A Newbie’s Guide to Link Building

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Link buildingWe have a few posts coming up in the near future about the role of anchor text in link-building, so let’s lay some groundwork. Here’s an excellent post by Maggie Walsh of Vertical Measures that explains the basics of link building, and introduces anchor text.

A Newbie’s Guide to Link Building

We all know what constitutes a link, but what is “link building”? And how exactly do you “build” them? And why would you want to? To all the newbies out there that are pondering these very questions in the quest to increase web traffic and see higher search engine rankings, you have come to the right place. Here is your “Newbies Guide to Link Building.”

Link Building: The Basics

Step one is to understand why it is important for your website to acquire links in the first place and the value these inbound links (also known as backlinks) create. Most, if not all, website owners have the main goal of increasing web traffic by conveying the value of their content, increasing authority and ultimately developing a loyal audience. Unfortunately, this is sometimes easier said than done. Because the internet is flooded with websites in every niche, we use link building to establish relevant and effective link placement within niche verticals. By doing this, website owners are increasing the chances of their site being viewed by the intended target audience, but also indexed by Google as being relevant to the niche.

Aside from the potential increase in traffic, link building also helps websites obtain higher rankings with major search engines. Going back to the idea that establishing pertinent backlinks will help you rank higher in these portals, you will begin to understand what link building is all about. As far as the search engines are concerned, a link from an outside website back to yours is considered one “vote” in your favor. Or in other words, another site is endorsing yours as a valuable resource. These “votes” ultimately help to increase your rankings in Google and although not all votes are created equal, they do add value. The catch: quantity is not always better than quality.

A-Newbies-Guide-to-Link-Building-quoteQuality vs. Quantity: Not All Links Are Created Equal

Unlike a vote in the traditional sense, within the realm of link building some backlinks in your portfolio will add more value than others. Some even add significantly more value. One inbound link from a third-party site with higher authority carries much more weight than several backlinks from a weaker one that is itself full of spammy links. Several factors, including   the age, size, and popularity of a linking website, are seen as important to take into consideration.

When evaluating the power of a site as far as metrics is concerned, you can choose among  several different third-party ranking systems. Each has an algorithm designed to examine the links pointing to and from a website, on top of assessing the initial trustworthiness determined by age, size, and popularity. As these systems are continually updated and adjusted, rankings tend to fluctuate; therefore it is best to use these as competitive metrics as opposed to a considerable measurement of your site’s historical performance. Another important note about these classifications is that not one in particular reigns supreme, but instead they should be used in tandem with one another.

One particularly authoritative prediction of site strength is the Domain Authority ranking from SEOmoz. Based on a 100-point scale, DA mainly takes into account the number of total links pointing to a specific website as well as linking root domains. This ranking can be skewed on blogs that are hosted on sites such as WordPress and Tumblr, as those blogs can acquire  a high DA simply from being hosted on these larger, authoritative sites. When it comes to Google rankings, one system in particular stands out. You may have heard of Google’s PageRank system, which is essentially an older algorithm designed to analyze the links on any given webpage. The higher the PR of a site (from 0-10), the more popularity and authority it has in the search engine’s eyes.

anchor textThe Importance of Relevancy and Anchor Text

One can argue that site strength and page rankings are the most important factors when determining the value of a link placement, but relevancy is becoming most imperative factor in gaining value. During the link-building process, these metrics should be taken into consideration, yet the benefits of link placements on sites that correlate with your niche also carry a lot weight, as these links are indexed by Google. For example, if your site belongs in the education niche and you have an irrelevant link from a construction site, Google notes the  disconnect and some value is lost. It’shard for a search engine to determine this precisely, so it’s hard to say how much of the value is lost, but this aspect progressively becomes more important in the link building process.

Last, but certainly not least, is the importance of anchor text. Anchor text is defined as the text that is visible to the viewer and hyperlinked to another website or document. For example, “importance of anchor text” is the anchor text linking to the URL in the first sentence of this paragraph. The placement and usage of anchor text is essential in ensuring that your link placements gain as much value as possible. Often times there is much debate as to what the so-called “best” practices are in terms of anchor text, as websites run the risk of over optimization of their anchor text. To avoid this, a variation of keywords should be used and sandwiched between other words. Exact match anchor text is discouraged as it appears forced to not only readers but also the search engines. By placing anchor text as naturally as possible and varying the phrases and keywords, websites increase their likelihood of gaining strength in the search engine results.

After determining the keywords and phrases your site strives to gain better rankings with, it is then important to begin building links around these keywords. Don’t forget, quality over quantity!

Link Building Strategies

Now with all we know about effective link placements and proper usage of anchor text, how exactly does your site go about getting others to link back to it?

There are many different strategies and effective methods to help encourage webmasters to link back to your site; the most important is producing unique, engaging content.  Through the use of appealing and creative content, you open your website up for the possibility of natural linking to take place via social media, bloggers and webmasters with hopes of creating a viral effect. The content that you provide can stem from press releases, info graphics, or even a compelling company blog. By earning these natural “votes,” you are well on your way to building an authoritative, trustworthy website with rankings to support it.

Catch the on-demand webinar, “SEO Today: Building Critical Inbound Links.” presented by Kaila Strong of Vertical Measures, sponsored by Act-On.

watch the on-demand webinar

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