When Google hit the internet in 1998, it revolutionized how search engines worked and their ability to produce quality results for their users. While there were many leaps of technology for Google, none were more important than its strategy to use inbound links as a strong factor to determine search engine ranking. Google views each link from one website to another website as a vote of confidence, and by having more inbound links, your website has more authority and more potential to rank well on Google. This strategy was a success and is still a major part of Google’s search ranking algorithm today.
With inbound links influencing rankings on Google so strongly, SEOs and webmasters devised ways to increase the volume of inbound links to their websites. It became an obsession, spawning a new industry with evermore creative ways to generate links to help boost search rankings on Google. For Google, it became a problem, allowing low-quality websites to capture strong rankings and forcing Google to produce mediocre results to its users.
Google had no choice but to fight back, spawning a host of search ranking updates to combat SEOs and webmasters trying to artificially alter their rankings on Google. Many ranking updates were implemented by Google, with funny names like Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird. For the most-part, Google has won the battle, making it difficult for SEOs and webmasters to shortcut the system. They now must play by Google’s rules, abiding by Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and capture rankings in a more organic, holistic way.
Despite Google’s ability to identify people trying the cheat the system, inbound links are still an important factor with search engine rankings and are as important as ever. The only thing that has changed is that it is much, much more difficult to gain an inbound link than it was a few years ago.
Below are a few suggestions how you can help build inbound links in a manner that will not upset Google.
1. Business Citations:
Business citations are business listings that reveal basic information about your company. These include business directories, online yellow pages, GPS systems, voice search (like Apple’s Siri), website statistics and niche resources. The downfall is that there are literally hundreds of these business citation resources and it would be a daunting task to post your business data to all of them. Recently, new technology has emerged that allows “data aggregators” to push business data to large networks of business citation websites. What once took dozens of hours of work can now be accomplished relatively quickly. Many popular data aggregators include Moz Local, Yext and Brandify. Pricing structure varies with the level of service provided, but business citations represent a low-cost solution for building inbound links to your website. Furthermore, the benefits are stronger than simply receiving an inbound link as each resource also generates its own traffic that could lead a prospect to your website. Inbound links, traffic to your listing and broadening your online footprint are all impacted through business citations.
2. Google My Business:
This is the single most important business listing that you can generate. While it isn’t technically “link building” it provides a relevant business listing for your company that has the opportunity to capture strong local search rankings. If you do one thing to help your website, even if you are a national company, do this.
3. Great Content:
By having great content on a great website, people will naturally add links from their websites to yours. This is what Google originally intended when they began using inbound links as a signal to boost search engine rankings. Investing in your website, wisely, will always payback strong dividends. Not only will a great website draw in links, but it will also yield strong conversion rates, referral traffic, media attention and a myriad of other things that are all good for online business. Google wishes to deliver great results to its users, and Google will reward you for the effort you put into your website. This does not mean that you give up a weekend to post a few articles. You need a dedicated website enrichment plan that delivers both quality and quantity. Keep in mind that quality is first and foremost important. One great article can make a bigger impact that 50 low-quality posts.
4. Link Bait:
Many people believe that link bait is a bad SEO practice, meaning that it is something that Google does not like. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Google’s own Matt Cutts (former head of SEO Spam) was a link-bait advocate and recommend it as a means to generate inbound links. Link bait works by building a website that can gain some attention and compel people to link to it. Then you link the link-bait website to your business website. Your link bait site generates online authority, which is then passed on to your business website. Link bait can be anything that interests anyone. It could be list of the top-50 greatest wines, a how-to article for starting a new business, or tips for training an old dog new tricks. As long as the content is relevant to your business and will compel people to link to it, then link bait will work.
5. Guest Writing/Blogging:
Many people want great content on their websites but they don’t want to write or they need an authority figure to craft it. In exchange for great content, webmasters will provide a link back to your website providing a perfect win-win situation. However, you have to be careful that the website you are writing for is not overzealous with guest writers. If the website is designed as a resource to help people generate inbound links, Google will not like it and will discredit those links and could potentially punish your website for it.
6. Social Media:
Links are links and it doesn’t matter where they come from. Get active on social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter and start providing nuggets of wisdom for people interested in what you do. Be sure that you occasionally provide links from these social media platforms that point back to your website. In addition to your social media audience, Google will see these links and provide credit to your website.
7. Press Releases:
Online PR was once a great way to build links, however this practice carries little inbound link value as it was abused in the past as a means to generate inbound links. While press releases still have great value for mass-public exposure, links through most PR channels will not be counted by Google.
Just remember that nothing happens if you do nothing. Keep working on your website at a pace that you can sustain for the long run. SEO is a marathon and not a sprint, and those who keep chipping away will be rewarded the most by Google.