Even if you’ve never done much SEO, you’ve probably heard how much link building is involved with the strategies. Link building has been (and is) a part of nearly every SEO strategy, but that doesn’t mean that every link carries the same value – or that the strategies to attract links have stayed the same all this time.
The Evolution of Link Building
Link building has morphed since its beginnings in ways that are for the best.
Link building, as a strategy, began in the late 1990s, coinciding with the advent of Google. In the early years of SEO, link building was at the forefront, and generally considered the most important tactic to get one’s website picked up by the search engine.
The practice of link building soon went awry as there were no regulations and the algorithms had not yet developed to the point where they would punish link-building offenders.
In the early days of SEO, it was the quantity, not quality of links that mattered. “Link building” consisted of mass spamming and buying of links, online directory submissions, building bad links, mass commenting on sites and blogs and using automated link bait. (And, at the time, these were acceptable SEO practices because no one was telling anyone differently.)
Things have changed a lot.
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As the years have gone by, Google has been coming up with more advanced algorithms to give web users a better search experience. These changes enforced harsher penalties for SEOs and webmasters who continued in the old, unethical ways of link building.
The two biggest algorithm changes that Google released to ward off the abuse of link building included the Panda and Penguin updates, which came out in 2011 and 2012, respectively (and received regular updates ever since). One cracked down on websites with poor quality content and the other penalized websites conducting spammy link building efforts.
How NOT to Build Links
Let’s start off by identifying link building strategies that can get you into trouble, either with other websites or worse, with Google.
If your company is doing any these link building tactics it may be time to reassess your strategies. (Before Google forces you to reassess.)
SPAM Commenting on Blogs or Forums
In the past, commenting on blogs and forums solely for the sake of building links was the norm. The reality, however, is that many blogs and forums have little or no link value. Therefore, building links via this method will do nothing to boosting your website’s ranking.
This is not to say that you should avoid commenting on blogs or forums. You just need to do it with the sole intent of providing useful, valuable content to your people who are your potential community.
What was once the iconic go-to for SEOs is now a website’s nightmare. Directories don’t provide the link value that was commonly thought. Companies that repeatedly add links to directories are also more likely to be seen as spamming, which raises automatic red flags with the search engines.
Very few, relevant directories exist. If you do come across one, be cautious in how you use it.
Low-Quality Guest Blogging and Article Submissions
Producing low-quality content as fast as you can and sending it out en masse to as many article submission sites as possible has been looked down upon for some time.
Google’s updates have targeted and devalued this kind of poorly written content that provides no value to web users. Whether it appears on a website, a blog post, or a submitted article, low-quality content will never make it to the top of the rankings.
SEOs have tried many ways to sneak in links. One of the more creative ways was to embed a link into an infographic. When people would copy the infographic because they liked it, they were also copying links. Widgets were also used this way. No one appreciates them.
The biggest and most obvious “no-no” is the buying of links. You should never pay for a link.
These are old “black hat” link building tactics that were common in the past, but are now an immediate sign of trouble on the horizon.
Link Building Tactics That Don’t Suck
Link building is still an effective way to up your website’s SEO and improve is search ranking. As opposed to the unethical link building efforts that could get you into trouble, these effective link building tactics can help improve your brand’s online presence, get more website visitors, and start increasing sales.
This isn’t really about link “building” so much as it is link “earning.” These links should come out of a natural desire to serve and help customers and web users by providing useful, valuable information and to initiate and facilitate sincere, authentic relationships with people online.
Good link earning begins with quality content that provides value to your potential customers. While content that is poorly written and was only intended to get links will get a website penalized, great content that people want to read will naturally encourage those people to link to it.
This isn’t just a one-time thing, though. You also need to be consistent in producing quality content. Regular, fresh content will keep people interested and will add to your brand’s online authority.
The motivation behind your content writing should be to provide useful information, not to gain links.
Write Quality Guest Blogs for Post on Relevant Sites
Write a good, high-quality blog post and reach out to other blogs in your company’s industry, asking to have your blog post published on their blog. When asking, it is important that you mention the value that your blog post will bring.
This also needs to be more than an attempt to get a link from their site. This should be seen as a relationship. As you work with these potential guest post sites, you should be able to offer lots of value. They should want to publish more of your work in the future.
Competitive Link Building
If you don’t know where to submit a guest blog post or what forums would be good to participate on, research where your competitors are going to get links and follow suit.
Interact and Engage in a Community
Besides writing quality content, there are other avenues by which you can provide valuable information.
The internet is full of social media hubs, forums, blogs and online communities dedicated to any and every industry. Find those online hubs specific to your industry and contribute to them, voicing your expertise.
Remember that the reason that you’re engaging in these online platforms to provide valuable information, not build links.
Encourage Interactions and Sharing
Write good content that people not only want to read, but that they will comment on and share via social media.
Share your content on your company’s social media channels and other online properties. Get creative and repurpose your content into different formats like videos, slide presentations, etc.
Link building is still an important part of your company’s SEO strategy. Instead of trying to get as many links as possible, proper link building now focuses on relationship building and by providing valuable information.
Broken Link (Re)Building
An effective link building strategy that simply makes a lot of sense is fixing broken links on your site and on sites that you’d like a link from.
Your first step is to look for broken links on pages that interest you. After finding the links that go to pages that no longer exist, you reach out to the website owner and point out the link and suggest a new page that could provide value to their audience.
If your company has not done any link building, or has been stuck in the link building tactics of a bygone era, you’re missing out on a lot of potential search engine power. The best link building strategies take more time and effort and are focused on building relationships and providing valuable information, not gathering the most links possible.
Now, more than ever, you have to think in terms of quality instead of quantity.
Find out how link building strategies combine with your other online marketing efforts to deliver the best results: