As we explained within our Links Guide, all links carry different weight in terms of SEO efforts and understanding what links will work best for your website is a vital step towards online success.
What is a link?
While digital professionals might throw the term link around, we’re fully aware that not all website owners will know what is meant by this.
A link is a ‘hyperlink’. A hyperlink is predominantly clickable text that links one web page to another, although it can also be an image. These will often be a different colour to the surrounding text, or underlined to make them stand out.
How Google Uses Links
Google uses links in much the same way as we use referrals offline. We pass on recommendations through verbal or written communication; Google sees links as the online equivalent. Again in simple terms, the more links you have, the more popular and useful Google sees your website.
Each link is valued differently
If Lord Sugar gave his opinion on a business, you would probably trust him. In the same way if a highly influential website links to you then it is seen as a strong vote of confidence because that site is powerful and probably knows what they are talking about.
We aren’t saying you should immediately go and build hundreds of links to get to the top of Google search results.
Unfortunately Google’s algorithm is no longer this simple.
This is not a miraculous SEO technique, and unless you build the right links and avoid bad practice such as link farms or conducting in poor quality link building programs you can do more harm than good.
Links from link farms, disorganised web directories, unmediated comment boxes and duplicated articles will add no value to your website. Avoid, where possible, associating these poor quality links with your high quality website.
There is an abundance of quality link building opportunities available online. You just need to know where to go.
Blogs, news websites, industry relevant sites, educational, charity and government websites are all great places to look and most businesses should be able to gain links from these sources one way or another.
Link building is as much an art of negotiation as it is implementation. Getting a quality link will take a bit of time, some persuasion and an attractive offer; remember that most websites are looking for content. A financial exchange should not be used to obtain links.
Sourcing Quality Web Pages
Sourcing quality websites and web pages can be simple if you know which tools to use.
Free tools such as the Moz Open Site Explorer will enable you to identify what links a competitor has built. Once you know that a website is willing to link to others in your industry, it is likely that they will also link to your website.
The Moz Search Overlay Tool is also really useful. We use the paid version which costs $99 per month, but there is a free version which gives you access to 70% of the functionality. This tool adds a SEO overlay to your search results.
This gives you insights into the power and authority of every web page online, including your competitors. But most importantly, this tool will make it easy for you to identify what web pages are considered high quality and how many links those sites have. This information will then enable you to make an informed decision about whether you should try and gain a link from that website.
How To Gain A Link
There are various ways to gain links, but most of the time an exchange of some kind will take place and this may include:
- Guest Blogging – Producing high quality content for another website in return for a link
- Comments – Commenting and generating discussion on someone else’s blog post.
Things To Avoid
Easy link building schemes sounds too good to be true because they are. Offers such as “1,000 links for $20!” are a con and won’t work. The links will be of incredibly low value and after a short period of time, Google will know which sites are offering such services and enabling other websites to gain links.
Don’t spam the online network with poor quality comments, articles and directory submissions. Use logic throughout all SEO activities. There is no point trying to manipulate Google; their algorithm will update sooner than the time it takes to cash in on a manipulative tactic.
Only use original content on your website. Google is fully aware of those websites that have plagiarised content from another website. Tools such as the Copyscape ‘duplicate content checker’ will enable you to check and identify which content has been copied from another website.
Do not include multiple links in one article to your website. Each link is devalued by the additional links contained within that page. The same goes if you link to the same thing multiple times.
If a website is happy to link to any website, contains unorganised pages and looks unprofessional, then it is unlikely to add SEO value to your site. It is best to focus your attention on attracting links from websites that are either of high authority (such as news sites) or relevant to your industry. These will signify to Google that authoritative websites are recommending your site.
Include brand terms or keywords within the anchor text of your links where possible. The anchor text is the clickable text within a web page. Google relates this text to the link itself; by associating a link to your site with your key terms it will help reinforce the services you offer.
Vary your anchors; using same text for every link will begin to look unnatural. It is also advised that you use your brand name as the anchor text as this will improve your online branding. You can do this as frequently as you like, as Google’s algorithm is able to separate branding from spam.