If there’s one thing the internet can agree on, it’s that link building is a hot topic in SEO for 2019. But is it still the infamous key to rising in the SERPs, or is it an outdated technique that can lose the authority of your website?
The frustrating answer is: It’s both! While everyone is arguing about whether link building is a pot of gold or a death-trap, they’re asking the wrong question altogether. Link building is a great technique that can launch you higher in search engine rankings, increase the authority of your website, and draw organic traffic—but it can also launch you into a pit of Google penalties if you do it inauthentically.
It’s not about whether you’re link building or not—it’s all about how you’re link building.
So, how can you link build effectively and authentically to get the most out of it for your business?
It’s Not a Numbers Game Anymore.
In fact, it’s not a game at all, and Google has made that very clear this past year. When Google’s PageRank Algorithm first put a value on the number of times another page linked to a site, all hell broke loose. Black hat link building techniques like linking in spammy comments and on third-party website link farms spread like a disease until Google did some serious soul searching and released a few updates like Google Penguin. Now the focus has veered sharply from quantity to quality with an emphasis on authentic links that logically refer to similar content that has validity, authority, and originality.
The websites that were boosted from these “cheats” years ago are now feeling the harmful effects of Google penalties. And now there’s no longer a way to “play” Google. If you’re going to link build, you need to use quality links—without any shortcuts, and this takes more time and specialized knowledge.
Link building is still in Google’s top 3 ranking considerations for site quality. There’s no question that link building can get you more search engine traffic, but only if you take the time to do it right. If you think link-building is a scam, in a way you’re right, because if you’re not taking the time to do it authentically or ensuring that you hire someone qualified to do it well, it sure can be.
Step Up What the Links Are Going To
Even if you make a deal with someone to link to your content in an informed and relevant way, if your content isn’t good, it’s not only a waste of everyone’s time, but it can ultimately be damaging to your site.
Ensure that your content is original, serves a purpose, and provides quality sources of information—whether it’s directly from you or through links to other authoritative sites.
The best types of content are those that are evergreen, meaning that they are timeless and will be linked to and borrowed from again and again—especially if you return to your content periodically to clean it up and keep it relevant.
Images, diagrams, info graphs, charts and other visual-oriented pieces of content are bound to get plenty of backlinks—because they take time, energy, and content knowledge to produce.
List posts (also known as listicles) also do very well because they cater to common search phrases.
People are also having a lot of success with original research, data, opinions pieces, and all-inclusive guides. While it was once thought that readers had a short attention span, requiring short content, longer content that is logically organized to be easily searchable is now performing well.
How You’re Linking Matters
It’s also important to pay attention to how you’re linking to content and how others are linking to yours. Editorially based links, meaning those that are embedded within content as opposed to “unnatural” links that are placed in headers or footers are always preferred. Additionally, your anchor text and co-occurrences matter.
Anchor text is the text that actually links out, and it’s important that it’s relent to the content being linked to—but not so relevant that it’s absolutely verbatim. The link at the beginning of this paragraph is editorial, but the anchor text is pretty obvious—we only linked out a definition. Ideally, you want to integrate your links to be more meaningful.
Co-occurrences are the words and phrases that appear around your link that Google also pays attention to. For example, the entire paragraph above explaining anchor text in more detail would qualify as co-occurrence.
Pay attention to linking in ways that are meaningful and well-integrated—don’t just link out to other sources for the sake of it. Beyond linking to authoritative sites with high quality content, you should also try to link to others in your industry and related industries because this has a higher relevance.
Network, Don’t Outsource
Speaking of relevance, link building is done best when overlapped with networking. Businesses often like to do this through guest posting or guest blogging, but just like link building, this can be great or terrible depending on how it’s done.
Guest posting is an arrangement you make with another publisher where they publish your content, you publish theirs, or some combination thereof. This can be dangerous because ultimately your content reflects your business, and if the people writing it aren’t well-informed it can have a negative effect on the reputation of your brand. This can also include hiring freelancers or otherwise outsourcing your content.
However, guest posting can be an excellent opportunity for building alliances and partnerships with like-minded businesses that can be mutually beneficial. Additionally, it may not be practical for your small business to write all of its own content.
Ultimately, you want to make sure that your content is still yours and you take ownership of it. If you allow another business or individual to contribute, ensure that you are still involved in the process and that they are putting in the time and research to do good work.
Consider making real life links with businesses that have things in common with yours but are not direct competitors. You can link to each other’s content, guest post, and refer clients to benefit you both.
Links Matter, but They Aren’t Everything
Obviously, we believe that link building is a very important aspect of a sound SEO strategy—but that being said, it shouldn’t be the only aspect. Depending on your industry, link building may not even be useful for your site at all.
Other organic SEO factors like your time on-site, bounce rate, and click-through rate shouldn’t be neglected. Ultimately, all of these factors together work in tandem to prove to Google that your website is user-friendly, valuable, and authoritative.
If you’re interested in improving your website’s search traffic, get in touch with us today. SeoTuners can offer an affordable solution for your business to increase exposure and SERP rankings with organic SEO strategies like keywords. we’re confident we have a solution for all your marketing needs.