Link development these days is not what it used to be; once upon a time, it might well have been possible for your company to benefit from large batches of quickly sourced links.
But the game has changed, and with it, the costs — no one wants a Google penalty on their company’s record. Fortunately, the benefits still make quality link development worth the investment.
Once upon a time, search engine rankings depended in large part upon the volume of links that referred back to the site. The system revolved around the idea that a link was basically a recommendation – why would someone give you a recommendation if your site didn’t have quality content? However, it became clear before long that this system could be easily manipulated by anyone willing to put the effort into gaining lots of links, some of which may be spammy or otherwise not particularly useful.
In response, the search engines (Google in particular) altered their algorithms to thwart the scammers, prioritising quality links over inferior ones, regardless of volume. In fact, they even actively pursued sites who attempted to subvert the system and achieve artificial results and penalised them in their rankings. Though the exact formula of their algorithm is a closely-guarded secret, we can be fairly sure it revolves around the following factors:
• Popularity. The readership of a site will greatly affect the quality of a link in Google’s eyes. As a general rule, well-trusted and renowned sites, such as newspaper publications, government websites or famous blogs, will be far more valuable than unpopular ones.
• Relevance. This should be fairly self-explanatory; if your company sells cheap airline tickets, a link from travel search sites like Skyscanner or Travelocity will be far more valuable than having it posted on a friend’s blog about gardening. Indeed, a relevant but niche blog is even more worthwhile than an irrelevant and popular one.
• Freshness. Once you have your links in place, you can’t simply rest on your laurels. Back in 2011, Google announced that they had adapted their algorithm to take freshness of links into account in 35% of all search results. As such, if your site isn’t consistently and constantly generating new links, it can quickly be seen as stale by Google and fall down the rankings.
• Diversity. Google also likes your site to garner its links from a wide variety of sources. These can include web directories, blog entries, social media shares, reviews, official organisations and comments from yourself or your fan base. The more diverse, the better.
Building high-quality link networks requires a significant amount of time and effort… which, of course, costs money. These are just some of the areas which a competent and conscientious SEO company will pursue in order to achieve the best links for your site:
• Research. The company is going to have to do a lot of the legwork, trawling the web for sites which are relevant to your topic.
• Due Diligence. Once these sites have been found, they have to be thoroughly vetted to analyse their traffic flow, content quality and user interaction, among other facets.
• Outreach. These sites must then be contacted and asked to link back to your site. Typically, the response rate from contacted sites will be a fraction of the total which are reached.
• Negotiation. Once contact has been established, you’ll then get down to the nitty-gritty of hammering out a deal which works best for everyone involved. This can simply involve a couple of emails… or a protracted exchange over a period of weeks.
• Content Creation. Depending on the services you require, the company may be obliged to actually create the blogs, infographics or articles which contain your links.
• Social Media. Social media is about far more than simply posting your articles on Twitter, Facebook and the other major players – a significant amount of audience interaction is also required. Commenting, liking and sharing all be must pursued aggressively and consistently.
• Follow-up. Even after the link is live, the company must make sure it works correctly, connects to the right page and is producing results.
As you can see, there is a whole lot more to quality link building than accruing 1,000 questionable connections from a black-hat SEO company. Though it might cost more, it’s undoubtedly worth the extra expense; skimping now could cost you much more in the long-run if your company is penalised by Google and you have to invest more time, money and effort in undoing the damage.
So the next time you’re presented with a deal that’s too good to be true, it probably is. Quality links are eminently achievable — they just need a little more thought put into them.