Link building is the most important part of search engine optimization. While the Google Panda Updates have made it even more important for you to engage your site visitors, link-building still has the most dramatic affect on your search engine rankings. However, there are different types of links that must be understood since Google, Yahoo!, and Bing do not view all links as equal.
The Most Powerful Link (SEO Perspective)
The most powerful link that you could acquire in order to help increase your rankings in Google, all things being equal, would be a one-way link from the home page of a website like Google, Facebook or Amazon. This is because Google views the one-way links as much more credible than reciprocal links, and considers links from trusted sites much more credible than links from lesser sites. These types of sites have the highest PageRank, so a one-way, “dofollow” link from them would be the most powerful link you could get.
However, this is impossible. They aren’t going to link to you. But, you can achieve a link (or multiple links) from the most authoritative websites in your industry. Topically-relevant links has become an increasingly stronger signal of quality to Google, and it topical relevance should be at the core of your link building strategies. You’ll need to deserve these links, however. Revisit your brand strategy if you’re unsure of whether your industry’s top websites would consider linking to you, or having any sort of relationship to begin with. For those with confidence in their brands, let’s talk about some real possibilities for building quality links to your site.
How to Obtain Powerful One Way Links
Since your website (and website pages) will benefit most from one way links coming from trusted websites (in Google’s eyes), then you must think creatively on how you can obtain these. Here’s some helpful tips that will open up many ideas that you may not have thought of:
- Use Open Site Explorer to discover the websites linking to your competitors. For example, type a keyword (that you are trying to get a particular page on your site to rank for) into Google, and notice who ranks #1 currently. Grab their URL and paste it into Open Site Explorer to discover their top inbound links.
- Linkbaiting is probably your most effective way of building powerful one-way links, and this is exactly what Google, Yahoo!, and Bing want you to do. Linkbaiting is a fancy term for publishing content that is so compelling that it attracts links from other websites (news sites, bloggers, social media sharing, etc.). Consider your unique knowledge, ideas, and assets and position them on the web. Need to get a particular page ranking highly? Consider placing a really helpful, and exclusive tool on it that will attract links. The core strategy is that you won’t have to request the links. They will come naturally, and your page will shoot up the search engine rankings.
- Requesting links from high page rank websites will require the most work, but is an absolutely essential strategy in link-building. Install the SEO Toolbar for Firefox (as mentioned in the page on choosing the best keywords for optimization), and you’ll instantly be able to see the Google Page Rank of any website or webpage.
- Request links from vendors and business partners since you already have a business relationships. Oftentimes, these vendors/partners will have links to other partner websites, and it might just require you sending a quick email requesting a link. You could even submit a testimonial for displaying on the vendor website, and request a link back to your website in exchange. If they request a link back, it’s best give it to them, but know that reciprocal links are not as valuable as one-way links. Other easy sources of links can be from employee blogs.
- Develop relationships with schools and government organizations to obtain one way links from .edu and .gov websites. Websites with these domain extensions are highly trusted by Google, Yahoo!, and Bing and links from these types of websites are (in turn) given much more credibility than a random blog. These can be difficult to acquire, so think of ways that you can provide value to these organizations in order to obtain such links.
- Publish guest blogs and articles on other websites, and incorporate a contextually relevant link to a deep page on your site if the publisher will allow. Ensure that you include contextually relevant links to other quality websites as well. Be careful with this tactic, however as Google is targeting it. You want to avoid large-scale guest posting campaigns to limit your footprint and avoid patterns of abuse (i.e. – using the same bio with the same keyword rich links on hundreds of guest posts across many different sites). Review Google’s Link Schemes page for more detail. Links in your bio should typically be set to “nofollow” to help avoid creating patterns.
- Submit press releases to industry-related news websites and watch links come in by the boatload. If your news is newsworthy (within your industry), it will get published on related news websites with links pointing to the page(s) that you specify.
- Directories are another way to build one-way links. Don’t focus too much on these, however, as you want to diversify your link building profile. Here’s a few directories to consider:
Key Points to Remember in Link Building
- Obtain links from webpages that are topically related to yours, and request your link be placed in close proximity to other related keywords within the content of the page.
- Keep the anchor text of your incoming links natural to avoid a penalty from Google’s Penguin algorithm. When the majority of links (to a page on your site) have the same anchor text, this look spammy in the eyes of a search engine). Why? Because that’s not how people naturally link to other websites. Often time they’ll use your brand name, “click here,” “check out this article,” etc. Sometimes keyword-rich links do happen naturally, so you don’t want to completely disregard them. But, keep them to a reasonable number (typically no more than 10-20% of the total links pointing to a particular page on your website should have keyword-rich anchor text).
- Avoid “run of site” links such as links that appear in the sidebar or footer of every page on another website. These are not as powerful as “deep links” (which are links from a single, high ranking webpage on another website) since these look a little spammy to search engines. They are still valuable, but not as valuable as a deep link on another website’s high Page Rank webpage.
- Avoid requesting links from low Page Rank webpages, unless they are topically relevant. While it’s true that most any link is a good link (as long as it’s not from a banned or flagged website by Google, or completely off topic and from a questionable industry), your website (or webpage) will get much more value from a single link from a high page rank webpage than many links from lower page rank webpages. Similarly, try your best to only link to high Page Rank (highly credible) websites and webpages. This will go a long way to helping Google understand that you are a website they can trust, and your own Page Rank will benefit as a result.
- Obtain links from webpages that have the fewest possible links already on them. The more links on an external webpage, the less valuable a link to your website will be.
- Never buy links from link brokers. Links should be acquired naturally, attracted without request by having compelling content on your website, by specific request if you can show how linking to your website/webpage will provide value to the linking website, by contributing content to another website, or by participating in topically-related forums/blogs and helping out like-minded people with links to related content on your site. Link brokers will essentially push your links out to hundreds (if not thousands) of potentially unrelated websites, and this is a clear signal of link spamming in the eyes of Google. Your website will run the risk of getting banned if this is detected by the major search engines.
- Obtain links from frequently updated websites. One way to do this is to check for the latest blog post, or article, on a website. You can also check the Google cache date. Links from more frequently updated websites are more valuable since the major search engines will index them more regularly.
Additional Link Building Tools
- Buzzstream – Conduct link building outreach at scale while keeping a personable approach. Allows you to discover link prospects by type and other metrics, bookmark link building prospects and save key metrics like pagerank, domain authority, etc. Also automatically finds things like contact forms, social media profiles, and even allows you to assign prospects to others on your team. The final kickers are that it acts almost like a CRM (allowing you to keep all your link prospect contacts organized), and also allows you to personalize templated emails to your prospects (even showing you conversion rates of different types of emails). Super cool link building tool.
- Ontolo – A very cool link building tool from Ben Wills (fellow Coloradoan living in Boulder) that allows you to find link building prospects by type/footprint using keyword phrases related to your niche, and save them in lists. The tool also finds contact information, identifies competitors’ links (clueing you that the prospect would probably link to you as well), and prioritizes the opportunities for you. Definitely worth checking out.
Google Penguin Update: Google announced in 2016 that its Penguin algorithm is now part of its core algorithm, it’s updated in real-time and more granular (rather than promoting or demoting an entire website in its rankings). If you have concerns about your link profile, we may be able to help. Please contact us for a free consultation.