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Link Building in SEO

It's crucial that you have already read the page SEO and Link Earning because on today's web you are not going to be able to build links unless you have content good enough to earn them.

You might also realise that links are the last part of this SEO guide. That's because if your content is not clear to search engines then links are going to have limited affect. Remember your page or site needs to:

  1. Be understood by search engines as relevant to the search the user has made - that means getting all the On-Page stuff covered in this guide right.
  2. Have Authority to rank for the search the user has made - and this is where good quality links come in.

It used to be a case that the more links the better - lots of links meant people liked your website so it must be good and it should rank higher in the search results. Now this is not necessarily so as webmasters have learnt how to game the system through various link building programmes and concepts. Search engines know it and so they've binned this approach when deciding who should rank for what.

They have evolved and now when they see a page on your site has a link they consider:

  • Is the link from a website/page with related content?
  • Is the website/page that is linking to you quality ... what sort of links do they have?
  • Is the link to your website within the content of the page – i.e. not in a list of links somewhere off to the side or bottom
  • How many other links to other websites are there on that page?
  • Is the link marked as 'no follow'?

We'll cover these in more detail in a moment.

The list above defines how much "link juice" should pass from the page with the link to your page and this in turn gives search engines a measure of how much Authority your page and site has for that topic.

So thousands of links from directories are worth almost nothing because:

  • The directory pages seldom have any content themselves so search engines don't understand their subject which makes a link from them a link from a page with unrelated content.

  • most directories are seen as low or zero quality
  • your link is not within any content (its in a list)
  • and the link is on a page with loads of other links

As Google's Penguin 2.0 rolled out in early 2013 it sounded the final death bell of most spammy link concepts from pushing articles onto services such as Ezines and other content farms to the few pointless directories that had escaped Penguin 1.0.

These were websites with very little Link Juice to offer but there was still some worth chasing. No longer.

So how to get those all important quality, topic related links:

  • Modern link building - the rifle approach to proactively establish targetted links
  • Content marketing - the scatter gun approach of letting the right people know about your content and hope some will link to it.

Before going through the list its important to bear in mind the impact of some link building activities. The easier it is to do, the more likely everyone as done it. So sure, submit your site to Yellow Pages but don't expect it to be the silver bullet. Everyone else has probably done the same. On the flip side getting a link to stick in Wikipedia is tough - achieve it and you will stand out.

So here are a few ways you can create targeted links:

  • Genuine article sites like Wikipedia - you can add a link on Wikipedia yourself but beware it will be deleted in no time unless it is a genuinely useful link to genuinely useful information. Despite a mantra that 'Article sites are dead' there are many like Wikipedia that are alive and well. Most mark their links 'no follow' but you would be daft to think search engines ignore the fact that a hand edited site like Wikipedia links to you!
  • Genuine hand edited directories like Yellow Pages. - again usually marked 'no follow' or recognised by the search engines as directories but if you are able to get a link from a hand edited site it counts a little.
  • Broken link building - find websites with broken links to websites like yours and offer the owner your page as a suitable alternative. They get a repaired website and you get a link!
  • Replacement link building - find websites which link to content which is out of date and offer the webmaster your page instead as a better alternative.
  • Media assistance sites like Help a Reporter Out - if you can give a reporter the information they need they'll quote you and from time to time give a link to your website/page in their story.
  • Ask for your product/service/content to be reviewed - but only by someone who counts in your subject area and be prepared for them not to shower praise on you through the whole review. Avoid websites that are made up completely of reviews - search engines can see them for what they are.
  • Offer to guest blog/write a guest column - but only on websites you and others truly respect. Sites made up completely of guest blogs and where the other blogs are of shallow content are easily spotted and discounted by search engines.
  • Ask to be added to a list - say, for example, you have just created a great JQuery slide show. Contact those top ranking sites that have posts such as "20 amazing JQuery slide shows" ... there's no harm asking!
  • The Skyscraper technique - look at the links your competitors have and consider if you could get the same links (and perhaps even get their links removed). If someone contacts me about a link I have and offers me better content I change the link or add an additional link. It adds value to my visitors so it is a win-win.

Now if you think about it all these ways to link build and get links that count are going to take alot of time. You can guest blog on twenty sites that accepts rubbish and will link to anything but links there will count for next to nothing and chances are those twenty sites will eventually get penalized by the search engines for having unnatural outbound links and then the links will dissappear.

While those sites are going up in smoke the search engines will also spot the links to you and you might end up with a penalty of your own for unnatural inbound links.

So the long and short of it is link build very, very selectively if you need to in order to get you started. After that spend your time on new content or making the old content even better by analysing your user behabviour.

Content marketing

The second type of links you can go for are ones that won't change the Authority of your website in the eyes of search engines but will bring you visitors. If your content is top notch grade some of these visitors will create links to it that will count. Its widely known as 'indirect SEO'.

  • Social Media - if you have followers let them know.
  • Social Media Communities - join related communities on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn and post your content there.
  • Get on forums - become a respectable member of a respectable forum. If people like what you say they will beat a path to your door.
  • Blog comment - on respectable blogs and in a constructive way. No one follows a link on a blog comment unless it has a context. Say something of substance that attracts people to click the link and you will get visitors.
  • Advertise - Google Adwords, OutBrain and a hundred other platforms exist out there if you are prepared to Pay Per Click or Pay Per Impression
  • Submit your content to the discussion boards like inbound, Digg or Reddit - if it gets a conversation going the discussion will rank and some of those visitors will head over to see why your content has created so much buzz.
  • Email marketing - if you have some traffic try building up a list of newsletter subscribers so you can get the message about new content out there and earning links fast.

Long, long gone are the days where you would hire a company to make you 1,000 links, 400 blog comments, 400 forum posts, 25 articles, etc. Such activity is a red cloth to a bull and literally asking for your website to be banned from the major search engines.

Modern (and clean) link builders may spend a week to create one link and cost anything from a thousand dollars up but if that one link is, for example, on or close to a seed site (a website Google sees as whiter than white - Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, etc.) it will work wonders for your rankings.

Really professional link builders are more like PR companies these days. They're just trying to say to the major online players "Hey, did you know about this content over here" and hope the reply they get is "No we didn't, its great, we'll reference it in something we write about" or "Crikey, that's much better than something we're currently linking to, we'll change the link".

Their true value is often in their network of contacts.

I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimisation and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.

If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.

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