SEO Basics: What is link building?

Link building is an essential aspect of SEO. You can write the perfect post, but if search engines can’t follow at least one link to it, it will most likely spend its days forever waiting in vain for visitors to admire its outstanding content. For Google to find your post, it needs links from other websites. The more links, the better. But, beware, the quality of links does matter! Not every link is worth the same. Even worse: some links could negatively affect your site. Here, we’ll explain how link building works. We’ll also guide you to more in-depth articles if you want to learn how to do it well.

Before we dive in, if you want to learn more about link building strategies and other essential SEO skills, you should check out our All-around SEO training! It doesn’t just tell you about SEO: it makes sure you know how to put these skills into actual practice!!

What is a link?

Simply put, a link, or a hyperlink, is a connection between two pages on the internet. With a link you can refer people to a page, post, image or other object on the internet. Links exist for people in the first place: with a link you can easily “travel” from one web location to another.

But links serve search engines well too; search engine robots follow links to discover pages on the internet. This is called crawling. For a robot to find your website, you’ll need at least one hyperlink to it from a website that gets crawled already. Making sure you get that first link is one of the things you really need to do when you launch a brand new website.

A link in HTML

In the coding language HTML, a hyperlink looks like this:

<a href=”https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/”>Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress</a>.

The first part contains the URL you’re linking to. In this case, it’s the URL of the Yoast SEO plugin page (https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/). The second part (Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress) shows the clickable text that you’d see on the page. We call this piece of text the ‘anchor text’.

Anchor text

The anchor text serves two purposes: it should describe what the linked page is about and it should entice people to click. If a link has a well-crafted anchor text, this has two advantages: 1) More people click on it, leading to more direct traffic and 2) It will help search engines understand what your page is about, possibly leading to more traffic from search engines. Of course, you can’t control how others link to your site, but you can use it to improve your internal links.

What is link building?

Link building refers to the marketing efforts to get links from other websites to your website. It’s seen as one of the most powerful tools to achieve higher rankings for your site in search engines. If a lot of high-quality links lead to a certain page, search engines will consider it a popular or meaningful article, and, therefore, they’ll rank it higher.

Link quality

Links aren’t all equal. Some links are worth more than others. For instance, a link from an authoritative website, preferably topically related to yours, is worth more than a random link from a small website nobody knows. So, if you have a restaurant, you’d rather get a link from a restaurant review (on topic) on The Guardian website (high authority), than, let’s say, a link from your aunt’s horseback-riding school website. This makes choosing sites you’d love to get links from easier, but at the same time, it makes it a lot harder to get those coveted high-quality links.

Shady techniques

Because link building isn’t easy, lots of shady link building methods emerged in the past. People tried to game the system, for instance, by buying links from link farms. That’s why link building has got a somewhat nasty reputation.

Consequently, Google intervened with serious penalties as a result. If your site gets linked to from websites with a questionable reputation, it can completely disappear from the search results. So you better refrain from any of these risky link building tricks. If you play it fair and smart though, you can gain a lot from link building.

What should you do to get links?

Now we get to the million dollar question: what should you do to get those valuable links? We believe in a holistic link building approach. You’ll have to create a website that people want to link to. It sounds so simple: Create high-quality, funny, original or exceptional content people want to share. But how do you do this?

First and foremost, find out who your audience is. Who are you trying to reach with your content? What kind of content do they need? What information are they looking for and what kind of questions do they ask? Which words do they use? And, what kind of websites do they visit?

If you can answer these questions, it will be easier to create content that fits your audience’s needs (for instance, by using the principles of content design). Also, when you’ve created that page with valuable content for your audience, and you know where your audience is (which websites they visit), you’ll have a starting point for your link building activities: you can start reaching out to those website owners. That’s what link building is, in a nutshell: Sharing your article with parties that might be interested in sharing it too. That’s why it’s key to target the right niche for your shop or blog. This focus decreases the number of people you’ll have to contact and increases the chances of actually getting a link.

People will only link from their website to yours if it’s in their audience’s (or their own) interest. Convincing them to link will only happen if your product or content really is exceptional. Offering them to try or use your product (if you have one) for free might help convince them. And always make sure to contact them personally, as this will lead to better results. Read all about this process in our step by step guide to link building.

Link building for bloggers and pros

Link building requires time, effort and persistence. As a blogger, you might dread link building even more. If you can relate to this, Caroline’s post on her struggles with link building as a blogger is a great read.

Have your bases covered and want to take it a step further? Then we’d advise you to read this article with advanced link building tips by Kris Jones. You’ll learn which tools you can use to find out which sites already link to you and what you can do to get more of those. Find out everything about broken link building, reclamation link building, the so-called skyscraper technique and more.

Pssst… if reaching out really isn’t your thing, you can always start with some “internal link building”: fix your internal linking structure!


