SEO 101: What is link building and why it’s important for your website’s success

The landscape of SEO and link building is constantly changing, and today, the importance of high quality links has never been higher. However, good link building isn’t easy, especially if you want to avoid the crack of Google’s whip and risk a penalty.

That’s why you need to make the search engines like you by building high quality links using various white hat techniques. Here’s Bang Digital’s ultimate guide for beginners when it comes to link building and how a link profile can help your website succeed.

What is link building?

Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own. A hyperlink (usually just called a link) is a way for users to navigate between pages on the Internet. Search engines like Google use these links to crawl the web by:

  • Crawling links between the individual pages on your website
  • Crawling links between entire websites

There are many techniques for building links and while they vary in difficulty, SEOs tend to agree that link building is one of the hardest parts of their jobs. For that reason, mastering the art of building high quality links can truly put your business ahead of its competition.

What links mean to the search engines

There are two fundamental ways that the search engines use links:

  1. To discover new web pages
  2. To help determine how well a page should rank in their results

Once the search engines have crawled pages on the web, they can extract the content of those pages and add it to their indexes. This way, they can decide if they feel a page is of sufficient quality to be ranked well for relevant keywords.

When they are deciding this, they don’t just look at the content on the page – they also look at the number of links pointing to that page from external websites and the quality of those external websites. So the more high quality websites that link to you, the more likely you are to rank well in the search results.

While we don’t know the full algorithm that Google uses to determine its search results, the general consensus among the SEO community is that links still play a big role in that algorithm. So if all other factors are equal, the volume and quality of links pointing to a page will make the difference between rankings. Therefore, if you get high quality links to your website, it will help you rank better and get more traffic.

The benefits of high quality links for your business

A link is seen by the search engines as a vote of confidence about a page. When someone links to another website, they’re effectively saying its a good resource – otherwise, they wouldn’t link to it. Some of the benefits of high quality links include:

Building relationships

Link building can often involve outreach to other relevant websites and blogs in your industry. This outreach frequently relates to the promotion of something you have created, such as a piece of content. A common goal of outreach is to get a link, but there is much more to it than just this. Outreach can help you build long-term relationships with key influencers in your industry and these relationships can mean that your business becomes highly regarded and trusted.

Sending referral traffic

A good link from a highly-visited website can lead to an increase in traffic. If it’s a relevant website, chances are that the traffic is also relevant and may lead to an increase in sales, as well. Again, in this situation the value of a link isn’t just about SEO – it’s about customers.

Brand building

Good link building can help build your brand and establish you as an authority in your niche. There are some link building techniques, such as content creation, which can show people the expertise of your company, and this can go a long way toward building your brand.

For example, if you create a piece of content based upon industry data and publish it, you have a chance of becoming well known for it in the industry. When you do outreach and try to get links to the content, you’re showing your expertise and asking other people in your industry to help spread the word and show others the same.

Bad vs. good links

Links are a very important signal that the search engines use to determine rankings and the focus on quality is increasing as Google becomes more sophisticated at filtering out low quality or spammy links. This directly impacts SEOs, as they need to make sure the link building techniques they choose focus primarily on that quality to increase their chances of ranking well.

A note on over-optimisation

One of the issues Google came across was that SEOs were starting to manipulate search results for chosen keywords. Therefore, it started actively trying to find ways to discover websites which were manipulating search results and began rolling out regular updates, which were specifically aimed at filtering out websites that didn’t deserve a rank.

This has led to Google starting to discount a number of link building techniques that previously seemed fine. More recently, it has penalised the rankings of websites who have attempted such overuse of these techniques – often referred to as over-optimisation – in their link building. Therefore, the quality of your links is important now more than ever.

Link building vs. link “earning”

Before building links, you need something of value to build links to. Often it’s the homepage of your website but more often than not, you build links to specialised resources such as a blog post, tool, research study or graphic. This introduces the concept of link earning and “deserving to rank”.

All link building campaigns must start with something worth linking to. It’s very difficult to build links to low-value web pages, but when you begin with something truly valuable that people find useful or share-worthy, link building is a much easier endeavour and will contribute towards your website’s success.

Types of links

“Natural” editorial links

This type of link of the holy grail for SEOs. Essentially, these are the links that you didn’t even have to ask for because they’re editorially given by other website owners. This is much more efficient than having to contact someone and ask them to link to you.

However, you need to give someone a good reason to do so and you need to find ways of making large numbers of bloggers aware of that reason. An example of a good reason may be a great piece of content that you’ve created which you then seeded with a few key influential bloggers and through that process more bloggers have naturally become aware of it.

This is hard to do and can take time, which is part of the reason why these types of links are so highly valued. They’re also the types of links that Google often holds up as great examples, indicating that they will stand the test of time.

Manual “outreach” links

This is probably one of the most common types of link building. It involves manually contacting website owners and bloggers, asking them to link to you. Again, you need to give them a reason to link to you and to be successful you need to be contacting people who are relevant in your industry. If you are contacting people who have no connection to your industry, then they’re likely to be confused when you ask for a link.

Self-created non-editorial links

This type of link is generally frowned upon these days as it often falls in line with black-hat practices that aim to fool the search engines into thinking that a piece of content is relevant and important when it actually isn’t. Due to these links not being editorially given, they inherently carry less weight than the other types of links.

As a rule of thumb, you should avoid links that aren’t editorially given. Instead, you should focus on the tactics that will give you editorial links that add value to your website and business. Therefore hiring a digital agency with the knowledge and expertise to help you build a successful link building campaign could be the difference between you succeeding online or not.

So are you thinking of starting a link building campaign for your business? At Bang Digital we have a team of SEO experts with the tools and techniques to make your presence felt on the search engines. Get in touch today to find out how to take your website to the next level thanks to SEO and link building.