What was the beginning of Google positioning? The algorithm deciding about the order of the search results was simple, and the number of links to the page determined the position. Today, web robots are not so kind, and many more factors determine the position of a website. This does not mean, however, that the links have lost their value! On the contrary! Where to link the page and how to do it to make it as effective as possible?
Quantity over quality – linking in the first decade of the 21st century
Before SEO became a sophisticated art, SEOs didn’t play around with conventions. Optimization for the search engine guidelines was simplified, and the keywords just poured out of every line of code. Nobody cared too much about the user’s needs, which was due not only to the lack of technical capabilities (these have developed with the growing popularity of HTML5 and CSS3), but also to a smaller number of network users.
How did we link these several years ago? I think the term “without moderation” will be the most accurate here. Initially, it was mainly the quantity that mattered, hence the spammer websites popped up like mushrooms and immediately became a base for various types of websites. Sites of this type were called “presell pages.” These types of sites were the perfect answer to the question “where to link the page?”. Some of them were not moderated or thematic – it was enough to find access to the site, set up an account, sometimes pay a few dollars and prepare a text suitable for use in a blender. These types of programs allowed for the creation of synonymized texts that could be used on a larger scale. The texts were similar, but the use of synonyms gave the illusion of uniqueness. Unfortunately, reading them was not recommended – the written texts did not contain valuable information, and were only carriers of links to positioned pages.
Over time, the weight of the links has changed – high positions were provided by links from educational (edu) and government (gov) sites, and the role of blogs piled up with junk articles began to decline.
Penguin – the Google update that turned the SEO world upside down
In 2012, an update was added to the search engine’s algorithm that ended the golden years of carefree linking. An update called “The Penguin” has reduced the importance of links from spammy sites and significantly reduced the possibility of black hat link building practices.
The “Penguin” analyzed the links coming to the website and assessed their naturalness. Links from cluttered pretzels, low-quality internet forums and other sources with dubious reputation received very low marks, which for the website usually resulted in a drop in the Google ranking. It also performed the detection of duplicate linking patterns, suggesting the operation of linking scripts on a massive scale.
Initially, the Penguin update was “fired” from time to time – its operation was most often manifested by a rapid change in the visibility of the site and a decrease in traffic. The penguin filter forced the SEOs to rapidly “clean” the profile of incoming links. Resignation from low-quality links allowed for a stable increase in position, but the return to its former glory was not always possible. In some cases, the banned page returned to the Google search engine only after a few months, when a new version of Penguin was added to the algorithm.
The update that wreaks havoc on links on Google debuted at the end of March 2012, and the effects of its subsequent hits could also be seen in October 2012, May and October 2013 and October 2014. In September 2016, Penguin joined the basic elements of the search engine algorithm and since then works in real time. Its constant activity allows you to react faster to the negative effects of ineffective linking, without having to wait for the next update. Additionally, the version of the update, which has become a permanent fixture in the search engine’s repertoire, seems to be milder for reckless linkers – controversial links are usually simply ignored. However, this does not mean that you are allowed to link from everywhere – sites that practice spammy tricks can still be punished with elimination from search results.
Link anatomy – how to link?
Linking, while different from Google’s early days, still matters a lot. Therefore, it is worth taking a closer look at the correct link structure.
A link, also known as a link to a page, is one of the basic elements of HTML – a markup language commonly used to describe web pages. Link – hyperlink – is an element referring from one document to another, which is displayed most often after clicking on the indicated tag. The structure of the global internet is based on links.
What does the link look like?
– <a> – tag
– href – attribute containing the address of the link’s landing page,
– anchor – link text visible on the website,
– the link can point to documents within the same document (href = “#”), within the same domain (href = “/ about us /”), or to any document on the Internet,
– In the <a> tag, there may also be a title that will be displayed when you hover the cursor over the link, and a target that will determine whether the document will open, for example, in a new browser tab. In the hyperlink tag, you can also add guidelines for web robots, e.g. prohibiting them from going to the specified URL.
