How To Build Links in 2017
Link building is the very foundation of SEO; you may have heard the phrase ‘Content is King’, well that’s not far off the mark.
Let’s use our imagination for a while, shall we?
Think of the internet as its own little world and then think of search engines as the bicycles, cars, lorries and planes that transport things around the world.
Link building works in the same way as building roads – except without the annoying road works – providing a means for the transport to move around the world.
Without building these streets, roads, rivers – whatever you’d like to call them – the transport cannot effectively move around.
This is why effective content and link building is so key. We create content that Google responds to and then create the link or ‘road’ so they can travel along it.
Let’s use that imagination again; imagine driving to work, you drive the same way most, if not every day, right? And this is because you trust the route and know that that is the most effective way to get where you’re going.
This is similar to the way Google works, if we create a road that is trusted and reliable then they will travel across it.
Whilst it’s true to say that not all SEO is linked building; a considerable portion of Google’s various algorithms are link related factors.
That’s why it’s so important to get your content and link building absolutely spot on.
A tricky a subject at the best of times, you are likely to find SEO described in several different ways in separate corners of the web.
On the one hand there are some techniques that are still considered legitimate or white hat and on the other hand many traditional techniques of link building are considered as black hat or spam by Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
At DAPA we believe in using link building techniques that are organic, techniques that aim to provide value for a website in the long term.
We do not think that there are any SEO benefits to be gained through the implementation of spammy link building techniques and hence are strongly against the use of it.
Therefore this guide is for the use of white hat link building techniques only.
Link building is the cornerstone of off-page SEO and many a time it can be tricky to execute.
If you do not know to do it well, you might be best served by hiring experts or avoiding the use of such strategies in the overall SEO of your website.
These days you will find a few webmasters complaining about how Google has successfully managed to equate majority of the link building techniques into spam and most of the SEO news started these days is almost always about something being enforced by Google into its quality guidelines (news that is fuelled by Google PR).
The fact is though that not all link building techniques are considered as spam and it still plays a vital role in the SEO of a website.
The only difference now is that your SEO strategy cannot just revolve around the links you attract, it should also focus on a number of other things.
High quality links are always associated with a high quality website or product or service.
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What Are ‘Natural‘ & ‘Unnatural‘ Links?
In link building terminology, a natural link is a freely acquired/given editorial link whereas a link you make yourself is known as an unnatural link.
Both play an important role in determining how you are ranked in search engines. Google has stated on record that it does not consider non-editorial links as part of its ranking system.
These days the only thing Google cares about is rewarding content that adds ‘user value’ and in the process earns links in an organic or natural manner.
They want to reward content that contributes towards a great user experience for a visitor and links received in a non-organic manner do not do such a thing.
In fact Google has never wanted to count manipulated/manufactured links as part of its ranking system, but their algorithms don’t actually operate in the manner that they like or at least in a manner they want them to.
So some ‘marketers’ just ignore the ‘add user value’ part and focus solely on manufacturing links to their website in a non-organic manner. This affects how Google which is a link based search engine rates ‘popularity’ and in the process the ranking ability of a website.
The theory goes somewhat like this, the more non-spammy inbound links that you have on your website, the higher you rank on Google SERPs , the more traffic you will direct towards your website.
The type of links Google wants to count as ranking factors do not scale easily and the ironic part is the type of links Google does not want or at least wants to ignore (or the kind they are looking to retroactively punish these days) are the ones that scale easily.
Maybe that in itself is the whole problem.
Critics of Google will always say that Google considers SEO as the biggest threat towards Adwords, its personal sponsored advertising channel, but if Google does not take any action, what will follow is manipulation on an almost industrial level which would make the existence of its guidelines one big non-factor.
You don’t need to use automated software’s or machines to be classified as a spammer. Any person who is involved in the creation of low quality links on a daily basis to deceive search engine algorithms is also considered to be spamming, irrespective of whether it is being done manually or not.
If you are posting a lot of low quality PR’s or guest posts on irrelevant sites that have a history of spamming just to receive additional ‘link juice’, again you are spamming.
Ultimately it all boils down to the end product, which is the type of link you generate on the basis of your past and current activity.
Putting it simply, if you generate links with the only purpose of manipulating Google’s search engine algorithms, those links are considered by Google as ‘Unnatural Links’.
If you have a lot of unnatural links on your website, you get a penalty or you might suffer horribly when Google comes up with its the next algorithm update specifically to counter strategies such as the ones you are currently employing.
How severely you are affected by an algorithm update depends on how long you employed the strategy of generating unnatural links and what Google thinks is an adequate punishment for that.
In the past, most of the traditional link building techniques employed by a majority of website optimisers revolved around the creation of unnatural links to give a website a quick boost in its online rankings.
The sad reality is that there are still some optimisers who employ such strategies, openly disregarding Google’s guidelines.
The first links we built here at DAPA would be considered as ‘unnatural’ in today’s SEO landscape and you could also probably say that about the first optimisation techniques we used.
But that’s just how it is in SEO where you are at the mercy of a supreme overlord (Google!) who can change the rules whenever they want and however they want.
Optimisation strategies that were once considered White Hat might become Grey Hat today and be penalised as Black Hat tomorrow.
