Whether you’re optimizing your website for search engines, vying for popularity, or searching for a job, one piece of advice always rings true: it’s all about who you know. If you want your website to rank high, you have to spend some time learning how to build links—and not just any links! As we’ve already discussed in our off-page SEO post, high-ranking websites are authoritative and trustworthy and if you want to be amongst these quality websites, you need to be linked in authoritative, trustworthy web neighborhoods. Anchor text, the speed at which the links were amassed, and the authority of the linking website all come into play when you’re learning how to build links for SEO. And just like in the worlds of job-seeking and popularity contests, shoddy work and laziness can come back to bite you.
Search engines like Google use nuanced, complicated algorithms to rank websites, but marketers are confident that learning how to build links is an essential part of SEO. Links are like votes of popularity. When search engines compile them, they can see which websites are endorsed by websites of high-quality and which are not. The search engine popularity contest is not a true democracy; the votes of authoritative websites are worth more than the votes of unpopular websites.
Of course, some marketers try to sway the election in their favor by stuffing the ballot box (i.e., using sketchy companies to build thousands of backlinks quickly and for very little money), but this is usually worthless and potentially very damaging. Search engine algorithms can sometimes identify when a website is untrustworthy, spamming, or trying to cheat the system, and they will not reward you for using such a website. So be careful.
Building links is critical to SEO success, but it does require some time, money, and creativity. If you want to go the completely natural route (links made by other sites that want to share your website with others), aim to write interesting content and hope that readers find it worthy of sharing. If you want to be more proactive in your link-building, you can try reaching out to other bloggers for guest posts, submit your website and articles to directories, or even pay for links (although that is against Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines). You can also build links by spreading your name. Using your link on forum signatures, commenting on blogs, and creating user profiles on websites will also help build links, though these links are normally not as valuable as others.
To learn how to build links the right way, use these trusted tricks:
- Link your website in good neighborhoods. Popularity and authority go hand in hand. If your website is linked on an high-authority, trusted website like Wikipedia, the search engine crawlers will trust that your website is important as well.
- Use keywords as anchor text (but don’t overdo it). The text that the viewer clicks on to be transported to your website (i.e., the anchor text) is very important. If you use specific keywords as anchor text for your website, you will be more likely to rank well for those keywords (assuming you are building quality links). Just be careful and don’t overdo it. Mix up your anchor text so that search engines don’t find the behavior unusual and punish you for it. Use generic phrases like “click here” to mix things up.
- Build links consistently over time. You want your website to be popular, not old news. To do that, you need to be consistently creating new links on authoritative, trusted websites that point back to your website.
- Take your time. If you go from 50 backlinks to 10,000 in one morning, search engines will likely realize something fishy is going on (especially if they are low-quality links). Build your links at a more natural pace, slowly and thoughtfully.
With a little time, care, and creativity, you can learn how to build links that will greatly boost your website’s ranking. To learn more about optimization basics, keep following our SEO 101 series. So far we’ve discussed: