Any time we build a website, we are looking to have people see it. Sometimes we seek the broadest audience possible, other times we want a small, focused audience who is interested in the topic the website is built around. Whether the site is for a business that wants to bring in customers, an organization or any other purpose – it is going to need to be easy for people to find. Part of making sure that a site is easy to locate online involves linkbuilding. Those with private sites will really not need to engage in linkbuilding, but for the rest of us it is going to be something we want to be familiar with. This is what we want to take a look at today so that you can learn what linkbuilding is, how it works, why people and businesses do it, how you can go about linkbuilding yourself and all of the other aspects involved. By the end, you should be more confident in deciding whether or not linkbuilding is for you and have a sound knowledge of how to approach it, as well.
The Definition of Linkbuilding
The term linkbuilding is fairly straight forward and it simply means building a link (which used to be called a ‘hyperlink’ when the web was young) that can be clicked on. Generally, these links are words which will turn blue (or another color, depending upon your browser settings) and show up as underlined. When clicked, that link will deliver the user to a different web page either on the same site or a different site. Images can also be linked, but this is rarely done for the purposes of building links. Instead, linkbuilding is about making navigation of the web easier for those using it.
Links take us from one place to the next on the web and show us how to find things. When people are engaged the process known as linkbuilding, they are trying to create ‘paths’ to a site from a number of other sites or to create those same ‘paths’ from one piece of content to another within their site. While there are programs that make this process incredibly easy to do, the links themselves are built using html code which looks like this:
The above is intended only as an example, but it shows you the html coding used to create links. You see the domain that the link will point to (in this case, www.seocompetiors.com) as well as what the viewer who sees the link will see (in this case, Come See This Example) – known as the ‘anchor text’. This is a basic link and, while there are other ways to build slightly different kinds of links, this is the type of link built when doing linkbuilding.
For the most part, linkbuilding is, as we’ve said all about creating ‘in roads’ to your site, but there are other reasons as well. These range from increasing awareness about a site to helping it become popular in search engines.
Why Linkbuilding for Search Engines is Important
Search engines have an index of sites that they list which users can then search for. While getting included in that index often involves submitting your site to the search engine, it is important to note that search engines also have ‘spiders’ or ‘crawlers’ which go out across the web, following links, looking for new sites and content to add to their indexes. This gives you a quick idea of why linkbuilding is crucial – it might be the way your site gets noticed by a search engine.
However, there is one major reason why linkbuilding became extremely important to those doing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and it has to do with Google. When Google first rose to prominence, it was due to the fact that had built an algorithm which valued sites based on how many links pointed to a given site. This was called ‘link popularity’ and the idea was that if a large number of sites linked to a site then it must be valuable. The basic concept was so good that it helped Google become the largest and most powerful search engine on the planet today, a multi billion dollar company in its own right.
Once site owners noticed that more links meant higher rankings for specific keywords in the search engine – they responded. Companies formed that sold linkbuilding and millions upon millions of links were built to help boost the popularity of all kinds of sites. Then Google was forced to tighten its algorithm and make it so that not all links were valued the same way. Soon, it would matter if links were ‘targeted’ meaning if they included anchor text related to the content at the destination the user would arrive at if they clicked the link. There would be many other factors included in algorithms to come that would try to prevent people from passing on something called ‘link juice’.
Page Rank, or PR as it is often abbreviated, was the ‘link juice’ so many sought years ago. Links would be built from sites with high PR and those sites would even sell links that would pass their PR on to other sites as a way to help them increase their own Page Rank and thereby increase their rank in the search engines. Things continued along these lines for a very long time and then, not surprisingly, Google changed its algorithm and policies again.
Today, SEO does continue to include linkbuilding and positive results certainly do come from well placed links to a site. The difference is, today Page Rank is not as reliably passed and large numbers of links are harder and more time consuming to build. SEO requires more skill because of this and, when performed by experienced professionals, typically costs considerably more than in the past.
While search engines and the traffic they bring certainly do matter to websites today, those in business or with a site they really want to promote for personal reasons, find that there are other methods of promoting their sites. Plenty of other avenues exist and, also, linkbuilding can be done for other purposes aside from optimizing a site to receive organic search traffic.
Links Have Different Values You Need to Understand
When linkbuilding is done, there are lots of different goals that you might have. Links have different values, other than those assigned by search engines, and it is a good idea to be aware of that fact. Links bring people to your site and when they are put in the right places, they can end up bringing quite a lot of people to your site. It is not just rankings in search engines that matter.
For instance, if you are in a niche such as motorcycles and you sell custom airbrushing for motorcycle helmets, your site could benefit powerfully from links placed on sites dedicated to fans of motorcycles. Whether or not this does anything to SEO your page is not nearly as important as the fact that even a simple link from a related site can boost your site’s traffic significantly and also help make sure that traffic is itself targeted. A simple link could cost less than having to purchase an ad, as well. The value is in the focus of the type of visitor you get when someone follows that kind of link.