It is important to remember that any strategy you employ to manipulate Google, which lets you skip through all the ‘value added’ hoopla that Google demands from all other websites to rank high organically, is considered as spam.
The Constant Evolution Of Link Building
The truth is in the past, even a novice link builder could easily make a website rank high on Google SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for any keyword (most of which were achieved with techniques that are considered as spam today) and face no consequence.
By merely creating a 300-400 word article and generating about 500 unnatural links to that article (from even low quality blogs) by using unique anchor text, it was possible to achieve a top ranking on a Google SERP in a matter of a few months.
Everybody was using such techniques and achieving success. Why? That’s because most optimisers were of the mentality “if everybody else is doing it and it works, why shouldn’t I do it?” Also, optimisers could use such spammy techniques because there was no fear of retribution from Google at the time.
Link building was far easier back then compared to what it has evolved to today.
The use of such link building techniques on an almost industrial scale was influencing Google’s own SERPs, just by taking advantage of the fact that Google algorithms considered links as a vote and an important ranking factor.
Just as optimisers were continuing on their merry way, manipulating links and ranking very highly in competitive niches in SERPs, Google bought it all to an end with one swift algorithm update.
After years of no resistance on the part of Google, the Penguin update was a rude shock for just about every optimiser in the world.
Suddenly, it was back to square one for a majority of the websites. The empire had struck back and the message was clear “ create a value driven site and rank on uniqueness and merit or else….”
Of course, Google tried to nip the practice of manipulating unnatural links into the bud, but as I have said before many optimisers continue to use such link building strategies for their website.
Honestly it can still be effective sometimes, but it comes with an ever-possible risk of a Google penalty, even for the most experienced Black Hat optimiser.
Such practices are still offered as part of link building packages or services to unsuspecting business owners despite the fact that they are not a very secure option for businesses with just a single website
So, in what way exactly did the empire strike back? Google has a few tricks up its sleeves when it wants to punish webmasters for disregarding Google guidelines by manipulating what they categorise as ‘spammy links’ .
First of all Google has allotted increased manpower to its team that hands out Manual Actions or Google penalties.
Additionally, the Panda and Penguin updates that Google rolled out introduced a number of algorithm changes that are designed to detect and deal with low quality pages that consist of low quality links.
Most critics believe that the Google Panda and Penguin algorithm updates were introduced primarily to punish websites, even though Google has always contended that they were ‘just’ algorithm updates. The phrase “six of one, half a dozen of the other” comes to mind.
Just to be clear, I might have oversimplified the implications of the Panda and Penguin filters a tad bit.
The reality is if your website ever trips one of these filters, your rankings are going to plunge overnight and sometimes they might never ever come back to where it was.
What does a Google penalty feel like?
Quite similar to a kick in the groin region (Yes, that painful!), not only have you been punished but its also going to sting for a long while.
This piece is about white hat link building techniques. So, if you are expecting link hubs, link wheels, three way links, blog networks, redirects or illegal hacks you might have stumbled upon the wrong page because we do not use any such techniques here at DAPA.
Ever since Google released its penguin update in April 2012, the focus here at DAPA has been to create sites that are value driven which will attract inbound links from trusted and high domain authority websites naturally. This way we do not have to be in constant fear of the ramifications of the next algorithm update Google rolls out.
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Can You Still Use Link Building To Give Your Website A Rankings Boost?
‘Link building is dead’ the myth, which is most frequently bandied about these days, but is there any merit to such a theory? No, there isn’t. Link building is still a vital aspect of your website’s overall SEO and most importantly Google is still at its core a link based search engine.
However, if your link building strategy is dependent on the generation of unnatural links, then yes the ‘link building is dead’ theory might hold true, just for you.
We firmly believe that link building still has a pivotal say in how your website ranks either in a positive manner (if you get a link from a trusted source) or in a negative manner, if your website is flagged by Google’s algorithms.
Creating and delivering quality content will be the bedrock of how you can achieve quality organic inbound links to your website and if you do so Google will reward you with greater visibility as well as traffic through high rankings in its SERPs.
If you want your website to rank high on Google’s organic SERP results in competitive niches, you need to attract a myriad of high quality links to your website
For the most part, a lot of your links might be ignored by Google, but any link your website has from a site with high domain authority will be rewarded handsomely.
Such has always been the case with how link building worked over the years, the more domain authority you have, the less unique your content needs to be, although Google’s recent quality updates seem to focus heavily on the quality of content created by high domain websites.
The importance of creating high quality content has never been as essential as how it is in today’s SEO climate.
Think Of Links As Lasers
Even now in 2017, Google is still reliant on links to find, index, categorise and rate pages/websites.
Content is always going to be the king (especially now and in the future), but without links even the greatest content can be of no use to you from a SEO perspective.
You might have the funniest content on your website, but if there are no links pointing to it from external sources, your website (and content) might lose out to pages that are not as good, but are housed on ‘hotter’ websites.
Okay, you are probably now wondering where this SEO laser or heat analogy all fits in?
The most important factor when it comes to ranking high organically in competitive niches is the number of links you acquire or more specifically the number of quality ‘hot’ links you attract towards your own website.
Any link you receive towards your website, ‘heats’ up your site at least in the eyes of search engine algorithms.
