Is Link Building Still An Important Marketing Strategy In 2020?
Digital marketing is a constantly evolving and confusing combination of techniques. In the last decade, we’ve seen the rise of mobile marketing, video marketing, and social media marketing. But there is a highly-efficient marketing strategy that has been around for longer and arguably yields more impressive results: SEO.
Like the field of digital marketing itself, SEO is constantly evolving. That is partially because of the complexity of search and partially because the companies behind search engines don’t like to share how their ranking algorithms work. Despite the secrecy, there are some SEO techniques that experts have been able to confirm viable through backwards engineering and testing.
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During the 1990s, which were the earliest years of search engine optimization, the primary focus was keywords. Website owners could drive up their ranking and attract organic traffic by stuffing as many keywords as possible onto their webpages. It was ugly, predictable, and didn’t result in quality searches.
In 1996, we saw the introduction of inbound links through a search engine called BackRub. The quality of inbound links from relevant sites became an important ranking factor. BackRub would later become the famous search engine we know today as Google.
Google taught us early on that links were an important part of their ranking algorithms and, this ranking factor has been part of the overall scheme ever since. Their temporary partnership with Yahoo helped them improve their algorithm further and these expansions put even more emphasis on backlinks. But that was during the 90s and early 2000s.
Do Backlinks Still Matter In 2020?
Absolutely. If you want to manage a successful, long-term SEO strategy, then backlinks cannot be ignored. The more high-quality, relevant backlinks a page has the more traffic it is going to get from Google. We’ve even seen new types of backlinks developed over the last few years that have increased the importance of links even further.
The trick is learning to adapt to the latest changes in the ranking algorithm and the latest changes in link building. Companies that stick to the same techniques they used 15 years ago might not see the results they once did. For example, one change to Google’s algorithm released in 2019 allowed them to more easily distinguish links that were spammy in nature vs those that were more natural and holistic in nature.
Why Are Links Still Important After All This Time?
Decades later, and links still remain one of the more important ranking factors in search, This might come as a surprise considering the volatility of SEO and digital marketing as a whole. Why do links remain so relevant while other ranking factors come and go in terms of importance? Links remain relevant because they are a fundamental part of how the internet (aka the web) works. Links are the glue that tie various website properties together and without them, the way the internet works would be fundamentally different.
As we mentioned earlier, SEO was quite different in its early days. Marketers didn’t have to spend time finding ways to increase page quality or user experience. Instead, they found ways to insert more keywords into web pages. If a business wanted to beat a competitor in the search results, then their best option was to put in more keywords than the other guy.
This was a major flaw in the system. Today, search engines want to deliver the most relevant and helpful results possible. They want to promote an ecosystem that runs smoothly and presents little friction to searchers looking for answers.
The inclusion of links as a ranking factor changed the search engines dramatically. Links helped move the focus away from content and keywords alone. It allowed a website to stand out from the competition and increase its ranking by considering outside data points (inbound links). This advancement in search further validated the receiving site’s popularity and relevance in search.
This created a network that could expand to other high-quality sites while excluding those that only stuffed keywords on their page.
Backlinks still serve that same purpose today. Whether it’s 1997 or 2020, people want to pull up useful results when they perform a search online. Backlinks are a major part of making that happen. However, not all backlinks are the same and not all links will help your page equally.
When working on link acquisition strategies, marketers now need to be more selective with their strategies to ensure that the links coming into their website appear relevant and natural and are from websites that have healthy website authority.
Those who don’t take the time to properly build their links may end up doing more harm than good.
So how do we determine what makes a link a good vs a bad one? There are a few characteristics we can reference.
Characteristics of ‘Good’ or High-Quality Backlinks
1. They Are Relevant
First and foremost, high-quality backlinks must be relevant to the content they are linking from. They should not simply be links that were placed in content just for the sake of directing traffic to a particular website. People who misuse backlinks by including them nonchalantly in unrelated or irrelevant content are bound to get penalized by Google and other search engines. A ‘good’ backlink is one that connects two pages on the internet that have similar, related or useful content or resources. For instance, if you run a construction website, it makes a lot of sense to get a backlink from a real estate or architecture website. This is because someone who is interested in construction is highly likely to be interested in real estate or architecture topics.
In contrast, ‘bad’ or low-quality backlinks usually have no relationship whatsoever to the content or pages they are found in. Irrelevant links are less likely to be clicked by users as they browse through content on the internet. Just think, why would a user click on a link that is not relevant to the topic or subject they are interested in? This is simple logic.
2. They Link To Trusted and Authority Websites
The internet is made up of millions, if not billions, of websites that offer a wide range of content, products and services. However, not all websites are created equal. Some websites are definitely more established and easily recognizable than others. Websites that have managed to make a name for themselves, be it in their niche industries or in the wider scope of the internet, are commonly referred to as authority websites. These websites are basically the ‘big dogs’ or the crème de la crème of the World Wide Web as we know it. Getting a backlink from these websites is definitely not easy. But it’s surely worth it.
