What is link building in SEO?

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Let’s clear up any misconceptions of what link building is. We have compiled these articles to assist you in the process of maximizing your link-building efforts to assist in improving your organic search results.

What is link building in SEO?

[1]Within SEO, link building plays an important role in driving organic traffic via search engines, especially in competitive industries. When combined with strong technical SEO foundations, great on-page SEO, excellent content, and a good user experience, link building can be super effective at driving more organic traffic.

Today, the need for quality, relevance, and authenticity has never been more important. While low-quality, spammy link-building techniques can work, they shouldn’t play a part in a strategy for an organization building long-term organic search success.

Arguably, link building these days is more akin to great marketing, and the organizations that understand this are usually the ones who win long-term. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a technical aspect to building links or that all techniques need to revolve around your product. We’ll see that there’s still far more to it than this and far more to understand than ever before.

This guide is designed to get you going quickly and in the right direction. There’s a lot to take in, but we’ve broken everything up into easy-to-digest chapters and have included many examples along the way.

The definition of link building

Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own. A hyperlink (usually just called a link) is a way for users to navigate between pages on the Internet. Search engines use links to crawl the web. They will crawl the links between the individual pages on your website and crawl the links between entire websites.

Not all links are deliberately built by SEOs or marketers. Many of them will be created for various reasons, such as a journalist covering a news story and linking to a source or a blogger who loves their new coffee machine so much that they link to the retailer who sold it to them.

Acquiring links that you didn’t ask for is the nirvana of SEO. It’s always something that you should be striving for and building towards over the long term. You do this by putting in the work to make your website link-worthy, whether that’s through a great product or aspect of your service or via producing great content that is referenced by other websites.

Alongside this long-term approach, you can also leverage a range of link-building techniques which allow you to build your authority and increase your chances of ranking well and getting traffic from organic search.

The anatomy of a hyperlink

To understand the importance of link building, it’s important first to understand how a link is created, how the search engines see links, and what they can interpret from them.

  1. Start of link tag: Called an anchor tag (hence the “a”), this opens the link tag and tells browsers and search engines that a link to something else is about to follow.
  2. Link referral location: The “href” stands for “hyperlink referral,” The text inside the quotation marks indicates the URL to which the link is pointing. This doesn’t always have to be a web page; it could be the address of an image or a file to download. Occasionally, you’ll see something other than a URL, beginning with a # sign. These links take you to a specific section of the URL.
  3. Visible/anchor text of link: This is the little bit of text that users see on the page and on which they need to click if they want to open the link. The text is usually formatted in some way to make it stand out from the text that surrounds it, often with blue color and/or underlining, signaling to users that it is a clickable link.
  4. Closure of link tag: This signals the end of the link tag to the search engines.
What links mean for search engines

There are two fundamental ways that search engines use links:

  1. To discover new web pages, which they can then use in their search results
  2. To help determine how well a page should rank in its results

Once search engines have crawled pages on the web, they can extract the content of those pages and add it to their indexes. In this way, they can decide if they feel a page is of sufficient quality to be ranked well for relevant keywords (Google created a short video to explain that process.) When they’re deciding this, the search engines don’t just look at the page’s content — they also look at the number of links pointing to that page from external websites and the quality of those external websites. Generally speaking, the more high-quality websites that link to you, the more likely you are to rank well in search results.

As a ranking factor, links allowed Google to start dominating the search engine market back in the late 1990s. One of Google’s founders, Larry Page, invented PageRank, which Google used to measure the quality of a page based in part on the number of links pointing to it. This metric was then used as part of the overall ranking algorithm and became a strong signal because it was a perfect way of determining the quality of a page. It turned out that by incorporating this into their algorithm, Google was able to serve much more useful and relevant search results than their competitors at the time.

[2]Why Is Link Building needed?

Link building is important because it is a major factor in how Google ranks web pages. Google notes that:

“In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.”

Imagine that we own a site promoting wind turbine equipment that we sell. We’re competing with another wind turbine equipment manufacturer. One of the ranking factors Google will look at in determining how to rank our respective pages is link popularity.

While the above example provides a general visual understanding of why link building is important, it’s fundamental. It omits key factors such as:

  • The trust and authority of the linking pages.
  • The SEO and content optimization of the respective sites.
  • The anchor text of the incoming links.

For a more in-depth explanation of how PageRank is calculated, read through these resources:

  • The original Google PageRank paper
  • An in-depth discussion of the formula behind PageRank
  • The Wikipedia page on the subject

The most important concept to understand is that, as Google says, you’re more likely to have your content rank higher for keywords you’re targeting if you can get external websites to link to your pages.

