For Blogger owners and independent website webmaster who own or operate a website, blog, or other online resource, there are many choices to be made when it comes to ensuring a good ranking with the leading search engines.
But perhaps when all’s said and done, when considering which is the best route to take for an SEO strategy, we essentially are met with two main options, which can be summed up thusly:
Do we a), actively pursue a higher position in search rankings by playing a numbers game with keywords, search algorithms, and site statistics?
Or b), concentrate instead on putting out a continuous stream of top-quality content that excites and interests site visitors, gets good word of mouth, and attracts the interest and participation of clients, potential partners, or influencers in our chosen field?
Those who opt solely for the numbers game often engage in a practice known as link building as the core of their SEO or Search Engine Optimisation strategy.
What is Link Building?
For internet search engines, the links found on webpages form a road-map across the web, creating logical connections between individuals and organisations. These links are also a polling system for the search engines, which use algorithms to factor in the nature and number of links to and from a site, to gauge its level of popularity, and determine its position in web search results.
Link building is the art and science of accumulating links to improve your site’s ranking with the search engines. Keywords figure largely in it, and those engaged in the practice must do research to determine the keywords best describing their niche, earmark resources (websites, blogs, subject matter experts etc.) that relate to those words, and reach out in some way to those resources – all the while keeping an eye on who’s linking to their competitors.
There are several strategies used for attracting or acquiring links – some, inevitably, are of the “Hmph!That old trick…” variety, and others are of a more substantive nature.
Link Building Strategies
Natural/Organic Linksare generated when another individual or organisation approaches you with a request to link to your website or resource. The attractor here is “sticky” content: original, engaging and informative material that gets the attention of outsiders, who wish to know more about you, and be associated with your vision or brand.
Outreach Linksmay be created when an organisation sends out email requests to bloggers or website administrators, or submits its website URL to a directory or list of related online resources.
Self-Created Linksmay result from activities such as running a subscription list on your website, having a guest book for site visitors to sign in and leave comments, or allowing guests to post links to their own websites as part of their signature line in a forum discussion. You of course will be creating links from one of your webpages to another.
Paid Linksmay be accumulated when you pay for site listings, or purchase contact lists and URLs from a third party. They’re the lowest rung on the link building ladder, largely due to the fact that today’s search engines disapprove of paying for links. And if links are confirmed by a search engine to have been purchased, you could end up paying the price by having your site downgraded in the search listings or even be removed from the engine’s index altogether.
Spam and Trust
Spam and similar behaviours are also frowned upon. So blitz-mailing a city phonebook’s worth of contacts with the same message in hopes of gaining a few precious link-backs probably isn’t a good idea.
A much better approach is to try to cultivate links with organisations and individuals that have an established following or user base, and are nationally or internationally recognised for their good reputation and expertise in your subject area or industry.
According to research by Rand Fishkin and the staff of Moz, with almost 60% of the web’s total content now classified as spam, search engines are assigning more and more value to links from sites deemed as highly trustworthy – such as academic institutions, government agencies, and non-profit organisations.
Opinions and reactions gauged from social media are also playing a part. If a blog post, video, application, or other content catches the eye of a user, they’ll often share a link to it with their friends or followers on Twitter or Facebook. And the search engines poll the social platforms to find links which they can recommend to users on their social media news feeds, based on material shared by their peers.
Original content is central to all of this, as organisations are using social channels to promote their blogs, eBooks, online courses, tools and software, and encouraging their followers to share the links with their friends.
This sharing activity is mirrored on company and individual websites, in the form of partnership badges: little graphic symbols that link back to a site, and which visitors can download and display on their own web content. They’re the digital equivalent of pinned badges or T-shirts displaying a particular brand.
With natural links rather than direct outreach now the order of the day as far as search engines are concerned, corporate websites have to be more than just display cases for product ranges and testimonials. They have to give something of value to the site visitor – and this often takes the form of an in-house blog.
Blogs enable individuals and organisations to speak out on topics of interest within their field, to give their views on current developments and emerging trends, and to position themselves as subject matter experts and thought leaders. And they have to use engaging, thought-provoking, and original content to do this.
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