Complete Link Building Guide for 2021 (with tips and tricks)

What is Link Building

After we have finished building the site, after we have found the keywords most searched by our visitors and after we have created the content and set up the whole structure of the page (and the site in general) so that it contains the necessary elements for ranking, we can relax and take a breath.

Or maybe not quite!

All these processes are essential and take time. But on-page optimisation is not everything.

There are other very important factors that are taken into account by search engines to rank sites.

One of these is the quantity and quality of links to and from our site.

The strategy that takes advantage of this factor is called link building. There are many techniques in the SEO world that are useful for bringing links to a site. Given the definition, let’s now see how link building is done.

How to do link building for free

Let’s try to give an example that explains in simple words what link building is:

Let’s say I have an online shop selling football boots. On one of the pages of my website a type of boot is presented with all its characteristics.

A user with a blog, or a website, that talks about football boots, will want to keep up to date with the latest news: if on my website this user finds the page of a pair of boots, with all the details and news about this new model, the user with the blog will write an article and insert a link informing: “following this link you will find useful information about the pair of boots in question”.

The user who clicks on the link will go to my shop page where I sell that pair of boots.

So, if I provide quality information, network users will refer to my site, because there is useful and interesting information.

A somewhat trivial example, but I think it sums up the concept of link building.

Search engines take a lot of account of these external links (also called backlinks) considering them as “recommendations”, which indicates that the site is reliable and recommended for the information provided.

But how are these links evaluated? Are they all evaluated the same?

Before answering the question, we should go back a bit to the past, when two guys in the dormitories of Stratford University had an idea.

The web was still “rudimentary” at the time, and search engines ranked by the number of backlinks and a link building strategy was fundamental and accessible to anyone.

Larry Page, who later founded Google with his partner Sergey Brin, patented an idea (or invention, as reported in the official patent) that the quantity of links directed to a site is not as important as their quality.

If my site has 100 links from irrelevant and little visited sites it is less valuable compared to a site that has only 1 link, but from an authoritative source such as “Wikipedia”.

Page and Brin hypothesized that not only the quality of a site should be taken into account, but also its “relevance”, i.e. how relevant was the topic of the site compared to the site of the person receiving the link (i.e. if I sell shoes online, a link from a dentist is irrelevant).

These assumptions are based on the modern Google ranking method based on the “Relevance” and “Authority” of a site, thus the term “page rank” was born.

Page Rank is like a rating given to a site, based precisely on the quality and relevance of the links received by the site.

For those who wish to learn more about the history and fundamental concepts of this invention, the original patent is available online.

So, once the mechanics, words and content of the site have been optimized for search, it is very important to receive credibility from the search engines by getting inbound links to your site, thus you must resort to link building.

There are many techniques for getting these links, and some (the best ones), such as writing an article or creating a video, pay off in the long run because they are the links that Google likes best.

In this article we will look at some of the main link building techniques.

First of all, you should know that links are not enough to rank a website. Of course they bring benefits to the site, but not the ones you would expect if you want to rank for a particular keyword.

In this case, the link must come from a keyword called “Anchor Text”.

For spontaneous links, i.e. those generated due to a good article, it is more difficult to check the anchor text that will be placed by those who share that article.

This can be remedied by inserting keywords directly into the URL of the page.

Let’s see what the html structure of an anchor text link should look like:

<a href=”http://www.example.com”>keyword</a>

The “href” attribute indicates the page to which the link leads, and the “keywords” indicates the keyword phrase for which you want to rank because of this link.

By inserting the keywords through the anchor text, we could tell the search engines that the link to that page is on the topic described by those keywords and therefore the site’s position for those keywords will increase according to the value of the page that linked to it.

For a good link building strategy, it is important not to abuse keywords and to always try to keep certain (few but effective) guidelines.

Another thing to keep in mind when you want to get links to your website is that the links provided should have the attribute rel = dofollow , and not rel = nofollow, as it happens, for example, to links on social networks such as Twitter or in most comments on blogs and websites.

After these brief but important explanations about anchor text and rel = dofollow, we move on to analyse some of the most effective link building methods, based on importance and time of application.

Link building: How to get links

Ask for a link from someone you know

Application time: 1-2 weeks

Link importance: high

Difficulty: Easy

Ask friends and acquaintances for links to your site, whether they have a blog or a site they manage. This technique can bring good links and is easy and quick to implement.

List your website on local classifieds sites

Implementation time: 1-2 weeks

Link importance: media

Difficulty: simple

Adding your business to local business listings can be a good start in link building, as these links are considered relevant to the sector in which you operate and the geographical area of your business.

Submit your articles, content and website to directories and portals

Implementation time: 1-2 weeks

Link importance: high

Difficulty: medium

It is one of the oldest link building methods. There are different types of directories on the web, where you can register to insert the URL you want to receive a link to.

These are places where you can insert your own articles, press releases, videos and other multimedia material.

Registering with these directories, which have a fairly good page rank, is important and can quickly bring links to your site.

There are also paid directories, some less effective (even though Google is against using paid directories for ranking).

Finding and fixing broken links

Implementation time: 1-2 weeks

Link importance: high

Difficulty: high

Another way to get good links is to search through the links that don’t work as they should within sites scattered around the web, and contact the web administrator asking, in return for the favor, to be able to replace the “broken” link with one to your site.

This is an excellent technique, takes a little time, but can bring good results.

Search among competitors’ links

Implementation time: 1-2 weeks

Link importance: high

Difficulty: medium

Spying on your competitors to find links leading to their site is another good way to acquire new links.

A great tool for analyzing site links is Moz’s OpenSiteExplorer, or MajesticSeo.

