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Is Link Building Important for SEO? (2023)
Link building is a process of gaining links from other websites to your website in order to improve its search engine rankings. Link building is important for SEO because it is one of the main ranking factors that Google uses to determine a web page’s importance and quality.
As a blogger, your main goal is to monetize your site. Link building can help with this in many ways.
Not only can it increase your Google ranking, thus bringing in more organic traffic to increase your ad revenue; but it can also help you improve your niche authority, become a known brand, and land you paid sponsorships.
I’ve even used link building to improve my affiliate sales on my travel blog.
Find out how to properly build links to your website to improve your SEO in this post.
What is Link Building?
Link building is the process of gaining links from other websites to your website in order to improve its search engine rankings.
It is one of the most important factors that Google uses to determine a web page’s importance and quality (and thus it is also one of the major factors that affects your site’s organic traffic).
Links are like votes; the more quality links you get, the more votes your site is worth.
Backlinks are like references for academic papers; because the more reputable websites that reference your site (and the bigger their audience is), the better it is for you.
How Does Link Building Work?
Link building is an organic process that is aided by community outreach, PR, guest posts, blogging, social media marketing, infographics & videos.
The more you are able to create high-quality content that is worthy of sharing on other people’s websites and respected publications will increase your chances of success.
If your website is authoritative enough in your niche, other people will want to share your content and link back to you.
On the other hand, if your site is not authoritative enough and doesn’t have much information on it (or is full of low-quality articles), none of these tactics will work for you, because why would anyone want to link back to your website?
That is why link building is usually easier for big brands and is harder for newer websites.
White hat SEO vs Black hat SEO
White hat is all about doing everything by the book
Black hat is against Google’s Terms of Service and is against the spirit of SEO.
Black hat is just trying to get targeted traffic using shortcuts, loopholes, or tricks that are not okay according to Google.
Even though it is still technically possible to rank high in search engines with black hat SEO, search engines are constantly finding ways to get rid of these loopholes.
Also, Google is getting better at automatically penalizing websites that violate its Terms of Service.
Every time you black hat SEO your site is likely to get hit by a penalty or ban from Google until you fix it.
You need to be aware of this with link building, as it is often cited as a black hat SEO tactic.
When done correctly, link building should be a white hat SEO tactic. But many people skip the hard work and opt for buying backlinks or using other nefarious means to get links.
Follow vs. No Follow Links
A follow link is a normal website link that is a vote from Google for your site because it is saying, “Hey, you’re not a spammer. You’re okay.”
A no-follow is how Google tells other websites to not pass any benefit from the link back to you. These are like someone didn’t even vote.
Occasionally, Google will follow a no-follow link, but it is rare.
This is why everyone online is looking for a do-follow or follow link.
However, Google has some guidelines on this.
For example, you should never accept payment for a do-follow link on your site.
Many brands will ask bloggers to do this, and they agree because they don’t know the consequences. The brand will get some SEO benefit and potential traffic, but they are putting both of your sites at risk.
If Google flags this do-follow link, they may ban your site from their search engine or remove your authority.
You should never accept payment for a follow link. Even affiliate links and sponsored content should be marked no-follow.
Is Link Building Important for SEO?
Even though Google is constantly changing its algorithm to make link building less important, it is still one of the most effective ways to improve search rankings.
Google is constantly trying to devalue links by giving them less weight or making it harder to build up an authoritative link profile over time, but you need links for SEO.
Link building is essential for any long-term SEO strategy.
Here are some ways that link building can improve your blog’s reach:
When you get a link from another website, you create an opportunity for their readers to come to your site. This gets more eyes on your page.
This is especially effective if this is a highly respected or reputable website.
This is why people are so obsessed with getting links from the New York Times, Huffington Post, and Forbes. A link can get 10x more click-through traffic than just being on Google.
Even if the link is no-follow, you can still get this benefit.
Increases Authority and Builds Brand
The more links you have, the better.
You should ideally get a link from a variety of relevant sites online, and this is how you diversify your backlink profile so that Google doesn’t devalue all of your links.
There is an opportunity to get lots of authority and brand exposure through link building. This is another reason why people want to get links from Forbes and other top sites.
Building Relationships and Increasing Trust
Getting a link is like building a relationship.
When you get a link, the people who run that website are voting for your site and saying it is okay because they want their own audience to come to your site.
This is why quality always beats quantity in SEO. One strong high-authority link is better than 100 lower-quality links.
However, you are still building relationships offline when you get a link from someone. This is why it is important to do outreach or collaborate with other websites that share your audience to build this relationship.
You can’t just ask for a link and be done with it forever. You should always follow up at least once after you ask.
Increase Google Rankings
When you get a link from another website, this is a vote for your site.
These votes contribute to your perceived authority on your niche by Google. So if a well-known industry site, like Forbes, is linking back to your money saving blog, Google will understand that you are an authority on this topic.
These types of links can help build your DA. While DA is a made-up metric that doesn’t fully show what Google thinks, it is a good way for bloggers to abstractly judge how they are ranking for authority.
A higher DA means that you are more competitive for hard to rank for keywords and allows you to charge more for sponsored posts.
Does Link Building Work: A Case Study
A lot of people ask me, “does link building work? Is it worth my time?”
To help you understand how link building benefits a blogger, I’m going to use my own blog as a case study.
In June 2021, I set a goal to grow Nina Out and About’s DA to 30.
At the time, it was 14. This was from doing collab posts for years with no real sense of what I was doing.