Links can make your site ‘hot’ and send it to the top of SERPs.
Not all links are the same though.
Some might keep your site ‘hot’ over a long stretch, while some might ‘cool down’ and in some scenarios links might just disappear altogether affecting both those who are linking towards it and from it.
Due to this varying behaviour, a site’s heat signature is constantly fluctuating and there is not much you can do about it other than attracting the right links to keep your site hot at all times in order to give yourself an edge over your competition.
The bottom line is some sites stay hot and some sites go cold, it all depends on the quality of inbound links pointing towards those sites.
Let’s not think of links for a moment. Let’s assume the Google has counted all the quality links pointing towards your site and ignored all the low quality, irrelevant or unnatural links your site has.
The reality is that there always will be some sites that are naturally ‘hot’ and some that are naturally cold based on the internal linking between pages on those websites.
It would be safe to assume that websites that are ranked higher up on SERPs (in other words popular sites) are hotter than the sites that are ranked below them.
Hot Sites And Those That Are Not
So the sites that are indexed and doing well on Google SERPs are hot sites and the ones that are not are cold sites. All the sites in between have varying degrees of ‘heat’ associated with them.
Hotter sites are more popular, well linked to and are more likely to rank well if a page is optimised and if the internal architecture of the website is easily navigable.
Also, hot sites are more ‘trusted’ by search engines and their content is indexed directly, especially if the content is unique, value driven and is optimised well with a number of keywords inserted in an organic manner.
Cold sites on the other hand are almost invisible online except for perhaps a few keywords, have minimal heat signature and are not properly linked to any neighbourhood.
Remember, hot sites have domain authority and trust while cold sites have none of that mostly because of a poor linking profile.
Hot sites can rank on SERPs irrespective of the site’s theme or domain relevance. However, in our experience irrelevant pages in hotter sites too can disappear from a Search Engine Results Page in due time.
Google has done well to ensure that a balance is maintained between domain authority, relevance and a host of alternative ranking factors among deserving sites, which has helped spread the free traffic about and also prevented sites for ranking for terms they should not rank for.
If the page is well optimised and its internal architecture fine-tuned to highlight specific terms, it should rank well as long as it meets the requisite requirements for utility, page quality and user experience.
Why Google Dislikes Paid Links?
Google is not so fond of paid links, simply because it is a way through which webmasters can manipulate Google algorithms and rank high, despite their website not being the best.
It affects Google’s end product.
Websites that offer poor content and user experience can be returned at the top of Google SERPs by simply seeking out a couple of ‘hot sites’ and paying for links from those sites.
Google prefers webmasters reaching the top of its SERPs by taking the hard route. At least that way we can partially help Google find out hot sites through the links of our site.
If Google could actually out figure out which sites are using paid links through its algorithms, the rest of the world would never have heard of the whole ‘the war on paid links’.
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How Paid Links Contribute To Inorganic Link Growth
What happens when a hot site links to a cold site? It immediately generates a heat source for the new, colder site.
This is not natural SERP progression, at least not in Google’s eyes.
For example, consider the boost a site gets if it gets a link from say Wikipedia. Would be massive, wouldn’t it?
Wikipedia is the ultimate example of a hot site not just because it is a domain authority, but also because of the fact that it is a site dedicated to providing information.
How To Recognise A Hot Site?
A hot site will have the following features:
- A hot site is one which every other site links to, all with varying heat signatures.
- A hot site would rank high for everything, if it is optimised both in its internal architecture and through its on-page SEO.
- Hot sites occur naturally because of other websites linking to them.
- Hot sites will usually only link to other hot sites. A hot site would almost never link to a cold site, unless the other site offers content that cannot be found anywhere else.
Link Building- The Basics
As long as you are not resorting to spam and as long as Google’s web spam team is not enjoying a holiday, ranking well on Google SERPs today depends on patience, relevance, accessibility, reputation, quality of content created, user experience and most importantly it depends on TRUST.
This trust element is worked out by Google on its own and there is no great clarity as to how it can be achieved.
What is obvious though is that Google wants you or your site to be unique and will reward you based on your ‘uniqueness’ quota.
At DAPA, our focus primarily revolves around working on and improving those signals of a website rather than just accruing a large number of links or manipulating link juice.
A link building campaign that does not focus on the quality of links being acquired is not what we are looking for and is also not something Google wants to reward on a long-term basis.
Such a link building strategy is thought off as spam by Google these days and punished accordingly. Not that it affects a good spammer though!
But then again, if you are reading this, you might not be very confident about your spamming prowess and so it might be safer for you to keep your link building strategy ‘clean’ until you gain more confidence or maybe even then it might be better to stick to a cleaner link building strategy.
How To Do Link Building That Is Clean, High Quality And Delivers The Right Results?
Keep in mind the following when deciding on a link building strategy:
- If your intention is to build your overall domain authority, focus on getting links from real sites that are authority figures in its niche. Each link has value and it might not necessarily hurt you if you get a link from a page with low Google Page Rank. The fact is in today’s SEO landscape, no-PR page could be a PR5 page mostly because Google Toolbar Pagerank is outdated and no longer a metric you can place your trust on.
