If you’re new to SEO, you’ve likely only recently heard the term “link building” — in simple terms, the practice of getting other sites to link to yours.
You may have heard different things — maybe even conflicting things — about how it’s done and its usefulness to your website’s SEO efforts. With so much information out there, it can be tough to sort through all the noise and decide just exactly what link building is all about.
Lucky for you, we’re here to make things a bit clearer with a list of the five most important facts for you to know about link building.
1. Backlinks Are The Most Influential Search Ranking Factor
There’s a reason link building is such a huge deal in the SEO world. A high-quality backlink can have wide-reaching positive effects on a business, such as better online reputation management, improved brand awareness, and increased organic traffic flowing from the linking site itself. But the biggest reason by far to engage in a link building campaign is simple: there’s no better search ranking factor than backlink metrics.
Google has said many times that backlinks improve page ranking Think of a backlink as a vote: each time a site links to your content, they’re essentially vouching for the quality of that content and voting for it to be ranked higher.
While we obviously can’t take a look inside Google’s ranking algorithm to verify this for sure, they’re not just blowing smoke; Moz regularly surveys the top voices in SEO, and time after time the consensus is that page-level and domain-level link features show the most influence over a site’s search ranking.
2. Contextual Link Building Is Better
There are many factors that determine the impact a backlink will have on a page’s search ranking, but one of the most important by far is contextual relevance.
What is a backlink’s contextual relevance? Simple: it’s how closely related the linking site’s vertical is to yours. This can get very granular, from how relevant the two domains are, to how relevant the linking article is to your specific landing page, and now even the relevance of the section or paragraph the link appears in within that article.
So why put so much effort into contextual link building? Because Google is smart, and it’s getting smarter all the time. Its algorithms are getting better at mimicking the human experience, and part of that experience is understanding what makes a site and the content on it relevant to a search query. The biggest way it determines this is how closely related the linking domains and pages are — their contextual relevance.
For example: your business is a high-end bicycle reseller, and you’d like your page on the various mountain bikes you offer to rank higher. A decent backlink would come from a site about outdoor sports; a better backlink would come from a site about bikes; a great backlink would come from a site entirely about mountain biking, in an article about how to choose the best mountain bikes.
3. Backlink Quality Can Vary
Not all backlinks are created equal.
You could spend all your effort earning tons of backlinks, but at the end of the day they’re just not moving the needle. So what gives? Are backlinks not the top-notch search ranking signal they’re cracked up to be?
Well, if you’ve gotten all of those links with minimal effort, it could just be that maybe those links aren’t up to snuff.
All sorts of factors go into deciding whether a backlink will be “high-quality”, including(but certainly not limited to) the linking domain’s:
♦number of referring domains
If that seems like a lot, the easiest place to start is simply using a tool like the Moz bar to look at Domain authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA) of a site you’re considering going after a backlink from.
The above DA and PA metrics are very good, and a backlink from a site with those kinds of numbers would make quite an impact. The higher these two numbers, the more Google thinks of the site and specific page, and that means links from that site will afford a bigger ranking boost.
4. Link Building Anchor Text Matters
Anchor text in link building can be a tricky thing.
There are a lot of factors to consider in choosing proper anchor text for a backlink, and that’s when you even have control over it. If another site is linking to yours totally of their own volition, you’re really at the mercy of whatever anchor text they choose. But if you’ve got any say in the matter at all, you should be putting some real thought into those few words that comprise that almighty backlink.
For an example, let’s take a look at the anchor text from this very article:
In general, good anchor text — both for user experience and for SEO — will be succinct, unique, and as descriptive of the target page as possible. This particular link leads to a Google support page about the relationship between backlinks and page rank, and so the link’s anchor text is just a few words that very accurately describe the content the link leads to.
If you are trying to get the target landing page to rank for specific keywords, they can be included in the anchor text, but don’t go overboard. If a page has too many links pointing at it all with the same exact keywords and phrasing, Google may start to see it as spam, and the last thing you want is for all your time and effort to result in a Google penalty. For this reason, it’s generally agreed upon that the best backlink profiles use mostly diverse broad-match anchor text rather than the same exact keywords each time.
5. Creative Link Building Strategies Exist
If you’ve found a link building strategy that works, it’s only natural to want to replicate that success by leaning hard into that tactic. After all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
But make sure you don’t narrow your field of view too much. Straying from the well-trod path of a proven strategy can feel like too big a risk, but not exploring can and likely will limit your opportunities for success. So don’t be afraid to get creative with your link building!
Some of the more creative strategies for link building include:
♦ Getting recognized in the press
♦ Creating, hosting, or sponsoring events
♦ Creating viral content such as April Fool’s pranks
♦ Publishing hard-hitting original research in your field
Link Building can get pretty complex, but keeping these basic facts in mind will make getting started feel a lot less overwhelming.