What Does Good Link Building Look Like?

And conversely, what does bad link building look like? This is an informational post for intermediate audiences: if you know that authority and relevant links are something you want, this post is for you!

Bad Link Building

Link Building is difficult by necessity, because any easy to exploit method has been beaten to death by people fighting tooth and nail in the most competitive segments. These techniques spread out so fast and so far that Google, and other search engines, have to figure out how to discount or even red flag this behaviour as exploitation. Some of these techniques are perfectly acceptable and reasonable with good relevance and on a small scale, but SEO trends are frequently taken to the extreme. In the end, Google’s primary goal is trying to figure out which links are made for a real company, and which ones are more authoritative then others. Some of these “black hat”  techniques that have been exploited for too long are seen as red flags, and you should be concerned if a company is selling them to you today.

“We have a network of (Albertan) blogs that we’ll use to link to your site right away, getting you fast SEO results.”- the SEO agency rep said while twirling his handlebar moustache.

Honest link building all by itself – not so bad. However: owning a network of sites, paying a bunch of sites for a link, or having a managed section on those sites purely to shape other websites ranking is exploitative. Google is actively searching for and figuratively burning these networks to the ground. They even boast about it. So while you may be able to get away with it for now, know that Google’s looking for you, and there is no hiding from Google.

“We actively guest blog/article submit for you using a (automation/network/platform).”- Another promise that should make you think twice.

Guest blogging or writing articles by themselves, with relevant sites and with relevant topics, isn’t seen as a red flag by Google. Building networks and platforms for the soul purpose of building networks and link building is.  The only issue with this form of link building is when it appears that an individual or agency is taking the idea to the extreme, and Google’s putting a stop to it.

“We can guarantee you x new links per month!” – says another shady SEO Agency.

By itself, this looks like a great, client serving type of offer, but when you examine what’s necessary to lower agency risk on a guarantee like this, you’ll quickly discover that you, the client, are now assuming the risk. While the agency will be getting you those new awesome links, they’ll be using processed ways to build those links. Garbage directories, article submission sites, and guest blog sites will be the name of the game, and relevancy will be nowhere to be found. You’re now assuming the risk of having your website red flagged by Google.

A guarantee can usually be made because links contain:

  • Comment spam
  • Article spinning
  • Forum spam
  • Cloaked links on malware hit websites
  • Purchased links

Using another analogy, would you pick a PR firm by the number of clippings they guarantee in magazines, and not care which magazines those clippings will be in?

The impact of real link building

1 great link took several weeks to impact traffic, but what an impact!
1 great link took several weeks to impact traffic, but what an impact!

Many forward thinking SEO agencies are now calling this “Authority Building”. As a means to encompass other online activities that build authority but not links, but for the sake of sticking to something more tangible, let’s continue with the link building example. On the traffic chart above, you can see a relevant link being set, after several weeks go by, there’s a large increase in incoming organic traffic. We’ve analyzed this particular jump in-depth, and found a broad increase in rankings across most of the phrases we were tracking, resulting in a noticeable bump in traffic across the site. At Top Draw we love this chart for 1 reason: this is the measurable impact of 1 great link. When Top Draw gets into link building for a client, we’re chasing after the next relevant, real link.

What does good link building look and feel like?

Good link building is not a hands-off exercise. If you work with an agency, they should ask you questions, get information from you, and learn more about your business. You’ll start to see your online activities better matching your offline activities. That charity event you’re a part of will be broadcasted on your site, and theirs. Connections with suppliers, vendors, and other companies in your space will start to be strengthened through the continued online effort. You’ll start bouncing different promotional ideas off your agency to brainstorm other activities to do online. Sounds kind of like PR, right? That’s because great online link building IS PR! Some of it is basics: getting your website featured on the right sites, that it should have been on all along. The rest however, is arduous work on manufacturing online relationships.

These aren’t measured by how many dozens of links you build each week, but by relationships fostered, cross promotional actions taken, etc. We still celebrate those fantastic links that are built, as well as their incredible measured impact, but we don’t measure how many articles we’ve spun, link rings we’ve joined, or directories we’ve submitted to.

A great link building process should feel like hard work, because it is; however, investing in an honest effort with link building, can produce amazing results.