Are you looking to grow your blog or website? If so, you probably realize the key to rankings and traffic are links – but which links, and how do you get them?
Ahh link building, perhaps the hardest, most frustrating and unavoidable part of SEO. Why? Because ultimately, it’s still the trump card for higher rankings.
For the smaller players and those starting out, that doesn’t leave many options. Most people are worried about purchasing links, and rightly so. Buying links without the REL=NOFOLLOW attribute is against Google’s terms of service and can technically be considered Blackhat SEO. But does this stop people doing it? No of course not, it just forces people to be more creative and use techniques that are considered legitimate.
Why are links so important?
Links from your industry or websites with similar subject matter as yours drive relevant traffic likely to be interested in your website and products you offer. Targeted traffic is going to have a higher chance at conversion and thus, is more valuable to your website.
The major search engines are continually changing and updating their algorithms but one thing that hasn’t changed for a long time – and doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon – is the fact that link popularity is the top factor in search engine rankings.
In crude terms, when returning search results Google considers three major factors:
- The number of links to your website
- The authority and relevance of the linking websites
- The anchor text used to link to you
Ok, so you don’t have to be an SEO Guru to know that links are required to rank, but how then, do you acquire quality one-way links to your website?
Natural Links Versus Paid
Buying links is tricky business, under Google’s terms of service paid links should have a nofollow attribute and thus, not increase your rankings. Google wants search results to be a natural indication of popularity on the internet. The argument being, if you have quality content then people will naturally link to it.
But what if you want a bit of a head start? As a webmaster many factors – such as domain age – are out of your control, that is where SEO and link building comes in.
It is important to understand that buying links without the nofollow attribute can end with you losing trust with search engines or you being removed from Google’s index. If you do wish to purchase links it’s advisable to err on the side of caution or do so with the help of an experienced SEO consultant.
The 5 Principles
Principle #1 – Relevancy Over PageRank
Buying links exclusively from high PR sites is note recommended. Yes they will have a greater affect on your PR but you should consider these factors:
- Having a disproportionate amount of high PR links without as many links from lower ranking sites looks unnatural and may raise flags with Google
- Relevant links are more likely to reach your target market, bringing you targeted traffic
- Relevant links are becoming more valuable as new search algorithms are giving them more importance
Avoid sites that sell off-topic links as they are most likely to have their site removed from the Google index, rendering your link useless.
Principle #2 – Link Consistently To Your Main Homepage
A good ranking strategy is to ensure all your links point to the same location, usually your homepage.
When linking back to your site use a consistent URL. Check if your site features WWW in the URL i.e. http://www.mysite.com or http://mysite.com . If your site does not have WWW in the URL it doesn’t matter in terms of SEO but make sure that you consistently link back to your URL.
By mixing your URLs you run the risks of the links not counting towards your ranking.
Principle #3 – Vary Your Anchor Text
Anchor text is the words used to link to your site. By linking with your targeted keywords you will be increasing your rank for those particular keywords, which is why you should never use text such as “click here” but rather “cheap online furniture” or words relating to your site.
A common mistake SEOs make is after doing their keyword research, finding a very effective longtail keyword such as “connoisseur oak furniture” and using this for all incoming links. This is ineffective because search engines will see this as unnatural and reduce ranking accordingly.
A much better strategy is to mix incoming links with your core and longtail keywords. Having natural appearing links will yield the best long-term results.
Principle #4 – Buy from different networks
Back when people first figured out that links were the key to ranking some SEOs started hosting many websites on the one server or using one domain to make many sub domains and build link-farms.
Search engines soon figured this out and discounted the value of these links. As a general rule of thumb aim for one quality link from a site and look for further links from sites hosted on different IP ranges.
Principle #5 – Avoid Paid Link Sites
Not only do most search engines not count links from link-farms but some will even reduce trust for having too many incoming links from “bad neighborhood” sites.
By having too many links from unrelated websites you run the risk of being flagged for buying links or worse, being reported by one of your competitors for spamming. A better strategy would be sounding out small to medium blogs and approaching them on an individual basis.
These are just 5 of the many principles for effective link building strategies. Don’t forget that links are probably the single most important factor in determining your natural ranking success. A well implemented will help position you at the top of search engine results and link reputation is likely to continue being the primary factor for top rankings in the foreseeable future.