There has been plenty of panic floating around the SEO world this year, and it’s mostly involving link building. When Google released its Penguin update that started penalizing sites that participated in manipulative link strategies, fear began to take over. Is link building dead? Is it still safe?
As many SEOs know, link building can be difficult and time-consuming. And Google has made it clear that bad, valueless links will not help you move up in the search rankings – as we all know, building bad links can even harm your efforts.
But did we really ever want Google to reward us for crappy links that cluttered the Internet with meaningless content? Google simply took action and found a way to remove the value of spammy links from its algorithm, meaning the search engine is now reinforcing the value of user-centered links.
If you look at it this way, link building hasn’t died at all. It actually means that good link building is more valuable than ever. If you put in the time and effort to understand and begin practicing good link building tactics, Google will significantly reward you.
Link Building Is Still Important
In July, Matt Cutts confirmed that links are still the best way for Google to discover the relevancy of a site. The simple truth is that, in 2014, link building is still one of the most important factors to improving your ranking and visibility in the search engines.
When considering your budget, it isn’t wise to stop link building altogether. Instead, invest the time and resources into building good links that Google will reward – links that give you more visibility in organic searches. While you may want to get informed on how social media and authorships are starting to influence link building, they are all factors that are simply tied together to ensure Google gives users the most relevant content.
What Makes a Good Link?
If you’re wondering about the best way to build links, start focusing on the best way to build good, quality links. If you don’t invest the time and try to build an easy link that offers no benefit to your visitors, Google won’t reward you for it.
There are some primary characteristics of a good link, and this is what the new link building forecast looks like:
- The link should be valuable to the reader
- The reader should be likely to click on the link
- The link should be on a site that’s at least loosely related to yours
- The link should be on a page that has relevant content to the page you’re linking to
The bottom line is your link should be relevant for the visitor. Google is rewarding focused, user-centered links that are targeting relevant traffic. And isn’t that the main focus of SEO anyway?
What Makes a Bad Link?
It’s important to understand the difference between link scheming and link building. Link scheming is not link building, and it’s these types of bad link practices that will cause Google to penalize you. Here are a few things that Google considers link scheming:
- Selling or buying links merely to pass PageRank
- Linking to a site just so you can get a link back
- Using automated programs to build your site’s links
- Participating in massive guest posting using keyword-rich anchor text
- Buying articles with links that pass Page Rank
There are plenty of other link building tactics that walk the fine line between scheming and building – for instance, if you insert links into articles illogically without relevance. Or if you’re linking to web spammers and unrelated sites, in order to pass Page Rank. These types of practices could still cause a penalty if you’re not careful.
The easiest way to avoid creating a bad link is to stop scheming, and do what SEO has always been about. Target your audience with relevant content, and take their needs into consideration so they want to visit your site.
Start Creating Social Links
Links are clearly more important than ever if you learn to build them the right way, but social signals and shares are also becoming important. If content is socialized and spread around the Internet, it can have a large impact on your search engine rankings.
Social signals are beginning to do what traditional link building used to – they confirm that users are finding the content useful and relevant. This connects to link building in a big way, because, after all, you can’t look to build a quick relationship over social media, just like you can’t look to build a quick link. Focus on building long-term relationships with people, and engage with them so they’ll care about the links you’re building and the content you’re sharing.
This will help you surround your links with human interaction. You want to share high quality content that social media users will find useful enough to share and link to.
Find Safe Ways
The best way to invest your time and money into link building is by doing it the right way-the way that will help you move up in the SERPs and draw relevant traffic to your site. While link building is arguably the most difficult part of SEO, don’t be afraid of it.
Find external link building opportunities where the link’s success depends on approval by readers. Focus on human interaction and the social side of link building, and start building quality links that are the most relevant as possible. Link to the pages readers would genuinely be interested in on your site.
Give your users the experience they want, and invest your time into quality over quantity. Link building is nowhere near dead if you can adopt safe, user-driven practices.