The world wide web is like a massive network of stops in a big city subway system. These stops represent different pages, and search engines crawl the entire metropolis to find every link they can. The links function as the best path search engines use to discover how different pages are related to each other.
In turn, links make it easier for automated robots called “crawlers” or “spiders” to reach billions of web pages and documents on the web. Once the search engines find these pages, they can store them in a large database for recall when a user makes a relevant search query.
When users perform a search, they demand instant results — even a one-second delay could result in user dissatisfaction. Since links play a crucial role in achieving search ranking and traffic success, growing a link profile for a website is critical to gaining traction online.
Your website is crucial to your business’s online success. Partner with a reputable digital marketing firm in Virginia and boost your rankings in organic searches. Our tried-and-tested link building techniques will launch your brand to online marketing success.
Then and Now: A Timeline of Link Building Relevance
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a fast-moving industry; the nimble and flexible often end up on top of the SEO game. The changes are happening so fast that digital marketing experts recommend ignoring anything published about link building before April 24, 2010 — when Google’s Penguin update made significant changes to the SEO landscape.
The changes have put numerous traffic-dependent websites on Google out of business. And while link building has always been important in the unpredictable SEO environment, there are ways to proactively protect your business from the constant algorithm updates.
By learning about the timeline of SEO, you can get a clearer idea of where the current state of link building stands and how it got there.
- Before Google – Yahoo and AltaVista reigned supreme on the web. Relevancy, based on meta tags and keyword density, was the most important ranking factors.
- After Google – The PageRank-based algorithm — which measured relevance on the number of links pointing to a site — led to more significant search engine results. This skyrocketed Google’s dominance on search engines.
- Venice Update (2009) – Google’s Venice update favored trusted brands over smaller competitors.
- Google Panda (2011) – Google Panda was one of the first changes to Google’s search algorithm to actively penalize websites that did not uphold webmaster guidelines; it affected 12 percent of overall searches. This updated ended “content farms.”
- Google Penguin (April 2012) – An update meant for websites that used black hat link building tactics, the change targeted sites with over-optimized anchor texts.
- EMD Update (September 2012) – Google changed the way it managed exact-match domains, creating a massive devaluation. Through the power of EMDs, sites could gain an edge over competitors.
Earning Links from Websites and Expanding Customer Reach
Backlinks are also called inbound links. Businesses use them to earn links from other sites to direct more readers to their own page. Websites that receive the link call it a backlink; they are different from outbound links (links on sites that direct to another page or website) and internal links (those that link from a page on a website to another page on the same site).
Using the right backlinks can improve your website’s performance. Their two main benefits include:
- Drive relevant traffic. If a user posts a backlink on their website directing to your blog, readers may feel encouraged to click on it. In turn, your website will benefit from the referral traffic, while providing greater value to your user.
- Rank higher in organic search. Backlinks send search engines a message that your website is an authority on a certain subject. A website that earns more backlinks from high-quality, authoritative sites can help boost rankings in search engine result pages.
Good inbound links come from authority websites that use natural anchor texts — that is, the text copy that is hyperlinked and appears in blue, underlined text. Anchor texts convey the value of a link, so it’s best to keep it natural. This means the website isn’t just hyperlinking keywords left and right.
Since search engines like Google understand the context of a link, even generic forms of anchor texts such as “learn more” or “click here” can be just as valuable as anchor texts optimized with keywords.
Determining the Value Search Engines Assign to Links
Search engines have refined the use of link data and turned them into a fine art; using complex algorithms, they perform nuanced evaluations of websites and pages. While links aren’t everything in SEO, they are useful in analyzing website popularity, and tracking metrics such as spam, trust, and authority.
Trustworthy sites, for instance, link to other trusted sites, while spammy sites hardly contain links from trusted sources. Learn about how search engines assess link value below.
Popular websites have more sites that link to it — take Wikipedia, for example. Since thousands of websites link to the page, Google establishes the website’s popularity and importance. Other link partners help a site earn trust and authority on search engines.
Pioneered by the Teoma search engine, local popularity suggests that links from websites within a topic-specific community are more important than links from general or off-topic pages.
The Internet contains a vast amount of spam. Google uses a link analysis technique called TrustRank to separate useful web pages from spammy content and assigns each website a trust score. Earning links from highly trusted domains link government sites and non-profit organizations can provide your website with a significant boost on search engines.
Spam links often go both ways: websites that link to spam are most likely spam themselves, with other spam websites linking back to them. Search engines study the “link neighborhood” that a site belongs to establish credibility.
Some link signals decay over time. Sites that used to be popular on Google can go stale and fail to earn fresh, credible links. Search engines follow a metric called FreshRank that uses the freshness of links to judge the popularity and relevance of a website.
Creating a Successful Link Building Campaign
Similar to any other marketing activity, building a successful link building campaign starts with establishing goals and strategies. While the progress for link building campaigns is one of the most difficult to measure, marketers rely on certain signals to measure the success of their campaign.
