Link building has been considered to be at the heart of SEO for more than 15 years now, but it has, over that time, become one of the most divisive and argued over topics in the SEO world in general.
Some people, left stunned and scared after the coming of the great Google Penguin in 2012, an event that devastated a huge number of websites, some of them rather prominent, began to mumble that link building was dead, or so dangerous that it should be avoided altogether.
Those mumblings have grown louder over the years, but in the other camp – the one we are in – still believe that not only is link building still effective, it is an absolute must. What we know and understand however, is that the big challenge for many is building those links properly.
Link Building Semantics
Having read the introduction to the piece, you are probably now rather divided yourself. If the SEO experts can’t seem to agree why would anyone actually risk investing in a link building campaign at all, especially as bad links and bad link building practices can lead to harsh penalties – both manual and algorithmical – very quickly, as Google Penguin has now long been a part of the basic algorithm?
To answer this, we have to get into the semantics behind the phrase ‘link building’ itself. Before the coming of the Penguin the term described the practice of inserting a link to your website in any way you could into other websites. There were link chains, blog farms, paid links, and even ‘sneaky’ links that were placed without the webmasters knowledge. It was a lawless time, but these tactics worked.
Then came Penguin, and many of the sites that had been following these practices were quickly punished, and those that escaped scrambled to disavow every link they had built in that way. This is the type of link building people are talking about when they say link building is dead. If you try these tactics today you’ll regret it for sure.
When the Pearl Lemon team talks about link building, we mean making use of ethical, well-researched, high quality strategies to build links in a way that Google does not find offensive and that offers real, quantifiable benefits for your business.
These strategies revolve around the creation of high quality, useful content. Some call for this content to be placed on high authority websites with strategic links pointing back to your domain. Others call for publication of this content on your own website followed by the implementation of a marketing strategy to attract inbound links to the content on its own merit.
In both cases, the links earned are truly valuable, and necessary if you want your website to rank well for your target keywords in organic search. But the value of link building in the 21st century – call it modern link building if you like – goes beyond simple SEO. How? Here are some of the ways:
Page and Domain Authority
Although they say that they take over 200 factors into consideration when ranking a page for a certain query, Google do openly admit that one of the biggest considerations is the quality and quantity of the links coming into the page.
Google themselves will not share too much about their algorithm – they never do – but the Seattle based company Moz – who have long been leaders in the field of SEO and whose founders, Rand Fishkin and Gillian Muessig are considered two of the foremost authorities on SEO in the world – developed a way to measure this metric, page authority. And while not officially validated by Google, it is considered to be extremely accurate.
Page Authority is a subjective measure of the value of the links flow into a website. Its sister, Domain Authority, measures this across a whole domain. The higher you ‘score’ in terms of these two metrics the more likely it is that your content, and/or your domain as whole, will rank for certain keywords and keyphrases. The investment in high quality link building means that you will be giving yourself the best chance of increasing your PA and DA and therefore ranking higher in organic search results.
Setting SEO aside, there is another big benefit offered by responsible link building that is very real but often overlooked; referral traffic. The links that are built will exist until the day the sources they come from no longer exist, so technically they are around indefinitely. And these links can be clicked on by readers who are then taken directly to your site.
In fact, for some of our clients, our deep link building strategies have created a stream of referral traffic that has turned out to be even more valuable to them than the increase in organic rankings. For example, the work we did with Magazine, as described by Deepak here:
Increase Brand Visibility
Every time your link is placed on a new website, or every new source that accepts your guest post is contacted it opens up a whole new audience to expose your brand to. It’s often just like getting free advertising – or at least a free shout out – to an audience that has, in all likelihood, never heard of you before.
Case in point, Pearl Lemon founder Deepak Shukla’s relationship with SEMrush. SEMrush is a far bigger concern than Pearl Lemon, but the work he has done with them exposed us to a new, worldwide audience that may never otherwise have found us just yet. Yes, we got some excellent backlinks, but it was the increase in brand visibility – and the aforementioned referral traffic – that was truly invaluable.
Build Brand Authority
Each piece of content you write, or place, to build links is another opportunity to position yourself, and your company, as an authority in your field. If the content you publish is original, informative and engaging and placed both on your own site and then with other publishers relevant to your niche even a casual reader is likely to begin to see you as an authority.
Keep providing this kind of content – written, audio, visual, or a combination of all three – and your reputation will grow, as will trust in your brand. You’ll see an increase in referral traffic and an increased chance that these readers – who are essentially leads that have been warmed by their interest in your content – will become actual conversions.
Build Valuable Relationships
As you begin to have your content published across the guest posting communities that are relevant to your niche you may be able to engineer some valuable cross posting and reciprocal linking relationships that are of true value.
Link Building is a Long Lasting Investment
If you pay for Google Adwords, the investment is useful only for as long as you can afford for them to run. You are essentially renting the visibility that paid ads offer you, when you stop paying the rent, you are evicted from that top spot instantly.
Organic links are different. As previously mentioned, they last for as long as their source exists. They keep providing SEO ‘juice’ and they keep driving referral traffic indefinitely. They are essentially like building equity in a home you own, something that is always preferable to throwing away your money in rent.
The fact is that if your business would benefit from increased visibility in the SERPS – the search engine results pages – or from increased referral traffic then you need to invest in link building. If you would like to increase the visibility and reputation of your brand, you need to invest in link building. And as long as the link building you invest in is ethical, consistent and ‘Google friendly’ you will reap the benefits of making that investment for years to come.