So, it goes without saying that some of the highest-quality backlinks on the internet come from authority websites. Why? Well, these websites already have a good reputation with internet users and search engines. A single backlink from these sites can get massive amounts of traffic coming your way. Also, backlinks from trusted and authority websites can help improve your search engine ranking. This is possible through the basic principle of association. If you are associated with a major website or domain on the web, then Google is bound to take notice of you sooner rather than later.
3. They Direct Traffic
The main goal or objective of backlinking as a digital marketing technique is to generate traffic. With that said, backlinks that are effective in generating traffic for a particular webpage or website are considered high-quality links, while those that generate low or no traffic are considered low-quality backlinks. At the end of the day, traffic matters a lot because a website cannot be successful without a healthy amount of visitors and users. High-quality backlinks must be able to direct traffic to a website on a regular basis.
So, if a link is not bringing any new visitors (traffic) to your website, it’s high time you think of getting a new link.
4. They Are Unique (not Generic or Spammy)
Another important characteristic of high-quality backlinks is that they are unique. Unique links are simply original and not duplicated across many web pages on a website. It is better to have five backlinks from five different websites than ten backlinks from one website. This is the reality of link building. Generic links can hurt your digital marketing campaign and take you many steps backwards. Your link building campaign should never be generic. Your links should always be unique so that your backlinking campaign looks authentic and organic. Google has put in place numerous checks to detect generic link building techniques.
Also, apart from being unique, high-quality links are used sparingly. Content with tons of backlinks is considered spammy or over-optimized. Backlinks should always be used in a moderate manner so that they do not lose their value. If a piece of content has more than 30 links and your website is one of them, the chances of users clicking on your link are significantly diminished. However, if a piece of content has only a single link to your websites, the chances of users clicking on your link are significantly increased.
It is common practice for website owners and digital marketers to exchange links with one another. This practice is based on the well-known principle of reciprocation. Basically, you scratch my back and I will scratch yours. However, while it may seem like a smart and effective way to go about getting backlinks, many people are oblivious to the fact that reciprocal backlinks can actually hurt, as opposed to boost, their link building campaigns. Google treats reciprocal links as low-quality backlinks. They tend to view them as links that were acquired through dubious means as opposed to natural means. Also, many people have abused reciprocal links in the past and this has tarnished their reputation.
So, we can conclude that high-quality backlinks are non-reciprocal in nature. Non-reciprocal backlinks come from websites that you have not previously linked to in any of the content you have posted on your website. However, this does not mean that you should impose a strict NO reciprocal links rule on your website. It is okay to exchange a few links with other trusted websites. Just keep this practice at the bare minimum to avoid triggering any alarms with search engines.
6. Links To Social Media Pages
Last but definitely not least; ‘good’ or high-quality backlinks come from social media. Social media platforms are a huge source of traffic for many websites. Social media platforms are where everybody is spending their time nowadays. If you are looking for traffic, then Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tinder, TikTok, and many other similar platforms are where you should be. Backlinks posted on social media pages, timelines and profiles are considered high-quality links in most cases. Google and other search engines often consider social media engagement when ranking websites on their search results. Sharing the content you post on your website to your Twitter or Facebook account can go a long way in boosting your link building strategy.
Social media helps to boost your brand’s relevancy with internet users and search engines. You can become an authority in your niche by capitalizing on backlinks from social media platforms. Your content can easily go viral on social media and you may end up getting tons of traffic by simply posting and sharing. Social media has unlimited backlinking opportunities. There is no limit to the number of backlinks you can have on social media pages.
How to Build Links in 2020
Link Building is the process of gathering backlinks from a reputable site. It’s a fundamental component of SEO. It’s also one of the many aspects of SEO that has changed quite a lot over the years. Google has put a lot of effort into cracking down on what kind of links they reference as authoritative and valuable. Because of this, there’s a bit more work involved in Link Building in 2020 then there used to be.
Building Link with Infographics
Infographics were mildly popular in the past but became much more so as link building became an essential strategy. Infographics have become a reliable tool for building backlinks.
Infographics can be a great way to digest data and are actually one of the top-performing types of visual content in terms of SEO. It’s an easy way to share a lot of useful information at once. Information that can quickly be digested by readers.
A webpage with a lot of related content might link to an infographic to improve their page and that link, in turn, improves your page. It’s good for everyone involved, but that’s only if you take the time to make a truly useful infographic.
The primary steps include researching a useful topic, creating the copy that corresponds with your graphics, and then creating the actual graphics themselves. If you’re an avid DIYer, then you might attempt all of these steps yourself. But you can avoid some of the more difficult work by using a professional designer. With a designer on your team to handle the last step, you can focus entirely on brainstorming a topic and then creating the copy.
