Link Building: Where Should You Even Begin? Basic Guidelines to Link Building

The world of SEO seems to be constantly in flux. With each Google algorithm change comes an existential crisis for the industry, although hopefully we are over the worst excess of that era and the present zeitgeist is one which is likely to be around for a while. Link building is the bread and butter of good SEO work, but is something that people often mess up. Below is a handy guide to how to make sure your link building is top quality.

Definition of link building

Building high-quality links is an arduous job that requires high quality content, website partners and well-optimized keywords.  Hyperlinks direct traffic from other sites to your own and are used to navigate around the web. Google uses crawl data to assess which links register most for key terms and uses this to position its search result rankings. Therefore, good linksmanship is an essential part of the SEO trade.

The importance of link building

Search engines need links to determine rankings and to identify the new kids on the block that need to be ranked. Google published a short videowhich breaks things down pretty nicely. While search engines identify key terms on a site, they also look to external sites to see how many are linking back to the original site. Google provides weight to different sites and getting a link on a clean, well- respected site is going to do you a lot of good when it comes to ranking. That’s why time needs to be spent on ensuring that links are getting built in the right places.

When you link to relevant and high quality sites that has been crawled by spiders and has made a correlation to your website, there will be a great possibility that Google will consider your site a prime candidate to appear on Page 1 on Search Engine Ranking Pages (SERPs)

Importance of Link Building

The anatomy of a hyperlink

A handy article I read recently provided a great breakdown of how the link building process works and how Google reads it in order to rank a site. This is basic stuff, but it’s good to know how the nuts and bolts of the process works.

  1. Anchor. This comes at the start of the hyperlink and lets Google know that link tag is about to follow that is going to need to be ranked.
  2. Link Referral location. This is the link address which you click on to take you to wherever you need to go on the information superhighway.
  3. Visible/anchor text of the link.  This is the text that users see on a page that guides them to a link. Think the ‘contact us’ phraseology as an example of this.
  4. Link tag closing lets Google know that the anchor is at an end.

Weighting of thematic clusters of ranking factors in Google

A number of different factors affect Google rankings and there is a good breakdown of that here. The algorithms are ever more complex, but quality is the key to Google search success these days. What this means has been discussed in-depth elsewhere.

However, finding quality partners that fit with your brand and that Google considers as ‘clean’ certainly helps, as well as ensuring that what you produce is informative and can generate organic traffic that is linked to from a variety of places is certainly the main factor affecting rankings.

Benefits of link building to your business

To rank well, there is no substitute for high-quality links to high-quality content. However, there are more than just SEO benefits to consider when building links. There are a number of intangibles that can help any business. One of these is that of building up business contacts that can reciprocate. By borrowing, partnering and generally working together, there are benefits to both sides in the short and long term.

The key thing to remember though, as I have stated multiple times already, is quality. Once you find a potential partner they need to find what you do worthwhile in order to encourage their audience to give you a chance. Quality content is key to quality partnerships and the rankings follow.

Social Media is always there to help

While it is still debatable as to the true impact of social media with SEO rankings, there are still many who insists that Social Media does add to the organic success of a website even if it is not directly obvious.

But, it is widely accepted that there is a relationship between SEO and Social Media. Some experts think that by appearing and being mentioned on a post in a social media site like Facebook can be a ranking factor. Even without a hyperlink, just by having your brand appear in a site is a signal to Google. Here we see the effectiveness of Social Media in giving your product an increase in brand awareness and promote more social mentions and conversations about your brand. Think of it like a snowball effect as its signals grow.

Lastly, believe it or not, Social Media can increase your website’s traffic which is a big factor in rankings. The most popular items we see in Facebook are informative and interesting content, funny or tragic videos, intriguing blog posts and other compelling content. You could get higher rankings especially when users read your entire blog post or watch the whole video before moving on to another site. This is measured by search engines: bounce rate, new visits, return visits, pages per visit and time spent on a website. The more engaged a user is measured, the higher the ranking could be.

How to Make Your Content Discoverable to Earn Editorial Links

I’ve already done a very useful round-up of how one can still build / attract solid backlinks to your site. Today I’ll follow up with a few more general, yet resourceful tips on how bloggers can still earn backlinks to their content.

Bloggers can still build links, and those who have always sought out solid links in the first place will find much of the practice hasn’t changed. You are still aiming to provide quality, valuable content that explores a topic you are an expert in. You are potentially going to link to other sources – either your own, or third party – in order to further enrich that content. You create something of value, and you deserve links coming in – this is a short story…

Let’s look at that in more details:

Create Good Content

In the end, your best bet is always going to be creating good, solid and engaging content that people want to share. I won’t pretend that there is some magic formula to follow that will get you those links, or that will boost you into viral status… there isn’t. But the better your content, the more likely it will be seen and enjoyed.

Bookmark this blogging guide to get a better idea of what types of content you can create and how to do that right:

Blog content

Get Your Content Out There…

There’s nothing wrong in being discoverable. There’s nothing wrong in being pro-active about being discovered. And I don’t mean asking someone for a link. I mean being pro-active about letting more people see your content (and possibly link to it at some point)

The most obvious is probably social media. You want influencers, or just others, to share out your work. Targeting your user base is one way, but jumping on someone else’s coat tails is a great boost for visibility, and increasing chances of even more social links.

