Beginners Guide To Link Building - General FAQ's, Strategies & Risks
Link building is the process of creating links in order to promote a website and to improve rankings in the ‘search engine results pages’ (SERPs). Another popular term is link earning, which is the art of creating and promoting high quality content in order to earn links naturally.
Search engines interpret links as digital “votes” in favor of the destination site. In general, the more links you have from quality sites the higher you will rank in the search engines.
Do not expect overnight results from link building. First, it takes time to build quality links. Second, search engines do not always pick up or index new links immediately, which delays improvement in SERP rankings.
Typically, it takes several weeks before one sees any movement in keyword rankings. It is also very common for keyword rankings to bounce up and down at the onset of a link building campaign. The difficulty of the keywords, competitiveness of the industry, age and authority of the target site, the aggressiveness of the link building campaign and the types of links one builds are the primary factors that determine the velocity of ranking improvements.
Not all links are created equal – search engines consider many factors when determining the value of a link. Those factors include, but are not limited to:
- Domain Authority – It is a measure of the importance of a link and take into account the site’s age, its content and its popularity (Social and Links) among other factors. There is no single metric that defines domain authority, but here are some common stats/tools to use:
- Number of Ranking Keywords – How many keywords the site ranks for in Google. One tool to find this data is SEMRush.com. If a site ranks well for a lot of keywords, it is a good sign that Google likes that website. The difficulty of the keywords it ranks for is also a great indicator of the authority of a site.
- Backlinks – Is the number of sites that link to a page or site. Opensiteexplorer.org, MajesticSEO.com, and Ahrefs.com are sites that provide backlink data.
- Traffic – Is the number of people that visit a site via target links. Alexa.com and Compete.com both provide traffic estimations and rankings of websites.
- Domain Age – Is the creation date of the site. There are many tools on the internet that will share the registered date of a domain including Domaintools.com, Whois.net and Archive.org.
- Google PageRank – Is Google’s estimation of link popularity. Google provides a toolbar that shows PageRank. There are many other SEO tools that show Google PageRank. Pagerank should not be utilized as they only metric when measuring a sites domain authority.
- Social Popularity – Is how many likes, tweets, shares a site receives from Facebook.com, Twitter.com, Linkedin.com, etc. Sharedcount.com is tool that provides social stats estimates.
- Relevance – Is the degree of the relationship between the target site and the content of the originating linking site. Links from topical authorities are very powerful. For example, a link from a sports news site is very beneficial to a site selling athletic apparel.
Google PageRank is a key element in Google’s original and current search algorithm. PageRank is a measure of the value of a particular page based on the quantity and quality of the pages linking to it. PageRank is a numeric value that ranges from 1 to 10.
All factors being equal, links from pages with higher PageRank carry more weight than links coming from lower PageRank pages, hence its importance to link builders. Many SEO practitioners consider PageRank an important factor however; it is only one component among many other factors including content quality, social signals, website accessibility, etc.
Link popularity is a measure of both the number and the quality of links pointing to a webpage.
The term “backlink” is interchangeable with the terms “link” and “inbound link”. Each of these terms refers to the html code placed on a webpage that allows a user to navigate from one page to another. Search engines see links as votes; these votes determine the popularity of a webpage. In general, the more votes a web page gets the more the search engines value that page.
Anchor text or link text refers to the content in a link. Anchor text optimization refers to placing target keywords in the links that point to your website, which is an effective technique for ranking higher in the SERPs. Concurrently, anchor text optimization is Google’s Achilles heel. While being a very effective way for Google and individuals to determine the content of a target page, millions of webmasters misuse its purpose in order to achieve an advantage over their non-optimized competitors. To deal with the over-usage of anchor text as a major ranking factor, Google dispenses various counter measures. Specifically, Google launched its “Penguin” update in 2012, which primarily focused on countering those who used anchor text optimization aggressively. Anchor text optimization is still powerful and important when done properly. .
Read this article to learn more about proper anchor text optimization:
“Link Bait” is content posted to a website with the intention of encouraging site visits; to earn natural backlinks, social shares and to furthering the sites brand influence. Other terms for Link Bait include Share Bait, Social Bait and Link Baiting. Link Bait is one of the few link building activities that search engines endorse as long as the content is unique and that it provides real value. This technique is costly since it requires a lot of time and talent to do well. However, done correctly, it will have long lasting value.
“NoFollow” links refer to links that contain the rel=”nofollow” attribute inside the html link code. A NoFollow instructs Google that this hyperlink should not influence the link’s target page; i.e., do not pass PageRank. Google introduced this as a method to combat blog spam.
Links that do not contain the rel=”nofollow” attribute are often referred to as do follow, DoFollow, or Followed links. These links pass PageRank.
Learn more about NoFollow links in this article:
Link building, as described above, is the process of creating links. Link buying is a method of link building that involves paying a webmaster to place a link on their site.
Google states: “Google and most other search engines use links to determine reputation. A site's ranking in Google's search results is partly based on an analysis of the sites that link to it. Link-based analysis is an extremely useful way of measuring a site's value, and has greatly improved the quality of web search. Both the quantity and more importantly the quality of links count towards this rating.”
Google further explains that it does not want links purchased with the sole intention of manipulating its search algorithm. Webmasters place paid links on their websites in return for payment. Paid linking is a cost effective method for increasing search rankings, but it is not without risks. Search engines will devalue links that it believes are paid. Excessive paid linking, done poorly, can cause a site to receive ranking penalties.
Paid link building techniques range from very low quality automated link building, paid link exchange programs, high end paid directory placements, rented in-content links to manual link acquisition.
