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Link Building & Off-Page SEO – Questions Answered By Experts

What is Link Building?

This SEO strategy is one of the best ways to boost your SEO, access an entirely new audience, and give them direct access to your site. Link Building is building one-way hyperlinks, or backlinks, to a website with the goal of improving your search rankings. Links are the primary way users navigate the internet.

Link building looks a lot like relationship building between pages and sites. Typically, you pitch your content to a site that you want to link your pages. But in order to get the target site to link you, you’ve got to show them why it benefits them to do so. Show them that your content is relevant; it’s detailed and engaging; it’s well-written; your site and content are both authentic and can be trusted. Do these things, and the link building is essentially done.

Link building takes time, energy, and research on your part. You’ve got to determine which sites you want to be linked with and then show the webmaster exactly how it will benefit them to link your content. The more your link building strategy grows and expands, the larger the breadth of your internet presence, and statistically, the higher your rankings in Google’s SERPs: your ultimate goal with link building.

What is Link Equity?

Some links pass value and authority from one page to another. And when links are built with this result in mind, SEO pros refer to this value as link equity. Link equity, sometimes referred to as “link juice,” is a ranking factor that is comprised of other factors, like the linked page’s authority and relevance to the user’s topic, among other things. The stronger, more authoritative, and higher ranking a page, the greater its link equity.

Imagine a page with a lot of trust and authority in Google’s eyes links a smaller or lesser known site’s content. When this happens, the larger site’s authority is passed to the linked site. This relationship between sites can be seen as proof that the linked site has value. This passing of power and authority is link equity. When looking at your link building strategy, targeting sites with high link equity should be a priority because that’s what is going to get you the traffic and rankings you want.

Both internal and external links can pass equity. So if you have an article or page on your site that’s doing really well with its rankings, you can utilize the power of that page and pass it to other pages on your site through an internal link.

How Do I Analyze My Competitor’s Link Profile?

In order to answer this question, you need to determine two things: who is my competitor, and what’s a link profile? The latter is simple. A link profile describes the sites that are linked to yours. Determining your competitors might be more difficult. This can be done through a little keyword research.

To find your competition, you’ll first need to know which keywords you want to rank for and which ones you actually are ranking for; hopefully they’re the same! One you have this information, search out those keywords and see what—and who—pops up.

At this point, it’s time to find a backlink analysis tool. Moz and Ahrefs both have helpful tools that  break down your competitors link profiles, giving you access to their backlinks and helping you shore up your link building strategy. Essentially, you input a domain you want to analyze for links, and these tools return a list of results for you. Auditing your competition’s link profile gives you insights into what they’re linking and who they’re linking to. And when you know this, you can work to build your own links to these sites. Link profile analyzation gives you insights into where your target audience is hanging out online. When you build links to the sites with the traffic you want, you’re able to build your base and drive users to your site.

How Do I Get Other Sites to Link to Mine?

Getting other sites to link to yours doesn’t have to be a daunting task. The most direct and effective way of building links with other sites is to simply send an email. Remember, when you’re trying to convince sites to link to you, you’ve got to show them why it’s to their benefit to do so. Prove that linking to your site isn’t a waste of their time.

When you reach out to sites that you want to link to your own, there are a few things to include in your pitch that will catch their eye and improve your chances of getting the links you want.

  1. Show Your Value – What sets you apart from your competitors, and why should the site you’re reaching out to bother to link you? Remember, you’re trying to show them how you’ll benefit their rankings if they link to your content.
  2. Build Your Own Images – By creating your own images to show your content in a visual manner, you’re setting yourself apart from your competition. Infographics are easily shareable and, more importantly, easy to embed and link to.
  3. If They’re Using Your Content, Ask for a Link – You may have found that your content is already used by sites—especially if your content is good. If this is the case, you should reach out to the webmaster and ask them to include a link with your material. You’ll find that simply by asking and then providing a link for them to embed, they’re more than likely to oblige.

Is It True That I Can Buy Links?

Can you buy link for your site so you can try to boost your rankings with link equity and clicks from more popular sites? Yes. Should you? That’s another question entirely, and the consensus is no.

According to Ahrefs, it costs on average about $360 to buy a backlink. In all actuality, that’s a lot of cash for just one link. And paid links have a reputation for sub-par quality. If a site will sell a link for money to you, realize that they’ll sell links to others, too. And at that point, they aren’t concerned with the quality of the sites they’re linking. They’re getting cash for their links. For you, this means you’re also linked up with other sites who are paying their way into getting a link and aren’t earning it based on the quality of their content.

