Link Building Basics – What, Why, When, & How

Any good search engine optimization company will include a link building aspect to every SEO campaign.  SEO strategies involve optimizing site structure, unique content, internal linking, and building solid inbound links.  All of these components must be crafted utilizing best practices so the search engines “know” that your site is relevant, valuable, and trustworthy.  Missing any piece of the overall SEO strategy can keep your site from acheiving page one rankings.  One of the most important ongoing pieces of the campaign is to continually and natually build good inbound links to your website.

Before we go any further let’s do a quick review of the definitions and go over WHAT links are:

Internal Links:  links within a website (basic navigation from page to page)

Inbound Link:  links coming in to your website from another URL

Outbound Links:  links from your site to another URL

External Links:  links between different URLs

Now that we have established the basic definitions, let’s focus on inbound links.  All of these are important but one of the key factors when the search engines are reviewing your site and deciding whether to give you good rankings for your search terms, is the number and quality of inbound links.

So WHY is this important for search engine optimization?

Search engines will define a site as more relevant, valuable, and trustworthy if the site has a good number of links from other reputible sites.  The number of links necessary for rankings depends and the competitiveness of the keywords and the other sites you are competing against.  Both quantity and quality are important but any good SEO company or Internet marketing firm would prefer 10 great links over 100 poor inbound links.  The search engines will review the quality and number of your inbound links and where they link to your website.  Generally, most of the links a site has coming in go to the home page.  It is even more effective if a site has inbound links going to many different pages within the site because this tells the search engines that the site has many different pages of content that are valuable.  They search engines will do a quick evaluation of the site linking to your site and may look at the content on your page as well.

Many times the actual anchor text for the link provides enough “content” for that page in order for the search engines to deem the link as valuable (usually this happens when the anchor text uses your proper keywords and is from a site with a high page rank).  For example, if you have a page in your site about new condos in downtown Dallas and that page has an inbound link from a reputible site using the anchor text “new condos in downtown Dallas” you are off to a great start!

So WHEN does a site build links and how quickly should this process be pursued?

A professional search engine optimization company will do this process gradually and naturally.  The days of link farming and link trading (reciprocal links) are over…in short, no more short cuts!  The best practice for link building is the good old fashion way.  Much of this is done through social platforms, article submissions, press releases, blogs, forum posts, directories, etc.  We can go into the details of each of these later but the lesson to take away from this is that natural link building is the only way to go.

So how do you define “natural” methods?

Natural link building takes time.  If the search engines see a nice steady upward progress in the number and quality of your links, they will assign better rankings over time.  Unnatural link building may be defined as a rapid or drammatic increase in links in a short period of time, sites that link to one another (or link trading) or unqualified paid links (this does not include legitimate advertising or directories).

OK, so you are ready to start link building.  HOW do you define what the good links are?

Generally companies will outsouce this to an Internet marketing company or SEO firm but you should know the basics so you can understand the process.  There are many tools out there to assess what the proper links would be for a certain campaign (varies depending on keywords targeted).  The best and most used tools are usually Yahoo Site Explorer, Google Page Rank, sites like Compete.com or Alexa.com that show traffic levels and give rankings, Digg, Technorati, etc.  Other things to consider when assessing value are the age of the domain and possibly seeking links from government or school websites (.gov sites are very valuable).

The best way to attack this process is with an experienced link building team beacuse it can take time and man power.  Yahoo is much quicker to recognize links than Google so keep in mind that you can check this throughout the process.  For example, a quick way to see how many inbound links Google is recognizing for your site is to type “site:domainname.com” into the Google search box.  The top right portion of the page will give you the number if links recognized.  The bottom line is that to keep improving your rankings, this is a never ending process…so stay at it!

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