For decades now, link building has been one of the most powerful marketing strategies for websites. Link building has changed significantly over the years, rendering older strategies irrelevant in favor of more polished modern tactics, but the basics are mostly the same.
What exactly is this strategy, and how can it benefit your website?
Link Building Basics
Link building is the practice of establishing links that point to pages of your website. These links exist on external sites. A hyperlink functions as a navigation tool for web users; they can click this link and immediately be sent to your webpage. However, the benefits of having links like these pointing to your site are multifaceted.
There are many different strategies you can use to establish links. In the early days of the internet, it was commonplace for websites to spam their links wherever they could—on forum comments, on discussion threads, and even “hidden” in the body of published content. But Google has increasingly cracked down on these “black hat” link building practices over the years, penalizing websites that worsen the average user’s experience and rewarding those with a more “natural” link profile.
These days, most link acquisition strategies fall into two camps: link building and link earning. Link earning is easier to explain; with link earning, the goal is to attract more links to your website naturally. You’ll develop high-quality onsite content, distribute that content, and engage with other content creators to try and invite more people to link to it. It’s a safe strategy but can be somewhat inconsistent.
Contrastingly, there’s link building. With link building, the goal is to intentionally establish external links that appear natural—and provide value to web users. The best way to do that is often with the help of guest posts. Here, a marketer will write a high-quality piece of content for an external publisher—one that happens to include a link back to their target website. Oftentimes, these strategies scale in both authority and volume, with marketers publishing a greater number of posts on publishers with increasing authority.
Note that many people refer to both link building and link earning tactics with the umbrella term “link building.”
The Benefits of Link Building
So what are the benefits of link building?
- Higher search engine rankings. Google and other search engines tend to place websites higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) if they seem trustworthy. This trustworthiness is measured in terms of “domain authority,” or the overall authority of a website. You can increase your authority by building high-quality links from other authoritative sites; over time, if you build a sufficient amount of links, your authority will improve, and you’ll rank higher in search results. Higher rankings translate to more organic traffic.
- Referral traffic. Organic traffic isn’t the only source of traffic generation link building can bring. Web users can click your links to be instantly transported to your site, measured as “referral traffic.” If you earn or publish links on publishers that get tens of thousands of daily visitors (or more), you can see an incredible influx of traffic.
- Brand exposure. Building links is also a convenient way to increase brand exposure—and cultivate brand familiarity. Naming your brand in the body of a piece of content, or even in your author biography, can improve recognition and awareness. And if your brand gets linked frequently, people will naturally regard it with more esteem.
- Publisher relationships. Using content to build links requires you to build good relationships with offsite publishers. This can help you in many ways, giving you a platform for more offsite content, helping you find content collaborators, and even connecting you to other valuable resources.
- Longevity. Links tend to remain in place forever, unless they’re manually removed by an editor or are broken by a missing page on your site. That means your links will be capable of generating a practically endless stream of referral traffic to your site.
- Scalability. Link building is a highly scalable strategy as well. You can get started when your website is in its infancy and continue following this path well into its maturity. Your return on investment (ROI) will build over time.
- Low costs. Many people love link building because of its low-cost basis as well. It’s practically free to get started!
If you want your site to rank higher, or if you want a consistent stream of traffic to your site from offsite publishers, link building is a practical must. It’s not the perfect marketing strategy for every business, but its benefits are hard to ignore. If you’re looking to get more visibility and more authority for your website, it deserves a spot in your arsenal.