Importance of Link Building
Organic link building is a major factor in Google’s ranking algorithm and the most challenging element of search engine optimization. It is the most powerful and effective way to increase your websites’s visibility on the search engine results page and drive organic traffic to your site. Links remain the most important ranking signal for a high organic search ranking.
Links (also known as backlinks, inbound links or hyperlinks), are the lifeblood of any website. They are the way search engines discover websites.
Two critical points regarding links and link building:
- Link building is fundamental to SEO. Without link building, your site will fail.
- Link building should be never stop. It is an ongoing part of marketing your website on the web.
Having relevant backlinks from trustworthy and reputable websites lends to your site’s overall credibility and are used in the search engine’s algorithms to determine whether you can be considered trustworthy as a relevant source of information and an “expert” in your field. In short, links can make or break a site’s organic search ranking.
In a search engine ranking factors experts survey conducted by Moz, many leading SEO experts concurred that link building 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. Social and user experience signals may play a larger role in the future, but for now, Google prioritizes links when evaluating the quality of a webpage.
Essentially, Google relies on 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, 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.
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. They are 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.
Link Building Mistakes
You cannot focus too heavily on link building alone as the main way to increase popularity on the web and gain higher rankings. SEO in 2016 is a socially-focused discipline, and your links need to look 100% natural and organic. With the incorporation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into Google’s ranking algorithm, most loopholes that allowed black hat to thrive on the search engine have been firmly shut. As a semantic search engine, Google’s algorithms are now more sophisticated than ever, and they can detect manipulative patterns in any backlink profile very easily.
How Natural Are Your 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, it means you are popular, and Google will expect to see mentions and searches for your brand. Google also needs to see 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 talking about you or searching for your brand name on the search engine, this may trigger a few algorithmic signals.
If there is not enough search volume for the keywords you’re ranking for, you cannot be too aggressive with your link building strategy. This is very important. For example, if you’re ranking for a keyword that gets around 50 searches per month but are building 100 dofollow backlinks per month, it’s going to appear incredibly unnatural. If your niche doesn’t get too many keyword searches per month, you’ll need to factor this into your link building strategy.
Remember: Google wants the majority of links to your site to be editorial links. These are links from users to your site who find your content useful and relevant enough to link to your content pages. If there is no search traffic to back up your link popularity, a strong link building campaign may trigger algorithmic filters which could ultimately lead to a manual review of your website.
Sending the Wrong Signals
The primary goal for your SEO link building strategy should be to build as many organic, high quality editorial links and social signals. These should appear as natural as possible. If Google sees the creation of a lot of backlinks in a short period of time, that would send a signal. High velocity link building needs to be matched by a strong PR, branding or social media campaign. If not, Google may suspect that you’re manufacturing your importance and popularity because it isn’t natural. 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 still 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.
With link building, 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 good press lately or are running some major branding campaigns and are in a competitive industry with large keyword search volumes, then lots of dofollow links doesn’t look unnatural. As long as the links were not generated by automated link building software, there’s no need to worry about 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 in some circumstances. E.g. if you’re not running a strong PR and branding campaign, how can you explain the upsurge in links? 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.
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 you build are probably going to be nofollow. This is okay because it looks very natural and shows you’re not trying to spam your way to a high search ranking.
Consider a local business in a niche where there isn’t much keyword search volume. Say you’re looking to rank 2 pages per week. 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: Branded links to your home page, with 85% of links going to your internal pages.
Month 2: All types of links with 75% going to your internal pages.
Month 3: All types of 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. 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 as free as possible of toxic links. If your link profile consists of more than 10% of toxic links, then you are in the Google filter 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 anchored 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. Google Penguin also made it easier to identify toxic links.
Toxic links include links that:
- have a large amount of sitewide links;
- are from linking sites with little or no traffic;
- comes from webpages with a lot of out-bound links.