Simple Link Building Strategies: How To Get Other Sites to Link to You

There are several link building strategies used to get external websites to link to yours:

  • Content Creation & Promotion – Create compelling, unique, high-quality content that people will naturally want to reference and link to and tell people about it. You have to spread the word before you can expect anyone to find your content and link to it!
  • Reviews & Mentions – Put your product, service, or the site in front of influencers in your industry, such as popular bloggers or people with a large social media following.
  • Links from Friends & Partners – Ask people you know and people you work with to link to your site. Remember that relevance matters; links from sites in the same general industry or niche as your site will have more value than links from random, unrelated sites.

It can take a while to build many links, but be patient, and remember that shortcuts like buying links are against Google’s guidelines and can be devastating for your SEO. Don’t take chances.

Build Links for Free with Internal Link Building

There’s an easy, underrated way to build links to the pages you’re attempting to improve search engine rankings for. And it’s a method you have total control over Internal link building.

In attempting to get a Web page to rank, there are a few key factors to consider:

  • Anchor Text – One of the most important things search engines consider in ranking a page is the actual text a linking page uses to talk about your content. So if someone links to our Good Guys Wind Turbine Parts site with the text “wind turbine parts,” that will help us to rank highly for that keyword phrase, whereas if they had used text like “Good Guys LLC” to link to our site, we wouldn’t enjoy the same ranking advantage for the phrase “wind turbine parts.”
  • Quality of the Linking Page – Another factor taken into account is the quality of the page sending the link; search engines allow links from high-quality, trusted pages to count more in boosting rankings than questionable pages and sites.
  • Page the Link is Aimed At – Often, when people talk about your site, they’ll link to the home page. This makes it difficult for individual pages to achieve high rankings (because it’s difficult for them to generate their own link equity).

These are all elements we can’t control in attempting to get other sites to link to us. We can, however, control all of these elements in linking to our own pages from our own content. We can:

  • Determine what anchor text to use.
  • Decide which page to the point that anchor text at.
  • Ensure that the quality and content of the linking page are high (since it’s our page!).

Building external links to your site is important. Still, in focusing more of your efforts on optimizing these internal links, you can build quality in-bound links with rich anchor text to the proper pages, which will provide you with an unparalleled ranking boost (for free!).

[3]Link Building Guide: How to Acquire & Earn Links That Boost Your SEO

These guides will teach you effective link-building strategies and how to do them right.

  • What to do before link building: How to make sure your website is in top shape before you move on to getting links from other sites.
  • Broken link building and link reclamation: Find and reclaim lost and broken links to your site, or find unlinked mentions and generate new inbound links.
  • Social engineering for link building: How to use controversy, ego bait, and helping others to attract links.
  • Data-driven link building: How to use information and research to drive quality backlinks.
  • Creating link-worthy content: Using visual, interactive, and engaging content to earn links.
  • What linking tactics to avoid: What bad links can get you penalized by Google, and what link tactics are dangerous or ineffective.

These ebooks are all about earning high-quality links with a fully integrated marketing strategy.

  • Link building is about quality, diversity, and building relationships.
  • Creating a good website with good content is just the first step.

[4]Link Building for SEO: How To Do It Right in 2021

If you want to rank a website on Google in 2021, you can’t ignore the importance of link building and the need to put together a solid strategy that will help you earn high-quality links. In fact, links remain one of the top three most important ranking factors out there.

That said, whether you are a total SEO beginner and are learning how to build links for the first time or have been doing it for years and want to find new tactics that still work, there are literally dozens of approaches you can take.

In this guide, you will learn how to build links with strategies and tactics that are still effective and that will help you earn those top-ranking positions and know those that will see you wasting time and resources and that could potentially harm your organic visibility.

We will share quick win tactics alongside those needing a little more time and planning, but that can truly help you get those ‘can’t buy links.

More about link building

Link building is a key part of any successful SEO strategy that involves getting other websites to link to yours — a simple hyperlink from one site to another. Many agree that it is one of the hardest parts of ranking a website, whilst one of the most rewarding when you get it right.

Not familiar with how links work?

When website A links to website B, it s a strong hint to Google’s algorithm that it deserves to rank higher for relevant keywords, and you might hear these referred to as inbound links, backlinks, external links, or, quite simply,,, just links.

You can think of links from other websites like votes.

The more high-quality links that point to your website (and form part of your backlink profile), the higher you should rank on Google, and, therefore, the higher level of organic traffic you should receive.

However, links aren’t all created equal, and some can even cause your website to decrease in visibility, something that we will cover shortly.

There are many different tactics that you can use to build links, some easier to execute than others, and knowing where to get started can sometimes be difficult, especially when you are aware that some can do more harm than good.

