Link building, also known as backlinking, is a critical aspect of a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. This refers to the process of obtaining links from other websites that lead users back to your own site.
In addition to directing the flow of online traffic, backlinking can play a critical role in Google’s evaluation of your site. This means that getting high-quality backlinks can help your business or organization rank higher and get more visibility on the search engine results page (SERP).
How Generating Backlinks Can Boost Your Site
Effective link building can help boost a website’s visibility, authority, and credibility. When a link is placed on another website, Google often views this process as an endorsement.
Over time, if a site has a collection of backlinks from authoritative websites, Google may then start to view this page (and the site as a whole) as an authority on that topic. By extension, other sites may reach out to you for backlinks – and potential customers might come to you as a trusted source of information. This circularity can help to bolster business and generate a network of mutually beneficial backlinks.
Link building is one of the many factors that Google uses when determining which websites should appear on a results page. In some cases, the difference between ranking 3rd and 4th could be the number and quality of backlinks that each respective page has.
Avoiding Low Quality and Harmful Links
Just as high-quality links can help your website rank higher in the SERP, links from untrustworthy or spammy sites can actually hurt your digital presence. In some cases, a link from an untrustworthy site could indicate to Google that your site is, by extension, untrustworthy.
These and other inauthentic link building practices, such as mass purchasing links, will do more harm than good to your site. Any short-term success will, over time, be met by long-term obstacles or penalties. This is why it is crucial to maintain integrity and only generate authentic backlinks.
What Makes a Backlink “Good?”
What exactly distinguishes a good link from a bad one? There are many distinct factors that the Google algorithm considers when deciding what kinds of content to rank highly in search engine page results (SERPs). When it comes to link building, there are several main things to keep in mind.
The factor with the most crossover in every component of an effective search engine optimization strategy is relevance. This refers to how closely a particular piece of content matches the exact words a user types into a search box, as well as what Google thinks is the intent behind their search. In the context of link building, a good, relevant link is one that connects to another site with content in the same general subject area. For example, if someone wants to build out a website for a law firm, links from other sites in the legal field will be more valuable than links from sites focused on other industries.
It’s important for links to be authoritative as well as relevant. While Google has never explicitly confirmed—and has often outright denied—that it has a specific metric for measuring site authority, practical evidence suggests certain trends. For instance, a link embedded in an article that has been linked to by multiple other reputable sites will generally do more for the site at the tail end of that chain than a link on an otherwise reputable site that doesn’t get much traffic.
The location of a link within a page’s text can significantly impact its effectiveness in increasing the page’s ranking. Google ranks the quality of link placement on web pages based on how likely users are to click links in different places. Google tends to reward pages with links incorporated into the body text and closer to the top of the page, rather than links embedded in sidebars, footers, or near the bottom of the page’s text.
Related to link placement, another key factor in effective link building is “anchor text.” This refers to the specific snippet of text on a page (usually highlighted and underlined) that serves as a clickable connection to the embedded URL. Technically, a site publisher does not need to do anything special with anchor text for the hyperlink to work as intended. However, there are a few extra steps that can maximize its SEO value.
Ideally, anchor text should be descriptive, relevant, and succinct. It should specify the type of content a user can expect to find in the embedded link, follow logically from the content on the page, and be only a few words long at most. For example, if someone wants to link to a positive review for their business hosted on another website, specifying the website and the nature of the website in the anchor text is better than linking “here” at the end of “Find a positive result of our services here.”
“Follow” Versus “Nofollow” Links
Other key concepts when building out links for an optimized website are link attributes like “follow” and “nofollow.” These can be leveraged to a link host’s advantage. For instance, adding rel=“nofollow” to a link embed in a page’s source code will tell Google that the hosting page wants to create a link to another page without endorsing the site they are linking to. Leaving this attribute out of the link will create a “follow” link, which Google will interpret as an endorsement in favor of the linked site’s reputation.
