Link building is an essential part of search engine optimization because the authority of your site on search engines is partially determined by the number of inbound links from other reputable websites. Links from high-quality sources are hard to get, but often worth it; conversely, links from the wrong places (dubious pharmaceutical websites, for example) are considered spam and can get your site penalized. Although labor intensive, every business should be actively acquiring links to their website.
What is a WebLink?
- A link can be text or an image that connects to another page or file on your site or another site.
- Links are commonly underlined and appear in a different color text than surrounding content—blue is the most common color for links, and links you have visited previously are commonly purple.
A Brief History
- In 1989, Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, also known as TimBL (pictured below), invented the infrastructure of the internet as we know it at CERN (a global research organization) as a way for scientists and universities to share research.
- Like today, links were used back then for citing sources, for navigation and for sending traffic/visitors to different, related information.
- Search engines as we now know them today like Google & Bing did not exist; Yahoo started as a “Yellow Pages” of the early web and linked out to other sites based on categories (see image below).
- With the advent of Google, the importance of links escalated far beyond just navigation and connecting different kinds of information— they became one of the ways Google and other search engines rank websites.
- Google’s original concept for ranking websites was taken from academic research papers; the most influential papers had the most citations in other research papers. Google extended this concept to links on the internet—the most important websites would have the most links from other important sources.
- Google and other search engines like Bing have changed much over the past 20+ years, but links remain a core concept for how websites are ranked.
How Do We Build Links?
First, not all links are created equal. Links have both authority/prominence and relevance values to them.
- High authority = Forbes, some news stations.
- High relevance = local news stations, industry-specific websites.
- Links from low-quality websites are not helpful and can be considered spam. Too many links to your site from “low-quality” sites can get your site penalized by Google—either de-ranked or removed from Google, depending on the severity. Common low-quality sites include gambling, dubious pharmaceuticals, and those that feature risqué imagery or videos.
- Even “unlinked mentions” where your business is mentioned but not linked may help ranking signals.
- If your business is mentioned in an article, always ask for the link.
Common Ways to Acquire Links
- News article mentions
- Non-industry-specific directories like Yelp or YP.com
- Industry-specific directories like FindLaw or AVVO
- PR outreach
- Resource or content creation
- Photo assets
How Important Are They?
- Every company with a website needs links from other sites. Links to your site from other sites help your site with search engine ranking and generating visitor traffic.
- Normally, sites with stronger links win in placing higher in search results.
- Good link building may be the hardest and most time-intensive area of SEO. And it’s an ongoing process—you can be sure your competition is nearly always building links and may pass you in ranking due to strength of their link building efforts.