What is Link Building?

Link Building is the art of online relationships

Link Building is a set activities whose goal is to acquire backlinks in order to increase Trust and referral traffic to a website by increasing the Authority of the website. The acquisition of backlinks plays an important role in an SEO strategy and will increase search engine rankings if done properly. Link Building is just about as old as the web. Links are a means to connect resources online and they establish a relationship. The effect of this relationship continues to evolve along with web technology and the search engines. The most successful Link Building campaigns combine advanced SEO techniques with a structured marketing approach with the objective to build a network of relationships.

In this article we'll introduce you to the basic concepts and underlying principles which govern Link Building. We'll cover different areas of Link Building to define this activity so you understand why Link Building is important, and why it is important for SEO.

Backlinks to your website visualisation

Links - Looking at the bigger picture

Acquiring a backlink can prove to be very difficult.

Link Building is an essential part of SEO and search engine ranking. Experienced SEOs know there is a considerable amount of work involved in building a Backlink Profile. Link Building is an activity sitting somewhere between the art of creating great content for an audience, and the science of promoting it to acquire spontaneous - organic - backlinks.

The average online user has an extremely limited attention span. Digital marketers compete for that attention, both online and offline. Web marketers are constantly pitching the more popular websites with guest posts to acquire backlinks. Competition fuels the need for new ideas and strategies to build backlinks.

Nobody is going to give us what we think we rightfully deserve. Creating excellent content or an unusually useful app is not enough: you need to promote it. But where? And how?

We'll answer these questions and see how nurturing relationships can increase link acquisition and, by doing so, build a strong backlink profile.

Let's take a step back and explore the origins of Link Building so see where it is headed. In the very beginning of the web, search engines would rank websites by establishing document relevance based keywords. Search Engine technology was in its infancy. The very first Search Engines of the 1990s were based only on content understanding and identify the most relevant set of results, within a corpus of documents. Search engine rankings were based on "on-page" factors. In other words, the understanding and evaluation (or ranking) of a web page was based entirely on the document. Until then, search engines ranked results by counting how many times a search term appeared on a page.

But then, in 1998, Google introduced PageRank. With PageRank, Links became a significant ranking factor. Links were "a vote of confidence". PageRank turned out to be a paradigm shift in SEO by determining a website's relevance based on the number of pages, and the importance of those pages that linked back to the original site. Links became an essential vote of confidence factored into the search ranking algorithm. Suddenly our rankings were determined mostly by the links in our backlink profile. Content was no longer the only ranking factor. Google had introduced links to judge the value of a document.

Links were no longer a mere hyperlink used to connect two resources anywhere on the web. Links were a vote of confidence.

As Search Engine Technology evolved, the algorithms were able to evaluate the quality of a backlink, moving away from the number of links and focusing on three key aspects of a backlink:

  • Reputation
  • Authority
  • Topic or area of interest

Today Search Engines base their evaluation of a website on:

  • Content Understanding (how documents are written and their meaning)
  • User Understanding (How users behave on a website)
  • Domain Understanding (What a website is about)
Majestic Topical Trust Flow screenshot

Some facts about Link Building:

  • Link building is a long term investment. Good backlinks are not easy to get!
  • Building a quality Backlink Profile requires a team of professionals to work in unison, in order to deliver results.
  • Link Building is a labour intensive activity and requires a great deal of intellectual effort to deliver top quality backlinks.

Building your backlink profile requires a team of experts with a range of skills, both technical and creative. The first challenges you meet are internal (coming from within the organization): It is typically very difficult to communicate the true value of quality organic backlinks - management often does not understand all the work involved.

Building a backlink profile requires a deep understanding of the organisation seeking backlinks and their audience (true of all SEO efforts)

For example, keyword research is only the first step in SEO and not enough to create great SEO copy for a website.

Things you need to know about Link Building

Competition for backlinks is high - there are many other SEOs seeking backlinks. Your SEO and Link Building Strategy had better be good. Your objective is content creation with a focus on informing and problem solving.

Backlinks are never about you and your needs for a link. Your focus should be their needs: your focus should be the users reading your article, and your capability to solve their problems.

Link Building is challenging:

  • You must create empathetic strategies which resonate with your audience.
  • Where is your target audience? Identify primary hubs with users interested in your content.
  • Promote your content or app! Network with webmasters, bloggers, journalists to win a backlink.

Links are unique, like snowflakes:

  • It's impossible to determine a number of backlinks you need to boost a website's rankings
  • Link Building strategies will differ, depending on your industry. No two verticals will follow the same rules to achieve your objective.
  • Like all SEO activities, "one size fits all" will not work. Every website has a history and a legacy you need to understand and respect.

A backlink is a vote of confidence

Link Building is an important networking activity. Our efforts to build backlinks and increase our search engine rankings is a win-win situation: We create content for the users which webmasters will gladly host knowing their readers will enjoy. In return we'll be rewarded with a backlink.

As we will see further on, links are an important signal search engines use to rank websites. Another reason why backlinks are important is their power to confer reputation and authority.

The impact of a backlink depends on the quality of the source backlink profile. In fact, links are a signal to the search engines. The value of this signal depends on the reputation and the authority of the backlink. The effect of a backlink can be positive or negative. Backlinks can boost rankings in the Search Engine Results Pages. Websites with quality backlinks are rewarded with search engine rankings and free organic traffic.

Another important benefit which derives from having quality backlinks is the direct traffic they source (referral traffic). People click on links! Therefore a quality link will increase the website authority and, at the same time, source quality traffic (an engaged audience).

Graph showing growth

In summary

Link Building is a strategic SEO activity that can boost search engine rankings if done properly. Earning backlinks is a fine art that combines marketing skills and careful research to identify the best prospects. A quality backlink profile will make an authority of you.