In the context of positioning, the importance of the link anchor element is often emphasized – this is where you can place a keyword that will be the “title” of the link pointing to our website. In the case of planning a link-building strategy, selecting the right anchor will be one of the key elements that will make our activities look natural. The most important thing here is diversification, i.e. the use of various methods of link labeling:
– URL address – the anchor is the website address pasted into the content of the article or post. It looks the most natural – after all, who of us want to describe a link sent in forum posts or comments? Hyperlinks with an anchor containing a URL are often created automatically, such as by pasting the address into text in Google Docs;
– brand – name of the company or website to which we link. It is a safe form of link naming that allows you to promote your brand;
– keyword – a more risky form of linking, which too careless use may be punished by the search engine. An anchor link containing a keyword looks the least natural. Keyword linking helps in website positioning, but it should be used in moderation as one of many solutions;
– graphics – a link to the page can also be placed within a photo or file with the company’s logo. It is then necessary to describe it in accordance with the requirements of the <img> tag.
Links can be placed in any section of the website – in the menu (top, side), in the text, in comments, in the footer. They can be located on one subpage of the website or repeat within a category or the entire domain – then they are called site-wide.
Link quality – where to find high-quality links?
With the advent of the Penguin era, collecting links to a site has become a more demanding activity. Finding a good source of links requires more selection and rejection of pages of questionable quality – for example, which are dominated by texts consisting of chaotic texts with a high concentration of keywords.
So where to link the page? It is worth looking for sources of links with high authority, i.e. a good Google rating. The search engine does not officially inform about the scores obtained by the site, but there are external tools that allow you to determine their level. One of them is Ahrefs, which uses the Domain Rating indicator, which evaluates the number and quality of links.
When looking for the perfect place to throw your link, we should also look at the number of users visiting the site. High organic traffic is associated with a high level of visibility of the domain, and this in itself tells a lot about the assessment of it by Google. This type of information can be obtained with the help of SEO Surfer programs.
Another element worth our attention is the link profile of the website, which is to be the carrier of our hyperlink. The number of outbound links is also important – too many links weaken the “link juice” directed towards our website. What is “link juice”? This is how the power (authority) is transferred from one domain to another. Too many links to external websites “watered down the juice” and reduces the value of the obtained link.
In addition to these techniques, the seeker of links should direct their attention to websites thematically related to the content of the linked page. It will also be helpful to get links from local websites promoting activities in our country. Links that are to direct to the domain in English should be placed on native websites and similar – other language versions on the corresponding portals.
Where to link the page?
Gaining links is a tedious process that requires attention as long as the idea of good online visibility is important to our business. Activities in this area should be wisely planned and take into account other aspects of marketing activities undertaken under our brand.
So let’s discuss the most popular link sources:
Natural links are created without the participation of interested parties – Internet users spontaneously share interesting links in comments, on forums or within their blogs. These types of links testify to good quality content on our subpages, and sharing it by users can bring a lot of traffic within our website.
Gaining links in this way will require a lot of involvement in the preparation of website content. Elements that are willingly recommended by users are, among others tips, rankings, summaries and attractively presented smaller doses of knowledge, e.g. in the form of infographics. In some industries, it is also possible to prepare witty material that will have a chance to become a “viral”, which will quickly reach many potential recipients. After this type of online fame, there will probably be links that will complement the profile of the domain that we want to position.
Internet forums in recent years have lost their popularity in favor of thematic groups on Facebook, but those that have remained in the Internet reality are a source of high-quality links. Adding links in these places, however, must be consistent with the topic of the forum and its rules, mostly limiting the possibility of spamming. Links placed in response to a question asked by another person have the best chance to escape the harsh judgment of admins and support the site for a long time. It is worth linking in places where we already have an account and were previously participants in the discussion.
Some websites and blogs allow you to comment on articles and even supplement them with active links. Links left here should be thematically related to the entry. Adding a link in a comment does not constitute its approval by the webmaster. In addition, this type of link will often have the rel = “nofollow” parameter, which will not allow web robots to go to our site, but users can still click the link.