Viral Content Buzz is a great way to put your content in front of eager social media sharers for wider reach. In most cases, this is the easiest (and free!) method to get your content discovered by bloggers as well!

A new term has been coined recently: “ego baiting”. This is the process of mentioning someone in your content, as well as quoting, praising or even scorning them. In theory, they should fall victim to their ego and choose to share out that content, or link to it as a reference for their own post. It sounds a lot shadier than it is; if you have a genuine statement to make about someone else or their work, there is no reason you should write about it.

3 Rules of Relationship-Powered Link Building #pubcon from Ann Smarty

Chances are, you have taken part in ego baiting without even realizing it. You know those top ten lists you make that link to people’s content or websites? Those mentions potentially catch their attention, leading to those “Hey, a shout-out to (Your Name) for including me in (Article)!” social media posts.

MyBlogU is a great way to attract people to your content who will then help you promote your content on social media and link back to the articles they got featured!

MyBlogU

If you make one of these posts, or anything else that heavily features another blogger, send them an email letting them know they are in it. Maybe they will share the link, maybe they won’t. But at least you will have taken a shot.

If you have any ideas for building links as a blogger, let us know in the comments. We would love to hear from you!

High-Quality Directories and How They Add Value to the Web

I am in the industry long enough to have witnessed both the growth and decline in the popularity of “web directory” phenomenon.

Web directories emerged prior to search engines as the means to help people discover websites online. During Google times, web directories were used to build backlinks and extra visibility for a website. Then they became popular among link builders – from where the concept abuse started.

There is an argument that link building hasn’t killed web directories. What happened instead is that directories were no longer needed (search engines did the job) but is it really so? To me, it’s the same as to say that Wikipedia is not needed thanks for Google Knowledge Graph (yes, I realize the knowledge graph is being built based on Wikipedia, hence the sarcasm)

The difference between web directories and search engines is that high-quality web directories are heavily moderated. The purpose of today’s web directory is to provide the well-structured database of high-quality websites.

Hence good directories can still be useful:

  • To build your site co-citation signals
  • To put your site in the most relevant immediate contest
  • To build more brand name mentions and awareness (to help build digital footprint)

Below I am listing selected directories that are still driving value to your website (if you are listed there) but more importantly, provide valuable user experience.

Featured sites:

 

Requirements to be listed

Why is it here?

Dmoz

No “mirror” and non-original-content sites”, no sites with illegal content, no sites with mostly affiliate links

The fact that Google still trusts Dmoz enough to show “anchor text or listings from” it is pretty self-explanatory.

Business.com

“Sites must serve as a resource for businesses or business professionals”. They actually have very strict guidelines listed here

Listing your site there actually drives traffic and brings trust. Note: I did find a few a bit forced “exact-match anchor text listings there” which I’d avoid if I were them

Dir Journal

No sites with broken links, only family-friendly sites, sites with cross-browser support, no sites with pop-ups,

Each site has a separate page listing * some stats, helpful links as well as description and most useful pages from that domain. That could become a powerful brand name asset! They also offer free webmaster tools and have a separate “local” directory

JoeAnt

“Our users expect relevant results with appropriate ratings”: sufficient content and contact info (for business websites) are required

I actually LOVED the site search feature ** showing different features of each website: It shows the site is very-well curated!

Yahoo Dir

Cross-browser support, no sites with “under construction” pages

It’s hard not to mention Yahoo when talking about directories. They say it’s too expensive to justify it though.

Jasmine

No pharmacy, affiliate-only, redirected sites (The guidelines are rather vague: “it is difficult to name the exact websites we reject”)

Best results are labeled. Category pages have lots of content beyond links. They provide 100 / 300-word review for each site (So they write the copy themselves: Neat!)

No websites with illegal or pornographic content, no affiliate or MLM sites, no mirror and non-original sites

The site overall is very user-friendly. I liked the individual listing pages: They have “related articles” and the ability to comment and rate

Isoosi

I actually couldn’t find clear quality guidelines on their submission page (I can assume it’s located elsewhere)

Positions itself more as a “human-empowered” search engine (they claim to have a crawler of their own), has a great focus on community

*Dir Journal listing screenshot:

Dir Journal

**JoeAnt search results:

JoeAnt

Honorable mentions:

I wasn’t able to find any arguments pro or against the below directories (or something worth noting in the “Why is it here?” column above), so I am just listing them because I know they have a very good reputation:

  • Aviva directory: One of the oldest, best-known directories out there. They say it’s trusted and can even drive traffic.
  • Alive Directory: Interestingly, it shows number of clicks on each link (A good sign it’s actually able of sending traffic)
  • Skaffe: I like that they show Google Plus button and have “Address” and telephone. I wish they supported that more (most listings provide no telephone; I couldn’t find a zip code that would have any search results)

Further reading:

What are your thoughts about web directories nowadays? Please share your thoughts!