Links are like the gender pronouns of the SEO world.
Everyone has an opinion on them, the guidelines for using them are constantly changing, it’s difficult to know how to use them without getting penalized and refusing to use them can get you into a heap of trouble.
And just like the controversy over pronouns, the debate about backlinks has become an extremely touchy subject.
The term link building has become so cringeworthy that I had to rework the headline of this blog so it didn’t send the wrong message.
But semantics aside, links are one of the most important factors when it comes to your website’s ranking.
A study from Moz looked at the top 50 results on Google for about 15,000 keywords. What it found was that more than 99 per cent of these websites had at least one external link.
So, while there’s no doubt that the debate over the nuances of links will continue to rage on, when we’re talking about page ranking, the debate about the importance of links is over.
And the only thing more important than having those links is how you’re getting them and where they’re coming from.
Now, before I piss off anyone else, let’s get into why you need to stop link building and start link earning.
Why You Need to Stop Building Links and Start Earning Them
Changes to Google’s Algorithms
One of the ways that Google measures the importance of websites is by tallying the quantity and quality of links to each site, with the idea being that websites that are more important will be linked to more by other websites.
Sounds simple, right? Wrong.
While it might have been pretty simple at one point in time, changes to the way Google ranks websites meant to improve user experience have heavily muddied the waters surrounding links.
At one point in time, people could manipulate Google’s algorithms and improve their ranking by creating countless numbers of backlinks.
This could be accomplished by doing things like endlessly posting links in comments sections.
But because this hurts the experience of searchers by generating hoards of irrelevant search results, Google made changes so that websites that do this will get penalized, causing their ranking to plummet.
So, even though links are still important when it comes to page ranking, the methods used to obtain them have changed significantly.
Whereas in the past you could simply spam links in every comments section and forum you could find or pay site owners to post links, in today’s world, you’re expected to earn them.
But what does this mean?
Well, rather than muddy the waters even more, I’m going to quote from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
In their section on link schemes, it states, “The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community.”
There you have it. A deceptively simple answer that’s typical of Google.
But as you’ve probably guessed, there’s so much more to it than that.
So, let’s get into it.
How to Earn Links
Follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines
In any case, if you want to avoid penalties regarding links, you need to make sure to follow Google’s rules to the letter. This is arguably easier said than done, but just do your absolute best, and if you’re unsure about anything, consult an expert.
The Best Media’s team of SEO experts can walk you through these guidelines, or if it all seems too overwhelming, we can take care of the whole SEO optimization process for you.
I won’t do a full-on summary of Google’s guidelines, or you’ll be here all day.
But they advise against practices such as hiding links in your content by placing white text on a white background, hiding links behind images, exchanging money, goods or services for links, sending someone a product in exchange for them reviewing it and including a link, or using software to create links.
A lot of this stuff is still going on today, but as Google’s algorithms get smarter, these practices are getting much easier for them to detect.
In short, the risk just isn’t worth the reward anymore, so stay away from this stuff.
Craft Captivating Content
If you have crappy content that’s just there to fill space, good luck getting people to link to it.
Whether it’s blogs, images, studies, surveys, videos, or something else, if you want to earn links, your content has to be valuable enough for people to want to reference it in their articles, post it on their Facebook wall, or link to it in a tweet.
If you have a decent following on social media, it’s always good to post your content on these platforms in the hopes that your followers will like it enough to share it.
You also need to know what kind of content is going to absorb your audience.
A great way to do this is to model your content after similar content that’s seen a lot of action.
But doing the research to effectively model your content can be extremely time-consuming.
However, there’s a tool called BuzzSumo that makes this process much easier.
This tool lets you analyze which content is performing best for any topic. You just type your topic into the search bar and it shows you all the engagements that similar content has received across several social media platforms, as well as the number of links to that content.
Obviously, you don’t want to rip off other people’s hard work, but at the very least, it provides a great starting point and invaluable insight into what kind of content is getting the most engagement.
But remember – no matter how you create your content, the best way to earn links is to produce unique, relevant content that people will want to link to simply because they love it.
Only Post on Authoritative, Trustworthy Sites
Aside from the completely organic method of earning links, there are more methodical ways of obtaining them.
One of the most common ways of doing this is by trying to get websites that accept guest postings to post your content and putting links in your posts.
I know what you’re thinking. This is starting to sound like link building.
I can see why you’d think that but hear me out on this.
Since competition for these guest postings is so fierce, you still have to earn these links because if you want to make the cut, you need to provide top-notch content.
But you have to make sure that the sites you’re posting on have high domain authority.
What does this mean?
Well, as I said above, Google considers both the quantity and quality of external links when ranking websites.
And one of the factors it looks at when determining the quality of websites is domain authority, which is determined by things like how trustworthy and popular a website is.
It’s crucial to keep this in mind, because links from websites that have low domain authority will have little to no effect on page ranking.
So, if you are reaching out to sites for guest postings, you should ensure that they have high domain authority.
This way, you’re not wasting time producing content that will provide negligible results.
It’s also important to make sure sites you’re looking to post on have a low spam score.
If you don’t know what spam means, the term was originally used to describe junk email.
Today, if someone refers to a website as spammy, it means that it’s not trustworthy.
A great tool for determining the authority or spamminess of a website is Moz’s Link Explorer, which allows you to check the domain authority and spam score of any URL.
Domain authority of 50 or higher is what you’re looking for. Anything lower than that isn’t worth your time.
As for the spam score, if you want to be on the safe side, you should make sure it’s no higher than a 3.
Having a hard time wrapping your head around all this talk about links? Contact The Best Media and let our SEO experts take care of it for you, or check out our SEO services packages for more information.