Link building is the execution of a planned and structured process, with the intention of significantly influencing the reputation of a site, in order to increase the visibility potential in search engines’ organic results.
Link Building is always a controversial topic with regards to its approach by SEO professionals. There is no doubt, links are among the easiest elements to manipulate. Links (also called references) can be very good for the visibility of your business but, at the same time, they can easily become your worst nightmare.
As in SEO, or virtually everything in a Digital Marketing strategy, Link Building done in an incorrect or aggressive way, has great chances of harming your business. This is specifically true when the process is carried away in a disconnected manner, without analogy with the content of the website, business differential or branding strategy.
Links to build Reputation. But, what is Reputation?
Reputation is one of the two main pillars that Google and other search engines use to determine the importance of a website — Reputation is a complement to Relevance. In a simplistic way, these two factors are responsible for the rise or fall of a website in search results.
Search engines see links as endorsements, or votes of how important a document on the web can be. Technically. the more links you have, the more important your site is likely to be. But there’s a catch… Quantity doesn’t equal quality, so a link from my blog for instance, doesn’t carry the same weight as a link from NASA’s website. And the more reputable the source, the hardest it is to get a link from.
Basic Reputation Factors
Search engines calculate reputation based on several factors that they can extract from documents on the Internet. They also use the anchor text of a link to infer some relevance in the documents they point to. Among some of the signals that Google can extract from a link are:
- Relevance and link context;
- Reputation of the link sources;
- Content and value of the pages where the links are inserted;
- Anchor text and its diversity;
Google uses a much larger list than this one. However, it would not be very useful to talk about complicated classifiers and algorithms here. I want to pass my idea of a strategic approach to Link Building, and not teach people how to manipulate search engine rankings.
Is Link Building manipulation?
The answer is, it depends on the way it’s thought-out and executed. Search engines, such as Google, make constant efforts to combat manipulation, devaluing links that show unnatural or manipulation characteristics. It’s very difficult to make an artificial link look like a legitimate link. And to complicate, most major search engines detect link manipulation with relative ease. For example, Google has been doing sophisticated link analysis since 2001, and will never tell you which links really count from all the sources that point to your site.
Many SEO professionals sell Link Building services as a “magic formula” for success. These “services” often incite the manipulation of Google algorithms instead of helping a business in the long run.
The Importance of a Link Building Strategy
Link building is something that has to be inherent in your business, it cannot be a “forced process”. Links have to appear spontaneously and in a natural way. The decision to include a link and how to link, or which nomenclature to use, should always be the responsibility of the author. An author willing to give control of whether or not to include a link, and which anchor or format to use, has no respect for the very content they produce. Respectable and reputable sites will not ask you how you want the link, or what anchor you prefer… Nor will they think much about the most advantageous way to include a link that will help your site.
The use of artificial or automated strategies to get links can easily lead to aggressive and fatal penalties for any online business.
Getting links is essential for your business to earn a reputation. However, the ability to achieve that reputation needs to be present in your business differential and brand positioning. The strategy of how to get links starts on your site; in the differential of your product. A website needs to have added value “linkable assets” that represent this differential. Above all, to be successful, a “linkable asset” must always try to solve a problem or need.
From a strategic standpoint, you want to get links that your competitors can’t copy easily. For that to happen, you need a thought-out reputation gathering strategy. Some basic signs that show you don’t have a solid strategy to build Reputation:
- You have a wrong ideology about what Link Building is. This usually leads to a “let’s plant links” approach;
- You don’t have a plan to achieve Reputation;
- You don’t understand that a Link Building strategy depends on the “linkable assets” you have;
- You fail to involve the different departments of your business, and leave Link Building only with SEO;
- You’re harming the dissemination or sharing of content. For example, there are publications that make it very difficult to copy an excerpt;
- You believe that a tactic that includes manipulated links will be able to pass as natural;
- You obsess with the anchor text of the links and technical characteristics. For example, if links have the attribute “nofollow”
Shortcuts and Cheap Link Building are expensive
Why would a brand chose to be slave of artificial links, or a PBN? It would be the same as relying on single point of failure for the success of your business. Those who resort to these methods, not only have to pay a lifetime to maintain these links, but will be locked into the whims and demands of the PBN owner… Which most of the time is synonym to “pay to be penalised”.