Link building is a pretty confusing subject when you first come across it. Admittedly it’s all pretty geeky, so we’ll try to break it down into layman’s terms here so you can understand exactly what it is, how it should be done, and how to spot when it’s being done wrong. (If you’re already using a link building service, this will let you recognise when they’re using tactics that may potentially harm your rankings in the future).
Why Link Building Matters
What’s all the fuss about these links anyway? Isn’t SEO all about the words on your website?
But that’s not the whole story. There’s also ‘off-page optimisation’ – factors that contribute to your rankings which are not actually on your website. And that’s where links come in.
Why Are Links Used for Rankings?
Back in the bad old days, ranking was based primarily on on-page factors like the keywords META tag.
Obviously, this made search results very easy to manipulate. A website owner could very easily control their rankings – even if their website was complete rubbish (or webspam, as Google calls it).
So the people at Google sat down as said to themselves, ‘How can we more reliably determine the quality and relevance of a website to a given search phrase?’
That’s where the idea of using links came in. Links were something Google’s ‘spiders’ could easily pick up, and they could be used as a kind of ‘vote’ for the quality of a website. More links meant more votes, which meant the site was likely to be of high quality. Over time the algorithm has been refined, so it now recognises more than just quantity of links – the quality of each link is now much more important.
This is worth knowing, because it means you can outrank your competition with a relatively small number of links, if your links are better quality than theirs.
What’s a Good Link?
That’s the million dollar question. What are quality links, and how do you get them? We’d define a good link as follows:
It comes from a page with some Pagerank (essentially, this is Google’s measure of a page’s importance)
There are not many other links coming out from that page
It comes from an ‘authority’ website
It comes from a website relevant to yours in terms of topic/market
The text of the link (called the ‘anchor text’) is a keyword you want to rank for, or closely related to one
The link doesn’t come from a site which violates Google’s Terms of Service
What Does Google Penalize?
The threat of getting penalized can be quite scary for business owners who don’t know much about SEO. Even experienced SEO people get penalized, usually because they don’t have a good grasp on how the Google algorithm works.
In terms of link building, here are a few no-no’s to watch out for (if you see your SEO company doing any of the following, call them out on it):
Article spinning – this is where the same article is garbled up by software and used over and over again in different variations for linking purposes. To the search engines, this used to look like a bunch of unique articles linking to you. Key words here being ‘used to.’ Google figured out how to get their algorithm to recognise spun content and this is now a good way to get penalized.
Paid links – while you can get away with ‘buying’ high Pagerank links, it’s a pretty big risk. Google has gotten very good at recognising these links and has real humans actively taking note of sites that sell links. If you get a link from one (or more than one), you could be in trouble.
Building lots of links too fast – lots of low quality links built in a short time span can lead to a penalty. It’s not just about the type of links you get but also maintaining a natural link building pattern.
Lots of reciprocal links – this is the ‘you link to me, I’ll link to you’ thing. It used to work wonders – now, not so much. You can have a few reciprocal links but keep it to a very few.
Unnatural anchor text – this is a big one that many people still don’t understand, and it’s the thing most likely to get you penalised by an SEO company who hasn’t caught up with the times. Basically, lots of people were using automated link building services and software to generate lots of links with the exact keyword they wanted to rank for as the link text. So Google said, ‘Hmm, a site that suddenly gets 1000 links that all say ‘best running shoes’ are probably doing something dodgy. Let’s penalise that.’ So that’s what they did, and it killed a lot of SEO companies overnight.
Where Google is Heading
The best way to avoid penalties is to understand Google’s ultimate goal: artificial intelligence search.
That is what they’re driving for. And with the amount of eggheads they employ, they’ll eventually get there. Trying to outsmart the eggheads (which is what a lot of SEO companies do) is not a winning strategy.
The winning strategy is to build smart, effective links, within Google’s guidelines, but do it in a way that delivers results for the short term and long term.
How Do I Get Good Links?
You might have the impression by now that link building is full of land mines. It is, to some extent – if you’re trying to cheat. But it’s actually easier to play by the rules, and just be the best at the game. And that means getting engaged. It means participating in your market online and having a voice. That’s what will get you the natural, high quality links that help you rank.
The problem is, that takes time – and it’s time you probably don’t have. Which is where a link building service like ours can help.
Our Link Building Service
At Premium SEO NZ we’ve set out to create a link building service that works according to the above principles.
We focus on quality over quantity: building targeted, effective links in relatively small numbers. We don’t go for a thousand spammy links, but rather a small number of links that pack real punch for the long term.
Our strategy for getting those includes using techniques like article and press release writing and submission, guest blogging, high quality blog comments, social media, and creating unique content sites which act as ‘satellites’ to your primary site.
Want to know how our link building service can help improve your rankings? Give Tom a call on 0221330298 or send us an email.
Tom McSherry is the founder and chief strategist of Premium SEO NZ. Tom has been in the digital marketing industry for 8 years providing digital copywriting and optimisation services to businesses in New Zealand and around the world. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.
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