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white hat link buildingLink building has been given kind of a bad rep over the last year. In a post Penguin landscape and with continuous algorithm updates, it can feel like you’re walking on egg shells around the great Google beast. Links are one of the most valuable forms of currency a site can have, so they shouldn’t be ignored. Even as Google’s link guidelines expand, building links the white hat way will never steer you wrong.

As a white hat SEO, I understand the allure of the tempting ‘quick fix’ of black hat methods for immediate results. However, results earned this way are usually short lived these days given that they are usually very low value tactics, not to mention that the risk could severely cost your site. Despite all the threats from Google algorithm updates, our white hat ways keep client sites out of harm’s way and positions them to swoop into even better rankings when their competitors’ sites are hit a penalty. At the end of the day, our white hat ways always win out.

Are links really that important? What would happen without links?

Recently, Google decided to internally test what would happen if their search engine were to ignore backlinks as a ranking signal within their search algorithms. They didn’t like the results they saw. In a world without links, search engines would have a difficult time providing satisfactory and reliable results. Backlink relevance remains an important element for quality of search results as links are what search engines use to determine what pages are important, popular and trustworthy.

You don’t need to get spammy to leverage the power of links for your site. Having high standards for quality and using hand-crafted techniques that comply with Google’s guidelines will provide more sustainable results with rankings and drive the right traffic to your site. It’s important to remember that in the end everything you do shouldn’t be tailored to satisfy the search engine, but providing a better experience for people.

Here’s a few ways you can win with white hat link building:

A white hat’s link motto: add value to get value. Provide value by investing in offsite marketing tactics and earning links. Contribute valuable input, thoughts and responses on other blogs and forums within your industry. Not only does this provide value a great source for relevant links, but it’s great for branding as it sets your business as an authority.

Editorial links given freely are worth their weight in gold! These in fact, are a white hat SEO’s dream. This is where it pays to have quality content worth talking about, and having connections with online publishers.

Use your content, pictures, videos, and events to your advantage as link bait. Make sure you’re creating content worthy of ranking and you’re writing about things people actually want to read and share with others. Don’t forget RSS feeds! Not only does this make it easy for visitors to learn about fresh content, it helps to get your content syndicated by other relevant publishers and attributed links.

Use the power of social sharing! Social sharing is a pretty common form of evangelism, and is considered in search ranking algorithms. As the new signal of relevancy and popularity, social engagement with your content, page, site, brand etc., can be a powerful way to let Google know that you are important and relevant to the community. I recommend encouraging social interaction and links to your content from social media and comments from your site.

Display your links high where everyone can see. Fact: links higher up on a page gets discovered quicker and provides more value to the target page.

Don’t be shy to reach out to other quality sites. Foster connections with similar and interesting people in your industry and get them talking.

Use your associations and memberships. If you belong to a local organization or industry membership of some sort, many allow members to publish authored content on their organization’s site and provide a link to their members’ websites.

Be there first. Freshness matters, and being the first to comment on a breaking story or recent event will help you establish yourself as a resource and climb your way to the top of the search results.

What site owners need to know about links:

  • Be careful who you seek a link from
    • Not all links are created equal and quality definitely matters more than quantity
    • Always look at the value of the linking site and page
    • Avoid links from low quality sites
    • Don’t partake in comment spam
    • Spinning articles is not a good idea
  • Concentrate on the few links that really matter
  • Be careful linking out! If something bad happens to the site, it reflects on you.
    • This makes it harder for everyone to earn links, but makes them more valuable when you actually get them
  • NEVER purchase links or use automated tactics
  • Be careful HOW you’re linking
    • Make sure to diversify your anchor text. Heavy use of exact match anchor text is really spammy.
  • Stop guest blogging to gain links.
    • I’m not saying stop contributing legitimate content on the internet, just stop being spammy about it and stop writing spun articles on other people’s blogs
  • Don’t rely on widgets and infographics solely to generate links
  • Press releases are great, but tread carefully
    • Don’t use exact match anchor text in the articles. It’s okay to link to your site from the article naturally in the bottom of the article or with the full URL. Use them for how they were intended to be used.
  • Don’t use keyword rich, hidden, or low quality links from widgets.

I encourage clients to learn more about building links, because they are powerful for promoting your site and can really help to strengthen your brand marketing. I do advise however, that you talk with your SEO about your link building initiatives before implementing. It’s tough to stay up to date on what Google deems appropriate these days, and we have a sixth sense for this type of thing. We can help to steer you away from danger and help guide you in the right direction toward strengthening your marketing.

Do you have any questions about links? Ask our SEO team in the comments below!

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