These signals include:
Increase Site Speed
Slower site load times do not translate to higher search results. More than affecting rankings, however, sluggish websites can affect the customer experience. Abandonment rates can skyrocket for every second it takes for a page to load, resulting in unhappy customers and lower potential sales.
Include Relevant Search Terms
Search engines determine the value of a page based on its keywords and phrases, especially those in the headline and title tag. Websites that are trying to rank for a keyword such as “plumbers in Salt Lake City,” for instance, can earn links from sites that already rank for the phrase to boost their own rankings.
Strive for a Higher MozRank Score
Some search engines use MozRank, a popular and dependable metric to measure the authority of a domain or a webpage. SEO experts and webmasters treat MozRank as a basis when optimizing search engines. Websites with a high MozRank score tend to rank higher on Google. You can improve the MozRank score of your business by obtaining backlinks from popular pages.
Keep Your Website Updated
Google favors dynamic and active websites. By regularly publishing blog posts on the latest topics and trends in the industry, your business can attract more customers and boost your search engine rankings in the long run.
Study Competitor Backlinks
Analyze the backlinks of competitors that are already ranking well for your targeted keyword phrase. Use tools like Open Site Explorer to gain valuable intelligence on how competitor sites target those domains and then apply them to your own link building campaigns.
Optimize for Long-tail Keywords
New websites may have a hard time competing for top keywords, so it’s best to start off with long-tail keywords (phrases that contain three or more words) which are easier to rank for. Approximately 70 percent of all web searches include long-tail keywords; longer keyword variations with commercial intent often convert well.
Boost Potential Referral Traffic
Links that provide high click-through traffic are not only search-engine friendly; they also attract targeted, valuable visitors to your business — the goal of all digital marketing. Businesses can estimate potential referral traffic by using site analytics and determining the number of page views.
Establish Domain Authority
Domain authority measures how likely a domain will rank for a given query. Calculate domain authority by analyzing the Internet’s domain graph and comparing it to the thousands of queries that users enter on Google.
Broken Link Building: An Effective White Hat Link Building Strategy
Not all links are created equal. While link building may seem as easy as setting up a few private blog networks sites and obtaining links that would push organic rankings to the top of the search results, times have changed.
Marketers are turning to broken link building — a white hat technique that gets the right kind of links. Just like relationship-based link building, broken link building is an old-school tactic that became overshadowed during the reign of backlink webspam a few years ago. As more and more websites turn to white hat link building strategies broken link building is establishing its credibility as an effective SEO strategy.
What is Broken Link Building?
Broken link building is a scalable and content-focused link building strategy that builds links by finding broken ones, and recreating the website with more valuable content. Unlike other link building strategies, the approach helps site owners, editors, and webmasters improve the website experience by replacing broken links with a link to a page based on a search term.
Broken link building appeals to websites because the success of the site has a direct relationship to how much it contributes to the web. Websites can only profit if they create compelling content to replace lost or abandoned copy that webmasters still want to link.
Link building is an art that requires mastery. While it may be one of the most challenging parts of gaining attention, traffic, and attention from search engines, they are also the most critical to digital marketing success. Making the most out of the strategy, therefore, requires grit, hustle, creativity, and a budget.
Why Sustainable White Hat Practices are Critical
SEO experts often use the terms “white hat” and “black hat” (or the questionable area in between, also called “gray hat”) to describe link building techniques.
White hat strategies are crucial to your link building success. Here’s why:
- Low risks. White hat strategies often fall within webmaster guidelines laid out by Google and Bing. If your business uses them, you’ll have a small chance of running into problems with search engines and incurring penalties.
- Insightful, high-quality content. White hat tactics entail creating unique and personalized content. By crafting genuine and more personal copy, your business can build an engaged community and interact with users better.
- Long-term benefits. Since white hat strategies are less aggressive than other techniques because they focus on user needs instead of search engine requirements, it may take time for them to have a significant effect on traffic. When successful, however, they can build meaningful, long-term relationships.
Black hat strategies, on the other hand, directly violate search engine guidelines. These techniques exploit loopholes in Google algorithms and use deceptive cloaking techniques to rank websites higher on search engines than they normally would.
Since search engines are constantly on the lookout for websites that violate SEO guidelines, sites that use these types of strategies may experience falls in traffic and rankings in an instant.
Jumpstart Your Link Building Campaign With Us
As a business owner, it is up to you to choose which types of links will have the highest return on investment. You also need to match these with your brand’s overall message and goals.
As a general rule, it is best practice to build a vast and varied link profile as much as possible, since this often yields the best search engine results. More than just helping you rank well in organic searches, however, they also help build long-term relationships with key influencers and establish your brand as an authority in its niche.
Every successful link building campaign starts with a plan. Partner with Alkries LLC and we’ll develop a comprehensive strategy for your link building campaign. Our team will match your landing pages with target sites and evaluate which tactics will work best through competitive analysis.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation.