Link building – also known as off-page optimization – is a process in which links from other websites are built to direct to your own website. It is used for several purposes, but mainly used to have higher rankings on search engine result pages (SERP) for your desired keywords.
There are two ways to obtain higher rankings on search engines, and link building is one of them. In my experience as a seasoned SEO practitioner, the fastest way to learn SEO is to understand its basic terminologies and to constantly apply them as well.
To start off, link building doesn’t work alone, on-page optimization and link building is a 1-2 punch combo, where one can’t exist without the other. Having a solid and well optimized page will make it much easier for you to see results from your link building efforts.
To know more about what is SEO, you can check out that introductory post by AJ Kohn.
6 Basic SEO Terms To Get You Started With Link Building
The following list of terms is the ones that you need to understand in order to get started in optimizing your website and to improve its search engine visibility.
- Keywords – the non-branded word(s) you want your site to rank for on search engine result pages, as average users seek for these terms more often than not when searching for information over the web (ex. cheap cars, affordable attorneys, learn SEO, etc…).
- Anchor Text – is the visible text in a hyperlink that displays or uses words to describe the destination page of the link instead of the normal or naked link (in http:// or www. link form).
The use of anchor texts in links helps in improving a site’s search rankings, as search engines tag the keywords used as link texts and consider the link as a vote for the targeted keyword, when they see it used by other webpage or websites to describe the links’ destination site/page.
Example: Kaiser The Sage’s Homepage
<a href=”http://kaiserthesage.com/”>Kaiser The Sage’s Homepage</a>
- Pagerank (PR) – the ranking system that Google uses in measuring a website’s importance and this metrics is mainly used for site crawl scheduling and page indexation purposes on their end. This practically means that the higher Pagerank that a site has is the more it gets the attention of Google’s spider bots.
Pagerank ranks a site’s importance in a scale of 1 – 10, wherein it’s calculated through several factors such as:
- Age of the site
- Value of the content, which is based on the amount of voluntary links from other websites pointing to it
- Amount of links from other websites that have high PR (should be dofollow, which I will explain later on)
- Number of pages of the site
This ranking system also updates every 3 months (but recently took 9 months before it finally updated to only sites that are already live on April last year). Most webmasters use this metrics in measuring a site’s authority, level of importance as well as if the site is trustworthy for link building purposes (such as link exchanges). Also, each page on a website has different Pageranks, since it’s based on the amount and quality of links (both backlinks and internal links) pointing to the certain page (which means your homepage, about page, contact page, services page, etc… can all have a different Pagerank).
- Dofollow and Nofollow
Dofollow link is a link attribute that allows Pagerank juice to flow from the page where the link is placed through the destination page of the link. It’s also known to carry more weight and value as a vote for search rankings, when targeted keywords are used as the anchor text for the link.
Nofollow link is the opposite of the dofollow, in which Pagerank or link juice isn’t passed through to the destination page of the link. However, nofollow links are still crawled by search engine spiders, and can still benefit a website on its search rankings since this type of link is still counted and considered by search engines (though it offers lesser value compared to dofollow links). This link attribute is also capable of passing through “trust”, particularly in developing a site’s link equity or the balance of the amount of dofollow and nofollow links pointing to a page/site, which is important in building a trustworthy link profile.
There are many tools out there that can help you distinguish Nofollow and Dofollow links, but personally, I use Affilorama SEO Toolbar (it’s a free Firefox plugin) in detecting link attributes.
Once you have installed the plugin, you can normally see it placed on the lower right part of your browser, which displays the Google Pagerank toolbar, Alexa Traffic Rank, and a “link” symbol button.
Clicking the link button will allow you to see the attributes of the links on any webpage that you visit, wherein it automatically highlights the links placed on the page.
- Backlink – also known as incoming link or inbound link; link to your website from other websites. It’s basically the currency of the web in terms of determining or measuring the popularity of a website – can be through search rankings and Pagerank. However, it doesn’t mean that having more backlinks necessarily means you’ll get higher rankings, seeing as the quality of the links pointing to a certain website is what mostly matters.
Fundamental Search Engine Optimization Terminologies
There are also other SEO terms that can help you more in understanding link building, given that these terms are included on the process of developing your site’s off-page optimization such as:
- Alexa Rank – a ranking system from Amazon.com, that measures the approximate amount of traffic or visitors that a site gets. Basically, having a lower Alexa traffic rank means the site has greater number of traffic (Ex. Google is ranked #1 and Facebook ranks on #2). This is often used in determining link opportunities, since it’s best to have links coming from sites that have good traffic.
