To understand how link building helps SEO you have to look back to how SEO has changed over the past 30 years. In the beginning, there was little regulation and it was an “anything goes” mentality. Originally, search engines indexed web pages based on content only. Keyword stuffing was the most common and effective method for ranking a website. Google, asked, “can we index and retrieve sites faster than other search engines and improve the results”. Links emerged as the primary factor in determining rankings.

Link Building Best Practices

WHAT IS PAGERANK

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin came out with the pagerank prototype in 1996, and served as the core of what distinguished Google from the other search engines. PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine how authoritative a website is. Although there are frequent updates to the algorithm, the core hasn’t changed much. The more links that point back to your website the more “important/authoritative” your website will look to Google.

Google still uses a form of the PageRank algorithm today, however, they are less transparent about it. In essence, PageRank is an exponential scale of 1-10, 1 being easier to achieve and each number you progress is incrementally more difficult to achieve. The PageRank algorithm is determined by the number and quality of links point to a page, that pages value is determined by the quantity and quality of and so forth. The flow of link value from one link to another to another was once commonly referred to as “LinkJuice”. This video does a great job of a simple explanation of how PageRank works:

INBOUND LINKS

The most beneficial type of link to obtain is an inbound link. Each link is a vote of confidence for your website and directly affects your search engine results placement. In April of 2012, Google launched the Penguin update which was “a new effort to reward high-quality websites and diminish the search engine results page (SERP) presence of websites that engaged in manipulative link schemes and keyword stuffing.” In other words, higher quality links became much more impactful, and the spammy links used in link hubs and other manipulative tactics lost their savor.  A lot of SEO companies that participated in “Black Hat” SEO saw a large diminishing of returns on their investment once the update was introduced. We have found the most impactful types of inbound links can be broken down into two different categories:

  1. High-Quality Niche Directories – Posting your business into directories related to your industry.
  2. Guest Posts – Content posted on another website that links back to your website.

To further understand the rule of thumb for getting links, think about this: If you were a General Contractor, would it make more sense for you to get a link from Better Homes and Gardens, or a random blogger in a different country? Not only will Better Homes and Gardens be a more authoritative link, but there would be no question about its relevance to your business.

INTERNAL LINKING

In the majority of websites, the homepage will receive the most inbound links. This usually means the homepage has the highest PageRank or the highest authority.  The further another page gets from the homepage on your site, the more its PageRank will decrease. This causes pages that are far from the home page to be more difficult to rank well. Since in most cases not all pages will get inbound links, your internal linking should do two services for your website.

First, they need to help your visitors/users navigate your site with ease from page to page. For instance, if someone is on your “services” page, there should be a link to your “contact us” page or a separate page that goes more into depth about any given service. We aim to make every core page accessible within 3 clicks, regardless of your starting point.  Secondly, your links should help search engines crawl your entire site with the fewest amount of jumps between pages as possible. This will help pass on your PageRank. By interlinking the pages on your site well, you will create an easy to navigate structure for your clients and the search engines.

In conclusion, when executed with the overall strategy in mind, link building is extremely important to your SEO goals. So, if you’re looking to help your online visibility, start with links.