This guide will provide you with everything you need to know about link building for SEO. It will also provide you with tips on how to build authority backlinks to your website.
Ready? Let’s go!
Link building for SEO fundamentals
What is link building?
Link building is the art of crafting one-way hyperlinks (aka “backlinks”) to a website. The ultimate goal of link building for SEO is to develop backlinks that work to improve search engine visibility. A few of the more common link building tactics include content marketing, building useful tools, email outreach, broken link building & public relations.
Why are links so important?
In order to understand the importance of link building for SEO, we need to go back to the pre-Google days of the internet.
Way back when there was a time when search engines like Yahoo! and Alta Vista ruled the land. These archaic search engines ranked their results 100% based on the raw content on a webpage.
Fast-forward to the age of Google…
Google’s groundbreaking PageRank Algorithm changed the game forever. In lieu of simply analyzing the content of a page, Google factored in how many people linked to that page. This was essentially the birth of link building for SEO.
If you didn’t already know, Google was really onto something with this here concept. In fact, Google still applies this factor today, nearly two full decades after the birth of the PageRank Algorithm. This rich history is why backlinks continue to serve as Google’s go-to ranking signal. That being said, Google now focuses on link quality, not just quantity, thanks to updates like Google Penguin.
You’re likely asking yourself, “what exactly is a high-quality link?” or “how do I build high-quality links?” Am I right?
Well, fear not! We’re about to cover those two points in the next leg of our link building for SEO adventure!
How to find high-quality links
Before we delve into the tactics of link building, it helps to know how good links differ from bad links. Once you understand what makes for good links, you can then focus on building links that improve your Google rankings.
With that in mind, here’s how you can identify links that are actually worth your time and effort to build:
Authority of the page & link building for SEO
Is the page linking to you a PageRank powerhouse? If so, that single link is going to have a massive impact on your rankings! Many digital marketers will agree that the authority of the page linking to you matters more than any other factor.
This is because links from authoritative pages carry more weight (aka PageRank) when they link to your site.
Quick Sidenote: Google doesn’t share PageRank data publicly. However, it still serves as the foundation for their algorithm.
While PageRank data isn’t readily available, you can check a proxy indicator of PageRank using Ahrefs. All you need to do is enter a URL in Ahrefs and check out its “URLRating”. Pretty nifty, ‘eh?
Authority of the site
A linking domain’s sitewide authority also plays a role in determining a link’s overall quality.
In short, a link from a site like NYTimes.com will have a much bigger impact than a link from a no-name blogger.
It’s wicked hard to land these “big name” links, but they are, without question, well worth the effort.
Again, Ahrefs comes through in the clutch here. Enter any URL from the site into the tool and check out the site’s “DomainRating”. You can also use Moz’s respected “Domain Authority” metric.
Relevancy of the site impacts link building for SEO
A website’s authority matters when it comes to links. However, that site’s relevance also matters.
Humor me here, okay? Let’s say you run a website about lacrosse…and you get a link from an authoritative site…about baseball. Will that link still count?
Well, according to an ex-Googler, it really won’t make much of a difference.
According to said Google engineer:
“…getting a link from a high PageRank page used to always be valuable. Today it’s more the relevance of the site’s theme in regards to yours. Relevance is the new PageRank.”
All in all, you want to garner links from authority sites. You especially want to develop links from authority sites that are closely related to yours.
Link’s position on the page
Is your link embedded in a prime piece of content…or is it buried in the footer??
Believe it, or not, but your link’s position on a page does carry some weight. Links tucked away in footers and sidebars are next to pointless 99% of the time. These hidden links aren’t worth nearly as much as links found in the middle of a juicy piece of content.
Key Takeaway: You want you links to appear within the main body of a webpage.
Is the link editorially placed?
Regardless of where your link appears on a page, you need to ask yourself, “Was this link editorially placed?”.
In simpler terms, did someone link to your site because they think your content is wicked awesome? If you’re nodding your head ‘yes’, then it’s an editorial link.
On the flip side, did you create a profile on a random site and drop the link? If so, that not an editorial link.
This should go without saying, but Google places a lot more weight on editorially placed links than non-editorially placed links.
Link anchor text & link building for SEO
Anchor text is the clickable portion of a text-based hyperlink. This will come as a total shock, but Google uses anchor text as a ranking signal.
For instance, let’s say you get a link to your site with anchor text: “SEO strategy“. Google sees the anchor text and thinks: “Interesting…that site used the anchor text “SEO strategy”. The page they’re linking to must be about “SEO strategy”.
Naturally, like anything else in the SEO world, keyword-rich anchor text has become abused. On that note, building mounds of exact-match anchor text links is considered cheesy and spammy…aka just don’t do it.
Here’s a look at what I’m talking about:
In summary, I wouldn’t encourage you to build links with keyword-rich anchor text. However, if you DO get a link with your keyword in the anchor text…celebrate…celebrate hard!
Co-Occurrences are the words and phrases that appear in the vicinity around your link. There’s no smoking gun here, but many believe that Google uses co-occurrences as “baby anchor text”.
If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. The text around your link also gives clues to what your page is about. That being said, why wouldn’t Google use it?
Is the link from a guest post?
Google came out and made their stance on guest posting painfully clear:
Is this the cold hard truth?
I guess it depends on a few factors.
Here are a few telltale warning signs that can take an innocent guest post and make it awfully spammy:
- someone is paid to publish the post
- the post contains exact match anchor text
- the site exists only to publish guest posts
- the site is totally unrelated to yours
However, what if you publish a stellar guest post on an authoritative, relevant site? Based on personal experience, this sort of link can help you rank.
Nofollow vs. Dofollow
The dreaded rel=”nofollow” – this tag tells search engines to not count the associated link as an endorsement.
Naturally, when it comes to SEO, you want to obtain as many normal “dofollow” links whenever possible. The later type of link drives more traffic to your site and gives your SEO game a helping hand.
Not that we’ve gone over how to size up a link’s quality, it’s time to start building them!