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What Is Link Building: A Beginner’s Guide

November 28, 2022
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Dozens of factors go into a website’s search rankings: quality content, mobile-responsiveness, search engine optimization (SEO), and page experience to name a few. While many brands understand and focus on these key elements, there’s one area that’s frequently overlooked by even the top brands: link building.

What is link building exactly? And why does it matter?

This beginner’s ultimate guide to link building will show you how you can implement an often overlooked, but supremely powerful, SEO tactic that improves your rankings, drives traffic and bolsters your website’s authority.

What is link building?

Link building is an SEO strategy that involves incentivizing other websites to provide links to your website’s homepage, landing pages or blog posts to increase the SEO authority of your domain.

In SEO, these links are known as backlinks. What is backlinking? Backlinks are one of many signals Google uses to gauge a site’s quality and authority on a topic.

The Google algorithm’s ultimate goal is threefold:

  1. Understand the root meaning of a user’s query.
  2. Analyze what content holds the information most relevant to that query.
  3. Prioritize the content that is most helpful in the final search result.

When a prominent website links to your site, a measure of their authority is passed on to yours. This is considered a high quality backlink. When dependable sites link a page, it indicates to site visitors (and Google) that the information on your site is trustworthy.1

For example, let’s say you moved to a small town and asked your neighbors to help you choose between doctor A and doctor B. If everyone suggested doctor B, you could feel reasonably confident that the more popular medical provider was the better option. You may not have any experience with that person, but others do. Therefore, with no other information to base your decision on, your best choice would be to side with the majority.

In short, SEO link building is a human and algorithmic heuristic.

 

SEO Search engine optimization agency

Google’s journey to prioritizing link quality

In the early days of Google’s search rankings, the total number of backlinks was the primary factor in the ranking equation. But this incentivized brands to pursue strategies that focused on acquiring as many backlinks as possible, even if they were from spammy or irrelevant sites.

Google has since changed those ways by shifting the focus to link quality. Now, Google views a quality link as an organic link that exists on an established and authoritative domain or website.

For instance, if Ink.com published a report that linked to a newly established website, Google would consider that a vote of confidence for the new site. As a result, the algorithm would pass on a portion of Ink.com’s authority to the new site.

In other words, the more authoritative the domain within the backlink profile, the better.

Breaking down the attributes of a link

Before we can dive into the nuances of link building or discuss strategies for fostering backlinks, you must first understand how a link is made and read. The vast majority of links can be broken down into three attributes.

For example, consider the following link and its corresponding parts:2

<a href=”https://www.w3schools.com”>Visit W3Schools</a>

  1. Anchor tag – The “<a” informs the browser that the link will open a different page.
  2. Link referral location – The “href” is short for hyperlink referral. The text within the quotation marks points to the URL to which the link will go.
  3. Anchor text of the link – The “Visit W3 Schools” is the text that a user would see on the page and click to open the link. The text is often bolded and/or colored to make it evident that the link is clickable.

Types of links

As you approach an SEO link-building strategy, you should be aware that not all links are created equal. There are several different types of links. Some are more valuable to your authority than others.

  • Follow links – A follow link is a standard backlink that informs Google that the link should pass on authority and page rank to the trusted site. Doing so helps search engine bots better understand what the content entails—and helps increase your site’s authority.
  • No-follow links – A no-follow link is given the attribute rel=”nofollow.” This tells Google that you want to link to another site, but would prefer the search engine not crawl the site. Typically this is done to link to a site you don’t wish to endorse or for a sponsored link, such as an ad or banner ad. In other words, no-follow links are necessary at times, but will not strengthen your SEO authority like a follow link will.
  • User-generated links – User-generated links are widely considered to be a low-quality linking tactic that rarely transfers any site authority. User-generated linking can be done in user profile pages, advertisements, blog comments or embedded infographics. (Think “user-generated content” for links.)
  • Organic links – Organic, or natural, links are the crown jewel of backlinks. These occur when a person on a different website—without any incentivization—links to your site in their blog, videos, posts or web copy to provide their site visitors with valuable, informative content. (All the more reason for you to publish quality content on your website.)

