Question to all of you awesome content creators.
Do links matter? If so, how do we “get” them?
The resounding answer to the first question is yes, absolutely.
The second part is a little bit trickier.
You need to use them correctly, and recognize what you should be doing compared – along with what you need to avoid.
Let’s discuss what needs to be done to encourage the right ranking factors as you put your content into content marketing. (And the links, too.)
How to Think of Backlinking & Creating Authoritative Content
Rand Fishkin of Moz has said: “Don’t build links. Build relationships.”
I 100% agree with that statement.
Google has gotten smarter about links, and ultimately changed how rankings are related to good and not so useful links.
Back in the day, there were shortcuts that would lead to higher rankings in search engines. Link builders could manipulate the way search engines indexed your pages and your content to raise your visibility in places like Google.
The ability to do that has gone to the wayside as only quality backlinks have become a standard part of SEO.
Quality backlinks add to your authority and credibility, making your content more relevant to search queries. When they are appropriately used, link building will raise your reach and rankings organically, even if it does take more time than link building from yesteryear.
Some people think backlinks are dead, but recent data proves that link building tactics are alive and well.
The Way Backlinks Have Changed Over the Years
Link building, or backlinking, has changed a lot since it began. Years ago, the standard was to focus on what was known as low-influence linking to build up your credibility.
Low-influence links were links that pushed domain diversity even if they were not necessarily links that were perceived authorities in a given sector. The idea was to amass hundreds of links that pointed to domains all over the place that would lead back to your site and raise your ranking.
Domain diversity would theoretically lend itself to credibility and therefore boost your overall visibility. It worked once upon a time, but in the end, domain diversity proved to be fruitless as opposed to lucrative.
Links like that are not the way to go today. Instead, you want to focus on quality over quantity, but what exactly does that mean? We are glad you asked.
The Differences Between Quality and Quantity
As was stated, it was common practice to link to hundreds and hundreds of low-ranking sites to raise your rank, but over time, it made more sense to work smarter and not harder.
That means working for quality links compared to the quantity of links.
In other words, you wouldn’t want to include a link to a power tool company when you are reading an article about nutritional well-being, right?
On the other hand, if you wrote an article about post-workout foods that help you recover faster, then you want to link to studies from credible and well-established sites that support your claims.
Quality links point back to relevant content and trustworthy websites. You want to focus on the best links that are relevant to your content and that go to top ranked sites.
Cultivating quality links takes an extended amount of time to build credibility, but once it is established, it lasts compared to the low-influence links of the past.
Know Where to Place Your Links
There actually is a way to place your links into your content. They’re not randomly set – there are rhyme and reason for every single link you see in the material you read every day.
Have you ever noticed that there are links both in the content you read as well as the bottom in the footers or navigational areas of different pages?
The first example is a screenshot of an article from political site ThinkProgress. You can see that ThinkProgress has a relevant link to Business Insider within their content.
The second example is from an iOS app production company, Tapbots. With Tapbots, the only way you’ll see links to click on is to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page.
Looking at the two examples above, which one do you think is more effective?
Links that are in the content work better because they are seen directly by your audience and will be considered editorial links.
If you put links in the footers or headers, they have less weight since they aren’t relevant to the content and they are not immediately visible to your audience.
Recognize Less Than Stellar Ideas When You See Them
You know that quality links are a good idea, and you may be tempted to try expediting the process to increase your ranking and visibility.
There are so many suggestions out there to increase link building, but be wary of the options that get presented to you and steer clear of anything that sounds too good to be true.
In doing your research, you may come across the prospect of buying links. Horrible idea. Don’t do it.
Buying backlinks has been a bad idea from the beginning, but people continue to do it because they think that it will increase ranking in the long-term.
The truth is that it will hurt your site’s ranking because if you happen to get caught using unethical link building tactics, your rankings will drop quickly. It will be hard to come back from that.
There are many examples of this happening after buying backlinks.
In one instance, a blogger thought buying backlinks was a good thing and his traffic report seemed to prove him right.
While his visitors apparently went up in a short time, his visibility and rankings earned before purchasing backlinks were utterly lost when the effect wore off.
His site had been penalized because Google knew that his backlinks were not genuine as well as being irrelevant to his content.
Something else to remember is that press releases don’t do much to improve your rankings either.
The occasional press release is okay, but you should never use press releases as a central pathway to link building because they don’t have a direct effect on your credibility.
Google’s Penguin and Hummingbird algorithms devalue press releases, so you don’t want to use them for much more than spreading brand awareness and generating referral traffic.
Something else to remember is that link building does not have to be expensive.
In a survey analyzed at Moz.com, it was found that more than a third of business owners have a budget of less than $1000 set aside for link building every month.
Disclosure: I’ve never budgeted a penny! I’ve always believed in “good content,” and the links followed.
Recovering from Bad Backlinks
Google understands that shady companies encouraged terrible ideas at one point, so it is possible to improve after bad backlinks.
All is not lost, even if you have already made poor choices, so long as you work to fix them.
You will want to remove all links that are not beneficial to you and your content. That means contacting site owners and requesting removal. If that doesn’t work, disavow the links.
Disavowing is a relatively straightforward concept – you’re basically asking Google not to associate those links with your site.
You will also want to check for bad backlinks that lead to error pages as error pages do nothing to raise your ranking at all.
The downside is that with fewer links, your traffic will likely drop, but if you follow the right way to incorporate backlinking into your content, you will rebound – eventually.
Your last option would be to start over from scratch with a clean slate and a fresh site, but only consider doing this if you have been penalized and you can’t do anything to change the perception of your site.
Also, most agencies include link building as part of a packaged deal, so if you see extraordinary amounts for link building alone, you should probably steer clear of that offer.
Pages with Fewer Links are Ideal for Backlinks
If you’re planning on creating backlinks on your own without an agency, it’s a good idea to evaluate high-quality links to ensure you get the effect you want by backlinking their page to yours.
Consider the image of pouring a concentrated food dye into a cup full of water.
More water dilutes the color, while less water keeps the color more intense, right?
The number of links on a page that your content is backlinked to is like water to dye – they dilute the quality of the link that you connect to.
You want to connect to a high-quality link that has fewer outgoing links on its page to get the best influence on your ranking in a more organic way.
When in Doubt, Google it Out
Google webmasters have created precise guidelines as to what is suggested and what needs to be avoided when backlinking.
While you shouldn’t necessarily aim for Google’s idea of perfection, as long as you avoid all of the things Google does not like while also focusing on business building strategies like high-quality link building as part of your content marketing, you’re golden.
If you aren’t sure quite how to make that happen, request a consultation to help you get your content planning underway.