- Ensure that you try to get links from sites that have domain authority in the niche you are operating in. locate the hub of sites where all the top authorities of your niche link to and link from and find ways to get involved in that hub.
- Do not be obsessed with the ‘theme’ of the website linking to yours, but at the same time make sure that you are not linking to sites that are irrelevant or spammy. It might not hurt your website (only boost) if you get strong natural links every once in a while from irrelevant sites through your blog.
- Always stay in touch with your competition and review the tactics they are employing to earn links and think whether it would be possible to implement some of those strategies for yourself to deliver great results. However, it is important to keep two things in mind when you are building links. Firstly, do not just build links for the sake of it and also do not just employ a strategy just because it’s working for your competition.
- Joining social networks can be a great way to promote your site’s content, which will help you build good links in the process. Good content gets your site noticed, encourages social sharing, assists you in creating your own network and helps you to build authority, something which you are definitely going to need in the near future.
- While it is important to get links from high quality relevant links, you should also realise that any editorial link received will be a good one, regardless of the page or site you are getting it from.
- Focus your link building strategies on acquiring quality inbound links and to avoid any possibility of being served with a notice for a penalty or manual action in Google Webmaster Tools. Remember, it can be hard or almost impossible for your site to recover from a penalty or manual action.
- Don’t go overboard with link begging emails, it can annoy a lot of people, especially if you are not offering them a good piece of content and refrain from overwhelming any friends you make on social networks with constant sales messages.
- You should be patient and play the long game. Help others get what they want today and some will help you get what you want in the future.
- The more you abuse certain links and depending on the number of people abusing those very links, it can turn toxic very fast. Do not join such a link herd because as a first time member you will be the weakest link in it.
- If you are employing automated or manual link building and it results in an unnatural link for your website, remember that Google does not want to count such links and it might come back to bite you in the near future. Be extremely cautious if you are looking to outsource your link building in 2017.
- It is important to remember when you are trying to get links that you should also own ‘assets’ that are worthy of being linked. For example, the pages on your website should be considered as the intended destination of the link you are receiving.
What Do Search Engines Themselves Think About Link Building?
Which Search Engine Offers The Best Advice?
Unless you consider GooglePlus to be the number one ranking parameter, you will soon realise that the single most important thing you can do to improve the ranking of a page that is already of a high quality and relevant is building high quality links to your website.
This is true as long as you have not resorted to any shady or spammy practices in the past. If you have, it is important to first dissociate yourself from the unnatural links you have acquired, before you build a high quality link profile.
In competitive niches, you can always follow Yahoo or Bing guidelines for link building to rank in Google, but make sure that you do not try to rank in those search engines by using Google webmaster guidelines as a rulebook.
Here’s a quick video on Google guidelines:
Why? That’s because doing such a thing might get you penalised in Google, which lets be honest nobody wants.
Bing and Yahoo have recently encouraged webmasters to reach out for relevant links to improve the rank of their websites
Here’s what they have had to say about link building
“simply ask websites for them” – Bing
“Correspond with Webmasters of related sites and other providers of relevant content in order to increase the number of links to your site.” – Yahoo.
Google on the other hand has a differing view.
“Any links intended to manipulate ….a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Additionally, creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines.” – Google
So, here is the two bottom line, Bing and Yahoo which are two of the top three search engines in the UK have encouraged webmasters to ask for relevant links while the big daddy of them all Google says you will be penalised if you do such a thing.
It is easier to rank in Bing as compared to Google these days and Bing SERPs, which also powers Yahoo, appear as though they still operate on the pre-penguin stage of Google SERPs.
Clarifying Bing’s Position On Building Backlinks
Here’s the gist of what Bing is asking smart webmaster’s to do based on a post on their search blog.
- First you get in touch with webmasters of other sites that are related to yours and let them know about your site.
- If you have worked hard and instilled a lot of value in your site, it will be evident to other webmasters and they will want to help out their own customers by linking out to you, which is the bedrock of link building in itself.
- Relevance is one of the most important factors for end users. If the content on your website does not harmonise with the content of the other website, the link you have received will diminish in value or in some cases they might be completely ignored.
- Since relevance is the most important factor, it is highly valued and sites that are relevant are thought to be the best. Sites that have great content, a great history of using just White Hat SEO practices and numerous relevant and quality inbound links are considered to be an authority in their niche.
- If any sort of manipulation is detected, Bing applies a spam rank factor to that site, based on the type and extent of the infraction. A site with a high spam rank factor will be penalised. If the infractions are excessive, the site can be temporarily or permanently removed from Bing’s index.
Bing’s stance on link building is clear, they are not as concerned about the type of techniques a webmaster employs to build links, but are more interested in the intention behind the practices being implemented. In most cases the tactics employed for link building lays bare the intent behind it.
The fact the Bing uses a spam rank factor is curious and revealing. It might be just as possible that Google uses a similar approach for penalising websites.
Great Content Makes It Easier To Build High Quality Links
Sometimes link building is simple and straightforward. All you need is great content and other sites will start linking to yours.
The content you create does not have to be path breaking, but it should be unique and original. The more content you add to your site, the more people will link to it if not now, then in the future. We still receive links on pieces written a long time ago and therefore our advice to webmasters will be to always add more unique content to their site.
