Link building is a science, and there are plenty of businesses out there that still haven’t mastered the formula. Use link building correctly and you can attract more traffic to your site, establish yourself as a trustworthy voice in your field, and raise your website’s search engine ranking with Google. However, if you build low quality or “spammy” links, Google will quickly catch on and penalize you.
So how do you know what not to do? I’m going to start by covering the major “don’ts” of link building before moving on to practices that actually do work.
Use an automated link building service. This is one of the fastest ways to get your site penalized. Link building services that claim they can get you thousands of links may get you those links—but they’re going to be on low-quality sites, and Google is going to interpret them as spam.
Spin articles. This is another tactic that was popular in the early days of search engine marketing; some SEO services would automatically rewrite or “spin” articles so that slightly different versions of the same content could be posted to many low-quality article directories. Since Google is emphasizing quality over quantity now, this trick no longer does much good and may even get you penalized.
Match anchor text to exact keyword. Let’s say your keyword is “inexpensive office furniture” and you write an article on decorating a home office in which you say, “Decorate your office with inexpensive office furniture” and include a link to your products with that specific phrase as your anchor text. Sounds like a blatant advertisement, doesn’t it? The focus of your article should be providing genuinely useful information first and linking to your site in an organic way second.
Buy links. Google won’t necessarily be able to tell that you’ve paid for links, but it’s still risky and generally not worth it. For one thing, sites that let you share links for a price probably aren’t too discriminating about what they post, which can lead to a low-quality reputation. For another thing, if your content is actually good, you should be able to find websites that will publish you without a price tag. And if your content isn’t good enough to be published without paying for the link, then it’s probably not the kind of content you want to publish.
Post links in generic comments across sites. This can be incredibly annoying and is interpreted as spam, especially when you’re commenting on content that isn’t directly related to your email. It’s okay to engage with other sites and exchange ideas through comments, but don’t use the comments section as a link building platform.
Write off no follow links. ‘No follow’ links don’t give you the same search engine boost as ‘do follow’ links, but that doesn’t mean that you should turn down a guest posting opportunity just because the host site only allows ‘no follow’ links. If the host site has a good reputation and gets a lot of traffic, contributing a post to their site will still encourage readers to check out your site, even if you can’t directly link to it in the body of the post.
Keep your website up-to-date. Want people to link to your site of their own volition? Make sure that your site looks great and always has fresh content! Post compelling content on your blog every week, and site visitors will be more inclined to link to that content on social media.
Generate lots of shareable content. You don’t just have to stop at blog posts. Create videos, webinars, infographics, and other content that’s informative and easy for site visitors to share.
Guest post on high traffic, reputable sites. Whenever possible, share guest posts on high-quality, high traffic sites. Craft a personalized pitch along with a brief outline of your article, and email this to the site editor rather than sending an unsolicited post. If the editor does agree to let you contribute a guest post, make sure that it’s educational and not just sales-y. Make sure your links feel natural, or you’ll risk the editor rejecting the post.
Write for people, not search engines. It’s understandable that you want your site to rank highly on Google. After all, if it’s not showing up in that first page of search results, how are you going to drive business to your site? The important thing to remember, though, is that if you focus on crafting quality content for your target customers, you’ll get more people linking to your content, and the bump in your search engine ranking will come naturally.
Google’s Hummingbird: The Takeaway for Link Building
When Google first announced its new Hummingbird algorithm in late 2013, there was a lot of speculation that this latest update would mean the death of link building. That certainly hasn’t proved to be true. In fact, link building seems to be more important than ever—as long as you’re linking to quality content. Google doesn’t just pay attention to the number of links you have; they pay attention to things like how long web users spend on a page of your site after following a link there. The idea is to connect people searching on Google with the results that are most relevant for them, so if you want to use link building to boost your search engine ranking, make sure you’re crafting the kind of content that will appeal to your ideal customers.