Link Building: The Beginner's Guide to SEO 2020

You've created content that people are searching for, that answers their questions, and that search engines can understand, but those qualities alone don't mean it'll rank. To outrank the rest of the sites with those qualities, you have to establish authority. That can be accomplished by earning links from authoritative websites, building your brand, and nurturing an audience who will help amplify your content.

Google has confirmed that links and quality content are two of the three most important ranking factors for SEO. Trustworthy sites tend to link to other trustworthy sites, and spammy sites tend to link to other spammy sites.

Link Building: The Beginner's Guide to SEO 2020

How to block SPAM from India

But what is a link, exactly? How do you go about earning them from other websites? Let's start with the basics.

What are links?

Inbound links, also known as backlinks or external links, are HTML hyperlinks that point from one website to another. They're the currency of the Internet, as they act a lot like real-life reputation. If you went on vacation and asked three people (all completely unrelated to one another) what the best coffee shop in town was, and they all said, “Cuppa Joe on Main Street,” you would feel confident that Cuppa Joe is indeed the best coffee place in town. Links do that for search engines.

Link Building: The Beginner's Guide to SEO 2020

Since the late 1990s, search engines have treated links as votes for popularity and importance on the web.

Internal links, or links that connect internal pages of the same domain, work very similarly for your website. A high amount of internal links pointing to a particular page on your site will provide a signal to Google that the page is important, so long as it's done naturally and not in a spammy way.

The engines themselves have refined the way they view links, now using algorithms to evaluate sites and pages based on the links they find. But what's in those algorithms? How do the engines evaluate all those links? It all starts with the concept of E-A-T.

Also read:

You are what you E-A-T

Google's Search Quality Rater Guidelines put a great deal of importance on the concept of E-A-T — an acronym for expert, authoritative, and trustworthy. Sites that don't display these characteristics tend to be seen as lower-quality in the eyes of the engines, while those that do are subsequently rewarded. E-A-T is becoming more and more important as search evolves and increases the importance of solving for user intent.

Link Building: The Beginner's Guide to SEO 2020

Creating a site that's considered expert, authoritative, and trustworthy should be your guiding light as you practice SEO. Not only will it simply result in a better site, but it's future-proof. After all, providing great value to searchers is what Google itself is trying to do.

E-A-T and links to your site

The more popular and important a site is, the more weight the links from that site carry. A site like Wikipedia, for example, has thousands of diverse sites linking to it. This indicates it provides lots of expertise, has cultivated authority, and is trusted among those other sites.

To earn trust and authority with search engines, you'll need links from websites that display the qualities of E-A-T. These don't have to be Wikipedia-level sites, but they should provide searchers with credible, trustworthy content.

Followed vs. nofollowed links

Remember how links act as votes? The rel=nofollow attribute (pronounced as two words, “no follow”) allows you to link to a resource while removing your “vote” for search engine purposes.

Just like it sounds, “nofollow” tells search engines not to follow the link. Some engines still follow them simply to discover new pages, but these links don't pass link equity (the “votes of popularity” we talked about above), so they can be useful in situations where a page is either linking to an untrustworthy source or was paid for or created by the owner of the destination page (making it an unnatural link).

Say, for example, you write a post about link building practices, and want to call out an example of poor, spammy link building. You could link to the offending site without signaling to Google that you trust it.

Standard links (ones that haven't had nofollow added) look like this:

<a href="">I love you</a>

Nofollow link markup looks like this:

<a href="" rel="nofollow">I love you</a>

If follow links pass all the link equity, shouldn't that mean you want only follow links?

Not necessarily. Think about all the legitimate places you can create links to your own website: a Facebook profile, a Yelp page, a Twitter account, etc. These are all natural places to add links to your website, but they shouldn't count as votes for your website. (Setting up a Twitter profile with a link to your site isn't a vote from Twitter that they like your site.)

It's natural for your site to have a balance between nofollowed and followed backlinks in its link profile (more on link profiles below). A nofollow link might not pass authority, but it could send valuable traffic to your site and even lead to future followed links.

Use the MozBar extension for Google Chrome to highlight links on any page to find out whether they're nofollow or follow without ever having to view the source code!

White Hat Link Building Techniques

Link building has been dead for years, for those who failed to adapt to the ever-changing rules and increased requirements on skills, tools, details, and perseverance.

Link Building: The Beginner's Guide to SEO 2020

There has been much talking about links being a ranking factor. Many SEOs have only focused on content and On-Page SEO and neglected links saying: “We already know everything about links”. But do they know everything about links?

