Inbound links – also called backlinks – are important for driving more traffic to a website. Links from other websites provide a direct path to the site for anyone who clicks on them. Backlinks from reputable websites can improve a site’s SEO (search engine optimization) and boost its ranking in search engine results. That means more people may find the site when searching for its keywords.
Search engines rank web pages that appear on their search engine results pages (or SERPs) largely on how many links go to a given page, and how valuable those links are.
When lots of relevant and important websites talk about and link to yours, that tells search engines your website is also important, and relevant to the words included in the link. (The linking words are called “anchor text.”)
Beware! When it comes to link building, there is a lot (and I really mean a LOT) of misinformation on the web. Some of the link building advice you’ll find could even harm your website by putting it in bad company. That’s why it’s important
to know a thing or two about link building before you start.
Link Building Tactics To Avoid
Let me start with a few things that won’t help you increase your SERP rankings, though some SEO e-books and tutorials say they will. Some poor link building practices can even cause Google to penalize your website.
- Submitting your website to thousands of “SEO-friendly directories”
Even search engines steer clear of directories with names like submit-free-seo-link-dir.org or bu8h5.com. Especially when your site is new and has not built any kind of online reputation, listing with directories like this can cause search engines to label your website as part of a bad neighborhood.
- Leaving comments on dozens of blogs, just to get a link
Do you really think something like this could do your brand any good?
- Buying links for PageRank
Paid linking violates Google’s guidelines. PageRank refers to a complex set of parameters that define how important a website is, in large part by looking at the sites that link to it, and evaluating how important those sites are.
- Swapping links with just anyone
Link exchange schemes that rely on tactics like building a website solely to swap links with other sites also violate Google’s guidelines. Besides, a link on a page that looks like this doesn’t really seem very useful, does it?
None of these sites have any real relationship to one another, and there’s no context that unites them. They just happen to be advertised on the same web page.
- Using automated link building tools that promise great results for a low cost
Ninety-nine percent of all automated link building tools are a big no-no. Google explicitly says that links are valuable when people create them because the linked content is relevant to the web page hosting the link. A link-building software program is unlikely to create truly relevant links.
- Creating tons of profile pages on third-party websites, just for the links
If neither you or your target audience uses a specific social media platform, why should you use it to build links?
In short, if you’re doing stuff that would make you sneer or laugh out loud if your competitors were caught doing it, it’s probably spam and a waste of your time.
If you’re asking yourself, “Should I be doing this?” you probably shouldn’t. It’s as easy as that.
Link Building Tactics that Work
- Creating great content on your website that others want to talk about
Though “build it and they will come” is over-optimistic, the idea behind it is right. It’s much easier to promote an excellent resource than it is to promote a sales landing page.
- Offering a good product or service that people will recommend to others
Word of mouth (or word of mouse, if you prefer) is a very important way to get new clients. The Internet has made recommending products or services – and linking to them – a lot easier.
- Submitting to relevant, high quality directories
When a directory has links only to great resources and highly relevant web pages, it’s definitely worthwhile to submit your website. A few examples are DMOZ, the Yahoo! Directory and Best of the Web, and AboutUs.org, where you create the page about your website yourself.
- Asking website and blog owners who have mentioned you, but haven’t linked to you, to link
You can keep an eye on who’s talking about you via Google Alerts. If someone mentions your site in a positive or neutral tone, they may be willing to add a link to the relevant page of your site.
- Networking with influential people in your industry
We all know good networking helps you build new contacts and probably new business. It can also help you build links to your website. Go to meetups, conferences and other industry get-togethers every now and then. Hand out your card, show people your website, and when they seem enthusiastic, ask them to link to your website from theirs.
- Regularly contributing to relevant discussions, forums or blogs
Becoming a thoughtful contributor on important websites will help you establish your brand and authority. Good brands naturally attract attention and links.
- Plain old marketing
Networking, contributing, making great products and providing good service are all just regular marketing, right? Link building is also just another form of marketing, done in a way that’s friendly to search engines.
When it comes to link building, there is no single right approach. But creativity, hard work and perseverance can get you pretty far.
Wiep is co-owner of LinkBuilding.nl, a Dutch link building agency specialized in creative, high-end link building campaigns. He also manages link building blog Wiep.net (written in English), where he discusses different link building tactics every month. Wiep has been working in online marketing since 2004, and has been invited to speak at several search engine marketing conferences.