Fundamentals of SEO: Link Building
What is Link Building?
Link building is all about getting external websites to link to your own website. It’s an essential part of search engine optimisation (SEO), with the goal being to establish a higher ranking on Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Those inbound hyperlinks out there that direct to your webpage are called ‘Backlinks’.
Backlinks are one of the main driving factors to determine a website’s relevance and credibility in the eyes of search engines like Google or Bing. You can think of backlinks as “upvotes” or “likes” for one website from another. The more of those upvotes you have, the more popular and credible your content appears to search engines.
It may all seem a bit of a virtuous circle for the biggest, most established brands (Googling “Coca Cola” is only likely to produce one winner). But there will be numerous competitors coming up on any SERP — each jostling for that prime online real estate. Savvy and comprehensive Link Building is the right thing to do.
Back in the retro days, search engines were geared toward the sheer quantity of Backlinks out there. The trend in the modern era has been for a greater focus placed on quality. What’s quality in search engine terms? Broadly, quality is determined — algorithmically — by the twin bastions of (1) Relevance, and (2) Authority.
Relevance is a barometer of how appropriate a given page is for a given query. The relevance of a link is important because search engines use it as a signal to determine the quality and usefulness of a webpage. A link from a relevant webpage or website is generally considered more valuable and authoritative than a link from an unrelated source. Similarly, a webpage that contains relevant content and keywords is more likely to rank higher in search results for relevant queries.
In SEO, “authority” is all about the trustworthiness and expertise attributed to a website or webpage. Greater authority scores mean that Backlinks will carry more weight. Sites with higher authority are generally considered more valuable and credible by search engines, which can lead to better rankings in search results.
Hyperlinks and Webcrawlers
Hyperlinks (or just “links”) are the building blocks of the web and are used to connect web pages together. They are, of course, fundamental to the architecture of the web, and play a big role in SEO by establishing relationships between web pages and indicating relevance and authority. These clickable connections are “Anchored” as underlined or coloured text.
- Anchor Tag: The HTML anchor tag (<a>) is used to create a hyperlink. It tells the web browser that the text or image within the tag is clickable.
- HREF Attribute: The HREF attribute specifies the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) that the hyperlink should point to. The URL can be an absolute or relative path to the web page or resource being linked to.
- URL: A URL is the address of a web page or resource on the internet. It consists of several parts including the protocol (http or https), domain name, path, and file name.
- Anchor Text: The anchor text is the visible text that is displayed as the hyperlink. It is usually underlined and in a different colour than the surrounding text to indicate that it is clickable. The anchor text can be any text or image that the web developer chooses, but it should be descriptive enough to tell the user what they will be clicking on.
Search engines employ sophisticated algorithms to crawl the web and extract the content of pages. They use a process called crawling or spidering, where they follow links on web pages to discover new content. Once they find a page, they analyse the content and structure, indexing relevant keywords and metadata to make the page easier to find for users. This allows search engines to provide fast and accurate results to queries, making it easier for users to find the information they need on the web.
Web crawlers work under the hood of search engines like Google to follow hyperlinks so as to discover and index new web pages. When a web crawler encounters a hyperlink on a webpage, it follows the link to the linked web page, and continues crawling through the links on that page. This process allows web crawlers to discover and index new web pages, and also helps them understand the relationships between different web pages on the internet.
Why do Backlinks matter?
Search engines like Google see backlinks as a vote of confidence. In general, the more links your web pages have, the more likely they are to rank for relevant searches. We’ve examined link-based ranking factors a few times and always find the same thing: the number of backlinks from unique websites (referring domains) correlates strongly with organic traffic.
Search engines find new content by revisiting pages they already know to look for new links. Since search engines visit popular pages more often than unpopular ones, they may be able to recognize and index your content more quickly.
If you are actively doing guest blogging, or other websites put links on your site, you will of course also get additional traffic.
For SEO, Backlinks play a critical role in determining the visibility of a website on search engines. A website that is not crawled by a search engine cannot appear in search results. Therefore, it is important for website owners to ensure that their website is easily accessible to web crawlers.
This is how search engines like Google decide on the authority and relevance to rank pages based on relevant keywords.
Types of Backlink
Backlinks attract more backlinks by boosting referral traffic. This snowball effect is a key part of it all — but this reality can also stand in the way of new sites or brands trying to break through.
- Natural backlinks
These are the most valuable type of backlinks because they are earned organically through the quality of your content or the value of your website. Natural backlinks come from other websites that link to your content because they find it helpful, interesting, or relevant.
- Editorial backlinks
Earned when another website or blog mentions your website in their content, such backlinks are highly sought after because they are difficult to acquire and are seen as a vote of confidence in your website by the referring site.
