Link Building & Determining Link Quality

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In an era where Search Engines place very high importance in links and popularity for their search algorithms, we can look at different types of links to determine the best factors to use to make an educated decision on quality link building selections.

This tutorial will focus on the selection of links by types of links. In doing this we will determine a high quality link vs. a low quality link. While some experts will like all links from any source, we will focus on specific factors. Some opinions will be expressed here based on experience. Since we do not own any of the Search Engines and they only publicly release certain information, we have to make decisions based on experience rather then defined facts.

First off lets make it clear, we are talking about building links to increase rankings. We are not factoring mathematics for PageRank (PR). PR is not our concern. Rankings will be our concern.

We will discuss several factors of getting links that will include buying links, trading links, trading services for links, earning links, article links, Press Release links, resource page links, reciprocal links and content links.

We do like broadly built campaigns that include a little of everything over a campaign that focuses on one method. So just syndicating links via articles and press releases is simply not enough. I am basing this on personal experiences of successfully ranking websites on all Search Engines for extremely competitive terms and via my methodologies. In SEO many different approaches can work and each individual will have his or her own unique ideas.

One aspect that we will consider is numbers. Simply stated I hate numbers and trying to build based on numbers is wrong if not even ridiculous. To state 10 or 25 links per month is simply an amateur approach.

We build based on competitors and where they are and how they rank and more importantly “how long” they have ranked for. Sites with recent rankings are not always the best choices to model or base a campaign on as certain SEO methodologies used may not pass the test of time as the Search Engines more accurately access the linking and popularity systems used to rank the site.

We also base on the industry and what specific factors of links are being used by each individual industry. So view all competitors backlinks via Yahoo Site Explorer and see if you can target those. We also do not build in high volume, but rather for high quality which effects take time to show their best impact.

Types of links and the methodical thinking to use when considering each type of link…

Buying Links

Buying links for search ranking goes against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. It seems acceptable if you are a large company that has large advertising budgets in paid search and natural search.

The extent of Google’s penalties on sites selling and buying links is unknown. Google has ruthlessly penalized sites for buying links in the past and in some cases never released the penalties or locked them into certain positions called the -30 penalty and -950 penalty on WebmasterWorld. It seems absurd to penalize for something you sell and acting even handed in penalties would be wise, but it is believed to not be the case.

Links are currently bought and sold daily through brokers and privately through site owners in blogrolls, sponsored link sections and even in content and blog posts.

Buying links still has powerful ranking effects for sites that are authority domains. If we look at terms like promotional products and notice that 6 or 7 of the top 10 ranking sites, they are all purchasing the same network link. Google ranks these 7 sites extremely well despite the known network of links they are on. This tells you, that if 6 or 7 of these sites are buying a link, that you have a 30% chance of getting to page one without buying the ad, or at least that is one common sense way to look at it.

Buying links can be based on competitors, keep in mind that if Google devalues the paid links for your competitor, they will also be degrading them for your site. So use with caution!

We like to believe that Google is just not-counting these links, but we fear that they tend to be heavy handed with link buying and are more inclined to penalize a site in specific industries, so again, be cautious and take it from the perspective that a Search Engine may ban you without warning and is more inclined to ban a site then forgive a site. With that kind of thinking, you should make the right decisions on link buying.

Remember Google is the only Search Engine that does not like link buying especially when it is obviously used for PageRank instead of traffic (that is becoming more difficult to determine). There is nothing morally wrong with buying a link for traffic and exposure, in fact I highly recommend those, and that is where I will tell you to ignore any Search Engines gripe with paid ads, and do what creates traffic!

BLOG : Better Listings On Google

Face it, Google is made up of bloggers and blog lovers, they place high importance on them in the current algorithm. Sidebar or BlogRoll links, blog posts which lend a content-based link are all heavily valued. Yahoo also likes blogs, but not to the extent of Google. MSN seems to be very even handed in its link value of blogs vs a more traditional site.

Blogs offer the Industry Popularity value, as they are generally written by related industry bloggers. They are also vastly becoming a portal for spam and copyright infringement. There is even the blackhat method of trying to duplicate-out competitors by reproducing the content of numerous blogs, these are usually the free blogs which, unfortunately, Google values them (might have something to do with the fact that they own them). A smart algorithm, would play down the free blog sites the same way it devalued the free webhosting sites like geocities.

Blog links are highly recommended and should be part of every SEO campaign. Some SEO firms are actually creating networks of blog sites for syndication – avoid these types of made for paid posting blogs and focus on ones that the writers care about and are not duplicated across hundreds of sites.

Web Directories

Many people will not like my opinion here, but I feel these are being devalued by Google because everyone and their mother owns a directory now. (Hey! Don’t they also own a blog?)

Don’t take this the wrong way there are a few good directories worth being listed in (future tutorial perhaps), but because there are literally millions of php directories popping up every day, and these directories all have heavy sponsorship on them, I feel that they are simply spammed-out (a pun on burnt out).

If you can weed out the few good web directories from the millions of spammy ones, then a link or two from these types of sites is really a plus.

Keep in mind, when only the home page has PR it’s a takeover site, which means the history does not match the current focus of the site. Check the’s Wayback Time Machine to really tell what the site used to be. These types of sites by nature take longer to achieve rankings and generally have less value for a few months to even a few years if the site is not remarketed properly.

To Be Continued….

