The Cautious Person’s Guide To Link Building
By Pam Neely
Links are one of the most fundamental elements of search engine optimization. They’re right up there with content in terms of how important they are. But unfortunately, there’s still some confusion about the difference between good links and bad links.
Even those terms – “good links” and “bad links” – aren’t helpful. Links typically aren’t that black and white. It’s better to think of them on a spectrum of “good links” on one side and “bad links” on the other side, with all your possible links spread out across the scale between the two.
What determines the quality of links is complex. But based on ranking signals reports, it roughly works out to these factors:
The Domain Authority of the page (not the site) the link to your site appears on.
Domain Authority is Moz’s measurement of how influential a page is. This is the pretty much the agreed-upon measurement for how to rank sites. You’ll see it mentioned everywhere from Search Engine Watch to Stone Temple Consulting’s blog. It’s replaced PageRank (years ago) as a way to measure a site’s – or a link’s importance.
How relevant the page where the link appears is to your site’s topic.
This is a little fuzzier. Relevancy is not an essential requirement for a valuable link, but it definitely helps. Whether relevancy is decided based on site level or page level is less clear, but when in doubt, look to what the page is about. Even having a few related words around your link can help.
The anchor text of the link.
This is the underlined part of the link. It matters which words make up the anchor text. That said, a lot of the concern about Penguin was that website owners had over-optimized their anchor text. Because of that, people are less obsessed with getting their keywords into the anchor text than they used to be.
Whether the link is “follow” or “no follow”.
This refers to the HTML code that creates the link. If a webmaster wants to link to a site but doesn’t want to pass much “link juice” (aka page authority) to that site, they’ll add a no-follow tag to the link. This greatly reduces how much benefit the receiving site owner gets for the link.
Wherever possible, you want all the links pointing to your site to be full strength links. No follow links won’t help you nearly as much, though there is evidence that even no follow links do pass some page authority to the sites they link to.
How old the link is.
This is less of a factor, but generally, the older a link is, the better. What really matters is something called “link velocity” – that’s how many links your site gets over a period of time.
Better to have a steady build of quality links than have thousands of new links show up overnight. Of course, if you get a PR windfall, that’s exactly what will happen, which is why some SEO dismiss concerns about getting too many links too fast.
What’s does that mean?
So those are the basic characteristics of good (or bad) links. Just knowing those factors will help you see why some links are very good, and others aren’t so good. It may also help you not get caught up in the fear about link building that I’ve heard some business owners express.
I worry that some small business owners got particularly stung by the Penguin updates because they believed that all links were created equal. They aren’t. But because the owners did believe that, and because there were some shady SEOs selling cheap link building packages, a lot of low-quality links got built.
What’s a low-quality link? Well, to pull from the terms above, it’s any link that comes from a low-authority site (or even worse, a site that Google considers to come from a “bad neighborhood”). The worst types of low-quality links are also often irrelevant to the sites they point to. The cheap directory sites that used to offer free links are an example of this.
Another sign of a bad link is if it’s from a site known to sell links (which is a big no-no in Google’s eyes). Those type of sites typically have a lot of common links. In the trade, they’re called link farms. Google is constantly checking sites to try to find these links farms, aka “bad neighborhoods”.
So what’s a site owner to do? Never buy a link? Eh – some people break that rule successfully, but if I had to give you a yes or no answer, yes would be closer to the truth.
To give you a better idea of which links are completely white hat and safe to build, and which ones are riskier, here’s a list of five types of links that will not get you in trouble, and that will also make a difference for your site.
Just remember: SEO is not a quick fix. First-rate search engine optimization takes years of work. It’s not for the impatient. Or for people who are constantly looking for a way to beat the system.
If you can squash the urge to con the system, and you want to build long-term quality links the smart way, any of these tactics will do. They’re all safe, they work, and they won’t force you back to the link disavow tool the next time Google rolls out an update.
1) Build links through great content.
The classic way to get links is to earn them. That means creating awesome blog posts, valuable resources, terrific quizzes, cool interactive content – you name it.
Building links via content came in as the most-often used link building technique among SEOs in Moz’s Structuring URLs For SEO
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