The Basics of Good SEO: Link Building

Link building is one of the more complicated aspects of SEO. But, don’t let that scare you; proper link building is also an effective way to gain rank on SERPs. In today’s lesson, we’re going to outline the basic terms and practices when it comes to link building (and how to do it right).

 

What is link building?

In SEO, link building refers to the process of gaining hyperlinks from other websites that direct to your own, while you’re also linking to other websites. These can be called inbound links, backlinks, external links; but they all mean essentially the same thing. The purpose of these backlinks is to make a way for both users and search engines to navigate and crawl the internet, finding related content to the page they’re already on.

So, why does link building matter for SEO?

Well, search engines don’t just use backlinks to crawl the web and understand the relationships between pages; they also use backlinks to help determine how well a page should rank in their SERPs. Search engines look at the links on your website and the links on other websites that direct to you, all the while making a judgement on how quality and relevant these websites are to each other and to the internet.

Linking to a site acts as a vote of confidence, making the statement that you feel this site should be trusted. If you link to websites with high authority, and those types of websites link back to you, then you’ll be able to rank higher as a trusted source.

 

How to Start a Link Building Strategy

Now, don’t just start adding links to your website pages all willy-nilly. There’s a lot that goes into proper link building, and if you don’t do it right, you could get penalized for spam. Keep in mind these key steps in starting a safe and effective strategy:


Determine User Intent

Before you decide who and what to link to, you need to understand what your audience is actually searching for online. You also need to understand WHY they’re making these searches, which is referred to as user intent. The driving reason behind a searchers’ query will help you to determine what your content should be and what you should be linking to and linked in.

Once you understand what terms that your desired audience is looking for, why they’re looking up these terms, and exactly what they want to see when they search them, you then need to work on your content.


Create Valuable Content

The content you create that will contain your links needs to be unique, compelling, and high-quality. In order for your desired audience to click on your site, you need to establish yourself as a trusted authority on the subject they’re looking for.

As discussed in lesson 2, there’s several things you need to keep in mind when creating good valuable content. This all rings true for content you want to use for link building; establishing yourself as an authority is pretty much the point of link building, after all. The content you create should be fresh, consistent, and generate conversations across the internet. This way, other blogs and websites will be talking about and linking back to your content, gaining you traffic and authority.

With your content, you can target audiences in a variety of different ways. You can write about:

  • Blog articles and listicles
  • Informative and helpful resources
  • Industry news or a timely current event
  • Location-specific content

If your content is tailored to being useful and genuine, users and Google will recognize and reward you.


Form relationships and earn links

By reaching out to trusted sources in your industry, you’ll be able to foster trust and build relationships that can help you out in the long term. Communicate with customers, partners, influencers, and bloggers that have EAT, which stands for:

  • Expertise
  • Authoritativeness
  • Trustworthiness

If a website that has a high amount of EAT links to you, that’s a hugely important vote of confidence that can give you a good boost in both your ranking and your own EAT.


Find a balance between no-follow and do-follow links

So, we’ve established that linking to a website on your page acts as a vote of confidence in that website. However, what if you don’t exactly want to associate with that site and give it that vote, since you don’t know enough about it to trust it? That’s where no-follow links come in; you can set your links to no-follow, telling search engines not to follow them from your site and effectively dissociating yourself from it. This helps because, if you don’t know much about the site you’re linking to, you might end up linking to a site with low EAT that may end up lowering your own ranking in the process.

Tip: Links that you include on your website are automatically set as do-follow, so you don’t have to worry about changing anything if you’d like search engines to follow them.


Use descriptive and relevant anchor text

When you create a hyperlink, you’re attaching a link to anchor text in your website’s content. Anchor text is important to get right, because it helps to communicate to search engines what topic that link is about. Google is actually able to see if a certain page is being linked to with different versions of a word or phrase across the internet, in turn ranking those pages well on SERPs that include those words or phrases as search terms.

It’s important to make sure that the anchor text you’re using is relevant and a good description of the link that it’s part of. If the anchor text is unrelated or seems spammy, Google may penalize you for trying to manipulate your SEO.


Check out your backlink profile

If you want to see what sites are linking back to you, then be sure to check out your backlink profile. This report is an overall assessment of every backlink that your site has earned on the internet, including total number of links, their quality, the diversity of their sources, etc. There are several ways to view your backlink profile, but we’ll tell you about two ways that build on information you’ve already learned in lesson 5: Google Search Console and Google Analytics.

With Google Search Console, you can navigate to the Search Traffic tab, and then the tab that says “Links to your site.” From there, you’ll be able to see the places where your site is being linked to online. Using Google Analytics, you can see in the Referral Traffic report which websites are sending you traffic. You can use this information to build on new and existing relationships and see what progress you’re making with partnerships you’ve already established.

 

In the next lesson, we’re going to discuss how to optimize the user experience on your website and why that’s important for SEO.

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