The following article was written by Tom Shurville of Distinctly, a search marketing agency in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire.
There is a wide range of activities you can participate in to improve your brand’s online visibility including social media, pay per click, content marketing, email marketing and blogging. Of course one of the best ways to increase online visibility is through improving your site’s search engine optimisation (SEO). Despite claims that link building ‘is dead’, it is still very much an integral part of SEO and can generate fantastic results, providing you go about it the right way.
Why is link building so important?
If you want to improve your website’s search visibility and increase brand exposure, link building is arguably one of the best ways to do it. Links are still incredibly valuable and serve the purpose of sending positive signals to Google, informing them of great sites with authority. Link building is also great for developing relationships between businesses within the same industry and can boost other online marketing activities carried out by brands.
Building links in 2014: What to do
There are many ways you can go about building links back to your company website, but some methods are considered better than others in the eyes of Google and other search engines. Ensure that your link building practices are both ethical and beneficial and prevent search engines penalising your website by following our tips below.
Create high quality and relevant links
When searching for websites that you would like to include in your link building strategy, it is important to ensure that the sites are high quality and relevant to the products you sell or services you offer. Broadly, you need to either cater for the same audience or operate within the same industry. It is also essential that you have read through their content to check that it is of a high standard. Poorly produced content (e.g. spun articles) can look like spam to both search engines and users and will not provide any value. Only links from high quality, relevant websites will assist in improving your search rankings.
Produce excellent content
You cannot expect other websites to link to your website if you do not provide them with anything of value. Writing excellent content that serves the purpose of educating or informing the audience will make your link building proposition much more appealing to webmasters.
It is also important to remember that relationships take time to develop. You will need to put time and effort into nurturing relationships with high authority websites in order to stand a chance at gaining a link from them.
Acquire links to more than just your homepage
Many businesses make the mistake of only building links back to their website’s homepage. It is much more beneficial to build links that land on different pages of your website, for example, a product page or even a blog post. It is important to make sure that the anchor text is relevant to the landing page, to give readers (and search engines) an idea of what they should expect from clicking on the link. Remember not to over optimise anchor text in your link building efforts, as this can lead to you being penalised by Google (e.g. only ever linking to the same term, e.g. “web development”).
Review your website’s backlink profile
Before attempting to build high quality and relevant links to your website, it is essential that you review your website’s existing backlink profile. If you have had your website for a while and have worked with multiple SEO companies over the years, it is likely that you will have built up some potentially damaging links. The problem is that Google’s algorithm updates will still penalise you for these links whether you acquired them last week or three years ago. Work with a trusted SEO company to get any paid or unnatural links removed or if necessary, disavowed.
Building links in 2014: What not to do
You may have heard that in recent months Google has been working on improving its algorithms in order to make it easier to identify the difference between quality, organic links and spam links. Although building links is a great way to improve your website’s search rankings, if you do not go about it the right way, you risk being penalised by Google and other search engines. Below we have outlined what is not considered best practice for link building in 2014.
Paid or irrelevant links
It’s simple really – don’t buy links and you won’t have Google telling you off and plunging you deep down to the bottom of the search rankings! Since releasing the Penguin update in 2012, Google has been keeping on top of penalising those with paid links and you do not want to end up with a target on your back.
It is also important to avoid exchanging links with companies that are irrelevant to your industry. As we mentioned earlier, you should only be looking to build links with websites that produce high quality content and are relevant to your industry. The way to judge it is by thinking whether or not the users of that website will get any value from clicking on the backlink and being taken to your website. If the answer is no, then that link building opportunity is not the one for you.
Automated link building tools
Automated link building tools are a big no-no. When it comes to building links, quality is so much more important than quantity. Automated link building tools tend to build a lotof links and whilst you may see an initial spike in your website traffic, Google and other search engines will see that they are spam links and penalise you accordingly.
Spam comment on other blogs
Another thing that you must refrain from doing is leaving your website link on every blog comment that you leave. Take your website’s SEO seriously and avoid this bad practice. Whilst leaving meaningful comments on blogs is absolutely fine, only leave your link if it will provide value to other readers or the blog owner.
Despite various sources claiming that ‘link building is dead’, the practice is still very much an important part of improving websites’ online visibility. Even Google’s Matt Cutts confirmed that link building is important when he said that they were ‘still the best way that we’ve found to discover how relevant or important somebody is.’ Whilst the use of social media and content marketing does impact search engine rankings (and is likely to have more weight behind it in the future), do not underestimate the power of ethical link building strategies.
As long as you focus on creating high quality, relevant links and avoid black hat SEO practices like spamming, there really is no need to fear being penalised by Google. Whilst white hat link building takes a considerable amount of time and effort, it can be extremely beneficial for your business in terms of improving your search rankings and driving valuable traffic through to your website.