[Last update: 01/2021]
Link building – building links for SEO purposes – has a long history. Since Google patented its Pagerank algorithm, search engine optimizers have been building links in a targeted manner. Initially, the more links, the better a page ranks in the search results. This has now changed dramatically.
A milestone is the Penguin update from 2012 . Penguin is a secret algorithm that assesses the quality and relevance of links. For websites, this algorithm usually presents itself as an automatic penalty: inorganic (i.e. artificially constructed) backlink structures lead to serious ranking and traffic losses. After some adjustments in the following years 1 became part of the core algorithm in 2016.
For SEOs, link building is therefore more complex and time-consuming today. When organizing strong links, keyword links, generic links and the background noise of weak links, the balance to unlinked mentions is also important. You can already see that there are many influencing factors.
If you try to come up with a definition, it would look something like this:
Link building deals with the targeted growth of a complex, organic network of web links, as well as the establishment of continuous processes in the company’s processes, with the purpose of improving the position and visibility of a website in search engines.Link Building Definition
This article deals with the currently established off-page link building methods and explains strategies with which companies and website operators can ensure the sustainable expansion of their web assets and their backlink profiles. We explain the profession of link builder and why link building is an integral part of every marketing management and many online marketing disciplines. And we draw your attention to internal linking, the most important and most neglected lever for quick SEO success!
Try to read this article at your leisure. Compare the described measures with the working methods of your online marketing managers – be it a link building agency, a freelancer or in-house employees. Check your website’s links and backlinks to celebrate quick successes with better internal links and external links from partners and friends.
After this excursion into almost 20 years of SEO practice of our authors, you will talk to every link building agency at eye level and can better evaluate the performance of all measures. For questions and feedback, we are of course happy to receive your comment at the bottom of this page. But now continue in this very detailed link building guide.
10 Successful SEO Link Building Tips
The following techniques and link building measures use successful SEOs regularly and without risk. They will also help you get better listed in the search engines. Link building is not magic, nor does it violate Google’s policies. But it is a constant and laborious business process. In order to use the following link building tips successfully and sustainably, a strategy and careful planning including suitable budgets is required. The regular processes in the company must be adapted.
It is important that there are no abbreviations or insider tips, unless you consciously move in the gray area of the purchased links or the link spam. But that’s not what this article is about. The following measures, carefully applied, critically and permanently, are absolutely compliant as “white-hat SEO”.
Analysis of your own network
Link building (or on german link building) is nothing more than networking. You integrate into a network of people and organizations by setting links and receiving links. This means that tip 1 is very general: use your common sense. Search for new contacts on the web – for yourself personally, your company and your websites. This is something that you master as a human being anyway.
You can start by analyzing your existing network by identifying good customers and partners and examining their online success. Just like you, your partner companies have a website, Facebook page, blogs, and other social media accounts. The employees of your company and the partners already have an Internet history and are happy to strengthen their link network and thus their own backlink authority.
So as a first step, address your own well-disposed network. But in the next step, you anchor a real link building process in the company. Because every trade fair contact, every specialist contact and simply every new contact in your network, which you can cultivate more easily with B2B social networks such as XING or LinkedIn, is a link opportunity. You should anchor the obligation in your company to assess new contacts from the perspective of digital networking.
Backlink analysis of the market leaders
The beauty of link building is that it’s public. Search engines are – although privately owned – also public institutions, because they only find publicly visible links, just as their users only find public websites.
The link building strategy of the competition
On the Internet you can find various tools that search for links and content and can display them for you. You can use it to find out where a particular competitor is linked. This is useful because it gives you a first-hand look at your competitors’ successful link building strategies. Through backlink analysis, you can find websites that contain links to the competition:
- Specialist publications (e.g. guest contributions) of the competition
- Press releases
- Events (e.g. trade fair information with links)
- Lists and link hubs
Find link hubs directly
Some of these backlink tools, such as LinkResearchTools’ 2 (€) or Xovi’s Hubfinder 3 find websites where several of your competitors can be found. Such websites are called link hubs. On German, a hub is a hub or distributor, so the link power is distributed among various relevant representatives of an industry. However, such special tools deliver mixed results, because the web is wide and no one today has the enormous resources of a Google or Bing to search the web in comparable quality.
Instead of expensive tools, you might as well get creative and search Google (Bing, DuckDuckGo, wherever) for your industry with the added word “list,” “directory,” “recommendations,” etc. Be creative and consider where you would register in your industry or who a professional authority is. In this way, you will find exactly those hubs that rank well on Google and save yourself the manual evaluation of links and relevance.
Example: the search query “Online Marketing Agencies Directory” provides Google with some very relevant lists in which every online marketing agency should be represented.