- Guest post backlinks:
Acquired through guest posting on other websites. You write an article or blog post for another website, and in return, you are given a backlink to your website within the post.
- Forum backlinks
Backlinks that are acquired through forums or message boards. You can participate in online discussions and include a link to your website in your forum signature or profile.
- Directory backlinks
These are backlinks that are acquired through online directories or business listings. These types of backlinks can be useful for local SEO and can help increase your visibility in search engine results.
Dofollow and Nofollow Link Tags
In HTML, “dofollow” or “nofollow” are tags that can be applied to links on a webpage. A dofollow link is a normal link that search engines will follow when crawling a webpage, and it passes “link juice” to the linked page. Link juice is just a funny term in SEO used to refer to the value and authority that is passed from one webpage to another through hyperlinks. The more high-quality, authoritative websites that link to a webpage, the more link juice that webpage can accumulate.
However, some website owners may not want to pass that on. A link with a “nofollow” tag tells search engines not to follow the link or pass on any link juice to the linked webpage. This is often used for links that are paid for, or perhaps links the website owner does not wish to endorse.
When a website links to another website without any nofollow tag, it is considered a dofollow link. This means that search engines will follow the link and give credit to the linked website for its content, which can help improve its search engine rankings.
A nofollow tag is an HTML attribute that is added to a link to tell search engines not to pass on any link juice or ranking credit to the linked website. This means that search engines will not follow the link and will not count it as a factor in their ranking algorithms.
It’s important to be careful when it comes to self-created links. While it may seem like an easy way to earn backlinks, many of these tactics fall under the category of black hat SEO techniques, which can seriously damage your search engine reputation. These links are usually marked with nofollow tags to indicate that they were created by the website owner rather than earned naturally.
Google Pagerank is an algorithm used to rank the authority of web pages. It’s a numerical system that measures the relative importance and authority of web pages.
Although nofollow links do not contribute to PageRank, they can still be useful. You cannot publicly view the PageRank score for web pages, but it’s still valuable as a part of Google’s internal algorithm. Google (just like all the other big engines) keep their algorithmic secrets close to their chest; SEOs can only go by educated guesses… or trial and error.
A link’s position on a page is really important. The placement of links on a webpage is important in link building because links placed in prominent positions, such as in the main body of a webpage or in a sidebar, are more likely to be seen and clicked on by users, and are more likely to pass on “link juice” to the linked page, which can improve its search engine ranking. In contrast, links placed in less visible or less prominent positions, such as in footers or in inconspicuous spots on a webpage, may be less effective in driving traffic and improving search engine ranking.
Types of links
Natural links: These are links that are earned naturally when other websites link to your content because they find it helpful, interesting, or relevant. These types of links are highly valued by search engines because they represent genuine endorsements from other websites.
Editorial links: These are links that are earned when a third-party website or blog mentions your website in their content. Editorial links are highly sought after because they are difficult to acquire and are seen as a vote of confidence in your website by the referring site.
Manual links: These are links that are acquired through outreach efforts, such as guest posting, broken link building, or resource link building. These types of links can be effective in increasing your website’s visibility and authority, but they require more effort than natural or editorial links.
In link building, anchor text is the clickable, visible text that’s used to link to another page or website. It’s the phrase or word that catches your eye and draws you in like a siren’s call. The anchor text is not just a fancy phrase, but also a powerful tool in the world of SEO.
The clever use of anchor text can signal to search engines what the linked page is about, helping it rank higher in search results. For instance, if you use “best pizza places in New York” as the anchor text for a link to a pizza restaurant’s website, search engines can tell that the linked page is likely relevant to that search term.
Be warned: Overusing exact-match anchor text or using the same anchor text for all links can appear spammy and unnatural. Just like a real anchor, anchor text can either help you stay afloat or drag you down. Using too many exact match keywords in your anchor text can be seen as spammy by search engines and harm your website’s ranking. So, when it comes to anchor text, choose wisely and use it sparingly!
A linkable asset is a piece of content on a website that other websites would want to link to. Linkable assets can be various types of content, including blog posts, infographics, videos, research papers, tools, and interactive content. Sometimes they are called “Linkbait” – though for the most part they’re a positive thing.
The purpose of creating linkable assets is to attract high-quality backlinks to your website, which can improve your website’s search engine rankings. When other websites link to your linkable asset, search engines see it as a sign of the quality and relevance of your content. Creating linkable assets involves creating high-quality content that is informative, unique, and valuable to your target audience. By creating linkable assets, you can also increase your website’s visibility and authority, which can ultimately lead to more traffic and conversions.
Examples of Linkable Assets include:
Research Papers, Online tools (like calculators), Case Studies, Guides, Lists and Listicles, Infographics, Awards, Industry surveys, How-to guides, Tutorials, Videos, and many more.
