external and internal link building

Link Building 101 - History and Function

6 min read

Links are the backbone of the Internet. Given that their primary function is to enable easy navigation throughout the Web, it is not a surprise that they play a major role when it comes to determining the overall quality of a webpage.

This is why processes such as link-building are an integral and irreplaceable part of search engine optimization (SEO). But what exactly is link building, what types of links are there and why is linking so important? Let’s dive right in and answer these questions!

What is Link Building?

Link building is the process of obtaining hyperlinks to a webpage on your site from other pages across the Web.

The Web is essentially a directory of documents that need to be interlinked in order for us - the users, to be able to find what we are looking for. Additionally, resources need to be discoverable for people to utilize them, meaning that creating links is an absolute must.

As we already mentioned, the primary function of any link is to provide navigation for a given visitor, reader or user in general. Links, however, are not only used by people, they are also utilized by Web crawlers and search robots.

These crawlers utilize the links in order to generate a backlink profile for every page and website, which is then used as a ranking signal when it comes to determining a given page’s presence in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Although there are a plethora of ranking signals such as content relevancy, quality and timeliness, an active SSL certificate, as well as user experience factors such as page loading speed and overall accessibility, links remain an irreplaceable part of the crawling algorithms.

After all, if a page is linked to from many different domains and places, then it must contain relevant information and exceptional content, giving it authority and credibility.

Difference between internal & external links

When it comes to the Web, there are 2 separate types of links - internal and external.

Internal links are those that are linking from content on your website to pages or content, again, located on your website. Having good internal linking indicates that your website is well-versed on a particular topic, gaining you ‘topical relevance’, which results in better page and content authority. However, while useful, such links can only get you so far.

The second type of linking is external links. External links are hyperlinks from other websites and webpages that link back to your website. In addition to getting you the aforementioned topical relevance, these links also gain you reputation and trust. Although, it is crucial to remember that in order for the external links to be valuable, they need to come from a trusted and relevant source.

In the early years of the Internet, people did exploit searching algorithms by funneling a large number of links to one particular page, causing it to appear further up in the rankings. However, this has been addressed by numerous algorithm updates, ultimately making the quality and relevancy of the links the most important factor rather than their number.

Why do webpages need to have authority?

The answer is quite simple really - the incredible volume of websites and content that currently populate the Web.

Search algorithms need to filter through a substantial amount of webpages when displaying certain results. Each time you search for something on Google for example, you are presented with a number the query that you entered like so:

number of search engine results

The incredible volume of pages and content made it a requirement for some search engine algorithms to develop a way in which they could evaluate everything in a matter of seconds and extract the most relevant results.

Initially crawlers wouldn’t be able to make a difference between SPAM and quality content, hence why some websites in the early stages of the Web were able to exploit the algorithm by stuffing their pages with keywords and getting a high number of backlinks.

However, after many consecutive updates focusing on quality, relevance and authority, search engine algorithms have finally reached the stage where they are intelligent enough to filter out irrelevant information while also providing us as users with what we need to know.

External links therefore play a crucial part overall SEO, being recognized as a signal of page authority. The more authority a given page has, the more relevant the content, the better the performance on search.

Anchor tag text, on the other hand, is also very important. This text is also used by crawlers as a signal to determine what the linked to page is about and what a given user can expect to find when they click through that link.

How to approach link building

The task of obtaining high-quality links from relevant websites in your field can seem quite daunting at first. The truth is that the process is by no means easy. You will be faced with a lot of rejection along the way, but you should always strive to continue moving forward with your link building attempts as they will definitely pay off in the long run.

Generally speaking, there are 2 ways in which you can approach link building - organic and through manual efforts.

What is organic link building?

Building links organically involves creating high-quality, relevant content that provides innovative information or a new perspective. Such content is very interesting and naturally linkable.

Creating such content will result in it being shared online organically, which will consequently not only generate you a lot of traffic, but will also give you a number of valuable links from big websites in your field.

Manual link building

While incredibly beneficial, organic link building is something that most websites will struggle with due to them lacking authority and the appropriate platform to promote their content.

This is where manual link building comes in. As evident by its name, this type of link building involves you having to manually reach out to relevant websites and ask them to link back to your content.

This can be especially difficult if you don’t have the reputation and credibility required for them to even consider linking back.

Because of this, you need to create a very strong pitch and promote your content in such a way that they find it enticing and believe that their audience would be interested in learning more about the topic that you have covered.

Don’t be discouraged if you get rejected by any website when it comes to your link building efforts - just keep trying and working on your pitch and you will be getting backlinks in no time! Just remember that your content needs to be up to par with the standard of the websites that you are reaching out to!

You can also try other external link building strategies such as guest posting and broken link building.

Guest posting - a good way to gain some reputation

Guest posting involves producing content for a particular website in the form of a guest post. This method can be quite useful for reaching audiences and presenting your website/content to them through a different platform from your own. 

However, it is crucial to remember to stay away from paid guest posting! You should never pay for links as that is considered a punishable penalty by all search engines!

Broken link building - fast & easy

Broken link building involves finding links that are no longer functional and informing website owners that a particular link has been ‘broken’, offering them to link back to your content instead.

All you will need for this is a SEO tool that can help you find broken links such as SemRush, Moz or Ahrefs.

How important is link building?

Just like any aspect of the search algorithm, the impact of external and internal links remains unknown. However, is it safe to say that external links in particular play a substantial role in your website gaining more credibility and topical relevance.

Because of this, regardless of the strategy that you decide to use, you should definitely focus on putting in a lot of efforts towards building high-quality, relevant links as they will not only give your website more exposure and traffic, but also more credibility and reputation.

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