The decision to participate in paid link building is for each site owner to decide based on their own goals and risk/reward calculations. However, the majority of webmasters that buy links choose to do so because it is a cost effective way to rank higher in the search engines.
Anyone interested in paid linking should fully understand that paying for links violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. With that said, Google does not endorse any sort of proactive link building even those techniques that do not involve financial compensation.
TextLinkBrokers.com provides some services that involve paying webmasters; more importantly, we provide several services that do not involve financial compensation. If financial compensation for links is something you wish to avoid, please discuss the alternatives with your account manager.
Social signals are another form of “votes” for pages. Social votes are quickly becoming a more important factor in the search engine algorithms. Tweets, Facebook “Likes” and Google “+1s” are examples of social signals.
A site can increase its rankings by earning more votes. This will become increasingly more important as Google and Bing continue to move to a search and social integration. For example, Google+ users see enhanced search results that reflect the number of +1s awarded by other users in their social circles.
A natural link profile is essential for a new website. However, if search engines see a site gaining large numbers of links with similar broad based anchor text over a short time period, they may believe the site in question is manipulating their ranking algorithms.
New websites need to focus on quality over quantity and they should lean toward utilizing a higher percentage of brand-based anchor text. However, the most important technique to higher rankings is fresh, high quality content on and off site. Search engines will follow links in the content to the target site and the advertisers and the host sites will earn natural links and social votes.
Content marketing professionals use top-quality, original content as a means of complementing direct link building. The primary advantage of content marketing is its ability to earn high quality natural links and its long-lasting effect, which often persists long after publication. If visitors find your content helpful, enjoyable or informative, they are more likely to direct friends and followers to your page by linking to it or sharing it on social networks.
Common examples of content marketing include blogging, link baiting, authoring white papers, expert articles, infographics, creating videos to utilizing user-generated content. Encouraging users to write reviews or to leave comments are popular examples of the latter technique. Quicksprout.com has an excellent guide on content marketing that can be found here:
Tiered link building is the process of creating links to external pages that link to a target website with the objective of increasing the authority of the linking page. This, in turn, increases the value of the link popularity that the site receives from that page.
Reciprocal links follow a simple, “I’ll-link-to-you-if-you-link-to-me,” principle. This is an ineffective method of link building, especially on a large scale, in 2012.
#1 What are the potential risks/penalties for building links? Can my site get penalized or banned by the search engines?
The risks associated with link building depend on the kind of link building and the strategy behind it. There are plenty of risk free link building techniques and there are those that can get your site penalized or banned in the search engines.
Risk free link building techniques involve development and promotion of high quality content. High-risk link building activities include participation in or use of high quantity, low quality, automated systems or software. The majority of link building techniques fall somewhere in the middle.
For example, a site paying $49 per month to be part of a completely automated blog network that creates and posts low quality duplicate/spun content on its behalf in order to build hundreds or thousands of keyword rich backlinks, the chances are that any ranking improvements attained will not last very long. Google’s automated algorithms will likely devalue those types of links fairly quickly, causing ranking losses. It is also possible that Google will temporarily lose trust in the website causing additional ranking losses. In the worst-case scenario, the site could trigger a manual review. If this happens, a human reviewer will make a decision to maintain the site’s ranking, devalue its ranking or to de-index the site. If the site in question is low quality and has no existing natural backlinks, the site is at greater risk.
The case in point above is an extreme example, but not unheard of. A penalty is possible even if your site is not participating in an automated network. One of the most common penalties is the over optimization of anchor text, which is more common since the 2012 Google Penguin update. Even if you are manually building in-content links on very high quality sites, you need to rotate your anchor text properly or you could trip an automated filter. Automated filters will discount the value your site receives from certain links, but not all.
Learn more about anchor text optimization here: What is the Best Post-Penguin Anchor Text Optimization Strategy?
If a site triggers an over optimization filter, the site may lose rankings for a single keyword, for all keywords on a particular page or several pages.
Engaging in excessive link buying, too much focus on anchor text, employing poor techniques and little research, participating in automated networks and using automated software may prompt a site penalty or banning. A site may trigger an automated penalty or worse, a manual review in extreme cases. Dangerous techniques include buying links in sidebars and footers of websites (especially those that advertise that they are “selling links”). Do not buy links from a company that places your links via automated code on webpages. A reasonable number of links placed in relevant content and that appear natural will achieve higher rankings.
Understanding the risks associated with link building is important. In most cases, and if done right, the rewards far outweigh the potential risks. Completely risk free link building tends to be very costly and slow to produce results while other link building techniques may produce quick results but overly expose the site to unnecessary risks. The trick is to determine the right mix based on your goals and to select a link building company to deliver those services in the most natural way possible under the umbrella of a well-thought out strategy.
Bulk, automated, and obviously artificial techniques hold the greatest risks.
Content-based techniques, if done correctly, hold no risk for penalty.
SEO/link building techniques that are compliant with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines are referred to by some as “White Hat”. SEO and link building techniques that are not compliant with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines are sometimes referred to as “Black Hat”.
In general, the majority of SEO’s agree that most link building techniques fall somewhere in-between white and black, thus they are called “Grey Hat”. This is the case because search engines do not explicitly support any sort of artificial link building.
There is a lot of confusion regarding what this message means and what to do about it. SearchEngineLand has written several articles on the subject, including this one http://searchengineland.com/google-explains-new-link-warnings-says-dont-panic-but-dont-ignore-128888
We highly recommend that you speak to us prior to taking any action. Many times no action is required, in other cases we may need to do a backlink analysis to determine exactly why you are getting the message.