This article provides a practical explanation of linkbuilding. After reading, you will understand the basics of this powerful marketing tool.
What is linkbuilding?
Linkbuilding is the activity of trying to expand the number of incoming links to a website, as well as their quality. Linkbuilding is a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) activity. The goal of linkbuilding is to increase the ranking of a website in Internet search results.
From the perspective of a webmaster, there are different types of links. In general these are divided into incoming and outgoing links. The outgoing links refer people from the webmaster’s website to another website. Incoming links refer people from an external website to the webmaster’s website. Incoming links are also referred to as backlinks. These HTML hyperlinks are very important for a website’s ranking because they represent a website’s reputation, as it were. If many hyperlinks lead to a relevant page, it’s a sign that the website has a good reputation.
In the early days of the Internet and Google, algorithms would rely on the amount of incoming links to gauge how successful a website was. But this knowledge was soon taken advantage of by so-called Black-Hat SEOs. They wanted to generate as many backlinks as possible in a short time by using certain linkbuilding schemes. This creates an abundance of incoming links to a certain website, which are usually not of very high quality. Today the quality of backlinks is more important. Algorithms will detect the use of artificial backlinks.
Why are high-quality backlinks important?
The number of backlinks indicates how popular or important a website is. Google searches and other search engines are, in part, based on these links. The more relevant links from credible websites, the better a site will perform in the search engines’ search results. Links also stimulate referral traffic and help to develop relationships.
How do I create high-quality backlinks?
Quality is an important factor in the effectiveness of backlinks. Just creating backlinks isn’t good enough. When a backlink refers to a page that has similar content, the link is considered relevant. Links that are found on pages with different content are seen as less relevant. The more relevant, the higher the quality.
When a webmaster of a classic car website uses a hyperlink to a website for classic car parts, it will be seen as more relevant by the search engine than a link to a photography website. The more relevant the page is that links back to the classic car website, the higher the quality of the backlink.
The more high-quality backlinks, the more value is assigned to that page by search engines and the higher it will rank.
Getting relevant backlinks through linkbuilding is an activity that requires a lot of effort. Webmasters often approach each other and exchange reciprocal links. An reciprocal link exchange involves each webmaster placing a link to the other’s web page on their own page. If these are relevant pages that link to each other, the link exchange will have a positive effect on the website’s relevance and its position in search results.
If the link is not relevant, it will be valued as such. Outgoing links will still be counted however, which dilutes the relevance score/ratio of many websites. In particularly bad cases, this may even mean that Google or other search engines will stop indexing the website all together.
Follow vs No-follow links
Search engines use backlinks as a kind of popularity contest to gauge how important a web page is. Each backlink is a vote in that contest. It’s important to maintain a healthy relevance score/ratio, and prevent dilution. However, it does happen that a webmaster wants to place a link to a website that might no longer be relevant, but is still important. In such cases it’s possible to remove the weighting the backlink vote gets. That way one can create a link to a different page, without a search engine including it in the ratio. This is done with so-called no-follow links.
When placing a no-follow backlink, the search engine is told not to track the link. The search engine can still track the link to new pages, but it’s not included in the link equity. Link equity is the popularity vote of a backlink.
For instance, a webmaster could be uploading writing tips with a link to an example of a poorly written text. He will then create the link to the website in question, without the search engine including the link as high quality.
In HTML, a basic link looks like this:
<a href=”http://www.examplewebsite.com/category/page”>link name</a>
A no-follow backlink looks like this:
<a href=”http://www.examplewebsite.com/category/page” rel=”nofollow”>link name</a>
Because getting valuable backlinks to a page is time consuming and difficult, webmasters come up with all kinds of ways to get as many links as possible, even using artificial or underhanded means. For instance, backlinks are bought or exchanged with other webmasters. This might seem an easy way to do it, but it’s risky for the website and can endanger the time you’ve put in it. Search engines, including Google, will actually penalise sites that have artificial or spam-like link profiles.
There are many manipulative linkbuilding tactics, but search engines have developed algorithms for most in order to eliminate the effect.
Linkbuilding strategies come in all shapes and sizes. All good strategies are tailored to the unique goals of the website and its webmaster. Use the tips below to tailor your strategy to your goals.
Actively look for customer and partner links
A good way to collect backlinks is to regularly work with loyal customers, for instance. An example of this is the use of partnership badges. These are often shown on the bottom of a website and serve a sign of mutual respect. Webmasters can also offer to write product or service testimonials.
Linkbuilding & blogs
Using blogs for linkbuilding is one of the most popular and effective methods. Blogs offer the opportunity to offer new content on a regular basis, stimulate debate, and get new links from other blogs. It is however important that the generated content is of good quality.
Part of the previous tip is to create unique and high-quality content. High-quality content, if promoted in the right way, can get a lot of shares. Make sure that the content you offer on your website:
- Is of high quality
- Is visually appealing
- Addresses a certain need or interest
Use Google Search Operators
Google search operators are advanced searches with special symbols that are more extensive than regular text searches. Search operators are used for content analysis and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Source pages are key here. These source pages can be used to find potentially relevant pages for backlinks. If a webmaster with a website about amateur photography is looking for new sources, they can use this to find out which pages would be good link targets.
The tool can also be used to generate ideas about adding new content. Think about which content you would want others to come to you for, so they can link to your web pages.
General tips for linkbuilding
Use the tips below to get high-quality backlinks:
- Only used earned links (editorial links)
- Only use links from credible websites
- Only use relevant links
- Use a healthy mix of follow and no-follow backlinks
Linkbuilding Pros and Cons
Linkbuilding is essential, but not easy. Nor is it a quick process; efforts to speed it up have to be properly organised to avoid inefficiencies. The pros and cons of linkbuilding are:
- If used well, it will increase the number of visitors (traffic)
- Better position in search engine results
- Increased brand awareness
- Time consuming
- If used incorrectly, the ranking will suffer significantly
Now It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Are you familiar with this explanation of linkbuilding? Do you work to generate incoming and outgoing links? What linkbuilding tips would you like to share? What other aspects of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) are important in your opinion? Do you have any tips or additional comments?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Dover, D., & Dafforn, E. (2011). Search engine optimization (SEO) secrets. Wiley publishing.
- Enge, E., Spencer, S., Stricchiola, J., & Fishkin, R. (2012). The art of SEO. ” O’Reilly Media, Inc.”.
- Luo, X., Xu, Z., Yu, J., & Chen, X. (2011). Building association link network for semantic link on web resources. IEEE transactions on automation science and engineering, 8(3), 482-494.
- Zhang, S., & Cabage, N. (2017). Search engine optimization: comparison of link building and social sharing. Journal of Computer Information Systems, 57(2), 148-159.
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