Do Links Matter for SEO?
There was a time not long ago when website owners feared link building because they thought Google disliked this behavior and considered it suspicious. This all stemmed from an update that Google made to their algorithm in 2012 named Penguin. We’re here to tell you that this fear has definitely been misunderstood, and link building is not only alive and well, but extremely important for the optimization of your website!
“What is link building?” you might ask. Since the birth of the internet, links have been considered ‘votes’ of popularity and relevance for search engines to tally. Through all of the complex changes the internet has taken on, links remain a key factor for search engines.
So, what happened with Penguin? Of all Google’s algorithm changes, this update was aimed directly at links- particularly at low quality, unearned links. Low quality, unearned links include those with domains that Google knows very little about, those that have poorly structured code and break the guidelines provided by the search engines, and just generally come from poor quality websites. Some foolish marketers were creating links this way and needed to be punished. Therefore, the purpose of Penguin was to locate websites that had developed low-quality inbound links pointing to their websites, and establish a set of guidelines to determine what was manipulative or outright link spam.
Factors Worth Considering:
In order to make sure your links are within Google’s good graces, Moz Blog gave a list of notable factors worthy of consideration. These signals and many more are considered by professionals when measuring link value and a site’s link profile:
Global Popularity– You already know that popularity matters to search engines, and when it comes to link building, similarly, the more popular the link partner, the better. Wikipedia, for example, has thousands of websites linking to it, meaning it’s probably an important website.
Local/Topic-Specific Popularity– In the same vein, Google understands that not every website and link is going to have global popularity, so it takes into consideration local popularity in terms of weighing a link or website’s value as well. Therefore it might be of value to your website’s ranking to have local links in your network that are related to your business, rather than aiming solely at big name websites like Wikipedia or constructionequipment.com to building links solely from a global popularity.
Anchor Text– Anchor text is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink. In modern browsers, it is often blue and underlined, like this. This factor is very influential as search engines consider several links pointing to the same page with the same, relevant keywords very valuable.
TrustRank– Earning links from trusted domains can result in a significant boost to your own website’s ranking. For example, universities, government, non-profit organizations are all generally high-trust domains.
Link Neighborhood– Links often circulate within a network of sites known as a “link neighborhood.” Search engines can identify which neighborhoods are bad and punish them altogether. So, if you know your website has any links belonging to a bad link neighborhood, get rid of these immediately. To find out whether your website belongs to a bad link neighborhood, there are several services such as Search Engine Watch’s Link Juice Thief (LJT), which will find which outgoing links these sites have in common, as well as Link Research Tools’ Common Backlinks Tool, which does the same job as LTJ but in reverse, identifying common incoming links instead of outgoing links. Be equally cautious about both the websites you earn links from and the websites who try to link themselves to your website.
Freshness– Link signals do decay over time, which is why search engines often consider the freshness of a website and their links when ranking websites.
Social Sharing– social networks have exploded in recent years, and Google has taken notice. While there is no way to know how these kinds of links affect Google’s algorithm, it is evident that social links are beneficial to have as social’s role in the online community will only continue to increase.
So, how can you improve your search rankings, through link building?
The best way to earn links is the natural way. When reputable, relevant websites feature you in an article, blog post, or another form of media, sharing a link to your website, it benefits you both. These kinds of links require no additional work to optimize, as they are exactly the original purpose for link building.
“Outreach” Link Building
It is not uncommon, nor unprecedented, to ask for links from your industry network. Those who work to optimize websites often create value propositions for websites related to theirs by explaining why creating the link is in the recipient’s best interest and in some cases offering compensation for the link earned. Be wary that this needs to be pursued with the utmost discretion and taste, you don’t want your link to end up in a spammy link neighborhood like we discussed!
Links created through guest books, forms, blog comments, etc. are the lowest valued links, but they still can add value if they’re not spammy. However, 9 out of 10 times these sort of links are spam.
For more link building opportunities, check out this article on Randall Reilly’s blog. Our dedicated search services team is also happy to work with you to uncover how you can better optimize your website and help it to rank on Google through link building. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get connected to one of our specialists today!