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.
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.
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? »
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 »