Alan Rabinowitz is the CEO of SEO Image, a New York based SEO and Internet Marketing company which focuses on corporate branding and positioning in search engines.

Alan Rabinowitz
Alan Rabinowitz is the CEO of SEO Image, a New York based SEO and Internet Marketing company which focuses on corporate branding and positioning in search engines.
Alan Rabinowitz
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  • Eric

    I would rather have someone write about my site in there blog then be listed in some directory. I don’t see any value in directories anymore. Now that they are all over the place. I’m sure google is seeing that.

  • Jean Lam

    Indeed, purchasing a link is a great way to gain exposure for a website and it’s fundamental to point out that this should be done on relevant and related websites because the direct traffic from them can be really worth it let alone whether they will help you in rankings or not. But it’s crucial to test which links are profitable to reap a good return on investment.

    I would say purchasing links on relevant websites which have a solid foundation on the web are highly valuable and even if you’re not getting any search engine ranking benefits, this kind of targeted link building can pay big dividends as far as direct traffic and sales are concerned. Of course, some budget is required. If you’re on a low budget, article writing and distribution is a lucrative way to build links naturally without paying a cent. Your articles can be published on blogs and websites on autopilot, I mean once your articles are out there, they can be doing link building for you passively due to your link in your author biography. And good articles will drive targeted traffic as well. Article link is embedded in content and is a surefire way to generate valuable links.

    Web directories can give your site a solid foundation and some exposure when initially starting and you should consider only a few good ones, more does not necessarily mean better. You can submit your site to some free directories and to some valuable paid directories as well. A good directory usually has some valuable incoming links to it, clean web design and well organized categories.

  • Michael Stankard

    Great article Alan! I agree with Jean that paid linking can be a great way to boost your site in the SERP’s for the keywords within the anchor text, but that the site you put the link on, MUST have relevancy. I can’t see Google or anyone for that matter, penalize a site for links that are relevant. I have used as well as as a means to get bloggers to blog about my clients site. They both had positive effects, but you need to realize that a blog post doesn’t have the same type of lasting power that a static page does. Both of the link brokers I use, Text Link Ads and Text Link Brokers have what they call “marketing pages” which are permanent pages put on a well established site. This is a long term solution, but very effective. If the site you are buying a page from has solid pass through ratio, then you can be assured that the new page they create for you will have similar page rank as their other pages.

  • Susan

    Like most people I suppose I never really understood the value of the different types of linking. Thank you for an informative post and one that I will have to read again and try and start applying to my online endeavors.
    I would like to thank you for making my stumbling that much more enjoyable. Your blog made the Life Is Risky Blog Stumbling for today! (Note: The post is updated as I am stumbling. If you don’t see your site listed check back!)

  • Billy

    Quality link building is definitely the preferred approach due to the time constraints of a work day. However, existing pagerank is still a determining factor on the quality of the web domain where the link will be coming from.

    From all these combined efforts of link building, the client website is sure to rise in rankings (especially in Google). Yahoo and MSN tend to favor content more than links with good anchors.

  • Online Marketing Help

    Excellent article Alan. ūüôā

    I’d say this article about covers it for most folks concerning link building. It’s an art, for sure, and one that’s important enough to manage properly.

    there are no real shortcuts, as at some point it’ll take time and effort for you to gain a link form someone. Finding them is a challenge at times, but whois can help with this in many cases and a simply e-mail or phone call can work wonders.

    Buying/selling links will remain a bit of a head-scratcher for the near future, I think.

    The real trouble come sin when a company decides to sell them as ad units to generate revenue or to buy them as part of an ad buy.

    Is this intent to mess with PR? or simply a media buy akin to banner ads, ina different shape?

    Should those buying be requesting the seller install a nofollow tag on their link to help protect themselves?

    Is there value in selling text link ads OTHER than for SEO? Will advertisers actually be able to wrap their heads around this concept and see the value in increased CTRs and traffic alone form the ad placement?

  • Wayne Smallman

    Hi Alan, that’s pretty well-balanced article and worth the read.

    I’ve got myself a paid-for directory link with Best of the Web ‘blog directory, which I chose because it’s a good place to be found, given that there’s some high-profile names on there.

    I also find it odd that Google choose such a unilateral approach to paid-for links.

    Surely there’s an algo they can throw together to weed out the bad from the good?

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  • Sandy

    An article where the author is completely focussed on the issue and lays out his ideas methodically is this..

    It is simply fantastic. There is a lot to be learnt from it.

  • jing zhao

    Great article!

    But can it’s realy difficult to build quality inbound link, can we just focus on the number of link at firts? Does the number realy mean nothing?

    Another article about link building.

  • jing zhao

    Sorry, i mean it’s difficult to build inbound link for a new site without any PR. So maybe we can at first focus on the number of link for a new site. I think it will do its work at first.

  • Nathan

    Great post and comments.

    I’ve created a 13 point link guideline checklist which may also be of interest:

  • bosq

    good resources that stickied me

  • canvas prints

    Cheers for all that appreciate the read. j

  • michaelj72

    thanks for the advice and pointers.
    I guess i’m doing well since I have links with a majority of the good trusted web directories.

  • Samual Spring

    Good article, a lot of people still have got link building very wrong so refreshing to read a quality article.

  • Anil Mishra

    I would like to share the importance of page rank here. Page rank increases due to links from quality websites which in turn helps in getting website ranked. So PR is the most important factor while establishing links.