It’s been a long-held understanding that backlinks, websites using hyperlinks to point to one another, matter a great deal in affecting where a site ranks in search results and driving traffic. Google used links as one of the key elements to build a better search engine with more relevant results and rise above the chaos of keyword spam. Like any other SEO tactic, nefarious webmasters have abused link building over time forcing Google to evolve its algorithm and ability to fight spam.
A series of recent statements from a Google representative give us a small, but fascinating look at how they deal with links today. Basically, Google is good at recognizing and ignoring links completely when they aren’t natural, then penalizing the worst offenders of buying links on a large scale. The value of links hasn’t changed; they still play a significant role in rankings. So if you’re supposed to get links, but Google has the freedom to ignore those links, where should you be putting your efforts?
We have not written about links before on the Daylight blog, and there are way too many topics to consider in a single post, but there are some basic principles that we can share with you to adopt in link building efforts. Many of these overlap, but they are different ways of answering that very question.
The right links come from real world relationships
Take two separate scenarios. In the first scenario, as a company you’ve never worked with, known someone from, or written for Forbes, Inc., or Entrepreneur but all of a sudden you have several links from articles on these sites that came from a link building service. In the second, you’re an active member of a local industry organization. You regularly attend and network at meetups, promote them online and personally know the event organizer who invites you to speak. That event then gets a page linking to your site, social media bios, and gets promoted as well. The second scenario is one that is far less likely to get ignored than the first.
The right links can come from thinking Google doesn’t exist
Ask yourself, if Google didn’t exist, how would people find your business online? Would this link drive you traffic and business without the sole benefit of increased rankings on Google? This kind of thinking works well in finding relevant websites where your audience already is and more likely to help drive traffic to your site.
Maybe you operate in a unique niche with an audience that’s active online in places like Reddit or Pinterest. Do you have genuine, well-meaning presence there as well (as in not acting solely as a sales pitch, but providing real value)? Are you sponsoring, attending and promoting trade shows in your industry? Think of where your audience spends its time online, then make sure you’re visible there.
The right links can come from having content that naturally attracts them
In the end, what Google prefers to see are links that you don’t have to ask for. They are a reward for having a high-quality website with content that answers the user’s needs. So ask yourself, do you have a can’t miss, industry leading resource that gets talked about, shared, and linked to by people on their own? Influencers in many industries put in the time and effort into creating yearly “state of the industry” reports not because they want to get a link first, but because they want to be a leader. Have you developed a product that beats out the competition and gets shared? There is some truth to the idea that you need to a little promotion to help share great content, but people won’t link to content if it’s bad.
There is a way to build links that won’t get ignored by Google. Utilize your real life relationships, expertise, and effort as a good company to earn those links. You’ll be rewarded with more than just a good ranking if you do.