Link building is the process of acquiring external links that point from other websites back to your website. These links allow people to seamlessly navigate the web by going from one website to another with a simple click.
Link building is a powerful SEO tool. It doesn’t have to be complicated or spammy.
Let’s take a look at what goes into link building, starting with backlinks.
What are Backlinks?
Backlinks are external facing links that point from one website to another. Where internal links help people navigate within a website, backlinks help people navigate between different websites.
How Important is Link Building in SEO?
In short, extremely important. As you probably know, search engine algorithms calculate where to position your website in search results via an algorithm which weighs on-site factors like quality content and speed alongside off-site elements such as links and reviews. Together, on-site and off-site factors influence how much search engines trust your site and how authoritative they deem it to be.
Links are valuable because of their ability to pass authority from one website to another. In the simplest terms, links act as votes of confidence from one website for another. The higher the authority of the website giving a link, the more authority that link will pass to the website it’s pointing at. A link pointing to your site from The New York Times website is going to pass along a lot more authority than one pointing to it from your dog groomer’s website.
As you can imagine, websites with more links pointing to them typically have much higher authority and trust than those with just a few. Hence, why link building is so important. With that being said, it’s not all about the number of links that point at your website.
Link Building Quality vs. Quantity: Which to Focus On?
The quality of the links pointing to your website is much more important than the quantity of links.
All the links that point to your website are known as your backlink network, and it’s important that this network is comprised of naturally acquired, user-friendly links from high-quality websites.
If you have lots of links point to your site from spammy websites, search engines may ding you when they review your backlink network. It’s also against Google’s policy for websites to buy or trade links. Since these schemes create spammy links, the resulting links are devalued and can lead to your site getting penalized.
How Much Does Link Building Cost?
Almost any business offering you link building at a low cost is bound to create spammy links that go against Google’s guidelines. On the flip side, the agencies that take a legitimate approach to link building are typically going to cost you an arm and a leg.
That’s why we recommend people manage their link building strategy in-house using organic link building activities like those mentioned below.
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What are the Best Link Building Activities?
We encourage you to create a link building strategy focused on acquiring links from your professional network. For example, if you run a local art gallery, getting a link on the local hotel’s “area activities” page makes sense.
Alternatively, getting a link from a car dealership in another city on their “Helpful Links” page appears spammy. Stay within search engine guidelines by not paying or trading for links with websites that have no logical connection to yours. Topically relevant and logical links are appropriate — they make the internet a better place!
Your business naturally has partnerships within your industry. For example, an architect partners with contractors, interior designers, and other local businesses. A florist partners with wedding planners, restaurants, and funeral homes. Contact your industry partners and request they link to your website.
A great way for businesses to acquire links (and do good!) is through community involvement. Sponsor a local race and ask the organizer to include your business logo and a link to your website on their website. Donate your goods or services to a silent auction to benefit a non-profit and get included in the list of donors online. If you serve on the board of a local non-profit, consider updating the non-profits’ website to include board member bios with links to each member’s business.
Don’t overlook the press as a means of acquiring links. If a magazine features your business in a top 5 list — such as “The Top 5 Restaurants in Asheville” — check that they include a link to your website in the article’s online version. Also, contact local journalists who write about topics related to your business. Offer to provide quotes and industry-specific expertise for upcoming stories.
Offer to write a guest blog post for bloggers in your industry or partner businesses. For example, if you sell real estate, you could offer to write a blog post for a local accountant’s website about the nuts and bolts of a 1031 rollover. At the end of your guest blog post, include a brief bio with a link to your website.
Turn Brand Mentions into Links
If your business has been around for a while or received numerous mentions on the internet that aren’t linked to your site, turning unlinked brand mentions into links might be an opportunity for you. This tactic consists of you searching for where your brand has been mentioned on the internet. If those brand mentions don’t link back to your website, all you have to do is reach out and ask the website owner add a link to the mention.
What About Links from My Website to Other Websites?
While gaining links is important, giving links is just as important. You want to link to topically relevant, high-quality content on other websites. An obvious place for external links is in one of your blog posts.
For example, let’s say you run a bed and breakfast and you’re writing a blog post about fall activities in your town. Linking out to the local bike shop’s website in the paragraph on a favorite bike ride makes sense, as does linking out to the local orchard’s website when you describe the best place to go apple picking in your town. External links allow your readers to easily find more information, and that makes for a good user experience and better rankings.
Now that you know what link building is, we recommend you take one or two of the link building activities we mentioned and try them out for yourself. Start with the low hanging fruit and go from there.
Erik is an SEO coach that loves breaking down complex SEO topics into understandable instructions anyone can follow. He thrives on helping people do what it takes to see their businesses succeed in search.