Many of our clients wonder ‘what is link building in SEO?’ We understand where that’s coming from. The term ‘link building’ pops up every now and then during our initial consultation calls. If you have ever researched SEO, you might have come across tonnes of articles that talk about link building. The point though is that link building is grossly misunderstood. As a term, it is often overused. Everyone who claims to be an SEO expert throws it around loosely. Some almost consider it to be a magic bullet for Page 1 rankings. That’s not true anymore.
Link building has evolved at an alarming rate. In the early days of SEO, it was the easiest of things to do. No matter what you did, you couldn’t go wrong with it. Cut to today, it is one of the most challenging aspects of SEO. One, where the margin of error has become frighteningly-thin. Even the tiniest of mistakes usually results in an algorithmic penalty. Some of it can be permanent.
That’s why we have created this brief guide for anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of ‘what is link building in SEO’. By the end of this blog post, you will have enough information to analyse & critique your SEO team’s link building efforts.
Understanding Link Building
In simple terms, link building is when you acquire backlinks to your website. A backlink is when another website links to your website through a hyperlink. It’s a means for internet users to navigate through the World Wide Web. The hyperlink can either be inserted contextually into text (keywords), into an image or in a video.
The question is, why would a website link to your website? Websites will link to you for many reasons. For instance, if you have a terrific article that provides great information. Maybe you have a great informative video. In some cases, you make them an offer they cannot refuse. (Wink)
The intended purpose of the backlink is to pass on ‘value’ or ‘authority’ to your domain. It’s called ‘link juice’ in SEO lingo. Think of it like an expert vouching for you on LinkedIn. A vote of confidence. Imagine Sir Ben Kingsley liking your picture on Facebook and commenting on it. That’s a rough explanation of how backlinks work.
When the Google bot crawls your website, it discovers the backlink. It says, ‘Wow. This website just got a thumbs up from a website that we trust’. The next thing you know, your website is ranking better on Google search. That’s what is link building in SEO.
However, as with everything Google-related, there are a lot of caveats that come with link building. See more below…
What is Link Building in SEO? – It’s a Critical Ranking Factor
Larry Page, one of Google’s founders created PageRank, a link analysis algorithm in the late 1990s. Most experts believe that this was the turning point in Google’s dominance in the search space. PageRank allowed Google to award a certain numerical value to a website. The algorithm determined this using a variety of factors. One of these was the amount and quality of backlinks pointing to the website.
PageRank was soon included as a ranking signal. Websites with higher PageRank were able to rank faster. It was only a matter of time before some smart SEO marketers noticed this. They started to manipulate rankings by increasing the number of backlinks from high PageRank websites.
In 2016, Google discontinued the Toolbar PageRank. However, it is still one of the algorithms that contribute to a website’s ranking in search. As PageRank manipulation reached extreme heights, Google started to crack down on the offenders. The animal algorithm updates started. Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon, each new algorithm fine-tuned search making it very difficult to manipulate rankings.
A lot of companies who had no clue what is link building in SEO, lost their rankings and their business overnight. Their fault? They probably hired the wrong SEO company, which were using a quick fix method to build links. (Black Hat SEO)
Here’s what Google has to say about this. Backlinks are meant to be acquired, not built. If you are building backlinks, you are gaming the system. Period. But we all know that acquiring backlinks is a mountainous task. Even the most earth-shattering piece of content often remains undiscovered for months without a single backlink. So, your SEO expert must find a middle ground. One that allows your business website to ‘acquire’ (build) organic links on a consistent basis. However, it must be done very carefully to avoid obvious patterns and red flags.
Building Links in 2021: Quality over Quantity
The most important difference in link building in 2021 is that quality is more important than quantity. You can have 100 backlinks from random websites. But even one backlink from an authority website, for instance, Wikipedia will be more valuable than those 100 links. There are three critical factors that we consider while building links.
