Linkbuilding

Linkbuilding summarizes the methods used by website owners, SEOs and other net creators to bring about links from other pages to a target website.

Linkbuilding describes various methods that are used to generate links from other websites. Thus, link building belongs to the off-page optimization in the SEO area. The basic principle is to get other websites in different ways to create a so-called backlink, a reference to your own page. Some of the link building strategies are rewarded by the search engines, others are negatively evaluated and penalized. The goal of link building is to generate as many links as possible, which are classified as high-quality and helpful by users and search engines, in order to strengthen one’s own page in the search engine ranking and to link it better. What makes a link considered to be of high quality depends on various factors.

What is a backlink?

A backlink is a HTML reference from one website to another. For a long time, a backlink was a signal for search engines that a recommendation was made by the link giver of the linked page. Therefore, it was advantageous for websites to receive as many backlinks and thus as many recommendations as possible.

The algorithms of the search engines are largely unknown. Nevertheless, it can now be assumed that a high number of backlinks is no longer decisive for a good ranking. Rather, the quality of the links now determines whether a website is well placed in the search results. Accordingly, backlinks from reputable, high-quality and popular sites are more valuable than links from lesser-known or lower-ranked websites. In addition, experts are increasingly discussing whether Google is possibly reducing the importance of backlinks as a ranking factor more and more or even removing them completely. Google itself states that webmasters should not value link building and instead produce good content that promotes natural backlinks.

What is linkjuice?

Search engines assign a certain value and quality to each website. For this purpose, they determine various factors that state how trustworthy, high-quality, popular, etc. a page is. What Google used to express in the so-called PageRank is today probably an even more complex procedure with various factors that determine the value of a page.

The value of a page can be “transferred” in part to other websites via linking. That is, websites pass on a recommendation through a link, which counts more or less depending on the quality of the page. The force with which this value is transferred is often metaphorically referred to as link juice. A page can therefore pass on part of its linkjuice to another page via a backlink: The higher the quality of the page, the more linkjuice it transfers and the more linkjuice the linked page receives. How much linkjuice is transferred also depends on the link structure of the linking page: The more links a page contains, for example, the less linkjuice is usually transferred per link.

To prevent a search engine from taking a link and its linkjuice into account for the ranking, website operators can use “no-follow links”. A rel=”nofollow” placed in the HTML tells the search engine that this link should not be evaluated, i.e. should not transfer any linkjuice. Website operators can thus prevent the linkjuice of their page from being lost unintentionally.

What constitutes a link profile?

The link profile of a website indicates how many backlinks a page has, what type they are, where they come from, which anchor texts are used and where on the page the backlinks were placed. These are all crucial factors that determine how high quality a link is.

A good link profile is a healthy mix of the various possibilities of each factor. Search engines conclude that the links have been built naturally and not through link buying, link exchanges or other tricks. They interpret a natural link building positively, because usually only “natural links” correspond to a real recommendation and are therefore valuable for the user.

Many SEOs are always trying to determine the perfect composition of a backlink profile. They try to give exact information about what percentage of backlinks come from where and what characteristics they should possess. However, exactly what a good link profile looks like depends on many factors and probably needs to be determined individually for each website.

Backlinks: Number and source are decisive

While for a long time it was important to get as high a number of backlinks as possible, in link building it is now more a case of class over mass. Although websites are best off getting links from high-quality sites that are as thematically relevant to their own web presence as possible, each site’s profile should contain a healthy mix of different link types. So it is natural for the majority of backlinks to come from pages that are of average or lower value. Inferior or negative pages that manipulate search results with the help of various SEO measures, on the other hand, should be avoided by webmasters and their links should be (or have been) removed. Otherwise, Google may also penalize their own website.

A good link profile contains, for example, links from (blog) articles and their comments, from press releases, forums or social networks. Directories, bookmarks and web catalogs can also appear in the portfolio in certain quantities.

What types of links exist?

The source is as decisive about the value of a link as the type. Search engines evaluate a backlink that comes from a graphic or an image differently than links that occur in a text. It also matters whether the image is tagged with title and meta information.

In addition, tagging with the “nofollow” property has an impact on the effectiveness of a backlink. This HTML tag indicates to Google not to consider the so marked link for ranking. Nevertheless, nofollow links are not worthless for the linked pages: they direct the user to the website and thus provide traffic and conversions. Therefore, a certain amount of nofollow links in the link profile of any website is natural and reasonable.

Where can links be placed?

