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Link building is an important SEO strategy. Although the methods of link building have changed over the years, the importance of link building is still just as great as it always was.
If you want to get noticed online, then link building is a part of an SEO strategy that you can’t afford to neglect.
Please note that this post is written for SEO newbies so for that reason we have tried to make the language used less technical and more basic to try and get some concepts across.
The Benefits of Link Building
Link building can bring great SEO benefits. Search engines use the number of links to your site as an indication of the site’s popularity. In general, Google and other search engines rank more popular sites higher than those with few links.
How does this work? Google knows exactly how many links are pointing to your site. Search engines use an automated robot, known as a crawler or spider, to work their way through the many billions of interconnected pages on the web.
The first benefit of link building is that having more links pointing to your site means that the crawler is more likely to end up on your page than if the page is isolated. That means that your page gets indexed (stored in the search engine’s huge database of web pages) very soon after you upload or update it.
By crawling through all the links on the web to reach your page, search engines are able to count how many links point to it. They also know all about the pages where those links are coming from.
This information gives the search engine a pretty accurate picture of what your page is about and how it fits into the expansive landscape of content on the web.
In general, pages that have more incoming links are ranked more highly than those with few. Put simply, search engines surmise if lots of people have bothered to create links to a particular page, then it must be something that people want to read, so they rank it more highly in search results.
Popularity then attracts even more popularity, as ranking on the first page of search results draws in even more traffic to your site.
In summary, links can provide your site with much higher traffic — not only the traffic that comes to your site from the links themselves, but also the increase in organic search traffic that results from your pages appearing higher in the search engine results pages.
Link Building the Right Way
You know how people say that you can tell the character of a man by the company he keeps? It’s the same deal with web pages. If your site is linked to by a bunch of sites about flowers, Google figures that what you are writing also has something to do with flowers.
But what if your site is about something completely different – say industrial engines? Then the search engines might conclude that the links that point to your site aren’t relevant – which could lead to a penalty.
Similarly, if all the links to your site come from low-quality sites that are light on content and filled with ads, search engines will judge you by the company you keep, and you might be headed for a penalty.
Back in the day, webmasters would use link exchange schemes or buy links on other people’s sites in an attempt to get higher search rankings.
This generated a lot of low-quality links between sites that were not really relevant to each other – a practice that would now be penalized. According to Google, webmasters should now be aiming to build “natural” links.
A natural link is exactly what it sounds like: It’s a link that someone creates to your site because they want to share it with others, not a link that you create yourself in order to get more traffic.
Does that mean that you have to give up on link building altogether, and instead just sit back and hope that natural links will appear? Not necessarily. There are still effective ways of promoting your site — you just have to shift the focus of your link building strategy.
Link building is far from dead as an SEO method. Search engines still rely on link signals to determine how a site should be ranked.
As Matt Cutts said in an interview at the SMX Advanced Conference, “There’s a lot of mileage left in links.” The key is to focus on natural link building by creating high-quality content that people want to share.