You’ve created content that people are searching for, that answers their questions, and that search engines can understand, but those qualities alone don’t mean it’ll rank. To outrank the rest of the sites with those qualities, you have to establish authority. These important link building techniques will help you accomplish those goals by earning links from authoritative websites, building your brand, and nurturing an audience who will help amplify your content.
Google has confirmed that links and quality content are two of the three most important ranking factors for SEO. Trustworthy sites tend to link to other trustworthy sites, and spammy sites tend to link to other spammy sites.
But what is a link, exactly? How do you go about earning them from other websites? Let’s start with the basics.
What Are The Links?
Inbound links, also known as backlinks or external links, are HTML hyperlinks that point from one website to another. They’re the currency of the Internet, as they act a lot like real-life reputation. If you went on vacation and asked three people (all completely unrelated to one another) what the best coffee shop in town was, and they all said, “Cuppa Joe on Main Street,” you would feel confident that Cuppa Joe is indeed the best coffee place in town. Links do that for search engines.
Since the late 1990s, search engines have treated links as votes for popularity and importance on the web.
Internal links, or links that connect internal pages of the same domain, work very similarly for your website. A high amount of internal links pointing to a particular page on your site will provide a signal to Google that the page is important, so long as it’s done naturally and not in a spammy way.
The engines themselves have refined the way they view links, now using algorithms to evaluate sites and pages based on the links they find.
Follow vs. Nofollow Links
Remember how links act as votes? The rel=nofollow attribute (pronounced as two words, “no follow”) allows you to link to a resource while removing your “vote” for search engine purposes.
Just like it sounds, “nofollow” tells search engines not to follow the link. Some engines still follow them simply to discover new pages, but these links don’t pass link equity (the “votes of popularity” we talked about above), so they can be useful in situations where a page is either linking to an untrustworthy source or was paid for or created by the owner of the destination page (making it an unnatural link).
Say, for example, you write a post about link building practices, and want to call out an example of poor, spammy link building. You could link to the offending site without signaling to Google that you trust it.
Why Is Link Building Important for SEO?
In order to understand the importance of link building, it’s important to first understand the basics of how a link is created, how the search engines see links, and what they can interpret from them.
- Start of link tag: Called an anchor tag (hence the “a”), this opens the link tag and tells search engines that a link to something else is about to follow.
- Link referral location: The “href” stands for “hyperlink referral,” and the text inside the quotation marks indicates the URL to which the link is pointing. This doesn’t always have to be a web page; it could be the address of an image or a file to download. Occasionally, you’ll see something other than a URL, beginning with a # sign. These are local links, which take you to a different section of the page you’re already on.
- Visible/anchor text of link: This is the little bit of text that users see on the page, and on which they need to click if they want to open the link. The text is usually formatted in some way to make it stand out from the text that surrounds it, often with blue color and/or underlining, signaling to users that it is a clickable link.
- Closure of link tag: This signals the end of the link tag to the search engines.
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