How-To articles, blogs that discuss common problems in forums or on online chat rooms can help you acquire the right kind of links to your website. Some call it timeless, while some consider it to be ‘bait’ to lure the right kind of links.
Detailed content that is high on quality is always going to be shared on social media platforms and will always get you links at some point in the future, as long as you present it with a unique twist to make it more interesting. Once you acquire sufficient links to rank in the top 3 results of a SERP, you have positioned yourself ideally now to attract more natural links.
Where Should You Start?
Why not start with the FAQ section of your website (if you don’t have one already then make one). Can you improve that page?
Each question on the page can be an individual page of content, which is well written and optimised with a good title.
Or maybe you can turn your previously short and concise FAQ into one long and detailed content piece that focuses completely on the topic at hand.
You should ask yourself, what your target audience wants to know about your business, products, industry and the message you are putting out. Create content that addresses this need for information.
It becomes easier to attract good quality links if you have a lot of high quality content on your website. You can still rank without quality content, but it comes at a cost and an obvious handicap, something that can cripple your site in the long term.
Remember, that all the content you create should not just be about your company and your products that can bore your visitors (let’s face it nobody is as fascinated with your business or product as you are). Create content that is engaging, informative and entertaining.
Always remind yourself that Google wants to reward unique websites. This means that the content you create should be original, detailed and informative, the kind Google wants to show to users in its organic results, making it the type of content Google wants to rank.
Why You Should Always Link To Real Sites
Defining what a quality link to people can be difficult sometimes, but just to keep it as simple as possible let’s consider a natural link to be a good one.
It is not mandatory that all the links you receive should be relevant to the specific niche you are operating in.
The site you are earning a link from (also known as the linking site) does not have to be an authority in its niche and the links you are receiving do not necessarily have to be identical to the ones your competition is receiving.
Even if you have received a link from a totally unrelated but well managed site, it is a great link for your website. Remember any editorial link is a good link.
The one thing you should be wary of is accepting a link from a website that only exists to provide links to other sites.
Acquiring links from sites that exist only to give other sites links and to boost the SEO of a website can be dangerous for you, especially now in 2017 as Google seems to have gotten into a habit of going after a lot of these link scheme websites these days.
We love earning our links through conventional and accepted white hat practices. However, there are still quite a few experienced link builders who utilise manufactured links on the sites they are working on, as long as spam still prevails in Google’s listings, such practices and practitioners are still going to be prevalent.
Our link building strategies are predicated on how we can acquire links from real sites, the ones that have domain authority and trust. The more authority a site has the better it is from a link building perspective.
In an ideal scenario we would want the following:
- We do not just want a link from a handy links page, but so long as the links page is an important resource and not misusing anchor text, it is still a useful link, perhaps even a great link.
- We definitely would not want our links anyway near or on a site that is openly selling links, as more often than not such links will affect our rankings in the long term.
- We would want our link to be on a site that is indexed by Google meaning that it is a legitimate website that is ranking for what it specifies in its title tag.
Earning relevant contextual links is something every link builder craves, but as long as a link is on a good domain, has a high PR and is not misusing any anchor text, it is a good link for us.
If you are looking to increase the real Pagerank of your site, ensure that the pages linking to you have PR, are able to transfer it and are inserting your link in a way that makes it the focus of the article.
To achieve this you might need some experience or maybe rely on specialists with the requisite level of experience and expertise. You will naturally get PageRank if you focus your energies on creating spectacular or compelling content on your website and this can be in any medium that you can think of.
By employing the techniques mentioned above, you can develop a natural link profile for your website, one that will most likely stand the test of time (and algorithm updates) and deliver long term SEO benefits for your website.
Our focus is to get high quality but unique links for the websites we are working on compared to the links the competition is acquiring and to do that we do not rely on a lot of link building tools, just our expertise, experience and knowledge of Google.
We would rather find creative original solutions to find new links then be ever reliant on the backlinks our competitors receive (But you should still never ignore the research). It helps us build the kind of online brand we want for a website, the kind that Google wants these days.
Researching the competition can be a great way to get inspiration, but instead of focusing on getting the same link, we like to identify quality-linking patterns by filtering out rival backlinks.
We make sure that our sites house better content, provide better user experience and attract links from real, high domain authority websites.
Are Off-Topic Links To A Website Counted?
The simple answer to that is yes, it is counted. Many internet marketing and SEO blogs will churn out a high volume of relevant content to build a resource all around a specific subject. Why even Google tells you to employ a similar approach.
What you probably won’t hear is that you can increase your traffic or attract a higher number of quality links to your website by writing about something off-topic but timely, capitalising on a need for information even if it is slightly off-base for your niche.
Writing news stories about related niches is still a great way to acquire some natural links to your website.
We have sometimes written off-topic on important news stories to earn links. Why? That’s because it helps us acquire links from authority sites who would traditionally have no reason to link to our website.
We have received high PR links, editorial links and sometimes links from South American technical websites just because of a slightly off-topic piece of content that we had created. You could say we acquired some of the links because of our domain authority, but also the links we received further helped us cement our position as an authority in our niche.
When you create engaging off-topic content for less competitive search fields, it can be easier to rank on the first page of a SERP, which can assist in you in picking up more natural links to your website.