When it comes to inbound links from other sites, “follow” links are almost always preferable to “nofollow” links. However, thanks to recent updates in Google’s search algorithms, “nofollow” links from sites with high authority can still provide some benefit to the linked site. Similarly, formatting links to potentially unreputable sites as “nofollow” links can help build a hosting site’s reputation on Google without running the risk of being dragged down by a site that turns out to be disreputable.
There are several other link attributes that can be appropriate in certain situations—for instance, rel= “UGC” for links in user-generated content like forum posts and blog comments, and rel= “sponsored” for links that are part of a sponsorship or advertising agreement with a financial exchange. BluShark Digital can provide further explanation about the nuts and bolts of link building and help ensure your site is optimized for Google’s link crawling algorithms.
The Importance of Internal Link Building
While external links can go a long way in improving a website’s reputation on Google, obtaining a sufficient quantity and quality of links to produce positive results can be challenging. This is especially true for new sites. Fortunately, internal link building—linking to other pages under the same domain as the hosting page—can help improve a site’s search engine rankings. This makes it easier for search bots and users to navigate a website and boosts important pages without many external links directed to them.
Structuring a Site with Internal Links
Google algorithms crawl and index websites by following links embedded in parent pages to subpages nested underneath that parent page in the site’s backend structure. For example, a landing page for a lawyer specializing in personal injury law could have a dropdown bar or menu with links to subpages specifically about car accident cases, truck accident cases, slips and falls, and other unique types of personal injury claims. A search engine bot or site visitor should be able to follow links embedded in that bar or menu to the relevant subpages, and then be able to return to the parent page through matching internal links in each subpage.
Internal link building comes into play in anchor text that connects to other subpages and content siloes. For instance, a page dedicated to car accident cases that mentions commercial trucks could link to the page dedicated to truck accident cases. This provides another avenue for search crawlers and site visitors to navigate the site’s architecture and find what they are looking for, improving bounce rate and site engagement along the way.
Lending Reputability to Other Pages
Internal linking can also be used to share reputability across pages. Internally linking from a page with many external links to a page without any at all can transfer some of the reputability from the more-referenced page. Think of this as the equivalent of the “You Might Also Enjoy” section on news websites and blogs. If someone follows a link from a news site to a relevant blog or page, they might also be interested in other topics on the linked site.
Basic Link-Building Strategies
A healthy combination of external and internal links is a vital component of effective search engine optimization and online content marketing. However, the question remains: how exactly does a site without existing reputability or external links go about garnering links from other authoritative domains? There are a few broad categories for link-building strategies, which BluShark Digital has extensive experience leveraging on behalf of clients.
Manually Adding Links
The most straightforward way to generate dependable backlinks is by adding those links manually to sites. For instance, filling out entries in business directories and creating social media profiles can help draw in a few new visitors and potential customers. It may also be useful to link-build through forums, comments under blogs and similar posts, and in user profile pages on other sites. However, while this strategy is fairly easy to execute, it is not the most effective at building a site’s authority on Google.
Asking for Linking Opportunities
A slightly more effective approach is to reach out to other sites personally and ask for linking opportunities. This could involve offering to contribute blog posts or other media such as e-books or submitting case studies and research to reputable publishing outlets. This strategy will not always guarantee immediate results, but it can be a good place to start for a more long-term, sustainable approach.
Creating Useful Content
The most effective means of link building is creating content that other people organically want to link to, such as online calculators and similar tools, authoritative guides through complex topics, and even visual aids and infographics. Of course, this is easier said than done. As such, having SEO experts like the team at BluShark Digital on your side can be crucial to effective link building.
Start Creating a Network of Backlinks
When done effectively, link building can help increase your brand recognition, ranking, and overall digital presence. A thorough SEO strategy should include different methods for acquiring these links organically, whether through high-quality content or community development.
To learn more, book a consultation with our experienced SEO team today to start discussing how to work backlink building into your digital marketing plan.