Links are how search engine crawlers find their way from one site to another, and travel across the Internet. The more links you have pointing to your site, the easier it is for crawlers to find your site through various entry points.
Since the early 90s, links have been used to measure the popularity of websites. Search engines such as Google and Bing have developed complex algorithms that take links (and many other factors) into account when determining how your website should rank for various keywords. Trustworthy sites with strong content tend to link to other sites with quality content, so links are often a strong indicator to search engines that your site is reputable and has fresh, relevant content. Thus, link building should be an integral part of your SEO strategy.
What is Link Building?
Link building is simply the process of getting other sites to link to your website. Links can come from sources including social media, directories, blogs, forums and other websites. Links from reputable sites related to your industry or market are extremely beneficial for boosting your search rankings.
What Links Determine:
- Popularity – the more links a site has, the more popular it tends to be.
- Local Popularity – links coming from topic-specific communities or local areas indicate popularity within certain social groups or geotargets.
- Trustworthiness – links from trusted domains help you establish credibility.
- Freshness – sites that continue to draw in links regularly are considered more relevant and current – thus, they provide “fresh” content.
- Social Influence – getting linked on social media is becoming increasingly important from an SEO and social perspective. It means people are engaged with your brand and are interacting with it or sharing it.
How to Build Your Credibility With Quality Links
1. Cultivate links from quality sites.
A decade ago the more links you had to your site, the better. Where they came from wasn’t really a consideration. However, that’s no longer the case. With the release of the Penguin update, Google is cracking down on spam links, and prioritizing quality links from reputable sites. Too many links from poor quality sites or “link farms” can be detrimental to your online reputation and search rankings.
You do not want your website to be associated with sites that have a reputation for spamming or low quality content. Once your site gets attached to a poor-quality “link neighbourhood,” it can get blacklisted by Google and will be extremely challenging and expensive to recover your online search rankings and reputation. Instead, start by building links from other quality sites that have a connection to your site. For instance, if your site is selling dog collars, links from pet blogs, veterinary clinics, pet directories and other sites within the pet community are a great place to start building links.
2. Be aware of the anchor text linking to your site.
Anchor text is the phrase that contains the link. Keywords used to link to your site can give a helpful boost. For instance, a link to a kitchen store with the anchor “Sale on Kitchen Supplies” is going to be much more valuable than simply “Click Here.” Also, links with your brand name or web site URL that appear on pages with content that is relevant to your site is also good. This is called “contextual link building” and is becoming a popular method of building quality links.
3. Start sharing on social platforms.
With the introduction of Google+, Google in particular has started to focus much more heavily on social sharing as a factor in their search rankings. Preference is given to sites that share content on Google+, however other social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter also play an important role in ranks. Other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo also factor in social influence as a part of their search algorithms. While social ranking is important, it’s not an all-inclusive strategy. Sites that pair social sharing with traditional link building will see the best results.
4. Put Yourself Out There and Request Links.
Everyone has to start somewhere. If you find your site isn’t being linked organically, put in a little effort and make it happen yourself! We’ve compiled a list of ways to build your links below.
How Do You Get These Great Links?
Of course, it’s easy to say “create quality links,” but how do you actually do it? Sometimes even if you’re doing everything right, getting people to link to your site can be a challenge. Here are a few ways to get link backs.
- Create quality content. We cannot emphasize this enough. Create content that is new, interesting and valuable for your customers. It is costly for companies to continually update their site with fresh content. Some companies may prefer to share content you’re creating. This is what is going to get people to voluntarily link to your site, and keep fresh links coming. If you don’t have anything new and relevant to say, no one is going to link to you.
- Guest blog on related sites. Offering to write a blog on a website that is relevant to your business or industry is a great way to give a subtle link back to your site, and share fresh, relevant content.
- Get listed in directories. The more targeted the directory is to your site, the better. Though there’s been some debate to whether directories are worth getting links from, we’ve learned that it’s worth it if the directory is popular, reputable and industry-related.
- Reach out to related sites. Offering to link to similar sites in return for a link back is a good way to start building your link profile. It doesn’t hurt to ask! If they say yes, it’s beneficial for both of you! If you do this, make sure you send a personal email and not a generic template request. Give them a good reason why they should link to your site and how it will benefit their content.
- Paid listings. Though some people balk at the thought of paying for links, paid directories, advertorials and sponsored articles can actually be great ways to build links to your site. However be aware that paid content sometimes uses “no-follow” links, which prevent search engine crawling. No-follow links won’t help with your SEO, though they are still beneficial for overall click-throughs. Inquire before you pay for content to be sure you’re receiving a link-back that will be help boost your search ranking.
- Share your content socially. Share your content on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other relevant social platforms. Evidence shows search engines are taking social sharing into account in their search ranking algorithms. Not surprisingly, Google+ is being given preference by Google, but other popular social platforms will affect your search rankings, as well.
- Comment on blogs and other posts. Sharing a link back to your site in the comment section of another, related site is an easy way to link to your site. Just remember to include an appropriate, relevant comment, so it isn’t blocked as spam.
Have you tried building links as a part of your SEO strategy? Have you found it helped boost your search rankings? Share your stories in the comments. We’d love to hear about your experiences.
Eden Interactive is a Toronto SEO agency that specializes in helping brands optimize their SEO strategy. We work with clients in numerous industries, helping them build their online presence with SEO and PPC, mobile optimization and other online marketing strategies.