While backlinks are far from the main aspect of SEO, they can play a big part. Many SEO experts are apt to agree that link building is one of the hardest and most time consuming parts of their job. However, if you are able to proficiently build links of quality back to your site, it can put you ahead of your competition. Quality being the key-word.
What is Link Building?
Basically, link building is the process of gaining links from other websites to your own and has been an important part of SEO since the late 1990’s. A link to your site was not only a way the search engines initially found and crawled your website, but each link pointing to it was looked at as a vote of confidence. If another site thought yours was important enough to link to, your site must have been of some substance and was worthy of appearing in their search results.
Back in the 90’s to about 2012, there were a few more search engines to choose from, (anybody else remember AltaVista, HotBot and Ask Jeeves?) and building link popularity for your website was more of a numbers game. Whichever website had the most links won out over their competition. Link building was also fairly easy from free directories and trading links to commenting on posts and even buying a bunch of links for super cheap. Not so today!
Today, while the number of links may still be a factor, Google has made it very clear that anything construed as a link scheme would be considered a violation of their webmaster guidelines. They state that “The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community.” So what does that mean for you? Write good content and then sit back and wait hoping against all hope that someone accidentally stumbles across your content? Absolutely not! What it really comes down to is finding those quality sites of relevance and let them know you have something they may find interesting — those are the backlinks that will make the biggest impact.
So what are the search engines like Google looking at when they’re evaluating a link?
It may go without saying, but having webpages worth linking to is very important. It would be near impossible to build links back to a site with low-value content so make sure that is your first focus.
When you consider that a search engines main goal is to offer results that best match the search query, it’s easy to understand why they would analyze things like link quality through metrics such as trust, spam and authority. Trustworthy website tend to only link to other trustworthy websites, while a spammy site will receive very little in the way of links pointing to them from a website with authority. You don’t want a bunch of links from spammy websites because it will drop the trust level of your site.
Area & Topic Specific
Let’s say our website is offering beach weddings on Maui. A link from a site like The Knot or a link from our favorite island wedding photographer would matter much more than a site that offers vacation rentals in Miami. That said, a link from a vacation rental on Maui would also be good for the beach wedding site also on Maui. If the linking site operates out of your local area or is related to your topic in some way, that’s the way to go!
The highlighted text that links to your website is also a strong signal to the search engines. You want to have descriptive keywords that relate to your site which would also naturally be keywords you want your site ranking for. Another top tip is to change up the phrases from time-to-time. “Maui beach weddings”, “beach weddings in Maui”, “Maui weddings on the beach” or the company name would be good options for our aforementioned fictitious website. Stay away from anchor text like “click here” or “website”.
Internal Pages Count Too
Overall, the main page of your site will naturally receive the most backlinks. However, links to important internal pages is a great way to have a healthy link back campaign. For example, our beach wedding site would want to feature valuable pages like “the best beaches on Maui to get married on,” and “how to plan a destination wedding”. Not only is this linking practice good for the website, but helpful to the people searching out these more specific topics get right to the information they have been searching for.
Keep the Links Coming
If a website stops building links, their link popularity goes stagnant and slowly suffers. To the search engines, you would continue to receive links back to your website as long as it is still valid and offering fresh content that people find valuable.
Growing the link popularity for your website is critical to gaining attention and traffic. If done correctly, you should see more frequent search engine crawling, higher rankings, increased search traffic and even traffic from those quality referring websites. If you’re not seeing any change, you may need to seek out better linking sites, or look to improve your on-page SEO.