The Best Way to Earn Natural Links? Easy, Be On Top Of a Google SERP
Honestly, ranking on top of a Google SERP makes natural link building all the more straightforward. You won’t believe the sheer number of natural links you can attract by just being the top organic result on a SERP. Over time it can be a great way to earn natural links.
Therefore, the strategy should always be to rank high and fast for as many keywords as possible. This includes targeting long tail keywords and to do that you need quality in-depth content on your website. If you are trying to build links around 500 word articles, it is unlikely to yield positive results from a long-term perspective.
Acquiring natural links from trustworthy sites help rank your new content. A natural link acquired from a trustworthy site or one that has more trust than your site, will be nothing but beneficial for you.
When you get a trusted site to link towards yours, some of the trust that Google places on the linking site gets transferred to your site, which raises your overall trust levels.
This might not provide an immediate or visible boost to your new content, but long term it is going to be worth its weight in gold.
If the off-topic site links to yours with good or high volume keywords, then there is nothing better than that.
The key is to pull it off in a way that gives you the most benefit without giving Google any reason to become suspicious. Of course, you cannot write about something that is completely off base from your operating niche and expect to gain authority links from it.
Every now and then you can create content about something off-topic, to get better links and to drive a lot of traffic to your website which otherwise you would never have received because of the limited scope of the niche you are operating in.
If you are clued in and can be bothered to do anything, you can take advantage of any situation to earn links that are unique just to your site, which none of your competition possess. Try it, write a quality if slightly off-topic article on your site and the response you will get via quality natural links will definitely surprise you.
Do Some Links Affect A Site’s Rank In Google SERPs?
Any link that sends you additional traffic should be considered a good link. But what are quality links, what are termed as good links and what links are just plain useless in terms of giving your site a boost in Google SERPs?
First things first, the quality of a link depends on two factors, the page it is found on and the website it is on.
The following factors play an important role in determining whether a link is useful or not:
- Is the site on which the link is on trusted?
- Is the page on which the link is found trusted?
- Has Google indexed the page?
- How many links point specifically to the link your page is on?
- Is the link visible, will people click on it?
Any link received on a high PageRank domain should not be thought of as a useful link. More than the link, it is the page you should consider when determining whether the link is a good one or not.
Initially Google used to let webmasters know if a link received was being counted or not through its cache results. But, Google removed these notifications in November 2011.
These terms only appear in links pointing to this page
On the whole we found these cached messages to be misleading, but the information provided by these pages were always useful, especially when we were trying to analyse unusual ranking results by looking at certain backlink profiles or when analysing certain false positive ranking results, which helped us figure out how Google was operating.
This feature was also helpful when testing for certain things, for example first link priority.
The cached information is also useful when you are trying to figure out why a page is ranking so well for a particular keyword, especially if the keyword was not on that page.
This information also provided webmasters with a peek on back linking strategies that worked. But like always Google had to put a dampener on the proceedings. These days Google’s cache displays the following information
These search terms are highlighted
Again, Google closed the door on optimisers worldwide who were trying to gain further insight on link building techniques that worked.
Which Links Are Worth Addressing?
To ensure long term ranking benefits for your website ensure the following:
- That you have a light mix of targeted anchor text links
- Unfocussed URL citations and anchor text links in your link profile
How can you achieve this?
By following these guidelines:
- Do not consider internal links as the most important links for your website, but saying that it is best place to start. To get the right kind of links to your site you need a good working site. Google loves websites that have an easy to use internal architecture that consists of numerous links pointing to each other on a particular page. We prefer to use a lot of in-content links and a lot of useful content, especially if Google is counting only the first link on each page. Ensure that your important pages are internally linked often and more importantly make sure that Google indexes them first.
- Try to get links from high authority or brand sites for example, mainstream news sites because they are trusted by a Google and have a lot of quality links to them.
- Another high PR link you can receive is through a government resource page or maybe a university page that will give your site a great boost.
- Links received from non related but non-abusive sites can be handy in improving your PR and SERP ranking.
- Link received on a blog post can be good but can sometimes diminish in value if you have a very messy site architecture.
- Social media site links. As a ranking signal by itself it is not the strongest, but what it does do is make sure that your website gains more visibility which in turn helps you attract natural links.
- Links received from a useful links page. Such a link can be of low quality many a time, but in some cases it can be a real high quality link. It all depends on the ‘intent’ of the website and the quality of the website the link is on.
- Reciprocal links. This link building tactic has often been abused and a lot of times it gives you very low quality links, but sometimes it is just a normal part of your overall link profile.
Links that you should look to avoid include any link that is self-generated or appears self-generated or is located in a site that has only made self-made links. Ignore any rankings benefit that you could receive through the use of such links, if you continue to use such a link building strategy and your intent about it becomes evident, it might very well lead to a possible Google penalty. Here’s some other tactics that we strongly recommend you avoid:
- Dofollow Blog Comments- A penalty causer if ever there was one
- Blogrolls and site wide links- used to be good once upon a time for transferring PageRank, but considered as penalty material these days.
- Using article submission services- Penalty material
- Widgets-Penalty material
- Unnatural site-wide links
- Any unnatural links
- Any kind of paid links
Honestly speaking there is still a lot that you can get away with when building a link profile. It all depends on your intent or what Google interprets as your intent when building a link profile for your website.
