What is Link Building?

In short, link building is getting another website to post a link to your own. It is one of the most effective ways to improve your website’s ranking on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). If you want your website to be found as the top result when people search a relevant keyword, you’d better add this to your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to-do list.

Why do Links Matter?

Search engines use links as a method of rating site popularity—if your site is deemed ‘popular’, you’re more likely to have people looking for your site, so your page will be pushed to the top of a SERP.

Although using links as a popularity measurement might sound strange, it’s done this way because people don’t often post links directing their audience to a site they weren’t satisfied with. If people want to share your link, it’s probably because it was useful or entertaining.

Another reason that link building is so important when it comes to SEO is that links are how search engines find your site in the first place. The easier it is to find your site, the higher up your page ranking will be.

Link Spam

With link building being proven to be vital for SEO, people began taking the easy route by building unimportant pages based solely on directing links to their main website. They’d also began posting their link anywhere that public access was allowed on an external website; like forums, blogs, or review spots. People were even paying other sites to have their link added (which is now heavily penalised).

For a while, this actually worked. Unimportant sites rose to the top of irrelevant searches and achieved their goal of increasing traffic—even though it was through spam. Nowadays Google and other search engines are much smarter, so at the sniff of a spam site—or any site that’s linked to by a spam site—consequences are applied. Search engines will quickly send a spam-related site’s page rank plummeting so far down that it will never be found again. That is, if the spam page is lucky enough not to be deleted from search engines immediately.

Link Signals

Once this era of spamming was put to an end, links were given various strengths or ‘signals’ so that search results would be as relevant as possible. Even though we’re not dead certain of how strong one link is next to another, we do have a close idea from experiments and research. These signals need to be considered for search engine optimisation to avoid wasting time and effort.

TrustRank: If the site that’s linking to you has been clearly identified as spam free then this link signal’s strength will rise. If you’ve been linked to by a site that’s in any way associated with spam, however, expect the link to be a weak one.

FreshRank: Even if you’ve been linked to by a great website, the link’s strength will devalue over time. Google doesn’t want to show people articles from 2002 unless they’re being searched for specifically. Keep earning new links to stay at the top of search results.

Relevancy: If you run a cycling site and you’ve built a link on an ice-cream page, there’s a good chance that the signal will be quite weak. A link from an online bicycle store, however, would work quite well in your favour.

Social Sharing: These signals are quite weak at the moment, but they seem to be growing in importance. A like or share of your page, a +1, or a re-tweet of your link are all far from fantastic, but in an abundance they can make a difference.

Anchor Text: These are clickable words that lead straight to your page. Things like “Here’s some more information on search engine optimisation.” This method also helps your site with ranking well for the keywords that are anchored.

Site Popularity: To prevent you from using or creating dormant and unimportant sites to build links on, the strength of a link signal also increases or decreases with site popularity. The more people that click on the site you’re linking to, the stronger the signal.

With this information, you now know what link building is and also which sites you should be targeting. It’s clear that spam sites need to be avoided, while popular sites relevant to your own will be useful. You could consider creating a social media presence, too. Although the links that follow are of a low quality, it’s still a great way to build trust and to get an audience talking about your site.

Link building doesn’t just increase your search ranking; you’re also marketing your page with every link built. It’s important to remember that while link building does take a lot of time (and potentially money), the conversions that result from a no.1 search ranking can be worth every minute.