Link Building Guide (Off-Page SEO)

Beginners Guide to Link Building

Out of all of the main SEO ranking factors, backlinks are by far the biggest factor to help your website rank in Google. As covered in that article, backlinks to your sites homepage and individual page still make up around 41% of SEO rankings in 2014.

This lesson will explain the history and strategies behind link building as well as the different types of penalties from Google that can result from the wrong way of link building.

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Introduction to Link Building

For a long time now, backlinks (external links towards your site) have been the most important search engine ranking factor used for websites.

For example, we mentioned in our previous article how backlinks made up around 66% (two-thirds) of Google’s algorithm for ranking websites in 2009.

Although the weighting of backlinks in the SEO algorithm is decreasing, it still makes up a huge proportion and is therefore something you should focus on in any SEO campaign.

Link Building Strategies

There are a number of strategies that webmasters can use for building backlinks to a site.

Because there are so many different strategies that you can use, we’ve decided to list them all here with more detailed lesson plans about each one.

We’ve listed the following link building strategies from the most popular and easiest down to more niche types of link building.

  • Guest Blogging
  • Educational and Evergreen Content (e.g. Tutorials)
  • Competition Research and Analysis
  • Earning Backlinks from PR
  • Building Linkable Assets on your Site
  • Blog Commenting
  • Outreach Campaigns
  • Directory Submission
  • Interviews and Product Placements
  • Build Relationships
  • Infographics
  • Webinars
  • Newsjacking

Please note that there are far more link building strategies available (as seen on this PointBlankSEO.com page), however many of these are not suitable for beginners and may take you several weeks to learn.

How to Measure the Value of Links from Different Domains

Not all links have the same value. Search engines such as Google measure links using different factors such as the authority of the site (e.g. a link from BBC News would have far more weight than a small blog), the relevance of the site and the authority of the page that the link is from.

Essentially, Google uses a system of link authority and equity. A link from a page that has lots of backlinks will carry more authority or “page rank” then a link from a page with little or no backlinks. A page with multiple links will also dilute the link equity of the page.

You can learn more about link equity and measuring the value of links in our lesson on Page Rank here, however suffice to say your aim should be to get links from sites with high authority or page rank.

Do-Follow vs. No-Follow Links

It used to be the case that all links on the Internet passed value. However, because of the amount of links that spammers built from blog comments and directories, in 2005 Google launched a new link value called “nofollow”.

NoFollow is a value that can be inserted into the rel attribute of a HTML link element in order to prevent it from passing value in the search engines.

The HTML syntax of a no-follow link looks like this:

<a href=”http://www.example.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Link text</a>

The purpose of the nofollow link is to remove the link value or “noise” from 3rd party spammy blog comment links or links that are advertorial in nature.

Virtually all blog comments and social media links are now set to nofollow automatically. This makes them much less valuable than regular dofollow links, which do pass value, and are found within the main content itself.

You can learn more about nofollow links or when links should be set to nofollow in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines here.

Building Links to Different Pages

As part of the link building process, you’ll want to build links to your most popular pages in addition to your homepage.

This is because while building links to your homepage helps build your sites overall authority, backlinks to individual pages also help those to individual rank for their primary keywords.

Anchor Text

The anchor text of the backlink is another huge signal that Google uses in determining the topical relevance of your page.

The anchor text is the clickable text used within the link. For example, the anchor text in the link Wikiweb marketing is “Wikiweb marketing”.

In HTML syntax, you can see the anchor text here:

<a href=”http://www.wikiweb.com/”>Wikiweb marketing</a>

It used to be the case that SEOs would build links with their primary keyword in the anchor text as often as possible. For example, if they had a website selling bikes then 70% of their total anchors in their links might be “bike shop”.

However, Google reacted to this type of over optimization in 2012 by creating penalties for sites that over optimize their backlinks, therefore you’re better off keeping the anchor text as natural as possible.

How to Monitor Backlinks

As part of link building, it’s also important to keep track of the inbound links to your site and analyze your campaign.

In order to track the links to your site, we recommend using a tool such as OpenSiteExplorer.org (free version), Majestic SEO (free version) or Ahrefs.com (paid version – around $75/month).

These tools let you add your URL and then view all backlinks to your site.

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