How to Build Quality Website Links
The precise composition of search engine algorithms is a closely guarded secret, but most industry observers agree on the importance of links to websites. Inbound links provide the web crawlers powering Google and Bing’s all-conquering search engines with compelling evidence of a site’s value. After all, websites normally only direct traffic elsewhere if these destination sites are valuable or relevant resources.
When it became public knowledge that inbound links contributed to a site’s position in page ranking results, black hat marketing companies began mass-producing link farms. Sprawling websites were launched filled with nothing but paid-for links to unrelated domains. This worked briefly, before the search engines wised up and began downgrading external sites with connections to these disreputable link farms.
Today, quality has superseded quantity in the link-building strategies of respectable companies. That’s true whether the links are natural (given freely by a third party) or unnatural (self-created). Domain trust and authority reportedly represent a quarter of Google’s ranking algorithm, based on the perceived value of inbound links. Google wants to promote content of genuine value, but of course quality is very subjective. And while Google dislikes unnatural links, arch-rival Bing/Yahoo has no such qualms.
Below are some of the ways to build and maintain worthwhile links to your site, boosting its SEO performance while attracting more traffic…
Social media platforms play a major role in determining rankings. If a site is trending or receiving lots of links, it probably contains topical and high-quality content. It’s also advisable to index trending content on an analytics platform like Alexa, which feeds real-time updates to web crawlers.
Though Google+ has withered on the vine, it’s still useful for SEO purposes. Facebook and Twitter are far more influential for amplifying audiences, with huge volumes of traffic creating scope for posts to be shared and liked. The conversational nature of Reddit makes it ideal for developing links by commenting on your own work, or responding to related conversations. Social media sites adopt no-follow links as standard, which means they won’t influence SEO. However, multiple upvotes on a subreddit can turn links into more valuable do-follows.
Your own social media accounts can be harnessed for link-building strategies. Ensure portals like LinkedIn are being optimized, with multiple inbound links to your chosen destination site. As the world’s second-largest search engine, adding a link to a YouTube video (or the comments section of another video) can build enduring paths to your own site.
Many pages on a company website are designed to remain static. Having optimized these pages, there’s no value in endlessly revising them. Instead, you need to upload new content regularly. Blogs and news pages are optimal for this, since they support internal links that’ll drive audiences to product or service pages. While internal links don’t carry the same value as external ones, it’s still worth having multiple links within a site.
From ebooks and white papers to case studies and podcasts, there are numerous ways to create original content. This is great for external link building, providing it features an attention-grabbing headline and useful takeaways. Stick to topics you’re knowledgeable about, and incorporate a few keywords or long-tail phrases that will rank highly in search results. Drawing your material to the attention of other people encourages them to link to it naturally.
Don’t be afraid to upload edited or summarized versions of blogs or podcasts to sites like Tumblr. Never use duplicates of the original, since plagiarism waves a red warning flag at search engine crawlers. Revised versions of original content generate further opportunities to link to your site and the source material. The more sites your content is featured on, the more chances there are to build and receive links.
Infographics and screenshots will optimize engagement, with dedicated tools enabling even a rookie to create dynamic graphics. Finally, every piece of content should finish with a call to arms encouraging an action, such as visiting your homepage or leaving a review. Even though around two million blog posts are published every day, yours could still generate traffic if it’s authoritative and engaging.
One way to boost blog traffic is by inviting guest contributors to provide content, which they will usually link to from websites your business wouldn’t otherwise be featured on. Guests receive publicity and exposure to a new audience, and so do you. This is an example of collaborative work being used to build contextual links, with shareable content benefiting both parties.
The Holy Grail of link building involves partnering with a .gov or edu. site. Their governmental and academic credentials carry more ranking value than mainstream .com or .org TLDs. However, high-traffic news portals or market leaders are also recommended as link originators.
Look for niche-specific influencers who have significant audiences in your corporate sphere. Getting in touch and offering to collaborate (such as by supplying guest columns on their site) can see their reputational kudos rub off on you. This is often done at a local level, where businesses in neighboring districts generate custom for one another – a web designer and a copywriter based in the same state, for instance. National or global firms rarely consider collaborations like this, so look for community websites and local businesses when compiling a list of potential partners.
Reciprocal links are an easy win for link building, since other businesses are also trying to maximize their inbound links. Some companies will have a resource page for related products and services. They may be willing to link to your site if your offerings complement their own – or if you return the favor.
Reciprocal links can also stem from sponsorship of an event. This boosts brand recognition, placing your URLs in places they’d never otherwise be. From conferences to award ceremonies, many events create strong publicity for the sponsor companies. Your blogs and news stories linking to the event website (or other contributor platforms) build an organic two-way connection.
The internet is crammed with directories and resources, linking to third-party sites and often incorporating short corporate summaries of the business’s nature and notable attributes.
As mentioned above, listings can be regarded as unnatural by Google, so prioritize quality over quantity with any link-building strategies. Avoid outdated and unprofessional platforms, in favor of reputable sites like DMOZ and craigslist. Never purchase backlinks, as these violate Google’s quality guidelines and often harm future rankings. Google is also biased against paid links, but don’t rule out paying for directory memberships if a website can provide evidence of serious traffic generation. Common sense will dictate whether a platform is a genuine aggregator of company information, or merely a link farm. If your competitors are there, you probably want to be listed as well – and vice versa.
One thing to be aware of is the presence of scraper sites. These trawl the internet looking for links to populate proprietary directories, usually without the permission of webmasters. Such activities are reminiscent of the link farms discussed earlier, so run periodic checks using analytics software to identify where inbound links originate from. Politely request your details are removed from lowbrow sites, since they may damage your SEO ranking.
It’s important to note that the above suggestions might be affected by future revisions to search engine algorithms. If Google’s next update reduces the value of links, it may be necessary to refocus efforts into other areas like long tail keyword usage. Link building strategies have to be maintained long-term – you can’t create some links and regard the job as complete. Existing links will gradually become obsolete or get deleted, so regular additions and updates are crucial.
Another important factor underpinning the value of inbound links is the subsequent bounce rate – that is, the percentage of people who leave your site having only viewed one page. Because search engines track site activity, inbound links leading to rapid departures will be devalued.
The following factors help to ensure new arrivals don’t immediately depart from your site:
- Responsive design. Most web traffic displays on mobile devices. Responsive templates fluidly render around output device resolutions, helping audiences to move around. Mobile-optimized sites also load faster, which further boosts SEO. Remove any unnecessary plugins and compress graphics to save bandwidth.
- Logical navigation. If people aren’t sure how to move to a different page, they may abandon the site altogether. Resolve confusion with hamburger menus on mobile sites and top menu bars on desktop browsers. These should contain clearly-labeled internal links with no ambiguity about each page’s purpose.
- Compelling content. Content needs to be lean and concise to retain people’s attention. Try to avoid more than a few hundred words of copy per page, breaking up text with sub-headings and bullet points. Every page needs a core message that encourages audiences to trust your brand, or complete an action.
- Attractive design. Numerous visual elements can deter visitors, from tiny lettering and a jumble of fonts through to illogical page layout or garish graphics. Avoid auto-playing media content (particularly with audio), which might cause people to immediately close the page. Retain some white space, and minimize the impact of adverts.