Tips for Link Building for SEO
- Avoiding link schemes and spammy tactics
It’s important to steer clear of any shady link building schemes or spammy tactics that violate search engine guidelines. These can include buying or selling links, using automated link building tools, or creating low-quality content just to generate links. Instead, focus on building genuine, high-quality links through natural outreach and link-worthy content.
- Balancing link quantity with quality
While having a high number of backlinks to your website can be beneficial for SEO, it’s also important to prioritize quality over quantity. A few high-quality, relevant links from reputable sources can be more valuable than many low-quality links from irrelevant or spammy sites. Aim for a balance between quantity and quality when building your backlink profile.
- Overcoming link building obstacles:
Sometimes, it can be difficult to acquire high-quality backlinks for your website, especially if you’re in a competitive industry or have a limited budget. To overcome these obstacles, consider leveraging relationships with industry influencers or partnering with complementary businesses to earn relevant links.
- Creating high-quality content to attract natural links
One of the most effective ways to earn high-quality backlinks is to create valuable, informative content that naturally attracts links from other websites. By publishing in-depth articles, infographics, videos, and other forms of content, you can position your website as a trusted authority in your industry and encourage other websites to link to your content.
- Building relationships with influencers and other websites
Building relationships with influencers and other websites in your industry can be a powerful way to earn high-quality backlinks. By networking with other professionals in your niche, you can identify opportunities to collaborate on content, guest post on their websites, and earn endorsements from respected figures in your field.
Influencer marketing can be a valuable strategy to improve hits for SEO, attracting backlinks with mentions of your brand, linking to your content on their blogs or social media platforms, which can help generate high-quality backlinks to your website. Backlinks from high-authority websites are one of the most critical factors for ranking well in search engine results.
- Using social media to promote your content and build links
Social media can be a valuable tool for promoting your content and building links to your website. By sharing your content on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, you can reach a wider audience and encourage others to share your content on their own websites and social media channels.
- Guest posting on relevant websites
Guest posting involves writing and publishing content on other websites in your industry, with a link back to your own website. This strategy can be effective for building relationships with other website owners, reaching new audiences, and earning high-quality backlinks to your website. When guest posting, it’s important to focus on creating valuable content that is relevant to the website’s audience and offers genuine value to readers.
Things to Avoid
Links from irrelevant or low-quality sources can harm your website’s reputation and ranking. Genuine link building, then, is about creating original, top-notch content that others truly want to link to. It’s about promoting content wisely, so as to reach a broader audience, and it’s about developing relationships with other websites in your industry to make those Backlink “gains” naturally.
How to monitor and measure the success of Link Building for SEO
Monitoring and measuring the success of link building is an essential part of any SEO strategy. Getting to grips with software tools (like Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMrush) can help you identify new links, track the growth of your link profile, and spot any negative SEO practices that may harm your website’s reputation.
- Measure your website’s organic traffic
By monitoring your website’s organic traffic using tools like Google Analytics, you can track the impact of your link building efforts on your website’s search engine rankings. If you see a significant increase in traffic after acquiring new backlinks, it’s a good sign that your link building efforts are paying off.
- Monitor your website’s search engine rankings
Use tools like Google Search Console to monitor your website’s search engine rankings for target keywords. If you see an improvement in your rankings after acquiring new backlinks, it’s a strong indication that your link building efforts are helping to improve your website’s visibility in search engine results pages.
- Track your website’s domain authority
Domain authority is a metric that measures the strength and authority of your website’s link profile. Use tools like Moz’s Domain Authority Checker to track your website’s domain authority over time. If you see a steady increase in your domain authority, it’s a sign that your link building efforts are improving the overall strength of your website’s link profile.
- Monitor your website’s referral traffic
Referral traffic is the traffic that comes to your website from other websites. Use Google Analytics to monitor your website’s referral traffic, and track the sources of this traffic. If you see a significant increase in referral traffic from websites that have linked to your content, it’s a good indication that your link building efforts are generating results.
The Bottom Line
Professional SEO specialists should keep an eye on backlinks as they are simply one of the most significant ranking factors. That’s in spite of algorithmic changes going on under the hoods of the big search engines. The process of link building is crucial to get that vote of confidence from other websites. Backlinks remain a crucial aspect of SEO, despite the numerous changes to search engine algorithms over the years. They provide a powerful indication of a webpage’s popularity, relevance, and authority.
However, it is essential to note that not all backlinks are created equal. It’s important to focus on building high-quality backlinks from authoritative sources that are relevant to your website’s content. Avoid getting ghosted by search engines for engaging in spamming or black-hat link-building practices. By using ethical and effective link-building practices, a specialist can establish a website’s authority and credibility within its industry,