Nofollow links like the kind you usually find on blog comments are not typically counted as links. However, you can use them to generate greater traffic if you link it to a popular blog or comment on one. A few optimisers believe that Google algorithms do in fact follow nofollow links in certain scenarios. Our SEO strategies are not dependent on no-followed links in anyway, if they do well we consider it to be an added bonus.
To get the right kind of links you need to ensure that site is well structured with strategically optimised title tags, unique in-depth content and an easy to use internal site architecture.
Just being popular is not enough for your link profile, you also need it to be unique and relevant. Generally, the easier it is to get a particular type of link the less value it has for your site in the long run.
How Safe Is It To Acquire Reciprocal Links From Unrelated Websites?
Often we receive unsolicited emails from businesses that ask for reciprocal links between our site and theirs and the explanation given for such a request is “because it will improve the SERP rankings of both websites”. We usually ignore any such requests and advise you to employ a similar stance when faced with such a request.
We devote a lot of our time and resources in trying to develop a natural link profile and in our many years of SEO experience we have rarely found a useful link in such link bartering schemes.
Just for the record even Google is against such an approach, here’s what they have got to say about it;
Your site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to you. The quantity, quality, and relevance of links count towards your rating. The sites that link to you can provide context about the subject matter of your site, and can indicate its quality and popularity. However, some Webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. This is in violation of Google’s Webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results. Examples of link schemes can include…… Google
Reciprocal link exchanges are rarely of much SEO benefit to a site and therefore for us it is not worth the risk of incurring Google’s wrath. If you can just visualize the scenario of what a reciprocal unrelated link does to your entire link structure, you will realise how easy it will be to mess up your SERP rankings through a freely acquired link.
Even if you cant possibly visualise it, let me tell you that Google software’s will be able to do it very easily mainly because it is so obvious.
We ignore all spam mail requests for reciprocal links, especially if they are from a site that is totally unrelated to the site we are working on.
Even if you agree to such a request most likely your link will be placed on a useful links page, which again is not going to be of much use to you.
Useful links page usually links out to sites that are unrelated, located on a low quality domain that Google considers as spam, meaning that most probably that link is going to be ignored.
Therefore, receiving such a link can prove to be the ultimate exercise in futility for you.
Worse if you have too many of such links, you might as well be laying the red carpet to Google’s web spam team.
Does it make any sense from a SEO perspective to link out to unrelated, irrelevant websites?
No, there is not. In fact we might go so far as to say that such links can not only be waste of time, they can also potentially be damage causing to your website.
Should you link out to other unrelated sites at any other point in time?
You should, but not just to manipulate search engine algorithms and to give your website a big rankings boost.
If the page linking out to you is relevant to an article you have written, it is a good and useful link to have.
Should you be wary of unrelated websites linking out to you?
No, you should not be unless negative SEO is being employed, so make sure that you check whether that’s the case.
Linking is the whole foundation of the internet. Without links there would be no web, definitely not the one we know and love.
There would definitely be no Google if there weren’t any links, so do not be afraid of linking out to other useful sites on the web.
Think of it this way even Google wants (or expects) you to link and will probably thank you for it in some form or the other (fingers crossed!).
What you should remember is that reciprocal links will communicate to Google that the two sites are related in some way, do you really want such a thing to happen?
The focus should always be to look for high quality links and it does not matter if you link back or not. One-way links are better in a sense as they show that your site has greater authority, considering that editorially approved links are being directed to your site. Those are the best kind of links for your website to attract.
If you are looking to get links from high authority sites, ensure that you receive the link first, so that you get a rankings boost and a vote of trust from what is essentially a big brand for search engines before you reciprocate that link.
Big brand websites will very rarely require a link back from you, but what you can ensure is that you are linking out in a way that is useful for them.
If somebody links out to you and you don’t link back to them, that’s considered to be a one-way link, which is good as it establishes the authority of your site. If you link back to that site, it’s called a reciprocal link.
If a very trusted site links to your site giving you a great ranking boost, are you obligated to reciprocate with a link? Is there some kind of SEO bro-code at work here?
No, a link to your website does not mean that you have to link back or that you will lose the rankings boost you had gained simply because it does not exactly sync with what Google is trying to do in the first place, at least when its not trying to mint money.
Google cares about a good end product, which means that it is committed to return good results to users in its organic searches.
Also, we do not believe that Google will punish you just because you are linking back to a site with online business authority and trust.
Linking back to a site that has just linked to you is a very common practice on the web and almost everybody does it. All these links that your website accrues adds to its authority and trust in Google. You can tap further into this by creating good topical content via a blog, which can be very useful, these days.
Let’s consider an example. Think of a new site, a small site and one that is linking to its industry body. After maybe a year or two the site is now a big player in its niche. But it still has links from the industry body.
Are those links now useless? It shouldn’t be and most experts believe that at some level Google algorithms are smarter than that. We believe that at all times Google will consider the trust and domain authority of a website and think whether or not it has any grounds to not trust it anymore.
We generally do link back to sites with higher domain authority or to ones that are relevant to our target audience. And no, we do not consider reciprocal linking to low quality irrelevant sites as an important ranking factor.
