The process of getting links to your site is an extremely important one when it comes to SEO. ‘Link building’ is the process of earning natural links which can help to directly improve the authority and reputation of a site. When combined with other SEO strategies such as on page content and technical SEO, link building can ultimately help to improve a site’s rankings in Google and other search engines too! The process of getting valuable links to your site is continually changing with every Google algorithm update, and since the Penguin algorithm update in April 2012, this process has become harder than ever.
Digital marketing agencies, such as Absolute Digital Media, have had to adapt and change their processes with every update in order to ensure all link building practices are in line with Google Best Practices. With mobile-first indexing set to take hold of the SEO world, it’s even likely that we’ll see even more changes to backlink processes in the near future. Here, we’re taking a look at the basics for how you can gain natural, valuable links to your site in 2018.
What Is Link Building?
The concept of link building is simply to gain a hyperlink from another site to your site. However, gaining this hyperlink can be difficult – which is why it is one of the most important aspects of search engine optimisation.
Link building is changing and is more focused on high quality content and PR than ever before. In 2018, ‘white hat’ – or natural – techniques are the most important and highly thought of. Paid-for links are classified as ‘black hat’ and are deemed to be manipulating Google search engine results. If you do this too often, Google WILL notice and your site will be penalized. As tempting as paying for links may seem, finding a natural link will ultimately be the safest option.
Natural vs. Unnatural Links
So what do we mean by ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ links? Well, there are actually a number of different ways to classify the difference between the two.
By definition, a natural link is a freely given editorial link, whereas an unnatural link is one that you are paying for, making yourself via another site that you also own, or that you are asking for. A natural, editorial link needs to be earned, and these links can classify as a form of ‘vote’ towards the authority of your website.
The more Google updates its algorithm, the harder legitimate link building techniques become. Understanding the value of a site, and how this can impact your link building efforts is just as important as formulating a link in the first place.
What Is An Authoritative, High Quality Site?
When it comes to link building, you’re going to want to ensure that you are consistently gaining links from high quality, authoritative sites. The more relevant the site is to the product or service you are promoting, or to the blog post or white paper the site is linking to, the better. However, the site doesn’t always have to be completely relevant, as long as it is an authoritative site in its niche. But how do you know if a site is authoritative?
There are a number of ways that you can work out the authority of a site. Firstly, you can consider the site’s Trust Flow. Trust Flow is a number that dictates how trustworthy a site is based on the trustworthiness of the sites that it is linking to. The Majestic Trust Flow tool ranks a site from 0-100, and this ultimately helps users to understand the link equity the site can provide you. The higher the Trust Flow of the site that is linking to you, the more valuable that link will be for your backlink profile.
As you can see, the BBC, a high-quality news site, has a trust flow of 94. Gaining an editorial link from this site can be a huge boost for your brand reputation and exposure, but due to the ever-changing number of placements, you may find your article to be buried quite quickly meaning it may not gain a lot of Trust Flow. Nevertheless, it is still exceptionally important to have high quality links from big sites like the BBC where possible.
In addition to Trust Flow, another metric to consider in your backlink-gaining efforts is Citation Flow. Citation Flow is a Majestic trademarked metric, and this can provide you with another indication of just how valuable a link from this site would actually be. You will find that some sites will have a huge difference in Trust Flow and Citation Flow. As you can see below, marketbeat.com has a much higher Citation Flow than Trust Flow, and while this isn’t always a negative if the difference is minimal, it is important to keep in mind. This is because sites with a high Citation Flow but a much lower Trust Flow could be considered as a ‘spammy’ site.
Other Metrics to Consider
There are a number of other metrics that you can consider when it comes to understanding what a high quality, authoritative site is. Relevancy is yet another important factor, and while this is not always a necessity with every link, the more relevant your backlink profile is to the industry that you represent, the better.
Topical Trust Flow –
One way to check this is to look at topical Trust Flow. Again, looking at the bbc.co.uk site, there are a number of ways to check this. Firstly, you can see a brief snapshot of the topical trust flow located next to the Trust Flow metric.
If you’re not convinced about the quality of a site from the Trust Flow, Citation Flow and Topical Trust Flow, then you should probably steer clear. However, if you want to go in-depth, a good check to help you to determine the quality of a site is its backlink history.
If a site has a steady backlink profile throughout history, then this will generally be a reliable site. Below, you can see the backlink history of the BBC site.
If a site’s recent backlink history shows numerous significant peaks and drops, then the chances are, they have been partaking in frowned-upon backlink techniques to gain links to their own site. This will mean that the link to your site is likely to be deemed as poor quality. While the BBC’s number of links has been declining rapidly, this is not going to be deemed as a bad site.
No-Follow & Do-Follow
Two important factors to consider when it comes to link building efforts is the impact of no-follow and do-follow tags. This can sincerely impact your link building efforts, as a no-follow tag reduces the value that the link can provide your site.
Many authoritative sites like the BBC, and other regional and national newspapers, will implement no-follow tags in their links in order to stop value passing through from their site to yours. Because of this, you’re going to want to ensure that almost every link that you build is a do-follow – it would take a huge number of no-follows to build up the same value. The value of a no-follow isn’t non-existent and you will get some credit from high quality, authoritative, no-follow links, but this doesn’t have as much of an impact as what a do-follow link from a relatively high quality, authoritative site will have. In other words, it can be seen as generally more effective to gain a do-follow link from a 50 Trust Flow site, than a no-follow from an 80 Trust Flow site.
If you’re interested, you can use the Majestic tool to see how many no-follow and do-follow links the site you are gaining a link from has. While this will not necessarily represent the type of link you will receive from that site, it is an interesting metric to consider.
How to Build Natural, Valuable Links
One of the easiest ways to ensure that you are gaining natural, valuable links is through having content that is worth linking to. Whether you’re consistently updating your blog, have a huge number of in-depth white papers, or the content on your money pages is valuable, high quality and relevant to a broad audience, having excellent content on your site is the easiest way to gain organic links.
Generally, evergreen, timeless and flagship content is an easy way to gain links. Not only is likely to appeal to a large audience, it will also generally be interesting and make people naturally want to link to you. In-depth content is always going to be linked to naturally, particularly if you’re presenting a common idea or discussing a popular issue in a new way. You should see backlinks as a form of ‘editorial vote’. Tell the world about your site, but try not to specifically ask for links as this can be seen by Google as a clear attempt to manipulate their rankings.
According to Google, natural links are the only good links. Even if the site that is linking to you is not completely relevant to the product, service, webpage, blog or whitepaper that you have on your site, this will still class as a great link – as long as it is an editorial link.
Other top tips for building natural, valuable links include:
- Don’t gain a link from a site that has been created for the sole purpose of link building.
- Don’t just link to a page that you want to rank – vary your link building to include a series of valuable resources.
- Don’t abuse anchor texts – these need to be as natural as possible.
- Remember: you want your links on a page that Google will index (avoid sites that add noindex tags), on a legitimate website that is authoritative and ranking well.
If you’re looking to implement your own link building strategies, then you’re going to want to ensure that you are only gaining links from high quality sites. Not all of these links need to be directly related to your site, however having a higher number of relevant, valuable links will definitely help your backlink profile.
Link building is more important than ever, and while content will probably always remain king, link building will continue to be a very effective method for search engine optimisation. Using tools like Majestic can help you to analyse the quality of a site so you can be certain that all of the links being built to your site are valuable and worthwhile.