Effective link-building strategies in 2016

  1. Link building
    Paul J Morris

    Paul J Morris Contributor, Superb Digital Free Member

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    In this article, I want to explore the tried and tested, but often misunderstood, practice of link building.

    As an SEO tactic link building has been around for a long time and has in the past been abused. However, its importance in any joined up digital marketing strategy cannot be overstated.

    Let’s begin by exploring exactly what a link, or backlink, is.

    Backlinks and why they matter

    In the SEO industry, an incoming hyperlink from one web page pointing to a web page on your website is most commonly referred to as a backlink. Along with on page signals like keywords, content and page titles, backlinks are one of the most powerful ranking signals to search engine algorithms when they come to rank webpages in the search results.

    The weight assigned to each backlink by a search engine will take into account several factors:

    • Anchor text: The keywords or phrases used in the linking or anchor text is a huge factor in how search engines distinguish relevancy between one site and another. The more relevant your anchor text to your website the better. A word of warning, however, it can be easy to over do this signal, so be cautious
    • Page authority: The authority of a given webpage will affect the amount of authority any outbound links carry from it. This is often referred to by SEOs as ‘link juice’. There are a huge number of factors that affect this, including the number and respective authority of any links pointing to the linking web page itself
    • Keywords on linking page: The keywords used on a given web page will have a huge bearing on how powerful the link is from that page. The more readily Google can relate the content from the linking page to the content on the page it is linking to the more authority it will give the link. This actually works at a domain level as well.
    • Topical Relevancy: The relevancy of the webpage and the entire domain is a huge influencer of how powerful a backlink will be. Sites dedicated to a specific subject will carry far more authority if they are linking to related content on a similarly themed site, than links from a site that is more general or less relevant. Relevancy can even trump page and domain authority, when it comes to the overall power of the backlink

    There are a number of SEO signals that go into assuring your website’s success beyond backlinks. However backlinks still represent the most important signal outside of your on-page content and Google’s ability to understand them is growing in complexity all the time.

    One recent trend to be aware of is to do with advancements in Latent Semantic Indexing, which allows search engines to extract the meanings from words and work out how they relate to each other, making for even accurate analysis.

    For a more detailed rundown of Google’s ranking factors, Brian Dean’s up to date list is a brilliant place to start.

    How to build backlinks

    Not so many years ago, it was possible to boost a website’s ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs) merely through building large numbers of backlinks. This is because Google’s algorithm put more emphasis on quantity over quality of backlinks. This led to huge numbers of blog networks springing up with the express intention of selling links, which could be placed in poorly written copy littered with excessive keyword mentions.

    Suffice to say this world doesn’t exist now. In fact, after some much publicised updates to its algorithm, acquiring huge numbers of links on poor quality websites is far more likely to get your website penalised than see it rise to the top of the SERPs.

    Building backlinks in 2016 requires a more joined up and quality-based strategy than the automated mass link building tactics of old. Below I’ve listed three techniques that will not only help you build backlinks, but will also go some way to attracting genuine referral traffic to your site.

    • Guest blogging: Despite Google’s Matt Cutts declaring guest blogging was dead back in 2014, his comments have since been clarified. Cutts was talking about the practice of producing poor quality content just for editorial links, which is definitely a dangerous tactic. Instead focus on creating high-quality content for high-quality blogs and sites with engaged readerships. Not only will the links you gain from this be far more powerful, but these blogs will also help you raise your brand profile amongst your target audience and provide highly relevant referral traffic
    • Directory listings: Directories were massively abused by SEOs in times gone past but that doesn’t mean that they carry no relevance today. Approaching high-quality directories can earn you decent links and citations. What’s more it could also end up sending relevant traffic to your site
    • Blog commenting: Blog commenting is seen by many as a poor way of earning decent links as any links you put in your blog comments are likely to be nofollow and earn you no link juice as a result. This is to miss the SEO value in blog commenting. By writing engaging and useful comments on well-read sites in your industry you are raising your profile and encouraging debate. It will also help you draw attention to your own content and the more people reading your content the more likely you are to get genuine links to it

    Link building certainly isn’t what it was. Abuse it by getting greedy and you could risk a penalty from Google. If you see it as part of a wider content driven strategy, though, then it can give your website and your company the boost it needs to get up those search engine rankings.

  2. Monquiel

    Monquiel UKBF Newcomer Free Member

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    From my point of view Guest blogging isn't dead, I have need making test and still working really good.
    Posted: Jun 28, 2016 By: Monquiel Member since: Jun 24, 2016
    Dan Izzard likes this.
  3. Paul J Morris

    Paul J Morris Contributor, Superb Digital Free Member

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    Couldn't agree with you more. Monquiel. It's our primary tactic used to develop high quality backlinks for our clients. Done properly the benefits far outweigh just a backlink though. Proper research carried out as to where to guest blog and time spent building relationships with those blog owners and webmasters can help ensure the posts drive referral visitors and build brand awareness amongst your target audience.
    Posted: Jun 29, 2016 By: Paul J Morris Member since: Dec 12, 2014
  4. BusyVids

