Not long ago, website managers and business owners were engaging in link building with reckless abandon.
It was common to see sites with vast link directories, returning the favour for sites that had linked to them, and building a strong position in the search engine rankings as a result.
This rather haphazard link building strategy worked just fine for a while, and then Google’s Penguin algorithm arrived in 2012 and put an end to all that.
Suddenly, websites with poor-quality or unscrupulously sourced links were plummeting in the search rankings. Everyone got very scared and confused and became very careful with their link building strategies.
So, almost a decade later, we need to ask ourselves an important question — is link building still a good idea, or is it a ricketty-racketty old bridge no one will be brave enough to use?
Why a link building strategy is still important for your website
First of all, yes — link building is still very important for your website. There are a number of different factors that contribute to this importance.
1. E.A.T. focus
Today, Google seems to prefer content that meets the EAT acronym. This stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. By naturally building links with other websites, businesses are able to demonstrate their prowess across these key points. After all, under the Penguin algorithm, links should always direct users to valuable content.
2. YMYL content
Another acronym you need to know about is YMYL, which translates to Your Money or Your Life. It refers to content that can have a significant impact on a user, perhaps in terms of their health, their job prospects, their finances, or another aspect of their well-being. Google is extra critical when it comes to this kind of content, and the right links can help you to prove that what you are saying is true and backed up with studies.
3. Providing customers with what they need
Search engines are not out to get businesses; they simply want to create a useful and meaningful experience for customers. Adding links to your content, and organically encouraging links back to your content, is catering to customer needs. Customers have reliable information right at their fingertips, and Google and other search engines will react positively to this.
4. Driving traffic to your website
While link building — done in the right way — is great for SEO, there are other more fundamental benefits. A link is a connection between another website and your own, and so this becomes a great source of traffic. Just be very careful to build links in an organic manner, with no offers of reward or other incentives.
How do you know if a link is worthwhile?
Remember, you don’t have to accept all links to your page. Using the Google Search Console, you can search for direct links to your website, and you can choose to disavow such if you think they may harm your website’s performance.
Apply the following criteria to your link building strategy:
1. It comes from a trusted source
Take a look at the website that is linking to you. Is it a brand you recognise? If not, is it a well-maintained website, filled with lots of high-quality links and offering a great user experience? You need to be able to trust the sites that link to your website, so some investigation may be required.
Apply the same criteria when you link out to different websites. Don’t link to a disreputable source — Google may decide your website is disreputable by association.
2. The source is relevant
Irrelevant links are of little worth to your business. The traffic they send to your website, if any, is likely to be unqualified and probably not very interested in the products and services you offer. In addition, Google’s algorithms may ignore or even penalise this kind of link.
3. The number of other links on the page is just right
How many other links are on the page? Links should appear naturally — for example, to back up important statistics or to provide further illumination on a topic. As a result, the page should not be overloaded with links, as this may suggest to Google that something untoward is going on. Conversely, if there are no other links at all, this is also not ideal. There is no exact rule here, but aiming for around four links per 600-800 word piece of content is suggested by some experts.
4. The link sends traffic
The ideal ‘candidate’ will be sending traffic to your website. If there is no traffic coming from the link, this may suggest that the website is not relevant or is not optimised in terms of searching or user experience.
Link building is still important, but it’s not everything.
Don’t ignore link building as you establish your authority and improve inbound traffic to your website.
But bear in mind that this should not be the be-all and end-all of your strategy.