What is Link Building and Why is it Important?

You’ve probably heard of the phrase, “link building,” but do you know exactly what it means? Perhaps you’re new to the SEO game, or you just started a small business and are learning the ins and outs of establishing an online presence. Either way, link building is an under-utilized but a critical component to search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO is complex and takes a lot of time and effort, but it’s absolutely necessary to any great company or website’s success. Think about it this way: when you search for a how-to guide, how far down the page do you look at the links? My guess would be only a few search results.

When it comes to how important SEO is, the following facts are pretty hard to ignore:

  • 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine
  • 70% of the links search users click on are organic
  • 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results

How does link building contribute to SEO?

link building causes websites of high and lower reputation to link to your website

Link building is an important factor in search engine algorithms. In fact, it’s a rather big part of how Google determines page rankings for websites. Google states on their website: “In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.”

Link building is not the catch-all factor in search engine rankings but it is very telling of a website in many different ways. Not only do links tell Google how popular a website or individual webpage is based on the number and popularity of websites linking to them, but also the authority of the website or webpage (how “spammy” or trustworthy it is). For a complete list, check out Moz’s guide to all the search engine factors and their relative weight.

However, not all links are created equal. Some links carry more relative weight than others.

Let me paint a scene for you: if you get authoritative and trustworthy websites to link to you, such as the New York Times or Western Washington University, that would carry more value than a brand-new website. In the instance of links, it’s all about quality, and not quantity.

Why is link building important? 

Some might argue that link building is probably the most important aspect of an SEO strategy – I would agree with that statement. Every website’s bottom-line objective is to get pageviews and to rank in search engine results, so that means we have to play by the rules. And the biggest rule is pretty simple: have high-quality backlinks and rank higher.

People used to be able to just throw in a bunch of irrelevant and low-quality links, or pay people to link them (not advised!), but Google has gotten smart. You can’t just get by writing good content and hope that people will stumble across it anymore. Building links takes time and effort. Even though link building isn’t as easy as it used to be, it’s a process that’s definitely worthwhile.

Like I mentioned, the quality of the link is reflective of the quality of your website. If you bog your site down with tons of old, irrelevant, sketchy links, it actually harms your overall search ranking. But if you do it right, there are endless ways that it will benefit your business.

So, how do you know if it’s a quality link?

Google looks at a few different factors to determine whether the link is quality or not. This criteria is applied to both internal links (you linking to another page on your own website) and external (another company linking to your content and vice versa) backlinks, as well as citations.

  • Relevance. Pretty straightforward: is the link actually relevant to the content? Links that are highly relevant to your website help Google figure out what your website is about, which then helps you rank for that topic or keyword.
  • Authority & Trust. Which are you more likely to trust: a Ph.D candidate studying economics or a college freshman that’s halfway through Econ 101? This same logic applies to links as well. Credible, authoritative, and trustworthy websites that have been around for a while are more valuable than fresh, new websites. That’s because those reputable websites have built up enough credibility with Google’s search results, whereas new websites have not.
  • Diversity. While being linked to from bloggers alone isn’t necessarily a BAD thing, diversity in link sources helps to increase the quality and authority of your website. The diversity of the links pointing back to you is an indicator of trust a natural link profile. Some examples of diverse links include educational institutions, comments, governmental websites, shares on social media… you get the point.
  • Value. Perhaps the most important factor is whether or not that link would provide value to the end user. Is the link useful and helpful? Does it answer the user’s questions? Is it what they were expecting? As a general rule of thumb, any links to or from you should provide additional value to the content. The end user is the most important person here – so the point is to provide them value!

What are some link building tactics?

If you haven’t realized it by now, link building is incredibly beneficial for your website and company. Not only does your website become known as a legitimate and popular source for information, but you also get tons of traffic, your blogs may rank on search results, your website will get indexed quicker, and more.

Luckily, there are tons of different ways that you can go out and start building those links and bumping up your search rankings. Here are just a few:

  • First and foremost, write really awesome content that will get linked to naturally (the hardest one!).
  • Write guest blog posts for other companies. This is a great tactic because it is mutually beneficial in a link building sense.
  • Submit your content to directories, press releases, and the like.
  • Get people to review it! Reviews and mentions (especially from influential bloggers) is an easy way to expose your content to thousands of more eyeballs.
  • Got connections? Use them. If you have friends, family, colleagues in your industry, have them link to your site. Easy link building!