building strategy is no longer negotiable but a crucial piece of SEO vital for every webmaster, marketer, or business trying to make it online.
If you’re not familiar with link building and how it’s done, don’t sweat it – we’ve got your back. We’ve gathered all the link-building basics you need to know under one roof to help you cut through the confusing jargon, learn the ropes and use this newly-found knowledge to hit the top of SERPs.
Ready? Let’s dive right into our handy beginner's guide to link-building.
Learning the Ropes: What Are Backlinks?
If you’ve spent any time threading digital marketing waters, chances are you’ve run into the term backlinks more than once. A backlink is a link that connects a relevant external website to your site. Also known as “incoming links,” “inbound links,” or “external links,” backlinks are the building blocks of the SEO link building process.
Commonly referred to as “one-way links” (since they represent another website's traffic coming to your site), backlinks appear as hyperlinks - clickable and highlighted anchor text (also known as “link text”) pointing directly to your website (page) if users click on them. You can find real-life examples of backlinks all over the web, especially on informative articles and blogs that link back to relevant content.
What Is Link Building, Exactly?
A crucial component of SEO, the process of obtaining inbound links is called “link earning” or “link building.” Link building is a search engine optimization (SEO) technique through the practice of acquiring or earning links.
How Does Link Building for SEO Work?
Most link-building strategies can be boiled down to the following tactics:
· Manually adding links to websites
· Outreaching – reaching out to webmasters and website owners and asking them for a link
· Buying links
· Earning links by obtaining organic links from people who visited your site.
To boost your organic traffic and earn valuable inbound links, your best bet is to create compelling, valuable, link-worthy content and promote it. You can also use HARO services or reach out to bloggers and other influencers in your niche to ask for reviews or to guest post on their sites. Try to stay away from black hat SEO tactics, such as paying for links, as they can get you penalized and mostly come from spammy websites with low link quality.
Why Is Link Building Important?
Backlinks are the backbone of SEO, and you probably already know SEO is the key to unlocking digital success. While there is no magic formula for boosting your site’s ranking in the SERPs, marrying the immense power of high-quality content and high-quality links can go a long way.
Backlinks were the base ground for Google’s original algorithm, known as “PageRank.” Although the algorithm changed immensely since then, backlinks remain a key ranking signal that is not going away any time soon and, thus, one of the most important search engine ranking factors.
Google and other search engines want to make sure they serve nothing but the most trusted, reputable, and relevant results for any given search query.
Since the quality and quantity of links are one of the primary ways search engines determine the relevance of a web page when they crawl, having a good number of valuable links pointing to your website is a strong indicator of value and reputation that can influence your ranking.
6 Reasons Link Building Is Crucial for Your Website’s SEO
To increase your online visibility and get on search engines’ radars, you must deal with both on-page and off-page SEO. Off-site optimization is all about demonstrating the value your content provides for users to search engines, and having a strong backlink profile that speaks in that favor will do the trick – backlinks a powerful value statement bound to get you on Google’s (and users’) good side and boost your SEO.
Some of the most prominent SEO benefits of link building include:
· Brand Building
· Building and Improving Authority and Reputation
· Building Valuable Relationships
· More Qualified Traffic and Visibility
· Unlocking Keyword-Ranking Opportunities
· Gaining Valuable Insights and Data
Three Main Types of Links in SEO
Now that we’ve covered the base ground, it’s time to touch on the nitty-gritty technical side of backlinks so you would be able to assess the value of different types of links, and figure out which ones are best to pursue during your link building efforts.
Follow links are regular links with attributes that direct Google bots to follow those links and pass PageRank, making them the most commonly used type of links. As a rule of thumb, you want to build more “followed” links to improve our rankings.
However, if you get the opportunity to acquire a nofollow link from a relevant and high-authority page, you shouldn’t pass on it.
Nofollow links tell search engine bots not to follow a specific, yet yield brand recognition and referral traffic despite not passing domain authority or link equity, and they’re also useful if you need to link to a site but don’t want to endorse it.
User-generated links are links created by people, rather than brands and will let Google know that a link is within user-generated content, such as a user comment or forum post, meaning that it is not an advertisement. However, integrating user links into your website content isn’t really recommended.
User links may not hurt your rankings but are considered low-quality and, thus, probably won't pass any authority - Google even used to penalize them in the past.
So, it’s best to avoid investing in such links and stick to white-hat link-building strategies and acquire valuable backlinks.
A natural link is one that occurs organically and is earned by websites instead of being asked for. Natural links lead to content that has been considered genuinely relevant by other bloggers or webmasters.
Unnatural links, on the other hand, are links that are not natural and organic, but asked or paid for (paid links/sponsored links).
Natural links are not part of a paid campaign but are usually added by a blogger or webmaster to provide value to their readers, making them one of the strongest and safest link-building techniques to improve your domain authority, and reputation and promote your blog or your website.
Which Types of Links Matter The Most For SEO?
Which links are the most useful? Just like for the majority of questions regarding SEO, it depends. One of the best methods for determining the most useful links is using the E-A-T model which stands for expertise, authority, and trust.
What Makes a Good Link?
Although generally desirable, not all backlinks are equally valuable in the eyes of search engines. Links from spammy or irrelevant websites and links that don’t fit within the context can end up hindering your site’s ability to rank. So, you need links, and they need to be ‘good’. But, how can you tell if a link is a good link? What makes a “good” link?
In short, a “good link” is a link acquired using white hat SEO practices that will be viewed favorably by the search engines and, thus, positively impact your search ranking, instead of failing to move the needle or even damage it. Quantitative metrics various SEO tools provide such as PageRank, Domain Rating (DR), or Domain Authority (DA), as well as qualitative factors such as a website’s topicality, niche and audience can speak volumes about a link.
Relevant and high-quality backlinks obtained from a wide range of reputable, trusted sources, such as authoritative websites topically related to your niche offer more SEO value, or in other words, link equity. The more authority and credibility a website has, the more authority it will pass on to your site. And, seeing authoritative sites promoting your website will keep Google happy and more likely to rank you high in SERPs.
Link Building Best Practices: Pro Tips for Successful Link Building
Although link building is not a practice set in stone, there are some general guidelines on how to acquire and earn valuable links that will boost your SEO.
Good links are all about quality, meaning they should come from reputable, high-authority, and topically related content sites that match your products, services, or niche. So, strive to get links from reputable and authoritative websites relevant to yours, instead of pursuing every single link opportunity that pops up.
Google also uses anchor text to better understand what keywords the linked-to page should rank for. So, don’t misguide readers with clickbait or make empty promises – ensure your anchor text describes exactly what users get when clicking on the link. The likeliness of a link being clicked may also affect how much authority it transfers, so keep an eye on the placement of your links on a page as it can affect its click-through rate (CTR).
Focusing on quality over quantity can not only help protect your site against the dreaded Google updates but can help you build authority in the online landscape, continuously bring referral traffic of leads who eventually may become loyal followers, customers, engaged readers, and a never-ending source of links and social media traffic.
Build Your Way to the Top One Link at a Time
Having backlinks pointing to your site is other websites’ way of telling search engines and readers they vouch for you – the more diverse and reputable websites link to your site, the more it will convince search engines that your content must be worth linking to.
The moral of the story: if you leverage all that link building has to offer and do it right by acquiring lots of valuable inbound backlinks from high authority sites as part of your SEO strategy, it’s just a matter of time before you skyrocket your search visibility, reputation, and land on top of SERPs and your industry.