In a word – yes.
SEO link building is an essential part of any SEO specialist’s toolkit and is a key ranking factor for getting the top spot on the search engine results pages.
Read on if you would like to know more about why link building is such a key element and what you can do to leverage its power for your site.
This comprehensive guide will take you through everything you need to know about modern link building and how you can use it to succeed.
Why Is Link Building So Important?
Even in the days of Google’s very foundation back when it was still called Backrub, link building was the very core of the algorithm. Everything that Google does now is because its founder Larry Page considered links between websites one of the most important elements of the internet.
Link Building should still be at the heart of any SEO strategy, especially if you want the search engines to find your website on the internet. They are the very basis upon which it functions.
If your website has lots of links that Google deems authoritative, you will rise to the top of the rankings. If you have very few or many poor-quality links, you will dwindle and disappear from the primary search pages.
Essentially a link is a vote of confidence from another site. If Google considers the site that links to you a quality site, it will reward you with a better position in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Likewise, it will drop you like a hot rock if the link is deemed bad.
The ranking factors that the algorithm uses are constantly in flux, but link building has also been in the top three. If you do not have a robust link-building strategy, you are dooming your site to failure from the start.
Building links to and from other websites is a key strategy and one that requires time, patience, and a lot of outreach. Many SEO specialists will tell you that good content will draw good links, whereas those wearing a darker hat shade may suggest using Private Blog Networks (PBNs). But who is actually correct?
As always, the answer isn’t as straightforward as you would hope.
Understanding A ‘Good’ Link
Google separates links into two categories: good and bad. But how does it actually decide what makes a good link? It is difficult to say exactly as Google is very tight lipped about its algorithm.
SEO data scientists have spent a lot of time investigating how the algorithm works and testing different strategies. They have some ideas of how Google is pulling strings behind the scenes when it comes to links.
It is clear that links are being measured on six main elements: Authority, Relevance, Placement, Destination, Anchor Text, and Follow/No Follow Rules.
Let’s dig deeper into understanding what these elements actually mean. To be clear, we will talk mostly about Google as the primary search engine here as they hold a massive market share. The principles, however, remain the same for other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo.
Suppose a friend follows you on Twitter. That is something that we appreciate but is not actually a big deal. However, if a celebrity or the President started following your account, that would be a huge event and something that would make others start to think your account might be worth following.
It is the same with websites and authority. If a small website with not many links and not very good PageRank (PR) links to your site, Google does not think much of it. However, when an extremely authoritative source like a national newspaper or major brand links to you, they consider your content more worthy.
Not all links are made equal in this example. Google holds certain links in higher authority than others. So building a site with lots of crappy links from unknown or untrustworthy sources will actually lower your PageRank, whereas one excellent, authoritative link could make it rise.
It is quality and not quantity when it comes to building page authority.
Imagine you and a friend are having a conversation with your good buddy Google.
The three of you are talking about sports, and Google is interested in hearing more about the topic. You tell Google a story related to a sports event you went to last week. Google is very interested in your story.
Then your friend tells Google about a gardening center he went to last weekend. Google listens to the story but is not interested in it because it is not about sports. Google pays much less attention.
This is essentially how relevance works. If your website is about sports, then Google will give much more credibility to a website linking to you with a relevant sports link than another website linking gardening. Google knows that your readers are interested in sports and doesn’t want people interested in gardening to follow the link and get confused by the sudden topic change.
The placement of a link is where it sits on the page. There is some belief that Google grants higher authority to links that are clicked more often. So links on the same page may have more or less authority than one another.
The click-through rate (CTR) of a link may be directly influenced by where it sits or its placement on a page. It is easy to understand that a more visible link, say one at the top of a page, might be seen and clicked more often than the one at the very bottom. Header links are clicked on more often than footer links, after all.
So, where a link appears on a page can grant greater authority and make it a better link in the eyes of Google. This is why SEO strategists try to make links that they want or need to be clicked more attractive. Often they do this with encouraging text like ‘click here’ or ‘follow this link’ or by making it into a graphic.
Anchor text is the name given to the word or words inside a link. It is the text you add into the ‘href’ tag to make it clickable. For most links, the anchor text describes what the link is about to give the reader an idea of what type of content it might link to.
So, Google looks at this text and decides whether it is useful and relevant to the content to which it refers. However, don’t start thinking you can play the system by stuffing keywords into anchor text. Google has already got wise to this technique and penalizes sites that do this.
Anchor text should be natural and give a good description of the page you want to link to. Don’t assume that Google will give your anchor text any more authority if you fill it with relevant but unnaturally placed keywords.
Sometimes the page that you want everybody to go to is not a super exciting destination. Your goal should always be to have interesting content on your website, but sometimes it is simply unavoidable and you’ll have uninteresting content. For example, product pages are vital for making sales but can be some of these most boring pages on your site.
So when it comes to the destination page, we are talking about internal links within your own website that draw your readers closer to your final goal. The product page itself will never be deemed as a ‘good’ link by Google on its own for many of the reasons above. Unless your product is an absolute cracker, it is unlikely that people will be building straight links to it.
However, all is not lost. Because link juice flows through your own website just as it flows to others. Link juice is the term SEOs put on the power of a link. If a link has a lot of authority and relevance, it is seen as having lots of link juice.
Now, the key to spreading your link juice around your site to your less interesting yet still super vital pages is to create linkable assets. A linkable asset is another page on your site that people want to link to. It could be a great blog article, an infographic, a video page, or whatever gets people interested.
Then you can link from this page to your product page and pass some of its link juice to the product page. Do this from several other pages, and ultimately the product page will rise in the rankings.