Additionally, the fact is, buying links isn’t how link building does or should work. Can Google spot when you’re buying links instead of earning them? Who can tell? But it wouldn’t be out of the question for Google to associate your site with sites of lower quality who are buying the same links as you. Then as a result, they might devalue your site, which could alter your rankings—the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish with buying links!

For these reasons, it’s better for you and your SEO if you skip buying links and earn them organically and by reaching out to sites that you want to link your pages.

Should I Focus on Getting More Links?

There’s no denying that link building is one of the most crucial ways to boost your SEO and page rankings. But what’s the magic number of links you should be adding to your pages? There’s no hard and fast answer.

The more backlinks you have leading to your site, theoretically, the more traffic you’ll get and the higher your rankings with Google. Hear this: you want a lot of backlinks. But it’s no good to have hundreds of backlinks if they’re all from subpar sites. Instead, focus on the quality of links and how they’re serving your users and bolstering your content. As with every other aspect of your SEO, link building is quality over quantity.

That being said, don’t neglect trying to get more links for your site just because you have one or two backlinks from really popular, authoritative websites. You certainly won’t be penalized for having tons of backlinks.

Yes, focus on getting more links. But don’t stop there. Focus on getting more quality links. The quality and quantity combined is what’s really going to make a difference in your rankings and boost your SEO.

What Is PageRank?

PageRank is an SEO metric that’s been around for years. You’ll find some folks claiming that PageRank has long been outdated and irrelevant, especially since Google removed support for Toolbar PageRank back in 2016.

However, the folks at Google make it clear that PageRank is still a significant factor in determining page rankings. PageRank is essentially a formula that determines the value of a page by looking at the quantity and quality of the pages liked to it. Google looks at the number and quality of inbound links, the number of outbound links, and the value of each of those linked pages. While the PageRank toolbar no longer exists, Google still uses PageRank’s metrics to evaluate pages.

Instead of giving a definitive numerical “rank” for a page, PageRank measures a page’s ranking by comparing it to the other pages on the web, and it does this by looking specifically at four factors: anchor text, the likelihood of being clicked, internal links, and no-follow links. And while PageRank isn’t a tool anymore, we still utilize its metrics to determine a page’s value. Understanding PageRank will help you know what Google is looking for and how you can boost your SEO to get the traffic you want.

How Do I Build Links?

You simply will not execute your SEO plan without building links. A quick Google search will yield dozens of how-to articles outlining link-building techniques. Below are a few of our favorite ways to build quality links that webmasters want.

  1. Broken Link Building – When you click on a link that brings you not to the page you expected but to a metaphorical internet brick wall, you’ve hit a broken link. One effective, scalable, and ethical way to build links is through broken link building. Once you’re aware of a broken link (using any number of broken link finder tools is helpful), you can then reach out to the webmaster, supply a new link with your own content, and ask them to publish it.
  2. HARO – HARO is an acronym for Help A Reporter Out. HARO connects content creators with sites who want to use their work—and provide valuable links in return. It’s a great way to get links from valuable sites.
  3. Send Emails – Creating a personal connection and putting in the time to do so is an incredibly effective way to build links. Sending an email pitch directly to the webmaster allows you to show them specifically why they should link to your content.

These strategies are just three of nearly countless ways to ethically and effectively build links and catch Google’s eye.

Follow vs. No-Follow Links: What’s the Difference?

As the names suggest, a “follow” or standard link allows spiders to follow it. “No-follow” links do not allow for this. But why do these different types of links exist?

No-follow links are especially helpful when you want to present information but don’t want the linked content or page associated with your site. Sometimes when you’re building your site, there are links you want to include to improve user experience, but you don’t necessarily want web crawlers to follow them.

No-follow links originally came about as a way to combat spam. Now you might use a no-follow link if you’re giving an example of how not to build a website and don’t want Google to associate your page with that one. Links from sources like blog comments, social media, and certain news sites are no-follow, and many popular sites like Quora, YouTube, Reddit, and Twitch use the no-follow tag.

You want to create follow or standard links when you want Google to pick up on the link. Follow links directly affect your SEO since web crawlers evaluate them. These links act as votes of confidence for the linked page.

But does that mean no-follow links have no effect on your SEO? Not exactly. While Google may not track down a no-follow link, readers still will. You’re providing helpful content and bringing traffic to your site even if Google might not evaluate your no-follow links.

Internal vs. External Links: What’s the Difference?