    BusyVids UKBF Regular Full Member

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    Interesting article Paul but I'm wondering how long will backlinks play a major part in terms of page rank when you consider the importance of quality content including video. We've seen many SEO techniques die over the years, due to abuse, only to be replaced with something else. Mobile devices are now more popular for search than your regular PC, so will this be factored in somewhere? I know Google are giving priority to sites that are mobile friendly so perhaps a shift in SEO practices is in the pipeline.
    Posted: Jun 29, 2016 By: BusyVids Member since: May 16, 2012
  5. Cumbria Consultant

    Cumbria Consultant UKBF Newcomer Free Member

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    Linkbuilding? Dodgy tactic that's Still Crazy After All These Years? Or is it a fundamental plank of the search engine algorithms? I'm sticking to the second option. As the various Black & White beasts of search result doom - the Penguins and Pandas; have marched out: as the gondolas of Venice have carried local intent into the results and Pigeons have pooped on local search results that don't carry "traditional" SEO clues alongside the then normal local cues; links have remained a hugely important signal for getting anywhere online. The biggest change, particularly when Penguin destroyed many spammy businesses visibility was in the quality of those links becoming ever more important. There have been many analyses run by large SEO & digital agencies into the apparent correlation of good visibility with a website's link profile and as far as most of the big boys can determine link equity isn't going to be hugely devalued any time soon. However as BusyVids points out - the quality of the text and the richness of your media is a hugely important factor. GOOGLE IS STILL trying to judge sites on the quality of their content and the quality of their link profile - it would seem. The importance of links has ramped up again in the past year for local search results. The team from the Local SEO Guide have just published their take on the Local ranking factors for 2016 - it's a presentation they delivered at the last SMX meetup! Links now seem to have become the most powerful predictor (or corollary) of local visibility according to their data. http://www.localseoguide.com/guides/2016-local-seo-ranking-factors/
    The tactics Paul points out in the article are still worth pursuing. I have to confess to wimping out of going for the guest blogging option, but despite the usually "no-followed" links they still feed relevance and weight back to your website. I wrote a recent article on my own blog which adds a couple of other possible tactics to the mix. Simple (ish) Local Links is here: http://consultingcumbria.co.uk/simple-backlinks-local-digital-marketing.
    Posted: Jun 29, 2016 By: Cumbria Consultant Member since: Mar 3, 2011
  6. MPL Locksmith Training

    MPL Locksmith Training UKBF Newcomer Free Member

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    Great article Paul. We still use Guest blogging and some high quality directories today and this to work well for us.
    Posted: Jun 30, 2016 By: MPL Locksmith Training Member since: Dec 10, 2015
  7. Paul J Morris

    Paul J Morris Contributor, Superb Digital Free Member

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    I'm sure there will come a day when Google will no longer needs to use links as a ranking signal but I think that day is some way off yet.
    The reason why they were so successful in the first place was due to PageRank. This was a measure of popularity or authority as measured by the number (and then at a later date quality) of backlinks coming into a page.
    They've tweaked their algorithm along the way to try and devalue spammy links but nevertheless links are still hugely important.
    They even said it themselves that links and content are the main signals.
    Rankbrain is a new inclusion into these signals so I guess at some point AI may be clever enough to take over from links or at least do a better job of telling genuine links from paid or spammy links. I imagine that's what Google are hoping for anyway.
    Sure content always has been and always will be a signal. the use of video is not a ranking signal but if it's use improves the user experience then it will have a positive effect.
    Posted: Jul 1, 2016 By: Paul J Morris Member since: Dec 12, 2014
  8. Northstar100

    Northstar100 UKBF Contributor Free Member

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    Interesting reading thanks for this.
    Posted: Jul 7, 2016 By: Northstar100 Member since: May 27, 2013
  9. Stoneliuzhiwen

    Stoneliuzhiwen UKBF Contributor Free Member

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    Paul, thanks for sharing, my questions, is there that most of the website set the "Nofollow"? Googple+ share the link is useful? I know it will affect the backlink quality.
    Posted: Jul 20, 2016 By: Stoneliuzhiwen Member since: Jun 20, 2016
  10. Paul J Morris

    Paul J Morris Contributor, Superb Digital Free Member

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    Great question. Social media backlinks are "weak" and as you state are Nofollow. That doesn't make them worthless. Given enough volume they can add authority to your web page and plenty of referral traffic.
    Google says that it doesn't count Nofollow links, but it still "follows" them. Whilst they might not pass lots of or any authority, they'll often be highly relevant.
    A natural backlink profile should contain both Follow and Nofollow links so they are still worth building.
    Nofollow link are usually pretty easy to acquire so come regularly. It's the high quality Follow links you'll spend the most time and effort trying to build.
    Posted: Jul 25, 2016 By: Paul J Morris Member since: Dec 12, 2014
  11. Glib Deals

    Glib Deals UKBF Newcomer Free Member

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    Posted: Oct 7, 2016 By: Glib Deals Member since: Oct 7, 2016