It’s no secret that link building is a vital component to any SEO strategy. In fact, links are one of the top two ranking signals in Google’s algorithm. If you want more search traffic, link building is a must.
But even today, business owners are still receiving emails from SEO agencies advertising aggressive link-building services. It can sound enticing and may even give a temporary boost to your web traffic – but don’t be tempted!
In the world of best-practice SEO, we have clear rules to follow and failure to adhere to Google’s strict guidelines can prove catastrophic to your rankings – and, in turn, your bottom line.
Successful SEO requires keeping up with the latest best-practice trends and constantly responding to new algorithm updates. So what have been the fundamental changes in link building practices? And how can you use links to successfully drive your SEO?
Back in the Day…
Back in the early days of SEO, link building for SEO was easy; rankings could be boosted by attaining or even purchasing hundreds, if not thousands, of links from any website, regardless of domain authority (DA) or relevance.
However, this practice of artificially increasing the ranking of a website through ferocious link-building became recognised as a ‘black hat’ (bad-practice) tactic which violated Google’s strict Webmaster Guidelines.
Google Packs a Punch with Penguin
Google is an intelligent beast and responded to such practices by launching Penguin in 2012. This algorithm update was introduced to bring an end to ‘black hat’ link building and to ensure that the most relevant websites which were complying to Google’s guidelines would appear at the top of the SERPS. As a result, any sites deemed to be manipulating its search algorithm were heavily penalised.
Google’s objective was – and still is – to provide a useful and relevant search environment. In short, Google’s new rule was quality, not quantity.
However, as Penguin only ran sporadically, sites could be demoted or even blacklisted for months, regardless of any attempts to undo any previous ‘black hat’ SEO and improve link-building techniques. This resulted in many marketers shying away from link building for fear of banishment from the SERPS and instead focusing heavily on onsite optimisation.
Fortunately however, Google’s Penguin 4.0 release in 2016 made link-building less risky. Penguin became real-time, so changes would be recognised by Google much faster and sites wouldn’t be penalised for so long.
How to Recover From a ‘Penguin Slap’
If your website has suffered a penalty for bad-practice link building, you will need to analyse each link to determine its value. This is otherwise known as a backlink audit. There are a number of backlink tools you can use to help with this, including Moz Open Site Explorer and Majestic.
Evaluate each link based on its domain authority (DA) and relevance to the content on your website. All poor-quality links must be removed. To do this you’ll need to contact the owner of each site and request that the link is removed.
Failing that, the links will need to be disavowed via the Google Search Console.
Many people find the management of backlinks too complex, so if you’re having difficulty, engage with an expert SEO company to take care of this for you.
So What Is Today’s Best-practice Link-Building?
Fast-forward to 2017 and best-practice SEO strategy is centred around producing quality content and copywriting and providing users with information and links which are relevant to their search queries. It is all about ensuring the quality of user experience. And this theory must be applied offsite as well as onsite.
Not only must marketers avoid aggressive link-building to low quality or spammy sites at all costs, but they need to be mindful of relevance and content quality.
So, here are the top 3 takeaway points to ensure the success of your link building:
- Keep it Relevant – Backlinks should be relevant and contextual; make sure the page you are linking to is relevant to the content on your website.
- Link to Quality Sites – Carefully select which sites you link to by checking their domain authority (DA) which is essentially a credibility score developed by Moz to forecast how well a website will rank on the SERPS.That being said, any new website will have a lower DA and this doesn’t mean that it is a low-quality website, or that you shouldn’t link to that site – building DA takes time. Website engagement, citation flow, ranking keywords and social media activity are all contributing factors to the credibility of a website.
- Produce Relevant Quality Content – The quality of the content on the page you are linking to is vital. It’s a cliché, but when it comes to SEO, content really is King.
And remember, not only is effective link-building a key SEO driver, but it is also a great branding exercise!
For more information on link-building and its role in an effective SEO strategy, contact the friendly team at White Chalk Road today!
By Felicity Allen.
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Felicity has over 10 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, having worked in both agency and in-house roles in the UK, Perth and Melbourne. Her experience spans marketing strategy, brand development, PR and event management. With a proven track record in strategic marketing, Felicity is driven by a desire to drive market expansion and grow clients’ businesses across the digital landscape, through SEO, PPC and social media.
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