Link Building Basics

by Vanessa on December 18, 2007

link imageLink building is one of the most difficult aspects of site optimization. Everyone agrees that a site needs incoming links in order to gain traction in search engine rankings-especially Google. Links are tangible evidence of a site’s ‘popularity.’ The more sites you have linking to yours is evidence that your site is offering quality, relevant content that other people view as important enough to link to, which is part of the criteria a search engine uses to assess rank. But there is little agreement on how to go about obtaining links and what type of links will be valuable.

A comment on my last post asking about links motivated me to investigate link building a little more.The question, from Dennis at, asked what percentage of deep links is ideal as far as search engines are concerned? The problem is, there is no magic formula for links, and no systematic way to go about accomplishing the link-building task. And to complicate the issue further-the Big 3 search engines-Google, Yahoo, Live Search (MSN)-factor links and other on-page content differently. Google puts more emphasis on incoming links, or ‘back links’ as they call them. Yahoo and MSN weigh on-the-page content more heavily. So to rank well in Google, link building is key, which is why links have become commodities, bought, sold and traded through ‘link farms’ and other shady sites. Used to be, links from these sites almost guaranteed high rankings, because the number of links was all that mattered in the search engines’ eyes. Now though, this strategy of paid links can get your site quickly de-valued or even banned in extreme cases. Google discusses link exchanging schemes in their Webmaster Support section.

What types of links are useful? The most valuable links are from web pages that are related to your site. Links to or from pages that are not topically related to your site are less valuable, and in some cases, too many of these off-topic links can be viewed as spam and work against you. For instance, if your site sells soccer balls, a link from a site selling light bulbs will do nothing for you, but a link from a soccer ball manufacturer or uniform company would be ideal. It’s probably OK to have a few off-topic links, but the majority of your links should be from sites in your “neighborhood.” Search engines will penalize a link scheme that looks “unnatural,” meaning that the type of links do not match up with the content on your page or if the number of links suddenly increases drastically, which suggests you paid for them.

Now–how many links is desirable? The short answer is, more than your competition! But really, much of the success depends on what your competition is already doing. If they have 50 high-quality links, you need 60. How can you find out? Type [], then type in your own site the same way to check your incoming links. (Note that there is no space after the colon!) The previous Advanced Search Operators post outlines that one and several other search operators that can be useful in analyzing your site.It’s far better to have few quality links than many links of low quality.

Links are so important that often only 5-10 high quality, relevant links is enough to make a big difference in placement. In essence, low quality links-from sites viewed as spammy, ‘link farms’, sites with low or no PageRank, links from ‘doorway pages’ with little or no useful content-won’t help at best and can get you penalized. High quality links-from respected sources like academic sites and sites that are closely related to your industry, sites with some decent PageRank-will get you the boost you want.

How to go about obtaining links is the topic for another post!

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  • I firmly believe that link building is one of the most difficult aspects of site optimization. It is not just a task but a series of tasks to do.

    But they are essential for the increase of the intrinsic value of you website. 🙂

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