Writing quality articles

Application time: continued

Link importance: high

Difficulty: medium

There’s no reason why a company shouldn’t have its own corporate blog since it’s the most natural and Google-friendly link building method.

So says Matt Cutts , a member of Google’s anti-spam team. In fact, a blog is a great way to communicate with your audience, to showcase your business knowledge and communicate your values and corporate culture.

Forum Link Building

Application time: continued

Link importance: small

Difficulty: medium

We assume that forum link building is a backlink acquisition technique that is almost always of poor quality.

Practically all forums on the web allow registered users and discussion participants to insert a signature, where, according to the forum rules, it is possible to insert one or more links to your website.

In order for the link to have more value, it is important that the forum deals with issues related to the theme of our site, and consistent activity in the forum is highly recommended to avoid the risk of our posts being identified as spam activities.

It is also very useful to insert backlinks in the post itself, but only if they are really useful for discussion and if they are related to the topic.

Even polls in forums can be an elegant way to start a discussion in which we can then insert a useful backlink to bring traffic to our site.

Link building through comments

Application time: continued

Link importance: small

Difficulty: low

Finding and frequenting blogs whose context addresses the issues dealt with on our site can be very useful for link building, as we can insert a link in the comments.

The same arguments made above about forums apply. Comments must be relevant and in line with the requirements of the blog author. All this to prevent our comments from being reported as spam.

The first inserted comments are the most read and they will be more easily considered by search engine spiders.

From an SEO point of view, backlinks inserted in comments almost always have the rel nofollow attribute and thus have no direct ranking value.

Social Media Signals

Application time: continued

Link importance: high

Difficulty: medium

Social media is an excellent means of promoting your website and a very important tool for advertising. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are just a few of the most popular names.

Through these tools we can share links to our website especially on groups that deal with issues related to the topics of our website.

The only problem is that from an SEO point of view, even in this case, backlinks published on social networks have the attribute rel=NoFollow and often you have to be logged in to view them, so they have no ranking value.

Guest posting

Application time: continued

Link importance: high

Difficulty: medium

Guest posting is the process of approaching other websites in order to publish content produced by us on their blog. It is the most effective way of securing links for your website but it can also be slightly time consuming.

Although it is often a very effective way of link building, you should avoid publishing poor quality content and using over-optimized anchor text for your backlinks.

If you can produce quality content, many reputable sites will continue to accept your guest posts.

That said, you should not use this tactic exclusively to create backlinks, as Google has become very careful in finding and devaluing backlinks acquired in this way.

Buying backlinks

Even though this method breaks Google’s rules, if done with common sense and competence, it can bring great advantages in terms of ranking and traffic. However, there are a few things to consider before link building in this way:

  • the most authoritative and valuable sites have quite high prices;
  • progress in the SERP and increasing link popularity takes a long time.

After purchasing backlinks, it is advisable to wait a few months before you can be sure to have feedback on the result you derive from it and also consider the ethics of the operation.

Receiving a lot of backlinks from sites that have nothing to do with our content may not be viewed favourably by search engines.

The latter keep changing their algorithms to prevent some from taking advantage of certain unethical techniques.

Before proceeding to purchase links from a site, it is good to check a few things:

  • The site from which we purchase must address contextual issues with what we are dealing with on our site.
  • Identify what other sites point to the site we want to purchase from.
  • check that the page where the purchased backlinks will be placed does not contain too many external links that would decrease the value of the purchased links too much (e.g. in terms of PageRank).
  • check that the pages hosting the purchased backlinks are accessible, indexable and allow you to follow the links from the inside

Precisely because it is a site that sells links, it could happen that it suddenly loses value in the eyes of Google because of pointing to too many low-value sites.

Link building through viral actions

By this term we refer to an action that has the power to spread like wildfire and very quickly in the system and among people (not necessarily on the web).

This type of action, if done well, can lead to incredibly beneficial results.

In general, a viral action is based on the following points:

  • It must offer something free to users. It will be taken for granted, but people are always looking for something free, and “free” is one of the most searched terms.
  • It has to spread quickly among users, through websites, by word of mouth, bringing with it a simple and compelling message.
  • It has to move: with a funny video, a customisable game or an image with an effect that is funny, not only will it stick in a user’s mind, but it will be very easy for them to share the resource with many others!
  • It needs to start from a place that is already able to reach many users, for example a heated discussion on a forum or in a comment on a widely followed blog post.

All this always in accordance with the rules of the forum or any blog author.

Search engines have evolved, and with them, so has SEO.

Today it is more and more important to do link building and “earn” links naturally, getting them from other users who share our site because of the original content.

Publishing valuable content is always a priority for those who want to optimize their site for search engines, regardless of the industry you are in.

As Matt Cutts explains in the video below, links and link popularity are important ranking factors and therefore a priority for any website or business when it comes to SEO and ranking.

Links allow you to understand how well known, trusted and therefore how valuable a site is to rank in a relevant results ranking.

In this video, in which Matt Cutts from the Google Web Spam Team speaks, he is asked if there is a way to search in Google Search without taking into account the inbound links a site has as an influencing factor for ranking.

Cutts says that although the public is not aware of such a tool, Google is still testing the removal of algorithms and factors that take links into account (quantity, quality, etc.).

According to Cutts, the results displayed by the search engine were of too low quality, so much so, he explains, that it is not possible and will not be possible for the time being to eliminate backlink checking on a site to determine its quality and therefore its ranking.

So, as you can easily understand, a link building strategy remains, for those who want to optimise their site on the SEO side, a priority that cannot be excluded.

Obviously, these links should not be completely artificial, as this could bring penalties to the site.

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Rob Nash
Rob Nash is a tech writer with a comprehensive focus on technology, productivity, and overall success in life and business.
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