Link Building Guide: Using Links to Grow Your Web Traffic
Links are one of the most important factors for increasing your Search Engine Ranking (SER). If you’re familiar with Search Engine Optimization, you already know that Search Engine Rankings are vital for driving traffic. The higher your website is displayed on search engines for relevant keywords, the more traffic you will receive.
Search engines will evaluate websites to determine content and quality. Basically, search engines aim to provide search users with the highest quality and most relevant content for any searched terms. To determine how to rank websites, or individual pieces of content, they will be evaluated on relevancy, quality, and volume of natural backlinks. Based on how the algorithm rates each category will determine the conten’s position in the SER.
When it comes to determining content relevancy, search engines scan for often repeated “keywords.” For example, when Google bots examine this article, they will pick up on terms like “link building,” SER, SEO, businesses, and the like. Search engines can also look at image alt-tags, meta tags, and other factors to determine what the content is relevant for. On the whole, determining keywords isn’t all too difficult
When it comes to quality, however, search engine bots can’t read content like a human can. They can do certain things to judge quality, like looking for grammatical mistakes, length, etc. However, the effectiveness of such strategies is limited, especially when there are so many great websites pushing so much excellent content.
How Do Google Bots Crawl Websites?
In order to understand how to build links, it helps to understand how search engine bots work. As Google is the most widely used search engine, let’s look at what the company says about its “crawlers” or “bots.” According to Google, a “crawler bot” will land on a website and start to scan the website (word by word?) “Site maps” are very important for the bots because they show the layout of the website and direct the bots’ scans. From there, the bot goes over the content, notating the destinations of any embedded links.
As Google puts it:
“The web is like an ever-growing library with billions of books and no central filing system. We use software known as web crawlers to discover publicly available web pages. Crawlers look at web pages and follow links on those pages, much like you would if you were browsing content on the web. They go from link to link and bring data about those webpages back to Google’s servers.”
So links are the pathways that Google bots use to get around, especially between websites. When your website is linked to by a bunch of other websites, Google bots are more likely to land on your page. Not only that, but Google will track the number of backlinks to your website. Generally speaking, more links is a good thing (quality of links is also important, we’ll go over that later).
Step-by-Step Link Building Guide:
1. Create Compelling Content
First, your content will be the centerpiece of just about any link building strategy. If you create compelling, unique, and interesting content, people will link to it. Detailed, unique content generally gets the most traction. Specific statistics and other details are also great because people may start citing your website for those numbers.
It can take time to build momentum, but there are some steps you can take to speed up link building. For example, you can promote the content on social media platforms, such as Twitter or Linkedin. By increasing the visibility of your content, you increase the likelihood of other websites to link back.
2. Think Local, Act Local
If you run a small or medium sized business, thinking and acting local can go a long way towards building up your backlinks. Let’s say you run a coffee shop/bakery. You’re trying to raise awareness and build up your online presence to be viewed as “Atlanta’s best coffee shop.” You know a decent number of people are searching for coffee shops in Atlanta, so you want to draw their attention.
What about reaching out to local organizations? Perhaps you could drop off some coffee at a non-profit, just to thank the staff for their work. Or you might donate some pastries to a shelter for disadvantaged communities. You’ll raise awareness with these organizations.
Next, you can engage them digitally. Offer to promote events on your Facebook page and website. Ask if they’ll do the same for events at your coffee shop. Maybe you could co-host an event? Each of the options bring many possibilities for cross promotion and links to our website. So many possibilities.
3. Reach out and Network Online
Don’t be shy! Reach out to people on the Internet and see if they are willing to share your content. In exchange, you could offer to share their content or offer other benefits, such as free trials. For example, let’s say you sell all-natural, organic soap. So perhaps you can send free samples to people who run health and beauty blogs? Then, they might review your soap, post a review, and link back to your website.
4. Be a Guest Blogger
Building up content can be a challenge, not just for you, but also for other people. You can help others out by creating content for them. Of course, you’re not just doing this out of the kindness of your own heart. In exchange for producing content for other people, you can promote your website with embedded links.
This creates a win-win situation. They get content, you get backlinks and exposure. Focus on areas of expertise. Going back to our coffee shop owner, maybe he or she can reach out to the local yogis and offer to provide excellent content for herbal teas or healthy baked goods.
Even With Links, Quality Trumps Quantity
Not all links are created equal. Links from highly-reputable websites are very valuable. For example, if Harvard’s website links back to your website, Google is going to recognize that one of the most reputable centers of education in the world has given you a vote of confidence.
In the past, “black hat” SEO specialists would try to trick Google’s bots by creating a bunch of low quality backlinks. This did work, but only for a short time. Google figured out that people were trying to dupe their search engine bots, so they changed up the way their algorithms treated backlinks to analyze the credibility of their sources.
In fact, a large number of low-quality backlinks might actually hurt your website. When we say “low quality,” we’re not talking about small blogs, but instead backlink farms and other shady black hat tactics.
Why Are Backlinks So Important Anyways?
So now you know how to build backlinks for your website. As you’ve probably realized, building backlinks can take a lot of effort. Are backlinks really worth all that effort? You bet. In 2016, Google’s Search Quality Senior Strategist, Andrey Lipattsev, revealed that backlinks were among the top three ranking factors along with “content” and “Rank Brain”, a machine learning program designed mainly to help interpret search queries in 2015.
Search engines favor websites and individual pieces of content that feature a high number of backlinks. If you’ve studied SEO, you likely already know this but it’s important to understand why backlinks are so important for search engine rankings.
Backlinks can be thought of as “votes of credibility” for a website and its content. If a search engine sees that a piece of content has a lot of backlinks, then the search engine knows a lot of people are linking to it. The people linking to the content are likely doing so because it’s a great piece of content. The more links, the more likely that the content itself is great.
Search engines consider backlinks both to individual content and to the entire website, organization, or company. Websites that have lots of backlinks are usually quite reputable, such as The National Institute of Health, the New York Times, or General Electric. For search engines, the high number of backlinks tells them that the websites are leading sources for information and reference.
Conclusion: Be Dedicated and Recognize the Importance of Backlinking
It takes a long time to build up backlinks. Such is life. However, backlinks are vital for your website. Even if your business primarily operates offline, good search engine rankings can go a long way towards increasing sales and foot traffic to your business.
You have to recognize and act on this insight. By following the steps outlined above, you can jumpstart your SEO efforts!