LinksOne of the most difficult parts of making an SEO campaign a success is building backlinks to the site in question. Well, that’s only half true – getting the links isn’t really a problem, it’s getting the links that matter and doing so in a way that won’t get your site penalised when Google finally cottons on to some of the naughtier link building methods.

The problem with link building in the search engine optimisation game is that it’s like copywriting. Once upon a time, some moron decreed that “anyone can do it” and now everyone that can write a vaguely coherent email decides they can write their own website content and argue the toss with people that do it for a living despite being largely illiterate. So too, with linking – people submit a site to a couple of directories and hear that these things called article submissions work really well and then BOOM – they’ve decided they know how to build links.

I got to thinking about this after I started looking through the backlinks of a site I came across (no, I’m not naming names). Simply put, it’s a prime example of everything I said in the last paragraph. Whoever’s doing their link building seems to be labouring under the impression that footer links with the same anchor text from several sites on the same server with the same WhoIs details is the road to the sweetest link juice in the world. Yes, people – these backlinks suck and, if it weren’t for the fact that there is a lot of good content on that site, I’d be surprised if it ranked at all.

So What Is A Good Link?

This is a tough one to explain, because it seems to change so frequently. Because it’s a pain, I’ll start at the beginning – sorry if it seems like I’m teaching you how to suck eggs a bit.

Google sees each link to your site as a “vote” for its relevance and usefulness as a resource for a chosen keyword (if that link’s anchor-texted). Some links are worth more than others, much like in a real election – for example, a link from an authoritative site with a high level of trust and power will do more for your rankings than, say, a link from a single directory or a footer link from a site on the same server with the same WhoIs details. In “real life” terms, we can look at this as a celebrity or newspaper coming out in favour of voting for one particular party and as such, influencing the results significantly because a lot of people will follow. In a nutshell, you’d rather have a link from the BBC than your brother’s blog.

Aside from the power of the site, it’s also worth looking into link placement. Footer links don’t really carry much weight these days (Matt Cutts himself said so in the video below), while contextual links are more powerful.

Should I Just Buy Links?

Paid LinksI generally find myself advising against this practise. There’s no denying that paid links work, but if you’re going to go down this route, be sure to do so with caution, or to get someone who actually knows what they’re doing (if they like footer links, get them away from the credit card) to handle it for you, because there is a risk here.

You see, the practise of paid linking directly contravenes the Google Webmaster Guidelines and if you get caught doing it, they are entirely within their rights to bounce your site out of the index which, as I’m sure you can figure out, is the exact opposite of what you want. Some major companies have been removed from the index in the last year for this practise and, unfortunately, the SEO industry seems to be getting more cutthroat and consequently, the likelihood of one of your competitors outing you for this practise is higher than it’s ever been. Paid links work at the moment, but if you are going to go down this route, do so with care and the knowledge that this could go horribly wrong at any second.

What Does A Good Backlink Profile Look Like?

Simple – a good backlink profile looks natural. The more natural it is (or the more natural it looks), the better. Vary the anchor text, vary the medium you get the links from and don’t be afraid to get links from terms you aren’t necessarily targeting.

I’m going to be a bit vague here, because I’ve banged on longer than I meant to (as usual), but the more varied your links are, the better. Directories, social media, local resources, social bookmarking, contextual links via outreach and such forth are the way forward. Don’t be afraid to contact someone and offer them something in return for a link, as long as it’s not money. Tell them something’s wrong with their site and offer to help them fix it and then see if they’ll give you a link in return, develop relationships with relevant industry figures on social media sites like Twitter and then see if you can get a link out of them, get an intern to spend a day submitting the site to directories and don’t always use the same anchor text. URL links aren’t a bad thing either.

Variety, Variety, Variety

Ultimately, variety is the spice of life when it comes to linking and the more you can get via natural means, the better. I still believe that if your site actually features good content and is relevant to the keywords you’re targeting, the links will come naturally. Of course there are things you can do to speed the process up, but by ensuring that your linking campaign looks as natural as possible, you should get the best out of it.

I hope you enjoyed today’s little ramble. Feel free to leave me a comment. Also, while I’m asking for feedback, how do you like the Wibya bar at the bottom? Annoying? Useful? Let me know.