“What’s your opinion on link building?”

It’s a question I’ve been asked by colleagues and clients alike.

Links are still key to achieving rankings. Until that metric is removed or downgraded, link building will stay an essential element of SEO activity.

Whilst there are too many facets of link analysis to fully cover here, the following blog is my opinion on the correct and safe manner to build links.

Beginning the Build

The general rule of thumb for any link-building is to to tread carefully, especially if you are considering using any third-party providers. If a third party is used, you must set and enforce tight parameters. If you’re ‘building the links’, you must provide value in order to pass the current Google rules. Both the content linking to your site and the page you are linking to should be valuable to the consumer.

The best links are the ones that provide the greatest ‘link juice’. These will come from sites that are deemed of higher quality. Quality is judged by the linking site’s ‘link profile’, the size of the site and the perceived quality of the site’s on-page content. If they are a known brand or authoritative site in their field, then they will be an especially good site to obtain a link from.

Making Use of the Tools

Luckily there are numerous link analysis tools that can be used, so use them!

Link analysis tools are not free. Well, there are limited free tools out there but I highly recommend investing in quality. Open Site Explorer and MajecticSEO are my personal favourites but you may prefer others. If you are planning to build links or perform any kind of SEO activity, then you need to use link-analysis software tools.

These tools give you the ability to analyse other site’s backlinks and provide a quality score for each link. This is another way to identify the quality of a prospective linking site. The greater number of quality links that they receive should mean that any links you gain from them are also of a higher quality. Stay aware of the link profile you are building for your own site.

A site’s link profile is built up based upon several different factors:

  • Quality of links
  • Sources of links
  • Quantity of links.

The more sources you obtain links from, the greater your link profile score. Similarly, the ‘source type’ of links are important. What channels are linking? News? Blogs? Social media? A varied spread from all of these is best for your link profile.

How many pages do you link to? The greater the spread across your site’s pages the better. Anchor text usage and URL links on followed links directly influence organic results. Exact-match anchor text is also important. Using the targeted keyword for a page as the link is important and still carries good strength. You don’t want to have 80% of your links all using ‘exact-match’ text and all pointing to a select few landing pages.

You need to have more links in your profile pointing to your home page. Work on a 60-70% ratio. The remaining 30% should use keyword/URL links pointing to a reasonable spread of different internal landing pages.

Where to Find Your Links

There are multiple channels to obtain links from: social media, blogs, news sites and standard sites. You want to achieve a reasonable spread across each of these channels.

Online PR is a useful way to gain links but you must NOT use exact match keyword links. Only ever link two or three times within the release, ensuring that there is at least one home-page URL link. You don’t really get any benefit from the links within the release but good PR releases will end up in news channels. This will add to the link profile. You do gain specific ‘link benefit’ when someone else syndicates the content and includes your original links.

Guest blog-posting has been clamped down on – but only to remove spam and obviously purchased links. Building a relationship with a site that provides value to your users and guest-posting in a reciprocal manner is a great way to gain higher-quality links.

Social media links don’t carry any specific ‘link strength’ but they do add to the link profile. Ensuring that your posts link back through to your site is important for SEO. I’m confident that this will continue to increase in importance as an SEO metric.

Get Creative

Are there any generic industry-related sites or newspapers with separate industry channels for your market? These are excellent targets for link-building.

Write high-quality content and submit it for potential inclusion. Whilst you may not have all posts accepted, getting a few links from higher-quality sites is well worth the effort.

Assemble case studies of your marketing activity, particularly if you have overcome an issue that others might be facing. Submit to an online marketing site for inclusion. Infographics can be used in a similar way – not embedding the link in the graphic but ensuring that wherever you have submitted agrees to provide a link back to your site.

These guidelines are perfectly within the guidelines of the good S.E.O. handbook.

Mine your Competitors

Another tactic to employ is to analyse your competitor’s links. Using backlink software, it is important that we mine available data for potential link sources.

Filter the results by the quality score of the site’s linking and identify which links are specific to your competitor through partnership, relationship or affiliation. Exclude these.

This will leave a set of sites that you can engage with to achieve links.

This can act as a shortcut in identifiying link targets. It also provides you with a good insight to your competitors’ overall link profile and the levels that you need to replicate in order to match their rankings.

Things to Avoid

Google constantly updates its processes but there are some kinds of links you must completely ignore. Even if you “got away” with using these methods, it would only be for a limited amount of time. They’re not likely to bring much in the way of link strength anyway.

You should avoid:

  • Directory sites
  • Blog networks
  • Advertorial links
  • Blog comment links
  • Forum comment links
  • Forum profile links

There is really no way to “game” the system any more with links. Now, you need to be producing the highest-possible quality on-site content and sharing quality content on appropriate websites.

title image by Petritap [public domain] via WikimediaCommons