23 Responses to What is link building?

  1. MatsOlsson
    MatsOlsson  • 2 weeks ago

    Thank’s for sharing this article, it can be really useful for me at the moment, when I am in the part of building our backlinks to our new website. When you not doing this every day, it’s always a good idea to go to Yoast to refresh my memory. Thanks again

    • Willemien Hallebeek

      Hi Mats, Hope this article helps :-) Good luck with your website!

  2. Jay
    Jay  • 2 weeks ago

    Wow, wonderful article. Link building is important part of SEO. Thanks for such a great article.

  3. Simar Bhalla
    Simar Bhalla  • 2 weeks ago

    Very good article. I strongly believe that Link Building has lot of impact on rankings. Thanks for sharing !

    • Willemien Hallebeek

      Hi Simar, thanks for reading!

  4. Alex Sanfilippo
    Alex Sanfilippo  • 3 weeks ago

    Great post! Thank you.

  5. Sukanta Das
    Sukanta Das  • 3 weeks ago

    As we know that content is the king in seo services. A reputed seo company believes that link building is still has a great value in providing seo ranking.
    High quality links will give a chance of better ranking in SERP.
    So do not go for quantity but focus on quality links to get higher ranking in Search Results.

    • Willemien Hallebeek

      Isn’t that always the case? ;-) Thanks for your comment!

  6. Solomon George
    Solomon George  • 3 weeks ago

    Wow. Am so much impressed with this article. please, I have a question to ask regarding what have learned.
    1. Please, If I link to another website on my article, would they link back to my website?
    2. What is the great tool or how to improve in anchor link building?

    Thank you very much for this great article. :)

  7. Vipendra sharma
    Vipendra sharma  • 3 weeks ago

    Great post. I’m what I would class as a beginner in the link building game! I really enjoy SEO though and have put a lot of hours into optimizing my site of late.

    • Willemien Hallebeek

      Hi Vipendra, That’s great, hope you’ll see some results soon :-)

  8. sowmyasri
    sowmyasri  • 3 weeks ago

    Link building is most important in SEO, to get top rank and to drive traffic to the website, thanks for sharing the informative article…

  9. Zola Johnson
    Zola Johnson  • 3 weeks ago

    This article is very useful. I am actually looking for effective ways to get backlinks, as this whole link building is new to me. I hope to find more useful resources. Thanks for the insight!

    • Willemien Hallebeek

      Glad the be of help, Zola. Good luck with your website!

  10. Rashi Kohli
    Rashi Kohli  • 3 weeks ago

    Presently pursuing a digital marketing course. I came across reading your blog regarding link building. I started my blog and this article helped me with the information about link building. After reading your blog got to know that anchor and interlinking also essential for search engine optimization. I started using both anchor text and interlinking my pages and it is working great to crawl and index my website pages. Can you suggest which is better for seo anchor text or internal links? Also, suggest some link farm websites?

    • Willemien Hallebeek

      Hi Rashi, You’d better do internal linking your internal linking well and use good anchor text for your internal links. There’s not really a choice there. Obviously, we won’t suggest link farms as it’s really not the way to go.

  11. Fahad Zahid
    Fahad Zahid  • 3 weeks ago

    I have been using Yoast for 4 months now, it has helped me a lot for on=page SEO. I just read your article and learned a lot of new things related to link building. I want to ask as If getting a link from High DA PA PBN networks or doing Blog Comment is also categorized as shady techniques?

    • Willemien Hallebeek

      Hi Fahad, Glad you like our plugin! Getting links from PBNs is considered a shady technique for sure. Commenting on blogs is something you should do if you have questions or comments, it’s pretty useless to get links :-)

  12. Ofofoloaded
    Ofofoloaded  • 3 weeks ago

    Have been applying this method and it working well for me.

    Thanks yoast

  13. Rich
    Rich  • 3 weeks ago

    Thank you Willemien for the helpful article and tips. I needed this today.

    • Willemien Hallebeek

      You’re welcome, Rich!

  14. Amanda
    Amanda  • 3 weeks ago

    External linking is definitely my weakness. Unsurprisingly, the only links to our website are from social sharing (on our page). But one must be fair—it’s a relatively young website and I have very little time to work on it these days.

    Regarding internal linking, I have a question that sadly search engines can’t seem to answer for me. I notice that the phrases you use to introduce internal links vary (e.g. “Read on” or “Keep reading”). Do you have any opinion on which such phrase is best? I want to put more internet links in my posts and get rid of my Related Posts section. This will take a while, so a consistent title for every related post would speed the process up some. But if variety is better, I could still do that, of course.

    Any advice? :)

    • Willemien Hallebeek

      Hi Amanda, Thanks for your comment! Getting links to your site definitely is a lot of work and not easy, it will require lots of time and effort. To answer your question: The anchor text, or the text of the link, does matter. We’ve written an entire article about it :-) Check it out here: https://yoast.com/what-is-anchor-text/