By December 2021, my DA was 28 (admittedly, I took two months off my strategy when I got a puppy, which slowed me down from hitting my goal in 2021).
I accomplished this growth through link building strategies. By increasing my DA, I started ranking on the first page of Google for hard to rank for keywords that I had written about years before. I increased my affiliate earnings by building links to affiliate posts and gift guides. And my traffic grew through referrals and the increased exposure on Google.
In 5 months, I was able to increase my income thanks to these strategies, and have continued to build stronger relationships with other bloggers and brands because of it.
And you can too!
That’s the beauty of link building: anyone can do it.
Link Building Benefits Everyone
Link building is not just for bloggers trying to rank in Google.
It is also about building relationships, increasing your perceived authority and ranking higher in Google. A well-known niche site is going to outrank a small blog because they have more trust and authority in the eyes of Google. This is why you want to build up your own authority.
Link building is the perfect opportunity to diversify your backlink profile so that Google doesn’t have all of its eggs in one basket. Plus, it is great for outreach and collaboration which helps drive traffic to your site.
The best part is that this is an opportunity to get more referrals from influencers or people who are in your niche.
It also allows you to add those great “featured in” stickers to your site to show that these big brands trust you.
How to Get Authentic Links to Your Site
I’ve seen so many black hat SEO strategies in my time. In fact, I get daily emails from brands, marketers, and bloggers asking for paid links or guest posts that would ruin my reputation with Google.
So let’s go through how you can do link building the right way, so you don’t get kicked off Google and lose all of your hard work.
Request Links from Other Bloggers
The easiest way is to reach out to other bloggers in your industry and ask them for a link.
Keep it short and sweet, no more than three sentences is ideal.
Here is an example:
“Hey Sam! I just read your post about how you are able to keep your kids entertained on rainy days. I loved it! I have a similar post about how is the best toy to keep my two-year old entertained outside on rainy days. Would you be open to linking to it?”
This allows the fictional Sam to know that you appreciate their content, that you read their post, and that you are offering something of value to their reader.
You should not offer posts that conflict with their keywords, and you should always make sure it would be valuable for their readers.
You can also request links from bloggers who have round up posts with broken links.
This is a more complicated strategy, as you will need a tool to check for broken links first. Also bloggers with broken links often show some carelessness, so they likely won’t get back to you.
Guest Posts/Collab Posts
This is the #1 method I used to grow my DA by 14 points in 7 months. But you need to be careful how you do this.
First is the outreach strategy, which is time-consuming but can yield incredible results. You can use Google Sheets or Open Site Explorer to find popular bloggers in your industry who have guest posts. Then reach out to all of them with individual messages that are more personalized than just a template.
Pro Tip: The best emails are the ones that tell a story and speak directly to something in their posts.
For example, I reached out to a blogger who had been an inspiration of mine for years. I told her about how I loved her content and found it so helpful, but that I noticed she didn’t have anything on getting visas to work in a specific country.
As I knew about that first hand, I offered to write a free guest post in exchange for 2 do-follow links.
Since she’s a big-time blogger, I knew that writing this post would get my name out there in front of a lot of people, and that I would get great link juice from the post.
Similarly, collab posts can be a great way to get link building votes without the hassle of writing full posts for free for other people.
Collab posts are articles with multiple writers.
Facebook groups are the best way to find collab post opportunities. Search “niche + collab” on Facebook and you’ll find dozens of groups where you can collaborate with like-minded bloggers.
HARO, Help a Reporter Out, is a free service that is a great way to get links from high authority sites.
This is how it works: Reporters have a certain area of expertise and they write up a query with a short description of their article idea. You get daily emails with these queries. You then reply to queries that you can speak to with your site’s information, why the reporter should feature you, and any links you would like to include.
This is a great, free way to get featured in major publications and land links from high authority sites because the reporter is already interested in your content.
I’ve gotten amazing links this way, even during the pandemic with a travel site.
Do Firsthand Research
Bloggers are lazy. We don’t often put in the work to conduct studies ourselves, but instead quote other peoples’ statistics.
This is a great way to create killer content, and you can get citations from top publications this way.
Conduct a survey on travel habits through your audience. Do industry studies. Do blog surveys.
Then share your findings on your blog!
Much like the research point, people are looking for easy ways to disseminate information.
If you can create an easy-to-read infographic, you’re likely to have it shared around.
This can contain first hand research, how-to steps, or even a list of tips.
I’ve created infographics on what to wear hiking and for itineraries that have gotten me a lot of traction on social media and gained great links.
Here is an example:
Create Compelling Content
If you’re just writing to get links, it’s not going to work. You need to write valuable content that is compelling and valuable for your readers.
People want valuable information first and foremost. It is much easier to gain traction with people if they trust you and feel like you have valuable information than if the only thing they know is that you have lots of links.
Try to create content that is in-depth, is well documented with studies, is actionable with tips, and is unique or has a twist.
Link building is not the only way to gain traffic, but is just one element in an overall strategy that will help your site rank higher on search engines.
Wrap Up: Link Building for SEO
Link building is one element of a complete SEO strategy.
It is important to have a niche for your keywords, and develop great content that is compelling to readers. By writing tips that give value to your readers you can gain links from top publications in categories that are relevant to your niche.
In the end, it is not just about getting links from other sites, but building your own site’s authority and having people trust you as a go-to source for certain keywords.
Want my proven link building strategy? Get my Dominate Your DA ebook!
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