Link Building For SEO: A Comprehensive Overview

Link Building For SEO: A Comprehensive Overview

Importance of Link Building

Organic link building is the most important factor in Google’s organic search ranking algorithm. It is also the most challenging element of SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

It is the most powerful and effective way to increase your brand’s visibility on the search engine results page and drive organic traffic to your site. In fact, in a search engine ranking factors experts survey conducted by Moz, many leading SEO experts concurred that external linking is the single most important objective for attaining high search engine rankings.

The right links to your site can boost your organic search ranking and significantly increase your visibility in the search engines. On the flip side, without contextually relevant links from well-established and authoritative websites, your site will never rank high in the search engines for your target keywords.

Google relies on the quality of a site’s backlink profile to evaluate its relevance, usefulness and authority. Your on-page content tells the search engines what your site is about. However, it is the quality and, depending on your competitors, the quantity of the links pointing to your site that Google will use to determine whether your site should be categorized as a high or low quality site. This is what will ultimately determine how high you will rank in organic search.

Link Building Mistakes

The most common mistake that many webmasters make with their link building campaigns is focusing on link building as the main way to increase popularity on the web and gain higher rankings. It is critically important to keep in mind that SEO is a socially-focused discipline, and your links need to look 100% natural and organic. With the incorporation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into its ranking algorithm, Google is now more sophisticated than it has ever been, and it can detect manipulative patterns in backlinks very easily. It is important to keep in mind that Google wants the majority of links to your site to be editorial links.

There are a variety of factors that Google will look at to determine how natural your links are. First of all, if you are steadily building links to your site, Google will expect to see searches for your brand and social signals to your website that matches the pace with which you are acquiring links. If you’re consistently getting links to your site but aren’t getting any social signals and hardly anyone is searching for your brand name on the search engine, this may trigger a few algorithmic signals.

Furthermore, if there are not many searches for the keywords you’re ranking for, you cannot be too aggressive with your link building strategy.

For example, if you’re ranking for a keyword that gets around 100 searches per month but are getting 500 dofollow links per month, Google will know exactly what you’re doing because it’s going to appear incredibly unnatural.

If you are in a niche that doesn’t get too many keyword searches per month, rather than building hundreds of unnatural links and putting your site at risk of a manual penalty, build links to your current backlinks rather than to your website. This will strengthen and reinforce your first-tier links, and it will be far less risky than directly building links to your site.

Remember: Google wants the majority of links to your site to be editorial links from visitors to your site who find your content useful and relevant and decide to link to your content pages. If there is no search traffic to back up the link popularity of your website, a strong link building campaign may trigger a few algorithmic filters which may ultimately lead to a manual review of your website

The primary goal for your SEO link building strategy should be to build as many organic, high quality editorial links and social signals that appear as natural as possible. If Google sees the creation of a lot of backlinks in a short period of time and that link building campaign is not matched by a strong PR, branding or social media campaign on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., Google will suspect that you’re trying to manufacture your importance and popularity. This can lead to problems that could affect the ability of your website to ultimately attain a high search ranking. This is why acquiring social signals is a must, even before you begin your link building campaign.

Even though social signals may not have any direct ranking effect as confirmed by Matt Cutts in 2014, the search engines can use data from social networking sites to determine how real or authentic your brand is.

In any case, it will also look very odd if your site is generating backlinks but isn’t generating any social signals. You need to show off as many natural signals as possible. This is why a social media strategy is as important as your SEO and link building strategy.

The search engines look at how much authority your website has on the major social networking sites, how many people are sharing your content, how engaged your followers are with your content, how many +1’s, shares and retweets your content is attracting, as well as the authority of the people who retweet your content.

How Many DoFollow Links Should You Build to Your Site?

As far as link building goes, there’s a general misconception that the more dofollow links you build, the better, especially if the competition has a massive amount. If you have received some press lately or are running some major branding campaigns and are in a competitive industry with large keyword search volumes, then you can get away with building lots of dofollow links. As long as the links were not generated by automated link building software, you shouldn’t have to worry about the consequences of building links too fast. Furthermore, if the majority of links you’re building are nofollow links, then this will be okay as it will not look as if you’re trying to manipulate Google’s PageRank algorithm.

However, if you’re a relatively new site, building dofollow links too fast would be unnatural, especially if you’re not running a strong PR and branding campaign that the search engines can point to as a reason for the upsurge in links.

Note that your link building campaign needs to be backed up with a strong social media marketing campaign that is driving traffic at a steady pace. As long there are a lot of social signals hitting your website, you can get away with building more links than is recommended below.

This will also depend on search volume in your industry. If there are not many searches for your target keywords on Google, you will have to exercise caution as far as link building is concerned. It is also critically important to build a diverse variety of links from all types of sources with nofollow and dofollow links mixed in. As a new site, most of the initial links your build should be nofollow, which is okay because it looks very natural and shows you’re not trying to spam your way to a high search ranking.

If you’re a local business in a niche where there isn’t much keyword search volume and you’re looking to rank 2 pages per week, then you should be building no more than 1 or 2 links a week per page, per keyword. Note that the majority of your dofollow links should be going to your blog rather than to your home page.

In any case, you’ll want to link slowly starting out. Here’s the recommended link building velocity for the first 3 months for websites in more competitive niches:

Month 1: 10 – 15 branded links to your home page, with 85% of links going to your internal pages.

Month 2: 20 – 25 all types of links with 75% going to your internal pages.

Month 3: 40 – 50 links with the majority going to your internal pages.

It is important to continually analyze the results you’re getting from your link building campaign. As you build links to your site, you need to evaluate the impact that each link is having on your organic search ranking and the overall SEO campaign. This will let you know which links are most effective for your particular situation.

Keeping Your Backlink Profile Clean

It is critically important to keep your backlink profile completely free of toxic links. If your link profile consists of more than 20% toxic links, then you are in the Google penalty risk group. According to Google Penguin-proof link building guidelines, backlinks are considered toxic when they are obtained from sites in any of the following categories, or under any of these circumstances:

  • Sites with links to pills, casinos, gambling or porn sites.
  • Majority of links are from a private blog network with the same subnet/IP.
  • Sites with excessive amounts of links or where there is a bigger ratio of links to content. Examples of these type of sites include forums that are poorly moderated and resource pages on low quality websites who will link to any types of sites.
  • Sites with excessive amounts of ads.
  • Hacked sites that with malware and other malicious software.
  • Poor quality web directories that are willing to allow any and all kinds of sites to be listed in it for a fee.
  • Sites that have been heavily spammed with comment spam.
  • Sites with a high percentage of site wide links which are links placed in sidebars, footers or headers.
  • Linking site’s backlink profile consists of a high percentage of links with exact-match anchor text.

Toxic links will not count towards building your authority and rankings in the search engines, and the best way to avoid them is to stay well away from bad neighbourhoods:

In April 2016, Google sent out outbound link penalties which were issued by the Google manual actions team against blogs and other sites suspected of selling links. There are millions of private blog networks setup specifically for guest posting as a form of monetary income. Google has been carefully watching and identifying these types of blogs for a while, and they are now beginning to take action. There is always a big risk in buying links from low quality blogs that have been setup specifically to manufacture links.

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