Link building from a holistic SEO perspective

At Yoast, we hardly write about link building. Of course, links from other sites are a really important ranking factor. We do know that ;-)! Link building done the wrong way can easily backfire though (see Joost’s recent post about Google Penguin), resulting in a ban from Google all together. Link building just isn’t easy. That doesn’t mean it’s rocket science, it means it takes a lot of work. In this post, I’ll discuss our ideas about getting more backlinks: link building from a holistic SEO perspective

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How does a link help your site to rank well?

Let’s first discuss why link building is important for SEO. A link to your site helps in its ranking in four ways:

  • It adds value to the receiving page, allowing it to improve its visibility in the search engines.
  • It adds value to the entire receiving domain, allowing each page on that domain to improve its rank ever so slightly.
  • The text of the link (anchor text) is an indication to the search engine of the topic of the website and more specifically the receiving page.
  • People click on links, resulting in so-called direct traffic.

The value of a link for the receiving page is determined in part by the topic of the page the link is on. A link from a page that has the same topic as the receiving page is of far more value than a link from a page about an entirely different topic. On top of that, a link from within an article is worth way more than a link from a sidebar or a footer. Furthermore the more links there are on a page, the less each individual link is worth.

Bad reputation

In recent years link building has gotten a somewhat nasty reputation. Once people noticed that links from other sites resulted in higher rankings, they began to abuse this. They got links from sites that did not have any relation with their own site. In other cases, people bought links from other sites. Buying links polluted the search engine. Not the best information, but the people who buy most links would rank high in Google if buying links would be allowed. That is why Google gives penalties to companies that buy links or (mis)use links from non-related websites (Google Penguin was all about this). If you get a penalty from Google, your site will disappear from the search results. The bad reputation of link building (and our hesitation to write about link building) comes from companies who were a bit too enthusiastic in link building and got penalties from Google. Does this mean that you shouldn’t do any link building at all? Of course not!

Read more: Link building: what not to do? »

Outreaching activity

Link building is (or should be) an outreaching activity. That means that you have to contact people and ask them to write about and link to your website. Usually, you will have better results if you contact people personally. That really means: making phone calls, writing emails, talking about your product. If your product is good, there will be people who would like to write about it. Most bloggers and journalists need content, so presenting your product to them could very well make them happy!

Link building as part of a holistic SEO strategy

Holistic SEO means that you will do everything to make your website the best: you should have the best information, the best user experience, the best speed and so on. Link building will be easy if your website is the best. People will be very willing to write about and link to such a site.

Do remember that link building should generate visitors to your site that actually fit your site. As long as you are doing nothing more than asking people to write about your awesome product, it is perfectly OK. This could really increase your page’s rankings. Link building should feel like a normal marketing activity and not like a trick. In the following weeks, I’ll write two other posts about link building: one about the things you shouldn’t do and one about what you definitely should do!

Keep reading: 6 steps to a successful link building strategy »

16 Responses to Link building from a holistic SEO perspective

  1. Prateek
    Prateek  • 3 years ago

    My site has more than 20k no-follow links pointing to different sites and do follow link to my one other site in footer. Is there a chance of my any of the site being penalized by Google ? My site is http://checkmydomain.net/. Thanks.

  2. Childrens cabin beds
    Childrens cabin beds  • 3 years ago

    How can i get organic traffic?
    Please tell me some Dofollow high pr site list.

  3. scott alexander
    scott alexander  • 3 years ago

    I’m really impressed about this article, Well explained certainly help with Our Services, Thanks for the great post.

  4. Guillermo
    Guillermo  • 3 years ago

    Hi, Great post, however, I am missing sometimes the nitty gritty of “how to” specifically make something. I guess that revealing all the secrets could mean lower invoice but sometimes I miss not being more specific in the posts and less remaining on the overall aspects of the topic. Still, a great post. Regards,

  5. Kelly Clark
    Kelly Clark  • 3 years ago

    Thanks for this great information. I love that at the end of the day Google just wants to help people find information they’re looking for. Applying this principle to all web-building choices helps to make the right choice clear. As you said “make sure it doesn’t feel like a trick.”

  6. Grant
    Grant  • 3 years ago

    Great article as per usual. Now to find writers :)

  7. Abhishek Jain
    Abhishek Jain  • 3 years ago

    Creating relevant links is the key. Save yourself from the ghosts of google that are panda and penguin. Creating great links by relevant content is best to rank your site :)

  8. derek
    derek  • 3 years ago

    Great site, a wealth of knowledge here. Thanks for the informative post

  9. Patric Larsen
    Patric Larsen  • 3 years ago

    Thanks for a great site. I have a question about internal linkbuilding, do internal links (form one page to another) on my webpage means nothing compared to my sites google ranking?

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Internal links are very important, but for different reasons. Make sure to read our posts about site structure!

  10. Craig
    Craig  • 3 years ago

    Hi Marieke,

    What about when we leave comments on other blogs. I will leave a comment on a blog that is totally unrelated to my niche, using a link back to my blog. Just like what I am doing right now. Am I destroying my site by doing this? If I am, what should I do when it comes to leaving comments? Should I link to my Google+ profile instead and have my G+ profile link to my site?

    This is so confusing to a mere mortal who just wants more traffic to his site…..

    • Joost de Valk
      Joost de Valk  • 3 years ago

      If the site is unrelated to your site, why would you link to your own site? I’d rather link to an about.me profile or a twitter profile or something that reflects you more. If people click the link, that might actually be a lot more useful.

  11. AndyW
    AndyW  • 3 years ago

    I haven’t done any link building in two years or more but certainly thinking about it again to increase / improve site authority.
    Looking forward to your next posts. Please add a comment here when you publish them so I can take a look.

  12. Nicolai Teglskov
    Nicolai Teglskov  • 3 years ago

    You mentioned:
    “People click on links, resulting in so called direct traffic”.
    From what perspective are these clicks direct? I would describe them as referral traffic. So would Google Analytics. But maybe I’ve misunderstood something? Please enlighten me!
    PS. Thanks for your great work on Copywriting (and more) in your Basic SEO Course: https://yoast.com/academy/course/basic-seo-training/

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      I think you are correct… in GA it is called referral traffic. We called this direct traffic to indicate the difference with traffic from Google. Sorry for the confusion.

  13. Nils van der Knaap
    Nils van der Knaap  • 3 years ago

    Looking forward to your must-do linkbuilding tactics :)


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