What is Link Building in SEO?
December 22, 20229 minute read
Have you ever wondered how Google and other search engines decide what link or website appears first when you search something? It’s not arbitrary, and Google definitely doesn’t have the time to evaluate each page of every website, not to mention vetting the actual content. So how do they do it? For Google specifically, they first evaluate the site’s authority and how useful they are to the users and then use an algorithm that evaluates it based on more than 210 factors! Yes, there are over 210 data points that play into your ability to rank highly on Google.
Knowing this is what makes you stick out amongst the competition, websites employ Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies to help build their authority, prove their usefulness, and hit at least some of those 210 factors. One of those strategies is Link building.
Link building involves getting other relevant websites to link back to your page. We call these backlinks. It sends a signal to Google and other search engines that your content is worth linking back to, and therefore, valuable. Link building is difficult and very time-consuming, and progress is often on a steep curve but the gains it brings to your website is undeniable.
Oftentimes, what people have a hard time understanding is the process it takes to get other sites to link back to you. It’s a long, sometimes stressful process that takes a bit of persistence. Link building is also very relational, meaning that it takes a lot of networking and building personal relationships with people or websites in the same general field for them to even consider linking your content.
Which bring us to…
What are the benefits of link building?
The main benefits of link building is more visibility and increasing brand authority. Other pages linking back to your page means that you can also potentially reach their audience. You are more visible overall because you are now accessible from many different places on the internet. Not to mention, increased ranks on search engines results pages. Brand authority can also be increased through link building. If several websites backlinks your website, that means that you have relevant content and can be looked at as an authority in that field. Google then knows you can be trusted, so they’ll increase your “score” and rank you higher.
Aside from these, other benefits can include:
Drive referral traffic
The backlinks to your page means that the audience of another website can easily go to your page. Hopefully, that would also give them the chance to scope out some of your other content.
Helps google and other search engines crawl your site
Since search engines crawl links between your own pages and links between you and other websites, having more pages linked to you can help.
Build relationships with related websites
One way to do link building is to ask for it from related websites. While not as ideal as links that are done without your request, it does allow you to build relationships with similar websites with mutual benefit. Collaborations could also help you reach one another’s audiences.
Greater revenue opportunities/increased sales
If you’re more visible, have increased referral traffic, and have better brand authority, it would follow that you would have greater revenue opportunities. Backlinks towards product pages are especially important because they create a direct conversion path.
Before we get into how to start link building, we’ll first discuss two types of links:
- These links directs the audience to another website. External links can be divided further into two types: organic and promoted.
- Organic: these are backlinks that you didn’t ask for, and they’re harder to get. Other sites usually link your content organically if you have valuable content that they think is relevant enough to share.
- Promoted: these backlinks are ones you do ask for. This might mean collaborating with a website in a similar general industry or asking influencers or people of authority to link your content.
- These links are backlinks that you make from a page on your own website to another page on the same website.
Link building, at least externally, isn’t something you can do right when you begin posting content. It can happen, but as a “low-value” webpage, it can be very difficult to do. As for internal link building, you won’t even have enough pages to link back to. So, how do you start link building?
External Link Building
For starters, link building doesn’t happen automatically and the results can only be revealed a couple of weeks or even months after you’ve started your efforts. This is mostly because organic backlinks have to be earned. Because they are the hardest to get, they also weigh heavier than other backlinks, e.g., internal links.
There’s one type of external link though that isn’t necessarily hard to do but not very effective in terms of ranking. It is creating your own backlinks. To be differentiated from internal links, creating your own backlinks isn’t a link from and to your own website, but rather, a link that you posted on other websites. Some ways you can create backlinks are by posting your link on the following:
- Blog comments
- Social media profiles
Possibly the only real way to earn organic links is making sure that you provide valuable content and promote them properly. Providing content can look like an informative (or entertaining) blog, where you post content related to the product you’re selling or focused on the niche you are in. High-quality content will encourage people to backlink to your website, essentially a referral, so their audience can check out more of the information you’ve provided. Unfortunately, with 197,046,670 active websites on the internet, providing high-quality content isn’t enough. You have to tell people about it! It’s imperative that you promote your content in such way that it stands out more than others in the same niche. You can use social media! It’s a free promotional tool. Post relevant content and link them to your content.
In the case of earning organic backlinks, there’s not much else to do besides creating content, promote, and wait for your hard work to pay off. However, there are other ways of earning external backlinks in more direct and proactive ways. It would take some networking, negotiations, and maybe even tapping into your personal network.
Here are other ways to build links:
Influencers and other authority figures
Since influencers and other authority figures in your field already have a following, you can tap into their audience by collaborating with them. Offer them your service, or better yet, scour the internet for influencers who have already mentioned your brand, which makes for a more “authentic” recommendation in the eyes of the audience. You can then reach out to them, introduce yourself and your website, and ask them to link your website or specific pages with relevant keywords.