In other cases, you may simply need broad exposure. Some sites sell products or services that are not necessarily tied to a focused niche and they could benefit from having links placed in different areas. Forums, blogs, social media posts and more could all be places to input links that help to raise awareness of a site or brand on the web. It’s one more way to get people to come look at a site which they may never have heard of before and one more value that a link can have for a site it is pointing towards.
Types of Links Built
When many people think of links, they think of a simple link, like that described above in our example, placed on a standard website. While this is certainly a very common kind of link, it is not at all the only type of link that can be built today. For just about every kind of content online now, there are links which can be built into the content or site hosting that content.
- Social bookmarking is one way to do linkbuilding because it gets a link to your site listed in social bookmarking sites where many other people can see it. While not as popular as they once were, these sites still do receive traffic and can give you one more way to let the public know about a site you have created.
- Article directories are another place where a link can be built. These locations typically host a huge number of articles and each have what is called a resource box. Inside that box, a link to the author of the article or a site they are promoting can be placed. Some sites use these articles as content and that can create more links to your site, too. If you really want traffic from sharing written content, however, consider guests posts (a popular technique used in content marketing) which offer the same advantages though they tend to get better results in terms of generating traffic and developing exposure.
- Forums often provide a good place to do linkbuilding because most forums allow a link in the signature section of a post. This technique should be used with care since forums often have strict rules regarding the promotion of websites so if you decide to do this kind of linkbuilding, be sure you are contributing something to the forum itself so that you are not seen as spamming to build links.
- Along a similar line, many people will do blog commenting as a way of linkbuilding. This can work if you want more exposure and the comments you leave are particularly good. Be sure to adhere to any rules of the blog and to make sure that only quality, on topic comments are left. This could help people find your site and develop good exposure for it.
- Web 2.0 sites such as YouTube can be another way to build links, using the profile or description section. Sometimes, you can even ask others with a high level of popularity to place a link to your site on their profiles or mention you link in the description section of videos. This can be powerful and is an overlooked form of linkbuilding because many people don’t think visitors will click those links.
- Social media is another place where you can do linkbuilding, although not all links you put up will stay in the public eye for long. Twitter and some other social media sites offer a search function, though, so if you place a link along with a descriptive hashtag someone may search for the hashtag and come across your link. Another linkbuilding technique is to include a link in your social media profiles. People do click on these and they can serve as one more way to find your site.
This is certainly not a comprehensive listing of all the different types of links you can build, but it goes a way towards explaining just how wide and ever-expanding the web is when it comes to places to put your link. Exploring opportunities for linkbuilding as they come up is a smart way to keep on top of changes in the way the web works and keep your site easy to find.
How Do Site Owners Get Links?
If you have a website there are a lot of different ways you can go about getting links and keep in mind that the web is ever evolving so the techniques listed here will change over time. One of the easiest ways to get links is to find places that allow you to submit a link to your site. DMOZ is one directory that does this, but its archaic, and takes a long time and Yahoo Directory is another example but they are pricey and not guaranteed. There are many, many more spread across the web and if your goal is to get a great number of links, you could start here easily and at no real cost.
Often, those who want a link from a site will need to try to contact the owner of the site they want the link from. This is not always easy to do and given the length of time it takes some people to read their email and then write a reply, this can be a very slow process. It can certainly be worth it if you do score a link from a large, relevant site, but there is no way to tell in advance how successful you might be. It’s a trial and error process, for the most part. You will have a better chance at scoring a link if you are at least offering some sort of post of value to them.
In some cases, starting up conversations in forums, social channels and on blogs in the comment section or even via social media simply asking for links to your site can earn you a few links. This is also a trial and error process, but it allows you time to showcase your site and maybe bring some of your own personality to the equation so that people understand you are not just trying to ‘get links’ like a machine. And in reality, syndication of your content via social media is the desired method of content syndication nowadays. Shares, Likes, Tweets, G+ etc, they syndicate your content and show that people like it.
The hard reality, however, is that many sites will have to do extensive content marketing and hope that this results in linkbuilding as people see and value their content. While sites in the past could do linkbuilding rapidly and watch the results, today it takes a lot longer and even serious campaigns aimed and bringing in links, or building them on sites which let you place links, can take 90 days or longer to show even the slightest results. This is simply how things are and there is not much which can be done to change it. Linkbulding today has changed focus from linkbuilding for anchor text, to linkbuilding for authority and trust.
Can Links Be Purchased?
