Link Building Strategies – Part 1

A beginner’s guide to backlinks

Link building strategies and Inbound marketing go together like strawberries and cream, black and white and Ying and Yang. They’re inextricably connected. But why are inbound links so important in the scheme of things?

In the first of these posts about link building, we’re taking things right back to the basics.

What are inbound links?

Inbound links are links that point to your site, created by people who like the cut of your jib. They link to your content via social media, blog posts, articles, all sorts of ways.

The higher the Page Rank of the link’s origin, the more value Google attributes to it.

What is Page Rank?

PageRank is a link analysis algorithm and it assigns a numerical weighting to each element of a hyperlinkedset of documents, such as the World Wide Web, with the purpose of “measuring” its relative importance within the set.

You can read more here about Page Rank

New sites tend to have a PR of nought. Most site pages tend to fall into the PR 1-4 range, with PR5 or more much less common. And PR10 sites are as rare as hen’s teeth, almost unheard of.

What do search engines do with back-links?

Search engines use all manner of indicators to help them ‘decide’ how to place a website in the search results. One of the primary indicators is your back-link profile: the number and quality of links that point at your website from other places.

Google assumes that the more high PR back-links point to a site, the higher its authority and trustworthiness, usefulness and popularity, relevance and quality.

Playing the system

Link building strategies; once upon a time you could play the system, merrily going forth and buying yourself a load of high Page Rank back-links. And Google would happily push your site higher up the search results.

These days Google’s algorithms are subtler. They can identify bought links much more easily, and if you persist they can slap your site down by devaluing your back-links. Worst case scenario, you could even find your site thrown out of Google’s index altogether, which means you’re suddenly and catastrophically invisible.

Recent algorithm updates mean that today it’s best to aim for a varied back-link profile, the kind of thing that occurs perfectly naturally as different people link to your content over time. Google has always frowned upon bought links and they’ve recently come down hard on the worst offenders, places like ‘link farms’. A natural profile tends to include some links from higher PR pages and others from places with lower Page Ranks.

Can you control the PR of the places that link to your site?

No, but the better your content the more authority sites are likely to link back to it.

Link building and inbound marketing

Inbound marketing involves attracting extra traffic and encouraging natural inbound links. The best way to attract quality inbound links is to create fantastic content that people love to read because it’s fascinating, entertaining, relevant, useful, or all of the above. The key is quality, a word Google uses often.

Why quality? Because Google always works with the user in mind, and people who use Google (including you and I!) want the best possible content returned in the search pages.

What does ‘quality content’ mean?

According to Google, quality means:

  • Unique content, neither stuff you’ve copied wholesale from elsewhere nor repetitive content, where you cover the same old stuff you’ve covered before countless times but in a slightly different way
  • Content that’s written beautifully, properly spelled with accurate grammar. Google’s algorithms can pick up poor spelling and grammar and give the good stuff priority in the search results
  • Content that appeals directly to your target market, written so they can understand it
  • Content that’s edited properly so the message is presented logically and clearly
  • Content with some depth and authority, containing information that’s actually worth having
  • Content that loads quickly even if you’re still using an old-fashioned dial-up connection

What happens when you create quality content?

When people like what you say, they’ll share your content, bookmark it and link back to it. The extra traffic you generate indicates to Google that your content is popular, so every piece of great content ultimately helps improve your position in the search results. It’s a serious win-win situation, with considerable commercial advantages.

One in several million pieces of content ends up as link bait, meaning it goes absolutely ballistic and generates masses of valuable backlinks, gets shared widely across the internet and generates huge bursts of fresh site traffic. That’s gold dust, and it’s every inbound marketer’s dream.

What’s next?

I’ll take a look at the many ways you can create great content, from blogging to submission-base content, images, ego-bait and more.