Also, we do not link to sites JUST because they have linked to us. That could have happened maybe because they are linking to any site irrespective of whether it is relevant or not and also not caring if their site is located in a ‘good neighborhood’ (linked with high domain authority sites) or in a ‘bad neighborhood’ (along with low quality spammy sites).
If you link back and find yourself associated with spammy websites, it could lead to a penalty from Google’s web spam team.
Therefore, ensure that you:
- Avoid getting into link schemes or avoid reciprocal links of low quality.
- Try to get other sites to link to you first.
- Don’t hesitate about reciprocating links to sites with domain authority.
- Do not count reciprocal links as a key part of your link building strategy.
- Do not link back to a site, just because they have linked to you.
What Is The Best Way To Build Links?
At DAPA we believe that it is more important to have a great website, one which is well optimised with lots of great content, offering the ideal user experience to all visitors. Basically create an asset that is link worthy first before you start obsessing about the link building method you are going to employ.
Once you are sure of owning one, make sure that you vary your linking strategy to avoid getting low quality links towards your website.
It is the most effective way to not just rank well, but to continue doing it for the long term. SEO is constantly evolving (Google makes sure of that) and the practices you use today to get a site to the top might not be as effective tomorrow.
The ‘content is king’ phrase holds true only if your page is optimised for search engines and if you are able to attract quality inbound links to your website. If you do not manage to do those things, it does not matter how great your content is, your website will be nowhere near the top results of a SERP. Why? Probably because a competitor has beaten you to it by not just creating great content, but by also backing it up with the total SEO package.
Is There Such A Thing As The Perfect Link For A Website?
Every website optimiser will probably have their own view of what a perfect link constitutes and honestly that is why you cannot have a generalised definition about it.
Here are some of the important factors we look out for when building links:
- Despite what many SEO’s claim Pagerank is still important when you are looking for links. Matt Cutts had once said that the easiest way to get internal pages out of Google’s back up listing (supplemental index) is by assigning PR to those pages. A high Pagerank will mean that your site is crawled frequently by Googlebot, which is great if you are constantly adding new content to your website. Ensure that you don’t trust Pagerank blindly, think of it more as a guide or indicator.
- Anchor text. This is the text you use within a link. When we are trying to rank for a particular keyword, we make sure that we have a optimised landing page along with a link that includes a keyword optimised anchor text such as “link building expert Leicester” instead of inserting a link that just says ‘click here’. Ensure that you don’t stuff keywords into your anchor text or make an incoherent link just because you were trying to force a keyword into it as Google is trying to rein in all the anchor text abuse that is happening these days.
- Contextual link within text, surrounded by text in which Google can detect a long list of links, for example navigational arrays. Always try to acquire a link within the text used on a page, so that it appears natural and not spammy. In the most ideal scenario, the text surrounding the link will also be relevant to your webpage. The most sure fire way of generating good links is through good content. By creating good content you force people to link back to your own website. Acquiring these types of links is what every optimiser dreams of which is probably why many buy such links for their website (we don’t).
- Sites with domain authority also rank high on the ‘trust’ quotient with search engines. Trusted sites do well on Google SERPs because Google trusts them (duh!). How do they acquire such trust? Firstly by ensuring that they do not link out to low quality and spammy websites. That’s why a link from a site with high domain authority is worth its weight in gold in terms of the kind of rankings boost your website receives because of it. How to determine if a site is trustworthy or not? From a purely link building perspective, you can probably interpret trust with the number of quality links pointing to and from a particular page. Put simply, look to accumulate links from sites or pages that already have a lot of high quality links associated with it.
- The page that is linking to you, is it relevant to the content of your website or the purpose of your business? Think of it this way, if you are a SEO site, are you looking to build links with SEO related websites. Whenever possible we look to build links that is directly associated with the kind of work we do. However, if you receive a link from site that is not directly related to your niche but one which possesses a lot of domain authority, remember that it would always add to your website’s reputation.
- Hub or neighbourhood. Ever business niche has a network of sites that every small site in the niche links to, an authority hub if you will. This is what we guys in SEO keep calling ‘neighbourhood’. Getting links from these sites will always help you as Google already trusts those sites and some of that ‘trust’ will be transferred to your site. By linking out to these sites, you will also ensure that you are located in the right online ‘neighbourhood’.
- Any kind of link you can get your hands on. We will accept any link that comes our way, as long as it is not a spammy one or from an unrelated website with less trust then ours. You don’t believe me? Just send us your link and find out whether I am bluffing or not. We do spend a lot of our time and effort to ensure that we attract good quality links but that does not mean you always get what you want. As long as the links are relevant they will be welcomed in with open arms.
Ensure that you are not rigid with the link building techniques you are employing.
Keep varying your strategies so that you are never caught out by a sudden algorithm update.
By varying your link building approach you ensure that the links you attract will be of benefit for your website from a long term perspective.
Keep reminding yourself ’what works today might get you in trouble tomorrow’.
Also, by employing a varied multi-pronged link building strategy, you can make sure that none of your competitors can reverse engineer what you are doing and use it for their own websites.
Strive to get sites with high domain authority to link with you and for that it is important to remind yourself that you should always, always steer clear of unnatural links.