Since the late 1990′s search engines have used links as votes – representing the democracy of the web’s opinion about what pages are important and popular. The engines themselves have refined the use of link data to a fine art, and complex algorithms create nuance evaluations of sites and pages based on this information.
Links aren’t everything in SEO, but search professionals attribute a large portion of the engines’ algorithms to link-based factors (see Search Engine Ranking Factors). Through links, engines can not only analyze the popularity of a website & page based on the number and popularity of pages linking to them, but also metrics like trust, spam, and authority. Trustworthy sites tend to link to other trusted sites, while spammy sites receive very few links from trusted sources (see mozTrust). Authority models, like those postulated in the Hilltop Algorithm , suggest that links are a very good way of identifying expert documents on a given subject.
Google’s Penguin update changed link building forever. You can’t buy your way to the top of the search engine’s organic search anymore (if you ever could). If you’re going to hire someone to build links for you, they’d better know what they’re doing, or your site could disappear from the search results.
Many affiliate marketers have long enlisted link building as one of the strategies to promote the products of merchants. The links established through this practice are supposed to generate traffic to merchants’ sites by prompting prospective customers to click them. As such, link building clearly became an efficient way for entrepreneurs to improve the ranking of their websites, as well as their income.
The thing is while link building has proven to be an effective means to support affiliate marketing tactics, there have been debates about if it should be called link earning. On the other hand, some advocates claim that link earning, while closely resembling link building, is a different story. In this article, we will learn what these two really are and this information will help affiliates decide whether they should keep on doing what they have been at or incorporate another method that can possibly better their affiliate performance.
The Link Building Side of the RingThe Link Building Side of the Ring
A common misconception about link building is that it’s solely about the quantity of links created and acquired. However, real SEO specialists know that it’s way more than that. While acquiring a healthy number of links is important, half of its value relies on their quality. Veritable link building entails creating inbound links that are germane because it is relevant links that really advance their high-ranking pursuits.
One convention of link building is the exchanging of links. This means that the builders should accommodate links from their target websites in return. Another is by submitting article contributions to relevant sites where anchor texts are linked to their own website. Participating in online forums is another means of link building. Many communities allow community members to post links on boards provided that they are consistent with the subject.
To be fair, link building remains relevant to this day. Links created through this method still bear a lot of weight as far as Google’s algorithms are concerned. But at the same time, the search engine giant doesn’t cease to improve the systems of how they index and rank websites making the need for other linking alternatives escalate.
In the past, Google considered websites that had plenty of links redirected to them deserved high rankings. It made sense then that many affiliates who were practicing SEO and link building thought that by simply distributing links to different sites will generate enough substantial traffic to amplify the merchant’s website rankings. The unfortunate thing was some link builders resorted to sticking to a few links that while was effective at some point, they also became unnatural that the algorithms found suspicious and spammy. There were also people who went as far as buying links just so they could spawn traffic but overdoing this practice can seriously harm the website of the “buyers”.
Those were the days when all that mattered to search engines was high visibility. But apparently, once again, the rules of ranking have changed.
On the Other Corner, Link Earning
Earning links is a concept not exactly new to the discipline of search engine optimization. Nevertheless, it’s gaining more attention these days because it is believed to be a more appropriate—if not more organic—method of placing links.
Link earning is founded on the premise that for websites to generate real and valuable traffic, websites should invest in high-quality content that other people would want to link and share themselves. Link earners must also ensure that they build strong relationships with other website owners that fall under their targeted industry.
Actually, the techniques of earning links are not unlike those of link building. In link earning, affiliates and SEO specialists can still contribute content to other sites or join forums. However, its major difference from link building is that it favors the improvement and optimization of a website so that other readers will find it compelling enough to share and to want to link to.
Even the founder of SEO institution Moz shares the supports the practice of link earning. In Rand Fishkin’s video The Death of Link Building and the Rebirth of Link Earning, he emphasized the potential of quality content and its capability to engage and influence the readers when it comes to reading more, sharing the piece, and using the source as a reference. This kind of inbound traffic is the kind that link earning aims to generate.
Changes in Trends
To be fair with Fishkin, he also said that link building isn’t dead per se. But then again, the trends rarely fixate on a single system alone even if it has worked before. Those who wish to continue building links can still do so, but they have to ensure the quality of the content pieces they contribute to other sites. They should also explore the use of long-tail phrases as anchor texts and not merely operate around keywords.
As link earning is beginning to gain significance in the field of SEO, specialists and affiliate marketers should also take it upon themselves to try it and find out how it can make their link generation efforts effective and abreast with the times. The system observed by search engines in evaluating websites is something that is being improved so often that it’s vital that people are aware of what they consider fair and deserving of high rankings.
I hope to cover more important things you should know if you’re building links in another post. What do you think every link builder should know or understand? Feel free to include it in the comments.