Inbound link building is the hardest SEO activity, but it really works!

A number of years back it was just about good enough to carry out decent ‘on-page’ optimisation of your website in order to get a good ranking in Google SERPs (search engine results page).

These ‘on-page’ optimisation techniques included the usual suspects:

  • Good meta tags i.e. page URL, title and description tags. (The keyword tag hasn’t been an indexing factor for Google for a long time, so we never really worked it too hard).
  • Keyword density and placement. For a while back there, density was important but that’s fallen away in lieu of correct keyword placement.
  • Alt tags for images – still useful but only in terms of being indexed for Google Images or to achieve minimum keyword density.
  • Several other, albeit less influencing techniques.

Today the focus of Google’s algorithm is around a site’s online reputation, credibility and popularity. Sure, ‘on-page’ factors definitely do need to be in place, but they are now primarily telling Google what you want to be found for and are not influencing the popularity of a page.

Google’s search engine mission has been to organise the world’s information, but with the huge growth in online content they have to constantly refine how they define what the most valuable information is. One way they do this, and today it is the most important factor in achieving a page 1 result, is inbound links.

In essence, if you have inbound links to your website from other, well ranked sites, Google takes that link as a vote of confidence or popularity for your site. Some years back Google used a tool called ‘PageRank’ or ‘PR’ as the primary metric to rank websites and pages. The higher your PageRank, the more valued it is (it starts at 0 and goes up to 10). Whilst they no longer publish PR, we suspect that it’s still an important signal, so let’s just keep rolling with this.

Several factors determine how valuable an inbound link is; PageRank of the linking site/page, quantity of outbound links from the site/page giving you the link, contextual relevance of the site/page giving the link compared to your page that receives the link, anchor text based on your targeted keyword and several others (phew, this can be a very complex subject).

Building quality links is not as simple as submitting your site to online directories or participating in the multitude of link building schemes. In fact, quite often these ‘spammy’ link practices can actually hurt your rankings.

Building quality inbound links needs to be done in a thoughtful and considered fashion. Don’t just jump at the first link swopping proposal that is emailed to you. You are better to investigate other complementary sites that have a decent PageRank and are prepared to exchange links with you and not with hundreds of others. These sites may be your suppliers, associates, companies in similar industries but located outside of your geographic or trading area, interest groups etc.

You can pay link building or SEO firms to develop a link programme for you, but it can become very expensive. I don’t think there is any compelling reason why you shouldn’t do this yourself. All you need to do is spend some quality time researching potential link partners, making personal contact with them, and if they agree to give you a link, provide them with the keyword-rich anchor text and target URL.

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