We only build links from authoritative websites. How do we determine the authority of a website? For one, we use Trust Flow to determine the quality of backlinks that point to the authoritative website. Trust Flow is Majestic’s internal ranking parameter that assigns a numerical value from 1-100 to websites. 100 being the highest, any website with a Trust Flow above 50 is good to go. That’s just one of the factors we use though. We also use Moz’s Domain Authority. Lastly, we run it through Ahrefs to manually check the backlinks to the website.
If you want to understand what is link building in SEO, you have to understand the significance of relevance. Let’s look at link building as link acquiring for a moment. In a hypothetical example, you have a business that sells lawnmowers. What websites would normally link to your website? It would be websites in the lawn and garden business, or the power tools business. Both those categories are pretty broad.
So there can be a wide range of websites that can link organically to your website. These are editorial links. For instance, a website that provides landscaping or a business that manufactures air filters for mowers. But if you suddenly acquire a backlink from a website that manufactures t-shirts, it’s a red flag. There are ways to circumvent this of course. Never let go of a great backlink. A skilled SEO expert will be able to tweak the way this website links to you.
Last but not the least, we analyse the number of outbound links from the web page. For instance, a Wikipedia page can have hundreds of different outbound links. That’s not unnatural. But if a random web page is linking to 50 different websites, all of them completely different businesses, then it’s a huge red flag. We usually see these in link farms or PBN websites. The latter, is very effective. But there’s a method to the madness that only comes with expertise and skill.
Can You Acquire Natural Links?
You absolutely can. In fact, we focus a lot of our energy on link acquisition. We have a dedicated team that works on outreach programs. Our email marketing campaigns are very effective for link acquisition as well. Both of these work synergistically with our content marketing efforts. We typically work on creating a stellar content piece. Then we reach out to influencers and top brands in the industry with it. On most occasions, we are able to acquire some amazing backlinks.
All said and done, it’s no longer easy to acquire relevant links. The competition has just exploded. Most influencers receive thousands of backlink requests every day. As an SEO manager, it is important to diversify marketing efforts.
We don’t put all our eggs in one basket. We work simultaneously on rewarding PPC campaigns. Depending on the business and the industry, we choose from Linkedin Ads and/or Facebook Ads. Simultaneously, we also focus on building organic, relevant and authority links all the time. More often than not, there may be some monetary figure involved. But these links are completely natural and very reasonably priced when you consider the cost to the ROI.
What is Link Building in SEO? – It Can Make or Break Your Website
Link building when done right is one of the most rewarding marketing tools. It will improve your website’s rankings in organic search. To add to this, it will also increase your website’s authoritativeness. But there’s only a tiny margin of error now. It’s always better to err on the side of caution.
Here are a set of best practices to follow while building backlinks:
- Diversify your anchor text – Using exact match keywords to build backlinks is so 2010. Always ensure that you diversify your anchor text. Use naked URLs. For instance ‘www.yourbusiness.com’ and ’yourbusiness.com’ along with ‘Exact match keyword’.
- Mix it up – Use a mix of ‘do follow’ and ‘no follow’ tags. A ‘no follow’ tag tells a search engine algorithm to discredit the value of a link. But if you only build ‘do follow’ links, it comes across as unnatural. A lot of authoritative websites automatically add ‘do follow’ to their outbound links anyway.
- Don’t build spammy links – Some inexperienced SEOs offer spammy link building services. These generally use software to build hundreds and thousands of backlinks. They build most of these links on message boards, or in random comments on blogs. These will do you more harm than good.
- Never build footer links – A link in the footer of a website with great metrics is less valuable than a contextual link in the content. Footer links are infamous for their connection to link farms. So stay away.
All the information that we’ve shared here merely scrapes the surface of link building. If you really want to understand what is link building in SEO, speak to us. We run highly targeted link acquisition and link building campaigns for our clients around the world. Unlike cookie-cutter link building campaigns, every link that we build is relevant and tailored for your business.
At the same time, we focus on creating well-rounded SEO campaigns. We can help you create share-worthy content that influencers will love. Our email marketing campaigns are magnets for high-quality links. Speak to us now to build links the right way.