Why is Link Building Important For SEO?

Link building takes time and effort. There is no hiding from that fact.

It is also hard to get right, meaning that those who can successfully execute tactics to build better links than their competitors typically see significant growth in organic traffic and revenue.

And that is why you need to understand why links are so important and account for a considerable portion of your SEO campaigns’ resources.

We delved deep into the importance of link building for SEO in our guide to backlinks, which you should check out for a detailed introduction to the what and the why behind this key pillar of any successful campaign.

However, the main reasons why you need to make sure you are placing a strong focus on link building as an SEO are:

  • You will rank higher on Google and other search engines.
  • Google will find new pages on your site faster.
  • You’ll enjoy increased credibility and trustworthiness as a business.
  • You could benefit from targeted referral traffic.

You can’t ignore link building, and you need to make sure you are rolling out tactics that give you a competitive advantage, something that we will show you how to do in this guide.

What Are the Key Elements of a Successful Link Building Strategy?

There is more to link building than it may seem, not just in terms of the complexity of those tactics that deliver the best results and impact.

When planning a link-building strategy, you need to remember that not all links are equal, and key elements drive forward success.

It would help if you weren’t building links blindly.

By that, we mean that you need to know what a great link looks like for you and fully understand that the more effort you put into getting the right links, the better impact you will see.

Here are some of the key components that you need to focus on that make up a great link-building strategy to help you understand what a great link profile looks like.

1. Contextual Links

Links on a page that are more likely to be clicked are typically those that hold the most value and can have the biggest impact on rankings and the way that Google measures the value of a link is with PageRank, and its ‘reasonable surfer model’ parent indicates that different features associated with links change how this flows.

Contextual links, those placed in the body of a web page’s content as opposed to the footer or sidebar, as an example, are typically higher quality links and are key to a successful strategy.

2. A High Percentage of ‘Followed’ Links

Not all links pass PageRank and impact a site’s rankings.

Links can have different attributes applied, with the main ones you need to know to be nofollow, sponsored, and UGC links.

Links with a rel=”nofollow” attribute hint that Google should not crawl them and that they should not associate the two sites from a ranking perspective.

Rel=”sponsored” attributes indicate that a link has been paid for (and therefore should not pass PageRank).

Rel=”UGC” showcases links that come from user-generated content such as forums and comments and indicates that these links are not editorially placed and may be manipulative.

If a link is referred to as a ‘followed’ link (or sometimes, a ‘do follow the link – even though this is technically not the right terminology), it means that there are no attributes in place that prevent PageRank from being passed and a great link profile should contain a high percentage of these, so long as they come from quality sources.

3. Editorially Placed Links

Editorially placed links are simply those that exist because a third-party has decided to add a link from their website to yours, rather than because of payment, some other incentive, or that you were the one responsible for placing it and did so to increase your rankings.

The most effective links are editorially placed, and Google themselves highlight in their guidelines that links that don’t fall under this categorization can be deemed unnatural.

4. A Focus on Links From Unique Referring Domains

A great link profile will see links coming from a higher number of unique referring domains rather than the same few time and time again.

A successful strategy should always focus on tactics that will see a link-building campaign earn links from new domains that have never been linked before to increase the number of unique linking domains.

It is widely reported that having links from a higher number of unique domains can help a site to rank in prominent positions, with Nick Eubanks commenting in this blog post that, “Often when I see sites ranking with much lower authority, they tend to have a much stronger ratio of linking root domains versus their competitors.”

5. A Strong Topical Relevance

Links should be from websites and content closely related to your own site’s topic, and this is another great example of ensuring that you are not just building any links but rather the right ones.

Remember that links originally existed on the web to navigate a user from page A to page B, and on this assumption, why would a link take you to something that wasn’t typically related?

It doesn’t make sense. So be sure to follow this stance with your link-building efforts.

A great way to get yourself into this mindset is, when prospecting for link opportunities, is to ask whether you would still pursue it if Google didn’t exist or use links as part of its algorithm.

If the answer is yes, perhaps because you would expect it to send quality referral traffic or help to increase your brand’s awareness or authority — this usually means it is from a topically related website where your audience hangs out online.

If you would answer no, it is a good indication that the link isn’t relevant to your business.


Use them, links, wherever you can, internally, externally, and remember you are in theory working for Google, so work hard on link building, and Google search results can reward you!

Article compiled by RapidPage.ca

Article reference links:

  1. https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-link-building
  2. https://www.wordstream.com/link-building
  3. https://www.searchenginejournal.com/link-building-guide/
  4. https://www.semrush.com/blog/link-building/