If you manage a website and have tried to attract for traffic, you’ve probably scrolled through social media once or twice before and been hit with ads about link building for SEO (search engine optimisation) and digital marketing, or some magic link services that claims to propel your online business to success.
So what IS link building in SEO?
Building links is the process of acquiring links from other websites to yours. Creating links is crucial for SEO and is extremely valuable for your online business. A link click is one of the most useful metrics in digital marketing; indeed, the world wide web is built upon links – the “http” you see in your browser means “HyperText Transfer Protocol”, hypertext meaning words on a web page with links in them (just like these).
Like anything else valuable or worthwhile, there is no easy route to SEO success – it requires a combination of planning, ingenuity, volume and effort.
The internet is awash with articles, blogs, and videos that promise to make you rich through SEO link building, with advertisements selling backlinks and crazy magic marketing services. Being in the industry for some time, we’ve seen it all – the empty claims, the sneaky T&Cs, the false promises.
The truth is that marketing magic takes some serious strategy with ideating, planning, analysing, and measuring to succeed. And, of course, that all takes time & effort. This is especially true of SEO and link building.
What is a Backlink?
A backlink is simply a hyperlink from one website to another.
Text with hyperlinks within it is called hypertext (as with our “http” example above).
Websites link to each other for several reasons. This may be to use another website as a reference for a statement given, or it may be to send people to the next most relevant point on their journey – for example, if you were reading a guide about what school to choose for your kids, it could potentially link out to those recommended schools. Sometimes people even monetise this, where if someone clicks through to another website and makes a purchase, the website that sent them there gets a portion of the sale.
Ultimately, a backlink is a vote of confidence for Google. Backlinks are akin to a reference for a job or other type of application; with a backlink, you’re giving Google a reference that you’re a legitimate domain – just like a potential employer would want to know that you’re a legitimate prospective employee.
Relevancy is most important when it comes to backlinks. Remember that you do not want websites with low authority or domain ratings. These are websites that can be classified as spammy by Google, and they don’t want to send you there because their value rests upon sending people to the most relevant content. However, if the website doesn’t have huge authority or a high domain rating BUT is highly relevant to the topic your site, then irt may be a valuable link.
Backlinks are hard to acquire as they are valuable for all websites operating on the net. Therefore, many people and SEO agencies attempt to sell backlinks for profit. This can be quite a waste of money as, often, the backlinks that are sold don’t have any relevance to your site or are from a bad website. It’s like hiring someone blind – there’s a good chance they won’t work out. As such, do not buy backlinks; they are better off earned naturally using “white hat” tactics – more on this below.
Do-Follow vs No-Follow Backlinks
There are two types of backlinks; do-follow and no-follow. Do-follow links allow Google and other search engines to point back to your website or blog. This, in turn, passes “link juice” from their site to yours (AKA “SEO juice” or “backlink juice”). A no-follow link does not give authority to the website it is linking to – these links do not help in terms of SEO.
Google counts Do-Follow backlinks; these links help increase your website’s ranking in Google.
No-Follow links may be useful from a user standpoint; however, they have no real value for Google ranking.
What is Link Juice?
“Link juice” is a way of describing the authority and trust which Google attributes to the backlinks linking to your website. The more links, the more juice.
Backlinks distribute SEO juice to your website, increasing its strength and authority rating in Google and other search engines. Ultimately, we want high authority backlinks with Do-Follow settings to pass SEO juice to our website, increasing our website authority and Google Ranking. That’s when we get into cornerstone content and internal link building strategies, which involves a whole other level of complexity.
An Ethical ‘White Hat’ Link-Building Strategy
Based on the old paradigm of duality (good vs bad, black vs white), “white hat” and “black hat” are used simply to connote good or bad, legal or illegal, right or wrong. Either way you look at it, you should always go white hat.
Believe it or not, by using black hat methods, or cheating, you are actually digging yourself an early grave. A previous client of ours provides a useful example.
They needed to increase their website traffic in order to improve sales volume, so they hired an SEO agency.
Unfortunately, we discovered that the agency which they’d previously hired had used black hat methods such as keyword stuffing and hidden text to demonstrate some “quick wins” – what the client didn’t realise was that these quick wins resulted in the long and painful death of their website’s authority as Google’s crawlers began to discover their duplicitous conduct. After spending thousands of dollars on their services, our client was left to discover that not only did their services not work, but their website had been badly damaged. This decreased mid-to-longterm website traffic and sales; fixing it cost twice as much as getting it done properly in the first place.
If the SEO deal you’re being promised sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Unfortunately, the internet is awash with unethical people trying to make a quick buck. Many SEO agencies have figured out ways to sell link-building services where they don’t do much work at all. Instead, their agents acquire websites on the cheap and use them to sell backlinks to people – essentially a pyramid scheme where they just collect margin.
Many of these agencies have somewhat dubious methods of providing SEO services, many of which are referred to as black hat SEO (as discussed above). Many of these strategies work in the short term but will cause you long-term headaches – be wary of black hat hacker SEO techniques. Forget about “the ultimate backlink packages” for cheap, and watch out for agencies trying to sell you a get-rich-quick scheme.
A quality ethical approach to white hat SEO link building could start with the following:
- Publish quality written content on the regular. Forget about AI content generators as many of these generate writing of dubious quality. They can be good for generating ideas, but your customers won’t be impressed when you’re forced to admit that the information on your website is wrong because you didn’t source it yourself. Instead, write your own content, in your own voice, leveraging your own learning and expertise – this is what’s insightful and valuable for people.
- Post a lot of content. Publish at least 20 to 40 articles in the first 3-to-6 months of building your website – the more the merrier. Do one every four or five days and you’ll get there; SEO is not for the impatient – you must be disciplined. A backlog of quality content will leave your website in good standing when you start attempting to earn backlinks.
- Guest posting or link posting. Once you have enough content, ask people if you can exchange a blog you write for a backlink from their website. This is like a contra swap, trading your content for a link.
- Requesting backlinks. This one often requires a lot of time. To be effective here, you need to craft a winning pitch that showcases your value and what the website can gain in return for offering you a backlink. The trick here is to sell yourself and show how valuable your services can be.
- Earn visitors organically. As time progresses and your website develops with quality content and insightful information, it will naturally earn quality backlinks from people who find your website through organic search and link back to it because they appreciate its quality.
In summary, Search Engine Optimisation is complex and takes time and effort to produce results. It’s actually quite simple (when you know how), but it’s not easy. Solid results are achievable; consistency and discipline will make you a stellar Search Engine Optimiser. SEO may be the best money you ever spend on your business – but only when done properly.
If you have a website that needs more attention, SEO is the way to go.