search engine optimization

Link building 101

In Google's perfect world, all links would be earned and organic. In our actual world, the rules are a bit different

Links directly cause websites to rise in search results. Everyone wants their business to dominate search, so it's important to get it right.

It takes a focused approach to spread links to your page across the web. Companies that engage in long-term search engine promotion tend to be the long-term winners. Building a comprehensive network of links to your site from other reputable pages is a great way to increase your SEO, and by extension, your reputation and sales.

It’s pretty simple: The more links to your page from the right website, the more people who will click through to your page and the better search results you'll have. But how do you get those links?

The basics of link building

To “build a link” means to get a website to link back to yours. The tactics for efficiently doing so vary in style, complexity, and overall function. Search engines value quality over quantity, so it’s not enough to simply post links to your site all across the web. You need purposeful placement, with an eye to trustworthiness and authority. The best way to build links is to engage in an SEO outreach campaign.

Search engines use links in one of two fundamental ways:

  • To discover new and existing websites; and
  • To determine where a web page should be ranked.

Your links can help your page rise to the top—or keep it firmly planted on the bottom.

Not all links are created equal

Search engines assign different values to different links based on a number of factors, including website credibility, relevance, and global popularity. It’s not enough to just have a lot of junk links out there directing to your page—they need to come from the right places. It’s a lot of work, but the benefits are worth it.

Link structures

Link structures are maps to efficient link building. There are different routes you can take, depending on what you want to achieve. Some routes are multi-tiered, linking one site to another which in turn links to another site. Some are circular, A linking to B who links to C who in turn links back to A. Some are just simple, one-way, single-link structures.

A simple one-step link

An organic link is by definition going to be one link. One website links to another website. It looks like this:

normal-link.jpg

A two-step link

A two-step link is a link that has a link to it. In other words, the SEO negotiates / builds a link to the target page. Then they build another link, but this time to the page with the link on it. This sends "juice" to the article linking to the target. The theory here is that by increasing the relative importance of the page linking to the target the site will enjoy better search results. Here is a two step link:

two-step-link.jpg

Three-tier linking

Three-tier linking is pretty much a spam technique. It's starting to overlap something called a Link Pyramid or Link Wheel. It's a good idea to avoid these if you want to protect your reputation. Some reputation management companies use these techniques and should be avoided at all costs.

bad-idea.jpg

Which one should you use?

Well, none of them really. What you should do is take a look at companies or people like you in search results. Then emulate the natural patterns seen there. 

A note about content

Good content matters, but by itself it’s usually not enough to get you to the top of search listings. A well-structured and executed link building campaign focuses on where content is coming from, maximizing the benefits of good associations.

And yet, you can’t write off the crucial role that content plays. A reputable site isn’t going to link to your page unless they consider it up to their standards, so it’s important to make sure that your page is deserving of links from quality sites. Shortcuts exist, but they can ultimately be harmful for the long-term success of your brand.

The best content can build its own links

The holy grail of link patterns are those that happen naturally because the content is so sharable. But this is often a "unicorn" level wish. Every day a bazillion pieces of new content are placed on the web. Making something go viral is virtually impossible. Why does one cat video outperfom another cat video by a million-to-one? It's hard to tell. 

Research what is working, understand it. Don't build patterns. Mix up the text in your links. Do it right and you will be rewarded.