SEO Pro-Guide: Link Building 101
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a sub category of SEM (Search Engine Marketing), and is often confused with many other parts of the SEM world. But when it comes down to it, and all the excess fat is boiled away, there is only one fundamental part to doing SEO, and that is increasing search engine query rankings. That’s it, no more, no less.
So the question then becomes how you would increase your search engine query results to push your website to the top spot for specific keywords or phrases. The answer to that happens to be a bit more complex, and many things can be done to assist in the achievement of that goal. For the sake of this article, we are going to highlight one area that plays a critical role in this, and that is link building.
Guideline To Link Building
The sole purpose for creating content for another website, in regards to link building, is obviously the link. The content then to be written depends on multiple factors, and the success of what is written also has varying components. Aligning these different aspects into one path to complete your goal will take a little bit of planning, patience and foresight.
However, if completed properly, you will have something that people will not only want to source on their website, but those reading it may want to share it as well. Thus gaining more exposure, which gives the link more “juice”, and generates even more potential traffic to your website.
Client You Are Writing For
The client you are writing on behalf of is going to dictate the category and topics you are going to be writing about. If you were writing for a lawyer, than the category would obviously be law. If it were for a car mechanic, than it would be vehicles. You will want to keep the themes in mind, as it won’t help to be writing on behalf of a restaurant, actually write about dogs, and source it on a slack lining website.
Nothing matches up, and search engines will pick up on this. They will have an idea of what it is you’re either trying to sell or inform people of, and have the same knowledge of the website you are sourcing on. If they have little or nothing in common, and you continue to both write and source your articles in this fashion, your websites link profile will begin to look unnatural, and you can be heavily penalized if this gets too out of control. We will discuss link profiles more later on in this guide.
One of the most important aspects of writing is ensuring that what you write is both unique and fresh. It becomes very difficult to find a website to publish your articles on if what is being written has been written before. Even if the topic you are writing about is old and stale, there is still life there. This is where the writer must become creative. But it must be your own creation, search engine providers will know immediately if you are producing nothing more than duplicate content.
Duplicate content is a major concern for search engines. Google for example strives to become, essentially, the encyclopedia of the Internet. They want to provide the most relevant and accurate information possible for what a person searches for. So when they see that supposed “new content” has done nothing more than restate what has already been said, they will penalize the page the article has been published on, and not provide the link with any “link Juice”.
For those that don’t know, link juice is essentially how search engines determine how worthy a site is for becoming a search result for specific keywords. The more websites that point to a particular site tells the search engine that they trust that site for whatever reason. The search engine then looks at the linking sites to see their relevance and trustworthiness. This measurement is called Domain Authority (DA), which is the metric that search engines use to rate the quality of a website as a whole. A similar measurement for a specific website page is called Page Authority (PA). Both DA and PA are used to find the value of the juice provided to the link.
Link bait is any content or feature on a website that is designed specifically to gain attention or encourage others to link to the website. There are many forms of link bait that can be utilized, some clever, others nefarious, but all have the same goal in mind. This is to draw attention and gain exposure. Here is a list of a few types of link bait.
- Informational Bait: Any information that a reader may find useful; rare tips and tricks, anything really that can be worthwhile to a reader.
- News Bait: Information that is topical and news worthy, usually provides citations to legitimize what is being written.
- Humor Bait: Otherwise known as Master Bait… you see what I did there? Hopefully so, anything that is funny, bizarre or oddly interesting makes for good baiting material… sorry. That was the last joke.
- Evil Bait: When something mean or evil is said, generally that generates a lot of attention. Look at Chick-fil-A for example, once their bigotry was exposed; they received more attention than they knew what to do with. Granted, it’s not the best attention, but attention nonetheless.
- Tool Bait: If you create something that people can use, some widget or tool, generally it will be used. If it is liked it will be shared as well, which is the true link bait goal.
- Infographics: A visual piece that highlights and describes certain bits of information in a way that people will find it interesting enough to link to.
Beyond being unique, content should be written in a way where it sounds as though the author knew what he/she was talking about. Nobody likes to read about things they can tell to be untrue. You can even write in a fictitious way, but you must write in a fashion that flexes some muscle. Otherwise what is being read will not be believed, enjoyed, and as a result, will not be shared or viewed by the masses.
The more a person writes, the more authoritative their articles become by default. Search engines will recognize that a certain author is prolific, and every author has an authoritative voice, which is measured and rated over time. This measurement is dependent upon search engine providers specific algorithms.
Whatever the content is you intend to write about, one thing is for certain, it needs to be niche worthy. Rather than attempting to write about a very broad subject, lets say cars for example, you need to refine and narrow the scope and view of the article, such as specific car parts, or car tech. The more narrow the scope of the article the better.
The reason for this is that cars have been written about endlessly online. So it is already going to be very difficult to be unique, as everything has been written about. It is also going to be difficult to have a stronger authoritative voice than those who have been writing about cars for a long time. So in order to gain any traction with your content, you need to write about something no one else has, or at least make better what has already been written before.
For every piece of content written, you will want to add an author bi-line. This is so search engines know you’re an author, and your authoritative voice as an author can grow as well. You will also want to create an author page for the website you are writing for. This will let search engines know you write on behalf of a specific website. This adds to the authoritative bit of it all.
Keyword Anchor Text
After you’ve done your keyword analysis for your website, you should know which keywords you would like to try and rank well for. Hopefully you’ve chosen some words that have high usage, and preferably low competition. But you will want to use these keywords as the anchor text in your link.
