Although link building has recently taken a back seat to content creation, it’s still extremely valuable to search engine optimization. One great link can still significantly improve a site’s rankings; 100 bad links can significantly harm a site’s rankings. Because of potential penalties, it’s important you do link building the right way.
What is the Right Way to Link Build?
Google’s guidelines for what not to do when link building are as follows (taken from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines). Do not participate in:
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
- Excessive link exchanges.
- Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
- Using automated programs or services to create links to your site
- Text advertisements that pass PageRank
- Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank
- Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.
- Low-quality directory or bookmark site links
- Keyword-rich, hidden or low-quality links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites, for example: Visitors to this page: 1,472 car insurance
- Widely distributed links in the footers or templates of various sites
- Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature, for example: Thanks, that’s great info!- Paul paul’s pizza san diego pizza best pizza san diego
If you aren’t certain whether or not a link is within Google’s guidelines, use the <rel=”nofollow”> code for that link.
Although Google uses some vague terminology for many of these practices, including “excessive link exchanges” and “widely distributed links in the footers,” the general rule of thumb is only create links that add value to the internet and have a reason to be where they are. Link exchanges, for example, make sense some times, as do bio links from forum comments, assuming you’re making a comment that adds value to the conversation. For some industries such as web design, it makes sense to have footer links to the web designer’s site, but if you’re going to be getting sitewide links, the safe practice is to link using the company name, not a keyword. It almost always makes sense to link the company name or website instead of using a keywords phrase. The question you should always be asking yourself when link building is, “If search engines did not exist, would I still get this link?” If the answer is “no,” don’t get the link. As you’ve probably heard hundreds of times, it’s about quality, not quantity.
Acceptable Link Building Strategies
The following strategies fall within Google’s guidelines, and can help you develop a robust link building campaign. They are intended to be followed in this, or a similar, order:
- Check brand mentions by searching your company name and seeing if there are instances online where your site was not linked to, but mentioned, and ask if the site owner would be willing to link to you within the existing article using your company name.
- Join organizations that are important in your industry, such as NACHI for home inspectors, SEMPO for SEOs, and the CFA for financial institutions. Local chambers of commerce are also great places to build your site’s legitimacy.
- Industry-specific directories are good opportunities for links. Make sure they are industry-specific and not general directories.
- Check competitor links using a program such as Ahrefs or Moz’s Open Site Explorer. If sites are willing to link to your competitors, they’ll probably be willing to link to you.
- Create content that adds value to the internet, especially for your target audience. If you want small business owners to visit your site, write industry-relevant content that answers their questions or may be useful to them when trying to run their business. Once you create the content, promote it socially (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) and utilize it to get new links by doing some broken link building on related articles.
- Broken Link Building is a tried and true method of seeking out link opportunities. Moz has written an article about it here.
- Contact webmasters who provide links to sites in your industry and ask if they’ll be willing to link to you. This is the oldest, most time-tested strategy, and it also involves a great deal of manual work. Emails should be customized for each recipient; don’t just send out cookie cutter emails that don’t demonstrate that you looked into their site.
- Create and distribute more content using the appropriate channels. I’m using a broad term for “content”, which could include articles, infographics, videos, recipes, etc. The idea is to create something that adds value to the web and get it out there. A good variety of content is key, and some content, especially content that is evergreen, or always relevant, should go up on your site, while other content can go up on other highly relevant sites. Myblogguest.com is a great way to find potential guest posting opportunities. For the most part, content should be located in one place only, unless rel=canonical is being used.
- Bonus: Our friends over at Top 5 SEO have suggested link reclamation as an additional strategy for link building. Find out more here: http://www.top5seo.co.uk/link-reclamation/
While this list is only 8 items long, there are hundreds of link building strategies, many of which are outlined here; however, these 8 strategies are the only ones you’ll ever need to create a robust link building campaign, and you can utilize them endlessly. Processes 4,5,6,7, and 8 are ever-flowing and could each be conducted till the end of time, especially 5 and 8, which are essentially the same thing: create content and distribute it.
(You may be wondering what the waterfall photo has to do with link building…nothing really, it just seemed like a nice place to be on a cold winter day, and we’ve all seen enough pictures of chain links in link building articles.)