Link building isn’t dead. It’s still meaningful, it’s still valuable, and it still works. And it will continue to work until the web is replaced with direct digital downloading of all data directly to our brains, which I predict will happen just before the zombie apocalypse.
Over the years we’ve seen a lot of changes to how links can and should be built. While some links have lost all value, and some can even hurt you if you’re really, really bad at it (or were once really, really good at it, depending on your perspective), there are still quality links to be gained that can have an immense value in boosting your business in search engine rankings.
Link Building Still Matters
Link building is still meaningful, valuable, and still works. Google has finally been able to prevent crap links from being valued in the algorithm. This caused many SEOs to panic and declare link building dead, but really all Google did was what we’ve been wanting them to do for a long time: Stop valuing crappy links. That does the opposite of kill link building—it makes good link building more valuable.
Here’s a good way to test the quality of a link: If it’s easy to get, it’s crap.
The fact is, link building has always been hard (At least good link building). Ask any SEO worth their salt and they’ll tell you link building sucks. Why? Because it’s hard!
5 Things That Make a Good Link
The first question you should ask isn’t, “How do I build links?”, but rather, “What is a good link?” If you can answer that question, then you can go on to learn how to build good links. While we can argue about the merits of any individual link, on a global scale I can tell you the quality of a link by looking at five things.
A good link should be:
- On a site tangentially related to yours
- On a page with content relevant to the content being linked to
- Valuable to the reader
- Likely to be clicked by the reader
- Different from other link text to the same page (except for brand names)
It all comes down to relevance for the visitor. If it’s not relevant to them, then the search engines certainly don’t want to give you any points for the link. Keep your links relevant, on point, and look for opportunities to actually get targeted traffic from the link. After all, that’s the whole point of SEO.
One more thing I want to mention here. If Google could track every link that gets clicked (and they can track a lot), I guarantee they would not give value to a link that doesn’t get clicked. In fact, I suspect they will increase or decrease the value of a link based on how often it gets clicked (and by whom, but more on that later.)
If you’re still building links that you know won’t ever be clicked, you’re building into a failed system. Sooner or later, Google will add click-through data into their link algorithm and all those links you’ve been building since 2014 will be irrelevant. Don’t fall into the trap!
Social Links Matter, Too
Links are still an important part of the algorithm, and in my opinion, always will be. With that being said, links are becoming less relevant as other signals become more relevant. I’m specifically referring to social signals and shares. There is no doubt in my mind that socialization of content plays a very significant role in pushing sites up in the search engine rankings.
My best guess is that links are on-par with social signals in terms of overall weight in the algorithm. As time goes on, that might continue to push more towards social or it might stay roughly even. Either way, social signals play a critical role in achieving what used to be done traditionally by “link building”.
If you want your link building efforts to be successful, you must be working the social side. And guess what? That’s hard too!
Working the social sphere is all about relationship building and engagement. You can’t just push your content on people and expect them to care. You have to engage with them so that they will care. And, like any good relationship, the caring has to go both ways. Don’t just look for opportunities for a quick link. Look for relationships that will pay off for years.
Bringing It All Back Around
Regardless if you’re getting a link on a blog, getting socialized on twitter, or finding other clever ways to promote your business, it all comes back to building something worthy of being linked to. Getting links is tough business but unless you do something worthy of the link, you’re making it even tougher.
Again, if you’re looking for easy, you’re looking in the wrong place. But if you have the patience to engage in creating valuable content and building the relationships you need to develop links, then every link you earn will return value back to your site.