How can good links grow your authority online?
How can a proper link building strategy help you rank higher on Google?
When putting together an SEO campaign, one aspect that many people overlook is the link building strategy. Why? Because it’s one of the most misunderstood and difficult parts of a good Digital Marketing campaign.
Why Links & Authority are Critical on Google
Google’s original mission was to organize the world’s information. They’ve developed sophisticated algorithms to try to accomplish this.
Over the years, we’ve learned that Google’s ranking algorithms are mainly focused on two broad categories: Relevancy and Authority.
HOW LINKS HELP
Links are crucial to ranking well on Google. In the past, they’ve been the best indicator of Authority that search engines have.
Google basically views a link as a letter of recommendation. In the eyes of a search engine, a link from a high Authority website is like the site saying ‘we believe this link is a quality source and deserves to be shared with others’. It is an endorsement. Similar to Steven Spielberg telling People Magazine that you are the next great actor/actress.
SHARE THE LOVE THROUGH LINKS
When a website with a high Authority score links to your site, you can acquire some of their Authority points. In turn, this helps you rank better on Google.
Over time, if you get links from high authority sites, you can eventually become the authoritative source. Unless you take shortcuts, becoming an authority can take a substantial amount of time and effort.
If you’re not currently ranking as well as you’d like on Google, you may need more links.
How should you get them?
Two main choices: Option 1 is the long, hard way…earn them. Option 2 would be to run out and purchase a mess of cheap links.
Think of it like this: If the doctor says you need to lose weight, you have two options.
You could lose weight the long, hard way… earn it by watching what you eat and exercise.
Or you could order ‘the next great diet pill’ you see on TV and expect to lose 150 pounds in 3 days.
The doctor will advise you to go for option 1.
I strongly recommend option 1 to gain more links: You need to earn them.
LINKS: NATURAL vs. UNNATURAL
There is a big difference between natural and unnatural links. Some can help you, while others can actually hurt you.
A natural link comes from other people reading your content, deciding that it is authoritative, informative, entertaining, and most of all…valuable. They simply add a link to your information on their website. This comes from having fantastic content so make sure you write great stuff. This is by far the best scenario to gain links and grow your authority.
A natural link just feels right. It makes sense.
If someone links to your content about dolphins on their ‘Best Pizza In America’ blog, it’s probably not going to fly. There’s not a natural connection between dolphins and pizza.
Here’s what Google’s Matt Cutts had to say about Links recently:
Unnatural links often include the use of some link building services. If you receive an email like this one, don’t be tempted, just delete it.
Unfortunately, we frequently see companies that have been penalized by Google for participation in black hat SEO tactics and link building schemes.
Sometimes, they’ve been a willing participant. Sometimes they’ve engaged an SEO service that didn’t disclose the full risks. The old SEO only talked about the positives and didn’t tell them that they could end up on the wrong side of Google.
If your site has spammy links and you’ve been penalized by Google, you’ll need to clean up those bad links. And it’s not easy.
Google tells you that you’ll need to contact the webmaster of every website that contains negative links and ask them to remove it.
Good luck with getting them to remove your spammy links from their site or even getting them to reply to your request.
If you’ve already got a penalty becasue of bad links, you should probably contact an experienced SEO professional that has a track record of white-hat, best practices SEO.
Better yet, don’t try to take shortcuts with low quality links in the first place.
KEEP YOUR LINKS CLEAN
SEO professionals with a long track record of white hat SEO recommend investing the time and energy into keeping your link building strategies above-board and within Google’s Guidelines. If you don’t, the consequences can be dire for your site.
The best practice is to obtain your links with a lot of hard work. Don’t expect quality link building to happen overnight. Quality link-building is a journey. Not a marathon.
So…How do you gain links the right way?
PROPER LINK BUILDING STRATEGIES
There are a few ways to get clean links.
1. Attribution. You may already have links and not even know it. Are any websites using images, photos or infographics that you created? If so, ask them to give you credit by linking the image back to it’s original source: your website.
2. Share. One formerly common tactics was to send an email to another webmaster asking for a link to your content. With the rise of social media, a better way can be to ask them to share your content as opposed to linking to it.
The traditional hard sell approach of “Please link to my website.” has been overdone so much that it’s almost toxic. Instead you can try: ‘I was reading your article about spring lawn preparation and thought you might be interested in sharing some of my points about proper spring seeding with your audience’.
If they agree that your information could be useful to their audience and they share it, you’ll get extra visibility to their social connections. And if you really impress them, you could still get a link from them. This lighter approach provides better odds of getting their cooperation at some level than by the traditional link request.
3. Press Releases. This option is more of an indirect method of obtaining links. Press releases are usually only read by members of the press, not webmasters and web designers. But if you send out a press release and a member of the media thinks your content would make for a good story, then you may be interviewed or have an article written about it. That could potentially lead to a quality link back to your site.
A word of warning: Press Releases can also lead to trouble. In the past, some SEO’s have overdone the use of Press Releases by stuffing them with over optimized keyword links with rich anchor text. Stick with well written releases that are intended to resonate with members of the press and you should be fine.
Guest Blogging. We cannot talk about link building without addressing Guest Blogging. The head of Google’s web spam team, Matt Cutts, has said for several years that this practice was acceptable in moderation. However, keeping in step with the recent changes to Google’s algorithm, that is no longer the case. It has become “too spammy” according to Matt. If Guest Blogging was you main plan for gaining links, you better come up with a Plan B.
Matt has made Google’s stance on guest blogging very clear by saying:
“So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a link building strategy.” – Matt Cutts
LINKS ARE STILL IMPORTANT
I’ve heard people in the SEO world say things like ‘links are not necessary anymore’. That’s just not the case.
Links are less of a factor than they used to be primarily because Google has so many other factors they are looking at now to rank websites. But links are still the best indicator of Authority that search engines have.
Links are not going away anytime soon. Use them correctly and you could improve your Authority online. Use them irresponsibly and you might not be able to recover from the damage.