Why Link Building is Critical to High Search Rankings
Google became the dominate search engine about a year after their search engine was first available.
The google.com domain was registered on September 15, 1997, and in December of 1998 PC Magazine reported that Google “has an uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results” and placed Google in their list of the top 100 websites for 1998.
The Algorithm That Made Google Better
The great insight the Google founders had was that treating links as “votes” (in a manner of speaking) creates an effective way of ranking websites on Search Engine Result Pages.
The algorithm they created for doing this assigned a numerical value to every webpage they indexed, as well as to every link. The value of the links were derived from the value of the pages they originate on. And the value of the pages was derived from the value of the links pointing to them.
This algorithm is named PageRank, and in 1997 it was the one and only signal used to rank search results.
This algorithm is so central to how Google operates, that before the search engine was called Google it was called Backrub.
DoFollow Links vs NoFollow Links
Not every link is considered authoritative by Google. A link can be designated as “nofollow” which means that for purposes of PageRank it is not counted.
Even though a nofollow link won’t benefit your rankings, you should nonetheless strive for a mixture of dofollow and nofollow links. This way, your link profile will be natural and you will avoid any possibilities of Google imposing a penalty on your website for being too optimized or unorganic.
As a consequence, it is not so much dofollow vs. nofollow, but rather dofollow in combination with nofollow. If you have a chance to guest write for a publication with a very large following and their policy is all backlinks are nofollow links, by all means write the post. You will not only increase your visbility and boost your reputation, but at the same time help your link profile look more natural and balanced.
What PageRank Means to You
You need other websites to link back to yours. But… not all backlinks are created equal. Not only do backlinks from high value sites have more value, but backlinks from some sites, and some forms of backlinks can actually harm your rating as they are strategies Google identifies as web-spam, which is to say people have used those strategies to artificially inflate their website rankings.
Over time Google has updated their algorithm to filter out this web-spam and if a backlink to your site looks like web-spam it can be worse than useless. It can reduce your ranking.
Only the people at Google know the details of their algorithm, and they tell us very little, but we can still make educated guesses whether certain types of backlinks are helpful or harmful.
To determine if a backlink is helpful or harmful, use the “reasonable person test”. Ask yourself two questions:
1) Would a reasonable person feel that what you’re doing is legitimate or web-spam?
2) Is a reasonable person likely to click the link?
It’s Not About the Number of Backlinks
It used to be, but then big businesses with big budgets simply brought up hundreds of single page websites all on different URLs and each website linked back to their main website. This one specific example of web-spam and this link pattern or link profile now works against you.
- Links in the body of posts that are clearly for purposes of reference are best.
- Links in the footers of websites are especially suspect as they look like the web-spam tactic described above.
- As stated above, a high number of links from single page websites is very suspect.
Effective Means of Obtaining Quality Links
1. Publish and Share Your Best Stuff
Understand that “share” implies “link to” one way or another. Either in a blog post, a social media update, or in an email.
The most important concept here is to share your best stuff, and since everything we do improves with practice, wait until you’ve written a dozens of posts before you start sharing.
Publish the first 10 to 20 articles to your website so the search engines find them and index them, but don’t start sharing yet. Unless you’re a naturally gifted writer of blog posts (which requires a different style from magazine articles or novels), your first several posts might not yet be “top-notch”.
The next most important concept to absorb is that asking people to share your stuff is a form of feedback as to the quality of your stuff. If you ask people to share it, and they don’t, your stuff is not good. At least not good enough to share. If they do, it is.
2. Create a Google Plus “Sharing Ring”
You may have heard about the importance of “Social Signals” to search ranking. Google claims social media sharing has no impact on search result rankings.
Having said that a few people whom I trust claim they’ve done experiments with the effect of social media sharing on search ranking. They claim that what Google says is true, with one important and notable exception, which is Google Plus. Often a Google Plus mention of a webpage ranks higher than the webpage itself.
The strategy of a Google Plus Sharing Ring is a group of people who agree to help each other. You create an email distribution for the group, and when any member of the group has published a post they’re particularly proud of, they email the URL to the group. The group then shares the URL via GooglePlus and/or selects the ‘+1’ icon (the GooglePlus equivalent of a Facebook Like) to give the article an up vote.
Through this “Sharing Ring” you all help each others posts gain visibility and authority. This strategy represents the most social one of our 5 great link building techniques.
3. Write for Other Websites
Find industry specific websites and offer to write for them. Matt Cutts did say guest posting is no longer an effective strategy, but guest writing for reputable publication is not a SPAM tactic.
It is not necessary that you start with the most respected publications.
Research industry websites in your niche, and offer to write for them, either by sending an email to whatever email address you find on their website or by filling out their Contact Us form.
A good way to find websites likely to accept you is to do a Google search as follows:
“[Industry Specific Phrase]” “write for us”
“inbound marketing” “write for us”
Then scan their guidelines and see if they’re acceptable to you. If they are, apply.
4. Interviews of Micro-Celebritites
Micro-celebrities are people who are very well known in your industry, but not so well known that you can’t get a hold of them.
The strategy is to make a list including contact information, and every day send out a few invitations.
The interviews do not need to be live per se. It can be a set of questions you email them, to which they email back their answers. However, live interviews are more likely to happen as these micro-celebrities (like most people) lead busy lives.
Once you have their answers to your questions, publish the interview on your website, along with their bio, and a back link to their website.
Then email them a link to the article. Not every micro-celebrity will link to the article and share it, but many will.
5. Participate in Online Forums
The strategy of drawing traffic and links to your site via online forums is fairly simple.
When you see someone ask a question that you have an answer to, answer the question via a short blog post on your website. Then go back to the forum and reply with a summary of the answer and a link to the article on your website.
If the forum supports dofollow links, the link itself will help your search ranking. If the links in the forum are nofollow, you should still use this strategy since it will ultimately help you build your reputation and others might be sharing your answer, respectively the URL.
Help Others, and Ask Others for Help
The one thing all these strategies have in common is they are various ways of people helping people.
I’ve met people who are shy about asking for help, and who do not offer help unless they see an immediate return of some sort.
My final thoughts are simply:
- Understand you are a member of various communities.
- Be helpful to others.
- Be willing to ask others for help.
Everything you do in your efforts to build quality backlinks to your website is some combination you helping others and others helping you.
As John Donne said so eloquently “No man is an island, Entire of itself“.
We are ALL members of communities, to which we give and gain support.
The same is true of your website, and seeing it as such opens up opportunities to both help others, and for others to help you.