Google confirmed, that Links are important

Google said links are the #1 ranking factor, alongside with great content. Ranking without links is hard, and why would anyone try to rank without links in the first place?

Google cares about links more than anything, and so should you.

Google Penguin changed the way we use Backlinks in SEO forever

Before April 2012, one could rather easily buy his ranking position by adding more and more links. A little bit of these and a little bit of those links, and you could manage ranking on the first search engine results page. Well, that time is long gone. The Google Penguin Spam Filter is now part of Google’s Core Algorithm and works in real time.

Links can possess a risk now, and you should know that risk. Did you know that even in today's world or SEO, most people still only look at the source page, the referring page, and call that “the backlink”?

A link is a connection from A to B

A hyperlink is a connection from the referring page to the target page – always has been. For way too long, SEOs have obsessed by looking at the Pagerank or whatever metric of the linking page. To our knowledge, LRT is the only software that takes the link source page and the target page into account when analyzing the value and risk of links, or even potential links.

Link Building: The Beginner's Guide to SEO 2020

State of the Art Link Development

Today link building has grown into professional practice. Why spend tons of resources on links that would hurt you down the road? Did you know that it is possible to simulate the impact and risk of a backlink relationship before you built it? LRT users that weed the good from the chaff are happy to spend 3x more resources on the 10% great links that matter, instead of going bulk like so many.

Do not let the Google Penguin algorithm intimidate you. 

Start building great links today!

Link Building: The Beginner's Guide to SEO 2020

What do you mean by backlink?

When we refer to a backlink we mean a reference from another web page to your own web page. This is very different from the “outbound” or outgoing links from your page. Do not confuse the two. A back link is also called an inbound link (IBL) sometimes and these links are very important in determining the popularity (or importance) of your web site for search engines like Google.

Can a website rank without back links?

We are 100% sure that a website cannot rank without inbound links.

Why is link building important?

  • because links are Google's #1 ranking factor
  • because links are the WEB
  • because links point to great content (that deserves to rank well)
  • because links pass power
  • because links pass trust
  • because Google confirmed that it would be unnatural to find a web site without back links
  • because it's through links that Google discovers your website…

the list can go on forever…

please note (both link power and link trust are sometimes described as link equity, from an era where only one-dimensional link measurement was available)

But don't take it from us when we say that links are important, take it directly from Google.

In March 2016, in a Q&A with Google, Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, said the first two ranking factors were links and content:

“I can tell you what they are. It is content. And it’s links pointing to your site.” (Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google)

We've seen Google confirming that links are a very important ranking factor and that ranking without links is nearly impossible on other occasions as well.

case study by Stone Temple published in 2017 proved again that links remain a powerful ranking factor and are likely to remain so for many years to come.

Are all back links the same?

“The more, the better” saying doesn’t go for links. At least not as long as “more” means links you buy without checking if they are risky for your backlink profile or not. You’d better aim for fewer high-quality links, then for thousands of links that bring no value to your backlink profile. Weak or risky backlinks won’t help your rankings at all. It can go even worst. These links can get you a Google penalty and severe (if not 100%) loss of organic traffic.

Links are not at all the same. The point is to understand:

  • how many linking pages, subdomains, domains, and root domains?
  • how many links per month?
  • what kind of links (Follow, No Follow, Redirects, Javascript, Frames, ..)?
  • what link Power and Trust?
  • which linking keywords (“money” or “brand”)?
  • what link risk?

Also, these factors can be evaluated differently in different cases. A link can also be good or bad depending on the industry, the country, the language and the keywords. Unfortunately, there is no generic rule. For example, it is NOT the same whether a domain links to 1,000 subpages, or whether 1,000 domains link to a subpage. That's why we always recommend using the Site-Wide filter in LinkResearchTools.

What are Google's rules when it comes to link building?

Because not all links are equal, you need to be very careful when you start a link building campaign. Build links for your business, for your customers, make them relevant and associate them with great content. Your users will be happy, Google will keep you in the search results and your business will grow.

Make sure that the links you build are natural and that Google doesn't conclude that you're trying to manipulate its search algorithm.

Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.

(Google Quality Guidelines)

We explain Google's Quality Guidelines regarding link schemes, to give you a clear picture of how to build high-quality links and how to stay away from building bad links. It’s all about quality, relevancy, and user focus.

Bad Link Building:

Link Building: The Beginner's Guide to SEO 2020

Reciprocal Linking

Excessive link exchange (“Link to me and I'll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking will negatively impact a website’s ranking in search results.

