What Matters When Building Links

Michael Beauchemin —  October 8, 2013

Link building, is just one step that goes into helping a site rank.  David Harry posted a good overview of search engines and what goes into ranking a web site on Search Engine marketing that can be found here. iStock_Links

While David provides a good overview, In this post, we will only cover the importance of link building.  Link building can either make or kill your SEO plan. Since the introduction of Google’s Panda, sites that had previously or currently participate in poor, low quality, spammy link building tactics are negatively impacted.  The question and greatest challenge businesses face is how to grow links to improve your rankings and not incur the wrath of the almighty Google or other search engines.  To understand why links are important, you have to first understand what signals the search engines are looking for when determining how to rank a site.

Link building became central to  an SEO campaign when Google first introduced Page Rank (PR) to its algorithm. Page Rank was a way for companies to gauge its success at building links.  At the most basic level, Page Rank was built on the idea that each page that linked to another site was a vote for that site.  The more votes a site had, the greater the popularity of that site, or so they thought.

Google, eventually identified a fundamental flaw in its Page Rank algorithm. With Google’s Page Rank algorithm, not 100% of the weight of the link that was passed along was ever returned.  Essentially this created “leakage” when determining the value of a reciprocal link.  Matt Cutts in a post in 2009, estimated that only 85%-90% of the weight of the PR was passed along.

Many companies realizing the weight of the link they received in return was less than what was being provided, stopped linking with other sites.  Other companies participated in building high volume, low quality links.  Web sites, were created for the sole purpose of building links and offered nothing of value to the end-user visiting the site, other than just one big link directory.  Google recognizing this, introduced Panda, and virtually overnight companies that had a large number of low quality links that had ranked high in the search engines, could no longer be found.  Many have never recovered and the others that did survive are still trying to recover.

Google has migrated away from Page Rank and its Page Rank algorithm and focuses on the quality of links between sites.  The links are evaluated based on Relevance, Authority and Trust.  It is why companies need to focus on the quality of links they build and not the quantity.

So then, when building links what should you focus on? Here are the three areas to consider when looking to establish a link from another site.

1. Relevance

Sites, that link to you with relevant topics will always provide greater benefit that other sites that have no relationship to what you are offering or what your site is about.  For example a web site about boats and boating would not necessarily have much relevance to a site that is about rock climbing or rock climbing equipment.  On the other hand, a boating web sites would benefit from a link from sites that are about recreational water activities, water safety, boat reviews, etc.  On the other hand a rock climbing site would gain much more relevant links about hiking, trail reviews, best mountain for rock climbing or other sites that review rock climbing gear.

When looking for links consider what the relevance is to your site.  Links fro sites that are relevant to your site topic will carry more weight than others that have no relevance.

2. Authority

These are sites, that are recognized as being an authority on a certain subject matter.  For example for cars, if you have one link from a site such as Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Top Gear or another recognized authoritative sites, it carries much more weight than links from dozens of other sites combined. In addition building up sites authorities goes beyond just building links from authoritative sites.

Find sites that are authoritative sites and invest in those links rather than linking with hundreds of low quality sites.  Additionally, building up your own authority requires significantly more work than just establishing inbound links from authoritative sites.  Today, search engines are looking for other signals to measure a site’s authority.  A few of these indicators to search engines are social mentions and citations.  Your SEO strategy, to be effective, also requires investing time and effort in building up your social media participation and  and increasing positive citations to increase your authority.

3. Trust

The third area to consider is the trust of the site you are linking to. The old adage that you can judge a person by the company one keeps is strongly embedded in the search engines algorithm.  When many trusted sites are linking to a site it increases the trust of that site.  If a site has many spammy links, it is likely that’s site’s trust will be diminished so obtaining alink from one of these sites will diminish your site’s trust.  A frequently used metric for gauging a site’s trust level is MozTrust.  To find a sites MozTrust score, you can go to Moz.org and use Open Explorer, a free tool tool, find a sites MozTrust score.

When building links, find sites that are trusted sites.  You can use the MozTrust score to gauge whether it is a site you want to obtain a link from.

Michael Beauchemin

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Certified Inbound Marketing Consultant committed to helping businesses grow sales through measurable, accountable marketing metrics.
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