Links on your site usually appear as anchor text that brings you to another page when you click on it. There are two types of links: internal and external. As the names suggest, internal links keep you within your own site. External links, when clicked, bring you to a different site. And both are important for your SEO.

Moz defines an external link as a link that points at an external domain. In layman’s terms, it’s a link that takes the user off the current site. External linking is one of the most important factors in site and page rankings. They connect your site with other sites, passing along link equity and driving traffic to your pages.

Internal linking is valuable for your SEO—just in a different way. Internal links allow users to easily navigate your site, and they allow you to influence the pages that they visit. Internal links also help map out your site’s hierarchy, signaling to Google’s crawlers which pages are of most importance. This internal mapping helps Google efficiently and accurately index your pages, giving them a greater probability for higher rankings.

What is Anchor Text?

When you click on highlighted or underlined text in a page that links to another, you’re clicking on what we call “anchor text.” Anchor text is the words that hyperlinks display when linking to another location on the internet. These clickable words or phrases are helpful not only for your SEO, but they serve to help readers navigate to related content or pages, too.

There are several types of anchor text out there. For example, the anchor text in the previous sentence is “exact-match” text. That is, it includes a keyword that links to a page all about the keyword. Ahref’s has a helpful guide outlining most of the other anchor text types for you to utilize on your site.

Your anchor text—and the anchor text that others use when linking your site—can have a significant impact on your SEO rankings. When used in an SEO-friendly manner, your anchor text can be one of the heroes of your SEO strategy. It should be succinct, relevant to the linked page, not stuffed with keywords, and not generic.

However, you’ve got to balance your use of anchor text. Over optimized anchor text, text that’s deceptive, or an unnatural amount of anchor texts will signal a red flag to Google, and you’ll see it in your rankings.

What is Broken Link Building?

Broken link building is an SEO tactic that essentially replaces broken links with new, relevant content that you’ve created. The more time between a site’s creation and the present, the greater the likelihood that the site will contain broken or dead links. And if you’ve ever clicked on a link only to find that it was broken, you know that these links make for a terrible user experience.

But if you can find broken links and replace them with working links that lead to your content, it’s a great way to drive traffic to your site. In fact, Moz clams it might be the “most effective white-hat link building strategy in years.”

That’s because broken link building benefits all parties involved: the webmaster, the end user, and, if you get linked, you. The strategy works like this: you contact the webmaster who has a broken link on their site. You then recommend replacement links to your site. Most of the time, a webmaster has no idea that their site contains a broken link. So, when you point it out and then offer an alternative, you’ve fixed a problem they didn’t even know existed.

The more broken links you fix, the more your site is linked on the web. That leads to more traffic and hopefully higher rankings for you in the SERPS. Broken link building is an SEO strategy that, if you execute well, can really pay off in the end.

Do Broken Links Affect SEO?

Broken links, as we explained above, are the dead end of the internet. Broken links are not only annoying for users, but search engines don’t like them either. When a user comes across a broken link, they typically leave your site and don’t come back. And when Google sees that users aren’t spending time on your site, a red flag goes up. When your bounce rate is high, Google will determine that your site isn’t relevant, resulting in lower rankings on the SERPs.

Even if your bounce rate wasn’t a factor, Google’s web crawlers hate when they come upon a broken link. A broken link is like a wall, and when a crawler hits a link, they stop the indexing process for your page.

That’s why it’s crucial for you to ensure that both your internal and external links are alive and well. You should check your site often to ensure all links are working so both users and crawlers are happy. Ahrefs has a Broken Link Checker that evaluates your site for broken inbound and outbound links, so you’ll never be caught off guard by links that need to be updated.

Does Linking to Other Sites Help My Website?

No man is an island. And neither is your website. Linking to other sites—as long as they’re the right sites—is a vital aspect of your SEO. These outbound or external links give your users valuable resources that you can’t always provide, and they also signal to Google that you’re connected with reputable sites that add value to the web.

As far as your rankings are concerned, does linking to other sites help? Not technically in Google’s eyes. But does it help your website and the connectivity of the internet as a whole? Absolutely. And the more connected you are, the better your rankings will be. When you add outbound links to your content, you’re essentially providing your users with a one-stop shop. That is, your site provides the wealth of information and resources and products that you offer. When you add outbound links, you both reinforce what you’ve published as well as offer additional resources or helpful content that you may not be able to cover under your site.

Plus, linking out encourages those same sites to link back to you. Think of it as a follow for follow. Sites that link out tend to be linked as well, providing more traffic and link equity for your site.