Link building. SEO. Backlinks. Talk about website jargon! But it’s website jargon important for you to know if you want to have a healthy site that rises in the ranks of Google search engines and reaches your target audience.
After all, that’s the point of a website, isn’t it? To communicate to your chosen audience, certain information you want them to have. Think of link building and search engine optimization (SEO) as the tools that help you do this. So…
What the Heck are Backlinks?
Glad you asked, my friend. The short and sweet answer, according to Dictionary.com is: an incoming hyperlink from one web page to another website. And if you don’t know what a hyperlink is, well… Google is your friend. Just kidding. A hyperlink is merely a highlighted word or string of text, that directs you to another URL when you click it.
Think of a backlink sort of like a recommendation from a friend. When another website (hopefully related to yours, with more authority than yours) hyperlinks to a web page on your site, that creates an “inbound” link that points to your website. It’s like that website is waving and saying to search engines, “Hey! This is my friend! Check them out! They’re cool like me!”
How Link Building Helps SEO
The more quality inbound backlinks you cultivate from websites that carry weight and authority with search engines (like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc…), the more popular your website will become in the eyes those search engines. Search engines are all about relevancy. They want to direct people to sites that are relevant to their search, and if you have relevant, popular websites pointing to you, it tells the search engines that your site is relevant and popular too, and they should send people there.
If a search engine deems your website relevant and popular, it will rise in the searches and “rank” better, increasing both the quality of traffic to your site as well as the amount of traffic you receive. So, the goal when link building is to gain quality backlinks from authoritative sites, in a way that looks as natural and organic as possible.
Don’t Be a Lazy Link Builder
Remember, Google is the biggest search engine out there. And Google doesn’t like spammy links, or links that don’t appear natural. In fact, Google will penalize your site if it decides your linking strategy isn’t on the up and up. So make sure you build links in a way that is smart.
- Don’t buy links or sell them. Like, ever. Big G doesn’t like it.
- Don’t be excessive, especially with link exchanges and cross-linking between partner pages.
- Don’t over-optimize anchor text links, especially if you are doing a lot of guest posting.
- Don’t use hidden links, or text ads that pass along PageRank.
- Don’t use directory links and low-quality bookmarking sites. That strategy is old and played out.
- Don’t use links in widely distributed templates and avoid links in forum signatures.
- And when you don’t want to pass along PageRank, don’t forget to use rel=”nofollow” tag.
If you suspect that you’ve got some less than stellar backlinks, or you’ve used link building services that have stunted your link building growth so to speak, then you’ll need to find those nasty little buggers and get rid of them. Sometimes a simple and polite outreach email to the website that carries the link will do the trick. If that doesn’t work, you can use Google’s Disavow tool and create a disavow report. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it. Your website will thank you.
The Art of Link Building (The Right Way)
In days of old, you just needed lots and lots of inbound links to rank your website. Then search engines wised up, and came up with algorithms to evaluate a website’s inbound links. If your inbound links were found lacking, then your site got a big, fat slap in the face from Google, and your rank plummeted.
These days, it’s important to be smart. Link building isn’t dead, but it does require finesse and hard work. Remember, search engines are all about relevancy. They want to direct people to websites that are relevant to that user’s search. This means that it’s fine to write a guest post… but make sure it’s a guest post on a site that is related to yours, and make sure the content of that guest post is relevant and related to the content on both websites.
It’s also important to create a strong site structure. GotchSEO references a structure called “Reverse Silo” which is great. Pay attention to onsite optimization, because you can rest assured, Google most certainly is! This includes making sure you fix website technical errors and broken links, assess (and improve) how fast your website loads, fix redirects, improve mobile optimization, and remove duplicate content, among other things.
Another key strategy is to create insanely useful (aka shareable) content that your fellow website brethren will be keen to share on their own sites, because it helps create a better experience for their audience. When influencers, advocates, and customers share your content, it creates a healthy and relevant backlink that prompts Google to sit up and takes notice.
Get Your Link Building On!
Backlinks are a key component in improving any website’s SEO. Backlinks will never truly be “dead”, because there is no other way for Google and other search engines to direct people from site to site, except through links. But link relevancy is vital, and if you aren’t smart in building those relevant links, your website will suffer a slow and agonizing death. Okay, maybe not quite that dire.
But it will sit and languish in the bowels of search engine dungeons, and nobody will find all that cool stuff you have to share with them. Let’s avoid the dungeons!
Want to learn more about SEO for 2018? Download the eBook, SEO: What’s In, What’s Out for 2018 and Beyond, written and co-edit by our very own Stacy Jackson!