- SERP – Search Engine Result Page; the list of results found on search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask) when seeking for information through the use of keywords. Normally, the top spot of the list is everyone’s target.
- Crawl – the process in which search engine’s spiders/bots/crawlers reach websites/pages all throughout the web through scanning links after links after links.
- Index – it’s when crawlers reach a webpage/website and generally includes new web pages or updated version of existing web pages on their massive list of pages/websites for it to be able to be seen on search engine result pages. This is also where they can get to analyze a page’s relevance for search terms or keywords to match search requests from search engine users.
- Reciprocal link – exchange of links, wherein Site A links to Site B, and Site B also links back to Site A.
Benefits of Optimizing a Website through Link building
There are several advantages that link building or off-page optimization provides to a website, and it includes the following:
- Links from other websites allow your webpage(s) to be crawled and indexed by search engines, so it can be included on their list of pages that can eventually rank or be a candidate on their many list of search results
- Backlinks serve as a vote for your site or page’s targeted keywords when links use proper anchor texts, which eventually leads to higher search engine rankings
- Links passes through Pagerank, which can then improve your own pages’ Pagerank.
- Passes through Trust and Authority, since links pointing to your website from other sites are seen by search engines as recommendations that your site is trustworthy, particularly if the links are coming from highly trusted websites (.edu and .gov sites, sites that have high PR).
- Your site’s traffic can also improve as people who see your links from other websites can get to your site by clicking on those backlinks.
Next Stop: Application
Acquiring links from other sites is easy, but finding the right targets for linking is the tougher task, since you have to find good pages to get a link from first. But the essential parts of knowing your targets are the relevance and the quality of the linking page. Say if you’re selling shoes on your website, then you need to obtain links from other related and trusted sites that may perhaps sell or give information about footwear, socks, clothing, and pretty much anything that’s related to your site’s theme.
Anyway, here are some of the basic methods that you can apply to get started with link building:
- Blog comments – Find blogs that are related to your site’s theme and leave sensible comments. Most blogs allow readers to link to their website when leaving a comment. For starters it’s best to use your real name in leaving comments, rather than using keywords on the name field to display as anchor text for the link, not unless you see that the owner of the blog allows keywords to be used as name for comments.
- Forums – Participate on authority forum sites in your industry (have good Pagerank on their homepage and have high traffic – low Alexa traffic rank). You can simply use your keywords as anchor text for your link on your signature field (if they allow it). Don’t spam! Participate with the community genuinely by adding value to discussions.
- Q & A Sites – Answering questions related to what your site is providing through Q & A sites such as Yahoo Answers and Quora can practically give you highly relevant links. Though you can’t use anchor text links on these sites.
- Articles – Writing articles with topics related to your targeted keywords is one of the best ways to build high quality links, given that this method really offers value through information. You can submit articles to article directory sites such as Ezinearticles, Goarticles, Ideamarketers, Amazines and many more. In your article, you can include a link to your site on the article’s author bio box using your targeted keywords as anchor text.
- Web 2.0 Properties – Pretty much the same with article directories, though most Web 2.0 domains have more authority and the author also have more control with the placements of links. Writing an article and publishing it to Web 2.0 sites such as Squidoo, Hubpages, Blogger, Posterous, Tumblr, and many more is always a good start for link building, seeing as you can really generate high quality links from these sites.
- Guest blog posting – contact, request and submit a blog post to other blog owners that have related content as to your site’s theme. This method is one of the most effective link building strategy, especially if you know how to do it right. Benefits? There are a lot, since you are able to obtain links – with proper anchor text – from high authority blogs related to your site’s niche, get to absorb some of their traffic as their readers get to read what you have posted on their blog and you get to have a control on what the content would be about, which is quite advantageous to your site’s search rankings and marketing side.
- Email outreach – Send link requests via email to sites that you’ve found to be very relevant to your site’s theme (through link search). It’s important as well that you offer something from your own content that will make them want to link to it (be informative, educational, etc… the main point is to offer real value to have a reason for other sites to link to you).
It is very important that you know the right targets for your link building and to set standards for the right links that you’ll want to acquire for your website – as I’ve mentioned before, link building is not a numbers game; it’s quality that separates you from your competitors. It’s also important that you give reason for other websites to link to your site – most probably through your own content (that’s why it’s the undisputed king).
Tired of the basics of SEO? Try some advanced link building strategies here.