Article Marketing or Guest Posting

Links with over optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites. For example:

There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.

Web Directory Links

Adding your site to any web directory just to get a backlink will have a negative effect on your website’s ranking.

There are some directories that provide no real value to the Internet users and Google has excluded them from its search results. You don’t want your website to be in there!

Forum and Blogposts Comments

Unhelpful forum or blog comments with optimized links in the post or signature, for example:

Thanks, that’s great info!- Jane JasaSEO.be LLC SEO agency

SEO Agency Services Germany

Good Link Building:

Link Building: The Beginner's Guide to SEO 2020

Reciprocal Linking

As long as you don't do reciprocal linking excessively and these reciprocal links are on topic and “make sense from a user standpoint”, link exchange is not something bad.

Article Marketing or Guest Posting

It’s great that people write about you and link back to your website, but just as long as they create links naturally. Stuffing the anchor text with commercial keywords is far from natural and will surely get you in trouble. Using brand keywords or navigational phrases is a good option in this case.

Web Directory Links

The best directories are the ones that also provide useful information for your potential customers.

The key to link building is RELEVANCY. Therefore building links in niche directories and directories attached to informative websites relevant to your industry are beneficial for you.

Forum and Blogposts Comments

If you participate in an active discussion on a forum or blog that is relevant to your business and if your comment provides contextual value to the discussion, then you don’t have to worry about sharing a relevant link. But make sure that you don’t overdo this by using commercial keywords in your anchor texts.

Buying Links… or Not!

Instead of buying links, you can invest in creating high quality content and promoting your site in a way that attracts natural backlinks. Taking this approach doesn’t cost you more than buying a bunch of bad links, and you can ultimately achieve much better results, it just requires more patience.

If you want a risk-free approach to SEO then don’t buy links. If you ever have, GET RID OF THEM NOW!

Simple Link Building Tips

Although proper link building is not an easy thing to do, there are still many white hat SEO techniques you can start with even today, without considerable efforts or expenses.

1. Ask for backlinks

This is a good way to start, especially if you are a beginner in this job. Think about your friends, relatives, colleagues, partners, clients that have a blog or a site. All you have to do is ask for a backlink. Ask for in-content links instead of links in the sidebar or footer.

But be careful and make sure that the backlink comes from a website that is relevant to your niche. Otherwise, it will not have too much of an impact and may even be harmful.

2. Build relationships

For good link building, you need to build good relationships. There are plenty of opportunities to build new contacts. You should start with niche-related communities: forums, blogs or social groups.

Make the first step and start contributing with interesting and relevant comments and posts, providing contextual value to each discussion.

By actively participating in these online communities focused on your niche, you will not only gain some good backlinks, but you will always have access to the newest industry news and be able to connect to some interesting people that share your passions.

3. Give a testimonial or review

Testimonial link building is a win-win scenario. Many businesses offer you the chance to say a few words about your experience using their products.

Link Building: The Beginner's Guide to SEO 2020

On the one hand, this is a perfect way for them to build customer trust. On the other hand, it’s a great opportunity for you to get a backlink and potential traffic from that site and it usually has a much higher approval rate than your standard link request e-mails.

Companies get another testimonial to place on their site, while you get a new backlink.

4. Start a blog

Don’t make a blog with one post and one backlink to your site. If you do, you not only wasted your time but probably also just created another risky link for yourself. If you want to have your own blog, you need to keep it alive.

Write posts on a regular basis. Focus on your industry and on your client’s needs! In time, it will most likely gain authority. Make sure that your content is relevant, useful and well-structured.

This is the only way to ensure that the world will want to link to it again and again. That’s how you get great backlinks; you earn them!

Also read: How To Make Money With a Website or Blog

5. List your site in trustworthy directories

There are many online directories that provide no real value to the Internet users and Google has excluded them from its search results. You don’t want your website to be listed on such pages.

But not all online directories are bad. A directory that not only gives you the chance to post a link to your website, but also provides useful information for your potential customers is a directory you want to be listed on.

Niche directories and directories attached to informative websites for a specific industry are a good choice. Having your business listed with such directories makes it easier to get indexed in the major search engines and helps people find you online.

6. Write a good guest post

There are many sites and blogs that will accept to publish your article. Before you write an article somewhere, make sure that:

  • the website or blog is relevant to your topic;
  • the article is NOT about how great you are/ your company is;
  • you have a focus on quality (well written, professional, and interesting);
  • you keep in mind that a poor article can bring bad reputation.

It’s important that you build links that help your website and not links that can negatively impact your website’s ranking in search results.

