There are many elements required to build organic SEO ranking for any website, but there are few that have the impact that high quality link building does. Quality link building helps demonstrate to search engines’ algorithms the authenticity and trustworthiness of a website from the outside in – think of it as a positive reference.
That said, link building as an SEO strategy should be managed carefully in order to add value and not detract from it. How this works and how to judge what constitutes a high quality link – read on.
How Does Quality Link Building Fit into SEO?
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the process of building the quantity and quality of web traffic to a website through the optimisation of its features to best play into the analysis of search engines’ algorithms and crawlers. Search engine programming judges the quality, relevancy, accuracy and trustworthiness of a site in order to best establish how, when and where to rank it on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
The pages judged to be most complete, appropriate and reliable for the search term typed in will be ranked the highest, with those likely to be irrelevant or inaccurate further down. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to SEO, and every business with a digital presence will be looking to increase theirs, but there are best practices that should be followed in order to increase a brand’s chance of a high ranking.
Organic SEO is considered unpaid (not a paid advert), although of course the time it takes to activate changes and improvements will have a cost attached to it somewhere along the line. Although businesses can pay for adverts across search engines in order to increase web traffic, organic SEO should form a strong foundation which paid is then based on. There is evidence to suggest that consumers prefer clicking the top organic link in a SERP rather than the top paid-for one – and legally, the paid ads must be declared, so they are designed to look different to be obvious to the user.
On-Site and Off-Site SEO
SEO is made up of two primary parts: on-site SEO and off-site SEO.
On-site SEO is all of the efforts made on-page including the publication of high quality content, integrating accessibility features, and improving user experience.
Off-site SEO is efforts made elsewhere including the publication of guest posts on other sites, mentions and reviews of the brand elsewhere online and high quality back links to the site. Link building – that is, gaining strategic links from high quality, high authority websites back to the brand’s online presence – is off-site SEO and so requires the liaison of the business with other parties.
What are Backlinks and How Do They Work?
Backlinks are links from one website to a page on another website. For the site they’re linking to, they may be known as inbound links, incoming links or one-way links (if they’re not reciprocated).
To put it simply, you can consider each backlink to a site a ‘vote’ for it in the eyes of search engine algorithms – a reinforcement of the site as a trusted and authoritative source in its own right.
Websites with a high number of backlinks tend to have a higher organic search engine ranking than those without, as the programming considers it to be a third-party endorsement.
If a website is high-quality, shareable, educational or otherwise useful, or is of particular interest to a target audience, chances are it will attract several backlinks entirely naturally as others strive to share on its content. However, in a growing and competitive market this is not always enough to gain ranking above others in the same field, and so many businesses operate a full strategy within their SEO activity to generate more backlinks.
For many years, backlinks worked as a reciprocal agreement between two websites who would each feature each others’ links in order to benefit SEO wise. However, while some reciprocal links can still be considered beneficial in the eyes of search engine algorithms, a balance must be drawn between shared and one-way links.
Now that the machine learning behind search engines is smarter, it can recognise too many reciprocal links as a pure SEO tactic and instead trusts one-way links more as this indicates a true endorsement. While reciprocal links do still hold some benefit to SEO, backlink strategies must now include much more than a basic ‘you-stroke-my-back-I-stroke-yours’ effort.
A comprehensive SEO link building strategy will include reciprocal backlink agreements alongside guest post and article marketing, web directory links, forum and blogpost comments, testimonial and review facilitation and strategic business relationship building. Each link lends credibility to the site in its own way and with its own weight while also increasing brand exposure and awareness.
What Makes a Quality Backlink?
There is nothing stopping any business from approaching any other and asking (or even paying) them to feature a backlink to their website; and this was long the standard approach taken. However, now there is increased focus on the quality of backlinks above the quantity, which renders this tactic defunct and instead encourages brands to enable link building from high quality sources.
A quality backlink is considered to be one from a source that search engines already trust and hold in high esteem. Generally speaking (although there is, as with everything SEO wise, no one-size-fits-all), a quality backlink will be from a website that:
- Holds a high DA (Domain Authority)
- Is a well-known name in its own field
- Is a genuine and authoritative brand
- Produces lots of shareable and relevant content
- Uses no ‘Black Hat’ SEO tactics
- Has a well-established web presence and is not a newly published site
- Is related to the brand in its industry/theme/niche.
Mentioned above is the presence of directory listings as part of a comprehensive link building SEO strategy and in many cases, such sites will not fit the above criteria. However, there are trusted and well-established directories that do – and an SEO specialist will be able to identify and secure listings in directories that fit the bill and therefore result in enhanced SEO presence.
‘Dofollow’ and ‘Nofollow’ Links
In the coding of backlinks, the website publishing them can choose to make it a ‘dofollow’ or ‘nofollow’ link.
A ‘dofollow’ code instructs search engines to crawl the link to the other site and use it as reinforcement toward SEO efforts, while a ‘nofollow’ code instructs a block. Search engine algorithms are more sophisticated now and they grant SEO juice either way, especially if from a reputable source such as digital PR or news wires for example.
While no business is likely to be granted a ‘nofollow’ code as a result of a reciprocal link building agreement, they are (sometimes) automatically input into some links; such as blog comments, press releases and paid advertisements. In these cases, the value of these links toward SEO is relevant, but a ‘dofollow’ link should always be favoured.
What Makes a Good Link Building Strategy?
A good link building strategy rests in the diversity of its approach. In order to truly benefit from backlinks of all types, businesses should incorporate a wide variety of link building activities into their overarching SEO strategy. This includes, but is by no means limited to:
All of these form brand awareness and exposure opportunities as well as link building, and so are beneficial to businesses in multiple ways.
Where Can I Start with Building a Backlink Strategy into my SEO Activities?
A backlink SEO strategy should form an important part of a business’ SEO approach, of which every element should tie in and complement. It is not enough to simply look at generating backlinks to a site without efforts being made into other areas of SEO focus and so a comprehensive strategy encompassing all SEO approaches should be created, agreed, and worked from.
Woya Digital are SEO experts and so alongside creating bespoke business link building strategies, we work on all areas of SEO – boosting SERP results organically, increasing brand exposure across target audiences, growing competitive advantage, and improving opportunities for sales and growth across both potential and existing customers.