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Brandon Harvey

Having an understanding of link building is as important as any other ranking factor, and in order to break down the types of links there are we need to ask “why do we have links in the first place?”.

Google stated:

“In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages”

Why do we use links?

Links are considered to have the most effective long term benefits to any website, yet it’s widely known to be one of the hardest tasks an SEO Executive will face. They can contribute a lot to your rank in the search results if you take the right approach. They are the glue that connects your web pages and other websites together. So, when applying this to SEO you should think of it as the foundation to your site.

Google have actually tested a version of the search engine where links aren’t considered as one of the “200 ranking factors”, and go on to explain that even though there is a lot of spam, it’s still a huge help to them when trying to filer sites by relevancy and rank them in the SERP’s. This ensures that users get the most relevant results based on what they type into the search bar.
So, before you start trying to build links, it’s good to understand the types of links you should, and shouldn’t be working with. Although each link can take its shape in many forms, they generally split into 3 main categories…

1. Natural Backlinks

These are the links out of your control, and usually get planted by other webmasters. Google feel’s these to be the most relevant and natural. However, we should be aware that there could be some strong links, and some that are considered low quality. Seeing these links in the hands of other people can be quite frustrating at times, considering there’s always a chance of spam and unwanted attraction.

Natural backlinks are those that you didn’t know were coming, so monitoring them is the way forward. This involves creating a backlink profile analysis of your site, and request getting the bad links removed by Google. During your analysis, you should plan to identify other key areas including:

  • Broken links
  • The broken pages of those links
  • Live backlinks
  • No-follow links
  • Do-follow links
  • The number of backlinks to your site
  • Anchor text of those links
  • Referring page of links

2. Links we create ourselves

These are links that we can add to off-page resources. As you can probably imagine, this is the area where Google receives the most spam, and is most likely to cause a penalty. Back in the day ‘SEO Experts’ would spam these to the point where users were directed content that was no interest to them at all. They can be created in various ways including:

  • Comment sections
  • Forums
  • Directories
  • PBN (Private Blog Networks) Sites
  • Site-wide
  • Footer links

This method had great short term effects (and still does), but in the long run your backlinks will become un-natural and likely trigger a penalty. However, people still use this method to build up their third-tier links in order to add extra authority to their second-tier links. So, unless your content is completely relevant, and you are linking from very high authority’s sites, I recommend steering away from this in your first-tier set of direct links.

3. Links through outreach

These are the links we gain from others by identifying linkable sites, creating trusting long term relationships with the webmasters, and directly asking them for a link. By supplying them with high quality content for their site, you can receive the link in return for this effort.

I find that it’s got to the point where webmasters are less worried about receiving high quality content for links, but more about requesting money and receiving lower than average content for their site, in return for the link. So even though a website may have a blog, it’s always good to spend some time to check through the quality of work.

Unique content that has a bite to it will go very far in outreach. Once you have your content the plan is to keep your websites as relevant as possible, build relationships with webmasters, and then negotiate the link.

A brief understanding

Knowing this is really important when you come to doing work on your website, and should be knit into other SEO activities. Hopefully now that we understand what the types of links there are, we can use it as the first step to creating a strong SEO link building campaign. This is far from easy, especially if you don’t already have a process in place, but through constant research and experimental approach, the closer you will get to achieving your goal.

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