Link building isn’t easy. That doesn’t mean it’s rocket science. It means it takes a lot of work if you do it right. Link building done the wrong way can backfire, resulting in a ban from Google altogether. In this post, I’ll discuss our ideas about getting more backlinks: link building from a holistic SEO perspective.
Before we dive in, if you want to learn more about link building strategies and other essential SEO skills, you should check out our All-around SEO training! It doesn’t just tell you about SEO: it makes sure you know how to put these skills into actual practice!
How does a link help your page to rank well?
First, let’s discuss why link building is important for SEO. A link to your site helps its ranking in four ways:
It adds value to the receiving page, allowing it to improve its visibility in the search engines.It adds value to the entire receiving domain, allowing each page on that domain to improve its rank ever so slightly.The anchor text of the link and the surrounding copy indicates the website’s topic to the search engine and more specifically the receiving page.And obviously, people click on links, resulting in so-called direct traffic.The value of a link for the receiving page is determined in part by the topic of the page the link is on. A link from a page with the same topic as the receiving page is of more value than a link from a page about an entirely different topic. Also, a link from an article is worth way more than a link from a sidebar or a footer. In general, the more links there are on a page, the less each individual link is worth.
Link building’s bad reputation
Link building has got a somewhat bad reputation. Once people noticed that backlinks from other sites resulted in higher rankings, they began to abuse this. They got links from sites that didn’t have any topical relation with their own site. In other cases, people bought links from other sites.
These shady links polluted the search engines. That is why Google started giving penalties to companies that bought links or used links from non-related websites (Google Penguin update was all about this). If you got a penalty from Google, it was serious: your site would disappear from the search results.
This bad reputation of link building comes from companies who were a bit too enthusiastic about shady link building techniques and got penalties from Google. Does this mean you shouldn’t do any link building at all? Of course not! Link building in itself is not a bad thing. If you do it the right way, you’ll reap all the benefits it offers.
Read more: Link building: what not to do? »
Link building is about reaching out
Link building is – or should be – an outreaching activity. That means you have to contact people and ask them to write about and link to your website. Usually, you will get better results if you contact people personally. This means writing emails and press releases, making phone calls, and talking about your product. And don’t forget about social media. Platforms such as Twitter have made it easier to reach out to specific people and businesses. If your products and content are good, there will be people who are interested to write about them. Most bloggers and journalists need content, so presenting your products to them could very well make them happy too!
Dofollow vs nofollow links
As mentioned above, backlinks can add value to your website and help your content to rank better. But not all links are the same. There are dofollow and nofollow links. To website users, they look the same. Actually, links are dofollow by default. But you can make a nofollow link by inserting a small piece of code, called an attribute, that tells search engine bots not to follow that link.
According to Google, nofollow links don’t pass any value to the website being linked. So to get the full benefits of link building, you should aim to get dofollow links. This is called ‘link juice’ by many people in the SEO field. Also, it’s a common practice nowadays to nofollow all external links. If you’re asking someone to link to your website from theirs, it’s good to ask them to remove the ‘nofollow’ attribute so both of you can get values from the link. If they don’t want to, that’s also fine. You might not get the ‘link juice’, but your site still gets mentioned on their site. It’s good for branding, and you’ll receive some traffic to your site. There are still some (indirect) benefits regardless.
Link building as part of a holistic SEO strategy
Holistic SEO means you’ll do everything to make your website the best: you should show high-quality information, provide an excellent user experience, have the fastest website and so on. Link building will get easier if your website offers a great experience, just like your products and/or services. Because it’s far more likely that people are willing to write about and link to a great site.
Link building should feel like a normal marketing activity and not like a trick. Do remember that link building should generate links that get your target audience to your site. After all, they are the people that will read your posts, subscribe to your newsletter or buy your products. Your target audience will make your business thrive.
Keep reading: 6 steps to a successful link building strategy »
Marieke van de Rakt
Marieke van de Rakt is CMO at Yoast. She loves writing about content SEO, speaking at WordCamps and improving Yoast SEO and the Yoast SEO Academy: the online courses platform.