Follow And NoFollow Links
One of the attributes that you can apply to links is dofollow and nofollow. For the longest time, SEO specialists have believed that dofollow is the most important and authoritative link. That is because Google claims only to follow these links.
If a link is marked as nofollow, it is set to be ignored by Google. However, recent studies have shown that this may not always be the case. If the linking site has a high authority and gives you a nofollow link, Google may still follow the link and give you a better PageRank as a result.
Of course, in link building, everything is subject to change with the next Google update. But for now, there is a suggestion that high authoritative nofollow links may actually be providing a good amount of link juice to your site.
Link Building Strategies
Now that you understand the importance of building good links to and from other sites, it’s time to look at the different ways to build links.
There are several routes you can take when it comes to building links. You can add them manually to certain sites, request a link from a site, buy a link, or earn a link naturally. Google wants you to earn all links naturally, but sometimes this isn’t always possible.
So let’s dive into the various link-building strategies and why you should be looking to include each in your monthly SEO plans.
Manually Adding Links
Sometimes it is possible to go to another site and manually add a link to your own website. This is through websites that allow you to add content manually, such as directories, social media sites, blog comments, forums, etc.
These links are easy to create, and therefore Google considers them to be fairly low quality. They are also high on the list for being considered as SPAM, so you need to be careful when adding too many or simply spamming your website name all over the internet.
You need to be selective as these links do have some value and should not be completely ignored. For example, social media profiles are an absolute must. In fact, Google will expect you to have a social media presence that points to your website and builds trust off these links.
Others will link to your social profiles and social posts, so you may find that you start building authority off the back of your social media profile links. Likewise, if there are business directories that are relevant to your niche, you should consider listing your site in them too.
Asking For Links
Building relationships with other sites is important. One of the reasons being that if you have a good relationship with a site, you can approach them and ask for a link, and they may be more inclined to agree.
However, regardless of your relationship, you need to give them a good reason to include your link on their site. Begging for a spot is not going to cut it; you need to show them why they should include you. What is in it for them?
You could offer to provide a Guest Blog for their site and provide them with valuable content. This is particularly useful if the site is a high content site with a lot of turnovers. Approach them with a good pitch and make sure you agree that you can add a link back to your site in the article.
Write a Review or Testimonial of their product or service and ask them to link it on their site. Obviously, they are only going to do this if the review is good. You may not want to approach them directly for a link; you could just mention that you have given them a glowing review and leave it up to them to link back to you.
Provide a better version of an authoritative article on your site and ask if they would like to update an existing link to your content instead. Show how you have provided more content and more interesting details than the previous article and show that linking to your content will have greater value for their readers.
Enter into a link exchange with another site. Offer a link for a link in return to their site. You will need to show that your site is worthy of trade and provide them with an equivalent level of authority.
There are many more strategies that you can apply here. Think about what you can offer the other website and approach the website manager or editor with your idea. It never hurts to ask.
This is how we should build links according to Google’s vision. In a perfect world, your site would earn all of your links. But, of course, this world is far from perfect, so people tend to lean to other methods to game the system in their favor.
Earning links is what happens when a site chooses you. They search the internet for a relevant and interesting link to add to their content because they know that Google likes you to have external links in your text, and they add a link to your site.
This happens when you provide good shareable content and engaging linkable assets that people want to share with others. When you do, you want to make sure that you promote your awesome content far and wide on social media. Others need to know what they are looking for.
It is far more worth the effort spent making and promoting enjoyable and engaging content than any other method on this list because it is the most natural way to build links.
The only other method left is the darker side of link building, the one where you reach for your wallet.
First of all, let’s be clear. Buying links is bad news.
We do not recommend that you go down this route. No decent link-building company will suggest that buying links is a solution to building your authority. It is a fast track to getting penalized by Google.
That said, many people do it, and you need to be aware that competitors might take a chance on this route and get away with it. It is an absolute last resort, and 9/10 times it is not worth the risk.
Private Blog Networks or PBNs are a classic method of buying links. They are a collection of sites created with only one purpose: to sell links. In the past, buying links from PBNs was a great way to boost your rankings within Google. However, times have changed, and the algorithm will heavily penalize anyone using this method.
Freelancing sites often sell packages that will provide you with hundreds of links to your site for a low price. They promise the moon but provide nothing but poor-quality spammy links. Avoid them like the plague.
Truth be told, you can not spend money on links and expect to rank well in Google. Better to spend your money on a good, authoritative link-building company with a proven track record in White Hat SEO or good content.
How Will An SEO Company Help Me Build Links?
There are several tactics that a good SEO company can employ to help you build authoritative links in a healthy way. These link building services should help your company rank in the SERPs without using underhand ploys that tank your site in penalties.
A good SEO company will help you with developing good content for your site. They will advise on good ideas for linkable assets that will drive traffic. They may even have in-house designers and writers who can create these assets for you.
They will also help you promote this content through outreach programs and social media promotion. This way, other sites will be aware of the great content you have published and naturally give you links.
Getting links from your competitors is a great way to grow your site online. A good link building company will have access to professional link building tools to identify opportunities your competitors are not pursuing and take advantage of them. They should also analyze your site and those of your competitors and help you chase down their links.
Finally, they might offer a guest blogging service that provides great content posted on other sites. With a guest blog, you can reach another audience beyond your own and provide authoritative links back to your site.
Is SEO Link Building Still Worth It?
Yes, absolutely. In fact, it’s essential.
Hopefully, this article has given you a detailed insight into why SEO link building is one of the most important tools you can use to grow your site. If you want to see your PageRank increase, you need to build links. It has been and will always be a key ranking factor in Google and other search engines.If you are looking for a way to start building your backlink profile, please get in touch. We will advise you on how we can help your website rise through the ranks of the search engine results pages and get you the audience your company needs to grow and succeed.