Using your target keywords as an anchor text makes the link more versatile. It not only will add “link juice” to your chosen keyword, helping it to gain rank as a search result for your website, it also helps to drive direct traffic to your site if people were to click on it. For branding purposes, you would use the actual business name and link it to the home page. If you are promoting a certain service or product, you would then use the targeted keywords as the anchor text, and link it to interior pages to help promote the site as a whole.
There are countless ways you can go about sourcing your articles. This all depends on how creative you care to be, and how much time you can devote towards sourcing your content on a quality site. If you have a lot of time, you can pick and chose potential sites, contact them and try to get yourself sourced on there. Though, this takes time, as a relationship must be developed in which some form of trust is given.
For those that have less time to spend to find a place to source themselves, there are many services that allow content creators and those seeking content for their sites to interact. Sites such as MyBlogGuest or GuestBlogIt do exactly that; they introduce two parties that mutually can benefit from one another. Those seeking content find it, and those seeking to source something, find related sites with worthwhile domain authorities and a proper readership.
When sourcing, you are going to want to make sure that the article you’ve written doesn’t find itself out of context when sourced to a certain website. For instance, writing about how squirrels can fly, and then sourcing it on a cooking website. The article doesn’t belong there, the readers will recognize this and not read it, and search engines will spot the same thing and not provide as much “link juice” as would have been provided if it were on a contextually similar site. Perhaps an outdoor blog or any site dealing with animals would suffice. They are at least related in some sense.
It may be difficult or even impossible to know exactly how much traffic a specific websites receives without having access to their back end. But a few things can be assumed, the more frequently new content is added means they want fresh content so as to avoid what they have from becoming stale. This hopefully shows they have enough readers that they must entertain. A websites domain authority says a lot about the website overall, one will not have a high DA unless they have the traffic to make it worthwhile to achieve that ranking. Lastly, comments on other articles, and community interactions within the website speak to the number of readers that go there.
Branded links are literally anchor texts that contain the name of the business. The only time it is really worth using branded links are when you are submitting your links to a directory. Which should never be done, unless the directory is specifically for certain industries, or seems overall legit.
Many link directories act as link farms, places where links are abound and free to the masses. But links on these directories take hits by search engines, as it’s not a natural means to receive a link. Unless of course the directory is quality, such as a medical or automotive link directory, in which case these can be very useful and search engines are able to discern between the legitimate and illegitimate.
It’s probably understood by now, but sourcing your content to websites that have a high domain authority is a big foundation of link building. High domain authority sites literally are what give you the most link juice you can receive. As a rule of thumb, you don’t want to source to sites with domain authorities much lower than that of your own. The larger the window between the DA of your own site, and that of where you receive a link, determines the total amount of link juice given. The lower the DA, the less juice received, the higher the DA, the better.
A websites link profile is literally the master list of all the sites that link to your website. What you want to ensure is that your link profile looks natural. This means that the sites you’ve sourced on are contextual, and have decent domain authorities compared to yours. This should contain about a 80/20 mix of follow to no-follow links, which means the website allows the search engine spiders to scan through the links if they are follow, and block the ability if they are no-follow.
In sum, unnatural link profiles simply look spammy. They’ll have articles sourced on unrelated websites and there will be an odd number of links in total. There will also be an unusually large number of follow to no-follow. In the end, if your website has an unnatural looking link profile, you can be heavily penalized by search engines to the point that they de-index your site entirely. So be careful when building up your profile, if you do it right, though it will take more time, the dividends paid out later on will make up for any potential gains lost in the beginning.
The last part to link building to remember is your ethical standards. There are really only two schools of thought, or camps, when it comes to this. There is the upholders of the White-Hat guild, and those who are nefarious and fall into using Black-Hat tactics.
White-Hat SEO strategies really only consist of the things we’ve discussed using in this article. It’s really not hard, do things in an honest and genuine manner without trying to cut corners, and you’ll be left to your designs by search engines. However, if you begin to use Black-Hat tactics, and you’re caught, you can be heavily penalized to the point that your site can be completely de-indexed.
A few Black-Hat tactics to avoid would be hacking a site and forcing your links into them. Purchasing links, either one by one or in bulk from websites. Spamming forums and blogs with your links. Using content wheels, which takes a single piece of content, and either slightly rewords the article and submits them to various other sites, or other fake websites are created solely to source to and receive link juice from. Link farms and directories should also be avoided.
Hopefully this article helped to shed a little light on what it takes to link build correctly. It is indeed a long, and arduous road towards success, however you measure that. But the longer you travel this road, the easier it becomes, and the more benefit you will see from the ground work you put in. You can’t hope for miracles over night, and shouldn’t.
It can take months for your efforts to be shown, but once they are, they’re not going anywhere any time soon. If you do foolishly attempt to cut some corners, or believe that someone can turn your water into wine, please do not believe them. Using shady practices has devastated countless websites and businesses as a whole. Be sure you’re not the next to get caught by the SEO police for breaking search engine laws.
Check out our previous articles!
- Write Your Meta Descriptions for People, not Search Engines
- Why Fear Stalkers When You Have Problems Like Google
- Blogging in the Age of the Penguin
- How to Stop Over-Optimizing for SEO
- How to Maximise SEO with Alexa
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Damien S. Wilhelmi