The same principle works with any industry, try it out. Typical lists of this kind can also be found at municipalities, chambers of industry and commerce (IHK), universities or industry portals. These are the types of links that work best in the link mix.
Infographics & Explainer Videos
Infographics are graphs that visually explain complex content. They transport content (cf. content marketing) and are often intended for distribution.
Infographics serve very different purposes. You show the visitors of your website in an easily understandable way that a professional authority communicates here. The topic of the website or article can be consumed very quickly and intuitively. Graphics are also the format that social media can handle most easily, so they invite sharing and linking.
If they are used as a link building measure, infographics are a building block of the link building strategy and act as an SEO measure. Some agencies and providers have now specialized in them and rely 50% or more on infographics. In recent years, videos and animations in the style of infographics have also been increasingly used. Pay attention to the Ballance and use such media only where they help the interested party.
Infographics and videos are useful where complex content, structures and concepts need to be transported quickly. Use infographics, explainer videos and animations…
- Clearly present structures (organizational charts, hierarchies, processes)
- clarify technical or scientific content
- explain novel problem solving (e.g. when launching new products)
- explain the application of products.
Important: In order for infographics to become one of the best link building tools, explain in the context of the graphic how the viewer can pass them on. Add sharing icons (for social media, blogs, Html and WhatsApp) and kindly explain that this graphic is suitable for sharing. The ready-made link code facilitates integration into blogs. Users of such information media are happy to comply with the request to use a source, because in return they receive an attractive, visual element for their own presence.
Guest posts are articles and other contributions that someone publishes as a guest under a foreign Internet presence. Guest articles form the area of article marketing and can be assigned to content marketing.
Guest posts are one of the most popular SEO techniques, and they carry risks if you overdo it. Google’s policies clearly state that link buying is not allowed. So if you write a guest post of 5 sentences, build in two keyword links and pay the host of your article a few euros, then the border to the black hat is touched.
How to use guest posts successfully
- Find relevant online publications (magazines, blogs, pages of industry associations) that have good content quality and good visibility in search results (SERPs). Avoid wasting time on exorbitant luminaries: you won’t be able to publish an article in the New York Times or BILD. And even if you do, you’ll never get an SEO link there.
- Familiarize yourself with the topics, formats and requirements of the publication. Make a list of possible topics.
- Contact the publisher. It is worthwhile to research the people behind the publication. Talk to them personally and introduce yourself professionally and with your topic suggestion.
- Ask about linking options. Are keyword links possible? Or is only a link to the author feasible? Make the link part of the contract negotiation, but don’t insist too much on your ideas, because even an imperfectly set link is an organically sound reference that underpins your backlink profile. And ultimately, the responsibility for this does not lie with the guest, so it will not harm your reputation.
Reverse image search
The technique known as “reverse image search” or “reverse image search” takes advantage of the fact that images from manufacturers, e.g. representations of products, brands, buildings or events, are occasionally used by third parties. These can be, for example, bloggers or partner companies.
Pictures and photos are of course protected by copyright. In most cases, it is therefore not permissible for these to appear in third-party publications. On the other hand, it is of course nice when a brand draws organic circles. For SEO, the only thing that counts here is that a good link is created.
How to perform a reverse image search?
Now write to the owner of the page in question and ask to include the copyright notice. Avoid other legal notices, because he or she is aware of the legal explosiveness anyway and is happy to get rid of the matter with a simple reference link.
Alerts are now a tool used by most marketers. Set up Google Alerts to be notified of new mentions of names, brands, and domains.
The advantage in the field of SEO and other disciplines of online marketing is obvious: if you are informed about mentions (also known as “mentions”), you can react to them. Get in touch with the author of the mention. Offer support or thank you for your interest in the product. In addition, recommend relevant content on your own site or linking relevant guest posts to the author for unlinked mentions.
Efficiency tip: Google Alerts, which provide information about competing brands or general, industry-relevant articles and hub pages (directories, lists, guides), are particularly productive. They are then informed by alert about news and marketing measures of the competition, can use them as free riders for themselves and are always up to date without having to search themselves.
Broken Linkbuilding – 404 Not Found is SEO’s Friend
In times of ever shorter life cycles of companies, products and websites, everyone stumbles across dead links here and there. Dead links point to content (blogs, pages, profiles, images, etc.) that no longer exists. Not infrequently, they can be recognized by the HTTP error code 404 or even by the fact that the entire domain has disappeared or is located at a domain dealer.
Whenever you stumble upon dead links during your backlink research, consider it an opportunity. Do you have comparable content? Then write the linking webmaster an e-mail or a comment pointing out the error of his content. Inform them that you have similar content on your website or in a guest article elsewhere and that it would be very useful for users to link to it.
