How to Get Quality Links to Your Website for SEO
If you've been researching search engine optimization (SEO) for any length of time, you've probably heard about the concept of link building. It's well known that you can boost your rankings in the major search engines by attracting quality links from other websites. This is the concept of "link popularity," as it is known in SEO circles.
But how do you get links to your website? Do you have to pay for them? And what are some of the pitfalls to guard against along the way? These are some of the questions I'll address in this lesson.
Audience and Scope: This SEO tutorial is intended for beginner and intermediate-level readers. It provides an overview of the concept of link building, as it relates to search engine optimization and rankings. It also explains the connection between (A) the quality of your website content and (B) the number of quality links you get from other websites. Lastly, it offers some real-world examples to reinforce the key concepts of the lesson.
Why Links Are Important
This is a lesson in how to get links for SEO purposes, in order to improve your search engine rankings. But why do they matter? Why are so many webmasters concerned about getting new links on a regular basis? The answer lies within the computerized ranking algorithms used by the major search engines -- Google, Bing and Yahoo.
These algorithms use a variety of factors when ranking websites, and many of those factors are trade secrets. But we know for a fact they all use "link popularity" to some degree. This is a measure of the quantity and quality of links pointing to a particular website. The idea is that a website with a high number of links from other reputable sites must be popular and useful. Otherwise, those other sites would not be linking to it.
Of course, there are ways to manipulate this kind of algorithm, as many webmasters do. But I recommend you avoid those techniques entirely. We will talk more about these 'black hat' link-building techniques a bit later in the lesson.
In theory, you can improve your search engine rankings by getting more links from other websites. The question is, how do you get these new links on a regular basis? There's a right and a wrong way to go about it. In this SEO tutorial, we will be focusing on the right way to handle it.
I won't keep you in suspense any longer. Here's the 'secret' to success. The best way to attract quality links from reputable websites is to create the kind of website that other publishers want to share with their audiences. When bloggers, journalists and other Internet publishers visit your site, you want them to be impressed. You want them to say, "Wow, this website is very [interesting / useful / entertaining / helpful]. My readers would benefit from the content on this site. I will share it with my audience."
I refer to this as having a link-worthy website. You will never reach your full SEO potential until you accomplish this goal. And when you do accomplish it, you won't have to go out and hunt for links. They will come to you! You will see how this happens in the real-life success stories below.
How It Was Done In the Past
We need to look back, briefly, before moving forward. In order to understand the right way to get links, you need to understand the wrong way to go about it.
In the 90s and early 2000s, web directories were all the rage in the SEO world. A web directory is a website that lists other sites in categorical fashion. Most directories charged a 'review fee' for any site that was submitted for consideration. They were money-making schemes, for the most part. Webmasters used them as a way to pump up their link popularity. Submit your site to 100 directories, and you've suddenly got 100 new links.
And then came the web directory 'crackdown' that brought down this cottage industry. Google decided this was a form of manipulation (and I agree with them). In their view, a website should get links simply by being useful and interesting -- not by buying them. It makes sense when you think about it. Their business model is built around delivering quality search results to their users. If webmasters can buy their way to the top of the search results, it undermines Google's business model. So they will always seek out new ways to identify and demote these types of results.
The one true constant in all of this is that a useful website will always get links from other sites, without having to ask for them. Better still, they will never have to worry about being penalized by Google, Bing or Yahoo for violating their quality guidelines.
So you have a choice to make, as an Internet publisher:
- If you get links by building a useful, high-quality website, you will always be in the search engines' favor, and thus you will always be rewarded with strong rankings and visibility. It's hard work, but it's the right strategy for long-term success.
- On the other hand, if you employ manipulative techniques to acquire links (buying links, using reciprocal linking networks, and other schemes), you will always be looking over your shoulder, waiting for the day your website gets penalized. This penalty might come in the form of a ranking demotion, or the complete removal of your site form the search engine's index.
Think about your website for a moment, and how it relates to your business. How important is it? How much do you rely on it? How much time, energy and money do you plan to invest in your site over the next few years? When you answer these types of questions, the smart choice becomes clear. It's the first of the two choices presented above.
Things to Avoid: Buying, Spamming and Reciprocating
For some webmasters, link building is an endless game of cat and mouse. The webmaster attempts to manipulate his way to stronger link popularity and search engine rankings, perhaps by buying links or participating in some kind of reciprocal linking scheme. And it works, for a little while. But then the search engine develops a new filter to spot this 'latest and greatest' form of manipulation, and the website gets penalized with lower rankings. It may even be removed from Google's index altogether.
Case in point: Google Eliminates Another Link Network (SearchEngineLand.com)
This is a shortsighted approach to search engine optimization. Sure, you can get links to your website by using these techniques. But is the risk worth the reward? If you're in it for the short term, and you don't care what happens to your website six months from now, then go right ahead. Get links by any means necessary.
On the other hand, if the long-term success of your website is important to you (and you are sane), you'll probably want to use a more natural method for attracting links. Here's one way to go about it...
Case Study: How to Get Links With Quality Content
I publish a real estate website. It has been online since 2006, and in that time the site has accumulated a large number of quality links. But I have never asked for, or paid for, a single link. Not once. I have never participated in any reciprocal-linking schemes or 'networks.' How did I get so many quality links without relying on these techniques? I did it by publishing useful and original information, day after day, month after month.
Here's an example from a news story I published in early 2012:
In March, I published an in-depth report on the state of the local housing market in Washington, D.C. Within five days of publishing the story, I had acquired eleven new links from reputable (and closely related) websites. I did not ask for these quality links. And I certainly didn't pay for them. So how did I get them? I did it by publishing information other publishers wanted to share with their own readers. Is it hard work? Yes. Is it complicated? Hardly.
It takes time and effort to create this kind of content. But it's the best way to get links for SEO purposes, because you never have to worry about violating the content-quality guidelines of the major search engines. You are doing exactly what they want, creating quality content. And you'll always be rewarded for it.
Here's how to get quality links to your website, while staying in the good graces of the search engines.
- Create a website that helps people accomplish something.
- Develop content that is better than what already exists in your niche.
- Only publish original content. Derivative, redundant information won't help your cause.
- Promote your content by any means necessary (social media, press releases, etc.).
- Check your website analytics regularly to see what sites are sending you traffic.
- Rinse and repeat. The job is never really done, just as SEO is never really done.
This article explains how to get links to your website, for SEO purposes. If you have any questions about this topic, you can post them in the forum section of this website. Keep in mind I offer one-on-one consultations as well, if you're interested in that. Good luck with your search engine optimization campaign.