Benefits of link-building

Manual link-building tactics can positively impact a website in more ways than one. By deploying this SEO strategy, your brand can:

  • Bolster brand credibility – Google search engines measure domain authority by evaluating the quality and quantity of backlinks (among other things). When a trustworthy publisher links to your content, that signals to Google that you provided information that another site thought would improve their user’s experience. That link functions as a third-party reference that says your domain is an authoritative source. Over time, more high-quality links lead to an increase in credibility.
  • Improve SERP rankings – In most cases, the higher your domain authority ranking, the more likely your site will rank highly in search results pages (SERPs). And we probably don’t need to tell you about the benefits of appearing on page 1 of Google as opposed to page 56.
  • Increase web traffic – Link building can drive web traffic directly and indirectly. When backlinks to your site exist on more sites across the web, and those links are clicked on, those clicks turn into website visits. Indirectly, as your site becomes more visible in search results, more organic traffic will follow.
  • Create positive feedback loops – Successful link building can create a self-perpetuating cycle of linking. Once you get the ball rolling, it can create a positive feedback loop; the more backlinks you receive, the higher your credibility reaches, which leads to—you guessed it—more backlinks.
  • Boost brand awareness – Backlinks fall into the word-of-mouth marketing category. When another page links to your site, it encourages the reader to learn more about your brand. If the reader clicks the link and enjoys the content, you generate a positive initial touchpoint with a new site visitor.
  • Support revenue growth – More traffic, improved authority, and increased rankings result in more potential customers interacting with your brand. This affords you access to a larger swath of potential consumers. And a wider net? This means more visitors cycled into your sales funnel.
  • Foster partner relationships – Although link building can occur naturally, more often than not, it’s the result of your direct outreach and relationship building with industry influencers and like-minded brands. Over time, these relationships can strengthen your brand’s trust and influence. Guest posting is an example of that type of partnership.

How To encourage link building

Every brand would like to increase its volume of high-quality backlinks without having to lift a finger. Unfortunately, that’s not quite feasible. Brands that boast an impressive list of quality backlinks rarely reach that point by accident. Instead, they deploy careful link-building strategies to improve both the quantity and quality of links, such as:

  • Performing link outreach – Similar to cold-calling, link outreach involves messaging websites related to your niche and requesting that they link to your content. One approach could be to identify the sites that link to your competitor’s sites and see whether they would also link to your site—or better yet, boot out your competitors and link to yours instead.
  • Partaking in guest blogging – Some sites invite other industry experts to contribute to their blogs. Or, they may accept guest blogging queries. Either instance presents a unique link opportunity to plug your website and establish your authority via high-quality content. If you create a piece that readers consider valuable, you may well enjoy a rush of new backlinks and site visitors.
  • Creating visual assets – Visual assets are pieces of content that are easy to link to and provide sites with valuable content that they may not want to create themselves. Images, infographics, diagrams, and charts are all wonderful options. Plus, you can use them in your own social media efforts and sales collateral.
  • Leveraging social media – When you have new blog posts or visual assets, share them on social media, engage in the comments, and tag relevant brands and influencers to nurture a conversation. If you provide valuable content or interesting discussion, there’s a high likelihood that readers will share your blog post or link on their channels.
  • Uncovering unlinked brand mentions – If your brand has been mentioned online—whether in the news, on social media or in the trades—it’s not uncommon for a publisher to forget to link to your site. Fortunately, there are social listening tools that notify you whenever you’re mentioned but not linked. In such cases, you could reach out to the person or brand and ask them to link the content.

Jump start your link-building strategy with Power Digital

When a link building tactic is properly deployed, it can increase your site’s total number of backlinks. That, in turn, could improve your overall authority and rankings, leading to more traffic, brand awareness and revenue.

But managing and monitoring a backlink strategy is no small feat. It’s important to partner with content strategists who know the ins and outs of requesting, building, monitoring and optimizing backlinks. That’s where our growth marketing agency can help your team break the mold. Our digital marketing experts can elevate your brand’s presence with bespoke content strategies that make an impact. We are both an SEO company and content marketing agency, delivering growth solutions you can rely on.

If you’re ready to take the first step toward growth, get in touch with us today.

 

Sources:

  1. Google Support. How Results Are Automatically Generated. https://www.google.com/search/howsearchworks/how-search-works/ranking-results/
  2. Beter Programming. The Anatomy of HTML Links. https://betterprogramming.pub/a-primer-on-html-links-af632c4857e0
  3. Search Engine Journal. How to Use Guest Blogging for Natural Link Building. https://www.searchenginejournal.com/link-building-guide/guest-blogging/#close

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