Link Building Explained

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Link building. Anyone who has delved into SEO or spoken to an SEO specialist has heard the term “link building.”

While some find the concept difficult to explain, link building is a crucial part of SEO strategy, and it doesn’t have to be confusing or steeped in mysticism.

What is Link Building?

Link building is a function of SEO. By definition, link building is getting another website to link to your website. Links were originally created to help internet users to navigate the web. Clicking a link on a site might lead to a different page on the same website, or it might lead to a completely different website.

In modern times, links are not just used by internet users, but also internet crawlers. Crawlers, oftentimes called ‘spiders’, crawl the web for various reasons. In Google’s case, their crawlers often crawl the internet so that they can add new pages and information to their search index.

Not all links are built by SEO specialists or digital marketers. Before link building became a factor in SEO, links were used naturally as a source of information. Journalists would link to a source, while one of your favourite bloggers would link to a product that they love, simply because they thought the link would add value for other internet users.

What is The Purpose of Link Building?

Google takes into account over 200 factors when they determine where to rank a website or web page in their search index. Links are just one of the 200+ factors that make up the Google Search Algorithm. Google was one of the first search engines to take a link from another site to your website as a sign of expertise, authority, and trust.

Link building, from an SEO perspective, is a way for you to show Google that you or your business is an expert or authority in your field, and that Google can trust you enough to send internet users to your site.

Not All Links Are Created Equal

You might now presume that link building is easy. Just tweet a link to your website, or post a link on Facebook, and you have successfully built a link, right? Yes, and no.

Yes, by sharing a link you have built a link. But, generally speaking, if anyone can create the same link, the value of said link, from Google’s perspective, is pretty low. Once Google made it public that they used links as a ranking factor, tons of people just started spamming their links anywhere on the web. Google immediately understood that these links were made to manipulate their rankings, so they adjusted their algorithm.

It’s not a rule, but typically, the more difficult a link is to get, or the more work it takes to get a link, the more valuable the link is for your SEO. Building easy or spammy links can (and will) cause you to lose ranking in the long run.

Link Building in South Africa

Just like with the 200+ ranking factors in the Google search algorithm, there are different factors that impact the quality of a link. For instance, if you are a South African business that only does business in South Africa, it would make more sense for you to have the majority of your links coming from other South African websites.

Other than the geographical location, factors that impact the quality of the link include:

  • Relevance: The link is from another site in your niche or industry, or the link is from an article relevant to your industry or niche.
  • Type of link: A link can come from an image, be a part of the editorial text of an article, or simply in the footer of a website.
  • User engagement: Ensure that internet users are actually clicking (following the link) to your website.
  • Follow vs NoFollow: A “rel attribute” is a piece of code used to indicate the relationship between two pages that are connected by a link.

Is Link Building Illegal?

Google doesn’t want you buying links in bulk. Google would much prefer if you gained links naturally, because you have an awesome service or product. Creating great and informative content is a great way to gain links naturally. But gaining links naturally takes years of constant work, and the process is very much outside of your control.

For that reason, people started buying links. Buying links is not illegal, it’s just not preferred by Google when it is done purely to manipulate rankings, rather than to add value for internet users. Link building is also not illegal; the key lies in what you are paying for. If you buy 1000 spammy links for R10 000 in a single month, you are going to run into trouble with Google.

How Much Does Link Building Cost?

Link building is not cheap. If it’s cheap, you are probably getting easy or spammy links that will lead to a penalty from Google. This may result in you being pushed down in rankings, or your site could be removed from their index altogether.

Link building done the right way is a very time-intensive process. To successfully build a link you will typically reach out to the webmaster of the site you want a link from. You will then need to negotiate the terms on which you will receive the link; this can include the price of the link, the placement of the link, and more. Typically, one would then create content that is centred around the site from which you will be getting your link. This content will be posted on your website.  Building a single high-quality link can take weeks (or even months) to successfully negotiate and create.  

For the most part, link building packages are worthless. Very few quality links come at a standard cost, and any company claiming they can build you multiple links a month for a small set fee, is likely building low-quality links from the same group of sites repeatedly.

The best link builders charge you for the cost of the link, as well as the hours it took to build said link.

Do I Need Link Building?

If your competitors have built links, and you want to compete with them in the rankings, then you will have to build links. Link building is part of an SEO strategy, and if you want to compete in SEO link building, it is unavoidable.

If your competitor ranks #1 on Google for your main target keyword, and they have 1000 links pointing to their website, yet you only have 1 link, chances are, you will not be able to compete with them.

The good news is that links are not always about how many links you can build, but rather about the quality of the links you can build. The sooner you start investing in link building, the sooner you will start reaping the rewards.

To find out more about link building and improve your SEO strategy, contact us at Starbright