In the case of particularly high-quality link providers, it may be worthwhile if you create the content specifically for this purpose. Do not ask beforehand if there is interest, but simply produce the content. If the webmaster in question shows no interest, they simply use the content themselves. Because he has already proven that he has good link building potential.
Make the most of internal linking
Unfortunately, linking within one’s own presence is often not the top priority. There is nothing that can be more easily influenced on the web. Internal linking is an important indicator for search engines to weight the contents of a domain (to put them in order and order).
The homepage is the strongest content of the website. That’s because it usually has the most inbound links. It is linked externally in the form of domain links (e.g. www.example.de). Internally, each subpage leads back to the homepage. Content linked from the homepage contains the most important content. These sites have very good ranking potential. From a technical point of view, the maximum link juice lands in the homepage, which branches out from here into the website. Think of it like an irrigation system. The further away from the home page, the worse a content with ranking potential is supplied. So create homepage links for the site’s most important documents.
The grossest errors of internal linking
The following errors appear again and again in internal linking, they should be avoided at all costs:
- too few internal links
- too many links on every page
- internal links with rel-nofollow
- no keywords in internal links
Too few internal links make it unnecessarily difficult to distribute link juice. They also make it difficult for users to jump from content to content. They therefore increase the bounce rate and reduce the dwell time, which in turn can have a negative impact on the overall SEO of the site.
Too many links per page dilute and mix the contextual value of the links. If a content page links to many off-topic pages at the same hierarchical level, search engines find it difficult to establish thematic relevance. The linking page really then like a hub and is listed more strongly in informational search queries: if this is desired, then you link a lot and topic-relevant. Otherwise, leave it. By the way, there is no absolute link limit per page , old specifications such as “maximum 100 links” or “maximum 100kb text” are long gone.
Internal links with nofollow are a gross technical error. They are instructing Google to discard the link juice.
Sometimes internal links are set with link texts such as “more” or “read more”. This is not problematic in moderation, but it can make you more relevant to the term “more” or “read more”. Therefore, choose suitable keywords rather than link text. This is also important because, as the owner of the domain, you are completely free to choose the link text. For internal links, there is no keyword stuffing penalty that would penalize keyword links that are too frequent. With external links, on the other hand, you have to be careful to achieve a healthy (organic) link text mix of keyword links, domain links and generic link texts.
Link noise (e.g. directories)
Do you still use web directories, web catalogs, link lists and industry overviews with follow links? No? Then they’ve been around for a long time. Hats off! Because today, most of the old-school web directories that were banned by Google’s Panda & Penguin updates many years ago no longer exist. These link slingers that used to set links against backlinks have disappeared. What remains are modern web directories. They are topic-relevant, maintain high-quality link lists, and are editorially supervised. At least that’s true for many.
Your job as a link builder is to find the higher quality directories and link lists. Sign up. Pay attention to quality and added value. These directories give them additional reach and, if necessary, one or the other follow link. You should also not revile nofollow links, because they belong exactly as well in an organic backlink profile. It is crucial that you keep the measure and such links are always only a background noise.
Reputation and networking
Last but not least… Link building is the process of building connections with other market participants. Experts, journalists, influencers, companies, consumers and hobbyists – work on your network in all directions, keeping in mind that every contact is also a potential link.
In the old days, SEO consisted primarily of link exchange and the only necessary commonality of the link partners was that they are active on the Internet. Today, link exchange is socially acceptable again in moderation, but it has to coincide with a real social network. You can and should set links to good contacts and also not distrust a reciprocal link (i.e. a direct backlink between two pages).
As long as it is done in moderation and from a professional, industry-specific, topic-relevant point of view, this method of active link building does not carry any risk.
Link management is now a marketing process. New partners, new customers, the reputation work of companies and employees – new networks are emerging everywhere and must be mapped in the digital space. There they also unfold their effect in the algorithms of search engines. The website and relevant content thus continuously increases in the search results.
Only as a process that works in all areas of marketing up to sales, the optimal link growth and thus increasing online success can be sustainably realized. That’s why SEO and link building, like all other online channels, is no longer a separate tool.
Marketers and marketing decision-makers who today look at online channels separately, meticulously measure them against KPIs and forget the big picture, overuse the possibilities of online marketing by far. Because in the funnel, SEO works hand in hand with social and branding and even with measures beyond the online world. Manage your online activities smartly, as part of the marketing mix.
- Wikipedia article: Penguin Update, Penguin
- Common Backlinks Tool
- Backlink Checker (€),
- Google’s reverse image search: https://www.google.de/imghp
- TinEye Reverse Image Search on tools like TinEye Reverse Image Search