Link Building Basics for SEO

Building links sounds like a reasonably straightforward process. However, there’s plenty of room for error. Also, it is this type of error that can detract from search engine rankings. Therefore, it pays to pay close attention to the strategies that offer results.

Characterizing Effective Link Building

The goal of any link-building activity is to persuade other websites to link to your site. Doing so boosts your website’s credibility and positions it as an authority in its niche. Besides that, there’s the referral traffic that can be valuable for sales. (Download our Intro to Link Building Guide for more details on this subject.)

This practice works because Google has determined that these backlinks are a reliable way of gauging a site’s ability to respond to users’ queries. Although the algorithms that the search engine giant uses are largely shrouded in mystery, the importance of good-quality backlinks has not changed. If anything, it has gotten more important.

Therein lays the rub. To generate more backlinks, link exchanges sprang up in the past. You know the drill. Link to me, and I’ll link to you. Google quickly put an end to this practice by penalizing these types of backlinks. Therefore, you have to garner backlinks the old-fashioned way with good-quality content that other websites find and respond to.

The trick here is to build these links just as you build traffic: organically. As a result, it’s not enough to know what the consumer is looking for when engaging with your website. You also need to understand what others in the niche might be looking for when researching a specific topic that is within your area of expertise.

To muddy the waters further, consider that not all backlinks are created equal. If you can get a large, reputable site to link back to you, it carries a lot of weight. Conversely, when a smaller, newer site links to you, Google does not consider this backlink to be of the same quality. It is weighted less in the algorithm.

Why SEO Link Building Matters

In addition to search engine optimization in the form of keyword phrases, Google ranks sites by the number of good-quality backlinks that they garner. In other words, the more high-quality sites link back to your page, the higher your websites will rank in the SERPs. Google refers to this process as link popularity gauging.

However, it’s not just a numbers game. Therefore, the website with the most significant number of backlinks doesn’t necessarily win. Instead, there are other factors that gauge link popularity. For example, what is the anchor text for the incoming links? How is the site rated with respect to consumer trust?

While you want to court as many backlinks as possible, it pays to boost the numbers that come from authorities in their given fields. Google suggests that you can also increase your organic keywords rankings simply by succeeding in having other websites link to you.

The Art and Science of Valuable Link Building: Having Other Sites Link to You

Now that you understand why link-building is of vital importance, it’s time to look at the nuts and bolts strategies that are acceptable within Google’s framework. This isn’t the time for making mistakes, which can lead to a severe downgrading in your site’s rankings.

  • Content is king. There’s no way around it: You need high-quality content. This content may take the form of tutorials, blog posts, or standard website copy. It has to be persuasive, unique, and provide the type of information that compels other websites to link to you. In other words, your content has to be so good that other sites want their customers to know about it.
  • Industry leaders. Look around your niche. There are probably contacts that you’ve already established. There’s no shame in asking these contacts to link their sites to yours. Of course, these links should be coming from websites that have something to do with the field that you’re in.
  • Review links. Another way to build links is to ask for reviews of your services or products. Of course, your website and menu of services have to be excellent before you should ask an influencer in your niche to take a look at your product. Make a mistake here, and you might receive a bad review, which isn’t the kind of backlink you want. That’s why link-building should be happening after you built your website, tested it, and got your product line up and running.

If you’re getting the impression that link-building is a laborious, time-consuming effort, you’re right. However, don’t try to rush it and thereby run afoul of Google’s guidelines! Remember that the search engine will penalize you.

By the way, even in this scenario, some ways are better than others. For example, you don’t want other websites to link just to your home page. Rather, you benefit more when the anchor text is a natural keyword phrase that you want to rank for. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that you can control. Therefore, a keyword backlink is preferable to a general one.

Another thing that you can’t control is the quality of the site that links to you. While you might prefer a .gov or .org link, you may get a backlink from a new website. Similarly, it might also be a site with a questionable reputation.

Because of the variables that external backlinks bring to the table, you can better your rankings with internal links. These you can control.

How to Build Links Internally

Although not as effective as external linking, you have this option open to you: internal links. These are links that you create yourself, which is excellent because you’re in complete control of the linking structure you create. Search engines do look for excellent internal links, too.

Once again, there’s a right way, and there’s a wrong way.

  • Anchor text. Choose natural keyword phrases that your customers might search for. These make for excellent anchor text that you can use to interlink your pages.
  • Target page. Connecting the right types of pages is another critical consideration. It could be beneficial to your customers to connect product descriptions to tutorials for further explanations. At the same time, you might link tutorials to blog entries that expand on one or more points that you make. However, be sure not to move the prospective buyer too far away from the buy link.
  • Once again, content is king. The page you are linking to has to be of the same high quality as the page you are linking from. Don’t connect pages that have low quality content or hook a page of high quality to one that you plan to redo. Revamp the page before you include it in your linking scheme. Similarly, don’t link to pages that lack content of any type. You’ve undoubtedly seen the “content coming soon” notations when searching the internet. These pages frustrate the consumer and cause them to leave your page rather than staying there and learning more about your products or services.

The Art and Science of Internal SEO Links

You agree that internal linking can be a great way of generating backlinks that get your rankings soaring. But how, exactly, do you do it? There’s no magic formula. However, there are some tips you can follow for best practices.

For example, research your keyword phrases. Keyword research tools are invaluable in this effort. They’ll reveal which phrases are relevant to your possible anchor text and popular, too. The latter is crucial because you want consumers finding your site – rather than a competitor’s – when searching for the keyword phrase.

Another consideration is to create content that groups your keywords logically and organically. Stuffing a bunch of disjointed phrases or words together used to work a decade or two ago. It no longer does. Therefore, consider structuring your content, so keyword phrases permeate it. The search engines reward doing so.

Finally, you create the actual links that use the anchor text you identified to the pages that deliver the additional information. Don’t stretch the customer’s imagination on this point. If your anchor text identifies “guidelines,” your linked page should talk about them and not lead to a sales page.

A site search tool can be a fantastic ally. It’s a depository of links as well as keywords and applicable phrases. Add new pages to it whenever you create them. Besides that, an internal SEO link frame is a good option when you link multiple pages to one particular one. You would typically do so when there are targeted keywords that have relevance for an organic keyword phrase. In fact, you can even structure your SEO efforts by ensuring that content creators understand the plans for particular pages.

As you can see, there’s a lot more to link-building than initially meets the eye. It’s a process that requires your attention. Although it’s frustrating that you can’t oversee the details of external backlinks, make the most of the internal linking process. This one you can manage from start to finish – and should.

Eric Melillo

Eric Melillo

Eric Melillo is the Founder & CEO of COFORGE | A Growth Agency | HubSpot Silver Partner | Helping SMBs Grow Better using Inbound & HubSpot. Eric is also a lover of family, friends, and life. He enjoys good health, Tae Kwon-Do and discovering the most influential marketing trends.