Is Link Building Dead?

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There are a lot of misconceptions doing the rounds online about the SEO value of one-way links or backlinks. As soon as the search algorithm focus shifted towards link quality and relevancy, it rendered a lot of link building strategies obsolete. But the reality is that link building is not dead. Far from it. It’s still a vital part of any good SEO strategy.

Link-building is dead, however, for those who fail to learn and adapt to the ever-changing search engine algorithms. And for those who still want to compete and thrive online, link building is among the top 3 Google search ranking factors.

However, unethical black-hat link building tactics such as hidden links, spammy content, paid link schemes, and link farms, have damaged a lot of people’s perception of the value of link building, especially since Google’s 2012 Penguin algorithm update started rewarding marketers for following white hat tactics.

To understand how impactful link building is in the digital marketing landscape and how it has transformed over the years, we have broken down everything below.

So let’s have a look at the current state of link building and why it’s an important part of your SEO agency’s digital strategy.

A link connects one website or one webpage to another. Links are designed to help with navigation and can also be used to validate information. Link building, in simple terms, is the process of getting hyperlinks from other websites linking to yours.  Most digital marketers and many business owners consider link building to be an effective way of driving quality traffic to their website.

Over the years, SEO has evolved continuously due to the ongoing changes in search algorithms. For many marketers, link building is one the most difficult parts of SEO. Previously, Google took help from Yahoo! to improve their algorithms, and with time, the focus has shifted away from link quantity and towards link quality. With multiple updates every year in its algorithm, Google requires marketers to focus more on producing quality content rather than simply creating links. A major link-building algorithm update came in November 2019 to distinguish between natural, high-quality links vs those that were spammy and the difference was high-quality content. Links are votes to your site where quality wins over quantity.

Google has not been around since the beginning of the internet. Players like Yahoo! and Alta Vista were popular pre-Google search engines. Their rankings were solely based on the content published over the websites.

Then came Google with its PageRank Algorithm that changed the way we searched the internet. Instead of giving a 100% verdict based on the page content, Google started analysing how many people find a page informational and how many people link back to that page (basically how many people vote for it).

It’s been over two decades since Google came into existence. And the rule of analysing links to determine the information quality and relevancy of a page still remains a primary ranking signal for Google. Let’s have a look at the 10 benefits of link building in 2021.

  • Boosts Website Traffic (Relevant)
  • Improve Website Metrics (DA, PA, Alexa Rank, etc.)
  • Better Reputation & Credibility Over SERPs
  • Improves Relationship & Networking
  • More Revenue Generation Opportunities
  • Gain Authority Over SERPs
  • Constant Referral Traffic
  • Readers Get High-Quality Content and Better Information

Things to Keep in Mind

Check for No-Index

It’s a common practice by website owners that get too many links on one of their page. If a page is backlinking to several websites, website owners disallow crawlers from indexing that page.

If you’re familiar with Robot.txt file, it won’t take you long to check whether the page is indexed or not.

No-Index Meta Tags: The most common method to stop search engines from crawling a page is to add a No-Index meta tag.

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, follow”>

Look for this tag in the head section of HTML and only create a page if it is not there. Sometimes website owners add a no-index tag in their Robots.txt file. You should also inspect for that file since disallowed pages cannot pass PageRank to anywhere and even if the PR is better than 50-60, links from that will be useless.

Importance of Profile Creation

Often ignored, but one of the best ways to generate high-quality backlinks is through top public relations websites. Profiling sites help websites establish a strong online presence since you can present your business in the best way on a number of platforms while getting long-term high-quality links. Profile creation is an ethical SEO technique that also contributes to branding.

Contrary to popular belief, guest posting is not the only way to generate high-quality links. Link building, in general, is a method to gain traffic from several platforms and it can be done through multiple ways including, but not limited to, business listing, guest posting, profile creation, microblogging, and classifieds.

Link juice is a non-technical term or SEO jargon used to describe page authority. Marketers expect link juice to “flow” from pages with higher PA to lower ones. For example, if you’re posting a page link with PA 10 on a page with PA 40, it is expected to boost your page score and ultimately improve your position on SERPs.

