For those outside the industry, search engine optimization (SEO) is either an unknown industry, confusing, or viewed as part of the seedy underbelly of the Internet. Unfortunately for those of us in the SEO industry, the last two on the list can be all too true. Link builders and SEO firms struggle to adapt and stay ahead of Google’s ever changing algorithm which tries to combat our efforts to rank our clients high in the search engine results page (SERP).
SEO is deemed as a necessary evil by many, for manipulating the search engines gives users a skewed view of the Internet, but if a business wants to succeed in a competitive market SEO and link building techniques needs to be utilized.
Why Build Links?
A key part of SEO is link building, in which a site actively tries to get links on unaffiliated sites to point back to it (known as back links). Links pointed to a page or site give “weight” to that site for it should mean people are referencing the site or find it useful in some way. This tells Google, and other search engines, that this page should rank high for related searches. Before Google cracked down on spam, these links could come from anywhere and link farms and bots could be used to gain millions of easy links. Google has combated this by penalizing sites who participate in these tactics which is known as black hat link building.
Avoid Being Penalized
Link building can be a fantastic long term SEO links strategy, but it has to be done correctly and without shortcuts. Too often in the SEO industry, link builders forget that real people run blogs and sites and look at the 1s and 0s of the website instead. Shortcuts in link building lead to black hat techniques which can provide short term benefits, but are more and more likely to result in long term penalties. To avoid being penalized, links going to your site should be built to look natural… and guess what? The best way to do this is to build links naturally and relevantly.
Natural & Relevant Link Building
To steal a common example, imagine the Internet without the likes of Google. No algorithms to trick in hopes of climbing up the SERPs, just a pure and unbiased world wide web. In a place like this, what kind of sites would you want to be linked on? It wouldn’t make any sense to get your woodcarving site listed on a ESPN, even if ESPN ranks highly and provides a lot of link juice. Instead, you would focus on sites that are in your niche. Asking an exotic wood supplier to list you, or writing a guest post for Wood Carvers Digest would be the natural way to build links and bring traffic to your site – and these same strategies should be used to combat Google’s Penguin and Panda updates that have wreaked havoc on sites that utilized unnatural and irrelevant link building.
To summarize, link building should not be focused on the total number of links you can get. Doing so will lead you down an alley filled with muggers and peddlers trying to sell you black hat goods. Focus on natural, relevant links and they will serve you in a long term link portfolio that will help you rank high SERPS, and keep that rank.