Pursuing Real Links for an SEO Campaign
You will fail to grow organic traffic sustainably if you don’t understand which types of links to pursue. At Page One Power we commonly describe these links as “real links” internally, but what makes a link “real”?
Today I’ll explain in real terms what makes a link real so you can identify them within your own marketing and SEO and pursue the links that truly matter.
There are three questions to ask when evaluating links and link opportunities:
- Is this link future-safe?
- Does this link provide real marketing value?
- Does this link support audience discovery?
Considering these three questions will help guide your link strategy, ensure you’re pursuing only real links, and help move the needle in your online visibility.
Real Links Are Future-safe
A real link is future-safe, created for the inherent value of itself, and not to manipulate search.
Real links won’t get you penalized by Google because real links align with Google’s webmaster guidelines. How do you ensure the links you build line up with Google’s guidelines?
Focus on relevance and human value.
Putting an emphasis on relevance and human value will help you align your strategy with Google’s guidelines. Google’s goal as a company is to return the best, most relevant search results possible for people using search. By building links that are relevant and genuinely useful for humans you will be building the types of links Google wants to value.
These types of links are what the web is built on, and they’re the types of links that Google’s search algorithm is based on. Google isn’t going to penalize a site for acquiring links that help its algorithm return better search results.
How do you define relevance and human value, and identify these characteristics in links?
In regards to relevance, there are essentially four different ways a link can be relevant:
- Domain to domain
- Domain to page
- Page to page
- Link to page
A real link will exhibit at least one of these forms of relevance. You can learn more about determining relevance in link building from Cory Collins’ post.
To determine human value I ask myself a few questions about the link I’m pursuing:
- Would I be proud to show this link to my boss, my peers, and even Google?
- Would this link make sense to a casual internet user who has no knowledge of SEO?
- When someone clicks this link, will they be satisfied with where it takes them?
- Does this link contribute to the overall value and connectivity of the web?
These simple yes or no questions offer a baseline litmus test for whether a link has any human value.
Real links are future-safe because they’re relevant links that offer value to the humans who click them.
Real Links Provide Marketing Value
Links shouldn’t happen in an SEO vacuum.
Real links also provide legitimate marketing value. A link is a connection between two websites and should always have benefits beyond SEO.
Of course links offer SEO value, but real links offer so much more beyond search rankings. Worthwhile links will contribute to branding strategies and goals. Links drive visibility within search, but they also drive visibility on the web and build brand awareness.
You literally can’t navigate the web without clicking a link.
Links should aid authority and reputation building efforts. Links often serve as citations and endorsements, and can signal authority to the people who find them on industry-leading websites. As people click around on their favorite sites and encounter links to your site, they will build brand affinity and trust with your site. The trust and authority they place in the site linking will be transferred to your site as well. That’s the sign of a real link.
Links also provide marketing value by supporting other marketing efforts. Links can improve visibility, extend reach, and drive engagement for other marketing strategies. This is because links are the highways of the web – they’re the strands connecting the internet together. Anytime you secure a link that is valuable to your audience within a relevant community, you create new opportunity for your online marketing.
Integrating your SEO and link efforts into other marketing efforts will also improve the success of your link acquisition. Some marketing practices that work well with link building are:
Real links will support other marketing strategies and contribute to overall marketing goals. When evaluating links and link opportunities, consider how they fit within your comprehensive marketing plan.
Real Links Support Audience Discovery
No business can continue to grow without ongoing audience discovery. Links are vital to online audience discovery.
Finding new audiences expands the reach of your brand and marketing. There is always more opportunity and audience discovery will help you uncover these opportunities.
Real, worthwhile links will help you tap into new audiences. Relevance will once again be an important factor in identifying links that drive audience discovery. This is where link prospecting comes into play. You need to have a deep understanding of where your audience lives online and how they interact on the web. To learn more about link prospecting, check out Linkarati’s Definitive Link Prospecting Resource Guide.
One way to find new websites and online communities for your link campaign is through your competitors. Because your competitors share a similar audience, you can find new audiences through their backlinks.
To learn about competitor backlinking, check out this post from Jon Ball on Search Engine Watch.
Building links on relevant sites taps into fresh audiences, creating new in-roads to your site. Don’t overlook relevant forums and social media groups either. You should only link to useful content that answers a question or solves a problem for community members, and be sure to interact normally, not only when you have something self-serving to promote.
These links can drive highly qualified traffic to your site, and by solving problems for your audience you can also grow brand affinity and reputation.
These are the attributes and characteristics we generally refer to when describing real links at Page One Power. Of course it’s a complicated topic and there are other factors worth considering as well. If you want to discuss further, I’m always happy to chat about link philosophy. Feel free to shoot me an email or contact me on Twitter.