What most marketers forget is that link juice gets divided if a page is already backlinking to various websites. Posting a link on a webpage with 10 already existing links will hardly make any difference to your website metrics. That’s why professionals pursue guest blogging and profile creation more than forum posting.

To create an effective link building strategy, always pay enormous attention to quality. Here we have six steps to create a successful link building strategy.

Step 1- Extensive Research

It's impossible to grow your business or company without knowing your audience.

Find answers to a few questions such as who your right audience is, whether there are multiple categories you can target, the best time to engage your audience and so on. Understanding your audience in depth is essential. For instance, if you are offering a keyword research tool, your audience may be SEO professionals, digital marketers, even small business owners. Or if you are offering local plumbing, electrical or denture services, your audience may be local customer then you might need to focus on local SEO Keywords.

Think about your potential clients and list websites that appeal most to your audience. These websites can help you reach potential customers if you successfully place permanent links on them.

Step 3- Write High-Quality, Engaging Content

Your content has to be of the highest quality if you want other websites to link your content. Ensure that your content appeals to the desired audience, is relevant and usual. Write well-structured and engaging articles with valuable information that answers real questions or solves real problems.

Step 4- Determine the Site to Reach

Once you are done curating high-quality content, dive into the list you made on step 2 and pick sites with a maximum audience that can resonate with your content. Put effort into selecting websites that fit perfectly to the topic of your blog or article. 

Step 5- Reach Out to Site Owners

If you have invested ample time researching websites, writing high-quality articles, and shortlisting sites, the next step involves reaching out to site owners and operators. Several websites even offer writing product reviews on their website if you give them one of your products for free. Apart from these, most guest blogging sites charge you a certain amount of money post publishing, whereas you can also discover high-quality websites through detailed research. Search for the best ways to write an email for guest blogging outreach.

Step 6- Leverage Social Media for Content Amplification

If you have provided well-researched, well-structured and original content, you can leverage social media to maximise effectiveness. From popular platforms like Twitter, Facebook are valuable for increasing the reach of your content and increasing traffic to your posts.

Even the most seasoned professionals commit mistakes and pay the price. For instance, most SEO pros love to tout the value of long-form content. But remember, size isn’t everything. The length of the content means nothing if it’s not engaging, well written and useful to the user, or if it focuses on Nofollow links or getting links from irrelevant websites.

When building links you should avoid:

  • Building Wrong Links:
    Building spammy and irrelevant links will increase the number of links you have, but it comes at a cost. Google made it clear with their Penguin update that it is not about quantity but the quality of links. Google can even ban websites due to poor quality link building that bring irrelevant traffic to their website. Read blog, how to clean up unnatural links.
  • Using Black Hat Tactics:
    When marketers start focusing more on gaming the search engine algorithm and less on the user, then it’s considered black hat link-building. Some of the common black hat strategies include:
    - Large-scale article marketing and guest-posting with keyword-rich anchor text.
    - Links from low-quality directories solely meant for link building.
    - Keyword-rich links embedded within widgets.
    - Links from hacked sites
    - Links developed from automated programs.

Black hat link building tactics are not sustainable in 2021 and could lead to your domain getting banned by Google.

Some link-building tactics have been around for years, and yet they remain effective. And some great link-building tactics have recently become popular for maximising link-building efforts. Explore some good link building tactics that will be effective for years to come.

  • Quality Content:
    The first thing to maximising your exposure is to give people something interesting to share. According to Backlinko, “Why” and “What” posts along with infographics receive 25.8% more links compared to “how-to” posts and videos.
  • Repurpose Content:
    Writing new and fresh content can be time-consuming and resource intensive. Instead consider repurposing content. This means using a large portion of content that has already performed well to create a new piece. For example, an article with the title “How to Start an Online Business” can contribute to your next article titled “How to Succeed Operating an Online Store”. This will also increase your content length, and an average of 77.2% more links are found on long-form content.
  • Invest Time on Broken Link Building:
    What used to be a great source of traffic for your business website now might just have a 404 error page. Identify all the broken links and contact site owners to repair them. You are doing them a favour by notifying them about dead links, and you can ask for a backlink from their site in return for that favour.
  • Quality Images and Original Infographics:
    High-quality images and infographics are a powerful weapon in any content arsenal. Building links with infographics and images may bring more traffic than just posting written content.