One of the most fundamental parts of search engine marketing has always been link building. This important practice revolves around getting your site linked to by as many other relevant sites as possible. Not only does this raise your visibility at those individual sites, but it also boosts your power in the eyes of search engines like Google so they will rank you higher in their results. It seems simple enough and for years this practice has been the de facto standard in ranking. However, the landscape has changed in an attempt to stop the black hat link building techniques that have become so rampant on the internet.
This development has left many people scrambling to figure out the best approach to SEO. In fact it has left some people wondering if link building is even still relevant in 2013. Let’s take a look at some of the old practices which should be avoided as well as at newer strategies that can be used in place of them.
Old Practices to Avoid
Buying links has never been considered a “white hat” practice, but it was once a very common way for sites to quickly and easily gain more links. However, in recent times Google has really been cracking down on this strategy and they are also getting better and better at detecting it. The bottom line is that if you were considering buying links: don’t! The risk almost certainly outweighs the reward.
Link exchanges is essentially only one step down from link purchasing. In this case two or more sites get together and decide to post links to each other’s sites. The problem with this practice is that Google and other search engines still see it as an attempt to game the system. This is known as reciprocal linking and it is frowned upon by all the search engines. Google has also gotten very good at detecting and punishing these reciprocal links as well.
Spammy Directory Links
When link building was in its hay day one common way of getting links was by submitting your site to as many directories as possible. The trouble with these directories is that very few people actually used them and they were filled with spammy listings. As a result Google now frowns on these low quality directories and having your site listed with them can be more of a liability than a benefit.
Unnatural Anchor Text for Links
The practice of over-optimizing anchor text so that the links reflected keywords is another strategy that has fallen out of favor. At one time this was a good way to boost your ranking for those search terms; however, now the emphasis is on more natural links that better reflect the way people actually post links.
What to Focus on in 2013
Now that you know what NOT to do…let’s take a look at some of the practices that are still very effective for building links in 2013.
Social Media is definitely one of the big trends in internet marketing today. It is imperative that your company and site have accounts with the major social network sites and that you use them on a regular basis. This enables customers and visitors to connect with you in a convenient, immediate way that reflects their growing preference. Social media accounts also enable you to link to your site news and articles, and if you are lucky your customers will re-link, building a nice snowball effect.
Fresh, High-Quality Content
As everyone has heard by now, content is king. That means that today’s customers and visitors expect useful, interesting content when they visit your site. One of the best ways to continue your link building strategy is by publishing such high-quality content that your customers are compelled to share it with their peers. Remember to do this effectively the focus must be on legitimately interesting, useful posts rather than on sales or promotional pieces.
More Landing Pages
Having more landing pages on your site helps increase the number of ways your customers can reach you. This in turn additionally reflects well on your site and results in more favorable rankings with the search engines. Just make sure that your various landing pages are unique and relevant.
Diverse Anchor Text
As we discussed above in the strategies to avoid, one major one is having over-optimized, highly similar anchor text. Instead make sure to vary your anchor text in ways that more accurately correspond with how people would naturally post links. This makes the links more intuitive and inviting to site visitors and in turn earns you good will from the search engines.
Regular Review of Links
One of the worst things you can do with your link building strategy is to ignore the links you have already gotten and only focus on getting new links. The reason this is such a problem is because one of the most irritating things for customers and visitors is to find broken, useless links that lead nowhere. In turn these old, broken links will drag down your rankings. Instead make sure to review your links regularly to ensure that they are still in good working order.
When all is said and done the question of whether or not link building is still important in 2013 is a bit of a moot point. Link building is definitely still important and probably always will be part of the algorithm…just varying in strength. A more necessary question to ask is how has link building changed and what should you do to adapt and stay successful in evolving times. Avoiding the bad practices above and following the recommend tips instead will go a long way toward helping you improve your rankings and increase traffic.