It is now well-known that Google and the other search engines use several factors to rank a website in the best possible way within the search results. One of these factors are backlinks: links hosted on a website that refer directly to another page. Therefore, it is essential to obtain many of them and of excellent quality. To do this, there are different link building strategies. Link building may initially seem complicated to understand and even more so to implement, but this article will explain in detail what link building is, how to best implement the different strategies and how to avoid damaging your website.
Links, either internal (referring to pages on the same site) or external (referring to pages on other websites), help users to travel from one web page to another and the algorithms to classify the contents. For this reason, a website that does not contain links is practically non-existent for Google.
Links are considered the internet’s bargaining chip. Websites that contain a lot of them are labelled as trustworthy by search engines and get better rankings. On the contrary, sites that do not have, have too many or that contain fraudulent links are penalised by Google’s algorithm. Andrey Lipattsev, Google’s partner development manager, recently stated that links are among the three most important factors for ranking, as they allow to identify pages related to a specific theme and categorise the site.
As a result, if you want your site to rank high within the search result pages and to be considered trustworthy, you will need both to put links on your site and that other sites add links that lead to yours.
This is where link building comes into play. If you are just starting to approach SEO and websites, this activity may seem very complicated, but in this article, we will see together how to implement a real link building strategy (together with other SEO techniques) and how to identify the various types of links, both those useful for your site and those potentially harmful.
Table of contents
Link building: a definition
Let’s start first by defining what exactly is link building. The term link building should not be intended literally, as it does not refer to the actual building of links, but rather to a series of activities to obtain hyperlinks from others: link building in fact refers to all those actions, strategies and tactics to increase the quantity of quality inbound links (backlinks) to a website in order to improve the ranking of the site within the SERP (Search Engine Results Page), that is the page that users see when searching through Google (or any other search engine). This allows you to obtain more visibility, reputation and traffic to your site, therefore more opportunities for conversion and achievement of the intended goals. Having your website listed on the first page of the search results is essential, because users rarely go beyond the first page.
Google carries out a crawling activity: it scans (through crawlers, spiders or bots) all the pages on websites looking for links, it analyses them and builds a series of relationships between the pages that deal with a particular topic, in order to better categorise them. If you are a big brand, or a company that has already a well-established presence on the internet, getting links is very easy and almost natural. But if you are at the beginning, you will have to go through a gradual process that allows Google (or the other algorithms of the various search engines) to label your website. In the next paragraph, we will list the best activities for a link building strategy.
Link building strategies
Link building strategies are part of the broader concept of SEO techniques to generate more traffic on your website, increase the visibility of your content and therefore create brand awareness. The first step is obviously to create content that is valuable and relevant to your sector. Specialising in a specific market niche also allows you to be better categorised and not enter in competition with other more generic and larger sites. This will over time lead to the creation of an online community and to being recognised as a trustworthy source, thus obtaining links from other sites. It is a long and tiring practice, but it will allow you to obtain excellent results. However, there are other steps that can be implemented in order to get free backlinks. Let’s see them together:
- Create content on other sites/platforms: if your activity is relevant, you could create a page on Wikipedia or publish it on blogs (which should have good ranking and reputation) in the form of guest post. The greater the relevance of the host site, the greater the results, both for you and for the host. However, it is important to create content that is actually valuable, otherwise it could be perceived as a common advertisement.
- Take part in sectoral groups (forums, blogs, web pages), in order to generate interest, consequently, bring traffic to your site. However, do not send comments that are too general or simply with the aim of adding links to your page: they would be catalogued as nofollow (we will see what they are later) in the best-case scenario, if not even spam. In addition to making the owner of the blog/site frustrated and making a bad impression.
- Open accounts on social media related to your company/web page. In addition to being very useful for brand awareness and social media marketing activities, social network accounts allow you to add links to your site and share its contents. However, remember that managing pages on social networks takes time and that leaving them unused could damage your image. It is always better to have a few profiles but optimised according to the type of social network (and on the social networks where your audience is) than many but abandoned.
- Add links in directories that have a lot of visibility and that generate a lot of traffic. Again, it is important that the directory is on topic with the content posted on you web page.
- A further possibility, similar to the previous one, is to contact the admins of other pages and ask them to insert links that refer to your site, perhaps offering the same thing in return. Again, it is best to only search for targeted sites.
- Another advice is to check, through tools such as Ahrefs or Semrush, where the backlinks of your direct competitors are. If you found them in a directory, you should add yours, too. If they have published a guest post, try to propose one of yours, as well.
