Evolution of Link Building: The Past
Link building has long been a source of success and frustration when doing SEO. When it first became known that links from other sites affected search engine rankings, immediately FFA (Free For All) sites appeared that allowed users to add their links for free.
There was no editorial discretion in the placement of these links and commonly, they were all thrown together on one page with no relevance between them.
This is when the search engines became charged with the task of determining link quality. I’ve long said that “a link to your site is like a vote for your site, but all links are not created equal.”
Obviously, Google and other search engines found a way to devalue FFA links over time. So much so, that FFA sites are virtually non-existent today. Then came link exchanges, which are also not nearly as effective these days.
Today, SEO’s realize that our task is building quality, relevant links over time. Let’s have a look at some of the aspects of links that can signal value or lack thereof.
Poor Quality Links:
- Are surrounded by other poor quality links.
- Are not relevant to the contents of the web page.
- Have anchor text not relevant to the page they link to.
- Are placed on a page with content not relevant to the page they link to.
- Are on sites that aren’t as “trusted” (determined by many other factors).
- Are placed at the same time as many other links on the same page. (Giving the appearance of link selling)
- Change frequently (“link churn”).
- Surrounded by links that change frequently.
- Are on sites that haven’t been around long.
- Are all “built up” at or near the same time, giving the appearance of being “bought.”
- Are done in a reciprocal fashion (exchanged). “3 way” or not.
Disclaimer: These signals of poor quality links are based on my experience with the search engines, namely Google. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a link isn’t valuable to a user.
Example: A brand new “News” site starts and does TV commercials promoting their site. Meanwhile, a story breaks about a pop-singer, and the young “News” site links to that singer’s website.
To a search engine, the link might not have much value because the site it’s on is very new, and the site covers many topics so it’s not highly relevant.
Yet to the public, it has more value because tons of people know about the site (TV ads), and the visitors are interested in “breaking news.”
The Present: Evolution of Link Building
Signs of Quality Links:
- Are placed on other relevant web pages.
- Are built up slowly or “naturally” over time.
- Are placed on sites that themselves, have high-quality links.
- If surrounded by other links, are surrounded by other quality links.
- Are placed on older, more trusted sites.
- Are placed on sites that use editorial discretion in the links they have.
- Are placed on sites with a “natural” distribution of PageRank. (Not on all high PR sites or all low PR sites)
- Remain for longer periods of time.
How does one get these quality links? Do people just link to your site without asking? Sometimes, if your site is really good. If your site attains “Authority” status, people will often link to it because they think it will help their site. Sometimes you have to ask.
The most important thing to do is to let people know about your site and to promote it. If no one knows about your site, no one will link to it. Content syndication through RSS feed is a good way to get backlinks as well.
The Future: Evolution of Link Building
Try working out advertising deals directly with relevant sites that aren’t hosting text link ads. Also, let people know that it’s ok to link to you; believe it or not, many people new to the web think they need to ask if it’s ok to link to your site.
I usually add something to the “About Us” page asking people to link to the site. The easier you make it, the more likely it is to happen.
For better or worse? The days of being guaranteed top search results through traditional link building are ending.
I say “for better.” It’s much more difficult for sites to spam the search engines these days, due to the fact that “quality” links are much harder for them to get.
It gives webmasters something much more important to focus on: site quality. If we constantly work on the content and quality of our websites, it will be much easier to get quality links.
If you are looking for White Hat and organic ways to build quality links then off-page SEO strategies is definitely a good read.
I hope this time traveling article on Evolution of Link Building helped you understand how important quality backlinks are for a website and more importantly how to earn them.
We are looked at the past, present & the future of link building and how it has evolved over the years.
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