The most influential ranking signal on Google is an oft-debated topic in the digital marketing business. Many attest to the idea that “content is king” while others are thoroughly convinced that quality backlinks are the major driving force. The simple truth is that neither party is wrong. While many business owners are familiar with content marketing and on-page optimization, they fail to utilize the ever-important link-building strategy.
Years ago, search engines ranked their search results 100% based on the content on a webpage. Once Google entered, the entire game changed. Their PageRank algorithm, (or PR for short) named after one of Google’s founder, Larry Page, works by “counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.” To put it into more simple terms, instead of simply analyzing the content of a page, Google looked at how many people linked to that page.
While Google’s algorithm still remains somewhat a mystery, nearly 20 years later, links are decidedly still the best way to determine the quality of a webpage and why backlinks remain Google’s go-to ranking signal.
Digital Marketing – Link Building vs. Backlinks
Before we move any further along, it’s important to understand the difference between link building and backlinks, and their importance within the realm of digital marketing.
Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks, which are ways for users to navigate between pages on the internet, from other websites to your own. Search engines use links to crawl the web. They will crawl the links between the individual pages on your website and they will crawl the links between entire websites.
Backlinks, also called "inbound links" or "incoming links," are created when one website links to another. The link to an external website is called a backlink.
Backlinks are valuable in terms of SEO and online marketing because they represent a level of trust from one site to another. Backlinks to your website are a signal to search engines that others vouch for your content. If multiple sites link to the same webpage/website, search engines infer that the content is worth linking to and therefore also worth surfacing on a search engine results page (SERP). So, earning these backlinks can have quite a positive effect on a site's ranking position or search visibility.
“Linking” Up the Building Process
As mentioned, links are an important part of Google’s ranking algorithm. The more relevant, high-quality backlinks you have pointing at your website, the better you will rank in searches for your targeted keywords. Ranking highly can increase your traffic, purchases, conversion rate, and so on.
There are two ways that the search engines use links:
- To discover new web pages
- To help determine how well a page should rank in their results
Once search engines have crawled pages on the web, they can extract content and add it to their indexes. By doing this, they can decide if a page is of sufficient quality to be ranked well for relevant keywords. As they are deciding this, search engines do not just look at the content of the page. They look at:
- The number of links pointing to that page from external websites and
- The quality of those external websites.
The more high-quality websites that link to you, the more likely you are to rank well in search results.
Link-building strategies or “off-page SEO”, as it is sometimes referred, refers to actions taken outside of your own website to impact your rankings within search engine results pages. It is often dismissed or takes a backseat to on-page tactics – which are relatively simpler and more cost-effective. This is not a slight to the value or importance of link building but rather due to the difficulty and effort required to run a successful campaign.
Optimizing your website for offsite ranking factors involves improving search engine and user perception of a site's popularity, relevance, trustworthiness, and authority. This is accomplished by other reputable places on the Internet (pages, sites, people, etc.) linking to or promoting your website, and essentially "vouching" for the quality of your content.
Before You Build… Knowing the 3 Main Types of Links
There are 3 main types of links to take into consideration when it comes to link building. What’s most important to understand is that when it comes to backlinks, quality matters.
- Natural links, aka the holy grail for SEO, are editorially given without any action on the part of a page owner. These are the links that you didn't even have to ask for because they are given by other website owners.
- Manually built links are the most common. They are acquired through deliberate link-building activities. It involves manually contacting website owners and bloggers, asking them to link to you, or getting customers to link to your website.
- Self-created links are created by practices such as adding a backlink in an online directory, forum, blog comment signature, or a press release with optimized anchor text. This type of link is generally frowned upon these days.
Code Authority Helps You Put It Together with A Simple 4-Step Link-Building Strategy
As digital marketing connoisseurs, we here at Code Authority understand the blood, sweat, and tears required to run a long-term viable link-building strategy. For those who don’t have the time or manpower to fully commit to the full arsenal of SEO strategies, allow us to help you with this quick 4-step link-building strategy.
Step 1. Identify and understand your competitors. Who do you want to compete with? Who is competing with you? Know their websites. Know their digital marketing strategies.
Step 2. Utilize Link Intersect or Link Explorer. By entering the URL(s) of your competitors, these tools will generate a report that details all of the links pointing to your competitors’ websites from external web pages.
Step 3. Analyze the data. The simplest method is to identify commonalities among competitors. If a web page or website is linking to many of your competitors, this offers a high probability they would provide a backlink to your website as well. You can also identify high value links by researching each linking site’s traffic, page authority, spam score, etc.
Step 4a. Outreach. Link building is all about forming relationships. You can simply ask these page owners for a link, and often you may receive one or trade, but many times you will need to generate content in the form of a blog or “guest post”.
Step 4b. Content creation. As mentioned, you may be asked to generate a piece of content or may have already intended to. This is the preferred method as it will give you the opportunity to not only create a link to your site, but you can promote your services or business, display your knowledge or experience, etc.
Full disclaimer - this is not a comprehensive strategy, but simply a quick-help tactic to generate a few additional backlinks. A comprehensive strategy is much more tedious and time-consuming. If you would like to learn more about link-building strategies and how Code Authority can improve your search position and lead generation through our digital marketing expertise, contact us today for a free project estimate.