We’ve all heard the chorus line of negative opinions regarding link building over the past five years. When Google launched its infamous war on black-hat SEO tactics, the first strategy it took aim at was link building. Google’s stated goal in its battle to clean up the web is just that, clean up its search results. The search-engine giant wants to provide all of its users with the relevant results to websites that are clean, easy on the eye, and full of useful information. It’s all about user experience.
Link-building strategies were at the center of those early salvos from Google in 2010 because people were tired of getting bogus results from searches. Those poor results not only frustrate web surfers, they make Google look bad. Despite all of the negative attention in link building during the subsequent five years, linking your site to others is still an important part of SEO. Google didn’t kill link building altogether. Instead, it sought to clean up link building just like it cleaned up search results.
As a webmaster, you should still be connecting your pages and website to other sites on the web. However, link building requires time and effort. In order for link building to succeed as part of your SEO strategy, you need to connect with high quality sites. In this post, we’re going to discuss good link-building strategies and offer a few reasons you should be linking to other sites.
Positive Link Building
Links constitute an important part of the equation that is website ranking. Each link to your site from another website is viewed as a vote of confidence. Casual readers, devoted fans, and industry specialists have viewed your content and deemed it worthy of sharing with the world. Each link is a “YES” vote for your content. Google, and other search engines, view this as a positive thing.
However, the manner in which linking is done is critical. It is no longer acceptable to purchase links and connect your site to countless other pages. Google is looking for links, but those links need to be relevant to your subject and not viewed as spammy. For example, it was common in the past for sites to use text links on a particular word to route readers to sites containing adult content or online gambling platforms. Although those sites had nothing to do with the content on the original site, the link was viewed as a vote of confidence.
Google has been cracking down on this type of link building, and the consequences are pretty stiff. Today, positive link building occurs through social media activity and guest blogging, as examples. Sharing content relevant to your niche through your social media profiles raises brand awareness and starts an online conversation about products or services in your industry. Likewise, contributing a guest post to the site of an industry leader in your niche allows you to demonstrate your authority in the field and link back to your site so readers can learn more about you, your brand, and your company.
Why Some Fear Link Building
A fair number of marketing professionals seem to have an irrational fear of link building. As discussed, Google is certainly doling out punishment for those who use black-hat tactics in link building and SEO. However, some of the most common fears around link building are, for the most part, unfounded. As MOZ points out, the most common fears include:
- Damage to reputation and brand
- Poor search engine rankings
- Lower PageRank
- Exit portals that draw traffic away from the site
The truth is, link building is a common strategy by many SEOs and webmasters. In fact, casual and avid readers on the web expect to see links. While you could suffer any or all of the consequences mentioned above, none of those outcomes are likely if you follow the rules and engage in positive link building.
Reasons to Link to Other Sites
The same post from MOZ highlighted some great reasons to link to other sites. We won’t cover them all here, but we will focus on some of the points we believe to be worth repeating. First and foremost, by linking out to other sites you are encouraging your target niche and current followers to participate and contribute. Whether you are a big company or a small startup, you want people to be on your site and talking about your brand.
By linking out to other sites with quality content, you are giving people a good reason to interact with your brand. You can raise awareness for your brand and get bloggers, social-media enthusiasts, other webmasters, and forum readers talking about your site as well. Secondly, linking out encourages others to link in.
The Internet is known as the web for a reason. Just like a spider’s web is a tangled mess of interconnected lines, so too is the Internet. When you take the time to link out to other sites, it lets them (and others) know that you are an active participant in the interconnectivity of the web. Content creators, marketers, and website builders will see in your brand a company open to conversation, with an engaging attitude. As MOZ’s blogger put it, you avoid looking like “a closed-off community or purely self-referential, pompous know-it-all.
It’s hard to rank the reasons you should be linking out to other quality sites. The value of any given argument rests in the mind of the individual company using link-building strategies. Regardless of your industry or target market, linking out to other sites is a reliable way of generating traceable data for your site.
In this data-hungry world, marketers and webmasters want to know everything possible about consumers interacting with their brand, both online and off. Linking out to other sites creates a trail of breadcrumbs that can be used later on to track traffic to your site from various sources. Even if you link to sites with only a loose connection to your industry, you may generate traffic from readers on that other page who are curious about your company.
What does your company do? What products or services do you offer? People are going to be curious when they see your link, and it could lead to a wider following and greater conversions. So before you dismiss link building, think long and hard about these good reasons for embracing the tactic and consider the possible value for your site.