Polishing Your Inbound Link Network
Link building is one big game of chicken. Bold statement, yes, but there is perfectly valid reasoning to it. The object of link building in SEO is to increase the power of your link profile by creating as many links pointing inward to your site as possible, but the element of the game that makes it so hard to play is that your links need to be relevant and natural. Why? Well, simply because you don’t want to have to endure the pain of having your hard work penalised by search engines demoting your rank due to a highly artificial link network. So where does the game of chicken come in here…? It’s pretty easy to identify with – you’re trying to outflank your competitors in SERPs for target keywords whilst endeavouring not to trip any Google-wires or alarms that will persecute your website authority. The game is chicken because it’s you vs. your online competition – how far will you go in order to achieve the largest link network, and at what cost?
Link building always comes with the underlying threat of penalisation, but the game itself is actually easier than you think, and funnily enough, the answer is right in front of you: work with the search engine and take its side when constructing your inbound link network. Search engines give more reward to an organic link structure, as they recognise the difficulty of obtaining organic links as well as the scarcity. A search engine views organic links as a key indicator of your website’s popularity. So the question is, how can you as a website owner build a polished inbound link network consisting entirely of natural links?
Here are a few factors you need to consider when building a link network full of digital relics and rubies:
- Go natural with your links – This one is blatantly obvious and reiterates the above point. Search engines value organic links, and disregard artificial links. A natural link structure is one that maintains the following characteristics: the inbound anchor link text varies, there is only a gradual increase in the number of inbound links, the website only links outbound to reputable websites and there are barely any reciprocal links. So what are artificial links? Firstly, all anchor text links are normally identical, secondly the inbound link count displays drastic increases in a short period of time. What else? Oh yeah, the outbound links suck – often linking out to satellite websites that no-one cares about (nor does Google for that matter) and a high percentage of the links pointing inbound are reciprocal… Indicating to the search engine that there has been some sort of exchange taking place – not good at all. Artificial links are like steroids… They inject massive growth into the website, and will perhaps contribute to some short term success, only to have the panel of Google bots knock them back to a position worse from which they started… And in the world of search, redemption is hard.
- High authority links > Life - Rather than aimlessly shooting for links, do some research into the authority of a website and its popularity. One singular link with a website with, let’s say, a Google PageRank of 7 is more likely to be of more benefit than 5 links from a website that has a PageRank of 3. And hey, if you’re capable of scoring links with a super high PageRank then in my opinion, you’re badder than Bear Grylls himself!
- Link relevance - I bet you’ve read this everywhere, and you’re reading it now, and you’re sick of reading it but for some reason you can’t look away… It’s kind of hypnotic isn’t it? HA! It’s true though, as clichéd as it is. When scouting the web for link opportunities, you should aim for trusted sites (sites that have been around for a while, normally with a Page Rank of 5 >) that are topically relevant. If your website sells ice to eskimos, then aim to score some links in some online innuit communities.
- Referring pages should only have a couple of links – In a perfect world, high authority domains would provide a link to your site and your site only. Unfortunately it just doesn’t happen this way. If you do score a link-back from a nice, hearty domain then make sure that the domain is being liberal on the link juice. When a website lists too many outbound links, regardless of the site authority, securing a link from said website is virtually pointless because your link value will be diluted and shared by the other sites. You wouldn’t pour yourself a watered down cup of cordial, would you? Treat your inbound links with the same regard, otherwise you’re going to end up like junior over here when you find out that all of your hard work account for nothing.
- Site-wide links – If you can secure yourself a site-wide link… Say, on a blogroll with a hundred pages or so, then you’re luckier than Falcor the magical luckdragon. Honestly though, you’ve got to be extremely cautious with this sort of stuff. If you secure a site-wide link and that website already has an excessive amount of cached pages in existence, then your link count is going to explode and your domain is going to be penalised. If you want a natural blog-roll link, secure the link early whilst the blog is still in its prenatal stages. This way, your link count will only increase incrementally with each new blog post – Google sees nothing wrong with this!
- Incoming link URL format – promoting 5 or so different home page URL variations is not good practice – you’re actually doing yourself more harm than good here because you’re effectively diluting the link value. For example:
All mean the same thing! It just means that you’re sharing the link value across different variations and it’s doing nothing in your favour. Choose one inbound link format and stick to it. As for external sites linking to your homepage, unfortunately you will have no control as to how they set their URLs. If a website does link to your page via a different variation, it mightn’t hurt to send them a suggested destination URL.
- Keyword anchor text links – Common sense! Pass on the link value via target keywords. Obtaining keyword links in directories is hard to obtain, but there’s nothing stopping you from targeting niche forums and blogs. One thing to note, make sure there is a diversity of keywords in your link network. Linking to the same keyword over and over will trip a spam filter.
- Go Deep – Try to aim for at least 40% of your links to be pointing to pages deeper within your website other than the home page. The idea with deep links to have the external link pointing to a page within your website that is more content related.
- No Follow Links suck – No follow links are common SEO knowledge, however if you’re new to this it might save you a lot of trouble in future to know. A few years ago, Google implemented a html attribute entitled link rel=”nofollow” – the purpose of this attribute is simple, to render your link effort useless to the search engine. This tactic was deployed to remove the spamming incentive to drop links in any random internet domain. When you’re looking for links back to your website, it is imperative that these links are what we like to call “do follow”, it just means that the rel=”nofollow” attribute hasn’t been applied to your links and you’re still getting the Google juice. If you have Firefox, might I recommend that you try the “search status” toolbar. It has a nice little “nofollow” link identifier that can save you a lot of trouble!
Where to get started…
Now, reading the above information is all fine and dandy but it might be a little bit overwhelming and at times vexing if you’re trying to do it all yourself. The link building game is one giant, time-consuming puzzle. There are billions of pages on the internet, so if you have a vacated look on your face it’s easily justified. If you’re looking for places to start then you might want to try some of the following:
Directory Listings – Directory websites are perhaps the most boring sites in existence, but their purpose is extremely useful to build up your inbound link count. There are millions of online directories, but as long as you assess each directory website with the above criteria it should make the selection process a hell of a lot easier. Here are some of the web’s premier directories (be aware that some of these are paid directories):
- Local –
- Web-wide –
Niche forums and communities – Do a bit of research into the social communities surrounding your target niche. An easy way to isolate relevant blogs and forums is to utilize the “show options” feature on the Google search bar, then refine the search based on what you want to target accordingly – as seen in the below example:
Thanks for reading, we hope you found this post helpful. Until the next time, adios!