Yes, and they often are, especially by sites that are trying to get exposure early on and who are not interested as strongly in organic search traffic. As stated, the right links on the right sites can do a great deal to bring traffic in to a site and this is something that many companies understand. They know that if it works for their brand, they can buy links on specific sites which will help them reach out to customers the same way they could purchase ads.
It needs to be stated that buying links as a way to increase Page Rank or otherwise manipulate search engine results is forbidden by the search engines. It can result in penalties.
If you do need links from certain sites and they aren’t willing to give you links for free, offering to pay for the links can work. Remember, though, that you will need to check regularly to make sure the links are still in place later and so forth. It can work, but caution should be used in these instances of linkbuilding. When we say paying for a link this is meant as a purchase of advertising or possibly paying them with a guest post for their site.
How Much a Business Worries About Linkbuilding Will Vary
Not all businesses will be worried about linkbuilding nor should they be. For some businesses online, it is simply more effective to focus on content marketing or purchasing ads and linkbuilding would end up being a hassle. It all comes down to the type of business you have and how you are generating traffic. Every business is unique and should decide on whether linkbuilding is a relevant strategy for them rather than do it merely because it is quite popular.
Other businesses may find that linkbuilding is absolutely essential to generating the traffic they need. There are plenty of businesses that exist solely online and which do not have the money for media buys or PPC advertising. These businesses may be willing to go slowly and do linkbuilding over time until they start seeing some serious profits. Then they can diversify so that they are not solely dependent upon linkbuilding to bring in visitors.
Considering Whether or Not Pro Linkbuilding is Right for Your Business
Not all site owners do their own linkbuilding. When you get serious about linkbuilding and want to create a large number of links, it can be a very time-consuming and tedious process to do so. Also, without having much experience it can be a very overwhelming experience to try to find all of the potential locations links can be built in, choose the right anchor text for each link and so on. These are instances where choosing a professional who can get the job done, or a firm which specializes in linkbuilding, could be a smart move.
Usually, a linkbuilding professional will work with you and give you reports of the links they are building so that you can know where they are and what the anchor text says. These companies can sometimes get results that an amateur could struggle for years to obtain and still fail to do. While it is not always cheap to hire high quality linkbuilding services, if you believe in the service and results are being produced, it can be a smart investment that saves you a lot of time and money while helping your site to succeed at the same time.
Why Linkbuilding is Easier for Authority Site
In case you are unfamiliar with the concept of authority sites, these are the sites which have developed a very strong reputation for themselves on a certain topic. The have usually taken quite a while to build and their focus is almost always on providing the best information about the topics they focus on. They are the kind of sites that could be referenced by bloggers for their expert information and they may even end up cited in a Wikipedia entry.
When doing linkbuilding for an authority site, everything is a great deal easier and often there may not even be much you need to do once the site is mature. Focusing on a niche topic and really delivering what that audience wants is an excellent way to become an authority. Along the way, asking for links from other sites will be easier, too, because they recognize the resource that your site is to those your site serves. Authority sites are the backbone of the internet and they help all kinds of people with all kinds of topics.
After an authority site has been established and has gotten known, linkbuilding may become virtually unneeded. These types of sites tend to attract links on their own because people cite them as important, reliable sources of information. This could help lower your costs and give you a major boost not just in search engines, but in terms of public relations, too. These sites sometimes even get quoted by the mass media which could definitely end up sending you a massive flood of traffic and greatly enhance your site’s reputation. That’s why it is worth putting in the time and effort to build an authority site.
Mentoring Can Help Marketers Succeed with Linkbuilding
For marketers who are interested in learning the skills they’ll need in linkbuilding, working with a mentor can be a smart way to go. There are books and courses out there, but often these are out of date only a year or so after they were made. This is why it would be a smart idea to work with someone who can offer coaching that is more up to date.
Site owners who want to improve their skills at linkbuilding often find that training has to continue over the years so that they can stay abreast of what works and what doesn’t in terms of effective linkbuilding. By choosing a mentor or a similar type of service that educates people in linkbuilding, they can get the results they want because they will not be behind the times in terms of how links are made.
Always Plan and Create a Strategy Before Beginning Linkbuilding Campaigns
This is perhaps one of the most important points when it comes to linkbuilding. Campaigns can take a while to design and even longer to run. Be prepared for this by planning out a strategy in advance. If you have a mentor, be sure to run your plans pasts that individual so that they can offer you advice and critique your plans for practicality.
Linkbuilding should always involve strategy and a quest for the most measurable results you can get. Whether you are doing it by hand or turning to a firm, you want a solid strategy that details why you need the links, where you wish to have them coming from, how many you are trying to achieve and for what length of time as well as which techniques you are going to use to try to get those links built.
It definitely takes time to plan and develop a solid strategy, but the results will be worth it. Linkbuilding remains an effective way to promote a website, but it certainly should be done with as much care and skill as possible in order to produce the best results.