Look for websites in the same niche and ask them to link your website. It can be a mutually beneficial relationship by offering to do the same in return. While that symbiosis is ideal, you are often limited to websites that are roughly the same “rank” as you are. As mentioned earlier, link building, especially in this case, is highly relational. Let’s look at it from the perspective of the website that’s being asked to link another website. If a random stranger sent you an email asking you to link to their website, you probably wouldn’t even consider it. However, if the same request comes from a person you follow or someone you’re already familiar with, you’ll probably say yes. The probability of you agreeing would further increase if you have a personal relationship with the person asking you to link their content. It may be difficult and a longer process but relationships are key to having long term success in link building. Start building relationships with bloggers, journalists, and other sites. Maybe you can introduce yourself and your brand to them and say you’re looking forward to being in the same field and working together.
It doesn’t stop there, though. While relationships are important, other vital elements in link building is relevance and value exchange. Note that when you’re looking for websites to work with, you should consider their relevance in terms of alignment in general industry. Are they in the same niche? If you’re a digital marketing website, working with a website on power tools wouldn’t make a lot of sense. Working with unrelated, random websites won’t contribute much and their audience won’t probably be too interested in what you’re offering either.
Value exchange simply means that both parties are gaining something. A quid pro quo. It can come in the form of your page enriching their content. For example, if Strikepoint Media wanted to work with another website with an article on YouTube marketing, we might offer up our article on the 3 Steps to Making a YouTube Ad as a supplementary resource. In this case, content enrichment from our side is exchanged for a backlink from their side. Another form of value exchange is a one for one exchange, involving swapping of links. You link something of mine, and I’ll link something of yours. You can also exchange guest posts. Guest blogging will give you an opportunity to showcase your writing style and expertise to a new audience.
Another thing you need to know when it comes to external link building is to remember that you need high-quality links. Search engines consider how many and how good your links are. Having many backlinks to your website should be complemented by making sure these links are of high-quality.
There are 5 elements of a high-quality backlink:
- Are the links organic in a sense that they weren’t bought?
- Does the website have a good reputation and authority in the field? Does it have good link power?
- Is the website in the same field or general industry?
- Anchor Text
- Is the anchor text relevant to the content of the linked page?
- Link Placement
- Is it prominently displayed in the source page?
A way to get high-quality links is to subscribe to services that deliver press release requests from journalists. These requests usually ask for information or quotes on certain topics. When you subscribe to these services, the various requests made by journalists will be sent to your inbox. From there, it’s going to be a game of who can offer the requested information accurately faster. The number of alerts can be overwhelming and responding quick enough to be considered first can be challenging. But the chance of being linked by a reputable journalist is big! It can mean being featured on websites bigger than you are, and reaching more people. Haro is one such platform, which is free by the way, but also have premium offers.
*It’s important to remember, while both organic and promoted external links can take a while to fruit, to never resort to buying backlinks. Buying links or link manipulation is an example of black hat SEO, which could get you penalized or worse, banned from search engines.
Internal Link Building
A free way you can build links, without having to network and talk to other websites is internal link building. As mentioned, internal links are links from and to different pages on the same website. For example, if we were to recommend other tips for the success of your website, we will link you to our e-Commerce Marketing Guide or to our blog for more resources on digital marketing.
Internal link building may not weigh as much as external backlinks, but they do increase your visibility and can encourage your audience to visit more pages on your website. If your website is new, it might be easier for you to backlink earlier posts as you go. For example, if you’re planning to talk about social media marketing strategies, you might want to search related articles that you’ve already posted. Figure out how you can naturally integrate keywords relevant to those posts. For example, if you already have a post on advertising on TikTok, you can integrate a segment about different social media platforms, mention TikTok and make that an anchor text to backlink the past post.
If, however, you already have so many posts with no backlinks at all, you can do the following steps:
- Keyword Research
- You can research keywords relevant to your niche using a keyword research tool. Now, this may be a lot, but you have to identify keywords with your existing content in mind.
- Assign Keywords to Content
- When you have a list of keywords, list down the content that can be related to each keyword.
- Link Pages Using Targeted Anchor Text
- Start interlinking your pages by linking relevant pages using the right keywords.
For example, the keyword you’re working on is “social media.” That’s the first step. On the second step, you will identify and list down all of your existing content related to social media. That includes posts on Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, social media metrics, and even making a social media marketing strategy. Then you can find ways to link each post to one or more of your other posts. Start with the post on Facebook for example, and the post mentions something about using Facebook as part of your social media marketing strategy. You want to use the exact keyword phrase, “social media marketing” as your anchor text to link your social media marketing post.
Link to the right page with the right anchor text. Anchor text is the clickable text that links to the other page. It’s important to consider the anchor text because search engines can use the anchor text as a signal for what the content is about. Instead of using the generic “Click here” as your anchor text, it’s much better to use specific keywords. At the same time, you don’t want all anchor text towards the same page to be the same as that could be considered a type of link manipulation.
Ultimately, link building is one of the most important strategies you can ever learn to optimize your website for search engines. It’s going to take you some time but will ultimately garner good results for your business. While it may get easier as your website gets bigger and earn a better reputation, you can’t just stop your efforts after earning a certain number of backlinks. It’s a continuous process, especially with the amount of competition you are bound to face on the internet, ranking on the search pages and exposing your pages to more people will give you an edge over millions of others in the same game. You don’t want to get left behind.