Advanced link building tips

Link building has become a very hard and tricky job, and because of that you need professional tools to help you with that. LinkResearchTools developed 26 different tools that you can and should use for discovering and building new, high-quality links.

7. Discover competitors' common backlinks

If you research your competitors, you will probably notice that they have some backlinks in common which you don’t have yet. Well, if they managed to get these backlinks, why shouldn’t you too?

Link Building: The Beginner's Guide to SEO 2020

8. Get an indirect backlink from your competitor

It is quite common that some of your competitors link to the same sites.

Link Building: The Beginner's Guide to SEO 2020

9. Recover your dead backlinks

Sometimes you might find broken links to your website. This may be the case if the location of your page changes or if another webmaster misspelled your link. In both cases, these backlinks will return a 404 error.

Such issues may also commonly occur after a site was re-launched or migrated to another domain. You should then redirect these backlinks to some other page.

Link Building: The Beginner's Guide to SEO 2020

10. Turn your mentions into backlinks

This is probably one of the easiest ways to gain some new backlinks. Somebody already wrote something about you. They mentioned your brand or product, but they have not linked to your website. In situations like these, it is usually enough to contact the webmaster and ask him to convert that mention into a backlink.

Link Building: The Beginner's Guide to SEO 2020

11. Find the strongest competitors healthy backlinks

Since Google launched the Penguin update in 2012, strong links are not the only webmaster's concern. If you do not want to be penalized, links must be safe as well.

Link Building: The Beginner's Guide to SEO 2020

12. Find the most relevant link building opportunities

There are many opportunities for link building on the Internet. There are many forums, blogs or sites where you could place your backlink, but usually, it is not so easy to find them. Whether you want to find a strong relevant site or blog where you can place a guest article or thematic forum with Follow links – the SERP Research Tool will help you. SERP is designed to help you find the most relevant and strongest results.

After you get your results, you can sort them by strength, theme or any other metric you want. The best thing about SERP is that you know these links are relevant and high authorities in your industry.

Here's an example of how to use the SERP tool to find great guest post opportunities for the bodybuilding and fitness industry.

Search:

  • inurl:submission-guidelines + muscle building,
  • inurl:write-for-us + workout routines
  • workout +guestpost +health
  • contribute +fat loss

13. Be aware of your competitor's new links

Very often, a quick reaction can mean the difference between success and failure. On the Internet, it is pretty similar. It is extremely important to be aware of your competitor's activities.

Link Building: The Beginner's Guide to SEO 2020

14. Newsletter subscriptions

Usually, companies do not understand the importance of a newsletter. If it is used properly, the benefits can be great. Publishing a newsletter will increase attention and awareness of your readers or clients. With quality and interesting content, you increase the probability of sharing it, thereby increasing traffic and the number of backlinks.

Try to include some effective call-to action button in your newsletter, for example offer them to register for some webinar, download some whiter paper or eBook.

15. Extra material

You can also try and get the most value from every piece of content you create by reusing your content in different formats:

  • guides
  • infographics
  • videos
  • webinar recordings
  • transcripts
  • podcasts from research

Also read: SEO Tips: Visual Marketing Content Strategy

There’s plenty of room for creativity when it comes to marketing.

By using multiple content formats, you will generate more leads and move them further. Also, you will show expertise and increase your authority.

 16. Learn from others

There is nothing as sad as people who spend days and weeks writing about something and then… nothing. All that passion and knowledge for nothing. Good, and yet unnoticed articles are something that happens every day and to everybody.

The problems can be various. Usually, people make a mistake with the choice of the topic. It doesn't matter how good your article is if nobody cares about that topic. The opposite can happen too; cool topic, but weak content!

You can read hundreds of articles and watch dozens of videos about good content, but there is always one safe road: learn from others.

Link Building Tools:

Link Building is not enough

If you want your website to rank well and stay penalty-free, building new links is not enough. You need to take care of your backlink profile and disavow all the spammy links.

In November 2017, Google's John Mueller confirmed that doing proactive disavows is a good idea if you want to prevent a Google penalty.

So in particular if someone is pasting links on a spammy site, or maybe a previous SEO went off and ran some script to place links and a bunch of forums, and you can't clean that up for whatever reason, and you don't have a manual action, but you want to make sure it doesn't even get that far, then the disavow file is a great way to just like preemptively say well I know about these issues, I don't want to lose any sleep over them, I'm just going to disavow them and get them taken out of the equation.

John Mueller, Google Webmaster Central Hangouts (14 November 2017)

 

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