- Finally, replace broken links (i.e. 404 errors related to pages of a site that are no longer online). Once these broken links have been identified on a website, create a content relating to that topic and ask the site owner to redirect that broken link to your content.
In addition to the link building strategies that have just been listed, there are other techniques that fall within the on-page SEO tactics. Here they are:
- The best position for your links on other sites is at the beginning of the text and, possibly, before other links. However, this position should come natural within the text.
- Having your own link inserted on a page that contains many others could be harmful, as well as not very productive in terms of actual clicks on the link.
- The links can also be contained within the CTA (Call-to-Action) such as “click here” or “go to the site“, and they can also be the extended version of the link, such as https://eosmarketing.it/en/home/. However, having well-structured anchor text would be better (we’ll explain why shortly).
- You should also add links in high-definition images, with a relevant description.
Link dofollow and nofollow
Links scanned by search engines are usually divided into two macro-categories: dofollow and nofollow. While the former are traceable and indexable links, used foranalysis and categorisation purposes by algorithms (therefore useful for SERP ranking), the latter are not considered by search engines. To create a nofollow link, just add the rel = nofollow attribute, a tag to be inserted within the HTML code. Although this type of link is not useful for link building activities, it still has potential that should not be underestimated. By keeping its hyperlink function intact, a nofollow link still brings traffic to the destination site and it can therefore be useful to have it added on other websites, both to generate traffic and to build brand awareness. We suggest asking to have this attribute assigned to your backlinks, if you decide to add them anyway on platforms that deal with different topics than yours or whose reliability is unknown: by doing so, you will still get traffic to your site without risking being penalised.
Black Hat: how not to do link building
Any attempt to manipulate the ranking of your (or others) website on search engines is a violation of the rules established by Google and brings penalties. Although there are many ways for “cheating”, these techniques (called black hat) might even be fruitful in the short term, but sooner or later they will have very harmful consequences. It is therefore not recommended to try to obtain backlinks in a fraudulent way, such as throughlink farms – activities where a group of sites manually or automatically links to each other continuously – or a multi-level structure that always refers to the same link.
Likewise, buying backlinks is not recommended. In addition to being prohibited by Google, the purchase of backlinks is also problematic for a wide range of reasons:
– The cost is often excessive compared to the benefits that the backlink could bring.
– There is no guarantee that the backlinks will be active or that they will not be removed after a short time, to make room for other links.
– If the website on which the backlinks are inserted is not reliable, the ranking of your page could be penalised.
You must therefore be very careful if you choose to rely on this strategy anyway.
How to understand the quality of links
As you have understood by now, backlinks are essential. However, this does not mean that we must only focus on quantity, but also on quality. But how many backlinks are needed? And how do you calculate the quality of the various backlinks?
Unfortunately, it is not possible to give a precise answer to these questions. The higher the number of valuable backlinks, the better. The same goes for links quality: there is no formula to calculate the percentage of quality, but several factors can be taken into consideration. The more the link adheres to them, the higher its quality will be.
– Coherence with the anchor text: The anchor text (the portion of clickable text that contains the backlink) determines whether the destination address is relevant. Having an anchor text relevant to what is said in the host site, in the anchor text itself and in the content allows you to increase its quality. This does not mean, however, that you should totally avoid anchor text with CTAs like those shown above (“Click here”), but it would be better to use them sparingly.
– Position: The position of the link in a website increases its quality, especially if it is located in the central and main body of a page (also for SEO reasons). To a lesser extent, also the links in the sidebars and then those that are positioned in the header and footer are useful.
– Host page authority: Google’s PageRank system gives a lot of quality to links hosted on trustworthy web pages. So, it is very useful to check the Page Rank (the classification of the page) and the Domain Authority (the reliability of the domain) of the page hosting a backlink. There are different free tools which allows you to check all this, such as PRChecker or ahrefs’ Website Authority Checker.
Ranking within the top positions of the SERP is essential for any business and brand. Link building strategies can help us reach this goal, by increasing the quantity and quality of backlinks: backlinks that come from trustworthy and relevant pages allow both to increase traffic and to improve the ranking. On the contrary, links contained on recently opened websites will have little effect, while those on fraudulent pages can even damage the destination site.
We hope this article will be useful for your link building strategy, but keep in mind: the golden rule is to keep trying and testing!
Let us know in the comments how your link building strategy is doing or if you have any tips you want to share with us. If, on the other hand, you are still a beginner, contact us to get to know our marketing and communication services!