An infographic alone isn’t going to provide a major boost to your SEO campaign. It needs to be shared by reputable websites. You need to make it easy for them to share the infographic by including an embed code.
The embed code makes it much easier for directories and websites to display the graphic. Without it, they may just download it and post it to their site without using a link. That’s why it is also a good idea to include your brand name and logo on the infographic. Even if you don’t get a link you will still get some additional brand awareness. That’s good for any marketing strategy.
The Broken Link Strategy
This is a strategy that some companies hate and others rely on completely. The company’s that hate it do so because it seems time-consuming and doesn’t always yield significant results. But that can be changed if you tackle it systematically and efficiently.
The goal of this tactic is to find a broken link in your website’s niche and then recreate a version of the content that is no longer available. Once you have recreated the content, you reach out to the website owner with the broken link and ask them to replace it with the link to your content.
On the surface, this might seem like the website owner is doing you a huge favor. Giving you a free backlink without knowing much about your company. But it is actually a valuable service for the website owner as well. Broken links on a webpage drag down its quality and credibility. You are replacing a lost resource with something that is new, fresh, and hopefully of high-quality. Everyone in the transaction has something to gain.
Broken link building has actually become more popular over recent years and will undoubtedly continue to be a popular tactic in 2020.
There are two potential problems with this strategy. First, it can be time-consuming to find broken links. Second, website owners may not respond to your outreach or may simply deny your request.
The solution to the first problem is finding the right digital tools. There are websites, apps, and plugins designed specifically for finding broken links. Ahref’s broken link checker is a great tool that can help expedite this process tremendously.
The solution to the second problem is a bit trickier. It requires the right mindset and wording when you contact the website owner. A good tactic is to provide them with multiple links to usable content rather than only a link to your content. This shows them you are trying to be helpful and gives them more options.
Guest Blogging In 2020
Unfortunately, guest blogging has taken a serious decline in effectiveness over the past five years. In 2014, Matt Cutts from Google stated that “Guest blogging is done”. They believe it was becoming a “spammy” tactic intended to game the algorithm. And it undoubtedly was for many businesses.
But does that mean guest blogging is really dead entirely? Not at all. It can still provide a minimal boost and is still a great tactic overall for brand awareness. Guest blogging can definitely help your website grow in 2020 but it should not be used as a primary link building strategy.
The key to getting the most from guest blogging is prioritizing quality and diversity. You need to increase your total referring domains, which means receiving backlinks from more than one blog. Yet those blogs also need to be considered high-quality authorities in their niche. It’s a very tough combination to manage, which is why it has declined in popularity in recent years.
Testimonials And Reviews
Marketers and website owners want backlinks from high-authority sites. Think of those major brands that we all know and love. Wouldn’t it be great to have a link from them pointing to your site? The problem is that those big sites aren’t passing out backlinks to everyone who asked. But there are some easy ways to acquire them. A testimonial or review is often a possible solution.
A testimonial will help a customer make a purchase. That makes testimonials a valuable resource for big companies that want to make a lot of sales. If you are a previous customer of that company, then you can reach out and find out if this is a possibility. As with the broken link strategy, you need to reach out with the right attitude and you’re more likely to be approved.
Not all companies will allow backlinks in their reviews but many will. It may even be as simple as filling out an on-page review form and including your link at the bottom.
You can leverage reviews for link building on third-party sites as well. For example, websites that focus on collecting and sharing reviews of various companies.
Donations and Sponsorships
Google typically frowns on the idea of exchanging money for a backlink. It’s one of the reasons they have been so strict against guest blogging. They want backlinks to occur naturally without intervention. But there is still one way you can spend money directly and get backlinks in return. That is by donating to certain charities and foundations.
Many charity websites are more than willing to provide a backlink for a donation. It’s probably the fastest and most straightforward method for generating links. And many of these charity sites are considered authority websites. Rest assured that the biggest and best websites use this technique extensively to boost their link building efforts.
This method does have great potential for exploitation. Some websites donate large amounts to as many charities as possible to gain a sudden boost in ranking on Google. They can then use their new position to leverage even better backlinks from bigger websites. A throwaway website can use this strategy to position themselves above more well-known websites and scam quite a few people.
This is the type of technique that goes against the general philosophy of Google we have seen over the last few years. Even so, it is still a grey area in 2020 and there’s been no word that it will be banned anytime soon.
Is Link Building Still Important In 2020?
Once again. Yes. If you are interested in using SEO to grow your online presence, then you need to invest some time and some money into link building. It’s still a very important part of Google’s ranking algorithm and when done correctly in conjunction with other aspects of SEO can have an enormous impact on your rankings and traffic.