Link building is the process of getting new links pointing to your website. Link building can be accomplished manually by exchanging or buying links with another website, by linking to your own site from other sites you operate or by using software to automatically create the links for you. Link building can also be accomplished organically by networking with other similar websites as a way to develop quality and relevant links naturally. This method is the safest and most effective long-term.
Link building is important because search engines like Google rank sites according to the volume, quality and relevancy of inbound links. The more quality links you have from sites related to your own the higher you will rank for your target keywords.
A look at link building
Link building by far is the most important thing you can do to get search traffic to your sites. And because of this, link building is what you should be spending the majority of your SEO time on. The quality, volume and relevancy of your links, as well as how consistently you get new links, all directly influence your rankings. A good way to think about links is to think of them as votes.
Every site that gives you a link is voting for your page to rank well, they’re telling all of their own surfers that they find your site credible, that they’re recommending you. When Google goes out and crawls other sites that link to you it basically considers the links to be votes. And if you have more “votes” than another site targeting the same keyword you’re likely to be ranked higher.
Now, I say “likely” because as everyone knows, not all votes are equal. The more trusted and higher ranked a site is, the more value it will pass through its link. Because of this, ten votes from trusted valuable sites are worth more than ten thousand links from low value, less trusted, sites.
Google’s War on Link Building
In Google’s idealistic view, only the most popular and most reputable sites should rank well. These are sites that would have been around for awhile and that provide great content that people keep coming back for, that people share with one another, sites that are so great that people link to them from their blogs and their social networking accounts and their social bookmarking accounts, sites that are shared on forums and that are used as references on other sites. Google then rewards this natural popularity with top ranks, because they view them as a reputable sites for their topic. And this is because Google’s goal is to provide only the highest quality search results for its users.
The problem with Google’s ideals is that it’s not in people’s financial interest to abide by them. Few people are willing to sit around and wait for popularity to develop naturally when so much valuable traffic is at stake. And that’s why people have been link building since day one. They build links to fake their site’s popularity, to create artificial authority in an attempt to rank faster. And that’s also why Google’s been making constant changes to its algorithm, they’ve been trying to close all of the loopholes, in their attempt to deliver the most relevant and authoritative search results.
The reason why it’s good to understand this is because as SEO’s we’re actively trying to fake popularity and authority in an attempt to rank well (when manually building links as opposed to networking for them). And by doing so, we’re working against Google’s guidelines, since they’ve made it clear that link building schemes are an attempt to manipulate their system, which can leave you vulnerable to devaluation and even penalties.
Obviously you’re not going to stop link building just because search engines like Google don’t like it, but you can align yourself with their goals by link building in a way that looks as “natural” as possible. You can try to build your links consistently over time from a wide variety of related sites and utilizing a natural array of anchor text. By doing this you’re going to see improved rankings and you’re going to insulate yourself from future algorithm changes, the big ones that tend to wipe out all the lowest hanging fruit.
How to make your link building appear “natural”.
1. Make sure your links come from relevant sources
2. Make sure your link sources are as diverse as possible
3. Make sure your links are of varying quality
4. Make sure your link networks are as random as possible
5. Make sure you maintain a consistent link velocity
Let’s go over each of these five methods.
Make sure your links come from relevant sources
Nothing screams web spam more than an irrelevant link. At best, links like this are going to do nothing to help you. At worst, they can put you on Google’s spam radar. You want to make sure that all of your links come from pages that are related to your own. And this doesn’t necessarily mean they should only come from full websites specializing in your topic, it just means that the page your links are on should include relevant content. There are many options out there, just be sure to put in the work to make sure you build relevancy into all of your links.
Make sure your link sources are as diverse as possible
If all of your links come from sidebars of blogs or if they all come from link directories, it’s not going to look natural. Even if you have a nice variety of links but 70% all come from the same type of site, it’s not going to look natural. And when links don’t look natural they’re eventually devalued, sometimes to the point of being worthless. You want to avoid being flagged for lazy link building by taking the time to make sure that your links come from as many different sources as possible.
Make sure your links are of varying quality
This one is important too because if you were to let your links build naturally you would end up with a wide assortment of sites linking to you, some low quality and some high. So if you go out and you only focus on one kind of link it’s going to look unnatural, which can impede your SEO efforts. So it’s in your best interest to build a wide variety of links, some low quality and some high.
Make sure your link networks are as random as possible
There’s a saying in the SEO world that I like to think about whenever I’m setting up new linking campaigns, and that is: “Predictability = Fail”.
This means that if search engine bots are able to recognize a pattern in your link networks, then they’re going to know that you’re not getting these links naturally. And as you now know, search engines place more value on links that other people give you. When other people are recommending you to their own traffic then it’s safe for search engines to assume that your site is a trustworthy source of content that should be displayed to people searching for what you offer. But when they detect that you’re giving yourself all of those links, it removes the trust signals and those links will carry far less value because of it. To make sure you get the most value from all of your links, make sure you keep your link building patterns random.
Make sure you maintain a consistent link velocity
Link velocity is the rate at which you get new links. And ideally you want to maintain a consistent velocity, since that’s what tends to happen naturally. You can go from no links a day to a thousand with no problem, as long as you can keep that volume consistent. What you want to avoid are brief spikes in link building activity, since this is often indicative of unnatural link building.
It’s best to keep your link building consistent. Build whatever you have time to build each day and try to maintain that volume long-term. And keep in mind, you can always scale your link building to benefit multiple sites at a time. So instead of working to find links to just one site at a time you can get links to a few sites from every source you find, thereby maintaining a consistent velocity on all your sites without necessarily investing any extra time.
Link building is a necessary part of any SEO campaign. However, more consideration needs to be placed these days on the quality, relevancy and on the velocity of which you obtain new links. You don’t need to surrender your SEO activities to comply strictly with search engine guidelines, but you should understand them well so that you can build your links in a way that aligns with their overall goals, so that your hard earned links aren’t devalued in the future by inevitable algorithm changes.