In addition to the quality – the so-called trust – of the link-giving page, it is also crucial where on a website the link is placed. Links in the header or footer have a different value than links in the main content of the page. Links in images are judged differently than text links. Also important is how many links are placed around one’s own – for example, whether a page merely offers a mere listing of backlinks. Search engines also check which topics the content in the immediate vicinity of the link deals with and whether these, as well as the entire page, fit thematically with the linked page.

Multiple linking of a page does not usually matter to the search engine. If two or more (different) link texts point to the same URL, usually only the first backlink is taken into account.

Link texts

As another important factor – besides the source, type, characteristics and location of the backlink on the linking page – the link text also influences the quality of the link. In order for search engines to interpret the link correctly, the right choice of words is crucial. Whereas in the past, links were often made to exactly the word that was intended to serve as a keyword for a page, search engines now tend to evaluate link texts positively that describe to the user exactly what to expect when he clicks on them. These can be “soft” links that consist of a whole linked sentence or partial sentence.

Link building strategies

Various strategies exist for link building, some are welcomed by search engines, others are less welcome and will be penalized if discovered. Google regulates in particular in its webmaster guidelines what is allowed and what is forbidden in search engine optimization for link building. There are countless examples of what webmasters, SEOs and online marketers do to build links. The following is a brief, general overview:

Self-submit:

One of the easiest and fastest forms of link building is placing backlinks on your own, such as in forums, directories, social bookmarks, catalogs or comments. Since this is a method that anyone can easily do on their own, the effectiveness is severely limited. Placing a link in the wrong place – for example, in poorly rated directories – can even have a negative impact on your own ranking.

Moreover, with this strategy, there is a high probability that the placed links will be marked with a nofollow tag. After all, anyone can place them, usually without the intervention of a webmaster. Many bloggers, for example, try to avoid spam in their blog comments by using nofollow links.

Link buying:

Getting backlinks commercially is a strategy that search engines like Google penalize. In link buying, clients pay money to agencies or individual webmasters and receive backlinks on their pages, in specially created page networks or on other websites.

Since purchased links are not “honest” recommendations of a website, these links are not helpful for the user in Google’s understanding. Google takes action against link buying and link buying networks and penalizes sites that buy backlinks – sometimes by removing entire websites from its index.

Link exchange:

In link exchanges, two parties agree to place a backlink to each other. They can simply link two pages to each other (reciprocally), but they can also use, for example, four pages and place one link each, without any direct connection between the pages being apparent.

Link exchange is a delicate issue, as this strategy is also only conditionally accepted by search engines. In the guidelines for webmasters, Google, for example, describes exactly what is prohibited in terms of link building. Here is an excerpt:

Excessive link exchange (“link to my site and I’ll link to yours”) or partner sites for the sole purpose of reciprocal linking.
Article marketing on a large scale or posting campaigns as a guest with anchor text links that contain many keywords

Good content marketing:

The best and surest way to get new backlinks, is to get a “real” recommendation of a website. And the best way to do that is with quality content. Good and helpful content is naturally linked to by other users and rewarded by the search engine.

In the meantime, a new discipline of online marketing has developed around (link building with) good content: content marketing. Here, high-quality and/or viral content is produced specifically for the target group and distributed accordingly on the Internet. Content marketing thus falls under the category of pull marketing.

What exactly good content looks like depends on the publishing site as well as its target group, goals and strategies. Search engines are increasingly trying to get webmasters to provide the best and highest quality content possible.

Outsourcing link building

Over time, agencies, networks and companies have formed that specialize in link building. Also many SEO agencies offer link building among other services. Whether link purchase, link exchange or the use of good content – which strategy an agency relies on or which strategies of link building can be implemented with an agency depends on the respective provider. However, caution is always advised here as well: Google has already taken manual action against some link networks more frequently in the past and punished their customers.

To what extent a company or a webmaster should rely on an agency or work with an agency for link building is difficult to say. Google, however, is pushing further and further in the direction that a website should not do any targeted link building at all.

Linkbuilding, or link building, is still an important discipline today to improve the ranking of one’s website. Because links are still a ranking factor, even if Google and Co. are trying to become more independent of this method. In link building, the link sources are just as crucial as the link text, its type or the placement on the website.

For website operators, it is becoming increasingly essential to practice natural link building in order to avoid being penalized. Google, the largest search engine operator, is taking more and more action against link buying networks, penalizing link exchanges and devaluing (unnatural) links more and more. However, with the help of various strategies, important links can still be placed in 2021. Which methods are used is up to each webmaster and decides how successful and sustainable links are built.

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