Link Building: What You Should Know

Google’s Penguin update changed link building forever. You can’t buy your way to the top of the search engine’s organic search anymore (if you ever could). If you’re going to hire someone to build links for you, they’d better know what they’re doing, or your site could disappear from the search results.

Yes, it’s still possible to build effective links, but you can’t use the old techniques and expect to see lasting results. Link builders need a stronger knowledge base. Julie Joyce wrote an incredibly detailed article for Search Engine Land detailing more than 50 things that every link builder needs to know. I can’t list all of them here, so I recommend that you check it out. I’ll touch on some of the highlights here.

Perhaps the simplest thing a link builder should know is why links matter in the first place. Yes, there’s the old explanation of how a link equals a vote in Google’s eyes, but nowadays it’s much more complicated. Not all links are created equal; not all links will give you the kind of “link juice” you’re looking for. A link builder needs to understand these subtleties.

Speaking of “link juice,” a link builder needs to understand how it works. Link juice is the term used for the flow of link value passed along from one web page to the page to which it’s linking. All other things being equal, a page with fewer outgoing links passes more link juice per link than a page with more outgoing links. Online, of course, all other things are rarely equal; some web pages may start with more value to pass along, while some pages nofollow certain links, and so forth.

That’s another thing every link builder needs to know: what “nofollow” means, and how to spot a “nofollowed” link. A “nofollowed” link is a link with a little extra code attached to it that Google reads, telling the search engine that that particular link should not count as a “vote” for the site to which it’s linking. Nofollowed links earn no link juice for the web page to which they point. Joyce notes that there are plug-ins that highlight nofollowed links, but adds that “You can also just look at the code.” If you see a rel=”nofollow” on a link, it’s nofollowed.

Another thing every link builder needs to know how to do is use and understand an analytics program. Google offers one for free; you can find many other packages as well. A good analytics program will give you lots of useful information, such as where your traffic is coming from. This can help you determine which of your links are helping you most.

Closely related to this point, if you build links, you need to know how to use Google’s Webmaster Tools. That’s especially true if you get any traffic from Google. Joyce recommends it as your first stop for troubleshooting. “They alert you to problems with your site, allow you to run crawl checks, see your new links, look at your queries, and do about a ton of other things,” she explained.

I hope to cover more important things you should know if you’re building links in another post. What do you think every link builder should know or understand? Feel free to include it in the comments.  

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