By John Eberhard

An essential part of search engine optimization (SEO) is to build up links pointing to your website, coming from other websites. Google has said that the number of links pointing to your site from other sites is one of the primary criteria for how well your site will rank for specific keywords. And the number of links will be found on any list of ranking criteria from SEO experts, that you can find around the web.

So that means you should do link building, right? Well that depends on who you ask. Google has tried to put forth the idea continually over the years that you should not do any link building, and that doing so will indicate an “unnatural link pattern” and cause them to penalize you in the rankings.

They said you should just create “good content,” then they said “great content,” then they said “remarkable content,” and finally “amazing content.” And everything would be fine and people would naturally link to your content because it was so remarkable.

The problem with this advice is twofold:

  1. The raw amount of content on the web means that if you just write remarkable content and do nothing proactively to get it noticed, no one will find it and no one will link to it.
  2. If you have a local business such as a dentist or a plumber, what type of “remarkable content” are you going to write? And who is going to care?

I have been brash enough to ignore this advice from Google over the years, and have continued to do link building for my business and for clients. Has anyone been penalized? No. Has it worked and helped rankings? Yes.

So What CAN You Do for Links?

So that being established, what do you do to build up links to your site? This has changed a lot over the years, as Google has in some cases purposely devalued some types of links. Here’s what you can do.

  1. Writing a press release about your business, and posting it to multiple free online PR sites, and at least one paid online PR site. The release should have links to your website within it. These online PR sites usually rank well themselves, so a link there counts for something. The paid online PR sites will usually get your release into multiple sites for newspapers and magazines. I have seen no evidence that these links are negative in any way, or that they don’t work anymore. I have been doing this going back 20 years and it still works today.
  2. Creating online business listings. You can create listings for your business on multiple business listing web sites, such as Google Business Profile, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, Merchant Circle, Manta, Insider pages, Hotfrog, etc.
  3. Links to your site on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter now count as links to your site.
  4. Contacting the owners of blogs and asking to write a guest post for their blog, with a link back to your site, is good. Then you have to write unique content for that blog only. And obviously it has to be a topic you are actually an expert in. The challenge here is that there is a saturation aspect to this activity as well, as a lot of people are trying to do this, and so blog owners are getting a lot of these requests.
  5. Post your articles, releases or other content to your blog or blogs.

What You Shouldn’t Do

  1. I hate to say it after years of doing it, but I don’t recommend posting articles to article directories anymore. Google has eliminated any benefit from it. And there is only a handful of these sites left.
  2. Posting on a large blog network, either one that you created or one that belongs to someone else, is a no-no.
  3. Asking another website owner to link to you if you link to him, called reciprocal linking, was downgraded in value by Google several years ago.
  4. Linking to low-value directories is not advisable.
  5. Auto-posting comments on blogs using software. If you’re doing this, please stop.
  6. Most sources say you shouldn’t pay someone to link to your site.

In Closing?

Well this has been an interesting journey that took me into some new vistas, and forced me to re-evaluate some long entrenched ideas. The overall conclusion I came to is that it is still possible to do effective SEO for a website, but the strategies have changed. And it is still possible to build up links to a website, and not live in fear of each Google algorithm change.

I hope this article was interesting and that you find it useful. Good luck!

If you want help with link building and SEO, contact us at 661-441-2429 or fill out a form here.