DIY SEO #17: 17 Things You Need To Know About Link Building

Link BuildingKeyword research…check.

Optimize my site…check.

Get links…check.

It would be nice if it were that simple. Unfortunately, there are a lot things you need to know about links and link building if you want to do really well. In fact, it’s possible that even though you’re getting links, it may not be doing you any good. It could even be hurting you.

In our last article, How Link Building Works, I talked about how links have both link authority (PageRank) and link reputation (keywords in link text). That’s just the tip of the iceberg. So, here’s the rest of it…

  • Pages Must Be Indexed – If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it does it make a sound?  If a page links to your site and the search engines haven’t indexed that page, does that link exist?…Not to the search engines.  Links on pages that have not been indexed by the search engines don’t do you any good.  So, either focus on getting links on indexed pages or help the unindexed pages to get indexed.
  • First Link Priority – If there are two links on Page A that both go to Page B, only the first link will be counted by Google.  You can have 10 links on a page all to different pages and Google will count all of them, but if you have multiple links on a page all going to the same page, only the first one on the page (as determined by the code) will be counted.  So, it doesn’t do you any good to get 3 links on a page and have them all link to the same page.
  • Links can be dilutedLink Value Can Be Diluted – The more links on a page, the less each link is worth.  For example, if a page has 10 authority points to pass through links and there are 10 links on the page, then each link gets 1 authority point.  If there is only 1 link on the page, then all 10 authority points go to that one page.  So, if you get a link on a page with a hundred other links, it’s probably not worth much.  Try to get links on pages with very few other links.
  • Nofollow Tags – Nofollow is a tag that can either be added to a link or to an entire page (in the robots meta tag).  If a link has a nofollow tag, then it will not pass any authority and it’s essentially not counted as a link.  I do want to point out that there is some debate about whether the search engines really apply the nofollow tag like they say and some test evidence that nofollow links can still pass authority.  The safer bet is to get links without the nofollow tag, but I wouldn’t turn down a nofollow links.  Also, nofollowed links still count towards the total number of links on the page and thus still dilute the value of links as described in the previous point.
  • Relevance Matters…Sort Of – Both Google and Bing tell us that links on relevant sites are worth more.  So, it’s better to get links from pages relevant to the page you are linking to than from irrelevant pages/sites.  That said, irrelevant links still pass authority, so they are still valuable.  Try for relevance, but still take irrelevant links.
  • Image Links and Alt Tags – Image links pass authority, but because there is no text, they will not pass reputation unless an alt tag is used.  Alt tags play the role of the link text.  Technically, alt text is supposed to be just as strong a signal as regular link text, but most SEO’s doubt that’s really true.  Either way, it’s safer to try to have some link text along with your image.
  • Internal Links Count – Pages link to pages.  Sites don’t link to sites.  So, when a page on your own site links to another one of the pages on your site, it counts as a link.  It’s great to get links from pages on other sites, but your internal links count too.
  • Redirected Links – There are some sites, especially directories, that use redirects in their links instead of linking directly to your site.  Depending on how the redirect is done, these links may not pass any link authority or reputation.  A 301 redirect should, but 302 redirects and mete refresh redirects do not.
  • Javascript Links – Google and Bing still have trouble reading Javascript (though they are getting better at it).  Links that are contained in Javascript are currently not detectable by the search engines.  So, those links won’t count.
  • Search Engines Don’t Read Flash – Since the search engines can’t read Flash, if you have a link from a Flash site, it won’t be counted.  The one exception is if the Flash site has alternate HTML content.  In that case, if your link appears in that alternate HTML content, the search engines can read that and will count that link.
  • reciprocal linksReciprocal Linking – When people first realized that links helped search ranking, reciprocal linking became all the rage.  You link to me.  I link to you.  We are both better off in the search rankings.  The search engines realized a long time ago what people were doing and have since reduced the value of reciprocal links.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever link back to someone or that reciprocal links don’t have any value, but they should not be the focus of your link building strategy.
  • 3,4, and X-Way Linking – This is just a more advanced version of reciprocal linking.  When the search engines started devaluing reciprocal links, webmasters started doing 3 way linking, Site A links to Site B which links to Site C which links back to Site A.  Again, everyone gets a link and does better in the search rankings, yeah!…but no.  The search engines were smart enough to figure this out and devalued them as well.  Since then techniques have tried to outsmart the search engines by making the linking relationship more and more complex.  Search engines are really good at figuring this type of thing out, so it’s best to avoid these types of linking schemes.
  • Blog Links – Links from blogs are a little different.  This is because the blogs typically show posts on the homepage for a while and their homepages usually have more authority.  If you get a link from a blog post and that post and your link appear on the blogs homepage you may get credit for a very strong link.  But when that blog post moves off the homepage, you only have the link on the post page itself which may be much weaker of a page.  So, with blog post links, you may see a quick boost in rankings and then drop a week or month later.  Some blogs have what they call a blog roll, which is a list of recommended sites from the blog that would stay on the homepage (and every other page); however, Google has now specifically stated that all blog roll links should be nofollowed.
  • Buying Links – Buying links is OK, but not for SEO.  Any link you purchase is supposed to have a nofollow tag.  Google, especially, is very serious about link buying without the nofollow tag.  They have devalued links they think were purchased, punished sites that sell followed links, and even punished sites buying followed links if they detect enough of a pattern of buying links.  It may work for a while, but it’s usually not worth the risk.
  • Link FarmLink Farms and Other Schemes – In general a link farm is any group of web sites that all hyperlink to every other site in the group.  But that is a loose definition as people keep trying to reinvent the link farm to outsmart Google.  They generally don’t work and even if they do, they are soon busted. Google has a good list of definitions here. Link farms are bad news.  At best the links are devalued.  At worst your site gets punished or banned.  Stay away from them.
  • Bad Neighborhoods – Google tells us to avoid links from spammers and “bad neighborhoods” or we may be punished.  Bad neighborhoods generally refers to sites that use spammy or black hat techniques, but they can also include sites with illegal content, gambling sites and pornographic sites.  It’s best to avoid getting links from sites like these.  That said, Google understands that you can’t necessarily control who links to you.  So, even more important than avoiding links from sites like this is making sure your site doesn’t link out to any bad neighborhoods.
  • Too Good to Be True – As the old adage says, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”  This is true in link building as well.  There’s always someone out there promising number one rankings over night or one hundred billion SEO-friendly links.  Uh huh…right.  Use your best judgement and don’t be seduced by the dark side.

Is your head spinning yet?

Photos by Wojtek Gurak, dbaron, and phoenixdiaz

What Do You Think?

Are there any other things about link building that you can think of?

DIY SEO #16: How Link Building Works <- DIY SEO: Main -> DIY SEO #18: Choosing Your Target Keywords For Link Building

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4 Responses to “DIY SEO #17: 17 Things You Need To Know About Link Building”

  1. Great insight, Kurt! I think many people are unaware of how many different factors go into the value of a link. Certainly all links are not created equal. These tips go a long way to helping people evaluate the value of a link.

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