This is one of the older forms of getting links, which allows for a large increase in the number of links in a relatively short time. However, modern catalogs boast much higher quality and oblige the link provider to be more involved. A good catalog will require supplementing the entry with basic information about the company’s activity, a unique description, and sometimes also graphics. Catalogs allow for additional promotion of activities, e.g. by higher positions of our entry in the search engine for services of a given website or by placing a link to the entry on the main page of the catalog.
A fairly popular method of getting links and new readers is publishing articles outside your website, e.g. on a blog. A guest article allows the blog owner to get new, valuable content. It is assumed that these types of publications are not advertising in nature, but rather focus on providing information and sharing knowledge. Adding an active link to the content depends on the goodwill of the portal owner.
Sponsored articles are aimed at promoting the site, although the texts published in this way do not have to be typically advertising texts. Articles usually contain 1 to 2 links, most often with an anchor of your choice. This type of service is payable, and the cost depends on the reputation of the portal – the greater the traffic and size of the website, the higher the price.
Cooperation in the field of sponsored articles can be established in person, through the site administrator and the marketing department. Websites specializing in mediation between publishers and those looking for space for content marketing activities are also very popular.
A good source of links is your own backend – websites, mostly thematic, where links to the promoted pages will be placed. The back office requires the purchase of a domain, space on the server and a CMS system or other solution that will allow you to conveniently add articles. Additionally, content creation should be added to the costs – especially if we do not plan to do it on our own.
For building your backend, it’s a good idea to choose legacy domains that can be captured when they expire. Those with a good story are especially valuable – the content previously posted on it coincides with the topic of our website, the website has not been penalized by Google, and the incoming links come from trusted sources.
High-quality facilities can also be the subject of other marketing efforts – well-written, widely read articles can become an additional source of traffic and an element of building the position of an expert.
The cooperation of two companies can be expressed in many ways, including by mentioning partners or contractors within the website. The partner’s logo is usually placed on the website, entered in the <a> tag. When analyzing your marketing activities, it is worthwhile to review the list of places where the name of our business is mentioned and ask for a link next to it pointing to our website.
It is also worth approaching other places in a similar way – e.g. lists of companies offering certain services in a given area, prepared by an independent unit. It is worth finding those that have been operating for a long time and complete the data about your company.
One of the effective ways to get high-quality links is to increase the reach of impact also outside the Internet. These types of treatments are very effective, especially in the case of local positioning – social activity, participation in meetings or financial support for events, usually results in the mention of our brand on the event pages. These “few words about us” can always be supplemented with a link to the website (usually with an anchor with the name), which will perfectly complement link-building activities. Among other places, it is also worth mentioning biographical notes, e.g. on the website of the university or conferences in which we participate.
Links from social media do not allow us to accelerate the climbing of our site in SERPs, but they do help to increase traffic on the site. Profiles in SM are an excellent channel of communication with customers and it is here that the links to attractive content are usually transferred the fastest.
Other linking ideas
Getting valuable links is not an easy task and in many cases requires creativity. Some approaches will be effective in one industry and may not be feasible in another. An example is an attempt to get a link from Wikipedia. In the case of promoting the website of famous people, sportsmen, politicians, etc., the publication of an entry with a short biography and description of activities will not be hindered by the editors of the online encyclopedia. Attempting to get a link to the website of a company specializing in screw production will require a lot of effort, e.g. creating a source complementing Wikipedia content, and will probably be rejected anyway.
It is also worth looking for inspiration from the competition – thanks to tools such as Ahrefs, Majestic or Seo Surfer, we have the opportunity to see links directed to their websites. Note, they will certainly not contain information about all links! Some sources may block bots collecting this type of data. “Parroting” the linking sites allows you to get a good link to your site and weaken the link to your competitor – on the principle of the aforementioned “lens” dilution.
When looking for places where you can link your website, it is worth paying attention to the quality of links and emphasizing their naturalness. Brazen, rapid building of the link profile usually does not improve the health of the website … As in the case of some on-site activities, off-site also pays off thanks to systematic work, control and analysis of effects.