The Evolution of Link Building

One of the cornerstones to a complete online marketing strategy is building high quality back-links. Sure, sure. We have all heard that Google has long done away with spammy practices, article spinning, and content mills as they relate to SEO. However, knowing these facts doesn’t give you one iota of useful knowledge that you can apply to your future digital marketing efforts.

These facts only help you understand what not to do by bolstering your defense against unethical practices. However, online marketing strategies are won with offense. Instead of only avoiding traps, you also need to understand how to take action to build a strong back-link profile.

The Modern Alternative to Buying Back-Links

In the not-so-distant past, it was common practice for online entities to actually buy back-links from authority sites to inject link juice into their website’s SEO campaign. Essentially, there was a trade of currency for ‘organic’ traffic. However, this is a terrible practice given the modern SEO landscape.

Instead, you need the most sought after digital treasure available: organic back-links. Today, instead of trading money for back-links, you need to trade information and value for back-links.

Furthermore, you need to think about the return on your investment between these two options. You may think – erroneously – that investing time and money in high quality content costs more than buying back-links. However, this isn’t true. Bad back-links that are despised by the Google algorithm may even harm your rankings. Quality content, on the other hand, will provide your audience with value, help to build quality organic back-links, and will help your website withstand the test of time.

Trading Links

No, you’re not the first person in the history of the Internet to think of this. Friends and peers that own websites in unrelated industries have traded back-links in the past. Their reasoning is as follows: If the site I link to isn’t a competitor, I can get free link juice without worrying about losing any business – and vice-versa! It’s a win-win! Sorry to burst your bubble, but this is actually a lose-lose scenario.

Not only will Google penalize you if they deem you have abused this practice, but your traffic quality is going to be terrible. Additionally, the back-link is going to be worthless. For example, let’s pretend that you run a health website that both informs your audience of the latest advancements in nutrition as well as recommends health products.

Now let’s say that you try to trade back-links with your friend who runs a website in the field of Internet security. Why on Earth would a visitor to your friend’s site – who is looking for updates on the latest security threats – feel compelled to spend any amount of time browsing your nutrition website? The traffic stream you get from that back-link isn’t going to do you any favors.

Not only that, but the unrelated links will also send mixed signals to the search engines. They'll end up being confused as to what your site is about, and they won't know what kind of traffic to send you.

Plugging into Industry Directories

Not every directory was created equally, and adding your site to any old directory solely for the purpose of an extra back-link is a bad idea. The solution? Look for quality, trusted directories. There seems to be a few for just about every industry. Niche directories and websites chock-full of valuable informational content are usually good quality sites.

You will want to browse around the directory you are looking at before you make a decision, though. Keep an eye out for valuable content and ask yourself this question, “What does this directory do to solve the problems of their visitors?” If you struggle finding a good answer to this question because you find pages littered with advertisements and sales pitches or their directory structure is terrible, it is likely time to move on to another directory.

Forums Evolved

You simply can’t expect to build a quality back-link profile by posting a back-link to your site on any forum you come across. In the past, Internet hucksters sought to exploit this practice until Google dropped the hammer.

However, that is not to say that a back-link from a forum is worthless. If you follow a few principles to add value and you don’t abuse this technique, you can actually create quality forum back-links. Firstly, don’t abuse your ‘money keywords’ in your anchor text. Furthermore, you need to actively participate in discussions that seek to solve users’ problems. Your link is only valuable if it is within the context of the discussion and it aids the forum members by solving their problems.

For example, if you are on a VPN forum and one of the members is having difficulty setting up a VPN on their desired operating system, help them find the solution they are looking for. If your site provides step-by-step how-to documentation related to their problem, a back-link from the forum will help out everyone. Though these types of back-links won’t help you rise as fast as back-links from massive authority sites, they will certainly bolster your back-link profile and provide quality traffic to your website.

In Summary

You need to remember a few key points when you are evaluating potential back-links. First and foremost, don’t ever purchase or trade back-links. Trust me, it’s a bad idea and it’s not going to get you anywhere. Also, only use back-links from trusted, ethical sites. Try to focus placing your back-links in areas that are centered on added value and user experience. If you fail to meet these recommendations and best practices, Google might very well slap your website in the face.

About 

Will Hanke owns Saint Louis' top independent Internet Marketing firm, Red Canoe Media. In addition to helping some of St Louis' most recognizable brands with their online marketing strategy, Will also is an Amazon bestselling author, speaker and teacher.

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