Of all the topics related to search engine optimization (SEO), link building remains one of the most mysterious. One reason is that link building, its importance, and the best way to do it have evolved over time.
A Brief History of Link Building
The original Google algorithm considered each link to a website to be an “editorial vote” vouching for the site’s quality. For years, the number of backlinks leading to a website was the #1 determinant of its search ranks. The anchor text used to link to a site determined what search phrases the site would rank best for, as it still does.
This made sense when it wasn’t easy to start a site, but as technology democratized, flaws became obvious. It was soon possible for unscrupulous webmasters to artificially inflate websites’ rankings.
Getting new links to your site – link building – is still an important part of online success. To combat fraud, however, Google has increased the importance of site authority. Authority is a representation of how respected a website is.
How Authority Impacts Link Building
Both domains and Web pages have authority. Pages gain authority when links from relevant, authoritative sites are made to that page. Domains accumulate authority based on strategic factors like total backlinks and domain age.
The more influential a site is, the more valuable links from that site to yours are. Links from sites that cover topics unrelated to yours can still be valuable – however, links from sites with low-quality content (or not enough content) add little value.
Effective, Modern Methods for Link Building
Google frowns on link-trading, and paying for links is disallowed – but that doesn’t mean you can’t partner with authoritative sites to earn relevant links. Basic link building steps include:
- Define Goals: If you’re building links to raise search rank, you’ll be able to reach out to more sites than you would if you were trying to build links to sell a product. In the latter case, you’d have to ensure the partner site’s audience is receptive to the offer.
- Identify Influencers: Industry influencers are the partners most likely to provide strong, long-lasting links. Top-ranked sites that use keywords related to yours can help identify influencers, but it’s important to have something to offer them.
- Develop “Power Content” Influencers Can Share: Influencers are most likely to link useful, up-to-date content their audience can obtain value from right away. Once you have a list of influencers, you can build content around their preferences.
After you’ve made first contact with influencers, it becomes much easier to partner with them in the future. For example, you could propose cross-advertising products on one another’s respective mailing lists. It all begins with link building.